Chancer in Law

U. S. genealogists reading seventeenth or early eighteenth century lower court cases (for example, a court of common pleas) need to understand this legal term. To chancer means to adjust according to principles of equity. The latter can be reduced basically to "do what is right" in a situation where the law does not speak, or perhaps speaks poorly.

A court of common pleas is restricted to ruling according to the dictates of common law, and most early colonial jurisdictions lacked the English system of having separate courts of chancery to deal with equity cases. Thus the colonial common pleas courts acted like courts of chancery when required. In 1726 When Benjamin Booth, Jr. sued Joseph Leonard for default on a bond for 11 2s, in the Plymouth Common Pleas court, the court found for the Plaintiff but then chancered the bond to 5 14s 4d plus court costs. In the best judgement of the court, that represented the fair and just remaining amount due to Booth. Nothing in common law led the court to that decision.

Source: Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Edition