Lord ActonLord Acton, [John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton] (1834-1902), First Baron Acton of Aldenham

Lord Acton Quote

“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 ActonLord Acton
~ Lord Acton

Lord Acton, in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877)

Ratings and Comments

J. B. Wulff, Bristol, CT

Shades of J. C. Calhoun. The protection regarding majorities is the issue of the moment. When more people are on the gov't's expense side than are on the input side paying taxes, this quote lights up the hall. It could get nasty.

anon, anon
  • Reply
    anon, anon    8/9/10

    And what would be the duty of an American patriot in these days? the answer is in the minds of many.

    Mike, Norwalk

    J. B. Wulff said very well. Is the Law of Nature and Nature's God an immediate protection of all unalienable rights or, a day to day assurance against despotism and tyranny or, is ultimate and true justice left to a belief system? NO - he who forgets history (or spins it in a convoluted way to satisfy a certain prejudice) is doomed to relive it. Liberty exists when a man does what he believes or desires, including his duties when it does not infringe on the rights of another. hmmm, I think the overall sentiment overshadows any rudimentary structure flaws.

    Justin, Elkland

    Madison believed that a government made up of opposing minority factions was a safer government than one of clear majorities. That we have allowed the two party system to become so efficient at passing laws has been deadly to liberty.

    jim k, Austin,Tx

    The republicans and democrats are two sides of the same coin. You can barely tell the difference. The only party of small government and low taxes is the Libertarian party. Naturally the republicrats make sure that they are never part of any of those phony "debates" at election time.

    cal, Lewisville, tx

    Well said Jim, a fellow Texan and Libertarian.

    Jamie, Nelson

    That Lord Acton also said this,"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it. "[3]That had this had been listened to, the crimes perpetrated by priests in our communities would not have been "sanctified"?

    E Archer, NYC

    Generally, "the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion" is what the average person clings to rather than thinking for themselves. Freemen must always resist every attempt to bend to the will of others based on custom and popular opinion.

    A.WOODS, Gloucester

    Well said, Archer.

    J Carlton, Calgary

    Go with morality, Go with ethics and nobility. And if you like Go with God. But if we are to change the USA back into a Constitutional Republic you absolutely MUST Go Libertarian.

    Abigail, Newport

    Are there any honorable men left? If so we have only voted 3 of them into office...Flake (AZ), Paul (TX), Coburn (OK). That is not a great record when the majority are communists (progressives) Better do better next time around. Men must stand for something: personal liberty, God, family, and country. Anything less is treasonous. We may wish to explore GOOOH.com for a new way of gathering constitutional candidates. It favors not parties, but men and women of honor.

    A.Jurgensen, Stuart, FL

    Abigail, honor is in the eye of the beholder. The 3 people you mention are honorable to YOU, perhaps, but are not according to most people or they would already be leading the country. Their ideas are anathema to most of us. Decency mustn't be confused with honor. After all there is honor among thieves.

    Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

    Liberty is a developing process that the child resists in reality. The child is a opponent to true liberty. As the scientific adult tries to refine the process of freedom he is incorporating new concepts, new terms and this leads to new ideas  somewhat colliding with old ideas and if in the process of clarifying new conceptualizations they are not fully changed immediately the child wants to ironically incarcerate the adult for not performing the impossible perfection that the always foolish child requires.


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