An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
Chapter XVI (Sections 1-2)
DIVISION OF OFFENCES*1
§1. Classes of Offences.
I. It is necessary, at the outset, to make a distinction between such acts as are or may be, and such as ought to be offences.
Any act may be an offence, which they whom the community are in the habit of obeying shall be pleased to make one: that is, any act which they shall be pleased to prohibit or to punish. But, upon the principle of utility, such acts alone ought to be made offences, as the good of the community requires should be made so.
II. The good of the community cannot require, that any act should be made an offence, which is not liable. in some way or other, to be detrimental to the community. For in the case of such an act, all punishment is groundless.*2
III. But if the whole assemblage of any number of individuals be considered as constituting an imaginary compound body, a community or political state; any act that is detrimental to any one or more of those members is, as to so much of its effects, detrimental to the state.
IV. An act cannot be detrimental to a state, but by being detrimental to some one or more of the individuals that compose it. But these individuals may either be assignable*3 or unassignable.
V. When there is any assignable individual to whom an offence is detrimental, that person may either be a person other than the offender, or the offender himself.
VI. Offences that are detrimental, in the first instance, to assignable persons other than the offender, may be termed by one common name, offences against individuals. And of these may be composed the 1st class of offences. To contrast them with offences of the 2nd and 4th classes, it may also sometimes be convenient to style them private offences. To contrast them at the same time with offences of the 3rd class, they may be styled private extra-regarding offences.
VII. When it appears, in general, that there are persons to whom the act in question may be detrimental, but such persons cannot be individually assigned, the circle within which it appears that they may be found, is either of less extent than that which comprises the whole community, or not. If of less, the persons comprised within this lesser circle may be considered for this purpose as composing a body of themselves; comprised within, but distinguishable from, the greater body of the whole community. The circumstance that constitutes the union between the members of this lesser body, may be either their residence within a particular place, or, in short, any other less explicit principle of union, which may serve to distinguish them from the remaining members of the community. In the first case, the act may be styled an offence against a neighbourhood: in the second, an offence against a particular class of persons in the community. Offenses, then, against a class or neighbourhood, may, together, constitute the 2nd class of offences.*4 To contrast them with private offences on the one hand, and public on the other, they may also be styled semi-public offences.
VIII. Offences, which in the first instance are detrimental to the offender himself, and to no one else, unless it be by their being detrimental to himself, may serve to compose a third class. To contrast them the better with offences of the first, second, and fourth classes, all which are of a transitive nature, they might be styled intransitive*5 offences; but still better, self-regarding.
IX. The fourth class may be composed of such acts as ought to be made offences, on account of the distant mischief which they threaten to bring upon an unassignable indefinite multitude of the whole number of individuals, of which the community is composed: although no particular individual should appear more likely to be a sufferer by them than another. These may be called public offences, or offences against the state.
X. A fifth class, or appendix, may be composed of such acts as, according to the circumstances in which they are committed, or and more particularly according to the purposes to which they are applied, may be detrimental in any one of the ways in which the act of one man can be detrimental to another. These may to be termed multiform, or heterogeneous*6 offences. Offences that are in this case may be reduced to two great heads: 1. Offences by falsehood: and 2. Offenses against trust.
§ 2. Divisions and sub-divisions.
XI. Let us see by what method these classes may be farther subdivided. First, then, with regard to offences against individuals.
In the present period of existence, a man's being and wellbeing, his happiness and his security; in a word, his pleasures and his immunity from pains, are all dependent, more or less, in the first place, upon his own person; in the next place, upon the exterior objects that surround him. These objects are either things, or other persons. Under one or other of these classes must evidently be comprised every sort of exterior object, by means of which his interest can be affected. If then, by means of any offence, a man should on any occasion become a sufferer, it must be in one or other of two ways: 1. absolutely, to wit, immediately in his own person; in which case the offence may be said to be an offence against his person: or, 2. relatively, by reason of some material relation*7 which the before mentioned exterior objects may happen to bear, in the way of causality (see ch. vii. Actions, par. 24) to his happiness. Now in as far as a man is in a way to derive either happiness or security from any object which belongs to the class of things, such thing is said to be his property, or at least he is said to have a property or an interest therein: an offence, therefore, which tends to lessen the facility he might otherwise have of deriving happiness or security from an object which belongs to the class of things may be styled an offence against his property. With regard to persons, in as far as, from objects of this class, a man is in a way to derive happiness or security, it is in virtue of their services: in virtue of some services, which, by one sort of inducement or another, they may be disposed to render him.*8 Now, then, take any man, by way of example, and the disposition, whatever it may be, which he may be in to render you service, either has no other connection to give birth or support to it, than the general one which binds him to the whole species, or it has some other connection more particular. In the latter case, such a connection may be spoken of as constituting, in your favour, a kind of fictitious or incorporeal object of property, which is styled your condition. An offence, therefore, the tendency of which is to lessen the facility you might otherwise have of deriving happiness from the services of a person thus specially connected with you, may be styled an offence against your condition in life, or simply against your condition. Conditions in life must evidently be as various as the relations by which they are constituted. This will be seen more particularly farther on. In the mean time those of husband, wife, parent, child, master, servant, citizen of such or such a city, natural-born subject of such or such a country, may answer the purpose of examples.
Where there is no such particular connection, or (what comes to the same thing) where the disposition, whatever it may be, which a man is in to render you service, is not considered as depending upon such connection, but simply upon the good-will he bears to you; in such case, in order to express what chance you have of deriving a benefit from his services, a kind of fictitious object of property is spoken of, as being constituted in your favour, and is called your reputation. An offence, therefore, the tendency of which is to lessen the facility you might otherwise have had of deriving happiness or security from the services of persons at large, whether connected with you or not by any special tie, may be styled an offence against your reputation. It appears, therefore, that if by any offence an individual becomes a sufferer, it must be in one or other of the four points above mentioned; viz. his person, his property, his condition in life, or his reputation. These sources of distinction, then, may serve to form so many subordinate divisions. If any offences should be found to affect a person in more than one of these points at the same time, such offences may respectively be put under so many separate divisions; and such compound divisions may be subjoined to the preceding simple ones. The several divisions (simple and compound together) which are hereinafter established, stand as follows: 1. Offenses against person. 2. Offenses against reputation. 3. Offenses against property. 4. Offenses against condition. 5. Offenses against person and property together. 6. Offenses against person and reputation together.*9
XII. Next with regard to semi-public offences. Pain, considered with reference to the time of the act from which it is liable to issue, must, it is evident, be either present, past, or future. In as far as it is either present or past, it cannot be the result of any act which comes under the description of a semi-public offence: for if it be present or past, the individuals who experience, or who have experienced, it are assignable.*10 There remains that sort of mischief, which, if it ever come to exist at all, is as yet but future: mischief, thus circumstanced, takes the name of danger.*11 Now, then, when by means of the act of any person a whole neighbourhood, or other class of persons, are exposed to danger, this danger must either be intentional on his part, or unintentional.*12 If unintentional, such danger, when it is converted into actual mischief, takes the name of a calamity: offences, productive of such danger, may be styled semi-public offences operating through calamity; or, more briefly, offences through calamity. If the danger be intentional, insomuch that it might be produced, and might convert itself into actual mischief, without the concurrence of any calamity, it may be said to originate in mere delinquency: offences, then, which, without the concurrence of any calamity, tend to produce such danger as disturbs the security of a local, or other subordinate class of persons, may be styled semi-public offences operating merely by delinquency, or more briefly, offences of mere delinquency.
XIII. With regard to any farther sub-divisions, offences through calamity will depend upon the nature of the several calamities to which man, and the several things that are of use to him, stand exposed. These will be considered in another place.*13
XIV. Semi-public offences of mere delinquency will follow the method of division applied to offences against individuals. It will easily be conceived, that whatever pain or inconvenience any given individual may be made to suffer, to the danger of that pain or inconvenience may any number of individuals, assignable or not assignable, be exposed. Now there are four points or articles, as we have seen, in respect to which an individual may be made to suffer pain or inconvenience. If then, with respect to any one of them, the connection of causes and effects is such, that to the danger of suffering in that article a number of persons, who individually are not assignable, may, by the delinquency of one person, be exposed, such article will form a ground of distinction on which a particular sub-division of semi-public offences may be established: if, with respect to any such article, no such effect can take place, that ground of distinction will lie for the present unoccupied: ready, however, upon any change of circumstances, or in the manner of viewing the subject, to receive a correspondent subdivision of offences, if ever it should seem necessary that any such offences should be created.
XV. We come next to self-regarding offences; or, more properly, to acts productive in the first instance of no other than a self-regarding mischief: acts which, if in any instance it be thought fit to constitute them offences, will come under the denomination of offences against one's self. This class will not for the present give us much trouble. For it is evident, that in whatever points a man is vulnerable by the hand of another, in the same points may he be conceived to be vulnerable by his own. Whatever divisions therefore will serve for the first class, the same will serve for this. As to the questions, What acts are productive of a mischief of this stamp? and, among such as are, which it may, and which it may not, be worth while*14 to treat upon the footing of offences? these are points, the latter of which at least is too unsettled, and too open to controversy, to be laid down with that degree of confidence which is implied in the exhibition of properties which are made use of as the groundwork of an arrangement. Properties for this purpose ought to be such as show themselves at first glance, and appear to belong to the subject beyond dispute.
