OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF A MISCHIEVOUS
§ 1. Shapes in which the mischief of an act
may show itself.
I. Hitherto we have been speaking of the various
articles or objects on which the consequences or tendency of an act may depend:
of the bare act itself: of the circumstances it may have been, or
may have been supposed to be, accompanied with: of the consciousness a
man may have had with respect to any such circumstances: of the
intentions that may have preceded the act: of the motives that
may have given birth to those intentions: and of the disposition that
may have been indicated by the connexion between such intentions and such
motives. We now come to speak of consequences or tendency: an article
which forms the concluding link in all this chain of causes and effects,
involving in it the materiality of the whole. Now, such part of this tendency
as is of a mischievous nature, is all that we have any direct concern with; to
that, therefore, we shall here confine ourselves.
II. The tendency of an act is mischievous when the
consequences of it are mischievous; that is to say, either the certain
consequences or the probable. The consequences, how many and whatsoever they
may be, of an act, of which the tendency is mischievous, may, such of them as
are mischievous, be conceived to constitute one aggregate body, which may be
termed the mischief of the act.
III. This mischief may frequently be distinguished, as
it were, into two shares or parcels: the one containing what may be called the
primary mischief; the other, what may be called the secondary. That share may
be termed the primary, which it sustained by an assignable individual,
or a multitude of assignable individuals. That share may be termed the
secondary, which, taking its origin from the former, extends itself
either over the whole community, or over some other multitude of unassignable
IV. The primary mischief of an act may again be
distinguished into two branches: 1. The original: and, 2. The
derivative. By the original branch, I mean that which alights upon and
is confined to any person who is a sufferer in the first instance, and on his
own account: the person, for instance, who is beaten, robbed, or murdered. By
the derivative branch, I mean any share of mischief which may befall any other
assignable persons in consequence of his being a sufferer, and no otherwise.
These persons must, of course, be persons who in some way or other are
connected with him. Now the ways in which one person may be connected with
another, have been already seen: they may be connected in the way of
interest (meaning self-regarding interest) or merely in the way of
sympathy. And again, persons connected with a given person, in the way
of interest, may be connected with him either by affording support to
him, or by deriving it from him.
V. The secondary mischief, again, may frequently be
seen to consist of two other shares or parcels: the first consisting of
pain; the other of danger. The pain which it produces is a pain
of apprehension: a pain grounded on the apprehension of suffering such
mischiefs or inconveniences, whatever they may be, as it is the nature of the
primary mischief to produce. It may be styled, in one word, the alarm.
The danger is the chance, whatever it may be, which the multitude it
concerns may in consequence of the primary mischief stand exposed to, of
suffering such mischiefs or inconveniences. For danger is nothing but the
chance of pain, or, what comes to the same thing, of loss of pleasure.
VI. An example may serve to make this clear. A man
attacks you on the road, and robs you. You suffer a pain on the occasion of
losing so much money: you also suffered a
pain at the thoughts of the personal ill-treatment you apprehended he might
give you, in case of your not happening to satisfy his demands. These together constitute the original branch of
the primary mischief, resulting from the act of robbery. A creditor of yours,
who expected you to pay him with part of that money, and a son of yours, who
expected you to have given him another part, are in consequence disappointed.
You are obliged to have recourse to the bounty of your father, to make good
part of the deficiency. These mischiefs together make up the derivative branch.
The report of this robbery circulates from hand to hand, and spreads itself in
the neighbourhood. It finds its way into the newspapers, and is propagated over
the whole country. Various people, on this occasion, call to mind the danger
which they and their friends, as it appears from this example, stand exposed to
in travelling; especially such as may have occasion to travel the same road. On
this occasion they naturally feel a certain degree of pain: slighter or
heavier, according to the degree of ill-treatment they may understand you to
have received; the frequency of the occasion each person may have to travel in
that same road, or its neighbourhood; the vicinity of each person to the spot;
his personal courage; the quantity of money he may have occasion to carry about
with him; and a variety of other circumstances. This constitutes the first part
of the secondary mischief, resulting from the act of robbery; viz. the alarm.
But people of one description or other, not only are disposed to conceive
themselves to incur a chance of being robbed, in consequence of the robbery
committed upon you, but (as will be shown presently) they do really incur such
a chance. And it is this chance which constitutes the remaining part of the
secondary mischief of the act of robbery; viz. the danger.
