1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Proxy

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PROXY (short for “procuracy”), a term denoting either (1) a person who is authorized to stand in place of another, (2) the legal instrument by which the authority is conferred. Proxies are now principally employed for certain voting purposes. A proxy may in law be either general or special. A general proxy authorizes the person to whom it is entrusted to exercise a general discretion throughout the matter in hand, while a special proxy limits the authority to some special proposal or resolution. Formerly a peer could give his vote in the British parliament by proxy, by getting another peer to vote for him in his absence, temporal peers only being privileged to vote for temporal, and spiritual peers for spiritual. This voting by proxy in the House of Lords was an ancient custom, often abused, In Charles II.’s reign the duke of Buckingham used to bring twenty proxies in his pocket, and the result was that it was ordered that no peer should bring more than two. In 1830 to 1867 inclusive proxies were only called seventy-three times; and on the 31st of March 1868, on the recommendation of a committee, a new standing order was adopted by which the practice of calling for proxies on a division was discontinued. In English bankruptcy proceedings creditors may vote by proxy, and every instrument of proxy, which may be either general or special, is issued either by the official receiver or trustee. Under the Bankruptcy Act of 1869 very great abuses of the system of proxies arose (see Bankruptcy), and were investigated by a select committee of the House of Commons. The committee recommended the abolition of general proxies; and though their recommendation was not carried out, the Bankruptcy Acts of 1883 and 1890 put considerable restrictions on the use of general proxies. Ashareholder in a limited liability company may vote by proxy, and regulations to that effect prescribing the requirements, are usually embodied in the articles of association. A proxy to vote at a meeting must, by the Stamp Act 1870, bear a penny stamp. In the United States, proxies are further used for voting purposes in political conventions.

In the early practice of the admiralty courts in England a proxy was the authority by which the proctor or advocate appeared for either party to a suit. In the ecclesiastical courts a proxy is the warrant empowering a proctor to act for the party to a suit. Two proxies are usually executed, one authorizing the proctor to institute, the other to withdraw, proceedings. They are signed by the parties, attested by two witnesses, and deposited in the registry of the court (Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law). In the convocations of the Church of England those who are absent are allowed to vote by proxy. “Proxies,” or “procurations,” were also by the canon law certain sums of money paid yearly by parish priests to the bishops or archdeacon ratione visitationis; originally the visitor demanded a proportion of meat and drink for his refreshment, and afterwards this was turned into a money “procuration”—ad procurandum cibum et potum. Marriage by proxy or deputy was a custom recognized either for reasons of state or ceremonial.