I loves me some Lord Acton

I think I stole the tone of the title, and this post was generated by a comment thread elsewhere, but in truth the genesis goes further back than even that.

I’ll be quoting freely from the Wikipedia article on the man… Mine is not a formal research effort and there’s a certain convenience involved. Besides it jibes well with what memory and other hasty research suggest.

During the American Civil War, his sympathies lay entirely with the Confederacy, for their defense of States’ Rights against a centralized government that, by all historical precedent, would inevitably turn tyrannical.

Then there is what has become known as Lord Acton’s Dictum.:

“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. “

I’m not sure when or where I found his ideas becoming mine, but they most certainly have permeated my thinking for some time.

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