VII. Let us see what this chance amounts to; and whence
it comes. How is it, for instance, that one robbery can contribute to produce
another? In the first place, it is certain that: it cannot create any direct
motive. A motive must be the prospect of some pleasure, or other advantage, to
be enjoyed in future: but the robbery in question is past: nor would it furnish
any such prospect were it to come: for it is not one robbery that will furnish
pleasure to him who may be about to commit another robbery. The consideration
that is to operate upon a man, as a motive or inducement to commit a robbery,
must be the idea of the pleasure he expects to derive from the fruits of that
very robbery: but this pleasure exists independently of any other robbery.
VIII. The means, then, by which one robbery tends, as
it should seem, to produce another robbery, are two. 1. By suggesting to a
person exposed to the temptation, the idea of committing such another robbery
(accompanied, perhaps, with the belief of its facility). In this case the
influence it exerts applies itself, in the first place, to the understanding.
2. By weakening the force of the tutelary motives which tend to restrain him
from such an action, and thereby adding to the strength of the
temptation. In this case the influence
applies itself to the will. These forces are, 1. The motive of benevolence,
which acts as a branch of the physical sanction. 2. The motive of self-preservation, as against the
punishment that may stand provided by the political sanction. 3. The fear of
shame; a motive belonging to the moral sanction. 4. The fear of the divine
displeasure; a motive belonging to the religious sanction. On the first and
last of these forces it has, perhaps, no influence worth insisting on: but it
has on the other two.
IX. The way in which a past robbery may weaken the
force with which the political sanction tends to prevent a future
robbery, may be thus conceived. The way in which this sanction tends to prevent
a robbery, is by denouncing some particular kind of punishment against any who
shall be guilty of it: the real value of which punishment will of course
be diminished by the real uncertainty: as also, if there be any
difference, the apparent value by the apparent uncertainty. Now
this uncertainty is proportionably increased by every instance in which a man
is known to commit the offense, without undergoing the punishment. This, of
course, will be the case with every offense for a certain time; in short, until
the punishment allotted to it takes place. If punishment takes place at last,
this branch of the mischief of the offense is then at last, but not till then,
put a stop to.
X. The way in which a past robbery may weaken the force
with which the moral sanction tends to prevent a future robbery, may be
thus conceived. The way in which the moral sanction tends to prevent a robbery,
is by holding forth the indignation of mankind as ready to fall upon him who
shall be guilty of it. Now this indignation will be the more formidable,
according to the number of those who join in it: it will be the less so, the
fewer they are who join in it. But there cannot be a stronger way of showing
that a man does not join in whatever indignation may be entertained against a
practice, than the engaging in it himself. It shows not only that he himself
feels no indignation against it, but that it seems to him there is no
sufficient reason for apprehending what indignation may be felt against it by
others. Accordingly, where robberies are frequent, and unpunished, robberies
are committed without shame. It was thus amongst the Grecians formerly. It is thus among the Arabs still.
XI. In whichever way then a past offense tends to pave
the way for the commission of a future Hence, whether by suggesting the idea of
committing it, or by adding to the strength of the temptation, in both cases it
may be said to operate by the force or influence of example.
XII. The two branches of the secondary mischief of an
act, the alarm and the danger, must not be confounded: though intimately
connected, they are perfectly distinct: either may subsist without the other.
The neighbourhood may be alarmed with the report of a robbery, when, in fact,
no robbery either has been committed or is in a way to be committed: a
neighbourhood may be on the point of being disturbed by robberies, without
knowing any thing of the matter. Accordingly, we shall soon perceive, that some
acts produce alarm without danger: others, danger without alarm.
XIII. As well the danger as the alarm may again be
divided, each of them, into two branches: the first, consisting of so much of
the alarm or danger as may be apt to result from the future behaviour of the
same agent: the second, consisting of so much as may be apt to result from the
behaviour of other persons: such others, to wit, as may come to engage in acts
of the same sort and tendency.