XVI. Public offences may be distributed under eleven divisions.*15 1. Offences against external security. 2. Offences against justice. 3. Offences against the preventive branch of the police. 4. Offences against the public force. 5. Offences against the positive increase of the national felicity. 6. Offences against the public wealth. 7. Offences against population. 8. Offences against the national wealth. 9. Offences against the sovereignty. 10. Offences against religion. 11. Offences against the national interest in general. The way in which these several sorts of offences connect with one another, and with the interest of the public, that is, of an unassignable multitude of the individuals of which that body is composed, may be thus conceived.
XVII. Mischief by which the interest of the public as above defined may be affected, must, if produced at all, be produced either by means of an influence exerted on the operations of government, or by other means, without the exertion of such influence.*16 To begin with the latter case: mischief, be it what it will, and let it happen to whom it will, must be produced either by the unassisted powers of the agent in question, or by the instrumentality of some other agents. In the latter case, these agents will be either persons or things. Persons again must be either not members of the community in question, or members. Mischief produced by the instrumentality of persons, may accordingly be produced by the instrumentality either of external or of internal adversaries. Now when it is produced by the agent's own unassisted powers, or by the instrumentality of internal adversaries, or only by the instrumentality of things, it is seldom that it can show itself in any other shape (setting aside any influence it may exert on the operations of government) than either that of an offence against assignable individuals, or that of an offence against a local or other subordinate class of persons. If there should be a way in which mischief can be produced, by any of these means, to individuals altogether unassignable, it will scarcely be found conspicuous or important enough to occupy a title by itself: it may accordingly be referred to the miscellaneous head of offences against the national interest in general.*17 The only mischief, of any considerable account, which can be made to impend indiscriminately over the whole number of members in the community, is that complex kind of mischief which results from a state of war, and is produced by the instrumentality of external adversaries; by their being provoked, for instance, or invited, or encouraged to invasion. In this way may a man very well bring down a mischief, and that a very heavy one, upon the whole community in general, and that without taking a part in any of the injuries which came in consequence to be offered to particular individuals.
Next with regard to the mischief which an offence may bring upon the public by its influence on the operations of the government. This it may occasion either, 1. In a more immediate way, by its influence on those operations themselves: 2. In a more remote way, by its influence on the instruments by or by the help of which those operations should be performed: or 3. In a more remote way still, by its influence on the sources from whence such instruments are to be derived. First then, as to the operations of government, the tendency of these, in as far as it is conformable to what on the principle of utility it ought to be, is in every case either to avert mischief from the community, or to make an addition to the sum of positive good.*18 Now mischief, we have seen, must come either from external adversaries, from internal adversaries, or from calamities. With regard to mischief from external adversaries, there requires no further division. As to mischief from internal adversaries, the expedients employed for averting it may be distinguished into such as may be applied before the discovery of any mischievous design in particular, and such as cannot be employed but in consequence of the discovery of some such design: the former of these are commonly referred to a branch which may be styled the preventive branch of the police: the latter to that of justice.*19 Secondly, As to the instruments which government, whether in the averting of evil or in the producing of positive good, can have to work with, these must be either persons or things. Those which are destined to the particular function of guarding against mischief from adversaries in general, but more particularly from external adversaries,*20 may be distinguished from the rest under the collective appellation of the public military force, and, for conciseness' sake, the military force. The rest may be characterised by the collective appellation of the public wealth. Thirdly, with regard to the sources or funds from whence these instruments, howsoever applied, must be derived, such of them as come under the denomination of persons must be taken out of the whole number of persons that are in the community, that is, out of the total population of the state: so that the greater the population, the greater may cæteris paribus be this branch of the public wealth; and the less, the less. In like manner, such as come under the denomination of things may be, and most of them commonly are, taken out of the sum total of those things which are the separate properties of the several members of the community: the sum of which properties may be termed the national wealth:*21 so that the greater the national wealth, the greater cæteris paribus may be this remaining branch of the public wealth; and the less, the less. It is here to be observed, that if the influence exerted on any occasion by any individual over the operations of the government be pernicious, it must be in one or other of two ways: 1. By causing, or tending to cause, operations not to be performed which ought to be performed; in other words, by impeding the operations of government. Or, 2. By causing operations to be performed which ought not to be performed; in other words, by misdirecting them. Lastly, to the total assemblage of the persons by whom the several political operations above mentioned come to be performed, we set out with applying the collective appellation of the government. Among these persons there commonly*22 is some one person, or body of persons whose office it is to assign and distribute to the rest their several departments, to determine the conduct to be pursued by each in the performance of the particular set of operations that belongs to him, and even upon occasion to exercise his function in his stead. Where there is any such person, or body of persons, he or it may, according as the turn of the phrase requires, be termed the sovereign, or the sovereignty. Now it is evident, that to impede or misdirect the operations of the sovereign, as here described, may be to impede or misdirect the operations of the several departments of government as described above.
From this analysis, by which the connection between the several above-mentioned heads of offences is exhibited, we may now collect a definition for each article. By offences against external security, we may understand such offences whereof the tendency is to bring upon the public a mischief resulting from the hostilities of foreign adversaries. By offences against justice, such offences whereof the tendency is to impede or misdirect the operations of that power which is employed in the business of guarding the public against the mischiefs resulting from the delinquency of internal adversaries, as far as it is to be done by expedients, which do not come to be applied in any case till after the discovery of some particular design of the sort of those which they are calculated to prevent. By offences against the preventive branch of the police, such offences whereof the tendency is to impede or misdirect the operations of that power which is employed in guarding against mischiefs resulting from the delinquency of internal adversaries, by expedients that come to be applied beforehand; or of that which is employed in guarding against the mischiefs that might be occasioned by physical calamities. By offences against the public force, such offences whereof the tendency is to impede or misdirect the operations of that power which is destined to guard the public from the mischiefs which may result from the hostility of foreign adversaries, and, in case of necessity, in the capacity of ministers of justice, from mischiefs of the number of those which result from the delinquency of internal adversaries.
By offences against the increase of the national felicity, such offences whereof the tendency is to impede or misapply the operations of those powers that are employed in the conducting of various establishments, which are calculated to make, in so many different ways, a positive addition to the stock of public happiness. By offences against the public wealth, such offences whereof the tendency is to diminish the amount or misdirect the application of the money, and other articles of wealth, which the government reserves as a fund, out of which the stock of instruments employed in the service above mentioned may be kept up. By offences against population, such offences whereof the tendency is to diminish the numbers or impair the political value of the sum total of the members of the community. By offences against the national wealth, such offences whereof the tendency is to diminish the quantity, or impair the value, of the things which compose the separate properties or estates of the several members of the community.
XVIII. In this deduction, it may be asked, what place is left for religion? This we shall see presently. For combating the various kinds of offences above enumerated, that is, for combating all the offences (those not excepted which we are now about considering) which it is in man's nature to commit, the state has two great engines, punishment and reward: punishment, to be applied to all, and upon all ordinary occasions: reward, to be applied to a few, for particular purposes, and upon extraordinary occasions. But whether or no a man has done the act which renders him an object meet for punishment or reward, the eyes of those, whosoever they be, to whom the management of these engines is entrusted cannot always see, nor, where it is punishment that is to be administered, can their hands be always sure to reach him. To supply these deficiencies in point of power, it is thought necessary, or at least useful (without which the truth of the doctrine would be nothing to the purpose), to inculcate into the minds of the people the belief of the existence of a power applicable to the same purposes, and not liable to the same deficiencies: the power of a supreme invisible being, to whom a disposition of contributing to the same ends to which the several institutions already mentioned are calculated to contribute, must for this purpose be ascribed. It is of course expected that this power will, at one time or other, be employed in the promoting of those ends: and to keep up and strengthen this expectation among men, is spoken of as being the employment of a kind of allegorical personage, feigned, as before,*23 for convenience of discourse, and styled religion. To diminish, then, or misapply the influence of religion, is pro tanto to diminish or misapply what power the state has of combating with effect any of the before-enumerated kinds of offences; that is, all kinds of offences whatsoever. Acts that appear to have this tendency may be styled offences against religion. Of these then may be composed the tenth division of the class of offences against the state.*24
XIX. If there be any acts which appear liable to affect the state in any one or more of the above ways, by operating in prejudice of the external security of the state, or of its internal security; of the public force; of the increase of the national felicity; of the public wealth; of the national population; of the national wealth; of the sovereignty; or of religion; at the same time that it is not clear in which of all these ways they will affect it most, nor but that, according to contingencies, they may affect it in one of these ways only or in another; such acts may be collected together under a miscellaneous division by themselves, and styled offences against the national interest in general. Of these then may be composed the eleventh and last division of the class of offences against the state.
