NOTE (Lat. nola, mark, sign, from noscere, to know), a mark, particularly a sign by which a musical sound (also called a note) is indicated in writing (see MUSICAL NOTATION). The term is also applied to an abstract or memorandum of documents, speeches, etc. This appears to have been first in legal use, especially in the process of the transfer of land by fine and recovery (see FINE). Further extensions of this meaning are to an explanation, comment or addition, added in the margin or at the foot of the page to a passage in a book, etc., or to a communication in writing shorter or less formal than a letter.
The ordinary distinction between note and letter is reversed in diplomacy. Diplomatic notes are written communications exchanged between diplomatic agents or between them and the ministers of foreign affairs of the government to which they are accredited; they differ from ordinary letters in having a more formal character and in dealing with matters of more immediate and definite importance: e.g. the notification of adhesion to a treaty, of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations after a war, etc. Sometimes, by agreement, a mere exchange of notes has the force of a convention. Collective notes are those signed by the representatives of several powers acting in concert. Sometimes identical notes are substituted for collective, i.e. notes identical as to form and substance, but signed and delivered separately by the representatives of the several powers. Thus in 1822, at the congress of Verona, in order to overcome the objection of Great Britain to any interference of the European concert in Spain, identical notes were presented to the Spanish government instead of a collective note. Circular notes are those addressed by one power to the other powers generally, e.g. that addressed by Thiers (November 9, 1 870), on the proposed armistice, to the representatives of the great powers accredited to the government of national defence. Confidential notes are directed to inspiring confidence by giving an explicit account of the views and intentions of the plenipotentiaries and their governments. Such a note was sent, for instance, by the plenipotentiaries of the allied powers at the conference of Poros, on the 8th of December 1828, to Capo dTstria, the Greek president, to instruct him confidentially as to the results of their deliberations. The so-called notes verbales are unsigned, and are merely of the nature of memoranda (of conversations, etc.). Notes ad referendum are addressed by diplomatic agents to their own governments asking for fresh powers to deal with points not covered by their instructions, which they have had to " refer." Diplomatic notes are usually written in the third person; but this rule has not always been observed (see P. Pradier-Fodere, Cours de droit diplomatique, Paris, 1899; vol. ii. p. 524).
For notes of hand or promissory notes see NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS and BILL OF EXCHANGE, and for notes passing as currency sec BANKS AND BANKING, BANK-NOTE and POST.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)