OFFICE (from Lat. oficium, " duty," "service," a shortened form of opifacium, from facere, " to do," and either the stem of opes, " wealth," "aid," or opus, " work"), a duty or service, particularly the special duty cast upon a person by his position; also a ceremonial duty, as in the rites paid to the dead, the "last offices." The term is thus especially used of a religious service, the "daily office" of the English Church or the "divine office" of the Roman Church (see Breviary). It is also used in this sense of a service for a particular occasion, as the Office for the Visitation of the Sick, &c. From the sense of duty or function, the word is transferred to the position or place which lays on the holder or occupier the performance of such duties. This leads naturally to the use of the word for the buildings or the separate rooms in which the duties are performed, and for the staff carrying on the work or business in such offices. In the Roman curia the department of the Inquisition is known as the Holy Office, in full, the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (see Inquisition and Curia Romana).
The phrase "office of profit under the crown" is used with a particular application in British parliamentary practice. The holders of such offices of profit have been subject in regard to the occupation of seats in the House of Commons to certain disabilities which were in their origin due to the fear of the undue influence exercised by the crown during the constitutional struggles of the 17th century. Attempts to deal with the danger of the presence of "place-men" in the House of Commons were made by the Place Bills introduced in 1672-1673, 1694 and 1 743. The Act of Settlement 1700 (§ 3) laid it down that no person .who has an office or place of profit under the king or receives a pension from the crown shall be capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons. This drastic clause, which would have had the disastrous effect of entirely separating the executive from the legislature, was repealed and the basis of the present law was laid down in 1706 by 6 Anne (c. 41). This first disqualifies (§ 24) from membership all holders of "new offices," 1 i.e. those created after October 1705; secondly (§ 25) it renders void the election of a member who shall accept any office of profit other than "new offices" but allows the member to stand for re-election. The disqualification attaching to many "new offices" has been removed by various statutes, and by § 52 of the Reform Act 1867 the necessity of re-election is avoided when a member, having been elected subsequent to the acceptance of any office named in a schedule of that act, is transferred to any other office in that schedule. The rules as to what offices disqualify from membership or render re-election necessary are exceedingly complicated, I depending as they do on a large number of statutes (see Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, 11th ed., pp. 632-645, and Rogers, On Elections, vol. ii., 1906). The old established rule that a member, once duly elected, cannot resign his seat is evaded by the acceptance of certain minor offices (see Chiltern Hundreds).
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