Protest “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “protest” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:




A remonstrance. A technical term for a proceeding to cancel or defeat an entry of public lands [42 Am J1st Pub L § 31]. A notice, preferably in writing, given at the time a payment is paid, to the person who made the demand, that the person making the payment does not acquiesce in the legality of the demand or surrender any right he may have to recover back the money paid [Meyer v. Clark (NY) 13 Daly 497, 509]. An objection to the payment of a customs duty; a distinct and clear specification of each substantive ground of objection to the payment of the duty [21 Am J2d Cust D § § 91 et seq]. An objection within limitations of time fixed by law to an administrative rule or regulation [2 Am J2d Admin L § 288]. A formal objection to the proposed action of a city council or other authority in making a local improvement [48 Am J1st Spec A § 153]. The procedure of a taxpayer who questions his liability to the tax assessed against him or the validity of the statutes or proceeding pursuant to which it was assessed, thereby making a basis for the recovery back of the money paid by showing that payment was not voluntary [Jaynes v. Heron, 46 NM 431, 130 P2d 29, 142 ALR 1191].

The expression “under protest” has a well-known meaning in the business world and then written upon a receipt imports that the person writing it intends to enforce his rights. The words ordinarily signify that the receipt or objects to receiving the thing in its condition, or under the circumstances, but does so, under compulsion of circumstances, to prevent still further loss, but at the same time retaining all his rights of action against the other part [Anno: 1 ALR 904].




[Maritime law] A writing, attested by a justice of the peace or a consul, drawn by the master of a vessel, stating the severity of a voyage by which a shop has suffered, and showing it was not owing to the neglect or misconduct of the master [Vide Marsh. Ins. 715, 716. See 1 Wash. C. R. 145; Id. 238; Id. 408, n.; 1 Pet. C. R. 119; 1 Dall. 6; Id. 10; Id. 317; 2 Dall. 195; 3 Watts & Serg. 144; 3 Binn. 228., n.; 1 Yeates, 261].

[Legislation] A declaration made by one or more members of a legislative body that they do not agree with some act or resolution of the body; it is usual to add the reasons which the protestants have for such dissent.


  1. A notarial act, made for want of payment of a promissory note, or for want of acceptance or payment of a bill of exchange, by a notary public, in which it is declared that all parties to such instruments will be held responsible to the holder of all damages, exchanges, reexchanges, etc.

  2. There are two kinds of protest, namely, protest for non-acceptance, and protest for non-payment. When a protest is made and notice of the non-payment or non-acceptance given to the parties in proper time, they will be held responsible [3 Kent, Com. 63; Chit. on Bills, 278; 3 Pardes. n. 418 to 441; Merl. Repert. h. t.; COID Dig. Merchant, F 8, 9, 10; Bac. Ab. Merchant, etc M7].

  3. There is also a species of protest, common in England, which is called protest for better security. It may be made when a merchant who has accepted a bill becomes insolvent, or is publicly reported to have failed in his credit, or absents himself from change, before the bill he has accepted becomes due, or when the holder has any just reason to suppose it will not be paid; and on demand the acceptor refuses to give it. Notice of such protest must, as in other cases, be sent by the first post [1 Ld. Raym. 745; Mar. 27].

  4. In making the protest, three things are to be done: the noting; demanding acceptance or payment or, as above, better security and drawing up the protest. The noting is unknown to the law as distinguished from the protest. The demand, which must be made by a person having authority to receive the money. The drawing up of the protest, which is a mere matter of form.


  1. A formal declaration made by a person interested or concerned in some act about to be done, or already performed, and in relation thereto, whereby he expresses his dissent or disapproval, or affirms the act to be done against his will or convictions, the object being generally to save some right which would be lost to him if his implied assent could be made out, or to exonerate himself from some responsibility which would attach to him unless he expressly negatived his assent to or voluntary participation in the act.

  2. A notarial act, being a formal statement in writing made by a notary under his seal of office, at the request of the holder of a bill or note, in which such bill or note is described, and it is declared that the same was on a certain day presented for payment, (or acceptance, as the case may be) and that such payment or acceptance was refused, and stating the reasons, if any, given for such refusal, whereupon the notary protests against all parties to such instrument, and declares that they will be held responsible for all loss or damage arising from its dishonor [See Annville Nat. Bank v. Kettering, 106 Pa. 531, 51 Am. Rep. 536; Ayrault v. Pacific Bank, 47 N. Y. 575, 7 Am. Rep. 489].

