Commissioner is in principle the title given to a member of a commission or to an individual who has been given a commission (official charge or authority to do something, the noun's second meaning).

In practice, the title of commissioner has evolved to include a variety of senior officials, often sitting on a specific commission. In particular, commissioner frequently refers to senior police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 or government officials. A High Commissioner is equivalent to an ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

, originally between the United Kingdom and the Dominions sharing the British Monarch as head of state and now between all Commonwealth states whether Commonwealth Realms, Commonwealth Republics or Commonwealth states having their own monarchs. The title is also sometimes given to senior officials in the private sector, for instance many North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n sport
A Sport is all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical fitness and provide entertainment to participants. Sport may be competitive, where a winner or winners can be identified by objective means, and may require a degree...

s leagues.

Domestic public official

A Commissioner within a modern state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 generally holds his office by virtue of a commission
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 from the 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...

 or a council of elected representatives (or appointed by non-elected officials in the case of dictatorships).

Imperial China

Senior Public Servants, Commissioners and other high ranking bureaucrats referred to collectively as Mandarins
Mandarin (bureaucrat)
A mandarin was a bureaucrat in imperial China, and also in the monarchist days of Vietnam where the system of Imperial examinations and scholar-bureaucrats was adopted under Chinese influence.-History and use of the term:...


Canadian territories

Commissioners are the formal head of the territories in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 (i.e. those areas under the formal jurisdiction of the federal government and without separate constitutional
Constitution Act, 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 , is a major part of Canada's Constitution. The Act created a federal dominion and defines much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system...

 status of a province
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

). Unlike the Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 or a Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant Governor (Canada)
In Canada, a lieutenant governor is the viceregal representative in a provincial jurisdiction of the Canadian monarch and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom...

, who are representative of the Queen of Canada, Commissioners are not vice-regal representatives, although they perform similar duties including; reading the Speech from the Throne
Speech from the Throne
A speech from the throne is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming session...

 at the opening of the territorial Legislature. They are appointed by the federal government
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...

 as delegates of cabinet
Cabinet of Canada
The Cabinet of Canada is a body of ministers of the Crown that, along with the Canadian monarch, and within the tenets of the Westminster system, forms the government of Canada...

. Under federal statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

s governing the territories, Commissioners act in accordance with written instructions from cabinet or the minister responsible (currently the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development). While commissioners formally had direct day-to-day role in administration and government and chaired the Executive Council, today they are under instruction to act more like provincial Lieutenant-Governors, as territorial assemblies have taken on more responsibility.

Commissioners are eligible to present a Vice-Regal Commendation to any Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

 Members as any Lieutenant-Governors for long-term or outstanding service to the Office of a Lieutenant-Governor or Commissioner.

Current Canadian commissioners

Symbol of Office Territory Current commissioner Commissioner since Website
Northwest Territories
Commissioners of Northwest Territories
The Commissioner of the Northwest Territories is the Canadian federal government’s representative in Northwest Territories and the territory's Chief Executive Officer...

The Honourable George Tuccaro
George Tuccaro
George Tuccaro is the current Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. He has served in that position since his appointment on May 12, 2010.- Biography :George Tuccaro was born on May 12, 1950 in northern Alberta...

May 28, 2010 Website
Commissioners of Nunavut
This is a list of the Commissioners of Nunavut, Canada, since its creation in 1999. As of 12 May 2010, the commissioner is Edna Elias.-History:The position of Commissioner was created in 1999 with the creation of the new territory...

The Honourable Edna Elias
Edna Elias
Edna Elias is a Canadian politician from Kugluktuk, Nunavut. On 12 May 2010 she was appointed as the 4th Commissioner of Nunavut by Prime Minister Stephen Harper....

May 21, 2010 Website
Commissioners of Yukon
This is a list of Yukon Commissioners from 1897 to the present. The Commissioner is appointed by the Government of Canada, but they are not vice-regals and therefore not the Queen's Representative of the territory.CommissionerTermJames Morrow Walsh1897-1898...

The Honourable Doug Phillips
Doug Phillips (politician)
Douglas George Phillips, also known as Doug Phillips, is a Canadian businessman and politician and the current Commissioner of Yukon.Born in Toronto in 1946, Phillips moved to Whitehorse with his family as a child. He was first elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1985, serving fifteen...

