An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, by Jeremy Bentham

Chapter XVIII.

§ 1.

Classes of Offences.


*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.

* 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 any thing in common. Whatever discoveries may be made concerning them, how different soever their real 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 other more apposite denominations. 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.


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.*

* See ch. xv. [Cases umeet] § 2, par. 1.


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.


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 or unassignable.

[Assignable.] 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] par. 15.


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.


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 2d 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 3d class, they may be styled private extra-regarding offences.


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. Offences, then, against a class or neighbourhood, may, together, constitute the 2d class of offences. To contrast them with private offences on the one hand, and public on the other, they may also be styled semi-public offences.

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 offence is detrimental, to become assignable: insomuch that, in some cases, it may be difficult to determine concerning a given offence, whether it be an offence 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.


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* offences; but still better, self-regarding.

* See ch. vii. [Actions] par. 13.


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.


A fifth class, or appendix, may be composed of such acts as, according to the circumstances in which they are committed, 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 be termed multiform, or heterogeneous offences. Offences that are in this case may be reduced to two great heads: 1. Offences by falsehood: and, 2. Offences against trust.

1. Offences by falsehood: 2. Offences against trust. See also par. 20 to 30, and 66. 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, correspondent and collateral to the several genera distinguished by other appellations, they may be considered as so may 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 offence 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 reflection, 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 shew 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 arc.

§ 2.

Divisions and Sub-divisions.


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 well being, his happiness and his security, in a word, his pleasures and his immunity from pains, are all dependant, 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* 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. 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. Offences against person. 2. Offences against reputation. 3. Offences against property. 4. Offences against condition. 5. Offences against person and property together. 6. Offences against person and reputation together.*

* See ch. vii. [Actions] par. 3 and 24.

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 subject 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 connexion which the perception has contracted with certain prior ones, lodged already in the memory.a

a See ch. v. [Pleasures and Pains] par. 15, 31. Ch. x. [Motives] par. 39, 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.


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. 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. 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. 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.

Supra, par. 4, note.

See ch. xii. [Consequences.]

See ch. viii. [Intentionality.]


With regard to any farther sub-divisions, offences against 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.§

§ 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.


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 sub-division of offences, if ever it should seem necessary that any such offences should be created.


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 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.

See ch. xv. [Cases unmeet] § 4.


Public offences may be distributed under eleven divisions.* 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.

* 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 if 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. Meantime, 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 case.


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. 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. 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.* 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 can not 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. Second. 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, 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: 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 an 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. Last, 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* 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 justices, 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 before-hand; 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.

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 incontestible. 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] par. 17.

See infra, par. 54, 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, par. 54, 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 extractraction, 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 inconvenience 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, par. 54, 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.


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,* 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.

* See par. 17, 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 cognizance 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. Ex Διος αϱχωμεαθα. 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.


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.


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. Let us observe in what particulars these four kinds of falsehood agree, and in what they differ.

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.


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, 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.

See B. I. tit. [Falsehoods.]


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 circumstances, 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.* The particular application of these distinctive characters may more commodiously be reserved for another place.

* 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.]



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.


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.


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, 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.*

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.

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 can not 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 fictious 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 of 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. 55 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 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.

a See Fragmen on 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, a 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.


Now it may occur, that a trust is oftentimes spoken of as a species of condition:* that a trust is also spoken of as a species of property: and that a condition itself is also spoken of in the 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, 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 publiccondition. 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 benent, 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 a 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. 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 characterized, 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.

* 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.

Infra, par. 55.

* For object of property, say now, 1827, subject-matter.

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 civilized 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 companya of his wife; the father’s the guardianship and service of his child; the master’s, the service of his servant.

a The consortium, says the English Law.

* To condition, in this case, should be added the words, in life.


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.* 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 in as far as they are material, 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. 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; 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.* 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 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.* 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, 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. 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.* 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.

* 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] par 3.

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 everybody. 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 ellipsises without scruple. See above, 25, note. It is already the usage to speak of a trust as a thing that vests, and as a thing that may be divested.

[Detrectation.] 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; and ch. xx. [Indirect Legislation.]

See ch. xi. [Dispositions] par. 29.

* 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 will as another, is liable to be attended with. See infra, 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 particular 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.


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. 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.

See ch. vi. [Sensibility] par. 2.


As to the sub-divisions 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.


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.

Genera of Class I.


Returning now to class the first, let us pursue the distribution a step farther, and branch out the several divisions of that class, as above exhibited, into their respective genera; that is, into such minuter divisions as are capable of being characterized by denominations of which a great part are already current among the people. In this place the analysis must stop. To apply it in the same regular form to any of the other classes seems scarcely practicable: to semi-public, as also to public offences, on account of the interference of local circumstances: to self-regarding ones, on account of the necessity it would create of deciding prematurely upon points which may appear liable to controversy: to offences by falsehood, and offences against trust, on account of the dependence there is between this class and the three former. What remains to be done in this way, with reference to these four classes, will require discussion, and will therefore be introduced with more propriety in the body of the work, than in a preliminary part, of which the business is only to draw outlines.

In the enumeration of these genera, it is all all along to be observed, that offences of an accessory nature are not mentioned; except unless it be here and there, where they have obtained current names which seemed too much in vogue to be omitted. Accessory offences are those which, without being the very acts from which the mischief in question takes its immediate rise, are, in the way of causality, connected with those acts. See ch. vii. [Actions] par. 24, and B. I. tit. [Accessory Offences.]


An act, by which the happiness of an individual is disturbed, is either simple in its effects, or complex. It may be styled simple in its effects, when it affects him in one only of the articles or points in which his interest, as we have seen, is liable to be affected: complex, when it affects him in several of those points at once. Such as are simple in their effects must of course be first considered.


In a simple way, that is, in one way at a time, a man’s happiness is liable to be disturbed, either, 1. By actions referring to his own person itself; or 2. By actions referring to such external objects on which his happiness is more or less dependent. As to his own person, it is composed of two different parts, or reputed parts, his body and his mind. Acts which exert a pernicious influence on his person, whether it be on the corporeal or on the mental part of it, will operate thereon either immediately, and without affecting his will, or mediately, through the intervention of that faculty; viz. by means of the influence which they cause his will to exercise over his body. If with the intervention of his will, it must be by mental coercion; that is, by causing him to will to maintain, and thence actually to maintain, a certain conduct which it is disagreeable, or in any other way pernicious, to him to maintain. This conduct may either be positive or negative:* when positive, the coercion is styled compulsion or constraint: when negative, restraint. Now the way in which the coercion is disagreeable to him, may be by producing either pain of body, or only pain of mind. If pain of body is produced by it, the offence will come as well under this as under other denominations, which we shall come to presently. Moreover, the conduct which a man, by means of the coercion, is forced to maintain, will be determined, either specifically and originally, by the determination of the particular acts themselves, which he is forced to perform or to abstain from, or generally and incidentally, by means of his being forced to be or not to be in such or such a place. But if he is prevented from being in one place, he is confined thereby to another. For the whole surface of the earth, like the surface of any greater or lesser body, may be conceived to be divided into two, as well as into any other number of parts or spots. If the spot, then, which he is confined to, be smaller than the spot which he is excluded from, his condition may be called confinement: if larger, banishment. Whether an act, the effect of which is to exert a pernicious influence on the person of him who suffers by it, operates with or without the intervention of an act of his will, the mischief it produces will either be mortal or not mortal. If not mortal, it will either be reparable, that is, temporary; or irreparable, that is, perpetual. If reparable, the mischievous act may be termed a simple corporal injury; if irreparable, an irreparable corporal injury. Lastly, a pain that a man experiences in his mind will either be a pain of actual sufferance, or a pain of apprehension. If a pain of apprehension, either the offender himself is represented as intending to bear a part in the production of it, or he is not. In the former case, the offence may be styled menacement: in the latter case, as also where the pain is a pain of actual sufferance, a simple mental injury. And thus we have nine genera or kinds of personal injuries; which, when ranged in the order most commodious for examination, will stand as follows; viz. 1. Simple corporal injuries. 2. Irreparable corporal injuries. 3. Simple injurious restrainment. 4. Simple injurious compulsion. 5. Wrongful confinement. 6. Wrongful banishment. 7. Wrongful homicide. 8. Wrongful menacement.* 9. Simple mental injuries.

* Ch. vii. [Actions] par. 8.

Of these, and the several other leading expressions which there is occasion to bring to view in the remaining part of this analysis, ample definitions will be found in the body of the work, conceived in terminis legis. To give particular references to these definitions, would be incumbering the page to little purpose.

Injurious restrainment at large, and injurious compulsion at large, are here styled simple, in order to distinguish them from confinement, banishment, robbery, and extortion; all which are, in many cases, but so many modifications of one or other of the two first-mentioned offences.

To constitute an offence an act of simple injurious restrainment, or simple injurious compulsion, it is sufficient if the influence it exerts be, in the first place, pernicious; in the next place, exerted on the person by the medium of the will: it is not necessary that that part of the person on which it is exerted be the part to which it is pernicious: it is not even necessary that it should immediately be pernicious to either of these parts, though to one or other of them it must be pernicious in the long run, if it be pernicious at all. An act in which the body, for example, is concerned, may be very disagreeable, and thereby pernicious, to him who performs it, though neither disagreeable nor pernicious to his body: for instance, to stand or sit in public with a label on his back, or under any other circumstances of ignominy.

* It may be observed, that wrongful menacement is included as well in simple injurious restrainment, and simple injurious compulsion, except in the rare case where the motives by which one man is prevented by another from doing a thing that would have been materially to his advantage, or induced to do a thing that is materially to his prejudice, are of the alluring kind.

Although, for reasons that have been already given (supra, par. 31), no complete catalogue, nor therefore any exhaustive view, of either semi-public or self-regarding offences, can be exhibited in this chapter, it may be a satisfaction, however, to the reader, to see some sort of list of them, if it were only for the sake of having examples before his eyes. Such lists cannot any where be placed to more advantage than under the heads of the several divisions of private extra-regarding offences, to which the semi-public and self-regarding offences in question respectively correspond. Concerning the two latter, however, and the last more particularly, it must be understood, that all I mean by inserting them here is to exhibit the mischief, if any, which it is of the nature of them respectively to produce, without deciding upon the question, whether it would be worth while [See ch. xv. Cases unmeet] in every instance, for the sake of combating that mischief, to introduce the evil of punishment. In the course of this detail, it will be observed, that there are several heads of extra-regarding private offences, to which the correspondent heads, either of semi-public or self-regarding offences, or of both, are wanting. The reasons of these deficiencies will probably, in most instances, be evident enough upon the face of them. Lest they should not, they are, however, specified in the body of the work. They would take up too much room were they to be inserted here.

I. Semi-public Offences through calamity. Calamities, by which the persons or properties of men, or both, are liable to be affected, seem to be as follows: 1. Pestilence or contagion. 2. Famine, and other kinds of scarcity. 3. Mischiefs producible by persons deficient in point of understanding, such as infants, idiots, and maniacs, for want of their being properly taken care of. 4. Mischief producible by the ravages of noxious animals, such as beasts of prey, locusts, &c. &c. 5. Collapsion, or fall of large masses of solid matter, such as decayed buildings, or rocks, or masses of snow. 6. Inundation or submersion. 7. Tempest. 8. Blight. 9. Conflagration. 10. Explosion. In as far as a man may contribute by any imprudent act of his, to give birth to any of the above calamities, such act may be an offence. In as far as a man may fail to do what is incumbent on him to do towards preventing them, such failure may be an offence.

II. Semi-public Offences of mere delinquency. A whole neighbourhood may be made to suffer, 1. Simple corporal injuries: in other words, they may be made to suffer in point of health, by offensive or dangerous trades or manufactures: by selling or falsely puffing off unwholsome medicines or provisions: by poisoning or drying up of springs, destroying of aqueducts, destroying woods, walls, or other fences against wind and rain: by any kinds of artificial scarcity; or by any other calamities intentionally produced. 2 and 3. Simple injurious restrainment, and simple injurious compulsion: for instance, by obliging a whole neighbourhood, by dint of threatening handbills, or threatening discourses, publicly delivered, to join, or forbear to join, in illuminations, acclamations, outcries, invectives, subscriptions, undertakings, processions, or any other mode of expressing joy or grief, displeasure or approbation; or in short, in any other course of conduct whatsoever. 4 and 5. Confinement and banishment: by the spoiling of roads, bridges, or ferry-boats: by destroying or unwarrantably pre-occupying public carriages, or houses of accommodation. 6. By menacement: as by incendiary letters, and tumultuous assemblies: by newspapers or handbills, denouncing vengeance against persons of particular denominations: for example, against Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Scotchmen, Gascons, Catalonians, &c. 7. Simple mental injuries: as by distressful, terrifying obscene, or irreligious exhibitions: such as exposure of sores by beggars, exposure of dead bodies, exhibitions or reports of counterfeit witchcrafts or apparitions, exhibition of obscene or blasphemous prints: obscene or blasphemous discourses held in public: spreading false news of public defeats in battle, or of other misfortunes.

III. Self-regarding Offences against person. 1. Fasting. Abstinence from venery, self-flagellation, self-mutilation, and other self-denying and self-tormenting practices. 2. Gluttony, drunkenness, excessive venery, and other species of intemperance. 3. Suicide.


We come now to offences against reputation merely. These require but few distinctions. In point of reputation there is but one way of suffering, which is by losing a portion of the good-will of others. Now, in respect of the good-will which others bear you, you may be a loser in either of two ways: 1. By the manner in which you are thought to behave yourself; and, 2. By the manner in which others behave, or are thought to behave, towards you. To cause people to think that you yourself have so behaved, as to have been guilty of any of those acts which cause a man to possess less than he did before of the good-will of the community, is what may be styled defamation. But such is the constitution of human nature, and such the force of prejudice, that a man, merely by manifesting his own want of good-will towards you, though ever so unjust in itself, and ever so unlawfully expressed, may in a manner force others to withdraw from you a part of theirs. When he does this by words, or by such actions as have no other effect than in as far as they stand in the place of words, the offence may be styled vilification. When it is done by such actions as, besides their having this effect, are injuries to the person, the offence may be styled a personal insult: if it has got the length of reaching the body, a corporal insult: if it stopt short before it reached that length, it may be styled insulting menacement. And thus we have two genera or kinds of offences against reputation merely; to wit, 1. Defamation: and, 2. Vilification, or Revilement.* As to corporal insults, and insulting menacement, they belong to the compound title of offences against person and reputation both together.

* I. Semi-public Offences. 1. Calumniation and vilification of particular denominations of persons; such as Jews, Catholics, &c.