  • A formal notarial certificate attesting the dishonor of a bill of exchange or promissory note [Benj. Chalm. Bills & N. art. 176]

  • A solemn declaration written by the notary, under a fair copy of the bill, stating that they payment or acceptance has been demanded and refused, the reason, if any, and that the bill is therefore protested [Dennistoun v. Strewart. 17 How. 607, 15 L. Ed. 228].

  • “Protest,” in a technical sense, means only the formal declaration drawn up and signed by the notary; yet, as used by commercial men, the word includes all the steps necessary to charge an indorser [Townsend v. Lorain Bank, 2 Ohio St. 345].

  1. A formal declaration made by a minority (or by certain individuals) in a legislative body that they dissent from some act or resolution of the body, usually adding the grounds of their dissent. The term, in this sense, seems to be particularly appropriate to such a proceeding in the English house of lords [see Auditor General v. Board of Sup’rs, 89 Mich. 552, 51 N. W. 483].

  2. The name “protest” is also given to the formal statement, usually in writing, made by a person who is called upon by public authority to pay a sum of money, in which he declares that he does not concede the legality or justice of the claim or his duty to pay it, or that he disputes the amount demanded; the object being to save his right to recover or reclaim the amount, which right would be lost by his acquiescence. Thus, taxes may be paid under “protest.” [See Meyer v. Clark, 2 Daly (N. Y.) 509].

  3. “Protest” is also the name of a paper served on a collector of customs by an importer of merchandise, stating that he believes the sum charged as duty to be excessive, and that, although he pays such sum for the purpose of getting his goods out of the custom-house, the reserves the right to bring an action against the collector to recover the excess.

  4. In maritime law, a protest is a written statement by the master of a vessel, attested by a proper judicial officer or a notary, to the effect that damage suffered by the ship on er voyage was caused by storms or other perils of the sea without any negligence or misconduct on his own part [Marsh. Ins. 715; see Cudworth v. South Carolina Ins. Co., 4 Rich. Law (S.C.) 16, 55 Am. Dec. 692].

  • Notice of protest: a notice given by the holder of a bill or note to the drawer or indorse: that the bill has been protested for refusal of payment or acceptance [Cook v. Litchfield, 10 N. Y. Leg. Obs. 338; First Nat. Bank v. Hatch, 78 Mo. 23; Roberts v. State Bank, 9 Port. (Ala.) 315].

  • Supra protest: in mercantile law, a term applied to an acceptance of a bill by a third person, after protest for nonacceptance by the drawee [3 Kent Comm].

  • Waiver of protest: as applied to a note or bill, a waiver of protest implies not only dispensing with the formal act known as “protest,” but also with that which ordinarily must precede it, viz., demand and notice of the non-payment [see Baker v. Scott, 29 Kan. 136, 44 Am. Rep. 628; First Nat. Bank v. Hartman, 110 Pa. 196, 2 Atl. 271; Coddington v. Davis, 1 N. Y. 186].


PROTEST’, v.i. [L. protestor; pro and testor, to affirm it.]

1. To affirm with solemnity; to make a solemn declaration of a fact or opinion; as, I protest to you, I have no knowledge of the transaction.
2. To make a solemn declaration expressive of opposition; with against; as, he protests against your votes.
The conscience has power to protest against the exorbitancies of the passions.
3. To make a formal declaration in writing against a public law or measure. It is the privilege of any lord in parliament to protest against a law or resolution.


PROTEST’, v.t. To call as a witness in affirming or denying, or to prove an affirmation.

Fiercely they oppos’d
My journey strange, with clamorous uproar
Protesting fate supreme.
1. To prove; to show; to give evidence of. [Not in use.]
2. In commerce, to protest a bill of exchange, is for a notary public, at the request of the payee, to make a formal declaration under hand and seal, against the drawer of the bill, on account of non-acceptance or non-payment, for exchange, cost,commissions, damages and interest; of which act the indorser must be notified within such time as the law or custom prescribes. In like manner, notes of hand given to a banking corporation are protested for non-payment.
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