Principles of Personal Right.
Nature and Acquisition of Personal Right.
The possession of the active free-will of another person, as the power to determine it by my Will to a certain action, according to Laws of Freedom, is a form of Right relating to the external Mine and Thine, as affected by the Causality of another. It is possible to have several such Rights in reference to the same Person or to different persons. The Principle of the System of Laws, according to which I can be in such possession, is that of Personal Right, and there is only one such Principle.
The Acquisition of a Personal Right can never be primary or arbitrary; for such a mode of acquiring it would not be in accordance with the Principle of the harmony of the freedom of my will with the freedom of every other, and it would therefore be wrong. Nor can such a Right be acquired by means of any unjust act of another (facto injusti alterius), as being itself contrary to Right; for if such a wrong as it implies were perpetrated on me, and I could demand satisfaction from the other, in accordance with Right, yet in such a case I would only be entitled to maintain undiminished what was mine, and not to acquire anything more than what I formerly had.
Acquisition by means of the action of another, to which I determine his Will according to Laws of Right, is therefore always derived from what that other has as his own. This derivation, as a Juridical act, cannot be effected by a mere negative relinquishment or renunciation of what is his (per derelictionem aut renunciationem); because such a negative Act would only amount to a cessation of his Right, and not to the acquirement of a Right on the part of another. It is therefore only by positive Transference (translatio), or Conveyance, that a Personal Right can be acquired; and this is only possible by means of a common Will, through which objects come into the power of one or other, so that as one renounces a particular thing which he holds under the common Right, the same object when accepted by another, in consequence of a positive act of Will, becomes his. Such transference of the Property of one to another is termed its Alienation. The act of the united Wills of two Persons, by which what belonged to one passes to the other, constitutes Contract.
Acquisition by Contract.
In every Contract there are four Juridical Acts of Will involved; two of them being preparatory Acts, and two of them constitutive Acts. The two Preparatory Acts, as forms of treating in the Transaction, are Offer (oblatio) and Approval (approbatio); the two Constitutive Acts, as the forms of concluding the transaction, are Promise (promissum) and Acceptance (acceptatio). For an offer cannot constitute a Promise before it can be judged that the thing offered (oblatum) is something that is agreeable to the Party to whom it is offered, and this much is shown by the first two declarations; but by them alone there is nothing as yet acquired.
Further, it is neither by the particular Will of the Promiser nor that of the Acceptor that the property of the former passes over to the latter. This is effected only by the combined or united Wills of both, and consequently so far only as the Will of both is declared at the same time or simultaneously. Now, such simultaneousness is impossible by empirical acts of declaration, which can only follow each other in time, and are never actually simultaneous. For if I have promised, and another person is now merely willing to accept, during the interval before actual Acceptance, however short it may be, I may retract my offer, because I am thus far still free; and, on the other side, the Acceptor, for the same reason, may likewise hold himself not to be bound, up till the moment of Acceptance, by his counter-declaration following upon the Promise. — The external Formalities or Solemnities (solemnia) on the conclusion of a Contract, — such as shaking hands or breaking a straw (stipula) laid hold of by two persons, — and all the various modes of confirming the Declarations on either side, prove in fact the embarrassment of the contracting parties as to how and in what way they may represent Declarations, which are always successive, as existing simultaneously at the same moment; and these forms fail to do this. They are, by their very nature, Acts necessarily following each other in time, so that when the one Act is, the other either is not yet or is no longer.
It is only the philosophical Transcendental Deduction of the Conception of Acquisition by Contract, that can remove all these difficulties. In a juridical external relation, my taking possession of the free-will of another, as the cause that determined it to a certain Act, is conceived at first empirically by means of the declaration and counter-declaration of the free-will of each of us in time, as the sensible conditions of taking possession; and the two juridical Acts must necessarily be regarded as following one another in time. But because this relation, viewed as juridical, is purely Rational in itself, the Will as a law-giving faculty of Reason represents this possession as intelligible or rational (possessio noumenon), in accordance with conceptions of Freedom and under abstraction of those empirical conditions. And now, the two Acts of Promise and Acceptance are not regarded as following one another in time, but, in the manner of a pactum re initum, as proceeding from a common Will, which is expressed by the term ‘at the same time,’ or ‘simultaneous,’ and the object promised (promissum) is represented, under elimination of empirical conditions, as acquired according to the Law of the pure Practical Reason.
- That this is the true and only possible Deduction of the idea of Acquisition by Contract, is sufficiently attested by the laborious yet always futile striving of writers on Jurisprudence—such as Moses Mendelssohn in his Jerusalem — to adduce a proof of its rational possibility. — The question is put thus: ‘Why ought I to keep my Promise?’ for it is assumed as understood by all that I ought to do so. It is, however, absolutely impossible to give any further proof of the Categorical Imperative implied; just as it is impossible for the Geometrician to prove by rational Syllogisms that in order to construct a Triangle, I must take three Lines — so far an Analytical Proposition—of which three Lines any two together must be greater than the third—a Synthetical Proposition, and like the former à priori. It is a Postulate of the Pure Reason that we ought to abstract from all the sensible conditions of Space and Time in reference to the conception of Right; and the theory of the possibility of such Abstraction from these conditions without taking away the reality of the Possession, just constitutes the Transcendental Deduction of the Conception of Acquisition by Contract. It is quite akin to what was presented under the last Title, as the Theory of Acquisition by Occupation of the external object.
