Why Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

The same thing is the case with Sixtus IVand the Spanish Inquisition. What you say has been said by Hefele and Gams andothers. They, at least, were in a sort, avowed defenders of the SpanishInquisition. Hefele speaks of Ximenes as one might speak of Andrewes or Tayloror Leighton. But in what sense is the Pope not responsible for the constitutionby which he established the new tribunal? If we passed a law giving Dufferinpowers of that sort, when asked for, we should surely be responsible. No doubt,the responsibility in such a case is shared by those who ask for a thing. Butif the thing is criminal, if, for instance, it is a license to commit adultery,the person who authorises the act shares the guilt of the person who commitsit. Now the Liberals think Persecution a crime of a worse order than adultery,and the acts done by Ximenes considerably worse than the entertainment of Romancourtesans by Alexander VI. The responsibility exists whether the thingpermitted be good or bad. If the thing be criminal, then the authoritypermitting it bears the guilt. Whether Sixtus is infamous or not depends on ourview of persecution and absolutism. Whether he is responsible or not dependssimply on the ordinary evidence of history.

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What's the meaning and origin of the phrase 'Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely'?

Voranai: When Power Corrupts Absolutely

Here, again, what I said is not in any way mysterious or esoteric. It appeals to no hidden code. It aims at no secret moral. It supposes nothing and implies nothing but what is universally current and familiar. It is the common, even the vulgar, code I appeal to.

Upon these two points we differ widely; still more widely with regard to the principle by which you undertake to judge men. You say that people in authority are not [to] be snubbed or sneezed at from our pinnacle of conscious rectitude. I really don’t know whether you exempt them because of their rank, or of their success and power, or of their date. The chronological plea may have some little value in a limited sphere of instances. It does not allow of our saying that such a man did not know right from wrong, unless we are able to say that he lived before Columbus, before Copernicus, and could not know right from wrong. It can scarcely apply to the centre of Christendom, 1500 after the birth of our Lord. That would imply that Christianity is a mere system of metaphysics, which borrowed some ethics from elsewhere. It is rather a system of ethics which borrowed its metaphysics elsewhere. Progress in ethics means a constant turning of white into black and burning what one has adored. There is little of that between St. John and the Victorian era.

But if we might discuss this point until we found that we nearly agreed, and if we do argue thoroughly about the impropriety of Carlylese denunciations, and Pharisaism in history, 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 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 the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science.

The standard having been lowered in consideration of date, is to be still further lowered out of deference to station. Whilst the heroes of history become examples of morality, the historians who praise them, Froude, Macaulay, Carlyle, become teachers of morality and honest men. Quite frankly, I think there is no greater error. The inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority, the dignity, the utility of history. If we may debase the currency for the sake of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then history ceases to be a science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the wanderer, the upholder of that moral standard which the powers of earth, and religion itself, tend constantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves the worst better than the purest.

The Power Paradox: Does Absolute Power Corrupt Absolutely?

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 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 the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science.

Apr 27, 2014 · Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely, as the saying goes

absolute power corrupts absolutely phrase

I am sufficient of a Hegelian to be able to combine both judgments; but the results of my combination cannot be expressed in the terms of the logic of Aristotle. In studying history the question of the salvability of an archdeacon becomes indefinitely extended to all officials, kings and popes included. What I meant in my offending sentence in my preface was that anyone engaged in great affairs occupied a repre­sentative position, which required special consideration. Selfishness, even wrongdoing, for an idea, an institution, the maintenance of an accepted view of the basis of society, does not cease to be wrongdoing: but it is not quite the same as personal wrongdoing. It is more difficult to prove, and it does not equally shock the moral sense of others or disturb the moral sense of the doer. The acts of men in power are determined by the effective force behind them of which they are the exponents: their morality is almost always lower than the morality of the mass of men: but there is generally a point fixed below which they cannot sink with impunity. Homicide is always homicide: but there is a difference between that of a murderer for his own gain, and that of a careless doctor called in to see a patient who would probably have died anyhow; and the carelessness of the doctor is a difficult thing to prove.

Historian Lord Actons warned that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

We can now frame the crucial issue: is it a legitimate use of the power of the state to transfer custody of a child from his natural, non-Catholic parents to the Catholic Church merely because the child had been baptized? Putting the question this way shows why Cessario’s attempt at justifying what Pius did has to fail: at best, Cessario has shown that, assuming the truth of the Catholic faith, Mortara had a supernatural, theological right to a Catholic upbringing and education, with a correlative duty in the Church (particularly the pope), to provide him one. That may well be so, but a moral claim (much less a supernatural moral claim) does not, without more, support a moral right in the state to enforce that claim. The order of morality is one thing; the order of morally permissible state action is another. As Aquinas says, human law does not suppress every vicious act nor does it command every virtuous one. The mere fact that Mortara had a right to a Catholic upbringing and Pius had an obligation to provide him one does not, without more, imply that it was morally permissible for the state to use force to ensure that this right and duty be fulfilled.

Definition of absolute power corrupts absolutely in the Idioms Dictionary

Absolute power corrupts absolutely