December 1, 2010 Website


In police services in the Commonwealth and USA, the title of commissioner typically designates the head of an entire police force (e.g., Australian Federal Police
Australian Federal Police
The Australian Federal Police is the federal police agency of the Commonwealth of Australia. Although the AFP was created by the amalgamation in 1979 of three Commonwealth law enforcement agencies, it traces its history from Commonwealth law enforcement agencies dating back to the federation of...

, the New South Wales Police Force, New York City Police Department
New York City Police Department
The New York City Police Department , established in 1845, is currently the largest municipal police force in the United States, with primary responsibilities in law enforcement and investigation within the five boroughs of New York City...

, St. Louis Police Department
St. Louis Police Department
The Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis is the principal law enforcement agency responsible for serving St. Louis City in the U.S. state of Missouri. The current chief is Colonel Daniel Isom....

, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police , literally ‘Royal Gendarmerie of Canada’; colloquially known as The Mounties, and internally as ‘The Force’) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal,...

, Ontario Provincial Police
Ontario Provincial Police
The Ontario Provincial Police is the Provincial Police service for the province of Ontario, Canada.-Overview:The OPP is the the largest deployed police force in Ontario, and the second largest in Canada. The service is responsible for providing policing services throughout the province in areas...

, the London Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan police
Metropolitan Police is a generic title for the municipal police force for a major metropolitan area, and it may be part of the official title of the force...

 or the California Highway Patrol
California Highway Patrol
The California Highway Patrol is a law enforcement agency of the U.S. state of California. The CHP has patrol jurisdiction over all California highways and also acts as the state police....

). In some countries, such as in many Latin American countries and in France and in Italy, the title of commissioner refers to the head of a single police station.


Prior to the Acts of Union 1707
Acts of Union 1707
The Acts of Union were two Parliamentary Acts - the Union with Scotland Act passed in 1706 by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland - which put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706,...

, an elected member of the Estates (parliament) of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 held the office of Commissioner, representing a constituency (the equivalent of a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 in the contemporaneous Parliament of England
Parliament of England
The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England. In 1066, William of Normandy introduced a feudal system, by which he sought the advice of a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics before making laws...

). There were Burgh
A burgh was an autonomous corporate entity in Scotland and Northern England, usually a town. This type of administrative division existed from the 12th century, when King David I created the first royal burghs. Burgh status was broadly analogous to borough status, found in the rest of the United...

 Commissioners and Shire or Stewartry Commissioners.

Isle of Man

In the local government system
Local government in the Isle of Man
Local government in the Isle of Man was formerly based on 6 sheadings, which were divided into 17 parishes...

 of the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

, a Commissioner is an elected representative equivalent to a Councillor
A councillor or councilor is a member of a local government council, such as a city council.Often in the United States, the title is councilman or councilwoman.-United Kingdom:...

. All town, village, district and parish local government bodies consist of commissioners, with the exception of Douglas
Douglas, Isle of Man
right|thumb|250px|Douglas Promenade, which runs nearly the entire length of beachfront in Douglasright|thumb|250px|Sea terminal in DouglasDouglas is the capital and largest town of the Isle of Man, with a population of 26,218 people . It is located at the mouth of the River Douglas, and a sweeping...

, which has a council and councillors.


The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...

's position of District Commissioner
District Commissioner
A District Commissioner is an executive post in Malawi for the appointee in charge of the Districts or administrative localities in Malawi. There are 28 Districts in Malawi. The role is similar to that of a governor. The position of DC is appointed by the President of Malawi...

 refers to the person that in appointed by the President of Malawi to oversea the administration of any of its 28 districts
Districts of Malawi
||Malawi is divided into 28 districts within three regions. Each District is headed by a District Commissioner:*Central Region**1 Dedza**2 Dowa**3 Kasungu**4 Lilongwe**5 Mchinji**6 Nkhotakota**7 Ntcheu**8 Ntchisi**9 Salima* Northern Region...

. One commissioner is appointed per district. The position was created during the colonial era, sustained during the Kamuzu Banda era and continues as a prominent position in democratic era in Malawi.