II. Self-regarding Offences. 1. Incontinence in females. 2. Incest.


If the property of one man suffers by the delinquency of another, such property either was in trust with the offender, or it was not: if it was in trust, the offence is a breach of trust, and of whatever nature it may be in other respects, may be styled dissipation in breach of trust, or dissipation of property in trust. This is a particular case: the opposite one is the more common: in such case the several ways in which property may, by possibility, become the object of an offence, may be thus conceived. Offences against property, of whatever kind it be, may be distinguished, as hath been already intimated, into such as concern the legal possession of it, or right to it, and such as concern only the enjoyment of it, or, what is the same thing, the exercise of that right. Under the former of these heads come, as hath been already intimated, the several offences of wrongful non-collation or non-investment, wrongful interception, wrongful ablation or divestment, usurpation, and wrongful attribution. When in the commission of any of these offences a falsehood has served as an instrument, and that, as it is commonly called, a wilful, or as it might more properly be termed, an advised one, the epithet fraudulent may be prefixed to the name of the offence, or substituted in the room of the word wrongful. The circumstance of fraudulency then may serve to characterize a particular species, comprisable under each of those generic heads: in like manner, the circumstance of force, of which more a little farther on, may serve to characterize another. With respect to wrongful interception, in particular, the collative event, by which the title to the thing in question should have accrued to you, and for want of which such title is, through the delinquency of the offender, as it were, intercepted, is either an act of his own, expressing it as his will, that you should be considered by the law as the person who is legally in possession of it, or it is any other event at large: in the former case, if the thing, of which you should have been put into possession, is a sum of money to a certain amount, the offence is that which has received the name of insolvency; which branch of delinquency, in consideration of the importance and extent of it, may be treated on the footing of a distinct genus of itself.

Next with regard to such of the offences against property, as concern only the enjoys ment of the object in question. This object must be either a service, or set of services,* which should have been rendered by some person, or else an article belonging to the class of things. In the former case, the offence may be styled wrongful withholding of services: in the latter case it may admit of farther modifications, which may be thus conceived: When any object which you have had the physical occupation or enjoyment of, ceases, in any degree, in consequence of the act of another man, and without any change made in so much of that power as depends upon the intrinsic physical condition of your person, to be subject to that power; this cessation is either owing to change in the intrinsic condition of the thing itself, or in its exterior situation with respect to you; that is, to its being situated out of your reach. In the former case, the nature of the change is either such as to put it out of your power to make any use of it at all, in which case the thing is said to be destroyed, and the offence whereby it is so treated may be termed wrongful destruction: or such only as to render the uses it is capable of being put to of less value than before, in which case it is said to be damaged, or to have sustained damage, and the offence may be termed wrongful endamagement. Moreover, in as far as the value which a thing is of to you is considered as being liable to be in some degree impaired by any act on the part of any other person exercised upon that thing, although on a given occasion no perceptible damage should ensue, the exercise of any such act is commonly treated on the footing of an offence, which may be termed wrongful using or occupation.

If the cause of the thing’s failing in its capacity of being of use to you, lies in the exterior situation of it with relation to you, the offence may be styled wrongful detainment or detention. Wrongful detainment, during any given period of time, may either be accompanied with the intention of detaining the thing for ever (that is, for an indefinite time) or not: if it be, and if it be accompanied at the same time with the intention of not being amenable to law for what is done, it seems to answer to the idea commonly annexed to the word embezzlement, an offence which is commonly accompanied with breach of trust. In the case of wrongful occupation, the physical faculty of occupying may have been obtained with or without the assistance or consent of the proprietor, or other person appearing to have a right to afford such assistance or consent. If without such assistance or consent, and the occupation be accompanied with the intention of detaining the thing for ever, together with the intention of not being amenable to law for what is done, the offence seems to answer to the idea commonly annexed to the word theft or stealing. If in the same circumstances a force is put upon the body of any person who uses, or appears to be disposed to use, any endeavours to prevent the act, this seems to be one of the cases in which the offence is generally understood to come under the name of robbery.

If the physical faculty in question was obtained with the assistance or consent of a proprietor, or other person above spoken of, and still the occupation of the thing is an offence, it may have been either because the assistance or consent was not fairly, or because it was not freely obtained. If not fairly obtained, it was obtained by falsehood, which, if advised, is in such a case termed fraud; and the offence, if accompanied with the intention of not being amenable to law, may be termed fraudulent obtainment or defraudment.* If not freely obtained, it was obtained by force; to wit, either by a force put upon the body, which has been already mentioned, or by a force put upon the mind. If by a force put upon the mind, or in other words, by the application of coercive motives, it must be by producing the apprehension of some evil: which evil, if the act is an offence, must be some evil to which, on the occasion in question, the one person has no right to expose the other. This is one case, in which, if the offence be accompanied with the intention of detaining the thing for ever, whether it be or be not accompanied with the intention of not being amenable to law, it seems to agree with the idea of what is commonly meant by extortion. Now the part a man takes in exposing another to the evil in question, must be either a positive or a negative part. In the former case, again, the evil must either be present or distant. In the case, then, where the assistance or consent is obtained by a force put upon the body, or where, if by a force put upon the mind, the part taken in the exposing a man to the apprehension of the evil is positive, the evil present, and the object of it his person, and if at any rate the extortion, thus applied, be accompanied with the intention of not being amenable to law, it seems to agree with the remaining case of what goes under the name of robbery.

As to dissipation in breach of trust, this, when productive of a pecuniary profit to the trustee, seems to be one species of what is commonly meant by peculation. Another, and the only remaining one, seems to consist in acts of occupation exercised by the trustee upon the things which are the objects of the fiduciary property, for his own benefit, and to the damage of the beneficiary. As to robbery, this offence, by the manner in which the assistance or consent is obtained, becomes an offence against property and person at the same time. Dissipation in breach of trust, and peculation, may perhaps be more commodiously treated of under the head of offences against trust. After these exceptions, we have eighteen genera or principal kinds of offences against property, which, when ranged in the order most commodious for examination, may stand as follows, viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of property. 2. Wrongful interception of property. 3. Wrongful divestment of property. 4. Usurpation of property. 5. Wrongful investment of property. 6. Wrongful withholding of services. 7. Wrongful destruction or endamagement. 8. Insolvency. 9. Wrongful obtainment of services. 10. Wrongful imposition of expense. 11. Wrongful imposition of services. 12. Wrongful occupation. 13. Wrongful detention. 14. Wrongful disturbance of proprietary rights. 15. Theft. 16. Embezzlement. 17. Defraudment. 18. Extortion.

We proceed now to consider offences which are complex in their effects. Regularly, indeed, we should come to offences against condition; but it will be more convenient to speak first of offences by which a man’s interest is affected in two of the preceding points at once.

Supra, par. 27.

See ch. ix. [Consciousness] par. 2.

The light in which the offence of insolvency is here exhibited, may perhaps at first consideration be apt to appear not only novel but improper. It may naturally enough appear, that when a man owes you a sum of money, for instance, the right to the money is your’s already, and that what he withholds from you by not paying you, is not the legal title to it, possession of it, or power over it, but the physical possession of it, or power over it, only. But upon a more accurate examination, this will be found not to be the case. What is meant by payment, is always an act of investitive power, as above explained; an expression of an act of the will, and not a physical act: it is an act exercised with relation indeed to the thing said to be paid, but not in a physical sense exercised upon it. A man who owes you ten pounds, takes up a handful of silver to that amount, and lays it down on a table at which you are sitting. If then, by words or gestures, or any means whatever, addressing himself to you, he intimates it to be his will that you should take up the money, and do with it as you please, he is said to have paid you: but if the case was, that he laid it down not for that purpose, but for some other, for instance to count it and examine it, meaning to take it up again himself, or leave it for somebody else, he has not paid you: yet the physical acts, exercised upon the pieces of money in question, are in both cases the same. Till he does express a will to that purport, what you have is not, properly speaking, the legal possession of the money, or a right to the money, but only a right to have him, or in his default perhaps a minister of justice, compelled to render you that sort of service, by the rendering of which he is said to pay you: that is, to express such will as above mentioned, with regard to some corporeal article or other of a certain species, and of value equal to the amount of what he owes you: or, in other words, to exercise in your favour an act of investitive power with relation to some such article.

True it is, that in certain cases a man may perhaps not be deemed, according to common acceptation, to have paid you, without rendering you a further set of services, and those of another sort: a set of services, which are rendered by the exercising of certain acts of a physical nature upon the very thing with which he is said to pay you; to wit, by transferring the thing to a certain place where you may be sure to find it, and where it may be convenient for you to receive it. But these services, although the obligation of rendering them should be annexed by law to the obligation of rendering those other services, in the performance of which the operation of payment properly consists, are plainly acts of a distinct nature, nor are they essential to the operation: by themselves they do not constitute it, and it may be performed without them. It must be performed without them wherever the thing to be transferred happens to be already as much within the reach, physically speaking, of the creditor, as by any act of the debtor it can be made to be.

This matter would have appeared in a clearer light, had it been practicable to enter here into a full examination of the nature of property, and the several modifications of which it is susceptible: but every thing cannot be done at once.

* Supra, par. 26.

Under wrongful withholding of services is included breach of contract: the obligation to render services may be grounded either on contract, or upon other titles; in other words, the event of a man’s engaging in a contract is one out of many other investitive events from which the right of receiving them may take its commencement. See ch. xix. [Limits] § 4.

Were the word services to be taken in its utmost latitude (negative included as well as positive), this one head would be enough to cover the whole law. To this place, then, are to be referred such services only, the withholding of which does not coincide with any of the other offences, for which separate denominations have been provided.

There are some services, we may observe, the withholding of which may affect the person, and by that means come under the negative branches of the several genera of corporal injuries; such as services due from a surgeon, an innkeeper, &c.

In the English law, detinue and detainer: detinue applied chiefly to moveables; detainer, to immoveables. Under detinue and detainer, cases are also comprised, in which the offence consists in forbearing to transfer the legal possession of the thing: such cases may be considered as coming under the head of wrongful non-investment. The distinction between mere physical possession and legal possession, where the latter is short-lived and defeasible, seems scarcely hitherto to have been attended to. In a multitude of instances they are confounded under the same expressions. The cause is, that probably under all laws, and frequently for very good reasons, the legal possession, with whatever certainty defeasible upon the event of a trial, is, down to the time of that event, in many cases aunexed to the appearance of the physical.

In attempting to exhibit the import belonging to this and other names of offences in common use, I must be understood to speak all along with the utmost diffidence. The truth is, the import given to them is commonly neither determinate nor uniform: so that, in the nature of things, no definition that can be given of them by a private person can be altogether an exact one. To fix the sense of them belongs only to the legislator.

* The remaining cases come under the head of usurpation, or wrongful investment of property. The distinction seems hardly hitherto to have been attended to: it turns, like another mentioned above, upon the distinction between legal possession and physical. The same observation may be applied to the case of extortion hereafter following.

Vide supra, par. 27.

Usury, which, if it must be an offence, is an offence committed with consent, that is, with the consent of the party supposed to be injured, cannot merit a place in the catalogue of offences, unless the consent were either unfairly obtained or unfreely: in the first case, it coincides with defraudment; in the other, with extortion.

I. Semi-public Offences. 1. Wrongful divestment, interception, usurpation, &c. of valuables, which are the property of a corporate body, or which are in the indiscriminate occupation of a neighbourhood; such as parish churches, altars, relics, and other articles appropriated to the purposes of religion: or things which are in the indiscriminate occupation of the public at large; such as milestones, market-houses, exchanges, public gardens, and cathedrals. 2. Setting on foot what have been called bubbles, or fraudulent partnerships, or gaming adventures; propagating false news, to raise or sink the value of stocks, or of any other denomination of property.

II. Self-regarding Offences. 1. Idleness. 2. Gaming. 3. Other species of prodigality.


First, then, with regard to offences which affect person and reputation together. When any man, by a mode of treatment which affects the person, injures the reputation of another, his end and purpose must have been either his own immediate pleasure, or that sort of reflected pleasure, which in certain circumstances may be reaped from the suffering of another. Now the only immediate pleasure worth regarding, which any one can reap from the person of another, and which at the same time is capable of affecting the reputation of the latter, is the pleasure of the sexual appetite.§ This pleasure, then, if reaped at all, must have been reaped either against the consent of the party, or with consent. If with consent, the consent must have been obtained either freely and fairly both, or freely, but not fairly, or else not even freely; in which case, the fairness is out of the question. If the consent be altogether wanting, the offence is called rape: if not fairly obtained, seduction simply: if not freely, it may be called forcible seduction. In any case, either the offence has gone the length of consummation, or has stopt short of that period; if it has gone that length, it takes one or other of the names just mentioned: if not, it may be included alike in all cases under the denomination of a simple lascivious injury. Lastly, to take the case, where a man injuring you in your reputation, by proceedings that regard your person, does it for the sake of that sort of pleasure which will sometimes result from the contemplation of another’s pain. Under these circumstances, either the offence has actually gone the length of a corporal injury, or it has rested in menacement: in the first case, it may be styled a corporal insult; in the other, it may come under the name of insulting menacement. And thus we have six genera, or kinds of offences, against person and reputation together; which, when ranged in the order most commodious for consideration, will stand thus: 1. Corporal insults. 2. Insulting menacement. 3. Seduction. 4. Rape. 5. Forcible seduction. 6. Simple lascivious injuries.*

§ See ch. v. [Pleasures and Pains.]

* I. Semi-public Offences — none.

II. Self-regarding Offences. 1. Sacrifice of virginity. 2. Indecencies not public.


Secondly, with respect to those which affect person and property together. That a force put upon the person of a man may be among the means by which the title to property may be unlawfully taken away or acquired, has been already stated. A force of this sort, then, is a circumstance which may accompany the offences of wrongful interception, wrongful divestment, usurpation, and wrongful investment. But in these cases the intervention of this circumstance does not happen to have given any new denomination to the offence. In all or any of these cases, however, by prefixing the epithet forcible, we may have so many names of offences, which may either be considered as constituting so many species of the genera belonging to the division of offences against property, or as so many genera belonging to the division now before us. Among the offences that concern the enjoyment of the thing, the case is the same with wrongful destruction and wrongful endamagement; as also with wrongful occupation and wrongful detainment. As to the offence of wrongful occupation, it is only in the case where the thing occupied belongs to the class of immoveables, that, when accompanied by the kind of force in question, has obtained a particular name, which is in common use: in this case it is called forcible entry: forcible detainment, as applied also to immoveables, but only to immoveables, has obtained, among lawyers at least, the name of forcible detainer. And thus we may distinguish ten genera, or kinds of offences against person and property together, which, omitting for conciseness sake the epithet wrongful, will stand thus: 1. Forcible interception of property. 2. Forcible divestment of property. 3. Forcible usurpation. 4. Forcible investment. 5. Forcible destruction or endamagement. 6. Forcible occupation of moveables. 7. Forcible entry. 8. Forcible detainment of moveables. 9. Forcible detainment of immoveables. 10. Robbery.§


In the technical language of the English law, property so acquired is said to be acquired by duress.

Applied to moveables, the circumstance of force has never, at least by the technical part of the language, been taken into account: no such combination of terms as forcible occupation is in current use. The word detinue is applied to moveables only; and (in the language of the law) the word forcible has never been combined with it. The word applied to immoveables is detainer: this is combined with the word forcible; and what is singular, it is scarcely in use without that word. It was impossible to steer altogether clear of this technical nomenclature, on account of the influence which it has on the body of the language.

§ I. Semi-public Offences. 1. Incendiarism. 2. Criminal inundation.

II. Self-regarding Offences — none.


We come now to offences against condition. A man’s condition or station in life is constituted by the legal relation he bears to the persons who are about him; that is, as we have already had occasion to show, by duties, which, by being imposed on one side, give birth to rights or powers on the other. These relations, it is evident, may be almost infinitely diversified. Some means, however, may be found of circumscribing the field within which the varieties of them are displayed. In the first place, they must either be such as are capable of displaying themselves within the circle of a private family, or such as require a larger space. The conditions constituted by the former sort of relations may be styled domestic: those constituted by the latter, civil.

Supra, par. 25, note.


