Henry Finch

Henry Finch

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Sir Henry Finch was an English lawyer and politician, created serjeant-at-law
The Serjeants-at-Law was an order of barristers at the English bar. The position of Serjeant-at-Law , or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France prior to the Norman Conquest...

 and knighted, and remembered as a legal writer.


He was born the son of Sir Thomas Finch of Eastwell and the brother of Moyle Finch. He was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, though taking no degree, and was admitted of Gray's Inn
Gray's Inn
The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, commonly known as Gray's Inn, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns...

 in 1577, and called to the bar there in 1585.

In February 1593 he was elected to parliament for Canterbury
Canterbury (UK Parliament constituency)
Canterbury is a county constituency which has been represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom since 1918. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election....

, and he retained the seat at the election of 1597. He became an ancient of his inn in 1593, and the same year was appointed counsel to the Cinque ports
Cinque Ports
The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. It lies at the eastern end of the English Channel, where the crossing to the continent is narrowest...

. He was reader at his inn in the autumn of 1604.

In 1613 he was appointed recorder of Sandwich
Sandwich, Kent
Sandwich is a historic town and civil parish on the River Stour in the Non-metropolitan district of Dover, within the ceremonial county of Kent, south-east England. It has a population of 6,800....

, on 11 June 1616 he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law, and nine days later he was knighted at Whitehall Palace. At this time he was engaged, in conjunction with Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

, William Noy
William Noy
William Noy was a noted British jurist.He was born on the family estate of Pendrea in St Buryan, Cornwall. He left Exeter College, Oxford without taking a degree, and entered Lincoln's Inn in 1594. From 1603 until his death he was elected, with one exception, to each parliament, sitting...

, and others, in an abortive attempt to codify the statute law. He was elected to Parliament for St Albans
St Albans (UK Parliament constituency)
St Albans is a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Established in 1885, it is a county constituency in Hertfordshire, and elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.From 1554 to 1852 there was a...

 in 1614.

He died in October 1625, and was buried in the parish church of Boxley
The large village and civil parish of Boxley in the Maidstone District of Kent, England lies below the slope of the North Downs, four miles NE of Maidstone town...

, Kent. He had married Ursula, the daughter and heiress of John Thwaites of Kent, with whom he had two sons.

Calling of the Jews

In 1621 he published a work entitled The World's Great Restauration, or Calling of the Jews, and with them of all Nations and Kingdoms of the Earth to the Faith of Christ. In it he seems to have predicted, in the near future, the restoration of temporal dominion to the Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 and the establishment by them of a world-wide empire. This caused James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 to treat the work as a libel, and accordingly Finch was arrested in April 1621. He obtained his liberty by disavowing all such portions of the work as might be construed as derogatory to the sovereign and apologising for having written unadvisedly. William Laud
William Laud
William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. One of the High Church Caroline divines, he opposed radical forms of Puritanism...

, in a sermon preached in July 1621, referred to the book, and it was suppressed

Legal works

Finch published in 1613 a legal treatise Nomotexnia. The original published version was in law French
Law French
Law French is an archaic language originally based on Old Norman and Anglo-Norman, but increasingly influenced by Parisian French and, later, English. It was used in the law courts of England, beginning with the Norman Conquest by William the Conqueror...

; it is believed that in an earlier draft it was written in the 1580s, and under the influence of Ramist logic. Finch had also studied at Christ's College, Cambridge
Christ's College, Cambridge
Christ's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.With a reputation for high academic standards, Christ's College averaged top place in the Tompkins Table from 1980-2000 . In 2011, Christ's was placed sixth.-College history:...

, under Laurence Chaderton
Laurence Chaderton
Laurence Chaderton was an English Puritan divine, and one of the translators of the King James Version of the Bible.-Life:...

, a centre for the reception of Ramism in England.

Nomotexnia consists of four books. The first is mainly devoted to the distinction between natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

 and positive law
Positive law
Positive law is the term generally used to describe man-made laws which bestow specific privileges upon, or remove them from, an individual or group...

. The second book deals with the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

, customs, prerogative, and statute law; the third with procedure, and the fourth with special jurisdictions, e.g. those of the admiral and the bishop. An English version appeared in London in 1627, and was edited with notes by Danby Pickering of Gray's Inn, in 1789. It differs in important particulars from the original work. Another and much closer translation was published in 1759. As an exposition of the common law, Finch's Law, as it was called, was only superseded by William Blackstone
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

's Commentaries on the Laws of England
Commentaries on the Laws of England
The Commentaries on the Laws of England are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769...

, and so far as it dealt with jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

 by the work of John Austin
John Austin (legal philosopher)
John Austin was a noted British jurist and published extensively concerning the philosophy of law and jurisprudence....

. A short abstract of the work, entitled A Summary of the Common Law of England, appeared in 1673.


He was the second surviving son of Sir Thomas Finch of Eastwell, Kent, by Catherine, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Moyle.His elder brother became Sir Moyle Finch, 1st Baronet
Sir Moyle Finch, 1st Baronet
Sir Moyle Finch, 1st Baronet was an English politician.He was the eldest surviving son of Sir Thomas Finch of Eastwell, Kent and the brother of Henry Finch....

. By his wife Ursula, daughter of John Thwaites of Kent, he was father of John Finch
John Finch
John Finch, 1st Baron Finch was an English judge, and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1614 and 1629. He was Speaker of the House of Commons.-Early life:...

, speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Charles I, and of Edward Finch (fl.
Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

1630-1641), royalist divine.

Further reading

  • Wilfrid Prest, The Dialectical Origins of Finch's Law, The Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Nov., 1977), pp. 326–352