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COMMISSIONER—COMMODIANUS

It was first started in a very small way, with the intention of providing occupation for none but wounded soldiers. The nucleus of the corps consisted of eight men, each of whom had lost a limb. The demand, however, for neat, uniformed, trusty men, to perform certain light duties, encouraged the founder to extend his idea, and the corps developed into a large self-supporting organization. In 1906 there were over 3000 members of the corps, more than 2000 of whom served in London. Out-stations were established in various large towns of the kingdom, and the corps extended its operations also to the colonies.


COMMISSIONER, in general an officer appointed to carry out some particular work, or to discharge the duty of a particular office; one who is a member of a commission (q.v.). In this sense the word is applied to members of a permanently constituted department of the administration, as civil service commissioners, commissioners of income tax, commissioners in lunacy, &c. It is also the title given to the heads of or important officials in various governmental departments, as commissioner of customs. In some British possessions in Africa and the Pacific the head of the government is styled high commissioner. In India a commissioner is the chief administrative official of a division which includes several districts. The office does not exist in Madras, where the same duties are discharged by a board of revenue, but is found in most of the other provinces. The commissioner comes midway between the local government and the district officer. In the regulation provinces the district officer is called a collector (q.v.), and in the non-regulation provinces a deputy-commissioner. In the former he must always be a member of the covenanted civil service, but in the latter he may be a military officer.

A chief commissioner is a high Indian official, governing a province inferior in status to a lieutenant-governorship, but in direct subordination to the governor-general in council. The provinces which have chief commissioners are the Central Provinces and Berar, the North-West Frontier Province and Coorg. The agent to the governor-general of Baluchistan is also chief commissioner of British Baluchistan, the agent to the governor-general of Rajputana is also chief commissioner of the British district of Ajmere-Merwara, and there is a chief commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Several provinces, such as the Punjab, Oudh, Burma and Assam, were administered by chief commissioners before they were raised to the status of lieutenant-governorships (see Lieutenant).

A commissioner for oaths in England is a solicitor appointed by the lord chancellor to administer oaths to persons making affidavits for the purpose of any cause or matter. The Commissioner for Oaths Act 1889 (with an amending act 1891), amending and consolidating various other acts, regulates the appointment and powers of such commissioners. In most large towns the minimum qualification for appointment is six years’ continuous practice, and the application must be supported by two barristers, two solicitors and at least six neighbours of the applicant. The charge made by commissioners for every oath, declaration, affirmation or attestation upon honour is one shilling and sixpence; for marking each exhibit (a document or other thing sworn to in an affidavit and shown to a deponent when being sworn), one shilling.


COMMITMENT, in English law, a precept or warrant in writing, made and issued by a court or judicial officer (including, in cases of treason, the privy council or a secretary of state), directing the conveyance of a person named or sufficiently described therein to a prison or other legal place of custody, and his detention therein for a time specified, or until the person to be detained has done a certain act specified in the warrant, e.g. paid a fine imposed upon him on conviction. Its character will be more easily grasped by reference to a form now in use under statutory authority:—

In the county of A, Petty Sessional Division of B.

To each and all of the constables of the county of A and the governor of His Majesty’s Prison at C.

E. F. hereinafter called the defendant has this day been convicted before the court of summary jurisdiction sitting at D.

(Here the conviction and adjudication is stated.)

You the said constables are hereby commanded to convey the defendant to the said prison, and there deliver him to the governor thereof together with this warrant: and you the governor of the said prison to receive the defendant into your custody and keep him to hard labour for the space of three calendar months.

DatedSignature and seal of
a justice of the peace.

A commitment as now understood differs from “committal,” which is the decision of a court to send a person to prison, and not the document containing the directions to executive and ministerial officers of the law which are consequent on the decision. An interval must necessarily elapse between the decision to commit and the making out of the warrant of commitment, during which interval the detention in custody of the person committed is undoubtedly legal. A commitment differs also from a warrant of arrest (mandat d’amener), in that it is not made until after the person to be detained has actually appeared, or has been summoned, before the court which orders committal, to answer to some charge.

If not always, at any rate since 1679, a warrant of commitment has been necessary to justify officers of the law in conveying a prisoner to gaol and a gaoler in receiving and detaining him there. It is ordinarily essential to a valid commitment that it should contain a specific statement of the particular cause of the detention ordered. To this the chief, if not the only exception, is in the case of commitments by order of either House of Parliament (May, Parl. Pr., 11th ed., 63, 70, 90). Commitments by justices of the peace must be under their hands and seals. Commitments by a court of record if formally drawn up are under the seal of the court.

Every person in custody is entitled, under the Habeas Corpus Act 1679, to receive within six hours of demand from the officer in whose custody he is, a copy of any warrant of commitment under which he is detained, and may challenge its legality by application for a writ of habeas corpus.

So far as concerns the acts of justices and tribunals of limited jurisdiction, the stringency of the rules as to commitments is an important aid to the liberty of the subject.

In the case of superior courts no statutory forms of commitment exist, and the same formalities are not so strictly enforced. Committal of a person present in court for contempt of the court is enforced by his immediate arrest by the tipstaff as soon as committal is ordered, and he may be detained in prison on a memorandum of the clerk or registrar of the court while a formal order is being drawn up. And in the case of persons sentenced at assizes and quarter sessions the only written authority for enforcement is a calendar of the prisoners tried, on which the sentences are entered up, signed by the presiding judge.

Commitments are usually made by courts of criminal jurisdiction in respect of offences against the criminal law, but are also occasionally made as a punishment for disobedience to the orders made in a civil court, e.g. where a judgment debtor having means to pay refuses to satisfy the judgment debt, or in cases where the person committed has been guilty of a direct contempt of the court.

The expenses of executing a warrant of commitment, so far as not paid by the prisoner, are defrayed out of the parliamentary grants for the maintenance of prisons.


COMMITTEE (from committé, an Anglo-Fr. past participle of commettre, Lat. committere, to entrust; the modern Fr. equivalent comité is derived from the Eng.), a person or body of persons to whom something is “committed” or entrusted. The term is used of a person or persons to whom the charge of the body (“committee of the person”) or of the property and business affairs (“committee of the estate”) of a lunatic is committed by the court (see Insanity). In this sense the English usage is to pronounce the word commi-ttee. The more common meaning of “committee” (pronounced commítt-y) is that of a body of persons elected or appointed to consider and deal with certain matters of business, specially or generally referred to it.


COMMODIANUS, a Christian Latin poet, who flourished about A.D. 250. The only ancient writers who mention him are Gennadius, presbyter of Massilia (end of 5th century), in his De