Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter five: On the Limits of Political Authority Restricted to a Minimum - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter five: On the Limits of Political Authority Restricted to a Minimum - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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On the Limits of Political Authority Restricted to a Minimum
Two things are indispensable for a society to exist and exist happily. First it must be protected against internal disorder and secondly sheltered from foreign invasion. Political authority must therefore be specifically entrusted with repressing this disorder and repulsing this invasion. To this end it must be invested with the right to impose penal laws against crimes, with the right to organize armed force against external enemies, and finally, with the right to demand from individuals the sacrifice of a portion of their individual wealth in order to meet the expenses of these two purposes. The vital jurisdiction of political authority therefore comprises two branches: the punishment of offenses and resistance to aggression.
We must even distinguish two kinds of offenses, those intrinsically harmful and those which offend only as violations of contracted undertakings. Society’s jurisdiction over the first kind is absolute. With regard to the second kind it is only relative. It depends on the nature of the undertaking and on the claim of the injured party. Even when the victim of an assassination or theft would like to pardon the guilty person, society should still punish him, because the offense committed is intrinsically harmful. When, however, the breaking of an agreement is agreed to by all the contracting or involved parties, society has no right to enforce prolonged compliance, just as it has no right to dissolve the agreement on the say-so of one party alone.
It is clear that society’s jurisdiction cannot stop short of these limits, but it can remain within them. We can scarcely imagine a nation in which individual crimes  remained unpunished and which had prepared no means of resisting the attacks foreign nations might launch against it. But we could imagine one in which the government had no mission other than overseeing these two aims. Individual life and national security would be perfectly assured. The necessary minimum would be done.