As to domestic conditions, the legal relations by which they are constituted may be distinguished into, 1. Such as are superadded to relations purely natural: and, 2. Such as, without any such natural basis, subsist purely by institution. By relations purely natural, I mean those which may be said to subsist between certain persons in virtue of the concern which they themselves, or certain other persons, have had in the process which is necessary to the continuance of the species. These relations may be distinguished, in the first place, into contiguous and uncontiguous. The uncontiguous subsist through the intervention of such as are contiguous. The contiguous may be distinguished, in the first place, into connubial, and post-connubial.* Those which may be termed connubial, are two: 1. That which the male bears towards the female: 2. That which the female bears to the male. The post-connubial are either productive or derivative. The productive is that which the male and female above mentioned bear each of them towards the children who are the immediate fruit of their union: this is termed the relation of parentality. Now, as the parents must be, so the children may be, of different sexes. Accordingly, the relation of parentality may be distinguished into four species: 1. That which a father bears to his son: this is termed paternity. 2. That which a father bears to his daughter: this, also, is termed paternity. 3. That which a mother bears to her son: this is called maternity. 4. That which a mother bears to her daughter: this, also, is termed maternity. Uncontiguous natural relations may be distinguished into immediate and remote. Such as are immediate, are what one person bears to another in consequence of their bearing each of them one simple relation to some third person. Thus the paternal grandfather is related to the paternal grandson by means of the two different relations, of different kinds, which together they bear to the father: the brother on the father’s side, to the brother by means of the two relations of the same kind, which together they bear to the father. In the same manner we might proceed to find places in the system for the infinitely-diversified relations which result from the combinations that may be formed by mixing together the several sorts of relationships by ascent, relationships by descent, collateral relationships, and relationships by affinity: which latter, when the union between the two parties through whom the affinity takes place is sanctioned by matrimonial solemnities, are termed relationships by marriage. But this, as it would be a most intricate and tedious task, so happily is it, for the present purpose, an unnecessary one. The only natural relations to which it will be necessary to pay any particular attention, are those which, when sanctioned by law, give birth to the conditions of husband and wife, the two relations comprised under the head of parentality, and the corresponding relations comprised under the head of filiality or filiation.

What, then, are the relations of a legal kind which can be superinduced upon the above-mentioned natural relations? They must be such as it is the nature of law to give birth to and establish. But the relations which subsist purely by institution, exhaust, as we shall see, the whole stock of relationships which it is in the nature of the law to give birth to and establish. The relations, then, which can be superinduced upon those which are purely natural, cannot be in themselves any other than what are of the number of those which subsist purely by institution: so that all the difference there can be between a legal relation of the one sort, and a legal relation of the other sort, is that in the former case the circumstance which gave birth to the natural relation serves as a mark to indicate where the legal relation is to fix: in the latter case, the place where the legal relation is to attach is determined, not by that circumstance but by some other. From these considerations it will appear manifestly enough, that for treating of the several sorts of conditions, as well natural as purely conventional, in the most commodious order, it will be necessary to give the precedence to the latter. Proceeding throughout upon the same principle, we shall all along give the priority, not to those which are first by nature, but to those which are most simple in point of description. There is no other way of avoiding perpetual anticipations and repetitions.

* By the terms connubial and post-connubial, all I mean at present to bring to view is, the mere physical union, apart from the ceremonies and legal engagements that will afterwards be considered as accompanying it.

The vague and undetermined nature of the fictitious entity, called a relation, is, on occasions like the present, apt to be productive of a good deal of confusion. A relation is either said to be borne by one of the objects which are parties to it, to the other, or to subsist between them. The latter mode of phraseology is, perhaps, rather the more common. In such case the idea seems to be, that from the consideration of the two objects there results but one relation, which belongs as it were in common to them both. In some cases, this perhaps may answer the purpose very well: it will not, however, in the present case. For the present purpose it will be necessary we should conceive two relations as resulting from the two objects, and borne, since such is the phrase, by the one of them, to or towards the other: one relation borne by the first object to the second: another relation borne by the second object to the first. This is necessary on two accounts: 1. Because for the relations themselves there are in many instances separate names; for example, the relations of guardianship and wardship: in which case, the speaking of them as if they were but one, may be productive of much confusion. 2. Because the two different relationships give birth to so many conditions: which conditions are so far different, that what is predicated and will hold good of the one, will, in various particulars, as we shall see, not hold good of the other.


We come now to consider the domestic or family relations, which are purely of legal institution. It is to these, in effect, that both kinds of domestic conditions, considered as the work of law, are indebted for their origin. When the law, no matter for what purpose, takes upon itself to operate in a matter in which it has not operated before, it can only be by imposing obligation.* Now when a legal obligation is imposed on any man, there are but two ways in which it can, in the first instance, be enforced. The one is by giving the power of enforcing it to the party in whose favour it is imposed, the other is by reserving that power to certain third persons, who, in virtue of their possessing it, are styled ministers of justice. In the first case, the party favoured is said to possess not only a right as against the party obliged, but also a power over him: in the second case, a right only, uncorroborated by power. In the first case, the party favoured may be styled a superior, and as they are both members of the same family, a domestic superior, with reference to the party obliged; who, in the same case, may be styled a domestic inferior, with reference to the party favoured. Now, in point of possibility, it is evident, that domestic conditions, or a kind of fictitious possession analogous to domestic conditions, might have been looked upon as constituted, as well by rights alone, without powers on either side, as by powers. But in point of utility it does not seem expedient: and in point of fact, probably owing to the invariable perception which men must have had of the inexpediency, no such conditions seem ever to have been constituted by such feeble bands. Of the legal relationships, then, which are capable of being made to subsist within the circle of a family, there remain those only in which the obligation is enforced by power. Now then, wherever any such power is conferred, the end or purpose for which it was conferred (unless the legislator can be supposed to act without a motive) must have been the producing of a benefit to somebody; in other words, it must have been conferred for the sake of somebody. The person, then, for whose sake it is conferred, must either be one of the two parties just mentioned, or a third party: if one of these two, it must be either the superior or the inferior. If the superior, such superior is commonly called a master; and the inferior is termed his servant: and the power may be termed a beneficial one. If it be for the sake of the inferior that the power is established, the superior is termed a guardian; and the inferior his ward: and the power being thereby coupled with a trust, may be termed a fiduciary one. If for the sake of a third party, the superior may be termed a superintendent; and the inferior his subordinate. This third party will either be an assignable individual or set of individuals, or a set of unassignable individuals. In this latter case, the trust is either a public or a semi-public one: and the condition which it constitutes is not of the domestic, but of the civil kind. In the former case, this third party, or principal, as he may be termed, either has a beneficial power over the superintendant, or he has not: if he has, the superintendant is his servant, and consequently so also is the subordinate: if not, the superintendant is the master of the subordinate; and all the advantage which the principal has over his superintendant, is that of possessing a set of rights, uncorroborated by power; and therefore, as we have seen,* not fit to constitute a condition of the domestic kind. But be the condition what it may, which is constituted by these rights, of what nature can the obligations be, to which the superintendant is capable of being subjected by means of them? They are neither more nor less than those which a man is capable of being subjected to by powers. It follows, therefore, that the functions of a principal and his superintendant coincide with those of a master and his servant; and consequently that the offences relative to the two former conditions will coincide with the offences relative to the two latter.

* See ch. xix. [Limits] § 3.

Two persons, who by any means stand engaged to live together, can never live together long, but one of them will choose that some act or other should be done, which the other will choose should not be done. When this is the case, how is the competition to be decided? Laying aside generosity and good-breeding, which are the tardy and uncertain fruits of long-established laws, it is evident that there can be no certain means of deciding it but physical power: which indeed is the very means by which family, as well as other competitions, must have been decided, long before any such office as that of legislator had existence. This, then, being the order of things which the legislator finds established by nature, how should he do better than to acquiesce in it? The persons who, by the influence of causes that prevail every where, stand engaged to live together, are, 1. Parent and child, during the infancy of the latter: 2. Man and wife: 3. Children of the same parents. Parent and child, by necessity: since, if the child did not live with the parent (or with somebody standing in the place of the parent) it could not live at all: husband and wife, by a choice approaching to necessity: children of the same parents, by the necessity of their living each of them with the parents. As between parent and child, the necessity there is of a power on the part of the parent for the preservation of the child supersedes all farther reasoning. As between man and wife, that necessity does not subsist. The only reason that applies to this case, is, the necessity of putting an end to competition. The man would have the meat roasted; the woman boiled: shall they both fast till the judge comes in to dress it for them? The woman would have the child dressed in green; the man, in blue: shall the child be naked till the judge comes in to clothe it? This affords a reason for giving a power to one or other of the parties: but it affords none for giving the power to the one rather than to the other. How then shall the legislator determine? Supposing it equally easy to give it to either, let him look ever so long for a reason why he should give it to the one rather than to the other, and he may look in vain. But how does the matter stand already? for there were men and wives (or, what comes to the same thing, male and female living together as man and wife) before there were legislators. Looking round him, then, he finds almost every where the male the stronger of the two; and therefore possessing already, by purely physical means, that power which he is thinking of bestowing on one of them by means of law. How, then, can he do so well as by placing the legal power in the same hands which are beyond comparison the more likely to be in possession of the physical? In this way, few transgressions, and few calls for punishment: in the other way, perpetual transgressions, and perpetual calls for punishment. Solon is said to have transferred the same idea to the distribution of state powers. Here, then, was generalization: here was the work of genius. But in the disposal of domestic power, every legislator, without any effort of genius, has been a Solon. So much for reason:a add to which, in point of motives,b that legislators seem all to have been of the male sex, down to the days of Catherine. I speak here of those who frame laws, not of those who touch them with a sceptre.

a Social motives: sympathy for the public: love of reputation, &c.

b Self-regarding motives: or social motives, which are social in a less extent: sympathy for persons of a particular description: persons of the same sex.

* Supra, note, page 43.


Offences to which the condition of a master, like any other kind of condition, is exposed, may, as hath been already intimated, be distinguished into such as concern the existence of the condition itself, and such as concern the performance of the functions of it, while subsisting. First, then, with regard to such as affect its existence. It is obvious enough, that the services of one man may be a benefit to another: the condition of a master may therefore be a beneficial one. It stands exposed, therefore, to the offences of wrongful non-investment, wrongful interception, usurpation, wrongful investment, and wrongful divestment. But how should it stand exposed to the offences of wrongful abdication, wrongful detrectation, and wrongful imposition? Certainly it cannot of itself; for services, when a man has the power of exacting them or not, as he thinks fit, can never be a burthen. But if to the powers, by which the condition of a master is constituted, the law thinks fit to annex any obligation on the part of the master; for instance, that of affording maintenance, or giving wages, to the servant, or paying money to any body else, it is evident, that in virtue of such obligation the condition may become a burthen. In this case, however, the condition possessed by the master will not, properly speaking, be the pure and simple condition of a master: it will be a kind of complex object, resolvable into the beneficial condition of a master, and the burthensome obligation which is annexed to it. Still, however, if the nature of the obligation lies within a narrow compass, and does not, in the manner of that which constitutes a trust, interfere with the exercise of those powers by which the condition of the superior is constituted, the latter, notwithstanding this foreign mixture, will still retain the name of mastership. In this case, therefore, but not otherwise, the condition of a master may stand exposed to the offences of wrongful abdication, wrongful detrectation, and wrongful imposition. Next as to the behaviour of persons, with reference to this condition, while considered as subsisting. In virtue of its being a benefit, it is exposed to disturbance. This disturbance will either be the offence of a stranger, or the offence of the servant himself. Where it is the offence of a stranger, and is committed by taking the person of the servant, in circumstances in which the taking of an object belonging to the class of things, would be an act of theft, or (what is scarcely worth distinguishing from theft) an act of embezzlement, it may be termed servant-stealing. Where it is the offence of the servant himself, it is styled breach of duty. Now the most flagrant species of breach of duty, and that which includes indeed every other, is that which consists in the servant’s withdrawing himself from the place in which the duty should be performed. This species of breach of duty is termed elopement. Again, in virtue of the power belonging to this condition, it is liable, on the part of the master, to abuse. But this power is not coupled with a trust. The condition of a master is therefore not exposed to any offence which is analogous to breach of trust. Lastly, on account of its being exposed to abuse, it may be conceived to stand, in point of possibility, exposed to bribery. But considering how few, and how insignificant, the persons are who are liable to be subject to the power here in question, this is an offence which, on account of the want of temptation, there will seldom be any example of in practice. We may therefore reckon thirteen sorts of offences to which the condition of a master is exposed; viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of mastership. 2. Wrongful interception of mastership. 3. Wrongful divestment of mastership. 4. Usurpation of mastership. 5. Wrongful investment of mastership. 6. Wrongful abdication of mastership. 7. Wrongful detrectation of mastership. 8. Wrongful imposition of mastership. 9. Abuse of mastership. 10. Disturbance of mastership. 11. Breach of duty in servants. 12. Elopement of servants. 13. Servant-stealing.

Vide supra, par. 27.

In most civilized nations there is a sort of domestic condition, in which the superior is termed a master, while the inferior is termed sometimes indeed a servant, but more particularly and more frequently an apprentice. In this case, though the superior is, in point of usage, known by no other name than that of a master, the relationship is in point of fact a mixed one, compounded of that of master and that of guardian.


As to the power by which the condition of a master is constituted, this may be either limited or unlimited. When it is altogether unlimited, the condition of the servant is styled pure slavery. But as the rules of language are as far as can be conceived from being steady on this head, the term slavery is commonly made use of wherever the limitations prescribed to the power of the master are looked upon as inconsiderable. Whenever any such limitation is prescribed, a kind of fictitious entity is thereby created, and, in quality of an incorporeal object of possession, is bestowed upon the servant: this object is of the class of those which are called rights: and in the present case is termed, in a more particular manner, a liberty: and sometimes a privilege, an immunity, or an exemption. Now those limitations on the one hand, and these liberties on the other, may, it is evident, be as various as the acts (positive or negative) which the master may or may not have the power of obliging the servant to submit to or to perform. Correspondent, then, to the infinitude of these liberties, is the infinitude of the modifications which the condition of mastership (or, as it is more common to say in such a case, that of servitude) admits of. These modifications, it is evident, may, in different countries, be infinitely diversified. In different countries, therefore, the offences characterized by the above names will, if specifically considered, admit of very different descriptions. If there be a spot upon the earth so wretched as to exhibit the spectacle of pure and absolutely unlimited slavery, on that spot there will be no such thing as any abuse of mastership; which means neither more nor less than that no abuse of mastership will there be treated on the footing of an offence. As to the question, Whether any, and what, modes of servitude ought to be established or kept on foot? this is a question, the solution of which belongs to the civil branch of the art of legislation.


