87 Lord Acton Quotes from Famous English Catholic Historian

Born in Naples in 1834, 1st Baron Acton was a crucial English Liberal historian and moralist, renowned for critiquing state power.

Raised nobly, Acton mingled with notable Whigs and studied meticulously under historian Döllinger.

Although his parliamentary tenure was brief, he significantly influenced peers including Prime Minister Gladstone, focusing his writings and lectures on liberty, democracy and morality.

Lord Acton

Acton’s legacy, deeply rooted in Christian values and anti-oppression stance, is celebrated for its political morality insights and freedom advocacy.

His famous aphorism, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” encapsulates his enduring, relevant wisdom.

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I have noted below the top quotes by Lord Acton.

Best Lord Acton Quotes

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

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. ~ Lord Acton.

Absolute power demoralizes. ~ Lord Acton.

There is another world for the expiation of guilt; but the wages of folly are payable here below. ~ Lord Acton.

Every class is unfit to govern. ~ Lord Acton.


Great men are almost always bad men. ~ Lord Acton.

Judge talent at its best and character at its worst. ~ Lord Acton.

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

Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority. ~ Lord Acton.

There is not a more perilous or immoral habit of mind than the sanctifying of success. ~ Lord Acton.

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

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

It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. ~ Lord Acton.

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Famous Lord Acton Quotes

Political differences essentially depend on disagreement in moral principles. ~ Lord Acton.

Liberty has not only enemies which it conquers, but perfidious friends, who rob the fruits of its victories: Absolute democracy, socialism. ~ Lord Acton.

If the past has been an obstacle and a burden, knowledge of the past is the safest and the surest emancipation. ~ Lord Acton.

No public character has ever stood the revelation of private utterance and correspondence. ~ Lord Acton.

A people averse to the institution of private property is without the first elements of freedom. ~ Lord Acton.


Moral precepts are constant through the ages and not obedient to circumstances. ~ Lord Acton.

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

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

Live both in the future and the past. Who does not live in the past does not live in the future. ~ Lord Acton.

Political atheism: End justifies the means. This is still the most widespread of all the opinions inimical to liberty. ~ Lord Acton.

Towns were the nursery of freedom. ~ Lord Acton.

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

Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~ Lord Acton.

Top Lord Acton Quotes

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

Good and evil lie close together. Seek no artistic unity in character. ~ Lord Acton.

The possession of unlimited power corrodes the conscience, hardens the heart, and confounds the understanding. ~ Lord Acton.

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

History is a great innovator and breaker of idols. ~ Lord Acton.

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. ~ Lord Acton.

Feudalism made land the measure and the master of all things. ~ Lord Acton.

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


Progress, the religion of those who have none. ~ Lord Acton.

There should be a law to the People besides its own will. ~ Lord Acton.

The finest opportunity ever given to the world was thrown away because the passion of equality made vain the hope for freedom. ~ Lord Acton.

Popular Lord Acton Quotes

Authority that does not exist for Liberty is not authority but force. ~ Lord Acton.

Government rules the present. Literature rules the future. ~ Lord Acton.

Men cannot be made good by the state, but they can easily be made bad. Morality depends on liberty. ~ Lord Acton.

Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance. ~ Lord Acton.

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

Before men can find peace and harmony within themselves they must first fall in love with their country. ~ Lord Acton.

Guard against the prestige of great names; see that your judgments are your own; and do not shrink from disagreement; no trusting without testing. ~ Lord Acton.

Fanaticism displays itself in the masses; but the masses were rarely fanaticised; and the crimes ascribed to it were commonly due to the calculations of dispassionate politicians. ~ Lord Acton.

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

Liberty is the prevention of control by others. ~ Lord Acton.

Great Lord Acton Quotes

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

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

Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality. ~ Lord Acton.

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. ~ Lord Acton.

History, to be above evasion or dispute, must stand on documents, not on opinions. ~ Lord Acton.

Socialism means slavery. ~ Lord Acton.

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

When you perceive a truth, look for the balancing truth. ~ Lord Acton.

In England Parliament is above the law. In America the law is above Congress. ~ Lord Acton.

Insightful Lord Acton Quotes

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

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.


Socrates taught a law independent of the state and superior to it. ~ Lord Acton.

Liberty becomes a question of morals more than of politics. ~ Lord Acton.

Character is tested by true sentiments more than by conduct. A man is seldom better than his word. ~ Lord Acton.

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

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

Do not turn yourself from an end into a means-one does not justify the other. ~ Lord Acton.

Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being. ~ Lord Acton.

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

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority. ~ Lord Acton.

Powerful Lord Acton Quotes

History provides neither compensation for suffering nor penalties for wrong. ~ Lord Acton.

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

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

Liberty is the harmony between the will and the law. ~ Lord Acton.


Ink was not invented to express our real feelings. ~ Lord Acton.

A convinced man differs from a prejudiced man as an honest man from a liar. ~ Lord Acton.

Wise Lord Acton Quotes

I have reached the end of my time, and have hardly come to the beginning of my task. ~ Lord Acton.

It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others. ~ Lord Acton.

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

I’m not a driven businessman, but a driven artist. I never think about money. Beautiful things make money. ~ Lord Acton.

History is not only a particular branch of knowledge, but a particular mode and method of knowledge in other branches. ~ Lord Acton.

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

Conscription is not tolerated by a people that understands and loves freedom. ~ Lord Acton.

So these were the 87 top Lord Acton quotes and sayings on history, freedom and absolute power.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

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