XIV. The distinction between the primary and the
secondary consequences of an act must be carefully attended to. It is so just,
that the latter may often be of a directly opposite nature to be the former. In
some cases, where the primary consequences of the act are attended with a
mischief, the secondary consequences be may be beneficial, and that to such a
degree, as even greatly to outweigh the mischief of the primary. This is the
case, for instance, with all acts of punishment, when properly applied. Of
these, the primary mischief being never intended to fall but upon such persons
as may happen to have committed some act which it is expedient to prevent, the
secondary mischief, that is, the alarm and the danger, extends no farther than
to such persons as are under temptation to commit it: in which case, in as far
as it tends to restrain them from committing such acts, it is of a beneficial
XV. Thus much with regard to acts that produce positive
pain, and that immediately. This case, by reason of its simplicity, seemed the
fittest to take the lead. But acts may produce mischief in various other ways;
which, together with those already specified, may all be comprised by the
following abridged analysis.
Mischief may admit of a division in any one of three points of view. 1.
According to its own nature. 2. According to its cause. 3.
According to the person, or other party, who is the object of it. With regard to its nature, it may be either
simple or complex. 2: when
simple, it may either be positive or negative: positive,
consisting of actual pain: negative, consisting of the loss of pleasure.
Whether simple or complex, and whether positive or negative, it may be either
certain or contingent. When it is negative, it consists of the
loss of some benefit or advantage: this benefit may be material in both or
either of two ways: 1. By affording actual pleasure: or, 2. By averting pain or
danger, which is the chance of pain: that is, by affording
security. In as far, then, as the benefit which a mischief tends to
avert, is productive of security, the tendency of such mischief is to produce
insecurity. 2. With regard to its cause, mischief may be produced
either by one single action, or not without the concurrence of
other actions: if not without the concurrence of other actions, these others
may be the actions either of the same person, or of other
persons: in either case, they may be either acts of the same kind as
that in question, or of other kinds. 3. Lastly, with regard to the party
who is the object of the mischief, or, in other words, who is in a way
to be affected by it, such party maybe either an assignable individual, or assemblage of individuals, or else
a multitude of unassignable individuals. When the object is an
assignable individual, this individual may either be the person himself
who is the author of the mischief, or some other person. When the
individuals who are the objects of it, are an unassignable multitude, this
multitude may be either the whole political community or state, or some
subordinate division of it. Now when the object of the mischief is the
author himself, it may be styled self-regarding: when any other party is
the object, extra-regarding: when such other party is an individual, it
may be styled private: when a subordinate branch of the community,
semi-public: when the whole community, public. Here, for the
present, we must stop. To pursue the subject through its inferior distinctions,
will be the business of the chapter which exhibits the division of
The cases which have been already illustrated, are those in which the
primary mischief is not necessarily otherwise than a simple one, and that
positive: present, and therefore certain: producible by a single action,
without any necessity of the concurrence of any other action, either on the
part of the same agent, or of others; and having for its object an assignable
individual, or, by accident an assemblage of assignable individuals:
extra-regarding therefore, and private. This primary mischief is accompanied by
a secondary: the first branch of which is sometimes contingent and sometimes
certain, the other never otherwise than contingent: both extra-regarding and
semi-public: in other respects, pretty much upon a par with the primary
mischief: except that the first branch, viz. the alarm, though inferior in
magnitude to the primary, is, in point of extent, and therefore, upon the
whole, in point of magnitude, much superior.
XVI. Two instances more will be sufficient to
illustrate the most material of the modifications above exhibited.
A man drinks a certain quantity of liquor, and intoxicates himself. The
intoxication in this particular instance does him no sort of harm: or, what
comes to the same thing, none that is perceptible. But it is probable, and
indeed next to certain, that a given number of acts of the same kind would do
him a very considerable degree of harm: more or less according to his
constitution and other circumstances: for this is no more than what experience
manifests every day. It is also certain, that one act of this sort, by one
means or other, tends considerably to increase the disposition a man may be in
to practise other acts of the same sort: for this also is verified by
experience. This, therefore, is one instance where the mischief producible by
the act is contingent in other words, in which the tendency of the act is no
otherwise mischievous than in virtue of its producing a chance of
mischief. This chance depends upon the concurrence of other acts of the same
kind; and those such as must be practiced by the same person. The object of the
mischief is that very person himself who is the author of it, and he only,
unless by accident. The mischief is therefore private and self-regarding.
As to its secondary mischief, alarm, it produces none: it produces indeed a
certain quantity of danger by the influence of example: but it is not often
that this danger will amount to a quantity worth regarding.