Soviet Union

From the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in 1917 until the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991, the Soviet government as well as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 and its predecessors used commissioner (in Russian комиссар or commissar) as a term for multiple positions. From 1917 until 1946 ministers of government were called people's commissars (and ministries were called "people's commissariats"). In workplaces a commissar was appointed to assure that communist political doctrine was observed. In military units such commissars were also called the политрук (politruk, meaning "political director") or замполит (zampolit, or deputy commander for political affairs). By contrast, a военный комиссар (voyennyy komissar), or military commissar, was merely a local military official in charge of supervising the induction of military draftees.

United States

In many U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s, the legislative and executive decision-making bodies of counties are called the board of commissioners or county commission. In Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, the heads of statewide cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

-level departments are called "commissioners". In California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, commissioners are subordinate judicial officers.

Historically, the U.S. government appointed special commissioners for a variety of tasks. For example, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1862 to 1889 was a commissioner, not a Cabinet secretary.

British and Commonwealth overseas possessions

The title of Commissioner, as such, was used by the (gubernatorial) chief British official in:
  • British India, now composed of four independent countries (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), where the Divisional Commissioner was the head of one of the few Divisions of a province, and was higher than a Deputy Commissioner
    Deputy Commissioner (India)
    The deputy commissioner or district magistrate or district collector or district magistrate and collector is the head of the revenue administration of an Indian district. The DC is required to be an Indian Administrative Service officer who is in charge of governmental assets in his district of...

     and lower than a Secretary (now Principal Secretary) in the provincial capital.
  • British Central Africa
    British Central Africa
    The British Central Africa Protectorate existed in the area of present-day Malawi between 1893 and 1907.-History:The Shire Highlands south of Lake Nyasa and the lands west of the lake had been of interest to the British since they were first explored by David Livingstone in the 1850s, and...

  • Territories of Zambesia and Rhodesia
    Rhodesia (disambiguation)
    Rhodesia refers primarily to a country formed by two land-locked territories in southern Africa, which are today Zambia and Zimbabwe. British colonisers named this territory after Cecil Rhodes and it was separated by a natural border provided by the Zambezi River. Occasionally they are informally...

    , administered under charter 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...

  • the Oil Rivers Protectorate (from 5 June 1885 under a consul-general; soon renamed Niger Coast Protectorate
    Niger Coast Protectorate
    The Niger Coast Protectorate was a British protectorate in the Oil Rivers area of present-day Nigeria, originally established as the Oil Rivers Protectorate in 1891 and confirmed at the Berlin Conference the following year, renamed on 12 May 1893, and merged with the chartered territories of the...

    ), from 3 August 1891 till 1 January 1900 when it became the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, hence under a High Commissioner
  • the Caribbean Turks and Caicos Islands
    Turks and Caicos Islands
    The Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory and overseas territory of the European Union consisting of two groups of tropical islands in the Caribbean, the larger Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands, known for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.The Turks and...

    , 1874 - 4 July 1959, as a dependency under the Governor 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...

  • the Weihaiwei concession territory (held from China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    ) from 1902 to 1938
  • Kamaran Island, in June 1915 taken from the Ottoman Empire and subordinated to the Aden Settlement, but not incorporated, till on 30 November 1967 it became part of the newly independent People's Republic of South Yemen.
  • the UN trust territory of British Cameroons, only two incumbents, from 1 October 1954 (the only Special Resident succeeding himself till 1956) to 1 October 1961 when Southern British Cameroons is incorporated into the independent Republic of Cameroon (former French mandate of Cameroun), after the northern part united with Nigeria on 1 June 1961.


Canada calls its government officials in charge of export promotion "trade commissioners
Trade Commissioner
Trade Commissioner is the title of a government official whose primary duties are to promote international trade agreements and export trade programs on behalf of a national or regional government authority. Such envoys are normally posted abroad, often being permanently resident in the country or...

". There are 150 offices of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in Canada and abroad, and they "assist with export advice and guidance to help [Canadians] achieve [their] international business goals." The website devoted to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service uses the Internet domain

European Union

The European Commissioner
European Commissioner
A European Commissioner is a member of the 27-member European Commission. Each Member within the college holds a specific portfolio and are led by the President of the European Commission...

are the members of the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, the highest executive organ of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, which is the closest EU equivalent to a government. Each Commissioner is assigned a portfolio, but they make most important decisions collegially, often subject to approval by the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 and/or the Council of the European Union
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union is the institution in the legislature of the European Union representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers...


