Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Chancery. Prior to the passing of the Judicature Acts which now regulate legal proceedings, the Court of Chancery was a distinct court, its chief business being to hear and decide questions of equity as opposed to common law. It has now, by the above Acts, become the "Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice," and possesses the same jurisdiction and powers as the old Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery was in matters of civil property always deemed the most important of any of the superior courts of justice, and it is said to have taken its name from the judge who presided over it, the Lord Chancellor.

A distinction between law and equity requiring them to be administered in different courts seems never to have obtained in any other country, and yet the difference of one from the other, when administered by the same tribunal, was perfectly familiar to the Romans, the jus praetorium or discretion of the praetor being distinct from the leges or standing laws, but the power of both centred in one and the same magistrate, who was equally authorised to pronounce the rule of law and to apply it to particular cases by the principles of equity. With us, too, the Aula Regia, which was the supreme court of judicature under the Conqueror, undoubtedly administered equal justice, according to the rules of both or either as the case might require, and when that tribunal was broken to pieces, the idea of a court of equity as distinguished from a court of law did not exist. Nor is it very clear in what manner or under what circumstances the two distinctive jurisdictions were first established in England, but it was probably the result of the original writs issued for the commencement of actions being of a very fixed and inflexible character, and owing to this there was a frequent failure of justice in the common law courts; and application for redress had to be made to the sovereign in person, who was wont to refer the matter to his Chancellor for him to decide as the circumstances (i.e. the equity) of the case might require, and apparently, in these early times, the chief judicial employment of the Chancellor was in devising new writs directed to the courts of common law, to give remedy in cases where none was before granted.

In Scotland the Chancery office is part of the General Register House at Edinburgh, and is under the control of a director, his rights and duties being somewhat similar to those exercised by the English Lord Chancellor.