XVII. Again. A man omits paying his share to a public
tax. This we see is an act of the negative kind. Is this then to be placed upon the list of
mischievous acts? Yes, certainly. Upon what grounds? Upon the following. To
defend the community against its external as well as its internal adversaries
are tasks, not to mention others of a less indispensable nature which cannot be
fulfilled but at a considerable expense. But whence is the money for defraying
this expense to come? It can be obtained in no other manner than by
contributions to be collected from individuals; in a word, by taxes. The
produce then of these taxes is to be looked upon as a kind of benefit
which it is necessary the governing part of the community should receive for
the use of the whole. This produce, before it can be applied to its
destination, requires that there should be certain persons commissioned to
receive and to apply it. Now if these persons, had they received it, would have
applied it to its proper destination, it would have been a benefit: the not
putting them in a way to receive it, is then a mischief. But it is possible,
that if received, it might not have been applied to its proper destination; or
that the services, in consideration of which it was bestowed, might not have
been performed. It is possible, that the under-officer, who collected the
produce of the tax, might not have paid it over to his principal: it is
possible that the principal might not have forwarded it on according to its
farther destination; to the judge, for instance, who is to protect the
community against its clandestine enemies from within, or the soldier, who is
to protect it against its open enemies from without: it is possible that the
judge, or the soldier, had they received it, would not however have been
induced by it to fulfil their respective duties: it is possible, that the judge
would not have sat for the punishment of criminals, and the decision of
controversies: it is possible that the soldier would not have drawn his sword
in the defense of the community. These, together with an infinity of other
intermediate acts, which for the sake of brevity I pass over, form a connected
chain of duties, the discharge of which is necessary to the preservation of the
community. They must every one of them be discharged, ere the benefit to which
they are contributory can be produced. If they are all discharged, in that case
the benefit subsists, and any act, by tending to intercept that benefit, may
produce a mischief. But if any of them are not, the benefit fails: it fails of
itself: it would not have subsisted, although the act in question (the act of
non-payment) had not been committed. The benefit is therefore contingent; and,
accordingly, upon a certain supposition, the act which consists in the averting
of it is not a mischievous one. But this supposition, in any tolerably-ordered
government, will rarely indeed be verified. In the very worst ordered
government that exists, the greatest part of the duties that are levied are
paid over according to their destination: and, with regard to any particular
sum, that is attempted to be levied upon any particular person upon any
particular occasion, it is therefore manifest, that, unless it be certain that
it will not be so disposed of, the act of withholding it is a mischievous one.
The act of payment, when referable to any particular sum, especially if it
be a small one, might also have failed of proving beneficial on another ground:
and, consequently, the act of nonpayment, of proving mischievous. It is
possible that the same services, precisely, might have been rendered without
the money as with it. If, then, speaking of any small limited sum, such as the
greatest which any one person is called upon to pay at a time, a man were to
say, that the non-payment of it would be attended with mischievous
consequences; this would be far from certain: but what comes to the same thing
as if it were, it is perfectly certain when applied to the whole. It is
certain, that if all of a sudden the payment of all taxes was to cease, there
would no longer be anything effectual done, either for the maintenance of
justice, or for the defence of the community against its foreign adversaries:
that therefore the weak would presently be oppressed and injured in all manner
of ways, by the strong at home, and both together overwhelmed by oppressors
abroad. Upon the whole, therefore, it is manifest, that in this case, though
the mischief is remote and contingent, though in its first appearance it
consists of nothing more than the interception of a benefit, and though
the individuals, in whose favour that benefit would have been reduced into the
explicit form of pleasure or security, are altogether unassignable, yet the
mischievous tendency of the act is not on all these accounts the less
indisputable. The mischief, in point of intensity and duration,
is indeed unknown: it is uncertain: it is remote. But in point of
extent it is immense; and in point of fecundity, pregnant to a
degree that baffles calculation.
XVIII. It may now be time to observe, that it is only
in the case where the mischief is extra-regarding, and has an assignable person
or persons for its object, that so much of the secondary branch of it as
consists in alarm can have place. When the individuals it affects are
uncertain, and altogether out of sight, no alarm can be produced: as there is
nobody whose sufferings you can see, there is nobody whose sufferings you can
be alarmed at. No alarm, for instance, is produced by nonpayment to a tax. If
at any distant and uncertain period of time such offence should chance to be
productive of any kind of alarm, it would appear to proceed, as indeed
immediately it would proceed, from a very different cause. It might be
immediately referable, for example, to the act of a legislator, who should deem
it necessary to lay on a new tax, in order to make up for the deficiency
occasioned in the produce of the old one. Or it might be referable to the act
of an enemy, who, under favour of a deficiency thus created in the fund
allotted for defense, might invade the country, and exact from it much heavier
contributions than those which had been thus withholden from the sovereign.