Next with regard to the offences that may concern the condition of a servant. It might seem at first sight, that a condition of this kind could not have a spark of benefit belonging to it: that it could not be attended with any other consequences than such as rendered it a mere burthen. But a burthen itself may be a benefit, in comparison of a greater burthen. Conceive a man’s situation, then, to be such, that he must, at any rate, be in a state of pure slavery. Still may it be material to him, and highly material, who the person is whom he has for his master. A state of slavery, then, under one master, may be a beneficial state to him, in comparison with a state of slavery under another master. The condition of a servant, then, is exposed to the several offences to which a condition, in virtue of its being a beneficial one, is exposed.* More than this, where the power of the master is limited, and the limitations annexed to it, and thence the liberties of the servant, are considerable, the servitude may even be positively eligible. For amongst those limitations may be such as are sufficient to enable the servant to possess property of his own: being capable, then, of possessing property of his own, he may be capable of receiving it from his master: in short, he may receive wages, or other emoluments, from his master; and the benefit resulting from these wages may be so considerable as to outweigh the burthen of the servitude, and by that means render that condition more beneficial upon the whole, and more eligible, than that of one who is not in any respect under the controul of any such person as a master. Accordingly, by these means the condition of the servant may be so eligible, that his entrance into it, and his continuance in it, may have been altogether the result of his own choice. That the nature of the two conditions may be the more clearly understood, it may be of use to shew the sort of correspondency there is between the offences which affect the existence of the one, and those which affect the existence of the other. That this correspondency cannot but be very intimate, is obvious at first sight. It is not, however, that a given offence in the former catalogue coincides with an offence of the same name in the latter catalogue: usurpation of servantship with usurpation of mastership, for example. But the case is, that an offence of one denomination in the one catalogue coincides with an offence of a different denomination in the other catalogue. Nor is the coincidence constant and certain; but liable to contingencies, as we shall see. First, then, wrongful non-collation of the condition of a servant, if it be the offence of one who should have been the master, coincides with wrongful detrectation of mastership: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it non-collation of mastership, which, provided the mastership be, in the eyes of him who should have been master, a beneficial thing, but not otherwise, is wrongful. 2. Wrongful interception of the condition of a servant, if it be the offence of him who should have been master, coincides with wrongful detrectation of mastership: if it be the offence of a third person, and the mastership be a beneficial thing, it involves in it wrongful interception of mastership. 3. Wrongful ablation of servantship, if it be the offence of the master, but not otherwise, coincides with wrongful abdication of mastership: if it be the offence of a stranger, it involves in it ablation of mastership, which, in as far as the mastership is a beneficial thing, is wrongful. 4. Usurpation of servantship coincides necessarily with wrongful imposition of mastership: it will be apt to involve in it wrongful divestment of mastership; but this only in the case where the usurper, previously to the usurpation, was in a state of servitude under some other master. 5. Wrongful collation of servantship (the servantship being considered as a beneficial thing) coincides with imposition of mastership; which, if in the eyes of the pretended master, the mastership should chance to be a burthen, will be wrongful. 6. Wrongful abdication of servantship coincides with wrongful ablation of mastership. 7. Wrongful detrectation of servantship, with wrongful non-collation of mastership. 8. Wrongful imposition of servantship, if it be the offence of the pretended master, coincides with usurpation of mastership: if it be the offence of a stranger, it involves in it imposition of mastership, which, if in the eyes of the pretended master the mastership should be a burthen, will be wrongful. As to abuse of mastership, disturbance of mastership, breach of duty in servants, elopement of servants, and servant-stealing, these are offences which, without any change of denomination, bear equal relation to both conditions. And thus we may reckon thirteen sorts of offences to which the condition of a servant stands exposed; viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of servantship. 2. Wrongful interception of servantship. 3. Wrongful divestment of servantship. 4. Usurpation of servantship. 5. Wrongful investment of servantship. 6. Wrongful abdication of servantship. 7. Wrongful detrectation of servantship. 8. Wrongful imposition of servantship. 9. Abuse of mastership. 10. Disturbance of mastership. 11. Breach of duty in servants. 12. Elopement of servants. 13. Servant-stealing.

* It may seem at first, that a person who is in the condition of a slave, could not have it in his power to engage in such course of proceeding as would be necessary, in order to give him an apparent title to be reckoned among the slaves of another master. But though a slave in point of right, it may happen that he has eloped, for instance, and is not a slave in point of fact: or, suppose him a slave in point of fact, and ever so vigilantly guarded, still a person connected with him by the ties of sympathy, might do that for him which, though willing and assenting, he might not be able to do for himself: might forge a deed of donation, for example, from the one master to the other.


We now come to the offences to which the condition of a guardian is exposed. A guardian is one who is invested with power over another, living within the compass of the same family, and called a ward; the power being to be exercised for the benefit of the ward. Now, then, what are the cases in which it can be for the benefit of one man, that another, living within the compass of the same family, should exercise power over him? Consider either of the parties by himself, and suppose him, in point of understanding, to be on a level with the other; it seems evident enough that no such cases can ever exist.* To the production of happiness on the part of any given person (in like manner as to the production of any other effect which is the result of human agency), three things it is necessary should concur: knowledge, inclination, and physical power. Now as there is no man who is so sure of being inclined, on all occasions, to promote your happiness, as you yourself are, so neither is there any man who, upon the whole, can have had so good opportunities as you must have had, of knowing what is most conducive to that purpose. For who should know so well as you do what it is that gives you pain or pleasure? Moreover, as to power, it is manifest that no superiority in this respect, on the part of a stranger, could, for a constancy, make up for so great a deficiency as he must lie under in respect of two such material points as knowledge and inclination. If, then, there be a case where it can be for the advantage of one man to be under the power of another, it must be on account of some palpable and very considerable deficiency, on the part of the former, in point of intellects, or (which is the same thing in other words) in point of knowledge or understanding. Now there are two cases in which such palpable deficiency is known to take place. These are, 1. Where a man’s intellect is not yet arrived at that state in which it is capable of directing his own inclination in the pursuit of happiness: this is the case of infancy. 2. Where, by some particular known or unknown circumstance, his intellect has either never arrived at that state, or having arrived at it, has fallen from it: which is the case of insanity.

By what means, then, is it to be ascertained whether a man’s intellect is in that state or no? For exhibiting the quantity of sensible heat in a human body, we have a very tolerable sort of instrument, the thermometer; but for exhibiting the quantity of intelligence, we have no such instrument. It is evident, therefore, that the line which separates the quantity of intelligence which is sufficient for the purposes of self-government from that which is not sufficient, must be, in a great measure, arbitrary. Where the insufficiency is the result of want of age, the sufficient quantity of intelligence, be it what it may, does not accrue to all at the same period of their lives. It becomes, therefore, necessary for legislators to cut the gordian knot, and fix upon a particular period, at which, and not before, truly or not, every person whatever shall be deemed, as far as depends upon age, to be in possession of this sufficient quantity.* In this case, then, a line is drawn, which may be the same for every man, and in the description of which, such as it is, whatever persons are concerned may be certain of agreeing: the circumstance of time affording a mark by which the line in question may be traced with the utmost degree of nicety. On the other hand, where the insufficiency is the result of insanity, there is not even this resource: so that here the legislator has no other expedient than to appoint some particular person or persons to give a particular determination of the question, in every instance in which it occurs, according to his or their particular and arbitrary discretion. Arbitrary enough it must be at any rate, since the only way in which it can be exercised is by considering whether the share of intelligence possessed by the individual in question does or does not come up to the loose and indeterminate idea which persons so appointed may chance to entertain with respect to the quantity which is deemed sufficient.

* Consider them together indeed, take the sum of the two interests, and the case, as we have seen (supra, par. 40), is then the reverse. That case, it is to be remembered, proceeds only upon the supposition that the two parties are obliged to live together; for suppose it to be at their option to part, the necessity of establishing the power ceases.

Ch. xix. [Limits] § 1.

See ch. xv. [Cases unmeet] § 3.

* In certain nations, women, whether married or not, have been placed in a state of perpetual wardship: this has been evidently founded on the notion of a decided inferiority in point of intellects on the part of the female sex, analogous to that which is the result of infancy or insanity on the part of the male. This is not the only instance in which tyranny has taken advantage of its own wrong, alleging as a reason for the domination it exercises, an imbecility, which, as far as it has been real, has been produced by the abuse of that very power which it is brought to justify. Aristotle, fascinated by the prejudice of the times, divides mankind into two distinct species: that of freemen, and that of slaves. Certain men were born to be slaves, and ought to be slaves. Why? Because they are so.


The line, then, being drawn, or supposed to be so, it is expedient for a man who cannot, with safety to himself, be left in his own power, that he should be placed in the power of another. How long, then, should he remain so? Just so long as his inability is supposed to continue: that is, in the case of infancy, till he arrives at that period at which the law deems him to be of full age: in the case of insanity, till he be of sound mind and understanding. Now it is evident, that this period, in the case of infancy, may not arrive for a considerable time; and in the case of insanity, perhaps never. The duration of the power belonging to this trust must therefore, in the one case, be very considerable; in the other case, indefinite.


The next point to consider is, what may be the extent of it? for as to what it ought to be, that is a matter to be settled, not in a general analytical sketch, but in a particular and circumstantial dissertation. By possibility, then, this power may possess any extent that can be imagined: it may extend to any acts which, physically speaking, it may be in the power of the ward to perform himself, or be the object of, if exercised by the guardian. Conceive the power, for a moment, to stand upon this footing: the condition of the ward stands now exactly upon a footing with pure slavery. Add the obligation by which the power is turned into a trust: the limits of the power are now very considerably narrowed. What, then, is the purport of this obligation? Of what nature is the course of conduct it prescribes? It is such a course of conduct as shall be best calculated for procuring to the ward the greatest quantity of happiness which his faculties, and the circumstances he is in, will admit of: saving always, in the first place, the regard which the guardian is permitted to show to his own happiness; and, in the second place, that which he is obliged, as well as permitted, to show to that of other men. This is, in fact, no other than that course of conduct which the ward, did he but know how, ought, in point of prudence, to maintain of himself: so that the business of the former is to govern the latter precisely in the manner in which this latter ought to govern himself. Now to instruct each individual in what manner to govern his own conduct in the details of life, is the particular business of private ethics: to instruct individuals in what manner to govern the conduct of those whose happiness, during non-age, is committed to their charge, is the business of the art of private education. The details, therefore, of the rules to be given for that purpose, any more than the acts which are capable of being committed in violation of those rules, belong not to the art of legislation: since, as will be seen more particularly hereafter, such details could not, with any chance of advantage, be provided for by the legislator. Some general outlines might, indeed, be drawn by his authority; and, in point of fact, some are, in every civilized state. But such regulations, it is evident, must be liable to great variation: in the first place, according to the infinite diversity of civil conditions which a man may stand invested with in any given state: in the next place, according to the diversity of local circumstances that may influence the nature of the conditions which may chance to be established in different states. On this account, the offences which would be constituted by such regulations could not be comprised under any concise and settled denominations, capable of a permanent and extensive application. No place, therefore, can be allotted to them here.

See ch. xix. [Limits] § 1.


By what has been said, we are the better prepared for taking an account of the offences to which the condition in question stands exposed. Guardianship being a private trust, is of course exposed to those offences, and no others, by which a private trust is liable to be affected. Some of them, however, on account of the special quality of the trust, will admit of some further particularity of description. In the first place, breach of this species of trust may be termed mismanagement of guardianship. In the second place, of whatever nature the duties are, which are capable of being annexed to this condition, it must often happen, that in order to fulfil them, it is necessary the guardian should be at a certain particular place. Mismanagement of guardianship, when it consists in the not being, on the occasion in question, at the place in question, may be termed desertion of guardianship. Third, it is manifest enough, that the object which the guardian ought to propose to himself, in the exercise of the powers to which those duties are annexed, is to procure for the ward the greatest quantity of happiness which can be procured for him, consistently with the regard which is due to the other interests that have been mentioned: for this is the object which the ward would have proposed to himself, and might and ought to have been allowed to propose to himself, had he been capable of governing his own conduct. Now, in order to procure this happiness, it is necessary that he should possess a certain power over the objects on the use of which such happiness depends. These objects are either the person of the ward himself, or other objects that are extraneous to him. These other objects are either things or persons. As to things, then, objects of this class, in as far as a man’s happiness depends upon the use of them, are styled his property. The case is the same with the services of any persons over whom he may happen to possess a beneficial power, or to whose services he may happen to possess a beneficial right. Now when property of any kind, which is in trust, suffers by the delinquency of him with whom it is in trust, such offence, of whatever nature it is in other respects, may be styled dissipation in breach of trust: and if it be attended with a profit to the trustee, it may be styled peculation.* Fourth, for one person to exercise a power of any kind over another, it is necessary that the latter should either perform certain acts, upon being commanded so to do by the former, or at least should suffer certain acts to be exercised upon himself. In this respect, a ward must stand upon the footing of a servant: and the condition of a ward must, in this respect, stand exposed to the same offences to which that of a servant stands exposed: that is, on the part of a stranger, to disturbance, which, in particular circumstances, will amount to theft: on the part of the ward, to breach of duty: which, in particular circumstances, may be effected by elopement. Fifth, there does not seem to be any offence concerning guardianship, that corresponds to abuse of trust: I mean in the sense to which the last-mentioned denomination has been here confined. The reason is, that guardianship, being a trust of a private nature, does not, as such, confer upon the trustee any power, either over the person, or over the property, of any party, other than the beneficiary himself. If by accident it confers on the trustee a power over any persons whose services constitute a part of the property of the beneficiary, the trustee becomes thereby, in certain respects, the master of such servants. Sixth, bribery also is a sort of offence to which, in this case, there is not commonly much temptation. It is an offence, however, which by possibility is capable of taking this direction: and must therefore be aggregated to the number of the offences to which the condition of a guardian stands exposed. And thus we have in all seventeen of these offences; viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of guardianship. 2. Wrongful interception of guardianship. 3. Wrongful divestment of guardianship. 4. Usurpation of guardianship. 5. Wrongful investment of guardianship. 6. Wrongful abdication of guardianship. 7. Detrectation of guardianship. 8. Wrongful imposition of guardianship. 9. Mismanagement of guardianship. 10. Desertion of guardianship. 11. Dissipation in prejudice of wardship. 12. Peculation in prejudice of wardship. 13. Disturbance of guardianship. 14. Breach of duty to guardians. 15. Elopement from guardians. 16. Ward-stealing. 17. Bribery in prejudice of wardship.

* Vide supra, par. 35.

par. 25.

par. 40.


Next, with regard to offences to which the condition of wardship is exposed. Those which first affect the existence of the condition itself are as follows: 1. Wrongful non-investment of the condition of a ward. This, if it be the offence of one who should have been guardian, coincides with wrongful detrectation of guardianship: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it non-investment of guardianship, which, provided the guardianship is, in the eyes of him who should have been guardian, a desirable thing, is wrongful. 2. Wrongful interception of wardship. This, if it be the offence of him who should have been guardian, coincides with wrongful detrectation of guardianship: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it interception of guardianship, which, provided the guardianship is, in the eyes of him who should have been guardian, a desirable thing, is wrongful. 3. Wrongful divestment of wardship. This, if it be the offence of the guardian, but not otherwise, coincides with wrongful abdication of guardianship: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it divestment of guardianship, which, if the guardianship is, in the eyes of the guardian, a desirable thing, is wrongful. 4. Usurpation of the condition of a ward: an offence not very likely to be committed. This coincides at any rate with wrongful imposition of guardianship; and if the usurper were already under the guardianship of another guardian, it will involve in it wrongful divestment of such guardianship.* 5. Wrongful investment of wardship, (the wardship being considered as a beneficial thing.) This coincides with imposition of guardianship, which, if in the eyes of the pretended guardian the guardianship should be a burthen, will be wrongful. 6. Wrongful abdication of wardship. This coincides with wrongful divestment of guardianship. 7. Wrongful detrectation of wardship. This coincides with wrongful interception of guardianship. 8. Wrongful imposition of wardship. This, if the offender be the pretended guardian, coincides with usurpation of guardianship: if a stranger, it involves in it wrongful imposition of guardianship. As to such of the offences relative to this condition, as concern the consequences of it while subsisting, they are of such a nature that, without any change of denomination, they belong equally to the condition of a guardian, and that of a ward. We may therefore reckon seventeen sorts of offences relative to the condition of a ward: 1. Wrongful non-investment of wardship. 2. Wrongful interception of wardship. 3. Wrongful divestment of wardship. 4. Usurpation of wardship. 5. Wrongful investment of wardship. 6. Wrongful abdication of wardship. 7. Wrongful detrectation of wardship. 8. Wrongful imposition of wardship. 9. Mismanagement of guardianship. 10. Desertion of guardianship. 11. Dissipation in prejudice of wardship. 12. Peculation in prejudice of wardship. 13. Disturbance of guardianship. 14. Breach of duty to guardians. 15. Elopement from guardians. 16. Ward-stealing. 17. Bribery in prejudice of wardship.

