English historian and teacher Lord Acton was born John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834-1902) on this day in Naples, Italy, the son of aristocrats. His inspirational and articulate essays were some of the best of the Victorian era.
"Modern history teaches us so nearly, it is so deep a question of life and death, that we are bound to find our own way through it, and to owe our insight to ourselves. "
Acton was a member of Parliament and known for his passion for learning. He was also the highly-respected editor of The Rambler, a Roman Catholic monthly. Earning a reputation for liberalism, he was nearly excommunicated for his strong opposition to the dogma of Papal Infallibility.
He said, "To be able to look back upon one's past life with satisfaction is to live twice."
Always a champion of freedom and an advocate against any form of religious or political persecution, he wrote: "Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being."
Often quoted for his maxim on absolute power, Acton's insights still ring true today. "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."
With power comes great responsibility.