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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1443
AUTHOR: John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834–1902)
QUOTATION: 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.
ATTRIBUTION: LORD ACTON, letter to Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887.—Acton, Essays on Freedom and Power, ed. Gertrude Himmelfarb, pp. 335–36 (1972).