French colonies

The French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 equivalent, Commissaire, was used for various officials employed at different levels of the colonial administration in several French-ruled countries.

Russian Empire

After on 17 April 1914 Tannu Tuva (ethnically Mongolian) was declared a Russian 'protected' area
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 (Uryanhay [Urjanhaj] kray
Kray or krai may refer to:*Krai, a type of a federal subject in Russia or a type of an administrative division of the former RSFSR*Kray twins, the London gangsters*Baron Pál Kray , Hungarian-Austrian General during the Napoleonic Wars...

), two subsequent Russian Commissioners for the Affairs of Urjanhai Kray (1914 - 1915 A.P. Cererin (Tsererin) and 1915 - 1917 Yu.V. Grigoryev) were appointed, alongside the last native tribal Paramount chief (title Ambyn-noyon), followed by a single Commissar
Commissar is the English transliteration of an official title used in Russia from the time of Peter the Great.The title was used during the Provisional Government for regional heads of administration, but it is mostly associated with a number of Cheka and military functions in Bolshevik and Soviet...

 of the Provisional Government
(October 1917 - 16 March 1918 Aleksey Aleksandrovich Turchaninov) until czarist rule collapsed for good, giving way to the Soviet regime

United Nations administration

A UN Commissioner appointed in 1949 supervised the transition of the UN Trust territory of Libya (a former Italian colony; actually Tripolitania
Tripolitania or Tripolitana is a historic region and former province of Libya.Tripolitania was a separate Italian colony from 1927 to 1934...

 and Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

 each were under a British Administrator, in 1949 restyled Resident
Resident (title)
A Resident, or in full Resident Minister, is a government official required to take up permanent residence in another country. A representative of his government, he officially has diplomatic functions which are often seen as a form of indirect rule....

, Fezzan
Fezzan is a south western region of modern Libya. It is largely desert but broken by mountains, uplands, and dry river valleys in the north, where oases enable ancient towns and villages to survive deep in the otherwise inhospitable Sahara.-Name:...

 under a French Military Governor, in 1950 also restyled Résident) to independence as a united monarchy in 1951.

United States

From the mid-19th century until 1939, two U.S. Government cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

United States Federal Executive Departments
The United States federal executive departments are among the oldest primary units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States—the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury all being established within a few weeks of each other in 1789.Federal executive...

 used the title "commissioner" for officials posted abroad who did not enjoy diplomatic status
Diplomatic rank
Diplomatic rank is the system of professional and social rank used in the world of diplomacy and international relations. Over time it has been formalized on an international basis.-Ranks:...

. U.S. federal agencies have not titled officials posted abroad as commissioners since 1939.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

During the 19th century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began sending employees, called "agricultural commissioners", abroad to investigate foreign agriculture. These appointments were of a roving nature, as the officials were not assigned to a particular country or city. In 1919 USDA posted to London an agricultural commissioner without diplomatic status, Edward Foley, to report on British agriculture. Additional commissioners were posted through the 1920s to Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Shanghai. The title began to be phased out in 1930 with passage of the Foreign Agricultural Service
Foreign Agricultural Service
The Foreign Agricultural Service is the foreign affairs agency with primary responsibility for the United States Department of Agriculture's overseas programs—market development, international trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection of statistics and market information...

 Act, which granted USDA authority to use the diplomatic title "attaché
Attaché is a French term in diplomacy referring to a person who is assigned to the diplomatic or administrative staff of a higher placed person or another service or agency...

". The last USDA employee to bear the title "agricultural commissioner" was Owen Dawson, agricultural commissioner at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, who received diplomatic status and the title agricultural attaché
Agricultural attaché
An agricultural attaché is a diplomat who collects, analyzes, and acts on information on agriculture, agribusiness, food, and other related spheres in a foreign country or countries. Agricultural attachés may be directly employed by the sending country's agriculture ministry, or they may be...

 in 1939 when USDA's overseas officers were transferred to the Department of State.

