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


Character (Greek character, a sign or engraved mark), a term applied in a variety of senses, among them (1) to the form of writing or printing, or the letters used in it; thus Russian is said to be written in the "Cyrillic character;" or to the signs employed in music; (2) to the group of qualities and habits that distinguish an individual or a nation; (3) to the parts in a play; (4) to eccentric or remarkable persons; (5) to the certificates as to past conduct and abilities, given to servants, etc., on leaving. In natural science it is a short definition expressing the distinguishing marks of a plant or animal. In its legal aspect it has several bearings. 1. In regard to a criminal prosecution, a defendant is allowed to call witnesses to speak generally to his character, though he is not allowed to prove particular actions bearing favourably on his character, unless they happen to stand in connection with some of the facts charged and proved against him. On the other hand the Crown seldom, in practice, seeks to put in evidence of generally bad character, and, though under certain circumstances, it may give proof of a previous conviction for crime, yet this must be within the restrictions imposed by the Legislature.

2. As to Witnesses. Evidence is admissible to show that a witness is unworthy of credit by reason of his general bad character, and if he is asked whether he has been convicted of felony or misdemeanor, and denies or refuses to answer, the opposite party may then prove the conviction.

3. As to Servants. If any person shall personate a master, and give a false character to a servant or assert falsely in writing that any servant has been hired for a period of time or in a station, or was discharged at any time, or had not been hired in any previous service, or if any person shall offer himself or herself as a servant pretending to have served or with a false certificate of character, or shall alter a certificate, or shall (contrary to truth) pretend not to have been in any previous service, the offenders in any of the above cases are liable under a statute passed in the 32nd year of the reign of George III., on conviction before two justices of the peace, to be fined £20, and in default to be imprisoned with hard labour for any time not more than three nor less than one month.

4. As to parties to a civil action. Evidence as to the character of a party to a judicial proceeding is not generally admissible, unless the nature of the proceeding is such as to put his or her character in issue.

5. As to general representations respecting the character or trade ability of a person, to whom credit is to be given on the faith thereof, these shall not render the party making them answerable for debts, which may have been contracted on the faith of them, unless they be in writing and signed by the party sought to be made liable thereon.