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RECOGNIZANCE (from Lat. recognoscere,...

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 959 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RECOGNIZANCE (from Lat. recognoscere, to acknowledge), a term of English law usually employed to describe an obligation of record, entered into before some court or magistrate duly authorized, whereby the party bound acknowledges (recognizes) that he owes a personal debt to the Crown, with a defeasance, i.e. subject to a condition that the obligation to pay shall be avoided if he shall do some particular act—as if he shall appear at the assizes, keep the peace, or the like. The system of taking recognizances in favour of the Crown at an early date superseded the common law practice as to pledges and main-prize (see re Nottingham Corporation, 1897, 2 Q.B. 502, 514). Blackstone's definition extends the term recognizance to bonds in favour of private persons. But at present it is rarely if ever used in this sense. Recognizances are now used almost solely with reference to criminal proceedings. In the Court of Chancery it was the practice to require recognizances from the guardian of a ward of court that the ward should not marry or leave the country with the privity of the guardian and without the leave of the court. The security given by a receiver appointed by the High Court is still in the form of a recognizance acknowledging a debt to named officers of the court, and securing it on the real and personal estate of the receiver. By an act of 136o (34 Edw. III. c. 1), extended to Ireland by Poyning's Act, and by the terms of the commission of the peace, justices of the peace have jurisdiction to cause to come before them or any one-of them " all those who to any one or more of our people concerning their bodies or the firing of their houses have used threats to find sufficient security for the peace or their good behaviour towards us and our people; and if they shall refuse to find such security, then there in our prisons until they shall find such security to cause to be safely kept." The security taken is by recognizance of the party and his sureties, which can be forfeited on conviction of any offence which is a breach of the conditions of the recognizance. The procedure under the act of 136o and the commission is usually described as exhibiting articles of the peace or swearing the peace. The High Court (King's Bench Division) has the same power as justices in quarter sessions. This procedure is in practice superseded in England, so far as concerns courts of summary jurisdiction, by an equivalent but more modern procedure (42 & 43 Vict. C. 49, s. 25). Recognizances ordered under these enactments cannot be forfeited or as it is termed estreated without an order of court made upon proof of breach of the conditions, or of a conviction involving such breach. The procedure for estreats is governed by the Levy of Fines Acts 1822 and 1833, and by 16 & 17 Vict. C. 30, s. 2. There is also a general jurisdiction on conviction of misdemeanour to put the offender under recognizances to keep the peace and (or) be of good behaviour in addition to or in substitution for other punishment. This power is specifically applied by the Criminal Law Consolidation Acts of 1861 to all indictable misdemeanours punishable under these acts, and power is given to put persons convicted of any felony (not capital) punishable under the acts under a recognizance to keep the peace. On refusal to enter into recognizances as above, the court may order imprisonment for the refusal, limited in cases within the acts of 1861 to twelve months, and in cases within the act of 1879 to six months. The recognizances above described may be described as a form of punishment or a judicial security for good conduct. Recognizances are, however, most used with reference to proceedings before conviction and judgment. In preliminary inquiries into indictable offences the inquiring justices take recognizances to ensure the attendance of the accused if liberated during any adjournment, and on committal for trial take the recognizances of the accused (if allowed bail) to attend the court of trial and take his trial, and of the prosecutor and the witnesses for the prosecution or defence to attend and prosecute or give evidence. As to witnesses this power was first given in 1554 (I Ph. & M. c. 13). The procedure staff; and the system under which the records are left in local repositories and the staff is centralized. There are of course countries which cannot be brought under either of these formulae. But for the most part it will be found that the second system has prevailed; there are a central office for records of state, provincial offices for legal records and those of local' administration, town offices for municipal records, and a staff of archivists depending more or less strictly upon the central office. In England the first system has been preferred; almost all the records that can be collected have been gathered into the central office. In the future, indeed, it is inevitable that collections of administrative records should grow up for each county; but there is at present no means of ensuring their arrangement and preservation. Many towns possess old and valuable collections of municipal archives, and over these also the central office has no control. It would be absurd to affirm that such control is needed for the preservation of the documents; but it is a curious