* This effect, it may be thought, will not necessarily take place: since a ward may have two guardians. One man, then, is guardian by right: another man comes and makes himself so by usurpation. This may very well be, and yet the former may continue guardian notwithstanding. How then (it may be asked) is he divested of his guardianship? The answer is, Certainly not of the whole of it: but, however, of a part of it; of such part as is occupied, if one may so say, that is, of such part of the powers and rights belonging to it as are exercised, by the usurper.


We come now to the offences to which the condition of a parent stands exposed: and first, with regard to those by which the very existence of the condition is affected. On this occasion, in order to see the more clearly into the subject, it will be necessary to distinguish between the natural relationship, and the legal relationship, which is superinduced, as it were, upon the natural one. The natural one being constituted by a particular event, which, either on account of its being already past, or on some other account, is equally out of the power of the law, neither is, nor can be made, the subject of an offence. Is a man your father? It is not any offence of mine that can make you not his son. Is he not your father? It is not any offence of mine that can render him so. But although he does in fact bear that relation to you, I, by an offence of mine, may perhaps so manage matters, that he shall not be thought to bear it: which, with respect to any legal advantages which either he or you could derive from such relationship, will be the same thing as if he did not. In the capacity of a witness, I may cause the judges to believe that he is not your father, and to decree accordingly: or, in the capacity of a judge, I may myself decree him not to be your father. Leaving, then, the purely natural relationship as an object equally out of the reach of justice and injustice, the legal condition, it is evident, will stand exposed to the same offences, neither more nor less, as every other condition, that is capable of being either beneficial or burthensome, stands exposed to. Next with regard to the exercise of the functions belonging to this condition, considered as still subsisting. In parentality there must be two persons concerned, the father and the mother. The condition of a parent includes, therefore, two conditions; that of a father, and that of a mother, with respect to such or such a child. Now it is evident, that between these two parties, whatever beneficiary powers, and other rights, as also whatever obligations, are annexed to the condition of a parent, may be shared in any proportions that can be imagined. But if in these several objects of legal creation, each of these two parties have severally a share, and if the interests of all these parties are in any degree provided for, it is evident that each of the parents will stand, with relation to the child, in two several capacities: that of a master, and that of a guardian. The condition of a parent, then, in as far as it is the work of law, may be considered as a complex condition, compounded of that of a guardian, and that of a master. To the parent, then, in quality of guardian, results a set of duties, involving, as necessary to the discharge of them, certain powers: to the child, in the character of a ward, a set of rights corresponding to the parent’s duties, and a set of duties corresponding to his powers. To the parent, again, in quality of master, a set of beneficiary powers, without any other necessary limitation (so long as they last) than what is annexed to them by the duties incumbent on him in quality of a guardian: to the child, in the character of a servant, a set of duties corresponding to the parent’s beneficiary powers, and without any other necessary limitation (so long as they last) than what is annexed to them by the rights which belong to the child in his capacity of ward. The condition of a parent will therefore be exposed to all the offences to which either that of a guardian or that of a master are exposed: and, as each of the parents will partake, more or less, of both those characters, the offences to which the two conditions are exposed may be nominally, as they will be substantially, the same. Taking them then all together, the offences to which the condition of a parent is exposed will stand as follows: 1. Wrongful non-investment of parentality.* 2. Wrongful interception of parentality. 3. Wrongful divestment of parentality. 4. Usurpation of parentality. 5. Wrongful investment of parentality. 6. Wrongful abdication of parentality. 7. Wrongful detrectation of parentality. 8. Wrongful imposition of parentality. 9. Mismanagement of parental guardianship. 10. Desertion of parental guardianship. 11. Dissipation in prejudice of filial wardship. 12. Peculation in prejudice of filial wardship. 13. Abuse of parental powers. 14. Disturbance of parental guardianship. 15. Breach of duty to parents. 16. Elopement from parents. 17. Child-stealing. 18. Bribery in prejudice of filial wardship.

* At first view it may seem a solecism to speak of the condition of parentality as one which a man can have need to be invested with. The reason is, that it is not common for any ceremony to be required as necessary to a man’s being deemed in law the father of such or such a child. But the institution of such a ceremony, whether advisable or not, is at least perfectly conceivable. Nor are there wanting cases in which it has actually been exemplified. By an article in the Roman law, adopted by many modern nations, an illegitimate child is rendered legitimate by the subsequent marriage of his parents. If, then, a priest, or other person whose office it was, were to refuse to join a man and woman in matrimony, such refusal, besides being a wrongful non-investment with respect to the two matrimonial conditions, would be a wrongful non-investment of parentality and filiation, to the prejudice of any children who should have been legitimated.


Next with regard to the offences to which the filial condition, the condition of a son or daughter, stands exposed. The principles to be pursued in the investigation of offences of this description, have already been sufficiently developed. It will be sufficient, therefore, to enumerate them without further discussion. The only peculiarities by which offences relative to the condition in question stand distinguished from the offences relative to all the preceding conditions, depend upon this one circumstance; viz. that it is certain every one must have had a father and a mother: at the same time that it is not certain that every one must have had a master, a servant, a guardian, or a ward. It will be observed all along, that where a person, from whom, if alive, the benefit would be taken, or on whom the burthen would be imposed, be dead, so much of the mischief is extinct, along with the object of the offence. There still, however, remains so much of the mischief as depends upon the advantage or disadvantage which might accrue to persons related, or supposed to be related in the several remoter degrees, to him in question. The catalogue, then, of these offences stands as follows: 1. Wrongful non-investment of filiation. This, if it be the offence of him or her who should have been recognised as the parent, coincides with wrongful detrectation of parentality: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it non-investment of parentality, which, provided the parentality is, in the eyes of him or her who should have been recognised as the parent, a desirable thing is wrongful. 2. Wrongful interception of filiation. This if it be the offence of him or her who should have been recognised as the parent, coincides with wrongful detrectation of parentality: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it interception of parentality, which, provided the parentality is, in the eyes of him or her who should have been recognised as parent, a desirable thing, is wrongful. 3. Wrongful divestment of filiation. This, if it be the offence of him or her who should be recognised as parent, coincides with wrongful abdication of parentality: if it be the offence of a third person, it involves in it divestment of parentality; to wit, of paternity, or of maternity, or of both; which, if the parentality is, in the eyes of him or her who should be recognised as parent, a desirable thing, are respectively wrongful. 4. Usurpation of filiation. This coincides with wrongful imposition of parentality; to wit, either of paternity, or of maternity, or of both; and necessarily involves in it divestment of parentality, which, if the parentality thus divested were, in the eyes of him or her who are thus divested of it, a desirable thing, is wrongful. 5. Wrongful investment of filiation, (the filiation being considered as a beneficial thing.) This coincides with imposition of parentality, which, if in the eyes of the pretended father or mother the parentality should be an undesirable thing, will be wrongful. 6. Wrongful abdication of filiation. This necessarily coincides with wrongful divestment of parentality; it also is apt to involve in it wrongful imposition of parentality; though not necessarily either to the advantage or to the prejudice of any certain person. For if a man, supposed at first to be your son, appears afterwards not to be yours, it is certain indeed that he is the son of some other man, but it may not appear who that other man is. 7. Wrongful detrectation of filiation. This coincides with wrongful non-investment or wrongful interception of parentality. 8. Wrongful imposition of filiation. This, if it be the offence of the pretended parent, coincides necessarily with usurpation of parentality: if it be the offence of a third person, it necessarily involves imposition of parentality; as also divestment of parentality: either or both of which, according to the circumstance above mentioned, may or may not be wrongful. 9. Mis-management of parental guardianship. 10. Desertion of parental guardianship. 11. Dissipation in prejudice of filial wardship. 12. Peculation in prejudice of filial wardship. 13. Abuse of parental power. 14. Disturbance of parental guardianship. 15. Breach of duty to parents. 16. Elopement from parents. 17. Child-stealing. 18. Bribery in prejudice of parental guardianship.

In English we have no word that will serve to express with propriety the person who bears the relation opposed to that of parent. The word child is ambiguous, being employed in another sense, perhaps more frequently than in this: more frequently in opposition to a person of full age, an adult, than in correlation to a parent. For the condition itself we have no other word than filiation: an ill-contrived term, not analogous to paternity and maternity: the proper term would have been filiality: the word filiation is as frequently, perhaps, and more consistently, put for the act of establishing a person in the possession of the condition of filiality.


We shall now be able to apply ourselves with some advantage to the examination of the several offences to which the marital condition, or condition of a husband, stands exposed. A husband is a man, between whom and a certain woman, who in this case is called his wife, there subsists a legal obligation for the purpose of their living together, and in particular for the purpose of a sexual intercourse to be carried on between them. This obligation will naturally be considered in four points of view: 1. In respect of its commencement. 2. In respect of the placing it. 3. In respect of the nature of it. 4. In respect of its duration. First, then, it is evident, that in point of possibility, one method of commencement is as conceivable as another: the time of its commencement might have been marked by one sort of event (by one sort of signal, as it may here be called) as well as by another. But in practice the signal has usually been, as in point of utility it ought constantly to be, a contract entered into by the parties; that is, a set of signs, pitched upon by the law, as expressive of their mutual consent to take upon them this condition. Second, and third, with regard to the placing of the obligations which are the result of the contract, it is evident that they must rest solely on one side, or mutually on both. On the first supposition, the condition is not to be distinguished from pure slavery. In this case, either the wife must be the slave of the husband, or the husband of the wife. The first of these suppositions has perhaps never been exemplified; the opposing influence of physical causes being too universal to have ever been surmounted: the latter seems to have been exemplified but too often; perhaps among the first Romans; at any rate, in many barbarous nations. Thirdly, with regard to the nature of the obligations. If they are not suffered to rest all on one side, certain rights are thereby given to the other. There must, therefore, be rights on both sides. Now, where there are mutual rights possessed by two persons, as against each other, either there are powers annexed to those rights, or not. But the persons in question are, by the supposition, to live together: in which case we have shown,* that it is not only expedient, but in a manner necessary, that on one side there should be powers. Now it is only on one side that powers can be: for suppose them on both sides, and they destroy one another. The question is, then, In which of the parties these powers shall be lodged? We have shown, that on the principle of utility they ought to be lodged in the husband. The powers, then, which subsist, being lodged in the husband, the next question is, Shall the interest of one party only, or of both, be consulted in the exercise of them? It is evident, that on the principle of utility the interests of both ought alike to be consulted: since in two persons, taken together, more happiness is producible than in one. This being the case, it is manifest, that the legal relation which the husband will bear to the wife will be a complex one, compounded of that of master and that of guardian.

* Supra.


The offences, then, to which the condition of a husband will be exposed, will be the sum of those to which the two conditions of master and guardian are exposed. Thus far the condition of a husband, with respect to the general outlines of it, stands upon the same footing as that of a parent. But there are certain reciprocal services, which being the main subject of the matrimonial contract, constitute the essence of the two matrimonial relations, and which neither a master nor guardian, as such, nor a parent, at any rate, have usually been permitted to receive. These must, of course, have been distinguished from the indiscriminate train of services at large which the husband in his character of master is empowered to exact, and of those which in his character of guardian he is bound to render. Being thus distinguished, the offences relative to the two conditions have, in many instances, in as far as they have reference to these peculiar services, acquired particular denominations. In the first place, with regard to the contract, from the celebration of which the legal condition dates its existence. It is obvious, that in point of possibility this contract might, on the part of either sex, subsist with respect to several persons of the other sex at the same time: the husband might have any number of wives; the wife might have any number of husbands: the husband might enter into the contract with a number of wives at the same time; or, if with only one at a time, he might reserve to himself a right of engaging in a similar contract with any number, or with only such or such a number of other women afterwards, during the continuance of each former contract. This latter, accordingly, is the footing upon which, as is well known, marriage is and has been established in many extensive countries; particularly in all those which profess the Mahometan religion. In point of possibility, it is evident that the like liberty might be reserved on the part of the wife: though in point of practice no examples of such an arrangement seem ever to have occurred. Which of all these arrangements is, in point of utility, the most expedient, is a question which would require too much discussion to answer in the course of an analytical process like the present, and which belongs indeed to the civil branch of legislation, rather than to the penal.* In Christian countries, the solemnization of any such contract is made to exclude the solemnization of any subsequent one during the continuance of a former: and the solemnization of any such subsequent contract is accordingly treated as an offence, under the name of Polygamy. Polygamy, then, is at any rate, on the part of the man, a particular modification of that offence which may be styled usurpation of the condition of a husband. As to its other effects, they will be different, according as it was the man only, or the woman only, or both, that were in a state of matrimony at the time of the commission of the offence. If the man only, then his offence involves in it, pro tanto, that of wrongful divestment of the condition of a wife, in prejudice of his prior wife. If the woman only, then it involves in it, pro tanto, that of wrongful divestment of the condition of a husband, in prejudice of her prior husband. If both were already married, it of course involves both the wrongful divestments which have just been mentioned. And on the other hand also, the converse of all this may be observed with regard to polygamy on the part of the woman. Second, as the engaging not to enter into any subsequent engagement of the like kind during the continuance of the first, is one of the conditions on which the law lends its sanction to the first; so another is, the inserting, as one of the articles of this engagement, an undertaking not to render to, or accept from, any other person the services which form the characteristic object of it: the rendering or acceptance of any such services is accordingly treated as an offence, under the name of adultery: under which name is also comprised the offence of the stranger, who, in the commission of the above offence, is the necessary accomplice. Third, disturbing either of the parties to this engagement, in the possession of these characteristic services, may in like manner be distinguished from the offence of disturbing them in the enjoyment of the miscellaneous advantages derivable from the same condition; and on whichever side the blame rests, whether that of the party, or that of a third person, may be termed wrongful withholding of connubial services. And thus we have one-and-twenty sorts of offences to which, as the law stands at present in Christian countries, the condition of a husband stands exposed: viz. 1. Wrongful non-investment of the condition of a husband. 2. Wrongful interception of the condition of a husband. 3. Wrongful divestment of the condition of a husband. 4. Usurpation of the condition of a husband. 5. Polygamy. 6. Wrongful investment of the condition of a husband. 7. Wrongful abdication of the condition of a husband. 8. Wrongful detrectation of the condition of a husband. 9. Wrongful imposition of the condition of a husband. 10. Mismanagement of marital guardianship. 11. Desertion of marital guardianship. 12. Dissipation in prejudice of matrimonial wardship. 13. Peculation in prejudice of matrimonial wardship. 14. Abuse of marital power. 15. Disturbance of marital guardianship. 16. Wrongful withholding of connubial services. 17. Adultery. 18. Breach of duty to husbands. 19. Elopement from husbands. 20. Wife-stealing. 21. Bribery in prejudice of marital guardianship.*

* See ch. xix. [Limits] § 4.