As to any alarm which such an offence might raise among the few who might
chance to regard the matter with the eyes of statesmen, it is of too slight and
uncertain a nature to be worth taking into the account.
§ 2. How intentionality, &c. may
influence the mischief of an act.
XIX. We have seen the nature of the secondary mischief,
which is apt to be reflected, as it were, from the primary, in the cases where
the individuals who are the objects of the mischief are assignable. It is now
time to examine into the circumstances upon which the production of such
secondary mischief depends. These circumstances are no others than the four
articles which have formed the subjects of the four last preceding chapters:
viz. 1. The intentionality, 2. The consciousness. 3. The motive. 4. The
disposition. It is to be observed all along, that it is only the danger
that is immediately governed by the real state of the mind in respect to
those articles: it is by the apparent state of it that the alarm
is governed. It is governed by the real only in as far as the apparent happens,
as in most cases it may be expected to do, to quadrate with the real. The
different influences of the articles of intentionality and consciousness may be
represented in the several cases following.
XX. Case 1. Where the act is so completely
unintentional, as to be altogether involuntary. In this case it is
attended with no secondary mischief at all.
A bricklayer is at work upon a house: a passenger is walking in the street
below. A fellow-workman comes and gives the bricklayer a violent push, in
consequence of which he falls upon the passenger, and hurts him. It is plain
there is nothing in this event that can give other people, who may happen to be
in the street, the least reason to apprehend any thing in future on the part of
the man who fell, whatever there may be with regard to the man who pushed him.
XXI. Case 2. Where the act, though not unintentional,
is unadvised, insomuch that the mischievous part of the consequences is
unintentional, but the unadvisedness is attended with heedlessness. In
this case the act is attended with some small degree of secondary mischief, in
proportion to the degree of heedlessness.
A groom being on horseback, and riding through a frequented street, turns a
corner at a full pace, and rides over a passenger, who happens to be going by.
It is plain, by this behaviour of the groom, some degree of alarm may be
produced, less or greater, according to the degree of heedlessness betrayed by
him: according to the quickness of his pace, the fullness of the street, and so
forth. He has done mischief, it may be said, by his carelessness, already: who
knows but that on other occasions the like cause may produce the like effect.
XXII. Case 3. Where the act is misadvised with
respect to a circumstance, which, had it existed, would fully have
excluded or (what comes to the same thing) outweighed the primary mischief: and
there is no rashness in the case. In this case the act attended with no
secondary mischief at all.
It is needless to multiply examples any farther.
XXIII. Case 4. Where the act is misadvised with respect
to a circumstance which would have excluded or counterbalanced the primary
mischief in part, but not entirely: and still there is no rashness. In
this case the set is attended with some degree of secondary mischief, in
proportion to that part of the primary which remains unexcluded or
XXIV. Case 5. Where the act is misadvised with respect
to a circumstance, which, had it existed, would have excluded or
counterbalanced the primary mischief entirely, or in part: and there is a
degree of rashness in the supposal. In this case, the act is also
attended with a farther degree of secondary mischief, in proportion to the
degree of rashness.
XXV. Case 6. Where the consequences are
completely intentional, and there is no mis-supposal in the case. In
this case the secondary mischief is at the highest.
XXVI. Thus much with regard to intentionality and
consciousness. We now come to consider in what manner the secondary mischief is
affected by the nature of the motive.
Where an act is pernicious in its primary consequences, the secondary
mischief is not obliterated by the goodness of the motive; though the
motive be of the best kind. For, notwithstanding the goodness of the motive, an
act of which the primary consequences are pernicious, is produced by it in the
instance in question, by the supposition. It may, therefore, in other
instances: although this is not so likely to happen from a good motive as from
a bad one.
XXVII. An act, which, though pernicious in its primary
consequences, is rendered in other respects beneficial upon the whole, by
virtue of its secondary consequences, is not changed back again, and rendered
pernicious upon the whole by the badness of the motive: although the
motive be of the worst kind.
