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CIPHER. An arithmetical character, used for numerical notation. Vide Figures, and 13 Vin. Ab. 210; 18 Eng. C. L. R. 95; 1 Ch. Cr. Law, 176.
     2. By cipher is also understood a mode of secret writing. Public ministers and other public agents frequently use ciphers in their correspondence, and it is sometimes very useful so to correspond in times of war. A key is given to each minister before his departure, namely, the cipher for writing ciphers, (chiffre chiffrant,) and the cipher for deciphering (chiffre dechiffrant.) Besides these, it is usual to give him a common cipher, (chiffre banal,) which is known to all the ministers of the same power, who occasionally use it in their correspondence with each other.
     3. When it is suspected that, a cipher becomes known to the cabinet where the minister is residing, recourse is had to a preconcerted sign in order to annul, entirely or in part, what has been written in cipher, or rather to indicate that the contents are to be understood in an inverted or contrary sense. A cipher of reserve is also employed in extraordinary cases.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
If des Lupeaulx had not been a general- secretary he would certainly have been a journalist.
However, it was not all a bed of roses for des Lupeaulx; he flattered and advised his master, forced to flatter in order to advise, to advise while flattering, and disguise the advice under the flattery.
In person, Clement des Lupeaulx had the remains of a handsome man; five feet six inches tall, tolerably stout, complexion flushed with good living, powdered head, delicate spectacles, and a worn-out air; the natural skin blond, as shown by the hand, puffy like that of an old woman, rather too square, and with short nails--the hand of a satrap.
To real judges of character, as well as to upright men who are at ease only with honest natures, des Lupeaulx was intolerable.
No sooner had the beautiful Madame Rabourdin decided to interfere in her husband's administrative advancement than she fathomed Clement des Lupeaulx's true character, and studied him thoughtfully to discover whether in this thin strip of deal there were ligneous fibres strong enough to let her lightly trip across it from the bureau to the department, from a salary of eight thousand a year to twelve thousand.
Accustomed as des Lupeaulx was to false as well as real magnificence in all their stages, he was, nevertheless, surprised at Madame Rabourdin's home.
A few days earlier the beautiful Madame Firmiani, one of the charming women of the faubourg Saint-Germain who visited and liked Madame Rabourdin, had said to des Lupeaulx (invited expressly to hear this remark), "Why do you not call on Madame --?" with a motion towards Celestine; "she gives delightful parties, and her dinners, above all, are--better than mine."
Des Lupeaulx allowed himself to be drawn into an engagement by the handsome Madame Rabourdin, who, for the first time, turned her eyes on him as she spoke.
The day on which a serious and unlooked-for struggle about this appointment began, after a ministerial dinner which preceded one of those receptions which ministers regard as public, des Lupeaulx was standing beside the fireplace near the minister's wife.
"If La Billardiere's place is given to Rabourdin I may be believed when I praise the superiority of his wife," replied des Lupeaulx, piqued by the minister's sarcasm; "but if Madame la Comtesse would be willing to judge for herself--"
When des Lupeaulx left the room the countess said to her husband, "I think des Lupeaulx is in love."
"For the first time in his life, then," he replied, shrugging his shoulders, as much as to inform his wife that des Lupeaulx did not concern himself with such nonsense.