The Notaries Public Act of 1850 is found in the Statutes at Large, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Chapter LII, An Act to authorize Notaries Public to take and certify Oaths, Affirmations, and Acknowledgments in certain Cases.
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases in which, under the laws of the United States, oaths, or affirmations, or acknowledgments may now be taken or made before any justice or justices of the peace of any State or Territory, such oaths, affirmations, or acknowledgments may be hereafter also taken or made by or before any notary public duly appointed in any State or Territory, and,
when certified under the hand and official seal of such notary, shall have the same force and effect as if taken or made by or before such justice or justices of the peace. And all laws and parts of laws for punishing perjury, or subordination of perjury, committed in any such oaths or affirmation, when taken or made before any such justice of the peace, shall apply to any such offence committed in any oaths or affirmations which may be taken under this act before a notary public, or commissioner, as hereinafter named:
Provided always That on any trial for either of these offences, the seal and signature of the notary shall not be deemed sufficient in themselves to establish the official character of such notary, but the same shall be shown by other and proper evidence.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That all the powers and authority conferred in and by the preceding section of this act upon notaries public be, and the same are hereby, vested in, and may be exercised by, any commissioner appointed, or hereafter to be appointed, by any Circuit Court of the United States, under any act of Congress authorizing the appointment of commissioners to take bail, affidavits, or depositions, in causes pending in the courts of the United States.”
Approved, September 16, 1850.
Zachary Taylor, President until his death July 9, 1850. Millard Fillmore, President after July 9, 1850.
Source: Library of Congress, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875, page 458
The notaries public act of 1850 does not give notaries judicial power of a justice of the peace. It only refers to oaths, affirmations, or acknowledgments.
Williams v. Ten Eyck, 1886, DC Supreme Court
Note: This case involved an acknowledgment of a deed acknowledged and notarized under the notaries public act of 1850 before the law changed in 1871.
The prior law of April 30, 1838, (5 Statutes, 226), required the seal of the justice of the peace to be supported by a certificate of the clerk under his seal because the justice of the peace had no seal to authenticate his own official acts.
A notary public has a seal, so no supporting document is required for transactions as evidence to verify a notary’s official capacity, but is required in the proviso for a trial for perjury.
Under the general commercial law of the world, the certificate of a notary and his seal prove themselves. He is an officer known to the commercial law, to the admiralty, and to the civil law; and wherever he has executed an instrument appropriate to his functions, his seal is recognized, and judicially taken notice of by the courts, and proves itself.
The law changed in February 1871, adding a new provision for acknowledgments that required authentication of the notary by the proper officer of the notary’s state.
Source: District of Columbia Supreme Court Case Reports, 1887, Franklin Mackey, page 168
Law Library of Congress
Books on the law formed a major part of the holdings of the Library of Congress from its beginning. In 1832, Congress established the Law Library of Congress as a separate department of the Library. It houses one of the most complete collections of U.S. Congressional documents in their original format. In order to make these records more easily accessible to students, scholars, and interested citizens, A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation brings together online the records and acts of Congress from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention through the 43rd Congress, including the first three volumes of the Congressional Record, 1873-75.
Legal Notice: The mission of the Library of Congress is to support Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties, and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people. Our websites offer public access to a wide range of information, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.
The goal of the Library’s National Digital Library Program is to offer broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.
Library of Congress General Disclaimer: Materials displayed on our websites are intended for reference use only. They are not legal advice, and may not represent the official opinion of the United States Government.
Notaries Public Act of 1850
Notaries Public Act of 1850