Of Crimes, Excuses, and Extenuations

Again, if we compare crimes by the mischief of their effects; first, the same fact when it redounds to the damage of many is greater than when it redounds to the hurt of few.  And therefore when a fact hurteth, not only in the present, but also by example in the future, it is a greater crime than if it hurt only in the present:  for the former is a fertile crime, and multiplies to the hurt of many; the latter is barren.  To maintain doctrines contrary to the religion established in the Commonwealth is a greater fault in an authorised preacher than in a private person:  so also is it to live profanely, incontinently, or do any irreligious act whatsoever.

Likewise in a professor of the law, to maintain any point, or do any act, that tendeth to the weakening of the sovereign power is a greater crime than in another man:  also in a man that hath such reputation for wisdom as that his counsels are followed, or his actions imitated by many, his fact against the law is a greater crime than the same fact in another:  for such men not only commit crime, but teach it for law to all other men.  And generally all crimes are the greater by the scandal they give; that is to say, by becoming stumbling-blocks to the weak, that look not so much upon the way they go in, as upon the light that other men carry before them.

Also facts of hostility against the present state of the Commonwealth are greater crimes than the same acts done to private men:  for the damage extends itself to all:  such are the betraying of the strengths or revealing of the secrets of the Commonwealth to an enemy; also all attempts upon the representative of the Commonwealth, be it a monarch or an assembly; and all endeavours by word or deed to diminish the authority of the same, either in the present time or in succession:  which crimes the Latins understand by crimina laesae majestatis, and consist in design, or act, contrary to a fundamental law. Likewise those crimes which render judgements of no effect are greater crimes than injuries done to one or a few persons; as to receive money to give false judgement or testimony is a greater crime than otherwise to deceive a man of the like or a greater sum; because not only he has wrong, that falls by such judgements, but all judgements are rendered useless, and occasion ministered to force and private revenges.

Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan; Chapter XXVII

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