LORD ACTON QUOTES

English historian, politician & writer (1834-1902)

Lord Acton quote

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

LORD ACTON, letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, Apr. 3, 1887

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Tags: power, corruption


Before God, there is neither Greek nor barbarian, neither rich nor poor, and the slave is as good as his master, for by birth all men are free; they are citizens of that universal commonwealth which embraces all the world, brethren of one family, and children of God.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: equality


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

LORD ACTON, letter to Richard Simpson, Jan. 23, 1861

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Tags: secrets


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

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: freedom


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.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: democracy, political parties


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

LORD ACTON, letter to Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887

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Tags: politics


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.

LORD ACTON, postscript of letter to Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887

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Tags: conscience


ADVICE TO PERSONS ABOUT TO WRITE HISTORY -- DON'T.

LORD ACTON, postscript of letter to Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887

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Tags: history


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

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: liberty, freedom


There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men. Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities, such as More, Bacon, Grotius, Pascal, Cromwell, Bossuet, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Napoleon, Pitt, etc. The result would be an Encyclopedia of Error.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, Apr. 24, 1881

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Tags: Francis Bacon, Thomas Jefferson


By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: liberty, custom


Judge talent at its best and character at its worst.

LORD ACTON, The Study of History

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Tags: talent, character


The true guide of our conduct is no outward authority, but the voice of God, who comes down to dwell in our souls, who knows all our thoughts, to whom are owing all the truth we know, and all the good we do; for vice is voluntary, and virtue comes from the grace of the heavenly spirit within.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: God, authority


I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives, and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong.

LORD ACTON, The Study of History

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Tags: morality, history


Great and decided talent is a tower of strength which cannot be subverted. Envy, detraction, and persecution, are missiles hurled against it only to fall harmless at its base, and to strengthen what they cannot overthrow. It seeks not the applause of the present moment, in which folly or mediocrity often secure the preference; but it extends its bright and prophetic vision through the "dark obscure" of distant time, and bequeaths to remote generations the vindication of its honor and fame, and the clear comprehensions of its truths.

LORD ACTON, Acton; Or, The Circle of Life

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Tags: talent


I talk nonsense at times, because sense is monotonous.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, September 21, 1880

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Tags: nonsense


There are truths so prosaic, so dense, so dull, that one can hardly state them without suggesting the idea of something subtler or more interesting beyond.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, June 9, 1880

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Tags: truth


The light that has guided us is still unquenched, and the causes that have carried us so far in the van of free nations have not spent their power; because the story of the future is written in the past, and that which hath been is the same thing that shall be.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Christianity

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Tags: future, past


The history of institutions is often a history of deception and illusions; for their virtue depends on the ideas that produce and on the spirit that preserves them, and the form may remain unaltered when the substance has passed away.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

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Tags: ideas, illusion


Be not content with the best book; seek sidelights from the others.

LORD ACTON, The Study of History

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Tags: books