The Rationale of Punishment

Book III

Of Privative Punishments, Or Forfeitures

Chapter V


When the property under consideration consists of a real tangible entity, as a house or lands, it presents itself under its most simple and intelligible shape: but when it is of an incorporeal nature, it can only be designated by abstract terms; and to explain those terms it is necessary to have recourse to those real entities from which those fictitious entities derive their name and their signification. In order to explain the nature of any particular condition in life, for example that of husband, it is necessary to state the right conferred upon him by the law, over the person, the property, and the services of an existent being---the woman to whom he is married. To explain the nature of rank it is necessary to explain the rights that it confers---the exclusive privilege of using a certain title, of being habited in a particular manner, of being entitled to priority upon certain occasions; in short, to enjoy such honours as are attached to the particular rank in question. So far the effect produced is produced by the operation of the law. As to the honour itself, which is the source of their value, depends upon the moral sanction. It is, however, a species of property. A man invested with a certain rank is entitled to receive from persons at large unexigible services, services of respect, and which will be generally rendered to him in consideration of his rank.

In respect of offices, public offices, we may point out the power possessed by the person holding them over his subordinates, the emoluments that are attached to them, and the unexigible services that may result from the possession of them, that is to say, benefits resulting from the disposition that may be supposed to be felt by persons at large to render services to a man placed in an official station.

By the same process we may explain the nature of all rights; for example, the right of voting in a Parliamentary election. Every person in possession of this right has the privilege of giving a vote, by which he influences the choice of the person to be invested with a particular species of power. The value of this interest, under the present state of things, consists principally in giving the elector a certain power over the candidate and his friends. An honest and independent exercise of this right is a means of acquiring reputation. To generous and benevolent minds there also accrues from it a pleasure of sympathy, founded on the prospect of public happiness, that is to say, upon the influence that the choice of a virtuous and enlightened candidate may have upon the public welfare.

The value of a condition in life, of a right, of a privilege, being explained to consist in power, profit, and reputation, that is to say, the pleasures resulting from the possession of it, we are in possession of all the necessary elements for estimating the evil accruing from their loss, or, in other words, the magnitude of the punishment occasioned by their forfeiture

To give an analytical view of all the modifications of which property is susceptible, and every species of forfeiture to which it may be exposed, would be a work of almost endless labour. We shall content ourselves here with giving a few examples, beginning with,

[RP, Book III, Chapter IV, §3] [RP, Book III, Chapter V, §1]