XX. We come now to class the fifth: consisting of multiform offences. These, as has been already intimated, are either offences by falsehood, or offences concerning trust. Under the head of offences by falsehood, may be comprehended, 1. Simple falsehoods. 2. Forgery. 3. Personation. 4. Perjury.*25 Let us observe in what particulars these four kinds of falsehood agree, and in what they differ.
XXI. Offences by falsehood, however diversified in other particulars, have this in common, that they consist in some abuse of the faculty of discourse, or rather, as we shall see hereafter, of the faculty of influencing the sentiment of belief in other men,*26 whether by discourse or otherwise. The use of discourse is to influence belief, and that in such manner as to give other men to understand that things are as they are really. Falsehoods, of whatever kind they be, agree in this: that they give men to understand that things are otherwise than as in reality they are.
XXII. Personation, forgery, and perjury, are each of them distinguished from other modes of uttering falsehood by certain special circumstances. When a falsehood is not accompanied by any of those circumstanees, it may be styled simple falsehood. These circumstances are, 1. The form in which the falsehood is uttered. 2. The circumstance of its relating or not to the identity of the person of him who utters it. 3. The solemnity of the occasion on which it is uttered.*27 The particular application of these distinctive characters may more commodiously be reserved for another place.*28
XXIII. We come now to the sub-divisions of offences by falsehood. These will bring us back into the regular track of analysis, pursued, without deviation, through the four preceding classes.
By whatever means a mischief is brought about, whether falsehood be or be not of the number, the individuals liable to be affected by it must either be assignable or unassignable. If assignable, there are but four material articles in respect to which they can be affected: to wit, their persons, their properties, their reputations, and their conditions in life. The case is the same, if, though unassignable, they are comprisable in any class subordinate to that which is composed of the whole number of members of the state. If the falsehood tend to the detriment of the whole state, it can only be by operating in one or other of the characters, which every act that is an offence against the state must assume; viz. that of an offence against external security, against justice, against the preventive branch of the police, against the public force, against the increase of the national felicity, against the public wealth, against the national population, against the national wealth, against the sovereignty of the state, or against its religion.
XXIV. It is the common property, then, of the offences that belong to this division, to run over the same ground that is occupied by those of the preceding classes. But some of them, as we shall see, are apt, on various occasions, to drop or change the names which bring them under this division: this is chiefly the case with regard to simple falsehoods. Others retain their names unchanged; and even thereby supersede the names which would otherwise belong to the offences which they denominate: this is chiefly the case with regard to personation, forgery, and perjury. When this circumstance then, the circumstance of falsehood, intervenes, in some cases the name which takes the lead is that which indicates the offence by its effect; in other cases, it is that which indicates the expedient or instrument as it were by the help of which the offence is committed. Falsehood, take it by itself, consider it as not being accompanied by any other material circumstances, nor therefore productive of any material effects, can never, upon the principle of utility, constitute any offence at all. Combined with other circumstances, there is scarce any sort of pernicious effect which it may not be instrumental in producing. It is therefore rather in compliance with the laws of language, than in consideration of the nature of the things themselves, that falsehoods are made separate mention of under the name and in the character of distinct offences. All this would appear plain enough, if it were now a time for entering into particulars: but that is what cannot be done, consistently with any principle of order or convenience, until the inferior divisions of those other classes shall have been previously exhibited.
XXV. We come now to offences against trust. A trust is, where there is any particular act which one party, in the exercise of some power, or some right,*29 which is conferred on him, is bound to perform for the benefit of another. Or, more fully, thus: A party is said to be invested with a trust, when, being invested with a power, or with a right, there is a certain behaviour which, in the exercise of that power, or of that right, he is bound to maintain for the benefit of some other party. In such case, the party first mentioned is styled a trustee: for the other party, no name has ever yet been found: for want of a name, there seems to be no other resource than to give a new and more extensive sense to the word beneficiary, or to say at length the party to be benefited.*30
The trustee is also said to have a trust conferred or imposed upon him, to be invested with a trust, to have had a trust given him to execute, to perform, to discharge, or to fulfil. The party to be benefited, is said to have a trust established or created in his favour: and so on through a variety of other phrases.
XXVI. Now it may occur, that a trust is oftentimes spoken of as a species of condition:*31 that a trust is also spoken of as a species of property: and that a condition itself is also spoken of same light. It may be thought, therefore, that in the first class, the division of offences against condition should have been included under that of the offences against property: and that at any rate, so much of the fifth class now before us as contains offences against trust, should have been included under one or other of those two divisions of the first class. But upon examination it will appear, that no one of these divisions could with convenience, nor even perhaps with propriety, have been included under either of the other two. It will appear at the same time, that there is an intimate connection subsisting amongst them all: insomuch that of the lists of the offences to which they are respectively exposed, any one may serve in great measure as a model for any other. There are certain offences to which all trusts as such are exposed: to all these offences every sort of condition will be found exposed: at the same time that particular species of the offences against trust will, upon their application to particular conditions, receive different particular denominations. It will appear also, that of the two groups of offences into which the list of those against trust will be found naturally to divide itself, there is one, and but one, to which property, taken in its proper and more confined sense, stands exposed: and that these, in their application to the subject of property, will be found susceptible of distinct modifications, to which the usage of language, and the occasion there is for distinguishing them in point of treatment, make it necessary to find names.
In the first place, as there are, or at least may be (as we shall see) conditions which are not trusts,*32 so there are trusts of which the idea would not be readily and naturally understood to be included under the word condition: add to which, that of those conditions which do include a trust, the greater number include other ingredients along with it: so that the idea of a condition, if on the one hand it stretches beyond the idea of a trust, does on the other hand fall short of it. Of the several sorts of trusts, by far the most important are those in which it is the public that stands in the relation of beneficiary. Now these trusts, it should seem, would hardly present themselves at first view upon the mention of the word condition. At any rate, what is more material, the most important of the offences against these kinds of trust would not seem to be included under the denomination of offences against condition. The offences which by this latter appellation would be brought to view, would be such only as seemed to affect the interests of an individual: of him, for example, who is considered as being invested with that condition. But in offences against public trust, it is the influence they have on the interests of the public that constitutes by much the most material part of their pernicious tendency: the influence they have on the interests of any individual, the only part of their influence which would be readily brought to view by the appellation of offences against condition, is comparatively as nothing. The word trust directs the attention at once to the interests of that party for whom the person in question is trustee: which party, upon the addition of the epithet public, is immediately understood to be the body composed of the whole assemblage, or an indefinite portion of the whole assemblage of the members of the state. The idea presented by the words public trust is clear and unambiguous: it is but an obscure and ambiguous garb that that idea could be expressed in by the words public condition. It appears, therefore, that the principal part of the offences, included under the denomination of offences against trust, could not, commodiously at least, have been included under the head of offences against condition.
It is evident enough, that for the same reasons neither could they have been included under the head of offences against property. It would have appeared preposterous, and would have argued a total inattention to the leading principle of the whole work, the principle of utility, to have taken the most mischievous and alarming part of the offences to which the public stands exposed, and forced them into the list of offences against the property of an individual: of that individual, to wit, who in that case would be considered as having in him the property of that public trust, which by the offences in question is affected.
Nor would it have been less improper to have included conditions, all of them, under the head of property: and thereby the whole catalogue of offences against condition, under the catalogue of offences against property. True it is, that there are offences against condition, which perhaps with equal propriety, and without any change in their nature, might be considered in the light of offences against property: so extensive and so vague are the ideas that are wont to be annexed to both these objects. But there are other offences which though with unquestionable propriety they might be referred to the head of offences against condition, could not, without the utmost violence done to language, be forced under the appellation of offences against property. Property, considered with respect to the proprietor, implies invariably a benefit, and nothing else: whatever obligations or burthens may, by accident, stand annexed to it, yet in itself it can never be otherwise than beneficial. On the part of the proprietor, it is created not by any commands that are laid on him, but by his being left free to do with such or such an article as he likes. The obligations it is created by, are in every instance laid upon other people. On the other hand, as to conditions, there are several which are of a mixed nature, importing as well a burthen to him who stands invested with them as a benefit: which indeed is the case with those conditions which we hear most of under that name, and which make the greatest figure.
There are even conditions which import nothing but burthen, without any spark of benefit. Accordingly, when between two parties there is such a relation, that one of them stands in the place of an object of property with respect to the other; the word property is applied only on one side; but the word condition is applied alike to both: it is but one of them that is said on that account to be possessed of property; but both of them are alike spoken of as being possessed of or being invested with a condition: it is the master alone that is considered as possessing a property, of which the servant, in virtue of the services he is bound to render, is the object: but the servant, not less than the master, is spoken of as possessing or being invested with a condition.