In this case also, if the woman knew not of the prior marriage, it is besides a species of seduction; and, in as far as it affects her, belongs to another division of the offences of this class. Vide supra, par. 36.

* I. Semi-public Offences. Falsehoods contesting, or offences against justice destroying, the validity of the marriages of people of certain descriptions; such as Jews, Quakers, Hugonots, &c. &c.

II. Self-regarding Offences. Improvident marriage on the part of minors.


Next with regard to the offences to which the condition of a wife stands exposed. From the patterns that have been exhibited already, the coincidences and associations that take place between the offences that concern the existence of this condition and those which concern the existence of the condition of a husband, may easily enough be apprehended without farther repetitions. The catalogue of those now under consideration will be precisely the same in every article as the catalogue last exhibited.


Thus much for the several sorts of offences relative to the several sorts of domestic conditions: those which are constituted by such natural relations as are contiguous, being included. There remain those which are uncontiguous: of which, after so much as has been said of the others, it will naturally be expected that some notice should be taken. These, however, do not afford any of that matter which is necessary to constitute a condition. In point of fact, no power seems ever to be annexed to any of them. A grandfather, perhaps, may be called by the law to take upon him the guardianship of his orphan grandson: but then the power he has belongs to him not as grandfather, but as guardian. In point of possibility, indeed, power might be annexed to these relations, just as it might to any other. But still no new sort of domestic condition would result from it: since it has been shown that there can be no others, that, being constituted by power, shall be distinct from those which have been already mentioned. Such as they are, however, they have this in common with the before-mentioned relations, that they are capable of importing either benefit or burthen: they therefore stand exposed to the several offences whereby those or any other relations are liable to be affected in point of existence. It might be expected, therefore, that in virtue of these offences, they should be added to the list of the relations which are liable to be objects of delinquency. But the fact is, that they already stand included in it: and although not expressly named, yet as effectually as if they were. On the one hand, it is only by affecting such or such a contiguous relation that any offence, affecting uncontiguous relations, can take place. On the other hand, neither can any offence, affecting the existence of the contiguous relations, be committed, without affecting the existence of an indefinite multitude of such as are uncontiguous. A false witness comes, and causes it to be believed that you are the son of a woman, who, in truth, is not your mother. What follows? An endless tribe of other false persuasions: that you are the grandson of the father and of the mother of this supposed mother: that you are the son of some husband of her’s, or, at least, of some man with whom she has cohabited: the grandson of his father and his mother; and so on: the brother of their other children, if they have any: the brother-in-law of the husbands and wives of those children, if married: the uncle of the children of those children; and so on. On the other hand, that you are not the son of your real mother, nor of your real father: that you are not the grandson of either of your real grandfathers or grandmothers; and so on without end: all which persuasions result from, and are included in, the one original false persuasion of your being the son of this your pretended mother.

It should seem, therefore, at first sight, that none of the offences against these uncontiguous relations could ever come expressly into question: for by the same rule that one ought, so it might seem ought a thousand others: the offences against the uncontiguous being merged, as it were, in those which affect the contiguous relations. So far, however, is this from being the case, that in speaking of an offence of this stamp, it is not uncommon to hear a great deal said of this or that uncontiguous relationship which it affects, at the same time that no notice at all shall be taken of any of those which are contiguous. How happens this? Because to the uncontiguous relation are annexed perhaps certain remarkable advantages or disadvantages, while to all the intermediate relations none shall be annexed which are in comparison worth noticing. Suppose Antony or Lepidus to have contested the relationship of Octavius (afterwards Augustus) to Caius Julius Cæsar. How could it have been done? It could only have been by contesting, either Octavius’s being the son of Atia, or Atia’s being the daughter of Julia, or Julia’s being the daughter of Lucius Julius Cæsar, or Lucius Julius Cæsar’s being the father of Caius. But to have been the son of Atia, or the grandson of Julia, or the great grandson of Lucius Julius Cæsar, was, in comparison, of small importance. Those intervening relationships were, comparatively speaking, of no other use to him than in virtue of their being so many necessary links in the genealogical chain which connected him with the sovereign of the empire.

As to the advantages and disadvantages which may happen to be annexed to any of those uncontiguous relationships, we have seen already that no powers over the correlative person, nor any corresponding obligations, are of the number. Of what nature, then, can they be? They are, in truth, no other than what are the result either of local and accidental institutions, or of some spontaneous bias that has been taken by the moral sanction. It would, therefore, be to little purpose to attempt tracing them out a priori by any exhaustive process: all that can be done is, to pick up and lay together some of the principal articles in each catalogue by way of specimen. The advantages which a given relationship is apt to impart, seem to be referable chiefly to the following heads: 1. Chance of succession to the property, or a part of the property, of the correlative person. 2. Chance of pecuniary support, to be yielded by the correlative person, either by appointment of law, or by spontaneous donation. 3. Accession of legal rank; including any legal privileges which may happen to be annexed to it: such as capacity of holding such and such beneficial offices; exemption from such and such burthensome obligations; for instance, paying taxes, serving burthensome offices, &c. &c. 4. Accession of rank by courtesy; including the sort of reputation which is customarily and spontaneously annexed to distinguished birth and family alliance: whereon may depend the chance of advancement in the way of marriage, or in a thousand other ways less obvious. The disadvantages which a given relation is liable to impart, seem to be referable chiefly to the following heads: 1. Chance of being obliged, either by law, or by force of the moral sanction, to yield pecuniary support to the correlative party. 2. Loss of legal rank; including the legal disabilities, as well as the burthensome obligations, which the law is apt to annex, sometimes with injustice enough, to the lower stations. 3. Loss of rank by courtesy; including the loss of the advantages annexed by custom to such rank. 4. Incapacity of contracting matrimony with the correlative person, where the supposed consanguinity or affinity lies within the prohibited degrees.*

* In pursuance of the plan adopted with relation to semi-public and self-regarding offences, it may here be proper to exhibit such a catalogue, as the nature of the design will admit, of the several genera or inferior divisions of public offences.

I. Offences against the External Security of the State. 1. Treason (in favour of foreign enemies.) It may be positive or negative (negative consisting, for example, in the not opposing the commission of positive.) 2. Espionage (in favour of foreign rivals not yet enemies.) 3. Injuries to foreigners at large (including piracy.) 4. Injuries to privileged foreigners (such as ambassadors.)

II. Offences against Justice. 1. Offences against judicial trust: viz. Wrongful non-investment of judicial trust, wrongful interception of judicial trust, wrongful divestment of judicial trust, usurpation of judicial trust, wrongful investment of judicial trust, wrongful abdication of judicial trust, wrongful detrectation of judicial trust, wrongful imposition of judicial trust, breach of judicial trust, abuse of judicial trust, disturbance of judicial trust, and bribery in prejudice of judicial trust.

Breach and abuse of judicial trust may be either intentional or unintentional. Intentional is culpable at any rate. Unintentional will preceed either from inadvertence, or from mis-supposal: if the inadvertence be coupled with heedlessness, or the mis-supposal with rashness, it is culpable: if not, blameless. For the particular acts by which the exercise of judicial trust may be disturbed, see B. I. tit. [Offences against Justice.] They are too multifarious, and too ill provided with names, to be examined here.

If a man fails in fulfilling the duties of this trust, and thereby comes either to break or to abuse it, it must be through some deficiency in the three requisite and only requisite endowments, of knowledge, inclination, and power. [See supra, par. 27.] A deficiency in any of those points, if any person be in fault, may proceed either from his own fault, or from the fault of those who should act with or under him. If persons who are in fault are persons invested with judicial trust, the offence comes under the head of breach or abuse of trust: if other persons, under that of disturbance of trust.

The ill effects of any breach, abuse, or disturbance of judicial trust, will consist in the production of some article or articles in the list of the mischiefs which it ought to be the original purpose of judicial procedure to remedy or avert, and of those which it ought to be the incidental purpose of it to avoid producing. These are either primary (that is, immediate) or remote: remote are of the 2d, 3d, or 4th order, and so on. The primary are those which import actual pain to persons assignable, and are therefore mischievous in themselves: the secondary are mischievous on account of the tendency they have to produce some article or articles in the catalogue of those of the first order; and are therefore mischievous in their effects. Those of the 3d order are mischievous only on account of the connection they have in the way of productive tendency, as before, with those of the 2d order: and so on.

Primary inconveniences, which it ought to be the object of procedure to provide against, are, 1. The continuance of the individual offence itself, and thereby the increase as well as continuance of the mischief of it. 2. The continuance of the whole mischief of the individual offence. 3. The continuance of a part of the mischief of the individual offence. 4. Total want of amends on the part of persons injured by the offence. 5. Partial want of amends on the part of persons injured by the offence. 6. Superfluous punishment of delinquents. 7. Unjust punishment of persons accused. 8. Unnecessary labour, expense, or other suffering or danger, on the part of superior judicial officers. 9. Unnecessary labour, expense, or other suffering or danger, on the part of ministerial or other subordinate judicial officers. 10. Unnecessary labour, expense, or other suffering or danger, on the part of persons whose co-operation is requisite pro renatâ, in order to make up the necessary complement of knowledge and power on the part of judicial officers, who are such by profession. 11. Unnecessary labour, expense, or other suffering or danger, on the part of persons at large, coming under the sphere of the operations of the persons above mentioned.

Secondary inconveniences are, in the purely civil branch of procedure, 1. Misinterpretation or mis-adjudication. In the penal branch, 2. Total impunity of delinquents (as favouring the production of other offences of the like nature.) 3. Partial impunity of delinquents. 4. Application of punishment improper in specie, though perhaps not in degree (this lessening the beneficial efficacy of the quantity employed.) 5. Uneconomical application of punishment, though proper, perhaps, as well in specie as in degree. 6. Unnecessary pecuniary expense on the part of the state.

Inconveniences of the 3d order are, 1. Unnecessary delay. 2. Unnecessary intricacy.

Inconveniences of the 4th order are, 1. Breach, 2. Abuse, 3. Disturbance, of judicial trust, as above; viz. in as far as these offences are preliminary to and distinct from those of the 2d and 3d orders.

Inconveniences of the 5th order are, Breach of the several regulations of procedure, or other regulations, made in the view of obviating the inconveniences above enumerated; viz. if preliminary and distinct as before.

III. Offences against the Preventive branch of the Police. 1. Offences against phthano-paranomic trust: (φθανω, to prevent; παξανομια, an offence.) 2. Offences against phthano-symphoric trust: (συμϕοξα, a calamity.) The two trusts may be termed by the common appellation of prophylactic: (πξο, before-hand, and ξυλαττω, to guard against.)

IV. Offences against the Public Force. 1. Offences against military trust, corresponding to those against judicial trust. Military desertion is a breach of military duty, or of military trust. Favouring desertion is a disturbance of it. 2. Offences against that branch of public trust which consists in the management of the several sorts of things appropriated to the purposes of war: such as arsenals, fortifications, dock-yards, ships of war, artillery, ammunition, military magazines, and so forth. It might be termed polemotumientic: from πολεμος, war: and ταμιενς, a steward.a

V. Offences against the Positive Increase of the National Felicity. 1. Offences against episturo-threptic trust: (επιστημη, knowledge; and τϱεϕω, to nourish or promote.) 2. Offences against eupædagogue trust: (ω, well; and παιδαγωγεω, to educate.) 3. Offences against noso-comial trust: (νοσος, a disease; and ϰομιζω, to take care of.) 4. Offences against moro-comial trust: (μοϱος, an insane person.) 5. Offences against ptocho-comial trust: (πτωχοι, the poor.) 6. Offences against antembletic trust: (αντεμϐαλλω, to bestow in reparation of a loss.) 7. Offences against hedonarchic trust: (ηδοναι, pleasures; and αϱχομαι, to preside over.) The above are examples of the principal establishments which should or might be set on foot for the purpose of making, in so many different ways, a positive addition to the stock of national felicity. To exhibit an exhaustive analysis of the possible total of these establishments, would not be a very easy task: nor on the present occasion is it a necessary one; for be they of what nature and in what number they may, the offences to which they stand exposed will, in as far as they are offences against trust, be in point of denomination the same: and as to what turns upon the particular nature of each trust, they will be of too local a nature to come within the present plan.

All these trusts might be comprised under some such general name as that of agatho-poieutic trust: (αγαϑοποιεω, to do good to any one.)

VI. Offences against the Public Wealth. 1. Non-payment of forfeitures. 2. Non-payment of taxes, including smuggling. 3. Breach of the several regulations made to prevent the evasion of taxes. 4. Offences against fiscal trust: the same as offences against judicial and military trusts. Offences against the original revenue, not accruing either from taxes or forfeitures, such as that arising from the public demesnes, stand upon the same footing as offences against private property. 5. Offences against demosio-tamientic trust: (δημοσια, things belonging to the public; and ταμιενς, a steward); viz. against that trust, of which the object is to apply to their several destinations such articles of the public wealth as are provided for the indiscriminate accommodation of individuals: such as public roads and waters, public harbours, post-offices, and packet-boats, and the stock belonging to them; marketplaces, and other such public buildings; race-grounds, public walks, and so forth. Offences of this description will be apt to coincide with offences against agatho-poieutic trust as above, or with offences against ethno-plutistic trust hereafter mentioned, according as the benefit in question is considered in itself, or as resulting from the application of such or such a branch or portion of the public wealth.

VII. Offences against Population. 1. Emigration. 2. Suicide. 3. Procurement of impotence or barrenness. 4. Abortion. 5. Unprolific coition. 6. Celibacy.

VIII. Offences against the National Wealth. 1. Idleness. 2. Breach of the regulations made in the view of preventing the application of industry to purposes less profitable, in prejudice of purposes more profitable. 3. Offences against ethno-plutistic trust (λαος, the nation at large; πλουτιζω, to enrich.)

IX. Offences against the Sovereignty. 1. Offences against sovereign trust: corresponding to those against judicial, prophylactic, military, and fiscal trusts. Offensive rebellion includes wrongful interception, wrongful divestment, usurpation, and wrongful investment of sovereign trust, with the offences accessary thereto. Where the trust is in a single person, wrongful interception, wrongful divestment, usurpation, and wrongful investment, cannot any of them be committed without rebellion; abdication and detrectation can never be deemed wrongful; breach and abuse of sovereign trust can scarcely be punished: no more can bribe-taking; wrongful imposition of it is scarce practicable. When the sovereignty is shared among a number, wrongful interception, wrongful divestment, usurpation, and wrongful investment, may be committed without rebellion: none of the offences against this trust are impracticable: nor is there any of them but might be punished. Defensive rebellion is disturbance of this trust. Political tumults, political defamation, and political vilification, are offences accessory to such disturbance.

Sovereign power (which, upon the principle of utility, can never be other than fiduciary) is exercised either by rule or without rule: in the latter case it may be termed autocratic: in the former case it is divided into two branches, the legislative and the executive.a In either case, where the designation of the person by whom the power is to be possessed, depends not solely upon mere physical events, such as that of natural succession, but in any sort upon the will of another person, the latter possesses an investitive power, or right of investiture, with regard to the power in question: in like manner may any person also possess a divestitive power. The powers above enumerated, such as judicial power, military power, and so forth, may therefore be exercisable by a man, either directly, propriâ manu; or indirectly, manu alienâ.b Power to be exercised manu alienâ is investitive, which may or may not be accompanied by divestitive. Of soreign power, whether autocratic, legislative, or executive, the several public trusts above mentioned form so many subordinate branches. Any of these powers may be placed, either, 1. in an individual; or, 2. in a body politic: who may be either supreme or subordinate. Subordination on the part of a magistrate is established, 1. Where he is punishable: 2. Where he is made removable: 3. When his orders are made reversible: 4. When the good or evil, which he has it in his power to produce, on the part of the common subordinate, is less in value than the good or evil which the superior has it in his power to produce on the part of the same subordinate.

