Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII.: OF SUBSIDIARY SATISFACTION AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUBLIC TREASURE. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law)
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CHAPTER XVIII.: OF SUBSIDIARY SATISFACTION AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUBLIC TREASURE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 1.
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OF SUBSIDIARY SATISFACTION AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUBLIC TREASURE.
The best source from which satisfaction can be taken, is the property of the delinquent, because it fulfils, as we have seen, with a superior degree of suitableness, the functions of a punishment.
But if the delinquent have no fortune, ought the injured individual to remain without satisfaction? No: for the reasons which we have already set down, satisfaction is almost as necessary as punishment. It ought to be made at the expense of the public treasure, because it is an object of public benefit; the security of all is concerned. The obligation upon the public treasure to provide satisfaction, is founded upon a reason which has the clearness of an axiom. A pecuniary burthen, divided among the whole number of individuals, is nothing for each one in comparison with what it would be for each one or a small number.
Is insurance useful in commercial enterprises? it would be no less so in the great social enterprise, where the associates find themselves united by a train of chances, without knowing each other, without choice, without the power of avoiding it, or guarding themselves by their prudence against the multitude of snares which they may mutually prepare. Calamities which arise from crimes, are not less real evils than those which arise from natural causes. If the sleep of the master be sweeter in a house insured against fire, it would be still more so if he were insured against theft. Abstraction made of its abuses, too great extent could hardly be given to a method so perfectible and so ingenious, which renders real losses so light, and which gives so much security against eventual evils.
However, all insurances are exposed to great abuses from fraud or negligence: fraud on the part of those who, in order to obtain unlawful indemnities, feign or exaggerate their losses; negligence, whether on the part of the assurers, who do not take all necessary precautions, or on the part of the assured, who use less vigilance in guarding against losses which are not to be borne by them.
In a system of satisfactions at the expense of the public treasure, there is reason to fear—
1. A secret connivance between the party pretending to be hurt, and the pretended author of the offence, in order to obtain an undue indemnity.
2. Too great security on the part of individuals, who, having no longer to fear the same consequences of crimes, would not make the same efforts to prevent them.
This second danger is little to be dreaded. No one would neglect his actual possessions, a good certain and present, with the hope of recovering, in case of loss, only an equivalent for the thing lost, and even at the most an equivalent. To this let it be added, that this recovery would not be obtained without care and expense; that there must be a transient privation; that he must bear the burthen of prosecution, and act the always disagreeable part of an accuser; and that, after all, under the best system of procedure, success is still doubtful.
There would remain, therefore, sufficient motives for each individual to watch his property, and not to encourage offences by his negligence.
On the side of fraud, the danger is much greater. It cannot be prevented but by detailed precautions, which will be explained elsewhere. As examples, it will be sufficient to point out two opposite cases; one in which the utility of the remedy exceeds the danger of the abuse, the other in which the danger of the abuse exceeds the utility of the remedy.
When the damage is occasioned by an offence, the punishment of which is weighty, and its author is judicially convicted of the crime, it seems that fraud is very difficult. All that the impostor, who pretends to have been hurt, can do to procure an accomplice, is to give him a part of the profits of the fraud: but unless the clearest principles of proportion between crimes and punishments have been neglected, the punishment which the accomplice will have to undergo, would be more than an equivalent to the total profit of the fraud.
Observe, the offender ought to be convicted before the satisfaction is awarded: without this precaution, the public treasure would be pillaged. Nothing would be more common than the tale of imaginary thefts; of pretended robberies committed in a clandestine manner, or during the darkness of the night, or by unknown persons who have escaped. But when it is necessary to have apprehended the guilty, complicity is not easy. The part which it would be necessary to act, is not one of those which is easily performed, in as much as, besides the certainty of punishment for the individual charged with the pretended offence, there would also be a particular punishment in case the imposture should be detected—a punishment to be shared by the two accomplices; and if it be considered how difficult it is to invent a plausible story of an offence altogether imaginary, it may be believed that such frauds would be very rare, if they ever happened.
The danger most to be apprehended is the exaggeration of a loss resulting from a real offence. But it is necessary that the offence should be susceptible of this species of falsehood, and this is a case sufficiently rare.
It appears, therefore, that it may be laid down as a maxim, that in all cases in which the punishment of an offence is weighty, it need not be feared that an imaginary offender will be willing to charge himself with an offence for a doubtful profit.
But, for the opposite reason, when the mischief results from an offence of which the punishment is slight or none, the danger of abuse would be at its height if the public treasure were responsible for it. The insolvability of a debtor is an example. Where is the beggar who would not be trusted, if the public were security for him? what treasury would be able to pay every creditor whose debtors did not actually pay them? and how many false debts would it not be possible easily to suppose?
This indemnification would not only be abusive: it is unnecessary; since, in the transactions of commerce, the risk of loss enters into the price of merchandise, or the interest of money: if the merchant were sure never to lose, he would sell at a lower price; hence, to seek from the public an indemnification for a loss which had been compensated for beforehand, would be to seek to be paid twice over.*
There are other cases in which satisfaction ought to be made at the public expense.
1. Cases of physical calamity, such as inundations, fires, &c. Aids granted by the state in such cases, are not only founded upon the principle, that the weight of the evil, divided among all, becomes more light; they rest also upon this other, that the state, as protector of the national wealth, is interested in preventing the deterioration of the national domain, and ought to re-establish the means of re-production in those parts which have suffered. Such were what have been called the liberalities of Frederick the Great to those provinces which had been desolated by certain calamities: they were acts of prudence and preservation.
2. Losses and misfortunes, the consequences of hostilities. Those who have been exposed to the invasions of the enemy have a right so much the more particular to a public indemnification, as they may be considered as having sustained the attack which threatened all parties, as being, by their situation, the point the most exposed for the common defence.
3. Evils resulting from unblameable errors of the ministers of justice. An error in justice is already, by itself, a subject of grief; but that this error, once known, should not be repaired by proportional indemnification, is an overturning of the social order. Ought not the public to follow the rules of equity which are imposed on individuals? is it not shameful that it should employ its power in severely exacting what is due to itself, and should refuse to restore what it owes? But this obligation is so evident, that it becomes obscure by endeavouring to prove it.
4. Responsibility of a community for an offence of violence, committed in a public place in its territory. It is not properly the public treasure which ought to be employed in this case; it is the funds of the district or province, which ought to be taxed for the reparation of a negligence of police.
In case of competition, the interests of an individual ought to have place before those of the revenue: what is due to the injured party, on account of satisfaction, ought to be paid in preference to what is due to the public treasure on account of fine. Ordinary jurisprudence does not decide thus, but it is thus that reason decides. The loss suffered by an individual is an evil felt; the profit to the revenue is a good not felt by any person. What is paid by the offender as a fine, is a punishment, and nothing more; what he pays as a satisfaction is also a punishment, and a punishment even more than ordinarily strong, besides this, it is a satisfaction for the party injured; that is to say, a good. When I pay to the revenue, a creature of reason with whom I have no quarrel, I feel only the same regret for the loss as I should do had I dropt the sum into a well: when I pay it to my adversary, when I am thus obliged to confer a benefit on him whom I wished to injure, there is connected with the payment a degree of humiliation, which gives to the punishment thus inflicted the most desirable character.
RATIONALE OF PUNISHMENT.
[* ]A voluntary subscription, a bank of insurance destined to reimburse losing creditors, might be advantageous, without its being proper for the administrators of the public funds to institute such an establishment. The public funds being the product of constraint, ought to be managed with the greatest economy.