Noted American author Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 recounted meeting one of the 19th-century roving agricultural commissioners in Innocents Abroad
Innocents Abroad
The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress is a travel book by American author Mark Twain published in 1869 which humorously chronicles what Twain called his "Great Pleasure Excursion" on board the chartered vessel Quaker City through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American...


I was proud to observe that among our excursionists were three ministers of the gospel, eight doctors, sixteen or eighteen ladies, several military and naval chieftains with sounding titles, an ample crop of "Professors" of various kinds, and a gentleman who had "COMMISSIONER OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO EUROPE, ASIA, AND AFRICA" thundering after his name in one awful blast! I had carefully prepared myself to take rather a back seat in that ship because of the uncommonly select material that would alone be permitted to pass through the camel's eye of that committee on credentials; I had schooled myself to expect an imposing array of military and naval heroes and to have to set that back seat still further back in consequence of it maybe; but I state frankly that I was all unprepared for this crusher.

I fell under that titular avalanche a torn and blighted thing. I said that if that potentate must go over in our ship, why, I supposed he must -- but that to my thinking, when the United States considered it necessary to send a dignitary of that tonnage across the ocean, it would be in better taste, and safer, to take him apart and cart him over in sections in several ships.

Ah, if I had only known then that he was only a common mortal, and that his mission had nothing more overpowering about it than the collecting of seeds and uncommon yams and extraordinary cabbages and peculiar bullfrogs for that poor, useless, innocent, mildewed old fossil the Smithsonian Institute, I would have felt so much relieved.

U.S. Department of Commerce

Following unification of the U.S. Foreign Service under the Rogers Act
Rogers Act
The Rogers Act of 1924, often referred to as the Foreign Service Act of 1924, is the legislation that merged the United States diplomatic and consular services into the United States Foreign Service. It defined a personnel system under which the United States Secretary of State is authorized to...

 in 1924, overseas trade promotion shifted from 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...

s of the United States to "trade commissioners
Trade Commissioner
Trade Commissioner is the title of a government official whose primary duties are to promote international trade agreements and export trade programs on behalf of a national or regional government authority. Such envoys are normally posted abroad, often being permanently resident in the country or...

" employed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most but not all trade commissioners were retitled commercial attachés upon creation of the Foreign Commerce Service (viz.) in 1927. The title "trade commissioner" went out of use in the United States when Commerce's overseas officials were transferred to the Department of State and all three U.S. foreign services (of the Departments of State, Agriculture and Commerce) were merged in 1939 under Reorganization Plan No. II
Reorganization Act of 1939
The Reorganization Act of 1939, Pub. L. No. 76-19, 53 Stat. 561, 5 USC 133 , is an American Act of Congress which became law on April 3, 1939, and which gave the President of the United States the authority to hire additional confidential staff and reorganize the executive branch for two years...


The Salvation Army

In The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

 the rank of Commissioner
Commissioner in The Salvation Army
The rank of Commissioner in The Salvation Army is the second highest rank attainable by Officers in the organisation, and the highest 'appointed' rank, as the rank of General is by election...

 is the second-highest attainable rank and the highest rank by appointment, as the rank of General
Generals of The Salvation Army
thumbnail|left|1st General, William BoothGeneral is the title of the international leader of The Salvation Army, a Christian denomination with extensive charitable social services that gives quasi-military rank to its ministers .Usage of the term General began with the Founder of The Salvation...

 is by election. It is one of the original ranks of the Army and has been in use since 1880, the first Commissioner was George Scott Railton
George Scott Railton
George Scott Railton was the first Commissioner of The Salvation Army and second in command to its Founder General William Booth.-Early life:...



Within the Scout Movement, a Commissioner
Scout Commissioner
In the Scout Movement, a commissioner is the person whose role it is to oversee a Scout association's programs, usually within a particular geographic area. Normally, commissioners are volunteers. In some Scout associations, the term Executive Commissioner is used to refer to a paid staff...

 is a senior adult leader who is responsible for the management of an aspect of Scouting and/or the leadership of other adults, as opposed to adult leaders who lead youth members.


