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CHAPTER XX.: OF ELEMENTARY POLITICAL POWERS. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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OF ELEMENTARY POLITICAL POWERS.
The Constitutional Code is principally employed in conferring powers on particular classes of society, or on individuals, and in prescribing their duties.
Powers are constituted by exceptions to imperative laws. Let me explain myself.
Every complete law is in its own nature coercive or discoercive. The coercive law demands, or prohibits: it creates an offence, or in other terms, it converts an act into an offence:—“Thou shalt not kill,”—“Thou shalt not steal.” The discoercive law creates an exception: it takes away the offence; it authorises a certain person to do a thing contrary to the first law: “The judge shall cause such an individual to be put to death,”—“The collector of taxes shall exact such a sum.”
Duties are created by imperative laws addressed to those who possess powers: “The judge shall impose a certain punishment, according to certain prescribed forms.”
The constitutional code will include an explanatory part, serving to indicate those events by which certain individuals are invested with certain powers:—succession, nomination, presentation, concession, institution, election, purchase of place, &c. &c.; and the events by which such individuals are divested of such powers:—dismission, amotion, deposition, abdication, dereliction, resignation, &c.
To analyze, to enumerate all the possible political powers, is a metaphysical labour of the highest difficulty, but of the greatest importance. In general, these rights, these powers, will not much differ from domestic rights and powers. If they were placed in a single hand, they would only differ in extent; that is to say, in the multitude of persons and things over which they would be exercised. But their importance has ordinarily led to their being divided among many hands, in such manner, that for the exercise of a single kind of power, the concurrence of many wills is required.
Hitherto the political powers of one government have been, with regard to the political powers of another government, objects which have had no common measure. There has been no correspondency. There are only local names for expressing them: sometimes the names themselves differ—sometimes the same names are expressive of objects altogether different. There is no court-guide which would serve for every court—there is no universal political grammar.
The titles of offices are mixtures, dissimilar aggregates, which cannot be compared together, because no one has ever tried to decompose them—because no one has ever known their primordial elements. These elements, if any one shall ever discover them, will be the hitherto unknown key of every given political system; and the common measure of all actual and possible systems. But how shall I frame a uniform plan for the distribution of the political powers in any state?—from what language shall I borrow the vocabulary of offices? If I employ the French, it will only serve to express the distribution of powers in the French government. What relation is there between the consuls of France and the consuls of Rome, or the consuls of commerce?—between the king of England, the king of Sweden, the king of Prussia?—between the emperor of Germany and the emperor of Russia—between the ancient French peer and duke—the English duke and peer—the grand-duke of Russia and the grand-duke of Tuscany—between the mayor of Bordeaux and the mayor of London? &c. &c. A volume would not suffice to point out all these disproportions.
Such is the first difficulty. It has been the torment of those who have had to give an account of a foreign constitution. It is almost impossible to employ any denomination to which the readers shall not attach ideas different from those which it is intended to convey.
This confusion will cease, if it be possible to employ a new nomenclature, which shall not be composed of official names, but which shall express the elementary political powers exercised by those different offices.
Two methods may be employed for this decomposition:—1. By considering the end towards which they are directed:—end of interior or exterior security—end of security against crimes, or against calamities, &c.;—2. By considering the different methods by which these ends may be attained: the method of operating may have for its object persons or things. This method of analyzing political powers presents the following results:—
1. Immediate power over persons.—This is what is exercised over the passive faculties: it is the power of doing with one’s own hand acts whose effects terminate upon the person of another, whether upon his body or his mind. It is the power of doing acts which would be offences against the person, on the part of an individual who was not authorized. Directed to a certain end, it is the power of punishing: directed towards another end, it is the power of restraining and constraining. This power is the foundation of all others.
2. Immediate power over the property of others.—This is the power of making use for the public, of things the principal property in which belongs to individuals. For example, the power of a minister of justice to break open the house of a person not accused, that he may seek for an accused person there—the power of a public courier, in case of need, to make use of the horse of an individual.
