Chief Magistrate
Chief Magistrate is a generic designation for a public official whose office—individual or collegial—is the highest in his or her class, in either of the fundamental meanings of Magistrate
A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

 (which often overlapped in the Ancien régime): as a major political and administrative office (in a republican form of government, at state or lower level), and/or as a judge (in a given jurisdiction, not necessarily a whole state).

Governing chief magistrates

If the jurisdiction he or she heads is considered to have statehood (sovereign or not), the official is generally its head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and (in various degrees of authority) chief executive. It is not possible to read such distinctions reliably from the style in use as title and competence may change independently.

European states

Chief magistratures in antiquity include the following titles:
  • Consul
    Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

  • Dictator
    A dictator is a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power but without hereditary ascension such as an absolute monarch. When other states call the head of state of a particular state a dictator, that state is called a dictatorship...

  • Suffet

Chief magistratures in the feudal era (and sometimes beyond) include the following titles:
  • Consul
    Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

  • Gonfaloniere
    The Gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence and the Papal States. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes....

  • Lord Mayor
    Lord Mayor
    The Lord Mayor is the title of the Mayor of a major city, with special recognition.-Commonwealth of Nations:* In Australia it is a political position. Australian cities with Lord Mayors: Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Perth, Sydney, and Wollongong...

    , Mayor
    In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

     and various close equivalents such as (Ober)Bürgermeister in German language, (Lord) Provost
    Provost (civil)
    A provost is the ceremonial head of many Scottish local authorities, and under the name prévôt was a governmental position of varying importance in Ancien Regime France.-History:...

     in Scotland
  • Podestà
    Podestà is the name given to certain high officials in many Italian cities, since the later Middle Ages, mainly as Chief magistrate of a city state , but also as a local administrator, the representative of the Emperor.The term derives from the Latin word potestas, meaning power...

  • Presidente del magistrato
  • Rettore

"Chief magistrate" is also used as a generic term for the various offices in the role of head of state of the various Swiss (confederal) cantons, with such styles as Landamman.

Colonial functions and titles

  • The Cayman Islands
    Cayman Islands
    The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union located in the western Caribbean Sea. The territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman, located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica...

     were part of the English, and later British, Empire since 18 July 1670. Initially part of Jamaica
    Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

    , they were proclaimed a Crown Colony on 4 July 1959, this Colony receiving its own Administrator and eventually a Governor. Since the first permanent settlements were established c. 1734, the highest colonial authority was styled Chief Magistrate. There were eight holders of the position, until 1898, when the new post of Commissioner was created.
  • On the Bay Islands, then claimed by Britain (till 1860) as well as ultimate owner Honduras
    Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

    , the British (who settled them since 1827) appointed two consecutive chief magistrates (1850 William Fitzgibbon (acting) and 1850 - 1852 John James Hall) before declaring them in 1852 a 'separate' crown colony under the Governor of Jamaica (represented locally by two consecutive Presiding Magistrates: 1852 - 1855 Charles Henry Johnes Cuyler and 1855 - 1860 Alexander Wilson Moir).
  • Since in December 1832 the Port Cresson colony was founded by the Black Quakers of the New York and Pennsylvania Colonization Societies (after it was in June 1835 destroyed by Bassa natives, it was in July 1835 reestablished as Bassa Cove colony, which in 1837 annexed the Edina
    Edina, Liberia
    Edina is a town in District 1 of Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Located on the central portion of the Atlantic Coast of Liberia on the north shore of the mouth of the St. John River, it is about north of Grand Bassa’s capitol of Buchanan. Settled in 1832, the current mayor of Edina is Etweda Cooper...

     settlement, also formed by the New York and Pennsylvania Colonization Societies), till its 1 April 1839 incorporation into Liberia
    Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

     (and 1841 renaming as Buchanan), its de facto governors were styled Chief Magistrate.
  • On Norfolk Island
    Norfolk Island
    Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, but it enjoys a large degree of self-governance...

    , since 1 November 1856 a separate territory (subordinated to New South Wales), where on 8 June 1856 the Pitcairn islanders were resettled, the highest colonial authority were its many consecutive Chief magistrates, till shortly before on 15 January 1897 its self-government was revoked- from 1896 Administrators were appointed.
  • While Zululand
    Zulu Kingdom
    The Zulu Kingdom, sometimes referred to as the Zulu Empire or, rather imprecisely, Zululand, was a monarchy in Southern Africa that extended along the coast of the Indian Ocean from the Tugela River in the south to Pongola River in the north....

     was a separate British crown colony (since 21 June 1887, until its 1 December 1897 incorporation into the colony of Natal), it was nominally under the governorship of the British governors of Natal, but the highest colonial authorities on the spot were titled Resident Commissioner
    Resident Commissioner
    Resident Commissioner is the title of several, quite different types of Commissioner in overseas possession or protectorate of the British Crown or of the United States.-British English:...

    s and Chief magistrates
    • 1887 - 1893 Sir Melmoth Osborn (b. 1834 - d. 1899)
    • 1893 - 1 December 1897 Sir Marshall James Clarke (b. 1841 - d. 1909)
  • When on 23 January 1894 South Zambesia (the future Southern Rhodesia, present Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

    ) was created from Mashonaland
    Mashonaland is a region in northern Zimbabwe. It is the home of the Shona people.Currently, Mashonaland is divided into three provinces, with a total population of about 3 million:* Mashonaland West* Mashonaland Central* Mashonaland East...

     and Matabeleland
    Modern day Matabeleland is a region in Zimbabwe divided into three provinces: Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. These provinces are in the west and south-west of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The region is named after its inhabitants, the Ndebele people...

     protectorates (both had been privately owned by the British South Africa Company
    British South Africa Company
    The British South Africa Company was established by Cecil Rhodes through the amalgamation of the Central Search Association and the Exploring Company Ltd., receiving a royal charter in 1889...

    ), it was administered by Chief magistrates of South Zambesia:
    • 23 January 1894 - May 1894 Andrew Duncan (acting)
    • May 1894 - 9 September 1894 Leander Starr Jameson (b. 1853 - d. 1917), who stayed on as the first Administrator of the Rhodesia Protectorate (the 3 May 1895 union of South Zambesia and North Zambesia -present Zambia- as Rhodesia Protectorate).

Judicial Chief Magistrates

Unlike the previous section, this does not require any political autonomy for the jurisdiction, so there can be additional circonscriptions, even created solely for the administration of justice. It is not uncommon for magistratures to perform additional functions separate from litigation and arbitration, rather as a registrar or notary, but as these are not their defining core-business, they are irrelevant in the context of this article.

Sources and references

  • WorldStatesmen
  • Cornog, Evan and Whelan, Richard, Hats in the Ring: An Illustrated History of American Presidential Campaigns (Random House, N.Y. 2000)
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