X. Offences against Religion. 1. Offences tending to weaken the force of the religious sanction: including blasphemy and profaneness. 2. Offences tending to misapply the force of the religious sanction: including false prophecies, and other pretended revelations; also heresy, where the doctrine broached is pernicious to the temporal interests of the community. 3. Offences against religious trust, where any such is thought fit to be established.

XI. Offences against the National Interest in general. 1. Immoral publications. 2. Offences against the trust of an ambassador; or, as it might be termed, presbeutic trust. 3. Offences against the trust of a privy counsellor; or, as it might be termed, symbouleutic trust. 4. In pure or mixed monarchies, prodigality on the part of persons who are about the person of the sovereign, though without being invested with any specific trust. 5. Excessive gaming on the part of the same persons. 6. Taking presents from rival powers without leave.

a A number of different branches of public trust, none of which have yet been provided with appellatives, have here been brought to view: which, then, were best? to coin new names for them out of the Greek; or, instead of a word, to make use of a whole sentence? In English, and in French, there is no other alternative; no more than in any of the other southern languages. It rests with the reader to determine.

a See ch. xix. [Limits] § 3.

b In the former case, the power might be termed in one word, autochirous: in the latter, heterochirous: (αυτος, a man’s own; χειϱ, a hand; ἐιεϱος, another’s.)


We come now to civil conditions: these, it may well be imagined, may be infinitely various; as various as the acts which a man may be either commanded or allowed, whether for his own benefit, or that of others, to abstain from or to perform. As many different denominations as there are of persons distinguished with a view to such commands and allowances (those denominations only excepted which relate to the conditions above spoken of under the name of domestic ones) so many civil conditions one might enumerate. Means, however, more or less explicit, may be found out of circumscribing their infinitude.

What the materials are, if so they may be called, of which conditions, or any other kind of legal possession, can be made up, we have already seen: beneficial powers, fiduciary powers, beneficial rights, fiduciary rights, relative duties, absolute duties. But as many conditions as import a power or right of the fiduciary kind, as possessed by the person whose condition is in question, belong to the head of trusts. The catalogue of the offences to which these conditions are exposed, coincides therefore exactly with the catalogue of offences against trust: under which head they have been considered in a general point of view under the head of offences against trust: and such of them as are of a domestic nature, in a more particular manner in the character of offences against the several domestic conditions. Conditions constituted by such duties of the relative kind, as have for their counterparts trusts constituted by fiduciary powers, as well as rights on the side of the correlative party, and those of a private nature, have also been already discussed under the appellation of domestic conditions. The same observation may be applied to the conditions constituted by such powers of the beneficial kind over persons as are of a private nature: as also to the subordinate correlative conditions constituted by the duties corresponding to those rights and powers. As to absolute duties, there is no instance of a condition thus created, of which the institution is upon the principle of utility to be justified; unless the several religious conditions of the monastic kind should be allowed of as examples. There remain, as the only materials out of which the conditions which yet remain to be considered can be composed, conditions constituted by beneficial powers over things; conditions constituted by beneficial rights to things (that is, rights to powers over things), or by rights to those rights, and so on; conditions constituted by rights to services; and conditions constituted by the duties corresponding to those respective rights. Out of these are to be taken those of which the materials are the ingredients of the several modifications of property, the several conditions of proprietorship. These are the conditions, if such for a moment they may be styled, which having but here and there any specific names, are not commonly considered on the footing of conditions: so that the acts which, if such conditions were recognised, might be considered as offences against those conditions, are not wont to be considered in any other light than that of offences against property.

Now the case is, as hath been already intimated,* that of these civil conditions, those which are wont to be considered under that name, are not distinguished by any uniform and explicit line from those of which the materials are wont to be carried to the head of property: a set of rights shall, in one instance, be considered as constituting an article of property rather than a condition; while, in another instance, a set of rights of the same stamp is considered as constituting rather a condition than an article of property. This will probably be found to be the case in all languages: and the usage is different, again, in one language from what it is in another. From these causes it seems to be impracticable to subject the class of civil conditions to any exhaustive method: so that for making a complete collection of them there seems to be no other expedient than that of searching the language through for them, and taking them as they come. To exemplify this observation, it may be of use to lay open the structure, as it were, of two or three of the principal sorts or classes of conditions, comparing them with two or three articles of property which appear to be nearly of the same complexion: by this means the nature and generation, if one may so call it, of both these classes of ideal objects, may be the more clearly understood.

The several sorts of civil conditions that are not fiduciary, may all, or at least the greater part of them, be comprehended under the head of rank, or that of profession; the latter word being taken in its most extensive sense. so as to include not only what are called the liberal professions, but those also which are exercised by the several sorts of traders, artists, manufacturers, and other persons of whatsoever station, who are in the way of making a profit by their labour. Among ranks, then, as well as professions, let us, for the sake of perspicuity, take for examples such articles as stand the clearest from any mixture of either fiduciary or beneficial power. The rank of knighthood is constituted, how? by prohibiting all other persons from performing certain acts, the performance of which is the symbol of the order, at the same time that the knight in question, and his companions, are permitted: for instance, to wear a ribbon of a certain colour in a certain manner; to call himself by a certain title; to use an armorial seal with a certain mark on it. By laying all persons but the knight under this prohibition, the law subjects them to a set of duties: and since from the discharge of these duties a benefit results to the person in whose favour they are created, to wit, the benefit of enjoying such a share of extraordinary reputation and respect as men are wont to yield to a person thus distinguished, to discharge them is to render him a service: and the duty being a duty of the negative class, a duty consisting in the performance of certain acts of the negative kind, the service is what may be called a service of forbearance. It appears, then, that to generate this condition there must be two sorts of services: that which is the immediate cause of it, a service of the negative kind, to be rendered by the community at large: that which is the cause again of this service, a service of the positive kind, to be rendered by the law.

The condition of a professional man stands upon a narrower footing. To constitute this condition, there needs nothing more than a permission given him on the part of the legislator to perform those acts, in the performance of which consists the exercise of his profession: to give or sell his advice or assistance in matters of law or physic: to give or sell his services as employed in the executing or overseeing of a manufacture or piece of work of such or such a kind: to sell a commodity of such or such a sort. Here, then, we see there is but one sort of service requisite; a service which may be merely of the negative kind, to be rendered by the law: the service of permitting him to exercise his profession: a service which, if there has been no prohibition laid on before, is rendered by simply forbearing to prohibit him.

Now the ideal objects, which in the cases above specified are said to be conferred upon a man by the services that are respectively in question, are in both cases not articles of property, but conditions. By such a behaviour on the part of the law, as shall be the reverse of that whereby they were respectively produced, a man may be made to forfeit them: and what he is then said to forfeit is in neither case his property; but in one case, his rank or dignity; in the other case, his trade or his profession; and in both cases, his condition.

Other cases there are again, in which the law, by a process of the same sort with that by which it constituted the former of the two above-mentioned conditions, confers on him an ideal object, which the laws of language have placed under the head of property. The law permits a man to sell books; that is, all sorts of books in general. Thus far, all that it has done is to invest him with a condition: and this condition he would equally possess, although every body else in the world were to sell books likewise. Let the law now take an active part in his favour, and prohibit all other persons from selling books of a certain description, he remaining at liberty to sell them as before. It thereby confers on him a sort of exclusive privilege or monopoly, which is called a copy-right. But by investing him with this right, it is not said to invest him with any new sort of condition; and what it invests him with is spoken of as an article of property; to wit, of that sort of property which is termed incorporeal:* and so on in the case of an engraving, a mechanical engine, a medicine; or, in short, of a saleable article of any other sort. Yet when it gave him an exclusive right of wearing a particular sort of ribbon, the object which it was then considered as conferring on him was not an article of property, but a condition.

By forbearing to subject you to certain disadvantages, to which it subjects an alien, the law confers on you the condition of a natural-born subject; by subjecting him to them, it imposes on him the condition of an alien: by conferring on you certain privileges or rights, which it denies to a roturier, the law confers on you the condition of a gentilhomme; by forbearing to confer on him those privileges, it imposes on him the condition of a roturier. The rights, out of which the two advantageous conditions here exemplified are both of them, as it were, composed, have for their counterpart a sort of services of forbearance, rendered, as we have seen, not by private individuals, but by the law itself. As to the duties which it creates in rendering you these services, they are to be considered as duties imposed by the legislator on the ministers of justice.

It may be observed, with regard to the greater part of the conditions here comprised under the general appellation of civil, that the relations corresponding to those by which they are respectively constituted, are not provided with appellatives. The relation which has a name, is that which is borne by the party favoured to the party bound: that which is borne by the party bound to the party favoured, has not any. This is a circumstance that may help to distinguish them from those conditions which we have termed domestic. In the domestic conditions, if on the one side the party to whom the power is given is called a master; on the other side, the party over whom that power is given, the party who is the object of that power, is termed a servant. In the civil conditions, this is not the case. On the one side, a man, in virtue of certain services of forbearance, which the rest of the community are bound to render him, is denominated a knight of such or such an order: but on the other side, these services do not bestow any particular denomination on the persons from whom such services are due. Another man, in virtue of the legislator’s rendering that sort of negative service which consists in the not prohibiting him from exercising a trade, invests him at his option with the condition of a trader: it accordingly denominates him a farmer, a baker, a weaver, and so on: but the ministers of the law do not, in virtue of their rendering the man this sort of negative service, acquire for themselves any particular name. Suppose even that the trade you have the right of exercising happens to be the object of a monopoly, and that the legislator, besides rendering you himself those services which you derive from the permission he bestows on you, obliges other persons to render you those farther services which you receive from their forbearing to follow the same trade; yet neither do they, in virtue of their being thus bound, acquire any particular name.

After what has been said of the nature of the several sorts of civil conditions that have names, the offences to which they are exposed may, without much difficulty, be imagined. Taken by itself, every condition which is thus constituted by a permission granted to the possessor, is of course of a beneficial nature: it is, therefore, exposed to all those offences to which the possession of a benefit is exposed. But either on account of a man’s being obliged to persevere when once engaged in it, or on account of such other obligations as may stand annexed to the possession of it, or on account of the comparative degree of disrepute which may stand annexed to it by the moral sanction, it may by accident be a burthen: it is on this account liable to stand exposed to the offences to which, as hath been seen, every thing that partakes of the nature of a burthen stands exposed. As to any offences which may concern the exercise of the functions belonging to it, if it happens to have any duties annexed to it, such as those, for instance, which are constituted by regulations touching the exercise of a trade, it will stand exposed to so many breaches of duty; and lastly, whatsoever are the functions belonging to it, it will stand exposed at any rate to disturbance.

In the forming, however, of the catalogue of these offences, exactness is of the less consequence, inasmuch as an act, if it should happen not to be comprised in this catalogue, and yet is in any respect of a pernicious nature, will be sure to be found in some other division of the system of offences: if a baker sells bad bread for the price of good, it is a kind of fraud upon the buyer, and perhaps an injury of the simple corporal kind done to the health of an individual, or a neighbourhood: if a clothier sells bad cloth for good at home, it is a fraud; if to foreigners abroad, it may, over and above the fraud put upon the foreign purchaser, have pernicious effects, perhaps, in the prosperity of the trade at home, and become thereby an offence against the national wealth. So again with regard to disturbance: if a man be disturbed in the exercise of his trade, the offence will probably be a wrongful interception of the profit he might be presumed to have been in a way to make by it: and were it even to appear in any case that a man exercised a trade, or what is less unlikely, a liberal profession, without having profit in his view, the offence will still be reducible to the head of simple injurious restrainment or simple injurious compulsion.

* Supra, par. 17.

See ch. vii. [Actions] par. 8.

* The reason, probably, why an object of the sort here in question is referred to the head of property, is, that the chief value of it arises from its being capable of being made a source of property in the more ordinary acceptations of the word; that is, of money, consumable commodities, and so forth.

The conditions themselves having nothing that corresponds to them in England, it was necessary to make use of foreign terms.

§ 4.

Advantages of the present Method.


A few words, for the purpose of giving a general view of the method of division here pursued, and of the advantages which it possesses, may have their use. The whole system of offences, we may observe, is branched out into five classes. In the three first, the subordinate divisions are taken from the same source; viz. from the consideration of the different points, in respect whereof the interest of an individual is exposed to suffer. By this uniformity, a considerable degree of light seems to be thrown upon the whole system; particularly upon the offences that come under the third class: objects which have never hitherto been brought into any sort of order. With regard to the fourth class, in settling the precedence between its several subordinate divisions, it seemed most natural and satisfactory to place those first, the connection whereof with the welfare of individuals seemed most obvious and immediate. The mischievous effects of those offences, which tend in an immediate way to deprive individuals of the protection provided for them against the attacks of one another, and of those which tend to bring down upon them the attacks of foreign assailants, seem alike obvious and palpable. The mischievous quality of such as tend to weaken the force that is provided to combat those attacks, but particularly the latter, though evident enough, is one link farther off in the chain of causes and effects. The ill effects of such offences as are of disservice only by diminishing the particular fund from whence that force is to be extracted, such effects, I say, though indisputable, are still more distant and out of sight. The same thing may be observed with regard to such as are mischievous only by affecting the universal fund. Offences against the sovereignty in general would not be mischievous, if offences of the several descriptions preceding were not mischievous. Nor in a temporal view are offences against religion mischievous, except in as far as, by removing, or weakening, or misapplying one of the three great incentives to virtue, and checks to vice, they tend to open the door to the several mischiefs, which it is the nature of all those other offences to produce. As to the fifth class, this, as hath already been observed, exhibits, at first view, an irregularity, which, however, seems to be unavoidable. But this irregularity is presently corrected, when the analysis returns back, as it does after a step or two, into the path from which the tyranny of language had forced it a while to deviate.

It was necessary that it should have two purposes in view: the one, to exhibit, upon a scale more or less minute, a systematical enumeration of the several possible modifications of delinquency, denominated or undenominated; the other, to find places in the list for such names of offences as were in current use: for the first purpose, nature was to set the law; for the other, custom. Had the nature of the things themselves been the only guide, every such difference in the manner of perpetration, and such only, should have served as a ground for a different denomination, as was attended with a difference in point of effect. This, however, of itself would never have been sufficient; for as on one hand the new language, which it would have been necessary to invent, would have been uncouth, and in a manner unintelligible; so on the other hand the names, which were before in current use, and which, in spite of all systems, good or bad, must have remained in current use, would have continued unexplained. To have adhered exclusively to the current language, would have been as bad on the other side; for in that case the catalogue of offences, when compared to that of the mischiefs that are capable of being produced, would have been altogether broken and uncomplete.