The case is, that if a man's condition is ever spoken of as constituting an article of his property, it is in the same loose and indefinite sense of the word in which almost every other offence that could be imagined might be reckoned into the list of offences against property. If the language indeed were in every instance, in which it made use of the phrase, object of property, perspicuous enough to point out under that appellation the material and really existent body, the person or the thing in which those acts terminate, by the performance of which the property is said to be enjoyed; if, in short, in the import given to the phrase object of property, it made no other use of it than the putting it to signify what is now called a corporeal object, this difficulty and this confusion would not have occurred. But the import of the phrase object of property, and in consequence the import of the word property, has been made to take a much wider range. In almost every case in which the law does any thing for a man's benefit or advantage, men are apt to speak of it, on some occasion or other, as conferring on him a sort of property. At the same time, for one reason or other, it has in several cases been not practicable, or not agreeable, to bring to view, under the appellation of the object of his property, the thing in which the acts, by the performance of which the property is said to be enjoyed, have their termination, or the person in whom they have their commencement. Yet something which could be spoken of under that appellation was absolutely requisite.*33 The expedient then has been to create, as it were, on every occasion, an ideal being, and to assign to a man this ideal being for the object of his property: and these are the sort of objects to which men of science, in taking a view of the operations of the law in this behalf, came, in process of time, to give the name of incorporeal. Now of these incorporeal objects of property the variety is prodigious. Fictitious entities of this kind have been fabricated almost out of every thing: not conditions only (that of a trustee included), but even reputation have been of the number. Even liberty has been considered in this same point of view: and though on so many occasions it is contrasted with property, yet on other occasions, being reckoned into the catalogue of possessions, it seems to have been considered as a branch of property. Some of these applications of the words property, object of property (the last, for instance), are looked upon, indeed, as more figurative, and less proper than the rest: but since the truth is, that where the immediate object is incorporeal, they are all of them improper, it is scarce practicable any where to draw the line.
Notwithstanding all this latitude, yet, among the relations in virtue of which you are said to be possessed of a condition, there is one at least which can scarcely, by the most forced construction, be said to render any other man, or any other thing, the object of your property. This is the right of persevering in a certain course of action; for instance, in the exercising of a certain trade. Now to confer on you this right, in a certain degree at least, the law has nothing more to do than barely to abstain from forbidding you to exercise it. Were it to go farther, and, for the sake of enabling you to exercise your trade to the greater advantage, prohibit others from exercising the like, then, indeed, persons might be found, who in a certain sense, and by a construction rather forced than otherwise, might be spoken of as being the objects of your property: viz. by being made to render you that sort of negative service which consists in the forbearing to do those acts which would lessen the profits of your trade. But the ordinary right of exercising any such trade or profession, as is not the object of a monopoly, imports no such thing; and yet, by possessing this right, a man is said to possess a condition: and by forfeiting it, to forfeit his condition.
After all, it will be seen, that there must be cases in which, according to the usage of language, the same offence may, with more or less appearance of propriety, be referred to the head of offences against condition, or that of offences against property, indifferently. In such cases the following rule may serve for drawing the line. Wherever, in virtue of your possessing a property, or being the object of a property possessed by another, you are characterised, according to the usage of language, by a particular name, such as master, servant, husband, wife, steward, agent, attorney, or the like, there the word condition may be employed in exclusion of the word property: and an offence in which, in virtue of your bearing such relation, you are concerned, either in the capacity of an offender, or in that of a party injured, may be referred to the head of offences against condition, and not to that of offences against property. To give an example: Being bound, in the capacity of land steward to a certain person, to oversee the repairing of a certain bridge, you forbear to do so: in this case, as the services you are bound to render are of the number of those which give occasion to the party, from whom they are due, to be spoken of under a certain generical name, viz. that of land steward, the offence of withholding them may be referred to the class of offences against condition. But suppose that, without being engaged in that general and miscellaneous course of service, which with reference to a particular person would denominate you his land steward, you were bound, whether by usage or by contract, to render him that single sort of service which consists in the providing, by yourself or by others, for the repairing of that bridge: in this case, as there is not any such current denomination to which, in virtue of your being bound to render this service, you stand aggregated (for that of architect, mason, or the like, is not here in question), the offence you commit by withholding such service cannot with propriety be referred to the class of offences against condition: it can only therefore be referred to the class of offences against property.
By way of further distinction, it may be remarked, that where a man, in virtue of his being bound to render, or of others being bound to render him, certain services, is spoken of as possessing a condition, the assemblage of services is generally so considerable, in point of duration, as to constitute a course of considerable length, so as on a variety of occasions to come to be varied and repeated: and in most cases, when the condition is not of a domestic nature, sometimes for the benefit of one person, sometimes for that of another. Services which come to be rendered to a particular person on a particular occasion, especially if they be of short duration, have seldom the effect of occasioning either party to be spoken of as being invested with a condition. The particular occasional services which one man may come, by contract or otherwise, to be bound to render to another, are innumerably various: but the number of conditions which have names may be counted, and are, comparatively, but few.
If after all, notwithstanding the rule here given for separating conditions from articles of property, any object should present itself which should appear to be referable, with equal propriety, to either head, the inconvenience would not be material; since in such cases, as will be seen a little farther on, whichever appellation were adopted, the list of the offences, to which the object stands exposed, would be substantially the same.
These difficulties being cleared up, we now proceed to exhibit an analytical view of the several possible offences against trust.
XXVII. Offences against trust may be distinguished, in the first place, into such as concern the existence of the trust in the hands of such or such a person, and such as concern the exercise of the functions that belong to it.*34 First then, with regard to such as relate to its existence. An offence of this description, like one of any other description, if an offence it ought to be, must to some person or other import a prejudice. This prejudice may be distinguished into two branches: 1. That which may fall on such persons as are or should be invested with the trust: 2. That which may fall on the persons for whose sake it is or should be instituted, or on other persons at large. To begin with the former of these branches. Let any trust be conceived. The consequences which it is in the nature of it to be productive of to the possessor, must, in as far as they are material,*35 be either of an advantageous or of a disadvantageous nature: in as far as they are advantageous, the trust may be considered as a benefit or privilege: in as far as they are disadvantageous, it may be considered as a burthen.*36 To consider it then upon the footing of a benefit. The trust either is of the number of those which ought by law to subsist;*37 that is, which the legislator meant should be established; or is not. If it is, the possession which at any time you may be deprived of, with respect to it, must at that time be either present or to come: if to come (in which case it may be regarded either as certain or as contingent), the investitive event, or event from whence your possession of it should have taken its commencement, was either an event in the production of which the will of the offender should have been instrumental, or any other event at large: in the former case, the offence may be termed wrongful non-investment of trust: in the latter case, wrongful interception of trust.*38 If at the time of the offence whereby you are deprived of it, you were already in possession of it, the offence may be styled wrongful divestment of trust. In any of these cases, the effect of the offence is either to put somebody else into the trust, or not: if not, it is wrongful divestment, wrongful interception, or wrongful divestment, and nothing more: if it be, the person put in possession is either the wrong-doer himself, in which case it may be styled usurpation of trust; or some other person, in which case it may be styled wrongful investment, or attribution, of trust. If the trust in question is not of the number of those which ought to subsist, it depends upon the manner in which one man deprives another of it, whether such deprivation shall or shall not be an offence, and, accordingly, whether non-investment, interception, or divestment, shall or shall not be wrongful. But the putting any body into it must at any rate be an offence: and this offence may be either usurpation or wrongful investment, as before.
In the next place, to consider it upon the footing of a burthen. In this point of view, if no other interest than that of the persons liable to be invested with it were considered, it is what ought not, upon the principle of utility, to subsist: if it ought, it can only be for the sake of the persons in whose favour it is established. If then it ought not on any account to subsist, neither non-investment, interception, nor divestment, can be wrongful with relation to the persons first mentioned, whatever they may be on any other account, in respect of the manner in which they happen to be performed: for usurpation, though not likely to be committed, there is the same room as before: so likewise is there for wrongful investment; which, in as far as the trust is considered as a burthen, may be styled wrongful imposition of trust. If the trust, being still of the burthensome kind, is of the number of those which ought to subsist, any offence that can be committed, with relation to the existence of it, must consist either in causing a person to be in possession of it, who ought not to be, or in causing a person not to be in possession of it who ought to be: in the former case, it must be either usurpation or wrongful divestment, as before: in the latter case, the person who is caused to be not in possession, is either the wrong-doer himself, or some other: if the wrong-doer himself, either at the time of the offence he was in possession of it, or he was not: if he was, it may be termed wrongful abdication of trust; if not, wrongful detrectation*39 or non-assumption: if the person, whom the offence causes not to be in the trust, is any other person, the offence must be either wrongful divestment, wrongful non-investment, or wrongful interception, as before: in any of which cases to consider the trust in the light of a burthen, it might also be styled wrongful exemption from trust.
