"sacred honour", "office of honour"

Tue Apr 9 15:14:45 UTC 2013

The initial question is, what is an office?  This discussion from an 1858 case appears to reflect the rule generally:

<<The term office has no legal or technical meaning attached to it, distinct from its ordinary acceptations. An office is a public charge or employment; but, as every employment is not an office, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between employments which are, and those which are not offices. It is generally, if not universally true that a duty or employment arising out of a contract, and dependent for its duration and extent upon the terms of such contract is never considered an office. An officer, as defined by Blackstone, is a right to exercise a public or private employment, and to take the fees and emoluments thereunto belonging, whether public, as those of magistrates, or private, as bailiffs, receivers, and the like. 2 Blacks. Com. 36. And it is laid down "that a public officer is one who has some duty to perform concerning the public; and he is not the less a public officer when his duty is confined to narrow limits, because it is the duty, and the nature of t!
 hat duty, which makes him a public officer, and not the extent of his authority." 7 Bac. Ab. 280; Carthew, 479. And we apprehend that it may be stated as universally true, that where an employment or duty is a continuing one, which is defined by rules prescribed by law and not by contract, such a charge or employment is an office, and the person who performs it is an officer.>>

Shelby v. Alcorn, 36 Miss. 273 (1858).

An office of "profit" is simply an office with monetary compensation, of whatever description.  In contrast, an office of "burden" was an unwelcome office without compensation, which most would pay to avoid - not seen in the United States, as far as I know, but familiar to early American lawyers from their knowledge of the English system.  An office of "honor" seems to have been an office without compensation, but to which people were drawn because of its distinction.  Id.

It's difficult to find a clear definition of an office of "trust," but it seems to have been an office with responsibility.  One case holds that all offices of profit are also offices of trust.  Doty v. State, 6 Blackf. 529 (Ind. 1843).

I realize that these cases are a little later than 1787, but I doubt if the meaning would have changed much during that time.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Joel S. Berson
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 9:02 AM
Subject: Re: "sacred honour", "office of honour"

So there does appear to be a distinction.  I am
interested in the definitions of each office --
honor, trust, profit -- that show these
differences.  Not in whether or not the phrase
"offices of honor, trust, and profit" was intended to be all-encompassing.

P.S.  I'm sure the Founders were thinking about
offices where the office-holder was entitled to a
part of the revenues -- offices such as customs
agent or surveyor of the woods -- or, we might
remember, the "Stamp Man".  Such officers were
appointed by the Crown, and were a constant
source of contention with the colonists.  And
were consumers of tar and feathers.  Whether or
not "office of profit" meant any office with pay,
or only such "farmed" offices, I don't know.

But there was this sense of "profit" -- 3. A
material benefit derived from a property, *position*, etc.; income, revenue.
   1661   in J. D. Marwick Extracts Rec. Burgh
Glasgow (1881) II. 461   To Charles M'Clean,
jylour [£20]..for his extraordinarie paines in
attending the tolbuith..having got no profeit therby.
   1710   E. Freke Diary 8 Sept. in Jrnl. Cork
Hist. & Archaeol. Soc. (1912) 18 94   The tithes
& prophitts belong to the Church and Rectory.
   1788  Astræa 76   The Sheriff was the King's
Farmer, and was to account for the issues and
profits of his bailiwick at Easter and Michaelmas.


At 4/8/2013 10:35 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
>The Constitution says: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United
>States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them,
>shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present,
>Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince,
>or foreign State."
>Seems to me the Founders were thinking about such things.

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