In many North American sports league
Sports league
League is a term commonly used to describe a group of sports teams or individual athletes that compete against each other in a specific sport. At its simplest, it may be a local group of amateur athletes who form teams among themselves and compete on weekends; at its most complex, it can be an...

s, including nearly all professional leagues, the commissioner is the highest executive position. The exact powers of the commissioner depend on the constitution and/or rules of the league. Commissioners are elected by the owners of the league's clubs, and handle matters such as discipline, arbitration of disputes between the clubs, etc.

The title was first used in 1920, when Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Kenesaw Mountain Landis was an American jurist who served as a federal judge from 1905 to 1922 and as the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 until his death...

 was appointed Commissioner of Baseball
Commissioner of Baseball
The Commissioner of Baseball is the chief executive of Major League Baseball and its associated minor leagues. Under the direction of the Commissioner, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball hires and maintains the sport's umpiring crews, and negotiates marketing, labor, and television contracts...

 in the aftermath of the Black Sox Scandal
Black Sox Scandal
The Black Sox Scandal took place around and during the play of the American baseball 1919 World Series. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned for life from baseball for intentionally losing games, which allowed the Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series...

. Landis was titled "Commissioner" partly to distinguish his office from that of the "President" of the American
American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League , is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major...

 and National League
National League
The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the National League , is the older of two leagues constituting Major League Baseball, and the world's oldest extant professional team sports league. Founded on February 2, 1876, to replace the National Association of Professional...

s. Landis' title derived from the National Commission, the ruling body for baseball established in 1903, which were largely autonomous organizations at the time. Eager to restore public confidence in their sport's integrity, baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 owners gave Landis absolute power and a lifetime contract, which permitted the former judge to assume more power over the sport than a commissioner in any sport has held since.

The other major professional sports leagues of North America followed suit, replacing their positions of league president with that of commissioner. The National Football League
National Football League
The National Football League is the highest level of professional American football in the United States, and is considered the top professional American football league in the world. It was formed by eleven teams in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association, with the league changing...

 appointed its first commissioner in 1941, the National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America. It consists of thirty franchised member clubs, of which twenty-nine are located in the United States and one in Canada...

 in 1967, and the National Hockey League
National Hockey League
The National Hockey League is an unincorporated not-for-profit association which operates a major professional ice hockey league of 30 franchised member clubs, of which 7 are currently located in Canada and 23 in the United States...

 in 1993. However, the commissioners' powers and responsibilities in these leagues are not substantially different from those of the presidents that preceded them. Although baseball's subsequent commissioners have not had the absolute power that Landis did, current Commissioner Bud Selig
Bud Selig
Allan Huber "Bud" Selig is the ninth and current Commissioner of Major League Baseball, having served in that capacity since 1992 as the acting commissioner, and as the official commissioner since 1998...

 has succeeded in centralizing authority over Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 in the commissioner's office, relegating the position of league president to an honorary title and giving baseball's commissioner competencies similar to those of his colleagues in the other major sports.

Many minor professional and amateur leagues throughout the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada have also appointed commissioners. The title has not caught on outside North America. In addition to Selig, the other current commissioners of the North American major professional leagues are Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell
Roger S. Goodell is the Commissioner of the National Football League , having been chosen to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue on August 8, 2006. He was chosen over four finalists for the position, winning a close vote on the fifth ballot before being unanimously approved by acclamation of the...

 in the NFL, David Stern
David Stern
David Joel Stern is the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. He started with the Association in 1966 as an outside counsel, joined the NBA in 1978 as General Counsel, and became the league's Executive Vice President in 1980. He became Commissioner in 1984 succeeding Larry O'Brien...

 in the NBA, Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman
Gary Bruce Bettman is the commissioner of the National Hockey League , a post he has held since February 1, 1993. Previously, Bettman was a senior vice-president and general counsel to the National Basketball Association...

 in the NHL, and Don Garber
Don Garber
Donald Garber is the commissioner of Major League Soccer, CEO of Soccer United Marketing, and a member of the United States Soccer Federation board of directors. Garber has spent his entire career in the sports industry, working in a variety of capacities in marketing, television and league...

 in MLS.

Compound titles

In many cases the term Commissioner is part of a more specific title, including English renditions of such titles in other languages. Examples (in some cases there are further compounds) include:
  • Assistant Commissioner
    Assistant Commissioner
    Assistant commissioner is a rank used in many police forces across the globe. It is also a rank used in revenue administrations in many countries.-Australia:...