Lastly, with regard to the prejudice which the persons for whose benefit the trust is instituted, or any other persons whose interests may come to be affected by its existing or not existing in such or such hands, are liable to sustain. Upon examination it will appear, that by every sort of offence whereby the persons who are or should be in possession of it are liable, in that respect, to sustain a prejudice, the persons now in question are also liable to sustain a prejudice. The prejudice, in this case, is evidently of a very different nature from what it was of in the other: but the same general names will be applicable in this case as in that. If the beneficiaries, or persons whose interests are at stake upon the exercise of the trust, or any of them, are liable to sustain a prejudice, resulting from the quality of the person by whom it may be filled, such prejudice must result from the one or the other of two causes: 1. From a person's having the possession of it who ought not to have it: or 2. From a person's not having it who ought: whether it be a benefit or burthen to the possessor, is a circumstance that to this purpose makes no difference. In the first of these cases the offences from which the prejudice takes its rise are those of usurpation of trust, wrongful attribution of trust, and wrongful imposition of trust: in the latter, wrongful non-investment of trust, wrongful interception of trust, wrongful divestment of trust, wrongful abdication of trust, and wrongful detrectation of trust.
So much for the offences which concern the existence or possession of a trust: those which concern the exercise of the functions that belong to it may be thus conceived. You are in possession of a trust: the time then for your acting in it must, on any given occasion, (neglecting, for simplicity's sake, the then present instant) be either past or yet to come. If past, your conduct on that occasion must have been either conformable to the purposes for which the trust was instituted, or unconformable: if conformable, there has been no mischief in the case: if unconformable, the fault has been either in yourself alone, or in some other person, or in both: in as far as it has lain in yourself, it has consisted either in your not doing something which you ought to do, in which case it may be styled negative breach of trust; or in your doing something which you ought not to do: if in the doing something which you ought not to do, the party to whom the prejudice has accrued is either the same for whose benefit the trust was instituted, or some other party at large: in the former of these cases, the offence may be styled positive breach of trust; in the other, abuse of trust.*40 In as far as the fault lies in another person, the offence on his part may be styled disturbance of trust. Supposing the time for your acting in the trust to be yet to come, the effect of any act which tends to render your conduct unconformable to the purposes of the trust, may be either to render it actually and eventually unconformable, or to produce a chance of its being so. In the former of these cases, it can do no otherwise than take one or other of the shapes that have just been mentioned. In the latter case, the blame must lie either in yourself alone, or in some other person, or in both together, as before. If in another person, the acts whereby he may tend to render your conduct unconformable, must be exercised either on yourself, or on other objects at large. If exercised on yourself, the influence they possess must either be such as operates immediately on your body, or such as operates immediately on your mind. In the latter case, again, the tendency of them must be to deprive you either of the knowledge, or of the power, or of the inclination,*41 which would be necessary to your maintaining such a conduct as shall be conformable to the purposes in question. If they be such, of which the tendency is to deprive you of the inclination in question, it must be by applying to your will the force of some seducing motive.*42 Lastly, This motive must be either of the coercive, or of the alluring kind; in other words, it must present itself either in the shape of a mischief or of an advantage. Now in none of all the cases that have been mentioned, except the last, does the offence receive any new denomination; according to the event it is either a disturbance of trust, or an abortive attempt to be guilty of that offence. In this last it is termed bribery; and it is that particular species of it which may be termed active bribery, or bribe-giving. In this case, to consider the matter on your part, either you accept of the bribe, or you do not: if not, and you do not afterwards commit, or go about to commit, either a breach or an abuse of trust, there is no offence, on your part, in the case: if you do accept it, whether you eventually do or do not commit the breach or the abuse which it is the bribe-giver's intention you should commit, you at any rate commit an offence which is also termed bribery: and which, for distinction sake, may be termed passive bribery, or bribe-taking.*43 As to any farther distinctions, they will depend upon the nature of the particular sort of trust in question, and therefore belong not to the present place. And thus we have thirteen sub-divisions of offences against trust: viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of trust. 2. Wrongful interception of trust. 3. Wrongful divestment of trust. 4. Usurpation of trust. 5. Wrongful investment or attribution of trust. 6. Wrongful abdication of trust. 7. Wrongful detrectation of trust. 8. Wrongful imposition of trust. 9. Negative breach of trust. 10. Positive breach of trust. 11. Abuse of trust. 12. Disturbance of trust. 13. Bribery.
XXVIII. From what has been said, it appears that there cannot be any other offences, on the part of a trustee, by which a beneficiary can receive on any particular occasion any assignable specific prejudice. One sort of acts, however, there are by which a trustee may be put in some danger of receiving a prejudice, although neither the nature of the prejudice, nor the occasion on which he is in danger of receiving it, should be assignable. These can be no other than such acts, whatever they may be, as dispose the trustee to be acted upon by a given bribe with greater effect than any with which he could otherwise be acted upon: or in other words, which place him in such circumstances as have a tendency to increase the quantum of his sensibility to the action of any motive of the sort in question.*44 Of these acts, there seem to be no others, that will admit of a description applicable to all places and times alike, than acts of prodigality on the part of the trustee. But in acts of this nature the prejudice to the beneficiary is contingent only and unliquidated; while the prejudice to the trustee himself is certain and liquidated. If therefore on any occasion it should be found advisable to treat it on the footing of an offence, it will find its place more naturally in the class of self-regarding ones.
XXIX. As to the subdivisions of offences against trust, these are perfectly analogous to those of offences by falsehood. The trust may be private, semi-public, or public: it may concern property, person, reputation, or condition; or any two or more of those articles at a time: as will be more particularly explained in another place. Here too the offence, in running over the ground occupied by the three prior classes, will in some instances change its name, while in others it will not.
XXX. Lastly, if it be asked, What sort of relation there subsists between falsehoods on one hand, and offences concerning trust on the other hand; the answer is, they are altogether disparate. Falsehood is a circumstance that may enter into the composition of any sort of offence, those concerning trust, as well as any other: in some as an accidental, in others as an essential instrument. Breach or abuse of trust are circumstances which, in the character of accidental concomitants, may enter into the composition of any other offences (those against falsehood included) besides those to which they respectively give name.
Continue reading: Chapter XVI, Part 2.
Notes for this chapter
This chapter is an attempt to put our ideas of offences into an exact method. The particular uses of method are various: but the general one is, to enable men to understand the things that are the subjects of it. To understand a thing, is to be acquainted with its qualities or properties. Of these properties, some are common to it with other things; the rest, peculiar. But the qualities which are peculiar to any one sort of thing are few indeed, in comparison with those which are common to it with other things. To make it known in respect of its difference, would therefore be doing little, unless it were made known also by its genus. To understand it perfectly, a man must therefore be informed of the points in which it agrees as well as of those in which it disagrees, with all other things. When a number of objects, composing a logical whole, are to be considered together all of these possessing with respect to one another a certain congruency or agreement denoted by a certain name, there is but one way of giving a perfect knowledge of their nature; and that is, by distributing them into a system of parcels, each of them a part, either of some other parcel, or, at any rate, of the common whole. This can only be done in the way of bipartition, dividing each superior branch into two, and but two, immediately subordinate ones; beginning with the logical whole, dividing that into two parts, then each of those parts into two others; and so on. These first-distinguished parts agree in respect of those properties which belong to the whole: they differ in respect of those properties which are peculiar to each. To divide the whole into more than two parcels at once, for example into three, would not answer the purpose; for, in fact, it is but two objects that the mind can compare together exactly at the same time. Thus then, let us endeavour to deal with offences; or rather, strictly speaking, with acts which possess such properties as seem to indicate them fit to be constituted offences. The task is arduous, and as yet at least, perhaps for ever, above our force. There is no speaking of objects but by their names: but the business of giving them names has always been prior to the true and perfect knowledge of their natures. Objects the most dissimilar have been spoken of and treated as if their properties were the same. Objects the most similar have been spoken of and treated as if they had scarce anything in common. Whatever discoveries may be made concerning them, how different soever their congruencies and disagreements may be found to be from those which are indicated by their names, it is not without the utmost difficulty that any means can be found out of expressing those discoveries by a conformable set of names. Change the import of the old names, and you are in perpetual danger of being misunderstood: introduce an entire new set of names, and you are sure not to be understood at all. Complete success then, is, as yet at least, unattainable. But an attempt, though imperfect, may have its use: and, at the worst, it may accelerate the arrival of that perfect system, the possession of which will be the happiness of some maturer age. Gross ignorance descries no difficulties; imperfect knowledge finds them out, and struggles with them: it must be perfect knowledge that overcomes them.
See ch. xiii. [Cases unmeet], § ii. 1.
That is, either by name, or at least by description, in such manner as to be sufficiently distinguished from all others; for instance, by the circumstance of being the owner or occupier of such and such goods. See B. I. tit. [Personation], supra, ch. xii. [Consequences], xv.
With regard to offences against a class or neighbourhood, it is evident, that the fewer the individuals are, of which such class is composed, and the narrower that neighbourhood is, the more likely are the persons, to whom the offense is detrimental, to become assignable, insomuch that, in some cases, it may be difficult to determine concerning a given offense, whether it be an offense against individuals, or against a class or neighbourhood. It is evident also, that the larger the class or neighbourhood is, the more it approaches to a coincidence with the great body of the state. The three classes, therefore, are liable to a certain degree, to run into one another, and be confounded. But this is no more than what is the case, more or less, with all those ideal compartments under which men are wont to distribute objects for the convenience of discourse.
