In the legal sense, this word may be used to signify the result of a public deliberation, the decision of a prince, of a legislative body, of a council, court of justice, or a magistrate. Also, a decree, edict, law, judgment, resolve, award, determination. Also, an instrument in writing to verify facts, as act of assembly, act of congress, act of parliament, act and deed. Acts are civil or criminal, lawful or unlawful, public or private.
Public acts, usually denominated authentic, are those which have a public authority, and which have been made before public officers, are authorized by a public seal, have been made public by the authority of a magistrate, or which have been extracted and been properly authenticated from public records.
Acts under private signature are those which have been made by private individuals, under their hands. An act of this kind does not acquire the force of an authentic act, by being registered in the office of a notary unless it has been properly acknowledged before the officer, by the parties to it.
Private acts are those made by private persons, as registers in relation to their receipts and expenditures, schedules, acquittances, and the like.
Civil Law, Contracts. A writing which states in a legal form that a thing has been said, done, or agreed. In Latin, Instrumentum.
Evidence. The act of one of several conspirators, performed in pursuance of the common design, is evidence against all of them. An overt act of treason must be proved by two witnesses.
The terra. acts, includes written correspondence, and other papers relative to the design of the parties, but whether it includes unpublished writings upon abstract questions, though of a kindred nature, has been doubted.
In cases of partnership it is a rule that the act or declaration of either partner, in furtherance of the common object of the association, is the act of all.
And the acts of an agent, in pursuance of his authority, will be binding on his principal.
Legislation. A statute or law made by a legislative body; as an act of congress is a law by the congress of the United States; an act of assembly is a law made by a legislative assembly. If an act of assembly expire or be repealed while a proceeding under it is in fieri or pending, the proceeding becomes abortive; as a prosecution for an offence.
Acts are general or special; public or private. A general or public act is a universal rule which binds the whole community; of which the courts are bound to take notice ex officio.
Explanatory acts should not be enlarged by equity although such acts may be allowed to have a retrospective operation.
Private or special acts are rather exceptions, than rules; being those which operate only upon particular persons and private concerns; of these the courts are not bound to take notice, unless they are pleaded.