  • Chief Commissioner
    Chief Commissioner
    A Chief Commissioner is a commissioner of a high rank, usually in chief of several Commissioners or similarly styled officers.-Colonial:In British India the gubernatorial style was Chief Commissioner in various provinces , the style being applied especially where an elected assembly did not exist,...

  • Civil Commissioner
  • Commissioner of Business Services
  • Commissioner of Finance
  • Commissioner of Legal Services
  • Commissioner of Public Lands
    Commissioner of Public Lands
    Commissioner of Public Lands may refer to*Patrick H. Lyons – New Mexico State Land Commissioner*Peter J. Goldmark – Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands...

  • Commissioner of Public Works
    Commissioner of Public Works
    The Commissioner of Public Works heads one of the departments in those local governments in New Jersey that operate under the Walsh Act form of municipal governance. This is a standalone position in Walsh Act municipalities with a five-member commission...

  • Commissioner-General
  • Deputy Commissioner
    Deputy Commissioner
    A deputy commissioner is a police or administrative official in many different countries.-Australia:In all Australian police forces, deputy commissioner is the rank directly below that of commissioner and senior to the rank of assistant commissioner except in the New South Wales Police Force, where...

  • District Commissioner
    District Commissioner
    A District Commissioner is an executive post in Malawi for the appointee in charge of the Districts or administrative localities in Malawi. There are 28 Districts in Malawi. The role is similar to that of a governor. The position of DC is appointed by the President of Malawi...

  • Divisional Commissioner
  • Extraordinary Commissioner
  • Federal Commissioner
  • Fire Commissioner
  • Government Commissioner
  • High Commissioner
    High Commissioner
    High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

  • Imperial Commissioner
    Imperial Commissioner
    Imperial Commissioner is an ambivalent English language term, used to render foreign language titles of various - mostly gubernatorial - officers whose 'commission' was in the gift of an Emperor, including China, Tsarist Russia and the Holy Roman Empire....

  • Insurance Commissioner
    Insurance commissioner
    Insurance commissioner is an executive office in many U.S. states, some in the state cabinet. The office differs state by state:...

  • Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty
    Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty
    The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were the members of the Board of Admiralty, which exercised command over the Royal Navy.Officially known as the Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland &c. The Lords...

  • Lord High Commissioner
    Lord High Commissioner
    Lord High Commissioner is the style of High Commissioners, i.e. direct representatives of the monarch, in three cases in the Kingdom of Scotland and the United Kingdom, two of which are no longer extant...

     and its further compounds, notably Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
    Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
    The Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the British Sovereign's personal representative to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland , reflecting the Church's role as the national church of Scotland, and the Sovereign's role as protector and member of...

     and Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland
    Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland
    The Lord High Commissioners to the Parliament of Scotland, sometimes referred to as the fifth estate of the Estates of Scotland, were the Scottish Sovereign's personal representative to the Parliament of Scotland following James VI of Scotland's accession to the throne of England and his becoming,...

  • Military and Civil Commissioner
  • Police Commissioner
    Police commissioner
    Commissioner is a senior rank used in many police forces and may be rendered Police Commissioner or Commissioner of Police. In some organizations, the commissioner is a political appointee, and may or may not actually be a professional police officer. In these circumstances, there is often a...

  • Provincial Commissioner
  • 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:...

  • Royal commissioner
  • Scout Commissioner
    Scout Commissioner
    In the Scout Movement, a commissioner is the person whose role it is to oversee a Scout association's programs, usually within a particular geographic area. Normally, commissioners are volunteers. In some Scout associations, the term Executive Commissioner is used to refer to a paid staff...

  • Special Commissioner
  • State Commissioner and Commissioner of State
  • Trade Commissioner
    Trade Commissioner
    Trade Commissioner is the title of a government official whose primary duties are to promote international trade agreements and export trade programs on behalf of a national or regional government authority. Such envoys are normally posted abroad, often being permanently resident in the country or...

  • Traveling Commissioner

See also

  • Ombudsman
    An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests...

  • List of Commissioners of New South Wales Police
  • List of Northwest Territories commissioners
  • List of Nunavut commissioners
  • List of Yukon commissioners

External links

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