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

The most famous Lord Acton quotes that are free to learn and impress others

Federalism is the best curb on democracy.

[It] assigns limited powers to the central government. Thereby all power is limited. It excludes absolute power of the majority.

73

Liberty and good government do not exclude each other;

and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.

68

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

67

Socialism means slavery.

58

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

55

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power...power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

51

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

50

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

50

Feudalism made land the measure and the master of all things.

49

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

47

Great men are almost always bad men.

39

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

36

About Lord Acton

Quotes 137 sayings
Nationality British
Profession Historian
Birthday 10 January 1834

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

30

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

26

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

26

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.

23

The mills of God grind slowly.

23

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority.

23

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

23

The true guide of our conduct is no outward authority, but the voice of God, who comes down to dwell in our souls, who knows all our thoughts, to whom are owing all the truth we know, and all the good we do; for vice is voluntary, and virtue comes from the grace of the heavenly spirit within.

17

At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous.

16

Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice;

nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

14

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

14

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

13

It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist. But from the absolute will of an entire people there is no appeal, no redemption, no refuge but treason.

12

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

9

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.

8

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

8

Guard against the prestige of great names;

see that your judgments are your own; and do not shrink from disagreement; no trusting without testing

7

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.

7

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

7

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.

7

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

6

Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime.

5

The principle of the Inquisition was murderous.

. . . The popes were not only murderers in the great style, but they also made murder a legal basis of the Christian Church and a condition of salvation.

5

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

5

The common vice of democracy is disregard for morality.

5

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

4

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

4

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

4

At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities.

4

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 the certainty of corruption by authority.

4

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

4

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.

3

Liberty is the prevention of control by others.

This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being.

3

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

3

I saw in States' rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy.... Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization, and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.

3

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

3

Absolute power demoralizes.

3
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