To reconcile these two objects, in as far as they seemed to be reconcileable, the following course has therefore been pursued. The logical whole, constituted by the sum total of possible offences, has been bisected in as many different directions as were necessary, and the process in each direction carried down to that stage at which the particular ideas thus divided found names in current use in readiness to receive them. At that period I have stopped; leaving any minuter distinctions to be enumerated in the body of the work, as so many species of the genus characterized by such or such a name. If in the course of any such process I came to a mode of conduct which, though it required to be taken notice of, and perhaps had actually been taken notice of, under all laws, in the character of an offence, had hitherto been expressed under different laws, by different circumlocutions, without ever having received any name capable of occupying the place of a substantive in a sentence, I have frequently ventured so far as to fabricate a new name for it; such an one as the idiom of the language, and the acquaintance I happened to have with it, would admit of. These names consisting in most instances, and that unavoidably, of two or three words brought together, in a language too which admits not, like the German and the Greek, of their being melted into one, can never be upon a par, in point of commodiousness, with those univocal appellatives which make part of the established stock.

In the choice of names in current use, care has been taken to avoid all such as have been grounded on local distinctions; ill founded, perhaps, in the nation in which they received their birth, and at any rate not applicable to the circumstances of other countries.

The analysis, as far as it goes, is as applicable to the legal concerns of one country as of another: and where, if it had descended into further details, it would have ceased to be so, there I have taken care always to stop: and thence it is that it has come to be so much more particular in the class of offences against individuals, than in any of the other classes. One, use, then of this arrangement, if it should be found to have been properly conducted, will be its serving to point out in what it is that the legal interests of all countries agree, and in what it is that they are liable to differ: how far a rule that is proper for one, will serve, and how far it will not serve, for another. That the legal interests of different ages and countries have nothing in common, and that they have every thing, are suppositions equally distant from the truth.*

* The above hints are offered to the consideration of the few who may be disposed to bend their minds to disquisitions of this uninviting nature: to sift the matter to the bottom, and engage in the details of illustration, would require more room than could in this place be consistently allowed.


A natural method, such as it hath been here attempted to exhibit, seems to possess four capital advantages; not to mention others of inferior note. In the first place, it affords such assistance to the apprehension and to the memory, as those faculties would in vain look for in any technical arrangement. That arrangement of the objects of any science may, it should seem, be termed a natural one, which takes such properties to characterize them by, as men in general are, by the common constitution of man’s nature, independently of any accidental impressions they may have received from the influence of any local or other particular causes, accustomed to attend to: such, in a word, as naturally, that is, readily, and at first sight, engage, and firmly fix, the attention of any one to whom they have once been pointed out. Now by what other means should an object engage or fix a man’s attention, unless by interesting him? and what circumstance belonging to any action can be more interesting, or rather, what other circumstance belonging to it can be at all interesting to him, than that of the influence it promises to have on his own happiness, and the happiness of those who are about him? By what other mark, then, should he more easily find the place which any offence occapies in the system, or by what other clue should he more readily recall it?

See Fragment on Government, Pref. p. xlv. edit. 1776. — Pref. p. xlvii. edit. 1823.


In the next place, it not only gives at first glance a general intimation of the nature of each division of offences, in as far as that nature is determined by some one characteristic property, but it gives room for a number of general propositions to be formed concerning the particular offences that come under that division, in such manner as to exhibit a variety of other properties that may belong to them in common. It gives room, therefore, for the framing of a number of propositions concerning them, which, though very general, because predicated of a great number of articles, shall be as generally true.*

* Imagine what a condition a science must be in, when as yet there shall be no such thing as forming any extensive proposition relative to it, that shall be at the same time a true one: where, if the proposition shall be true of some of the particulars contained under it, it shall be false with regard to others. What a state would botany, for example, be in, if the classes were so contrived, that no common characters could be found for them? Yet in this state, and no better, seems every system of penal law to be, authoritative or unauthoritative, that has ever yet appeared. Try if it be otherwise, for instance, with the delicta privata et publica, and with the publica ordinaria, and publica extra-ordinaria of the Roman law.a All this for want of method: and hence the necessity of endeavouring to strike out a new one.

Nor is this want of method to be wondered at. A science so new as that of penal legislation, could hardly have been in any better state. Till objects are distinguished, they cannot be arranged. It is thus that truth and order go on hand in hand: it is only in proportion as the former is discovered, that the latter can be improved. Before a certain order is established, truth can be but imperfectly announced: but until a certain proportion of truth has been developed and brought to light, that order cannot be established. The discovery of truth leads to the establishment of order and the establishment of order fixes and propagates the discovery of truth.

a See Heinecc Elem. p. vii. § 79, 80.


In the third place, it is so contrived, that the very place which any offence is made to occupy, suggests the reason of its being put there. It serves to indicate not only that such and such acts are made offences, but why they ought to be. By this means, while it addresses itself to the understanding, it recommends itself, in some measure, to the affections. By the intimation it gives of the nature and tendency of each obnoxious act, it accounts for, and in some measure vindicates, the treatment which it may be thought proper to bestow upon that act in the way of punishment. To the subject, then, it is a kind of perpetual apology; showing the necessity of every defalcation, which, for the security and prosperity of each individual, it is requisite to make from the liberty of every other. To the legislator it is a kind of perpetual lesson; serving at once as a corrective to his prejudices, and as a check upon his passions. Is there a mischief which has escaped him? in a natural arrangement, if at the same time an exhaustive one, he cannot fail to find it. Is he tempted ever to force innocence within the pale of guilt? the difficulty of finding a place for it advertises him of his error. Such are the uses of a map of universal delinquency, laid down upon the principle of utility: such the advantages, which the legislator as well as the subject may derive from it. Abide by it, and every thing that is arbitrary in legislation, vanishes. An evil-intentioned or prejudiced legislator durst not look it in the face. He would proscribe it, and with reason: it would be a satire on his laws.


In the fourth place, a natural arrangement, governed as it is by a principle which is recognised by all men, will serve alike for the jurisprudence of all nations. In a system of proposed law, framed in pursuance of such a method, the language will serve as a glossary by which all systems of positive law might be explained, while the matter serves as a standard by which they might be tried. Thus illustrated, the practice of every nation might be a lesson to every other: and mankind might carry on a mutual interchange of experiences and improvements, as easily in this as in every other walk of science. If any one of these objects should in any degree be attained, the labour of this analysis, severe as it has been, will not have been thrown away.

§ 5.

Characters of the Five Classes.


It has been mentioned as an advantage possessed by this method, and not possessed by any other, that the objects comprised under it are cast into groups, to which a variety of propositions may be applied in common. A collection of these propositions, as applied to the several classes, may be considered as exhibiting the distinctive characters of each class. So many of these propositions as can be applied to the offences belonging to any given class, so many properties are they found to have in common: so many of these common properties as may respectively be attributed to them, so many properties may be set down to serve as characters of the class. A collection of these characters it may here be proper to exhibit. The more of them we can bring together, the more clearly and fully will the nature of the several classes, and of the offences they are composed of, be understood.


Characters of Class 1; composed of private Offences, or Offences against assignable Individuals.

1. When arrived at their last stage (the stage of consummation) they produce, all of them, a primary mischief, as well as a secondary.

2. The individuals whom they affect in the first instance, are constantly assignable. This extends to all; to attempts and preparations, as well as to such as have arrived at the stage of consummation.*

3. Consequently they admit of compensation: in which they differ from the offences of all the other classes, as such.

4. They admit also of retaliation: in which also they differ from the offences of all the other classes.

5. There is always some person who has a natural and peculiar interest to prosecute them. In this they differ from self-regarding offences: also from semi-public and public ones; except in as far as the two latter may chance to involve a private mischief.

6. The mischief they produce is obvious: more so than that of semi-public offences: and still more so than that of self-regarding ones, or even public.

7. They are every where, and must ever be, obnoxious to the censure of the world: more so than semi-public offences as such; and still more so than public ones.

8. They are more constantly obnoxious to the censure of the world than self-regarding offences: and would be so universally, were it not for the influence of the two false principles; the principle of asceticism, and the principle of antipathy.§

9. They are less apt than semi-public and public offences to require different descriptions in different states and countries: in which respect they are much upon a par with self-regarding ones.

10. By certain circumstances of aggravation, they are liable to be transformed into semi-public offences: and by certain others, into public.

11. There can be no ground for punishing them, until they can be proved to have occasioned, or to be about to occasion, some particular mischief to some particular individual. In this they differ from semi-public offences, and from public.

12. In slight cases, compensation given to the individual affected by them, may be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment: for if the primary mischief has not been sufficient to produce any alarm, the whole of the mischief may be cured by compensation. In this also they differ from semi-public offences, and from public ones.

Ch. vii. [Actions] par. 14.

See ch. xii. [Consequences] par. 3.

That is, by their primary mischief.

* See supra, and B. I. tit. [Accessory Offences.]

See ch. xv. [Cases unmeet] par. 2, note.

[Admit.] I mean, that retaliation is capable of being applied in the cases in question; not that it ought always to be employed. Nor is it capable of being applied in every individual instance of each offence, but only in some individual instance of each species of offence.

See ch. xvii. [Properties] par. 8.

§ Ch. ii. [Principles Adverse.]

[Different Descriptions.] It seems to be from their possessing these three last properties, that the custom has arisen of speaking of them, or at least of many of them, under the name of offences against the law of nature: a vague expression, and productive of a multitude of inconveniencies. See ch. ii. [Principles Adverse.]


Characters of Class 2; composed of semi-public Offences, or Offences affecting a whole subordinate Class of persons.

1. As such, they produce no primary mischief. The mischief they produce consists of one or other or both branches of the secondary mischief produced by offences against individuals, without the primary.

2. In as far as they are to be considered as belonging to this class, the persons whom they affect in the first instance are not individually assignable.

3. They are apt, however, to involve or terminate in some primary mischief of the first order, which when they do, they advance into the first class, and become private offences.

4. They admit not, as such, of compensation.

5. Nor of retaliation.

6. As such, there is never any one particular individual whose exclusive interest it is to prosecute them: a circle of persons may, however, always be marked out, within which may be found some who have a greater interest to prosecute, than any who are out of that circle have.

7. The mischief they produce is in general pretty obvious; not so much so indeed as that of private offences, but more so, upon the whole, than that of self-regarding and public ones.

8. They are rather less obnoxious to the censure of the world than private offences; but they are more so than public ones: they would also be more so than self-regarding ones, were it not for the influence of the two false principles, the principle of sympathy and antipathy, and that of asceticism.

9. They are more apt than private and self-regarding offences to require different descriptions in different countries: but less so than public ones.

10. There may be ground for punishing them before they have been proved to have occasioned, or to be about to occasion, mischief to any particular individual; which is not the case with private offences.

11. In no cases can satisfaction given to any particular individual affected by them, be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment: for by such satisfaction it is but a part of the mischief of them that is cured. In this they differ from private offences; but agree with public.


Characters of Class 3; consisting of self-regarding Offences: Offences against one’s self.

1. In individual instances it will often be questionable, whether they are productive of any primary* mischief at all: secondary, they produce none.

2. They affect not any other individuals, assignable or not assignable, except in as far as they affect the offender himself; unless by possibility in particular cases; and in a very slight and distant manner the whole state.

3. They admit not, therefore, of compensation.

4. Nor of retaliation.

5. No person has naturally any peculiar interest to prosecute them; except in as far as in virtue of some connection he may have with the offender, either in point of sympathy or of interest, a mischief of the derivative kind may happen to devolve upon him.§

6. The mischief they produce is apt to be unobvious, and in general more questionable than that of any of the other classes.*

7. They are, however, apt, many of them, to be more obnoxious to the censure of the world than public offences; owing to the influence of the two false principles; the principle of asceticism, and the principle of antipathy. Some of them more even than semi-public, or even than private offences.

8. They are less apt than offences of any other class to require different descriptions in different states and countries.

9. Among the inducements to punish them, antipathy against the offender is apt to have a greater share than sympathy for the public.

10. The best plea for punishing them is founded on a faint probability there may be of their being productive of a mischief, which, if real, will place them in the class of public ones: chiefly in those divisions of it which are composed of offences against population, and offences against the national wealth.

* Because the person, who in general is most likely to be sensible to the mischief (if there is any) of any offence, viz. the person whom it most affects, shows by his conduct that he is not sensible of it.

See ch. vi. [Sensibility] par. 25, 26.

See ch. xii. [Consequences] par. 4.

§ Among the offences, however, which belong to this class, there are some which, in certain countries, it is not uncommon for persons to be disposed to prosecute without any artificial inducement, and merely on account of an antipathy, which such acts are apt to excite. See ch. ii. [Principles adverse] par. 11.

Accordingly, most of them are apt to be ranked among offences against the law of nature. Vide supra, Characters of the 1st class, par. 62, note.

[Inducements.] I mean the considerations, right or wrong, which induce or dispose the legislator to treat them on the footing of offences.


Characters of Class 4; consisting of public Offences, or Offences against the State in general.

1. As such, they produce not any primary mischief; and the secondary mischief they produce, which consists frequently of danger without alarm, though great in value, is in specie very indeterminate.

2. The individuals whom they affect, in the first instance, are constantly unassignable; except in as far as by accident they happen to involve or terminate in such or such offences against individuals.

3. Consequently they admit not of compensation.

4. Nor of retaliation.

5. Nor is there any person who has naturally any particular interest to prosecute them; except in as far as they appear to affect the power, or in any other manner the private interest, of some person in authority.

6. The mischief they produce, as such, is comparatively unobvious; much more so than that of private offences, and more so likewise than that of semi-public ones.

7. They are, as such, much less obnoxious to the censure of the world, than private offences; less even than semi-public, or even than self-regarding offences; unless in particular cases, through sympathy to certain persons in authority, whose private interests they may appear to affect.

8. They are more apt than any of the other classes to admit of different descriptions, in different states and countries.

9. They are constituted, in many cases, by some circumstances of aggravation superadded to a private offence: and therefore, in these cases, involve the mischief, and exhibit the other characters belonging to both classes. They are, however, even in such cases, properly enough ranked in the 4th class, inasmuch as the mischief they produce in virtue of the properties which aggregate them to that class, eclipses and swallows up that which they produce in virtue of those properties which aggregate them to the 1st.

10. There may be sufficient ground for punishing them, without their being proved to have occasioned, or to be about to occasion, any particular mischief to any particular individual. In this they differ from private offences, but agree with semi-public ones. Here, as in semi-public offences, the extent of the mischief makes up for the uncertainty of it.

11. In no case can satisfaction, given to any particular individual affected by them, be a sufficient ground for remitting punishment. In this they differ from private offences; but agree with semi-public.


Characters of Class 5, or Appendix: composed of multiform or anomalous Offences; and containing Offences by falsehood, and Offences concerning trust.

1. Taken collectively, in the parcels marked out by their popular appellations, they are incapable of being aggregated to any systematical method of distribution, grounded upon the mischief of the offence.

2. They may, however, be thrown into sub-divisions, which may be aggregated to such a method of distribution.

3. These sub-divisions will naturally and readily rank under the divisions of the several preceding classes of this system.

4. Each of the two great divisions of this class spreads itself in that manner over all the preceding classes.

5. In some acts of this class, the distinguishing circumstance which constitutes the essential character of the offence, will in some instances enter necessarily, in the character of a criminative circumstance, into the constitution of the offence; insomuch that, without the intervention of this circumstance, no offence at all, of that denomination, can be committed.* In other instances, the offence may subsist without it; and where it interferes, it comes in as an accidental independent circumstance, capable of constituting a ground of aggravation.

* Instance; offences by falsehood, in the case of defraudment.

Instance; offences by falsehood, in the case of simple corporal injuries, and other offences against person.

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