Few people know that much about notaries, and we don’t blame them. We aren’t even sure how many of our readers can define the word “notary.” That’s why this short History of the Notary Public post is so important! The history behind one of the unknown professions has been shrouded in mystery for a long time now, but it shouldn’t be.
The ancient Egyptians documented every notable event in the empire through their scribes. Pigments, water pots, and writing implements were often carried over their shoulders for use as they traveled from place to place, documenting all that was happening around them. The earliest known chroniclers of official communications made up an entire level of bureaucracy at this point, traveling with dignitaries between towns on business or accompanying armies into battle where these highly skilled artists recorded what happened so future generations would know not only about wars but also how crops grew (or failed) during a particular time period.
In an ancient world where ink and papyrus were expensive, the scribes would have to choose their words wisely. They could only write so much before they had to create a new scroll, but when Pharaoh Tutankhamen died with writing tools in his tomb, it became clear that he valued record keeping as the most highly esteemed art of all time. The scribal apprentices who came after him employed this wise lesson by correcting documents whose text was riddled with mistakes – redacting our past for generations yet born into this life.
Roman Empire: 535
In ancient Rome, the notaries were considered to be an elite group. They were educated in both Roman and Greek law, and they were trained in rhetoric. Public officials, called scribae, that is to say, scribes, rose in rank from being mere recorders of facts and judicial proceedings, copiers, and transcribers to a learned profession prominent in private and public affairs. Some were permanent officials attached to the Senate and courts of law whose duties were to record public proceedings, transcribe state papers, supply magistrates with legal forms, and register the decrees and judgments of magistrates.
In the last century of the Republic, probably in the time of Cicero, and apparently by his adoptive son Marcus Tullius Tiro, after whom they were named ‘notae Tironianae’, a new form of shorthand was invented, and certain arbitrary marks and signs, called notae, were substituted for words in common use. A writer who adopted the new method was called a notarius. Originally, a notary took down statements in shorthand using these notes and wrote them out in the form of memoranda or minutes. Later, the title notarius was applied almost exclusively to registrars attached to high government officials, including provincial governors and secretaries to the Emperor.
Notaries became widespread in Northern Italy, France, Germany, and England during the Middle Ages because people relied on them to protect against fraud when trading goods or exchanging money when they did not have banks. With the fall of Rome, notaries went into hiding and remained largely unknown for many centuries. In 1485, Italian lawyers decided to change all this by establishing the first school dedicated to training notaries public.
Order of the Knights Templar: 1099-1307
In the early Middle Ages, there were many different orders of Knights. The Order of the Templar was a monastic military order that formed in 1099 at the end of what is now called “The First Crusade.” In their two centuries after formation, they became powerful and created modern banking systems and an essential system for notaries to record business transactions.
Notaries Public in England: 13th and 14th Centuries.
After the Norman Conquest, notaries were only used in very few cases, such as wills and deeds. The clergy often appointed members of their profession as Notaries because they were more familiar with Roman Law than laypeople who lived in towns or trading centers. But during the 12th century, when English common law developed free from most Roman influence, it became necessary to appoint laypeople with legal knowledge that was still key for understanding documents like contracts or wills. Notary positions began to become popular among townsfolk who had an interest in these matters. Still, they remained members-in-good standing within their communities until mid 14th century, whereupon clergy ceased involvement in secular business altogether, thus leaving them exclusively up to qualified laypersons instead because people wanted someone available locally wherever there might be disputes about land ownership between neighbors.
Notaries and the Conquests of Columbus: 15th Century
The notaries accompanied Christopher Columbus on all his voyages to ensure that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received an accurate account of any treasures discovered by Spanish explorers so they could keep track of them accordingly. For example, they documented when he first beheld America in 1492 by landing on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. Notaries were truth’s alchemists in colonial America. They would take the endless diversity that people expressed and transform it into a formulaic language to produce an approved form of writing for documents, which other notaries duly witnessed.
In a world where truth is often difficult to find, the Notarial certificate has become one of the most important and relied upon tools for verifying authenticity. A notary’s word in these documents demands that their readers believe them without question because they are faithful witnesses who were present at every scene as it happened to record what was happening accurately.
Notaries in Early America: 1600-1800
The importance of notaries in early America can be seen through their involvement with trans-Atlantic commerce. Notaries would certify and keep documents safe, which made them invaluable to business during this time as companies relied on the honesty of a third party when reporting damage or loss to cargo ships. While they were held in very high regard at that time, life for notaries was anything but easy – some had no formal education and needed extensive knowledge about contracts law before presenting themselves as one.
The Notary was an important cog in the complex government, commerce, and private life system during 17th-century Europe. They were often consulted for their expertise with contracts or other legal documents by people who would otherwise have been illiterate. For those without easy access to higher education, it offered unique opportunities. Still, good fortune could be fleeting as many faced conflicts between colonial settlers from across the sea and empires like France, England, Spain, and Holland that ruled them at home. Sadly some found themselves caught up in a violent struggle overpower which cost lives – even theirs own!
John Coolidge and President Calvin Coolidge: 1872-1933
John Coolidge was born in 1845 and was 78 years old when he came to fame as a Notary Public in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. His son was Calvin Coolidge, was elected Vice President under Warren G. Harding in 1921. When Harding died in 1923, Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States by his father – the only president to ever be sworn in by a Notary.
In the United States, notaries public act as impartial third parties who can authenticate documents and testify to their validity under penalty of perjury. They are responsible for ensuring that a signature on any document is genuine; identify any signatures or marks made by other people who appear to be intentional; witness, when required, another person signing his name in the presence of the notary public; and administer an oath or affirmation to another person when authorized by law.
Coolidge is a very important President and many people are drawn to him for his wisdom. He was not afraid of saying “no” when it needed, even if he would be unpopular in the process; this lesson can also affect Notaries as they serve the public with their work.