In England. this is the highest judicial functionary in the kingdom, and superior, in point of precedency, to every temporal lord. He is appointed by the delivery of the king’s great seal into his custody. He may not be a Roman Catholic. He is a cabinet minister, a privy counsellor, and prolocutor of the house of lords by prescription, (but not necessarily, though usually, a peer of the realm,) and vacates his office with the ministry by which he was appointed. To him belongs the appointment of all justices of the peace throughout the kingdom. Being, in the earlier periods of English history, usually an ecclesiastic, (for none else were then capable of an office so conversant in writings.) and presiding over the royal chapel, he became keeper of the sovereign’s conscience, visitor, in right of the crown, of the hospitals and colleges of royal foundation, and patron of all the crown livings under the value of twenty marks per annum in the king’s books. He is the general guardian of all infants, idiots, and lunatics, and has the general superintendence of all charitable uses, and all this, over and above the vast and extensive jurisdiction which he exercises in his judicial capacity in the supreme court of judicature, of which he is the head. Wharton.
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