James Finn: Her Britannic Majesty’s Consul at Jerusalem Between 1846 and 1863

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In James Finn's own words, it was 'one of those strange incidents in human life which God's provi? dence brings about beyond all possibility of human calculation' which brought him as a young boy to the notice of the religious and philanthropic the Hon. John Charles Villiers, afterwards the 3rd Earl of Clarendon. This set him from humble beginnings on the course which led him, as Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Jerusalem and all Palestine, to the peak of his career. He filled the post from 1846 to 1863 at a most interesting period of Britain's participation in the affairs of the Holy Land and the Near East - a period which James Finn detailed in a daily record for his own use, from which we learn much of both the man himself and his involvement with the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. This record is distinct from the Consular accounts sent to the Foreign Office, which were edited by Albert M. Hyamson and published by the jhse in two volumes in 19 3 9. The account Finn kept for his own interest and information embraces a wider range of sub? jects, far beyond the scope of this paper.

But to Finn himself. He was born in London on 13 July 1806. His father was an Irish Catholic turned Protestant, his mother was an English Wesleyan. He regarded himself as English. It was by his diligence and aptitude for learning that as a young boy at the Clerkenwell parish school he attracted the attention of the Earl of Clarendon who arranged and paid for his education. The Clarendon connection was lasting and shaped the destiny of this boy, who was strongly influenced by his very religious and evangelical patron. Later this connec? tion gained for him engagements as tutor which brought him into touch with some of the most influential titled families in the land, the most important being that of the Earl of Aberdeen who was, in turn, Secretary for War, twice Foreign Secretary, and Prime Minister. It was his appoint? ment as tutor to the Earl's youngest son Arthur, later the ist Lord Stanmore, the renowned Colonial Governor, which was to have the most decisive effect on James Finn's life and activities.

Long before he could ever have foreseen the destiny which was to take him to Jerusalem and help shape Jewish history there, his interest in Jews and the Hebrew tongue was marked. He tells in an autobiographical sketch that as a schoolboy, at church on Sundays, T acquired my first idea of Hebrew from seeing continually before me on the wall painted Cherubim surrounding the sacred name in Hebrew.' Finn's first actual contact with Jews that is recorded by him was in May 1832. He was then in his twenty-sixth year, a serious young man who spent his spare time in study. He writes of a visit to the Duke's Place synagogue; and dwells somewhat unsympathetically on the mode of ser? vice unfamiliar to him, mentioning

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