Robert Finley was born in Princeton, NJ, in 1772. He entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton) at the age of ll and graduated in 1787. He taught at academies in Princeton, NJ, Allentown, PA, and Charleston, SC. From 1793-1795 he served as a tutor at the College of NJ and studied theology under John Witherspoon. In 1794 he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Brunswick and in 1795 was ordained and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge, NJ, where he served for 22 years.
Finley was a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, 1807-1817. He was the prime mover in the founding of the American Colonization Society in 1816. He died in 1817 soon after becoming president of Franklin College (University of Georgia), Athens, GA.