Talk:John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

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His memoes to Gladstone swayed the British government to sympathy with the South, and only British distaste for slavery (which they had abolished decades before) kept them from active intervention.

I don't think this is really true at all. Gladstone, in the first place, was the British cabinet member who was most sympathetic to intervention. A number of important cabinet members, including Argyll, Lewis, and Granville, were strongly opposed to intervention, and the first and last were sympathetic to the union. Russell, as far as I'm aware, seriously contemplated the idea of an offer of mediation. I've never seen any real evidence that he actually contemplated a war with the United States, much less that Palmerston, who was a lot cagier, and a lot less principled, did. The British government, as a whole, was sympathetic to the South, and probably many members of the government hoped that it won. Almost nobody was actually willing to fight a war with the United States to help the South win, not even Gladstone. All the serious thoughts of mediation came at a time when it looked like the south might win on its own. This sentence needs to be seriously changed. john k 13:56, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Lord Acton's dictum[edit]

In general use is Lord Acton's dictum, which states, power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Is this the exact original wording? Where and when was it first coined by Lord Acton? For instance, [1] cites 1887 as the date, but there isn't a reference. DFH 14:15, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Wikiquote - Lord Acton gives the full quotation and also cites, "Letter to Mandell Creighton (April [3? or 5?], 1887) - some normally reliable sources indicate April 3, and others indicate April 5". DFH 15:59, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

The quotation given from which the so-called Acton's Dictum is derived was correct but incomplete. What follows "great men are almost always bad men" is even more interesting, which I added. The source I have is a selected compilation of Lord Acton's essays which includes, at the end, a reproduction of the letter Lord Acton sent to Mandell Creighton which contains the famous phrase. It is dated at Cannes, April 5, 1887. Fjapinteric (talk) 22:49, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Not allowed into Cambridge because he was Catholic[edit]

"He had endeavoured to procure admission to Cambridge, but for a Roman Catholic this was then impossible", seems to conflict with the later statement, "appointed (him) to the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge". At that time, Britain had left that sort of bigotry to a past era.

Roman Catholics were admitted to Oxford and Cambridge in 1871, so Acton's Roman Catholicism prevented him studying at Oxbridge as a young man but didn't prevent his later appointment. Norvo 23:51, 23 April 2007 (UTC)
His father and uncle were both Catholics (his uncle became a Cardinal) and both studied at Cambridge but left without taking degrees. He may not have been able to receive a degree but surely he could have studied there, if he had wanted to.

[edit] Catholicism and Lord Acton[edit]

This is a superb piece of manipulation. How a habile selection of data can reverse completely the truth?. How the biography of a devote cristian catholic liberal can be used as a excuse for attacking the Catolic Church?. Read this biography.

This part is completely biased. It tries to represent that Lord Acton as a furibund anticatholic liberal. What about Acton religiosity, high appreciation of moral values as the only way to support liberty?. The article in general is just a antichristian libel.

Whith articles like this, who can trust Wikipedia?. You, the leftists. Sorry If this comment is erased. The left is patroling here. 21:44, 29 July 2007 (UTC)agocorona

Um, interesting interpretation you have there. Perhaps you should add Wikipedia to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, if it would stop you blathering. By the way, wasn't there a rule of the internet that said the more asinine a comment is, the more the writer is likely to paranoically add "I bet you'll delete my comment" to the end? (talk) 04:31, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Quote discrepancy[edit]

  1. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”[1]
  1. “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. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Either one of these is a misquote, or he said it twice, in two different ways. Solve. (talk) 04:26, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

The discrepancy still stands. :( ELCore (talk) 15:34, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

Beliefs and influences[edit]

I feel like there is not that much information on his actual political views in the "Politics" section listed under "Beliefs and Influences." Just saying that he was a follower of Gladstone is not really helpful, in my opinion. I'm not very knowledgeable about him, and that was actually why I came to this page in the first place; sorry I can't add information of my own. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:52, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

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EB1911 must define "bookworm" as someone who prefers books to people. This wasn't the case with Acton even though his library was 60,000 volumes. --Kenatipo speak! 23:32, 21 February 2011 (UTC)


The article is substantially the EB1911 article, which is not copyrighted and in the public domain. EB1911 is credited at the bottom and cited in about a dozen places. This should satisfy any copyvio issues. --Kenatipo speak! 16:35, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

The assessment of Acton's importance as an historian is attributed to Hugh Chisholm "editor of the EB" (presumably the 1911 edition. Is it a quotation from the EB article on Acton and - if so- shouldn't the credit be to the author, rather than the editor - even if Chisholm happened to be both?Dalcross72 (talk) 16:16, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

Acton and the Irish Famine[edit]

Acton would have been about 18 years old when the Famine ended in 1852. He could not have been a "contributor of racist views" per the New Jersey school system, so I'm removing that "information". --Kenatipo speak! 01:40, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

It is interesting to know that Acton thought only "Persians, Greeks, Romans and Teutons were makers of history, the only authors of advancement", so I left that part in. To insinuate that he had something against the Irish, however, is going too far. He was a Liberal so I assume he supported land reform and home rule in Ireland along with other policies beneficial to the Irish. If I'm wrong please let me know. --Kenatipo speak! 04:37, 8 March 2011 (UTC)


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

I don't believe he ever said it or wrote it. The source given dates from 2007 and is itself unsourced.

Political career[edit]

I added wikilinks concerning his political career. However, I am not British, and have neither time nor resources to flesh this out further. Seems Gladstone or the Liberal Party set Acton up against a Conservative heavyweight, and Acton lost after some kind of ballot challenge. It would be interesting to know, especially in light of Acton's quotes concerning election shenanigans, whether there were any in those two elections that he lost to Henry Whitmore, whose article is basically a stub. Seems Acton received his peerage so he would be ineligible for the special election in 1870, when either Whitmore never ran or was defeated. From USA examples, sometimes election contests are resolved by recounts with judicial oversight (which rarely reaches the level of Bush v. Gore!), and sometimes within the legislative body itself (Adam Clayton Powell comes to mind). Seems the House of Commons changed its challenge procedure in 1868, and Acton did not contest his second loss to Whitmore (List of UK Parliamentary election petitions does not include Bridgnorth among the contests) in the year the Bridgnorth constituency was reduced from 2 to 1 MP. IMHO, more explanation seems warranted. Other questions in my non-Brit mind include why Acton didn't run in two constituencies in 1868 as did his pal Gladstone, Acton's own views of politicking (was he a wooden speaker or hate his era's version of the rubber chicken circuit?), and whether as Lord Acton he became a Liberal stalwart after his elevation to the House of Lords, which I seem to remember also has judicial functions. Of course this all might affect other sections in this article, or they might be relevant, especially the implication that as a historian Lord Acton suffered from writers' block, clearly very debilitating to a politician.Jweaver28 (talk) 13:31, 4 December 2014 (UTC)