Vi Coactus, abbreviated to V.C., is a latin term. The website wikipedia cites the definition of vi coactus as:
"constrained by force". Used when forced to sign ("or else ...")
Perhaps the most famous use of vi coactus when signing a document was that of Cornelius de Witt. Alexandre Dumas captured the event as follows:
The Grand Pensionary bowed before the will of his fellow citizens; Cornelius de Witt, however, was more obstinate, and notwithstanding all the threats of death from the Orangist rabble, who besieged him in his house at Dort, he stoutly refused to sign the act by which the office of Stadtholder was restored. Moved by the tears and entreaties of his wife, he at last complied, only adding to his signature the two letters V. C. (Vi Coactus), notifying thereby that he only yielded to force.
There is scant authoritative information regarding this term on the web. However, on the One Heaven Society of United Free States of Spirits website the following information is provided:
The Bar want you to sign as surety
At key points in a Court case, the Bar members want you to sign certain documents. Why? Because your signature is like your vocalized consent - it can be legally interpreted as your agreement to be surety for an obligation and to perform as well as to waive other rights.
Do you have to sign? No you don't. But in many cases, the Bar has designed a system so that if you don't it is interpreted as dishonor so that they can invoke their power of attorney powers to declare you delinquent, incompetent and send you to prison anyway.
This is why you may have heard of people who refused to sign the papers when entering prison and yet were treated worse than most serious criminals, with complete apparent ignorance of their rights- why? because the system is designed at certain points where you MUST sign. So how do you overcome an unjust and unfair system that forces a man or woman to sign under duress, against their will and yet interprets such signatures as valid under Canon Law? The answer is making sure you signature follows a clear mark of duress.
Before you sign anything under duress, in order not to be unfairly determined as in dishonor and incompetent, you may lawfully initial in large letters the letters V.C. where you will sign, then sign your name after- always after.
What V.C. stands for is Latin for Vi Coactus which means literally "under constraint". This should normally be sufficient on any document which you are forced to sign to bear witness to the fact that it was done under duress.
Now, at the earliest opportunity before the court or official, you can make it known that upon review of your signature it can be proven to have been forced under threat and coercion and so cannot be used as legally binding agreement.
In some locations and in some prisons as this knowledge grows, it is possible that law enforcement officials may start to reject such signatures, adding more threat and force on a person to sign without using V.C. It is your choice remembering that if you allow such criminal intimidation and torture to prevail and do sign without protest then the system can simply lie and state you made such a sign of your "own free will".
So if they tear up the paperwork and demand you do it again, stating that such a signature is unlawful then such claims are against the laws of the Roman Cult Canon Law- the actual law that underpins their own statutes and regulations. However, if after several attempts they still refuse, there is a second method equally valid- the use of ellipse.
The use of ellipses
When the treat of intimidation or outright rejection of lawful protest is too great, then a second and equally valid method of signing under protest is permitted, namely the use of three full stops placed first, followed by the signature so that the three dots are not obscured by the signature.
This is called an ellipsis eg "..." and indicates that legally there was a form of words you wanted to state but were unable due to some event, in this case because of threat and coercion.
Thus, at the earliest opportunity the ellipsis can be revealed and it can be stated that you intended to write V.C. but were prevented therefore nullifying any agreement.
It would be of interest to the author if there have been any more recent cases (particularly in Australia) where V.C. has been used to sign a document. There appears to have been a case in Indonesia where Dutch interests signed V.C., however, the author does not have full access to the journal in question:
The Measures Taken by the Indonesian Government against ...by I Login - 1958 - Related articles
Authority" or "o.p." (under protest) or "v.c." (vi coactus). And that, of course , was preciously what it was: compelled by force. ...
Further definitions and their sources:
Black's Law Dictionary (9th edition)
The ninth edition does not provide a definition for vi coactus.
Cassell's Latin Dictionary (27th edition, 1955, pp.103)
a compulsion, compelling; coactu atque efflagitatu meo, cic.
The Oxford Latin Dictionary ABS-LIB (1968, pp. 339)
1. Compressed, condensed; (of milk) curdled. b (neut. pl. as sb.) felt cloak.
2. Unnatural, artificial, forced, contrived.
3. (of instruments, actions, etc.) Unwilling, forced. b. required by law, compulsary.
Interestingly, Cassell's Latin Dictionary and the Oxford Latin Dictionary provide the additional definitions:
Cassell's Latin Dictionary:
coacto - To compel.
coactor - 1. a collector of rents, money at auctions, etc. 2. One who compels.
Oxford Latin Dictionary:
coacto - To compel.
coactor - 1. A collector (of money, taxes, etc.). 2. the troops bringing up the rear.
- List of Lation abbreviations (wikipedia.org)
- Dumas, Alexandre - Black Tulip, The (literature.org)
- Signing in protest and under duress (one-heaven.org)
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary, pp.103 (exfacie.com)
- Oxford Latin Dictionary, pp.339 (exfacie.com)
Note: Correction to the reference from one-heaven.org was applied (removing the term ellipse for ellipsis). Thanks to Gerald for identifying this correction.