fact that the English government, which has centralized records more freely than any other, should have refrained from establishing any system of administration for records in general. The following article is intended to give a full account of the administration and nature of the records of Great Britain, and brief notices of those of other countries concerning which information is obtainable. It may be noticed that the directory of the learned world published by Trubner at Strassburg under the title Minerva will be found a useful guide to the situation and staff of repositories of records. England. The most important repository of English records is the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, London, established under the Act i & 2 Viet., c. 94. The head of the office is the Master of the Rolls for the time being; and the staff consists of the deputy-keeper, secretary, assistant-keepers and clerks, with a subordinate staff. Until the establishment of this office, the records of the various courts- of law and government offices were stored in separate places, mostly of an unsuitable nature, whose contents were inaccessible and unknown. The Tower of London contained the records of the Chancery, which were kept in fair order; the records of the Exchequer were scattered in many places, chiefly unsuitable; and other collections were almost as unfortunately bestowed: the only attempt to provide a special place of custody was made in the 17th century, when the State Paper Office was set up as a place of deposit for the papers of the secretaries of state. From time to time efforts were made, chiefly by means of committees of the House of Lords, to procure reforms in the custody of documents whose value was well understood. In the reign of Queen Anne, an attempt was made by Thomas Rymer to publish in the Foedera such documents as could be found bearing upon foreign politics; and this drew fresh attention to the question of custody. In 1731 the disastrous fire in the Cottonian Library produced a committee of the House of Commons and another report. But it was not until i800 that any serious steps were taken. In that year a committee of the House of Commons presented a valuable report dealing with all the public records in repositories in England and Scotland. The result of this committee was the appointing of a royal commission charged with the arrangement and publication of the public records and the control of all public repositories. This commission was renewed from year to year and did not expire until 1837. It fell partly because of internal dissensions, but principally owing to gross extravagance and almost complete neglect of its duty, so far as the arrangement and custody of the records was concerned. The publications sanctioned by it are often badly designed and badly executed; but their most prominent characteristic was their expense. To this commission succeeded the Public Record Office, whose constitution has already been described. The first duty of the new office was the establishment of a central repository into which the scattered collections of records could be gathered ; and the preparation of manuscript inventories of the documents so obtained. In 1851 the construction of the central repository was begun; and with the completion of each portion of it further groups of records were brought in. At first only those collections specified in the act of parliament were dealt with; but in 1852 the State Paper Office was placed under the control of the Master of the Rolls, and its contents removed to the Public Record Office. Other government departments in turn transferred to the same keeping papers not in current use; and at present the only important collections of papers not so treated are those of the India Office and the Privy Council Office, which are still kept apart. The publications of the Record Office are of three kinds: reports, lists and indexes, and calendars. The reports are the annualreports of the Deputy Keeper, and now deal merely with the administrative work of the office; up to 1889 they also contained, in the form of appendices, inventories and detailed descriptions of various classes of records. In the present article these reports are referred to by number. The lists and indexes are either inventories of special classes with more or less detail, or indexes to the contents of certain documents grouped for that purpose; they are here cited by their number. The calendars are volumes containing full abstracts intended to make the consultation of the original document unnecessary except for critical purposes; they are equipped with full indexes. The contents of the Record Office are classified for the most part under the collections in which they were found. For a general account of the whole, see S. R. Scargill-Bird's Hand-book to the Public Records (3rd ed. 1908). No student can afford to neglect C. Gross's Sources and Literature of English History from the Earliest Times to about'485,which contains much information as to books and articles based upon English records. We may now turn to the documents themselves, under the following heads:
End of Article: RECOGNIZANCE (from Lat. recognoscere, to acknowledge)
RECONNAISSANCE (from Fr. reconnaitre, to recognize,...

Additional information and Comments

"Recognizance" can also be defined as "information that is retrieved from an outside source" (i.e. a recognizance mission [military]).
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