What is acquired by Contract?
But what is that, designated as ‘External,’ which I acquire by Contract? As it is only the Causality of the active Will of another, in respect of the Performance of something promised to me, I do not immediately acquire thereby an external Thing, but an Act of the Will in question, whereby a Thing is brought under my power so that I make it mine.—By the Contract, therefore, I acquire the Promise of another, as distinguished from the Thing promised; and yet something is thereby added to my Having and Possession. I have become the richer in possession (locupletior) by the Acquisition of an active Obligation that I can bring to bear upon the Freedom and Capability of another. — This my Right, however, is only a personal Right, valid only to the effect of acting upon a particular physical Person and specially upon the Causality of his Will, so that he shall perform something for me. It is not a Real Right upon that Moral Person, which is identified with the Idea of the united Will of All viewed à priori, and through which alone I can acquire a Right valid against every Possessor of the Thing. For, it is in this that all Right in a Thing consists.
- The Transfer or transmission of what is mine to another by Contract, takes place according to the Law of Continuity (Lex Continui). Possession of the object is not interrupted for a moment during this Act; for, otherwise, I would acquire an object in this state as a Thing that had no Possessor, and it would thus be acquired originally; which is contrary to the idea of a Contract.—This Continuity, however, implies that it is not the particular Will of either the Promiser or the Acceptor, but their united Will in common, that transfers what is mine to another. And hence it is not accomplished in such a manner that the Promiser first relinquishes (derelinquit) his Possession for the benefit of another, or renounces his Right (renunciat), and thereupon the other at the same time enters upon it; or conversely. The Transfer (translatio) is therefore an Act in which the object belongs for a moment at the same time to both, just as in the parabolic path of a projectile the object on reaching its highest point may be regarded for a moment as at the same time both rising and falling, and as thus passing in fact from the ascending to the falling motion.
Acceptance and Delivery.
A thing is not acquired in a case of Contract by the Acceptance (acceptatio) of the Promise, but only by the Delivery (traditio) of the object promised. For all Promise is relative to Performance; and if what was promised is a Thing, the Performance cannot be executed otherwise than by an act whereby the Acceptor is put by the Promiser into possession of the Thing; and this is Delivery. Before the Delivery and the Reception of the Thing, the Performance of the act required has not yet taken place; the Thing has not yet passed from the one person to the other, and consequently has not been acquired by that other. Hence the Right arising from a Contract, is only a Personal Right; and it only becomes a Real Right by Delivery.
- A Contract upon which Delivery immediately follows (pactum re initum) excludes any interval of time between its conclusion and its execution; and as such it requires no further particular act in the future by which one person may transfer to another what is his. But if there is a time—definite or indefinite—agreed upon between them for the Delivery, the question then arises, Whether the Thing has already before that time become the Acceptor’s by the Contract, so that his Right is a Right in the Thing; or whether a further special Contract regarding the Delivery alone must be entered upon, so that the Right that is acquired by mere Acceptance is only a Personal Right, and thus it does not become a Right in the Thing until Delivery? That the relation must be determined according to the latter alternative, will be clear from what follows.
- Suppose I conclude a Contract about a Thing that I wish to acquire,—such as a Horse,—and that I take it immediately into my Stable, or otherwise into my possession; then it is mine (vi pacti re initi), and my Right is a Right in the Thing. But if I leave it in the hands of the Seller without arranging with him specially in whose physical possession or holding (detentio) this Thing shall be before my taking possession of it (apprehensio), and consequently before the actual change of possession, the Horse is not yet mine; and the Right which I acquire is only a Right against a particular Person—namely, the Seller of the Horse—to be put into possession of the object (poscendi traditionem) as the subjective condition of any use of it at my will. My Right is thus only a Personal Right to demand from the Seller the performance of his promise (præstatio) to put me into possession of the thing. Now, if the Contract does not contain the condition of Delivery at the same time,—as a pactum re initum,—and consequently an interval of time intervenes between the conclusion of the Contract and the taking possession of the object of acquisition, I cannot obtain possession of it during this interval otherwise than by exercising the particular juridical activity called a possessory Act (actum possessorium) which constitutes a special Contract. This Act consists in my saying, ‘I will send to fetch the horse,’ to which the Seller has to agree. For it is not self-evident or universally reasonable, that any one will take a Thing destined for the use of another into his charge at his own risk. On the contrary, a special Contract is necessary for this arrangement, according to which the Alienator of a thing continues to be its owner during a certain definite time, and must bear the risk of whatever may happen to it; while the Acquirer can only be regarded by the Seller as the Owner, when he has delayed to enter into possession beyond the date at which he agreed to take delivery. Prior to the Possessory Act, therefore, all that is acquired by the Contract is only a Personal Right; and the Acceptor can acquire an external Thing only by Delivery.