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Quotes of the day: Lord Acton

Published Friday, January 10, 2014 @ 12:04 AM EST
Jan 10 2014

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, KCVO, DL (January 10, 1834 - June 19, 1902)- known as Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Bt from 1837 to 1869, and usually referred to simply as Lord Acton- was an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer. He was the only son of Sir Ferdinand Dalberg-Acton, 7th Baronet and a grandson of the Neapolitan admiral Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet. He is famous for his remark, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition.

Be not content with the best book; seek sidelights from the others; have no favourites.

Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

Fanaticism displays itself in the masses; but the masses were rarely fanaticised; and the crimes ascribed to it were commonly due to the calculations of dispassionate politicians.

Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.

History provides neither compensation for suffering nor penalties for wrong.

It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist.

Judge not according to the orthodox standard of a system religious, philosophical, political, but according as things promote, or fail to promote the delicacy, integrity, and authority of Conscience.

Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.

Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.

Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime...

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Put conscience above both system and success.

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class.

The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.

The science of politics is the one science that is deposited by the streams of history, like the grains of gold in the sand of a river; and the knowledge of the past, the record of truths revealed by experience, is eminently practical, as an instrument of action and a power that goes to making the future.

The story of the future is written in the past, and that which hath been is the same thing that shall be.

The strong man with the dagger is followed by the weak man with the sponge.

There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion.

There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.

There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

There is not a more perilous or immoral habit of mind than the sanctifying of success.

Universal History is ... not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.


Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.
-Eric Hoffer

In the United States, though power corrupts, the expectation of power paralyzes.
-John Kenneth Galbraith

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
-David Brin

Power corrupts- isn't that what it's for?

Power corrupts. Absolute power is kinda neat, though.
-John Lehman

Power corrupts; PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.
-Vinton Cerf

Power dements even more than it corrupts, lowering the guard of foresight and raising the haste of action.
-Will Duran

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts, perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
-John Steinbeck

Power interrupts. Uninterruptible power interrupts absolutely.
-Craig Bruce

You know, 'power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?' It's the same with powerlessness. Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.
-Studs Terkel

Categories: John Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton, Quotes of the day


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