Their power was arbitrary, even when it was most wisely employed; and yet the Roman Empire rendered greater services to the cause of Liberty than the Roman Republic. It is bad to be oppressed by a minority; but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. Official corruption, which would ruin a commonwealth, serves in Russia as a salutary relief from the pressure of absolutism. It must also be stated that so far from approving Mr. Slavery was almost everywhere extinct; and absolute power was deemed more intolerable and more criminal than slavery. Sir Nicholas Bacon was one of the ministers who suppressed the mass in England.
In time I discovered that it was the perfection of a developed character. 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 been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just ground of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success. In the middle ages it possessed too little authority, and suffered others to intrude. Seeing how little security there is that the laws of any land shall be wise or just, and that the unanimous will of a people and the assent of nations are liable to err, the Stoics looked beyond those narrow barriers, and above those inferior sanctions, for the principles that ought to regulate the lives of men and the existence of society. Their peculiar character prompted them to ascribe the origin of their laws to early times, and in their desire to justify the continuity of their institutions and to get rid of the reproach of innovation, they imagined the legendary history of the Kings of Rome. There were, it is true, deliberative assemblies, chosen by the people; and confederate cities, of which, both in Asia and in Europe there were so many Leagues, sent their delegates, to sit in federal councils. At last, Tacitus, wiser than the rest, confessed that the mixed constitution, however admirable in theory, was difficult to establish and impossible to maintain.
If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more; and its advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge, as much as in the improvement of laws. In reality the new President differs from the Magistrate imagined by the Fathers of the Republic as widely as Monarchy from Democracy, for he is expected to make 70,000 changes in the public service; fifty years ago John Quincy Adams dismissed only two men. At home it relieved Dissent, purified justice, developed the national energies and resources, and ultimately, by the Act of Settlement, placed the crown in the gift of the people. Their test of good government is its conformity to principles that can be traced to a higher legislator. It was by the presence or absence of political principles that he judged them.
While statesmen and senates and popular assemblies supplied examples of every description of blunder, a noble literature arose, in which a priceless treasure of political knowledge was stored and in which the defects of the existing institutions were exposed with unsparing sagacity. And it has in all times proved more easy to create limitations by the use of force than by persuasion. Each paragraph, almost every sentence is a perfectly chiselled whole, impressive by no brilliance or outside polish, so much as by the inward intensity of which it is the symbol. The Laws of the one, the Politics of the other, are, if I may trust my own experience, the books from which we may learn the most about the principles of politics. Liberty, by this definition, is the essential condition and guardian of Religion; and it is in the history of the chosen People, accordingly, that the first illustrations of my subject are obtained. Years ago, when I saw much of him, most people had not found him out. Formerly known as Lord Acton, John E.
As he wrote to Döllinger, the evil lay deeper, and Vaticanism was but the last triumph of a policy that was centuries old. Plato would not suffer a democratic polity; but he challenged all existing authorities to justify themselves before a superior tribunal; he desired that all constitutions should be thoroughly remodelled, and he supplied the greatest need of Greek democracy, the conviction that the will of the people is subject to the will of God, and that all civil authority, except that of an imaginary state, is limited and conditional. The early Christians avoided contact with the State, abstained from the responsibilities of office, and were even reluctant to serve in the army. Throughout the East it was propped by the unchanging influence of priests and armies. Even Hume did not enlarge the bounds of his ideas; and his narrow materialistic belief in the connection between liberty and property captivated even the bolder mind of Fox. This vital element, which many centures of warfare, of anarchy, of oppression had extinguished in the countries that were still draped in the pomp of ancient civilisation, was deposited on the soil of Christendom by the fertilising stream of migration that overthrew the empire of the West.
In gathering the materials of international law, he had to go beyond national treaties and denominational interests for a principle embracing all mankind. The first striking phenomenon is the slowness with which an action destined to be so prodigious became manifest. If institutions can be corrupted with bad ideas, they can also be reinvigorated with good ideas. Few could be better prepared to be the historian of European Democracy than one who, having so long studied the mechanism of popular government in the most illustrious of assemblies at the height of its power, has written its history, and taught its methods to the world. When the struggle between Church and State extended to England, our Churchmen learned to associate themselves with the popular cause; and, with few exceptions, neither the hierarchical spirit of the foreign divines, nor the monarchical bias peculiar to the French, characterised the writers of the English school. If it has succeeded anywhere it has been in our favoured country and in our time: and we know not yet how long the wisdom of the nation will preserve the equipoise.
Founds, edits, and concludes The Home and Foreign Review. The Polish Government alone at that time left it to its course. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Throughout these years of revolutionary change Sir Thomas Erskine May has been more closely and constantly connected with the centre of public affairs than any other Englishman, and his place, during most of the time, has been at the table of the House of Commons, where he has sat, like Canute, and watched the rising tide. It was a momentous step in the progress of nations when the principle that every interest should have the right and the means of asserting itself was adopted by the Athenian constitution. At the same time they wish to take the entire responsibility for the opinions expressed therein. Solon gave them a voice in electing magistrates from the classes above them, and the right of calling them to account.
The only resource against political disorders that had been known till then was the concentration of power. Author: John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton Acton, Baron Publisher: London, Macmillan, 1907. And Socrates perished by the reaction which they provoked. It may surely be further admitted that even intellectual activity has too much of triviality about it to-day; that if people despise the schoolmen, it is rather owing to their virtues than their defects, because impressionism has taken the place of thought, and brilliancy that of labour. He took only one step towards democracy, but it was the first of a series. Rarely did he show to better advantage than in the articles and reviews he wrote in that short-lived rival of the Saturday Review. To bring order out of chaotic ruin, to rear a new civilisation and blend hostile and unequal races into a nation, the thing wanted was not liberty but force.
The authority allowed to fathers, to masters, to creditors, was as incompatible with the spirit of freedom as the practice of the servile East. The duties of government were less in their thoughts than the private virtues and duties of subjects; and it was long before they became aware of the burden of power in their faith. His correspondence with the latter throws his principles into the strongest light, and forms the best material for a judgment. The right of insurrection was not only admitted but defined, as a duty sanctioned by religion. All societies, he said, are founded on contract for mutual protection. Neither popes nor princes, not even Protestant persecutors, did Acton condemn more deeply than the crimes of majorities and the fury of uncontrolled democracy. It followed that the sovereign people had a right to do whatever was within its power, and was bound by no rule of right or wrong but its own judgment of expediency.