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

Lord Acton Quote

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

Lord ActonLord Acton
~ Lord Acton

The History of Freedom, 1907

Ratings and Comments

E Archer, NYC

That's what it's all about.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

but it is nothing without food, water, shelter, basic health care... if we can not care for others to insure that they too enjoy these basics of life, then we have no liberty, we are but slaves to our own materialism.

Mike, Norwalk

Compelled compliance, victimless crimes, license, theft of the labor's fruits, forced health care, charity and ID all destroy the highest ideal, liberty. Only when man considers himself god (able to create law) and the government his church (moral justification) with ability to force the prior, so that he might insure food, water, shelter, basic health care to each and everyone does liberty give way to slavery.

Joe, Rochester, MI

Reston ... if people are short of food, water, shelter or other basics, they should work for them or request charity. I'm tired of government giving the "basics" to those on welfare who are simply too lazy to work. When government provides the basics, people often have more and nicer nonessentials (TVs, SUVs, clothes) than I can afford. It's nice if you choose to contribute to a charity, but government steals my money and gives it away to people who mostly don't need it. That is NOT liberty.

JoW, Utah
  • Reply
JoW, Utah    4/16/08

Great qoute, but I don't believe that if you can create law your almighty. Law is created when it is followed though.

Mike, Norwalk

JoW the philosophy you espouse falls within a legal category of 'legal realism'. Follow through equals creation ? ? ? hmmm (when the police captain orders JoW to be beat and the jack booted subservient thugs obey, what law is that ?)

The statement's wording is a little weird, leaving room for multiple interpretations and misunderstandings. Liberty is neither a means or an ends, it just is. Liberty is "the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature" (as is averse to legal positivism and legal realism). Politics pertains to policy or a designate body of administration (individual or in concert). It may then be said of politics that there is a means and/or an ends. De jure politics at natural law uniquely addresses order - how best to ensure each individuals lawful expressions. (all else is despotism, tyranny, usurpation, legal positivism, legal realism and anything else that is antagonistic or destructive to inalienable rights.

  • Reply
anonymous    7/23/14

The word liberty is like the word love insofar as neither is strictly defined. So, . . . what are we talking about?

Mike, Norwalk

anonymous fyi, the definition I gave above is from Bouvier's Law Dictionary. From Black's law Dictionary: Liberty: exemption from extraneous control. The power of the will, in its moral freedom, to follow the dictates of its unrestricted choice, and to direct the external acts of the individual without restraint, coercion, or control from other persons. Liberty is the right which nature gives to all mankind of disposing of their persons and property after the manner they judge most consistent with their happiness, on condition of their acting within the limits of the law of nature, and so as not to interfere with an equal exercise of the same rights by other men. I can site court cases, public law and otherwise to show liberty is strictly defined. Being a progressive, you are obviously very uncomfortable with liberty. Your theocratic canons of choice painfully and severely conflict with defined liberty. It is a normal practice of socialists (both left and right) to redefine terms, propagating confusion and furthering their agenda of ignorance and tyranny. (that is probably the reason why you don't know what is being talked about)

Mary - MI
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Mary - MI    7/23/14

Here's the way liberty can be defined ... The right to live freely and make your own choices and decisions whether right or wrong. The right to be left alone without a government or a despots edict, interference, manipulation or control as long as you do not create or cause harm to another person or their property.

Charity comes from the heart, conscience and Free Will of the Individual ... and not through a confiscatory and plundering middleman government bureaucracy!
"But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime." -- Frederic Bastiat

Ron w13, Or

Liberty is used 27 times in a KJB. There are 27 books in the New Testament. The NT exposing oppression by way of a religious sec working in concert with a ruling party. Liberty is translated, ( Drowr, so clear, pure ), ( Chophshiy, free from bondage and TAX ) being a very key point. As also ( Eleutheria, manumission from slavery ). The ultimate use of the word, ( Apeleutheros, liberty, access to God ). There is no higher point to achieve.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with Certain Inalienable Rights; that among ( these) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course as always my source text being the Rock upon which the Republic rest. KJB. A compilation of experience through time, for our admonition and learning. Acton is always on point. The law of Liberty, most now have no concept of liberty for they have always lived a life as a tributary, slave under tax and bondage. If there had been mercy shown by the lender for the loan to fight the revolution, Then there would not have been the need for the whiskey tax to pay back the loan. The law of Liberty being transgressed after proclaiming liberty for all. Socialism only perpetuates condoned robbery. Payroll and property tax are the nails in the coffin of Liberty. Talk about a shrinking tax base, if liberty were ever restored. One would need to trust in God to endure the chaos. Exactions from the people must stop. If one does not believe in metaphysics , you should start ! Gladstone's Finance system of natural liberty would be a good place to start. After removing payroll and property tax. That would put big gov in its place !

