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Lord Acton

  • British historian
  • Born January 10, 1834
  • Died June 19, 1902

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, (10 January 1834 – 19 June 1902), 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 and prime minister Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet. Between 1837 and 1869 he was known as Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet. He is perhaps best known for the remark, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...", which he made in a letter to an Anglican bishop.


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




If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning, we feel a certain void. Nothing in the paper today, we sigh.




The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern.




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.




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




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




Machiavelli's teaching would hardly have stood the test of Parliamentary government, for public discussion demands at least the profession of good faith.




Socialism means slavery.




There is not a soul who does not have to beg alms of another, either a smile, a handshake, or a fond eye.




Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral laws are written on the table of eternity.




Learn as much by writing as by reading.




Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.




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.




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.




The man who prefers his country before any other duty shows the same spirit as the man who surrenders every right to the state. They both deny that right is superior to authority.




To be able to look back upon one's past life with satisfaction is to live twice.




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




A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times.




Save for the wild force of Nature, nothing moves in this world that is not Greek in its origin.




I'm not a driven businessman, but a driven artist. I never think about money. Beautiful things make money.




And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.




The long term versus the short term argument is one used by losers.




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




Property is not the sacred right. When a rich man becomes poor it is a misfortune, it is not a moral evil. When a poor man becomes destitute, it is a moral evil, teeming with consequences and injurious to society and morality.




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




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




Be generous before you are just. Do not temper mercy with justice.




Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.

Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.



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