Lord Acton ........................
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About the Author

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton -- First Baron Acton of Aldenham -- was born in Naples, Italy on January 10, 1834. The son of a beknighted Englishman and a Rhenish Countess, Lord Acton studied history at the University of Munich: he was not permitted to attend Cambridge because he was a Catholic.

Lord Acton was elected to the House of Commons in 1859 and was offerred a peerage in 1869. He was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University in 1895. Extremely well read, and having an intellect that is revered to this day, it is he who authored the now often quoted statement that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

About the Speech

In this speech, Lord Acton provides an intriguing history of the interplay of forces that eventually gave way to the birth of freedom during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in Britain, and to the better protection of it in America following its Declaration of Independence. It is a story both of the struggle between the church and monarchs for power. It is a story of growing philosophical insight, from St. Thomas Aquinas to John Locke. Explaining as he does that by 1770, England had been returned almost to the state of affairs that preceded that freedom-bearing Glorious Revolution of 1688, Lord Acton praises the constitutional accomplishments of America following the publication of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man and following America's Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Ultimately, Lord Acton concludes that the two forms of government that have allowed freedom to develop around the globe are a Republic and a Constitutional Monarchy. It is regrettable that Lord Acton did not live to witness the fact that tyranny (i.e., government with unlimited authority) too can survive and thrive under each system. The world over, we now have examples of countries in which the whims of a majority, or of a dictator acting alone, are met with no legal bounds. This is particularly the case where there exists no bill of rights, or where the judiciary co-operates with the legislature or the government to erode the protections intended by such a bill.

Given as it was only months after his February 28, 1877 speech to the Bridgnorth Institute - "The History of Freedom in Antiquity" - this speech provides a history that arguably takes over where the former speech left off. As with the former speech, it is essential reading for any person who wants to understand both the history of individual freedom, and the nature of that concept.

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