1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Declaration

DECLARATION (from Lat. declarare, to make fully clear, clarus), formerly, in an action at English law, the first step in pleading—the precise statement of the matter in respect of which the plaintiff sued. It was divided into counts, in each of which a specific cause of action was alleged, in wide and general terms, and the same acts or omissions might be stated in several counts as different causes of actions. Under the system of pleading established by the Judicature Act 1875, the declaration has been superseded by a statement of claim setting forth the facts on which the plaintiff relies. Declarations are now in use only in the mayor’s court of London and certain local courts of record, and in those of the United States and the British colonies in which the Common Law system of pleading survives. In the United States a declaration is termed a “complaint,” which is the first pleading in an action. It is divided into parts,—the title of the court and term; the venue or county in which the facts are alleged to have occurred; the commencement, which contains a statement of the names of the parties and the character in which they appear; the statement of the cause of action; and the conclusion or claim for relief. (See Pleading.)

The term is also used in other English legal connexions; e.g. the Declaration of Insolvency which, when filed in the Bankruptcy Court by any person unable to pay his debts, amounts to an act of bankruptcy (see Bankruptcy); the Declaration of Title, for which, when a person apprehends an invasion of his title to land, he may, by the Declaration of Title Act 1862, petition the Court of Chancery (see Land Registration); or the Declaration of Trust, whereby a person acknowledges that property, the title of which he holds, belongs to another, for whose use he holds it; by the Statute of Frauds, declarations of trust of land must be evidenced in writing and signed by the party declaring the trust. (See Trusts.) By the Statutory Declarations Act 1835 (which was an act to make provision for the abolition of unnecessary oaths, and to repeal a previous act of the same session on the same subject), various cases were specified in which a solemn declaration was, or might be, substituted for an affidavit. In nearly all civilized countries an affirmation is now permitted to those who object to take an oath or upon whose conscience an oath is not binding. (See Affidavit; Oath.)

An exceptional position in law is accorded to a Dying or Deathbed Declaration. As a general rule, hearsay evidence is excluded on a criminal charge, but where the charge is one of homicide it is the practice to admit dying declarations of the deceased with respect to the cause of his death. But before such declarations can be admitted in evidence against a prisoner, it must be proved that the deceased when making the declaration had given up all hope of recovery. Unsworn declarations as to family matters, e.g. as to pedigree, may also be admitted as evidence, as well as declarations made by deceased persons in the course of their duty. (See Evidence.)