jim k, austin tx

Ron w13,Or, very interesting, but I have a small problem with one of your lines. "One would need to trust in God to endure the Chaos". This sounds about right to any fundamentalist but I don't think it's necessarily true. It certainly could be for some individuals but not all.

Ron w13, Or

If one suffers we all suffer. The implosion affecting the lest the most ? During the great depression , many with material possessions seeking food, clothing and shelter. Leaving the cities for lack of food and livelihoods. But my family, living on a farm with stores and orchards, and livestock. sharing with them, as they walked down the road with their babies in their arms ! Wanting to trade for food ! Perhaps to sleep in the barn. The mother so hungry, licking the plates of her children after they had eaten. Not knowing where their next meal would come from. Tax one off their land, makes slaves forever. The fact we have been reduced to slavery is very true. The fact that God and not man makes us free is equally true. Jim your stance is very neutral, trusting in your wealth rather than the Creator. Long suffering He is with the children of men. We will ask to come to eat at your home and work for you. But if I trade labor for a peace of land from you, work your land in trade for seed from you, work your land for food on my table. Would you expect tribute from me once the trade is complete ? Perhaps hidden in the small print of a contract ?

Mike, Norwalk

Ron, excellent, thank you !

Bobble, Charlotte, VT

All too esoteric for my "pea brain." Isn't there somewhere a phrase about "on the head of a pin" ? That's what I feel like after we "liberty"-loving folks ( whatever THAT means ) try to tell others what "liberty" REALLY means. Say !, maybe that's it -- liberty is like "love," as one pointed out -- or "beauty" which "is in the eye of the beholder." Some things cannot be confined by man's description -- as one of the commenters stated, it "IS," ,,, but .. ahem, please feel at liberty to decline or disagree with my comment.

Ron w13, Or

Liberty in all its forms are well defined, There is always more below the surface of the water. But a child of understanding will draw it out. It is labor to know, when so many wish to hide the truth, of a single word. It is not to disagree or agree Bobble, but to state a fact of truth not commonly known among the populous. Liberty is not a mystery, but hidden facts are the dup of statesmen, kings and queens, rulers of slaves.

Mike, Norwalk

Bobblie, you include yourself ("we") with those folks that love "liberty'; then you proceed with an admittance of ignorance, not knowing what you included yourself in, means. What meaning do you not understand (Esoteric, folks, liberty, loving, liberty-loving) To your quandary, yes, there is a phrase about "on the head of a pin". Liberty's meaning and otherwise finite definition fits there so, even the non-esoteric can understand it. The Bouvier's and Black's law dictionary definitions above (along with Mary's and Ron's comments) all fit on that proverbial pin's head to give a confinement by man's description. It is real simple; if you do not agree with those here stated definitions, you do NOT love liberty (your theocratic / anti-liberty definitions may be out there in the ethos or utopia of non-describable loving abstracts ?). Bobbie, you did make me smile great big and out loud with the Clintonesque reference to defining "IS" (-: that is a ... but... ahem I like it, a lot ;-). Socialists (left and right, progressive and conservative, communist and fascist, Democrat and Republican, etc.) live in the flowery abstract, never having finite understandings to get in their way of advancing theocratic despotism (anti-liberty). Such socialists do torture, kill, loot and incarcerate those that would act on liberty's finite definition (beauty and theocratic advancement are truly in the eye of the beholder). By your comment, have you got caught up in the governments propaganda or the fear that generates from the mandated non-understanding ? The land that was once the de jure States united, with aspirations of liberty, is no more. I know of no land of liberty on the planet (if that hurts your sensibilities, that's just the way it "IS").

Robert, Neboville TN

Where is it decreed that I am responsible for someone, other than myself, and their needs? Only a misguided progressive thinks this way.

Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

Responsibility is the finally, then we will attain progressive freedoms.


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