See ch. vii. [Actions], xiii.
1. Offences by falsehood: 2. Offenses against trust. See also par. xx. to xxx. and par. lxvi. Maturer views have suggested the feasibility, and the means, of ridding the system of this anomalous excrescence. Instead of considering these as so many divisions of offences, divided into genera a correspondent and collateral to the several genera distinguished by other appellations, they may be considered as so many specific differences, respectively applicable to those genera. Thus, in the case of a simple personal injury, in the operation of which a plan of falsehood has been employed: it seems more simple and more natural, to consider the offense thus committed as a particular species or modification of the genus of offence termed a simple personal injury, than to consider the simple personal injury, when effected by such means, as a modification of the division of offences entitled Offences through falsehood. By this means the circumstances of the intervention of falsehood as an instrument, and of the existence of a particular obligation of the nature of a trust, will be reduced to a par with various other classes of circumstances capable of affording grounds of modification commonly of aggravation or extenuation, to various genera of offences: instance, Premeditation, and conspiracy, on the one hand; Provocation received, and intoxication, on the other. This class will appear, but too plainly, as a kind of botch in comparison of the rest. But such is the fate of science and more particularly of the moral branch; the distribution of things must in a great measure be dependent on their names: arrangement, the work of mature rejection, must be ruled by nomenclature, the work of popular caprice.
In the book of the laws, offences must therefore be treated of as much as possible under their accustomed names. Generical terms, which are in continual use, and which express ideas for which there are no other terms in use, cannot safely be discarded. When any such occur, which cannot be brought to quadrate with such a plan of classification as appears to be most convenient upon the whole, what then is to be done? There seems to be but one thing, which is, to retain them, and annex them to the regular part of the system in the form of an appendix. Though they cannot, when entire, be made to rank under any of the classes established in the rest of the system, the divisions to which they give title may be broken down into lesser divisions, which may not be alike intractable. By this means, how discordant soever with the rest of the system they may appear to be at first sight, on a closer inspection they may be found conformable.
This must inevitably be the case with the names of offences, which are so various and universal in their nature, as to be capable, each of them of doing whatever mischief can be done by any other kind or kinds of offences whatsoever. Offences of this description may well be called anomalous.
Such offences, it is plain, cannot but show themselves equally intractable under every kind of system. Upon whatever principle the system be constructed, they cannot, any of them, with any degree of propriety, be confined to any one division. If, therefore, they constitute a blemish in the present system, it is such a blemish as could not be avoided but at the expense of a greater. The class they are here thrown into will traverse, in its subordinate ramifications, the other classes and divisions of the present system: true, but so would they of any other. An irregularity, and that but a superficial one, is a less evil than continual error and contradiction. But even this slight deviation, which the fashion of language seemed to render unavoidable at the outset, we shall soon find occasion to correct as we advance. For though the first great parcels into which the offences of this class are divided are not referable, any of them, to any of the former classes, yet the subsequent lesser subdivisions are.
See ch. vii. [Actions], iii. and xxiii.
If, by reason of the word relation, this part of the division should appear obscure, the unknown term may be got rid of in the following manner. Our ideas are derived, all of them, from the senses; pleasurable and painful ones, therefore, among the rest: consequently, from the operation of sensible objects upon our senses. A man's happiness, then, may be said to depend more or less upon the relation he bears to any sensible object, when such object is in a way that stands a chance, greater or less, of producing to him, or averting from him, pain or pleasure. Now this, if at all, it must do in one or other of two ways; 1. In an active way, properly so called; viz. by motion: or, 2. In a passive or quiescent way, by being moved to, or acted upon: and in either case, either, 1. in an immediate way, by acting upon, or being acted on by, the organs of sense, without the intervention of any other external object: or, 2. in a more or less remote way, by acting upon, or being acted on by, some other external object, which (with the intervention of a greater or less number of such objects, and at the end of more or less considerable intervals of time) will come at length to act upon, or be acted upon by, those organs. And this is equally true, whether the external objects in question be things or persons. It is also equally true of pains and pleasures of the mind, as of those of the body: all the difference is, that in the production of these, the pleasure or pain may result immediately from the perception which it accompanies: in the production of those of the mind, it cannot result from the action of an object of sense any otherwise than by association; to wit, by means of some connection which the perception has contracted with certain prior ones, lodged already in the memory.*
* See ch. v. [Pleasures and Pains], xv, xxxi. Ch. x. [Motives], xxxviii, note.
See ch. x. [Motives].
Subsequent consideration has here suggested several alterations. The necessity of adding to property, power, in the character of a distinguishable as well as valuable object or subject-matter of possession, has presented itself to view: and in regard to the fictitious entity here termed condition (for shortness instead of saying condition in life), it has been observed to be a sort of composite object, compounded of property, reputation, power and right to services. For this composite object the more proper place was therefore at the tail of the several simple ones.—Note by the Editor, July, 1822.
Supra, iv. note.
See ch. xii. [Consequences].
See ch. viii. [Intentionality].
See B. I. tit. [Semi-public offences]. In the mean time that of pestilence may serve as an example. A man, without any intention of giving birth to such a calamity, may expose a neighbourhood to the danger of it, by breaking quarantine or violating any of those other preventive regulations which governments, at certain conjunctures, may find it expedient to have recourse to, for the purpose of guarding against such danger.
See ch. xiii. [Cases unmeet], § iv.
In this part of the analysis, I have found it necessary to deviate in some degree from the rigid rules of the exhaustive method I set out with. By me, or by some one else, this method may, perhaps, be more strictly pursued at some maturer period of the science. At present, the benefit that might result from the unrelaxed observance of it, seemed so precarious that I could not help doubting whether it would pay for the delay and trouble. Doubtless such a method is eminently instructive: but the fatigue of following it out is so great, not only to the author, but probably also to the reader, that carried to its utmost length at the first attempt, it might perhaps do more disservice in the way of disgust, than service in the way of information. For knowledge, like physic, how salutary soever in itself, becomes no longer of any use, when made too unpalatable to be swallowed. Mean time, it cannot but be a mortifying circumstance to a writer, who is sensible of the importance of his subject, and anxious to do it justice, to find himself obliged to exhibit what he perceives to be faulty, with any view, how indistinct soever, of something more perfect before his eyes. If there be any thing new and original in this work, it is to the exhaustive method so often aimed at that I am indebted for it. It will, therefore, be no great wonder if I should not be able to quit it without reluctance. On the other hand, the marks of stiffness which will doubtless be perceived in a multitude of places, are chiefly owing to a solicitous, and not perfectly successful, pursuit of this same method. New instruments are seldom handled at first with perfect ease.
The idea of government, it may be observed, is introduced here without any preparation. The fact of its being established, I assume as notorious, and the necessity of it as alike obvious and incontestable. Observations indicating that necessity, if any such should be thought worth looking at in this view, may be found by turning to a passage in a former chapter, where they were incidentally adduced for the purpose of illustration. See. Ch. xii. [Consequences], § xvii.
See infra, liv. note. Even this head, ample as it is, and vague as it may seem to be, will not, when examined by the principle of utility, serve, any more than another, to secrete any offence which has no title to be placed there. To show the pain or loss of pleasure which is likely to ensue, is a problem, which before a legislator can justify himself in adding the act to the catalogue of offences, he may in this case, as in every other, be called upon to solve.
For examples, see infra, liv. note. This branch of the business of government, a sort of work of supererogation, as it may be called, in the calendar of political duty, is comparatively but of recent date. It is not for this that the untutored many could have originally submitted themselves to the dominion of the few. It was the dread of evil, not the hope of good that first cemented societies together. Necessaries come always before luxuries. The state of language marks the progress of ideas. Time out of mind the military department has had a name: so has that of justice: the power which occupies itself in preventing mischief, not till lately, and that but a loose one, the police: for the power which takes for its object the introduction of positive good, no peculiar name, however inadequate, seems yet to have been devised.
The functions of justice, and those of the police, must be apt in many points to run one into another: especially as the business would be very badly managed if the same persons, whose more particular duty it is to act as officers of the police, were not upon occasion to act in the capacity of officers of justice. The ideas, however, of the two functions may still be kept distinct: and I see not where the line of separation can be drawn, unless it be as above.
As to the word police, though of Greek extraction, it seems to be of French growth: it is from France, at least, that it has been imported into Great Britain, where it still retains its foreign garb: in Germany, if it did not originate there, it has at least been naturalized. Taken all together, the idea belonging to it seems to be too multifarious to be susceptible of any single definition. Want of words obliged me to reduce the two branches here specified into one. Who would have endured in this place to have seen two such words as the phthano-paranomic or crime-preventing, and the phthano-symphoric or calamity-preventing, branches of the police? the inconveniences of uniting the two branches under the same denomination, are, however, the less, inasmuch as the operations requisite to be performed for the two purposes will in many cases be the same. Other functions, commonly referred to the head of police, may be referred either to the head of that power which occupies itself in promoting in a positive way the increase of the national felicity, or of that which employs itself in the management of the public wealth. See infra, liv. note.
