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A secretary, secretary of state, or minister of a king or other high nobleman.
The king's chancellor in England during the Middle Ages was given a variety of duties, including drawing up writs that permitted the initiation of a lawsuit in one of the common-law courts and deciding disputes in a way that gave birth to the system of law called Equity. His governmental department was called the Chancery.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in England is like the secretary of the U.S. treasury, but in former times he also presided over a court called the Court of Exchequer, which at first heard disputes over money owed to the king but eventually heard a wide variety of cases involving money. This jurisdiction was founded on the theory that a creditor who could not collect a debt would later be less able to pay whatever he owed to the king.
Chancellor has also been used as the title for a judge who sits in a court of equity, for the president of a university, or for the public official in charge of higher education in some states.
n. from the old English legal system, a chancellor is a judge who sits in what is called a chancery (equity) court with the power to order something be done (as distinguished from just paying damages.) Almost all states now combine chancery (equity) functions and law in the same courts. (See: equity)
Chancellorsee LORD CHANCELLOR.
CHANCELLOR. An officer appointed to preside over a court of chancery,
invested with various powers in the several states.
2. The office of chancellor is of Roman origin. He appears, at first, to have been a chief scribe or secretary, but he was afterwards invested with judicial power, and had superintendence over the other officers of the empire. From the Romans, the title and office passed to the church, and therefore every bishop of the catholic church has, to this day, his chancellor, the principal judge of his consistory. When the modern kingdoms of Europe were established upon the ruins of the empire, almost every state preserved its chancellor, with different jurisdictions and dignities, according to their different constitutions. In all he seems to have had a supervision of all charters, letters, and such other public instruments of the crown, as were authenticated in the most solemn manner; and when seals came into use, he had the custody of the public seal.
3. An officer bearing this title is to be found in most countries of Europe, and is generally invested with extensive authority. The title and office of chancellor came to us from England. Many of our state constitutions provide for the appointment of this officer, who is by them, and by the law of the several states, invested with power as they provide. Vide Encyclopedie, b. t.; Encycl.. Amer. h.t.; Dict. de Jur. h.t.; Merl. Rep. h.t.; 4 Vin. Ab. 374; Blake's Ch. Index, h.t.; Woodes. Lect. 95.