"Liberty is the prevention of control by others.
This requires self-control and, therefore,
religious and spiritual influences;
education, knowledge, well-being."
by:
Lord Acton
[John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton] (1834-1902), First Baron Acton of Aldenham
Date:
1887
Source:
Lord Acton, Selected Writings of Lord Acton: Essays in Religion, Politics, and Morality, ed. J. Rufus Fears, 3 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1988), 3:490
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Reader comments about this quote:
... not sure how religious & spiritual influences make it into a definition of liberty, and thus its a loser... just reads like blither as it is...
 -- Anonymous, reston, VA     
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    It makes a great deal of sense..
     -- David L. Rosenthal     
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    Inspiring! As most of your Liberty Quotes are.
     -- Me Again     
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    I agree with Reston, but the rest is OK - I don’t think Lord Acton meant it in the way it comes across. Liberty is a fundamental prerequisite to all people and can only be truly achieved by giving it to others. Tolerance and an understanding of our differences are essential if we too are to enjoy Liberty. If we are to continue to enjoy Liberty we must start to promote peace and make it our "Manhattan Project". Without peace in the world we really don't have liberty - let's be a new and exciting force in the world and change our way we battle over our differences. We must continue to talk, talk, and talk until we are blue in the face before we revert to arms. Religion, if we are not careful, will be the end of Liberty as we know it today. Let's go out into the world and build schools and universities, hospitals, roads, instead of making tanks and bombs - let's give it a chance, because the history of going to war over our differences obviously doesn't work - sorry, I'm on my soap-box this morning.
     -- Robert, Sarasota     
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    Having never experienced spiritual influences or knowledge (being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive") explains the lack of a full 'Liberty' education. Liberty is a positive; so stated, I believe instead of Liberty being a "prevention of control by others", it is more accurately the freedom to act lawfully in all endevors. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    I would define "...religious and spiritual influences..." as principles and morals, which are required to maintain Liberty.
     -- Joe, Rochester, MI     
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    One must also consider the times and context in which the words are spoken. Acton carefully defends self-control with 'spirituality' and knowledge as supports. Let it not be construed to mean influence from the State or Church -- which is no longer self-control.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Absence of religious influences would result in the absence of morality bringing with it the necessity of a totalitarian form of government. Freedom can only survive in a moral society. Morals do not exist separate from religious influences.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    i totally agree
     -- utjtrht     
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     -- Anonymous      
     -- Paul T., Bourne      
    Religious and spiritual influences are never monolithic in character and therefore to assert that they are essentials of liberty is like equating liberty with anarchy. At the same time, I hope the Lord Acton is not operating on the premise that his spiritual and religious influences are superior to the next person's own. Liberty should not be married to these utterly subjective qualities and beliefs.
     -- Michael Church, Grenada     
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    It depends on which religous influences you're talking about. The religion of Islam is about control and terror and certainly not about freedom. Ask any woman who lives under it.
     -- jim k, Austin, Tx     
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    Religion is the antithesis of liberty.
     -- dick, fort worth     
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    You all must have the wrong religious and spiritual influences. Yesterday Rusty said I should have left the last two words off my comment. Do you all with thumbs have no sense.
     -- wayne, naples     
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    Someone's gonna control you, so it might as well be a spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy you doing the job--exercising self-control.
     -- Byron, Fort Collins, CO     
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    "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Jesus said those words. THIS IS NOT ABOUT RELIGION. It is about truth. It is not about controlling people. It is about self-control and respect. It is about being guided by moral parameters. It is about believing that our creator knows what is best regarding the way we should live. Do men really think that their Godless opinions are superior to the Word of God?
     -- Robert Dominguez, Chula Vista     
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     -- Ronw13, Oregon      
     
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