Lord Acton
Quotations


A generous spirit prefers that his country should be poor, and weak, and of no account, but free, rather than powerful, prosperous, and enslaved.

A government does not desire its powers to be strictly defined, but the subjects require the line to be drawn with increasing precision.

A history that should pursue all the subtle threads from end to end might be eminently valuable, but not as a tribute to peace and conciliation.

A liberal is only a bundle of prejudices until he has mastered, has understood, experienced the philosophy of Conservatism.

A man can be trusted only up to low-water mark.

Absolute power demoralizes.

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. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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

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

Do not turn yourself from an end into a means—one does not justify the other.

Every error pronounces judgment on itself when it attempts to apply its rules to the standard of truth.

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

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

In England Parliament is above the law. In America the law is above Congress.

Ink was not invented to express our real feelings.

It is dangerous, at any time, to multiply sources of weakness.

It is very easy to speak words of wisdom from a comfortable distance, when one sees no reality, no details, none of the effect on men's minds.

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

Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.

Many men can no more be kept straight by spiritual motives than we can live without policemen.

Many things are better for silence than for speech: others are better for speech than for stationery.

Monarchy hardens into despotism. Aristocracy contracts into oligarchy. Democracy expands into the supremacy of numbers.

Official truth is not actual truth.

Piety sometimes gives birth to scruples, and faith to superstition, when they are not directed by wisdom and knowledge.

Political differences essentially depend on disagreement in moral principles.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.

Remember that one touch of ill-nature makes the whole world kin.

Self-preservation and self-denial: the basis of all political economy.

Socialism easily accepts despotism. It requires the strongest execution of power—power sufficient to interfere with property.

The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality.

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

The form of government and the condition of society must always correspond. Social equality is therefore a postulate of pure democracy.

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 mills of God grind slowly.

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 reward of history is that it releases and relieves us from present strife.

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

The test of liberty is the position and security of minorities.

The will of the people cannot make just that which is unjust.

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 worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

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

Towns were the nursery of freedom.

Truth is the only merit that gives dignity and worth to history.

We are not sure we are right until we have made the best case possible for those who are wrong.



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