It is from abroad that those pernicious enterprises are most apt to originate, which come backed with a greater quantity of physical force than the persons who are in a more particular sense the officers of justice are wont to have at their command. Mischief the perpetration of which is ensured by a force of such magnitude, may therefore be looked upon in general as the work of external adversaries. Accordingly, when the persons by whom it is perpetrated are in such force as to bid defiance to the ordinary efforts of justice, they loosen themselves from their original denomination in proportion as they increase in force, till at length they are looked upon as being no longer members of the state, but as standing altogether upon a footing with external adversaries. Give force enough to robbery, and it swells into rebellion: give permanence enough to rebellion, and it settles into hostility.
It must be confessed, that in common speech the distinction here established between the public wealth and the national wealth is but indifferently settled: nor is this to be wondered at; the ideas themselves, though here necessary to be distinguished, being so frequently convertible. But I am mistaken if the language will furnish any other two words that would express the distinction better. Those in question will, I imagine, be allowed to be thus far well chosen, that if they were made to change their places, the import given to them would not appear to be quite so proper as that which is given to them as they stand at present.
I should have been afraid to have said necessarily. In the United Provinces, in the Helvetic, or even in the Germanic body, where is that one assembly in which an absolute power over the whole resides? where was there in the Roman Commonwealth? I would not undertake for certain to find an answer to all these questions.
See par. xvii. with regard to justice.
It may be observed, that upon this occasion I consider religion in no other light, than in respect of the influence it may have on the happiness of the present life. As to the effects it may have in assuring us of and preparing us for a better life to come, this is a matter which comes not within the cognizanoe of the legislator. See tit. [Offences against religion].
I say offences against religion, the fictitious entity: not offences against God, the real being. For, what sort of pain should the act of a feeble mortal occasion to a being unsusceptible of pain? How should an offence affect him? Should it be an offence against his person, his property, his reputation, or his condition?
It has commonly been the way to put offences against religion foremost. The idea of precedence is naturally enough connected with that of reverence. . But for expressing reverence, there are other methods enough that are less equivocal. And in point of method and perspicuity it is evident, that with regard to offences against religion, neither the nature of the mischief which it is their tendency to produce, nor the reason there may be for punishing them, can be understood, but from the consideration of the several mischiefs which result from the several other sorts of offences. In a political view, it is only because those others are mischievous, that offences against religion are so too.
This division of falsehoods, it is to be observed, is not regularly drawn out: that being what the nature of the case will not here admit of. Falsehood may be infinitely diversified in other ways than these. In a particular case, for instance, simple falsehood when uttered by writing, is distinguished from the same falsehood when uttered by word of mouth, and has had a particular name given to it accordingly. I mean, where it strikes against reputation, in which case, the instrument it has been uttered by has been called a libel. Now it is obvious, that in the same manner it might have received a distinct name in all other cases where it is uttered by writing. But there has not happened to be any thing in particular that has disposed mankind in those cases to give it such a name. The case is, that among the infinity of circumstances by which it might have been diversified, those which constitute it a libel, happen to have engaged a peculiar share of attention on the part of the institutors of language; either in virtue of the influence which these circumstances have on the tendency of the act, or in virtue of any particular degree of force with which on any other account they may have disposed it to strike upon the imagination.
See B. I. tit. [Falsehoods].
There are two other circumstances still more material; viz. 1. The parties whose interest is affected by the falsehood: 2. The point or article in which that interest is affected. These circumstances, however, enter not into the composition of the generical character. Their use is, as we shall see, to characterize the several species of each genus. See B. I. tit. [Falsehoods].
Powers, though not a species of rights (for the two sorts of fictitious entities, termed a power and a right, are altogether disparate) are yet so far included under rights, that wherever the word power may be employed, the word right may also be employed: The reason is, that wherever you may speak of a person as having a power, you may also speak of him as having a right to such power: but the converse of this proposition does not hold good: there are cases in which, though you may speak of a man as having a right, you cannot speak of him as having a power or in any other way make any mention of that word. On various occasions you have a right for instance, to the services of the magistrate: but if you are a private person, you have no power over him: all the power is on his side. This being the case, as the word right was employed, the word power might perhaps, without any deficiency in the sense, have been omitted. On the present occasion however, as in speaking of trusts this word is commonly made more use of than the word right, it seemed most eligible, for the sake of perspicuity, to insert them both.
It may be expected that, since the word trust has been here expounded, the words power and right, upon the meaning of which the exposition of the word trust is made to depend, should be expounded also: and certain it is, that no two words can stand more in need of it than these do. Such exposition I accordingly set about to give, and indeed have actually drawn up: but the details into which I found it necessary to enter for this purpose, were of such length as to take up more room than could consistently be allotted to them in this place. With respect to these words, therefore, and a number of others, such as possession, title, and the like, which in point of import are inseparably connected with them, instead of exhibiting the exposition itself, I must content myself with giving a general idea of the plan which I have pursued in framing it: and as to every thing else, I must leave the import of them to rest upon whatever footing it may happen to stand upon in the apprehension of each reader. Power and right, and the whole tribe of fictitious entities of this stamp, are all of them, in the sense which belongs to them in a book of jurisprudence, the results of some manifestation or other of the legislator's will with respect to such or such an act. Now every such manifestation is either a prohibition, a command, or their respective negations; viz. a permission, and the declaration which the legislator makes of his will when on any occasion he leaves an act uncommanded. Now, to render the expression of the rule more concise, the commanding of a positive act may be represented by the prohibition of the negative act which is opposed to it. To know then how to expound a right, carry your eye to the act which in the circumstances in question would be a violation of that right: the law creates the right by prohibiting that act. Power, whether over a man's own person, or over other persons or over things, is constituted in the first instance by permission: but in as far as the law takes an active part in corroborating it, it is created by prohibition, and by command: by prohibition of such acts (on the part of other persons) as are judged incompatible with the exercise of it; and upon occasion, by command of such acts as are judged to be necessary for the removal of such or such obstacles of the number of those which may occur to impede the exercise of it. For every right which the law confers on one party, whether that party be an individual, a subordinate class of individuals, or the public, it thereby imposes on some other party a duty or obligation. But there may be laws which command or prohibit acts, that is, impose duties, without any other view than the benefit of the agent: these generate no rights: duties, therefore, may be either extra-regarding or self-regarding: extra-regarding have rights to correspond to them: self-regarding, none.
That the exposition of the words power and right must, in order to be correct, enter into a great variety of details, may be presently made appear. One branch of the system of rights and powers, and but one, are those of which property is composed: to be correct, then, it must, among other things, be applicable to the whole tribe of modifications of which property, is susceptible. But the commands and prohibitions, by which the powers and rights that compose those several modifications are created, are so many different forms: to comprise the exposition in question within the compass of a single paragraph, would therefore be impossible: to take as many paragraphs for it as would be necessary, in order to exhibit these different forms, would be to engage in a detail so ample, that the analysis of the several possible species of property would compose only a part of it. This labour, uninviting as it was, I have accordingly undergone: but the result of it, as may well be imagined, seemed too voluminous and minute to be exhibited in an outline like the present. Happily it is not necessary except only for the scientific purpose of arrangement, to the understanding of any thing that need be said on the penal branch of the art of legislation. In a work which should treat of the civil branch of that art, it would find its proper place: and in such a work, if conducted upon the plan of the present one, it would be indispensable. Of the limits which seem to separate the one of these branches from the other, a pretty ample description will be found in the next chapter: from which some further lights respecting the course to be taken for developing the notions to be annexed to the words right and power, may incidentally be collected. See in particular § 3 and 4. See also par. lv. of the present chapter.
I might have cut this matter very short, by proceeding in the usual strain, and saying, that a power was a faculty, and that a right was a privilege, and so on, following the beaten track of definition. But the inanity of such a method, in cases like the present, has been already pointed out:* a power is not a—any thing: neither is a right a—any thing: the case is they have neither of them any superior genus: these, together with duty, obligation, and a multitude of others of the same stamp, being of the number of those fictitious entities, of which the import can by no other means be illustrated than by showing the relation which they bear to real ones.
* See Fragment of Government, ch. v. § 6. note.
