Liberty Quotation: Lord Acton on Power

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Sir John Dalberg-Acton“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, increasing as the power increases. . . .  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.  There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

Sir John Dalberg-Acton, in a letter to Mandell Creighton [1887]