Principles of the Civil Code

Jeremy Bentham

Part 1

Objects of the Civil Law.

Chapter 2

Distinct Objects of the Civil Law.

In this distribution of rights and obligations, the legislator, we have already said, should have for his object the happiness of the body politic. In inquiring more particularly in what this happiness consists, we find four subordinate objects---

The more perfect the enjoyment of all these particulars, the greater the sum of social happiness, and especially of that happiness which depends upon the laws.

It may be shown, that all the functions of the law may be referred to these four heads: to provide for subsistence; to secure abundance; to befriend equality; to maintain security.

This division does not possess all the clearness and precision which could be desired. The boundaries which separate these objects are not always easily determined; they approach at different points, and are confounded one with the other. But it is enough to justify this division, that it is the most complete, and that we shall be called in many circumstances to consider each of the objects it contains, separately and distinct from each of the others.

Subsistence, for example, is included in abundance; it is, however, properly mentioned separately, because the laws ought to do for subsistence many things which they ought not to permit to be done for abundance.

Security admits of as many distinctions as there are kinds of actions which may be opposed to it. It relates to the person, to the honour, to property, to condition.

Actions hurtful to security, when prohibited by the laws, receive the character of crimes.

Among these objects of the law, security is the only one which necessarily embraces the future: subsistence, abundance, equality, may be regarded for a moment only; but security implies extension in point of time, with respect to all the benefits to which it is applied. Security is therefore the principal object.

I have placed equality among the objects of the law. In an arrangement intended to give to every man the greatest possible amount of happiness, no reason can be assigned why the law should seek to give one man more than another. There are, however, good reasons why it should not do it. The advantage acquired by the one, can only exist in consequence of an equivalent disadvantage being borne by another. The advantage would only be enjoyed by the favoured party---the disadvantage would be felt by all those who were not thus favoured.

Equality may be fostered, both by protecting it where it exists, and by seeking to produce it where it does not exist. But here lies the danger: a single error may overturn the whole social order.

It may appear surprising, that liberty is not placed among the principal objects of the law. But in order that we may have clear notions, it is necessary too consider it as a branch of security: personal liberty is security against a certain species of injury which affects the person; whilst, as to political liberty, it is another branch of security---security against the injustice of the members of the Government. What relates to this object, belongs not to the civil, but to the constitutional code.

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