The first of these parties is styled in the law language, as well as in common speech, by the name here given to him. The other is styled, in the technical language of the English law, a cestuy que trust: in common speech, as we have observed, there is, unfortunately, no name for him. As to the law phrase, it is antiquated French, and though complex, it is still elliptical, and to the highest degree obscure. The phrase in full length would run in some such manner as this: cestuy al use de qui le trust est créé: he to whose use the trust or benefit is created. In a particular case a cestuy que trust is called by the Roman law, fidei-commissarius. In imitation of this, I have seen him somewhere or other called in English a fide-committee. This term, however, seems not very expressive. A fide-committee, or, as it should have been, fidei-committee, seems, literally speaking, to mean one who is committed to the good faith of another. Good faith seems to consist in the keeping of a promise. But a trust may be created without any promise in the case. It is indeed common enough to exact a promise, in order the more effectually to oblige a man to do that which he is made to promise he will do. But this is merely an accidental circumstance. A trust may be created without any such thing. What is it that constitutes a legal obligation in any case? A command, express or virtual, together with punishment appointed for the breach of it. By the same means may an obligation be constituted in this case as well as any other. Instead of the word beneficiary, which I found it necessary to adopt, the sense would be better expressed by some such word as beneficiendary (a word analogous in its formation to referendary), were it such an one as the ear could bring itself to endure. This would put it more effectually out of doubt, that the party meant was the party who ought to receive the benefit, whether he actually receives it or no: whereas the word beneficiary might be understood to intimate, that the benefit was actually received: while in offences against trust the mischief commonly is, that such benefit is reaped not by the person it was designed for, but by some other: for instance, the trustee.
It is for shortness' sake that the proposition is stated as it stands in the text. If critically examined, it might be found, perhaps, to be scarcely justifiable by the laws of language. For the fictitious entities, characterised by the two abstract terms, trust and condition, are not subalternate but disparate. To speak with perfect precision, we should say that he who is invested with a trust is, on that account, spoken of as being invested with a condition: viz. the condition of a trustee. We speak of the condition of a trustee as we speak of the condition of a husband or a father.
It is to be observed, that in common speech, in the phrase the object of a man's property, the words the object of are commonly left out; and by an ellipsis, which, violent as it is, is now become more familiar than the phrase at length, they have made that part of it which consists of the words a man's property perform the office of the whole. In some cases then it was only on a part of the object that the acts in question might be performed: and to say, on this account, that the object was a man's property, was as much as to intimate that they might be performed on any part. In other cases it was only certain particular acts that might be exercised on the object: and to say of the object that it was his property, was as much as to intimate that any acts whatever might be exercised on it. Sometimes the acts in question were not to be exercised but at a future time nor then, perhaps, but in the case of the happening of a particular event of which the happening was uncertain: and to say of an object that it was his property, was as much as to intimate that the acts in question might be exercised on it at any time. Sometimes the object on which the acts in question were to have their termination, or their commencement, was a human creature: and to speak of one human creature as being the property of another is what would shock the ear every where but where slavery is established, and even there, when applied to persons in any other condition than that of slaves. Among the first Romans, indeed, the wife herself was the property of her husband; the child, of his father; the servant, of his master. In the civilised nations of modern times, the two first kinds of property are altogether at an end: and the last, unhappily not yet at an end, but however verging, it is to be hoped, towards extinction. The husband's property is now the company* of his wife; the father's the guardianship and service of his child; the master's, the service of his servant.
* The consortium, says the English law.
We shall have occasion, a little farther on, to speak of the person in whose hands the trust exists, under the description of the person who possesses, or is in possession of it and thence of the possession of the trust abstracted from the consideration of the possessor. However different the expression, the import is in both cases the same. So irregular and imperfect is the structure of language on this head, that no one phrase can be made to suit the idea on all the occasions on which it is requisite it should be brought to view: the phrase must be continually shifted, or new modified: so likewise in regard to conditions, and in regard to property. The being invested with, or possessing a condition; the being in possession of an article of property, that is if the object of the property be corporeal; the having a legal title (defeasible or indefeasible) to the physical possession of it, answers to the being in possession of a trust, or the being the person in whose hands a trust exists. In like manner, to the exercise of the functions belonging to a trust, or to a condition, corresponds the enjoyment of an article of property; that is, if the object of it be corporeal, the occupation. These verbal discussions are equally tedious and indispensable. Striving to cut a new road through the wilds of jurisprudence, I find myself continually distressed, for want of tools that are fit to work with. To frame a complete set of new ones is impossible. All that can be done is, to make here and there a new one in cases of absolute necessity, and for the rest, to patch up from time to time the imperfections of the old.
As to the bipartition which this paragraph sets out with, it must be acknowledged not to be of the nature of those which to a first glance afford a sort of intuitive proof of their being exhaustive. There is not that marked connection and opposition between the terms of it, which subsists between contradictory terms and between terms that have the same common genus. I imagine, however, that upon examination it would be found to be exhaustive notwithstanding: and that it might even be demonstrated so to be. But the demonstration would lead us too far out of the ordinary track of language.
See ch. vii. [Actions], iii.
If advantageous, it will naturally be on account of the powers or rights that are annexed to the trust: if disadvantageous, on account of the duties.
It may seem a sort of anachronism to speak on the present occasion of a trust, condition, or other possession, as one of which it may happen that a man ought or ought not to have had possession given him by the law, for, the plan here set out upon is to give such a view all along of the laws that are proposed, as shall be taken from the reasons which there are for making them: the reason then it would seem should subsist before the law: not the law before the reason. Nor is this to be denied: for, unquestionably, upon the principle of utility, it may be said with equal truth of those operations by which a trust, or any other article of property, is instituted, as of any other operations of the law, that it never can be expedient they should be performed, unless some reason for performing them, deduced from that principle, can be assigned. To give property to one man, you must impose obligation on another: you must oblige him to do something which he may have a mind not to do, or to abstain from doing something which he may have a mind to do: in a word, you must in some way or other expose him to inconvenience. Every such law, therefore, must at any rate be mischievous in the first instance, and if no good effects can be produced to set against the bad, it must be mischievous upon the whole. Some reasons, therefore, in this case, as in every other, there ought to be. The truth is, that in the case before us, the reasons are of too various and complicated a nature to be brought to view in an analytical outline like the present. Where the offence is of the number of those by which person or reputation are affected, the reasons for prohibiting it lie on the surface, and apply to every man alike. But property, before it can be offended against, must be created, and at the instant of its creation distributed, as it were, into parcels of different sorts and sizes, which require to be assigned, some to one man and some to another, for reasons, of which many lie a little out of sight, and which being different in different cases, would take up more room than could consistently be allotted to them here. For the present purpose, it is sufficient if it appear, that for the carrying on of the several purposes of life, there are trusts, and conditions, and other articles of property, which must be possessed by somebody: and that it is not every article that can, nor every article that ought, to be possessed by every body. What articles ought to be created, and to what persons, and in what cases they ought to be respectively assigned, are questions which cannot be settled here. Nor is there any reason for wishing that they could, since the settling them one way or another is what would make no difference in the nature of any offence whereby any party may be exposed, on the occasion of any such institution, to sustain a detriment.
In the former case, it may be observed, the act is of the negative kind: in the latter, it will commonly be of the positive kind.
As to the expression non-investment of trust, I am sensible that it is not perfectly consonant to the idiom of the language: the usage is to speak of a person as being invested (that is clothed) with a trust, not of a trust as of a thing that is itself invested or put on. The phrase at length would be, the non-investment of a person with a trust: but this phrase is by much too long-winded to answer the purpose of an appellative. I saw therefore, no other resource than to venture upon the ellipsis here employed. The ancient lawyers, in the construction of their appellatives, have indulged themselves in much harsher ellipses without scruple. See above, xxv. note. It is already the usage to speak of a trust as a thing that vests, and as a thing that may be divested.
I do not find that this word has yet been received into the English language. In the Latin, however, it is very expressive, and is used in a sense exactly suitable to the sense here given to it. Militiam detrectare, to endeavour to avoid serving in the army, is a phrase not unfrequently met with in the Roman writers.
What is here meant by abuse of trust, is the exercise of a power usurped over strangers, under favour of the powers properly belonging to the trust. The distinction between what is here meant by breach of trust and what is here meant by abuse of trust, is not very steadily observed in common speech: and in regard to public trusts, it will even in many cases be imperceptible. The two offences are, however, in themselves perfectly distinct: since the persons, by whom the prejudice is suffered, are in many cases altogether different. It may be observed, perhaps, that with regard to abuse of trust, there is but one species here mentioned; viz. that which corresponds to positive breach of trust: none being mentioned as corresponding to negative breach of trust. The reason of this distinction will presently appear. In favour of the parties, for whose benefit the trust was created, the trustee is bound to act, and therefore merely by his doing nothing they may receive a prejudice: but in favour of other persons at large he is not bound to act: and therefore it is only from some positive act on his part that any prejudice can ensue to them.
See infra, liv. note; and ch. xviii. [Indirect Legislation].
See ch. xi. [Dispositions], xxix.
To bribe a trustee, as such, is in fact neither more nor less than to suborn him to be guilty of a breach or an abuse of trust. Now subornation is of the number of those accessory offences which every principal offence, one as well as another, is liable to be attended with. See infra, xxxi. note, and B. I. tit. [Accessory offences]. This particular species of subornation however being one that, besides its having a specific name framed to express it, is apt to engage a peculiar share of attention, and to present itself to view in company with other offences against trust, it would have seemed an omission not to have included it in that catalogue.
See ch. vi. [Sensibility] ii.
End of Notes
Return to top