XXVIII. But when not only the primary consequences of
an act are pernicious, but, in other respects, the secondary likewise, the
secondary mischief may be aggravated by the nature of the motive: so
much of that mischief, to wit, as respects the future behaviour of the same
XXIX. It is not from the worst kind of motive, however,
that the secondary mischief of an act receives its greatest aggravation.
XXX. The aggravation which the secondary mischief of an
act, in as far as it respects the future behaviour of the same person, receives
from the nature of a motive in an individual case, is as the tendency of the
motive to produce, on the part of the same person, acts of the like bad
tendency with that of the act in question.
XXXI. The tendency of a motive to produce acts of the
like kind, on the part of any given person, is as the strength and
constancy of its influence on that person, as applied to the production
of such effects.
XXXII. The tendency of a species of motive to give
birth to acts of any kind, among persons in general, is as the strength,
constancy, and extensiveness
of its influence, as applied to the production of such effects.
XXXIII. Now the motives, whereof the influence is at
once most powerful, most constant, and most extensive, are the motives of
physical desire, the love of wealth, the love of ease, the love of life, and
the fear of pain: all of them self-regarding motives. The motive of
displeasure, whatever it may be in point of strength and extensiveness, is not
near so constant in its influence (the case of mere antipathy excepted) as any
of the other three. A pernicious act, therefore, when committed through
vengeance. or otherwise through displeasure, is not near so mischievous as the
same pernicious act, when committed by force of any one of those other
XXXIV. As to the motive of religion, whatever it may
sometimes prove to be in point of strength and constancy, it is not in point of
extent so universal, especially in its application to acts of a mischievous
nature, as any of the three preceding motives. It may, however, be as universal
in a particular state, or in a particular district of a particular state. It is
liable indeed to be very irregular in its operations. It is apt, however, to be
frequently as powerful as the motive of vengeance, or indeed any other motive
whatsoever. It will sometimes even be more powerful than any other motive. It
is, at any rate, much more constant. A
pernicious act, therefore, when committed through the motive of religion, is
more mischievous than when committed through the motive of ill-will.
XXXV. Lastly, The secondary mischief, to wit, so much
of it as hath respect to the future behaviour of the same person, is aggravated
or lessened by the apparent depravity or beneficence of his disposition: and
that in the proportion of such apparent depravity or beneficence.
XXXVI. The consequences we have hitherto been speaking
of, are the natural consequences, of which the act, and the other
articles we have been considering, are the causes: consequences that result
from the behaviour of the individual, who is the offending agent, without the
interference of political authority. We now come to speak of punishment:
which, in the sense in which it is here considered, is an artificial
consequence, annexed by political authority to an offensive act, in one
instance, in the view of putting a stop to the production of events similar to
the obnoxious part of its natural consequences, in other instances.
1. See ch. vi. [Sensibility].
2. Viz. a pain of privation. See ch. v. [Pleasures and Pains], xvii.
3. Viz. a pain of apprehension grounded on the
prospect of organical pain, or whatever other mischiefs might have ensued from
the ill treatment. Ib. xxx.
4. See ch. xi. [Dispositions], xl.
5. To wit, in virtue of the pain it may give a man to
be a witness to, or otherwise conscious of, the sufferings of a
fellow-creature: especially when he is himself the cause of them: in a word,
the pain of sympathy. See ch. v. [Pleasures and
6. See Hom. Odyss. L. xix. l. 395; ib. L. iii. 1. 71.
Plato de Rep. L. i. p. 576, edit. Ficin. Thucyd. L. i. — and see B. I.
tit. [Offences against external security].
7. To the former of these branches is opposed so much
of the force of any punishment, as is said to operate in the way of
reformation: to the latter, so much as is said to operate in the way of
example. See ch. xiii. par. ii. note.
8. There may be other points of view, according to
which mischief might be divided, besides these: but this does not prevent the
division here given from being an exhaustive one. A line may be divided in any
one of an infinity of ways, and yet without leaving in any one of those cases
any remainder. See ch. xvi. [Division] i. note.
9. See ch. v. [Pleasures and
10. See ch. xvi. [Division] iv. note.
11. Ch. xvi.
12. See ch. vii. [Actions] viii.
13. The investigation might, by a process rendered
obvious by analogy, be extended to the consequences of an act of a beneficial
nature. In both instances a third order of consequences may be reckoned to have
taken place, when the influence of the act, through the medium of the passive
faculty of the patient, has come to affect his active faculty. In this way 1.
