Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Finch, Henry (d.1625)

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FINCH, Sir HENRY (d. 1625), serjeant-at-law, was the second son of Sir Thomas Finch [q. v.] of Eastwell, Kent, by Catherine, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Moyle. His elder brother, Sir Moyle Finch, was the father of Sir Heneage Finch [q. v.], speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Charles I, whose son Heneage [q. v.], first earl of Nottingham, was lord chancellor to Charles II. Sir Henry Finch was educated, according to Wood, 'for a time' at Oriel College, Oxford, where, however, he seems to have taken no degree, and was admitted of Gray's Inn in 1577, and called to the bar there in 1585 (Douthwaite, Gray's Inn, p. 62). He seems to be identical with a certain Henry Finch of Canterbury, who held from the archbishop a lease of Salmstone rectory, except the timber and the advowson, between 1583 and 1600. In February 1592-3 he was returned to parliament for Canterbury, 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. He was reader at his inn in the autumn of 1604. In 1613 he was appointed recorder of Sandwich, on 11 June 1616 he was called to the degree of serjeant- at-law, and nine days later he received the honour of knighthood at Whitehall (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1598-1601 p. 533, 1611-1618 p. 373; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament; Dugdale, Chron. Ser. 103; Nichols, Progr. James I, iii. 173; Boys, Collections for a History of Sandwich, pp. 423, 779). At this time he was engaged, in conjunction with Bacon, Noy, and others, upon an abortive attempt at codifying the statute law, described by Bacon as 'the reducing of concurrent statutes heaped one upon another to one clear and uniform law.' About the same time his opinion was taken by the king on the 'conveniency' of monopoly patents, and to him, jointly with Bacon and Montague, was entrusted the conduct of the business connected with the patent intended to be granted to the Inns of Court (Spedding, Letters and Life of Bacon, vi. 71, 84, 99). He took part in the argument on the question whether baronets ranked as bannerets before the king and council on 6 April 1612 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. pt. iv. 9). 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 which he seems to have predicted as in the near future the restoration of temporal dominion to the Jews and the establishment by them of a world-wide empire. This caused King James 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. Laud, in a sermon preached in July 1621, took occasion to animadvert on the book. It was suppressed and is now extremely rare (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 127; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619-23, pp. 247, 248). He must have been in embarrassed circumstances in 1623, as his son John [q. v.] having become surety for him was only protected from arrest for debt by an order under the sign-manual (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619-23, p. 515). He died in October 1625, and was buried in the parish church of Boxley, Kent (Hasted, Kent, iv. 624). By his wife Ursula, daughter of John Thwaites of Kent, he was father of John, lord Finch of Fordwich [q. v.] (Berry, County Genealogies (Kent), p. 206), and of Edward (fl. 1630–1641) [q. v.], royalist divine, whom the genealogists overlook. Besides the 'Great Restauration,' Finch published a legal treatise of considerable merit entitled 'Νομοτεχνία, cestas-cavoir un Description del Common Leys d'Angleterre solonque les Rules del Art Parallelees ove les Prerogative le Roy, &c.,&c., Per Henrie Finch de Graye's Inne, Apprentice del Ley,' Lond. 1613, fol. It is dedicated in remarkably good Latin, 'Augustissimo Principi omnique virtutum genere splendidissimo Jacobo Magno Dei gratia Britannise Regi.' It consists of four books. The first treats of what is now called jurisprudence, and is mainly devoted to expounding the distinction between natural and 'positive' law. It is learnedly written, Plato and Cicero being frequently cited. The second book deals with the common law, customs, prerogative, and statute law; the third with procedure, and the fourth with special jurisdictions, e.g. those of the admiral and the bishop. The treatise is written in law French. An English version, entitled 'Law, or a Discourse thereof in Four Books, written in French by Sir Henry Finch, Knight, His Majesty's Serjeant-at-law, done into English by the same author,' appeared in London in 1627, 8vo; 1636, 12mo; 1678, 8vo; and was edited with notes by Danby Pickering of Gray's Inn, in 1789, 8vo. It differs in some important particulars from the original work. Another and much closer translation was published in the last century under the title, 'A Description of the Common Laws of England according to the Rules of Art compared with the Prerogatives of the King,' &c., London, 1759, 8vo. As an exposition of the common law, Finch's Law, as it was called, was only superseded by Blackstone's 'Commentaries,' so far as it dealt with jurisprudence only by the great work of Austin. A little abstract of the work, entitled 'A Summary of the Common Law of England,' appeared in London in 1673, 8vo.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 387; Woolrych's Lives of Eminent Serjeants-at-law, i. 391-3; Berry's County Genealogies (Kent).]

J. M. R.