Protest (Lat. protestari, to testify or declare against), a term used in many ways and for many purposes. One who is called upon to pay an import duty, a tax, a subscription, or the like, which he thinks he ought not to be required to pay, but is unwilling to encounter the delay and expense of a lawsuit at that time, pays the sum demanded under protest; that is, he accompanies the payment by a written and attested declaration of what he deems the illegality of the demand, and of his rights of defence and denial. This protest preserves all those rights; and in any subsequent suit or other effort to get the money back, the protest will prevent him from being impeded by his payment. - In legislation, the members of a deliberative body who dissent from the views of a majority, and have no power to prevent those views from going into effect, sometimes ask leave to put on the record of the body a declaration of their views, drawn up and signed by them. This is called their protest against the measure; and leave to record it is usually given, if it is decent and temperate in its terms, and does not state what the majority regard as wilfully false or impertinent. - If a vessel is wrecked, or meets with other injury from any peril of the sea, it is an ancient and nearly universal custom for the master, on his arrival at port after the injury, to appear before a competent magistrate, and enter his protest against the accident or peril.
In this protest he details the circumstances with sufficient fulness to sustain his declaration that the injury occurred, not through the fault of the vessel, but by reason of the peril stated. In the absence or disability of the master, the protest is made by the officers, or even by the seamen; and when it is made by the master, he is usually accompanied by one or more of the officers, and by some of the seamen. - A very important use of protest is made in the case of dishonored bills of exchange. (See Exchange, Bill of.) It is a universal law that a foreign bill of exchange, if not accepted, or if not paid at maturity, must be protested in order to hold all the parties to it. In this sense, the states of the Union are foreign to each other. Inland (or domestic) bills and promissory notes are often protested in the same way; but this usage, so far as it exists, has grown up from the convenience of it, and not from any requirement of the law merchant. The protest should be made by a notary public; and full faith is given in all countries to all the official acts verified by his seal, which acts are required by law merchant. He cannot properly delegate this power to any clerk or substitute.
An acceptance or payment supra protest takes place when, a bill having been protested, a third person intervenes, and accepts or pays the bill for the honor of the party whose duty it was to accept or pay it; and this gives him a right to indemnity from the person for whom he accepts or pays. An acceptance or payment supra protest is sometimes called an acceptance or payment for honor. Generally, where one accepts or pays for honor without designating for whose honor he acts, it will be deemed that he acts for all who were bound by the paper, and he acquires his right of indemnity against all whom he thus protects. But he may designate, if he chooses, the party for whose honor he acts, and then he protects only that party, and has no claim or rights against any other.