Table of Contents
Human beings are always after gaining power and getting recognitions. Power and authority give them the right to do things which they may not get permission for. People get power either by going after short cuts or by their own labour. The more a person becomes powerful, the more he or she loses moral senses. Although it is not true for most of the people, most of the powerful people of the world have the tendency of misusing their power. There are people who lose humanity and only live for their selfish needs after they gain power. Power makes a person blind to feelings.
Lord Acton who was a British politician said that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” in the 19th century. He gave this statement as he was inspired by several writers who shared this view before him. Previously, the world was ruled by the monarchs. They used to enjoy the absolute power and took power away from the people. Several Roman empires considered themselves gods. Similarly, there are several examples from around the world where rulers declared themselves as gods and treated the people according to their wishes. They were not accountable to the people for whatever they did. For them, gods do not have to explain their actions.
Lord Acton mentioned this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. He wrote in the letter that power corrupted people and absolute power ensured that a person became a corrupt. Acton added that great tend to become bad men. Absolute power corrupts the mind of the people who have it. Such powerful people start to think that they are invincible and that no law or entity can stop them from doing whatever they want to do. They are very selfish and always prioritize their wishes and dreams before the others. These strong people can harm anyone for their selfish gains.
Slaves working under such powerful and corrupt leaders suffer the most. They are not given freedom and they are exploited beyond their potential. The slaves year for freedom and when they get it after years of struggle, they understand the value of true freedom. The quotation given by Sir Acton is not just a quotation but a reality which only rulers and the suppressed can understand. The feeling of having the absolute power makes people think that no one can harm them and take any action against them. These authoritative people think that no one can topple them. They like playing with the lives of everyone.
Lord Acton realized in the 19th century that most of the time it was the political and religious leaders that became corrupt because of having absolute power. Therefore, in his letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, he said that similar moral standards should be applicable on political and religious leaders. In the present world, it is the political and religious leaders who have the most following. They control their followers and have the capacity to influence them with their absolute power and make them do wrong things. These leaders use their followers to achieve their interests. They do not regret to spoil the lives of their followers.
In the letter which Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Mandell Creighton, he criticized a statement put out by him where he said that the Pope and the King should be treated differently from the general public. He said that people having absolute power must be held accountable for their actions. Acton was right as whatever takes place in the society it was because of some decisions taken by the people in authority. These authoritarian people implement their own wishes through these decisions. They do not use the power to serve the people but to serve themselves. These people cling on to their power by hook or crook.
Lord Acton mentions in the letter that people with absolute power must own their actions. He called for legal actions if the powerful do not come forward and own their actions if they have committed any mistake. However, this seldom happens as the powerful blame others for the mistakes they have committed. Acton says that great men are bad most of the time as they have the tendency of exercising their influence instead of authority. These powerful people get involved in corruption as they think that no action will be taken against them. They are not harmed as they are influential.
The society witnesses this phenomenon when the powerful get busy of setting a wrong example where the dignity of their offices are compromised. The corrupt actions of the powerful affect the teachings of Catholicism and the principles of Liberalism. Acton points out in his letter to the Bishop that common people get serious punishments for their crimes but these punishments are not given to the people who enjoy absolute power. It is only the people who are from the lower class who are punished because of their class background. That is why Acton speaks of maintaining equal moral standards around all the classes.
The letter was sent to the Bishop by Lord Acton because he was an influential religious leader who spoke in support of the rulers and the religious leaders. Writing the letter to the Bishop was an honest effort by Lord Acton to show the real mirror to the Bishop. People who came across this letter endorsed the expressions put forward by Acton. People who want to change the system become politicians but later, too much power corrupts them and they become corrupt individuals. They stop talking about the power and instead get busy filling their coffers. This tendency was mentioned by Lord Acton in his letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.
Hence, it can be seen that absolute power has the potential of corrupting people. It is true and stands correct for every century. In the past, Toman emperors thought themselves as gods. Nowadays, religious and political leaders influence people to fulfil their selfish dreams. These leaders are corrupt and they think that they will not be harmed by any because they have the absolute power.