3. Immediate power over public things;—that is, of those which have only government for their proprietor.
4. Power of command over persons, taken individually.—This operates upon the active qualities. It has commonly for its foundation immediate power over the person, without which he who commands would not be sure of finding motives for making himself obeyed. In the beginning of political societies, these two powers must have been united in the same hands, as they still are in domestic society. The habit of obedience being once established, we have almost lost sight of the dependence in which the more elevated power is found, in respect of that from which it springs. The first is only exercised by kings and their ministers; they have left the second to a baser sort of men. Ulysses chastised with his own hand the petulant Thersites. Peter I. was also the executor of his own decrees: he proudly struck off with his imperial hands, the head of the wretch whom he had condemned. The office of executioner does not degrade the emperors of Morocco; and their dexterity in these punishments is one of the pomps of their crown. In civilized states, the nobler power depends no less upon the ignoble power, than in barbarous countries;—but the disposition to obedience being once established, everything operates without our thinking of the constraint which is its first foundation.
5. Power of command over persons taken collectively.—A state must be very small, in which individuals could be governed one by one: this can only take place in a family. A company of soldiers can only be manœuvred when a head is given to the whole together. It is in the power of making men act by class, that the strength of government consists.
6. Power of specification.—I thus denominate the power of determining of what individuals particular classes shall be composed, over whom command may be exercised. This very extensive power is only, in respect to persons, the power of investment or divestment with regard to a certain class—class of nobles, class of judges, class of military, class of sailors, class of citizens, class of foreigners, class of offenders, class of allies, class of enemies.
The power of specification subdivides itself into two principal branches: specification of persons—specification of things.
Power over persons subdivides itself into the power of locating in a class, and the power of dislocating.
Power over things consists in setting them apart for a certain use, and making it a crime to employ them for any other.
To specify a time, a day as set apart for a religious festival, on which it is unlawful to work.
To specify a place as consecrated; for example, a church, an asylum.*
To specify a metal as the legal coin of the country.
To specify a dress as appropriated to a certain condition, &c. The right of specification over things embraces the totality of things.
It ought to be remembered, that each of these powers may be indefinitely subdivided, according to the number of hands in which it is placed, and the number of wills which may be required for its legitimate exercise. Hence the right of initiation, or right of proposing; right of negation or right of rejecting. The co-possessors may form only a single body, or many separate bodies. The concurrence of many bodies may be necessary to the validity of an act of command, as well as the concurrence of many individuals in a single body.
All these powers may be possessed in chief, or in a rank more or less subordinate.
The subordination of a political power to another, is established—1. By the cassability of its acts, or their liability to be abrogated; 2. By its subjection to the orders it receives.
7. Attractive power.—I thus call the power of rewarding or not rewarding.—Power of influence, which is partly remuneratory and partly penal. Influence is one source of motives. In Government, it is constituted—
1. By the power of locating in regard to desirable offices—Reward.
2. By the power of dislocating in regard to desirable offices—Punishment.
3. By the power of locating in regard to undesirable offices—Punishment.
4. By the power of dislocating in regard to undesirable offices—Reward.
There are three other sources of influence less direct:—
1. Free employment of wealth.
2. The power of rendering or not rendering all sorts of free services.
3. Influence founded upon the reputation of wisdom.
The attractive power which is exercised by means of reward, is more dangerous than the coercive power, because it is liable to be more arbitrary. Every rich man possesses a a portion of it in consequence of his wealth, without possessing any political power by name. It is only in a small number of cases that it has been possible to subject the exercise of this power to fixed rules. The laws against bribery and corruption are examples, and every one knows how difficult it is to execute the laws against the purchase of suffrages at an election, or against the venality of persons in official stations. Success is most easily attained by indirect rather than direct means:—by rendering the offence difficult of commission; by diminishing temptation, by taking away the means of its concealment; by the cultivation of sentiments of honour, &c.
Recapitulation—Analysis of Abstract Elementary Political Powers.
1. Immediate power over persons.
2. Immediate power over the things of another.
3. Immediate power over public things.
4. Power of command over persons taken individually.
5. Power of command over persons taken collectively, or over classes.
6. Power of specification or classification—
7. Attractive power. Power of granting or not granting rewards.
[* ]When any such power exists without limits (that, for example, of specifying places as sanctuaries), nothing more is required for destroying the effect of all laws sanctioned by any considerably afflictive punishment.