Evil may flow out ofevil: — instance; the exertions of industry put
a stop to by the extinction of inducement, resulting from a continued chain of
acts of robbery or extortion. 2. Good out of evil: — instance;
habits of depredation put a stop to by a steady course of punishment. 3.
Evil out of good: — instance; habits of industry put a stop to by
an excessive course of gratuitous bounty. 4. Good out of good: —
instance; a constant and increasing course of industry, excited and kept up by
the rewards afforded by a regular and increasing market for the fruits of it.
14. An act of homicide, for instance, is not rendered
innocent, much less beneficial, merely by its proceeding from a principle of
religion, of honour (that is, of love of reputation) or even of benevolence.
When Ravaillac assassinated Henry IV. it was from a principle of religion. But
this did not so much as abate from the mischief of the act. It even rendered
the act still more mischievous, for a reason that we shall see presently, than
if it had originated from a principle of revenge. When the conspirators against
the late king of Portugal attempted to assassinate him, it is said to have been
from principle of honour. But this, whether it abated or no, will certainly not
be thought to have outweighed, the mischief of the act. Had a son of
Ravaillac's, as in the case before supposed, merely on the score of filial affection, and not
in consequence of any participation in his crime, put him to death in order to
rescue him from the severer hands of justice, the motive, although it should
not be thought to afford any proof of a mischievous disposition, and should,
even in case of punishment have made such rescuer an object of pity, would
hardly have made the act of rescue a beneficial one.
15. The prosecution of offenses, for instance, proceeds
most commonly from one or other, or both together, of two motives, the one of
which is of the self-regarding, the other of the dissocial kind: viz. pecuniary
interest, and ill-will: from pecuniary interest, for instance, whenever the
obtaining pecuniary amends for damage suffered is one end of the prosecution.
It is common enough indeed to hear men speak of prosecutions undertaken from
public spirit; which is a branch, as we have seen, of the principle of benevolence. Far be it from
me to deny but that such a principle may very frequently be an ingredient in
the sum of motives, by which men are enraged in a proceeding of this nature.
But whenever such a proceeding is engaged in from the sole influence of public
spirit, uncombined with the least tincture of self-interest, or ill-will, it
must be acknowledged to be a proceeding of the heroic kind. Now acts of heroism
are, in the very essence of them, but rare: for if they were common, they would
not be acts of heroism. But prosecutions for crimes are very frequent, and yet,
unless in very particular circumstances indeed, they are never otherwise than
16. See ch. iv. [Value].
17. It is for this reason that a threat, or other
personal outrage, when committed on a stranger, in pursuance of a scheme of
robbery, is productive of more mischief in society, and accordingly is,
perhaps, every where more severely punished, than an outrage of the same kind
offered to an acquaintance, in prosecution of a scheme of vengeance. No man is
always in a rage. But, at all times, every man, more or less, loves money.
Accordingly, although a man by his quarrelsomeness should for once have been
engaged in a bad action, he may nevertheless remain a long while, or even his
whole life-time, without engaging in another bad action of the same kind: for
he may very well remain his whole life-time without engaging in so violent a
quarrel: nor at any rate will he quarrel with more than one, or a few people at
a time. But if a man, by his love of money, has once been engaged in a bad
action, such as a scheme of robbery, he may at any time, by the influence of
the same motive, be engaged in acts of the same degree of enormity. For take
men throughout, if a man loves money to a certain degree to-day, it is probable
that he will love it, at least in equal degree, to-morrow. And if a man is
disposed to acquire it in that way, he will find inducement to rob, wheresoever
and whensoever there are people to be robbed.
18. If a man happen to take it into his head to
assassinate with his own hands, or with the sword of justice, those whom he
calls heretics, that is, people who think, or perhaps only speak, differently
upon a subject which neither party understands, he will be as much inclined to
do this at one time as at another. Fanaticism never sleeps: it is never
glutted: it is never stopped by philanthropy; for it makes a merit of trampling
on philanthropy: it is never stopped by conscience; for it has pressed
conscience into its service. Avarice, lust, and vengeance, have piety,
benevolence, honour; fanaticism has nothing to oppose it.
19. Ch. xi. [Disposition] xv.
20. See ch. x. [Motives] xxv.
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