Front Page Titles (by Subject) DEFINITION XIV: Authority is an active moral power by which some person legitimately and with a direct moral effect can perform an action. 1 - Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence
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DEFINITION XIV: Authority is an active moral power by which some person legitimately and with a direct moral effect can perform an action. 1 - Samuel von Pufendorf, Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence 
Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence, translated by William Abbott Oldfather, 1931. Revised by Thomas Behme. Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Behme (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009).
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Authority is an active moral power by which some person legitimately and with a direct moral effect can perform an action.1
1. In man the power to act is twofold. One is the natural power to act, through which he is able by his natural strength to perform an action, or to neglect it, without considering whether it be right or not. Thus men are able in fact to do things forbidden by laws, and to neglect their precepts. But moral power in man is that whereby he is able to perform a voluntary action legitimately and with a moral effect, that is to say, so that this action shall harmonize with the laws, or at least be not repugnant to them, and be able to produce moral effects in others. Now a man is judged to have authority to do all that which can be done by him through the exercise of his natural power, whatever, namely, is not forbidden by the laws, or is also enjoined by the same, or else left indifferent. Nay, frequently authority is ampler than the measure of natural force. But, in truth, there has been taken away authority to do those things which were legitimately forbidden him, either by some universal legislator, or by some other to whom in a special way belongs command [imperium] over his actions.
2. But commonly, in truth, when a man performs an action enjoined by the laws, the question is not apt to be raised whether he had the authority to undertake it, since, forsooth, in the case of all for whom some law which has not been made invalid by a higher law, is passed, it is understood, from the very nature of the transaction, that they have been given at the same time authority to act in accordance with that law. And, in short, when it has been well established that what a man is doing is not repugnant to laws, no one any longer doubts that he may do it legitimately. But, truly, the most careful scrutiny is made about the agent’s authority, in regard to those actions by which some moral effect is to be produced upon others, that is to say, by which an obligation or a faculty to do something ought to be conferred upon another. For an act is treated as invalid and null, when the authority to act was lacking. Here, however, the observation must be made, a matter which we have noted above, namely, that just as imperfect laws demand a penalty, indeed, for the commission of an act contrary to them, but do not rescind the act; so the authority to act, which is utterly taken away by perfect negative laws, seems to be not so much extinguished by those imperfect laws, as granted together with an accompanying burden of punishment or fine. Furthermore, not merely are those things which have not been forbidden either by divine or human law, said to be permissible, but also those which, although opposed, indeed, to the divine law, either natural or positive, are permitted by the civil law, that is to say, are neither forbidden nor punished in a human court of law. The authority corresponding to things of the former kind is called internal, to things of the latter kind external. Its effect is impunity in a human court of law, and other things which follow licit acts, although that authority cannot at all be adduced before the divine judgement-seat.
3. Now he whose authority to do something must be sought from the will of a second person, should see to it that where an express indication of the same is wanting, he conjectures and presumes it with skill. This can be the case if he observe the following rules: (1) He who receives the authority to act from the will of another person, where the contrary has not been signified by an expression of his will, can rightly do what is useful to the other, in such a way that it does not appear likely that a greater inconvenience will result therefrom. For, in the absence of express signs indicating something else, it is presumed that every one wishes to have his interests advanced, because this is to the highest degree in accord with nature, and presumptions are commonly apt to follow nature. (2) It is not right to do the opposite of what has been signified expressly. For a man’s will is indicated with just this purpose, namely, that no one, on the basis of a presumed will, should do something different from that which had been prescribed by him; unless, by means of a general clause, the second person has been bidden to follow the advantage or the necessity of the circumstance, to the extent of his skill. On this principle a soldier, or a commanding officer of lower rank, who has been expressly forbidden to join combat in any way with the foe, does not do right in entering a combat without the knowledge of the commander-in-chief, although it may appear to him that it is possible to achieve a success. (3) He who acts with the knowledge of the second party, and when the same is able to indicate without any trouble his dissent, rightly presumes his will from his silence. And so it follows that the vows of a wife, or a daughter under her father’s authority, and of a slave, were valid by the divine law, if the husband, father, or master, on hearing them, had kept silence.2 (4) He who has entrusted some action to a second person is regarded as having assented to that which the latter does under the compulsion of extreme necessity, unless either the laws have forbidden it, or he has been forbidden expressly to avoid a necessity in that way, or what necessity was going to bring about would be a less evil than the one which is accepted in order to avoid it.
4. Finally, in regard to authority two rules are to be observed. One is, “He who has the authority to do the greater has also authority to do the less,” as the latter, of course, is contained in the former; or, in other words, “He who can do more, can also do less.” On the basis of this rule Justinian emended that paragraph of the Aelian-Sentian law, by which a master under twenty years of age was forbidden to liberate a slave, except by a manumission staff before a court in a legitimate case;3 since, however, such a young man had at that time the authority to make a testament, that is to say, to dispose of all his goods, why, therefore, should he not be able to give freedom to his slave by his testament? And yet it might happen, that, when authority depends upon the mere will of him who grants it, there is granted one the faculty of doing the greater, when the less, which otherwise in due order appeared to be included under the greater, had been denied. The second rule is, “He who gives authority for an end, is regarded also, as far as he is concerned, as having given authority for all those things without which the end cannot be obtained.” For otherwise it would be a case of his willing that at the same time something take place, or else not take place, and that is absurd. This almost coincides with the trite saying, “The necessity of the end produces right or authority in things moral.”
[1. ] There is only a slight difference from Def. 7: “Authority is an active moral power by which some person legitimately and with a moral effect is able to perform a voluntary action.” But the scholion to Def. 7 predominantly deals with “authority over the persons of others” as a presupposition for the subsequently introduced concepts of obligation and law which, according to Pufendorf, are constituted by prescription from an authority. The scholion to Def. 14, on the other hand, deals with authority as a right to act under the law (“to do all that which can be done by him through the exercise of his natural power, whatever, namely, is not forbidden by the laws”) and that cannot conveniently be discussed until law has been introduced.
[2. ] Numbers 30.
[3. ]Inst., I.vi.7.