Men of the Time, eleventh edition/Acton (Lord), John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
ACTON (Lord), The Right Hon. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, son of Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton, Bart., of Aldenham, Shropshire, by the only daughter of the Duke of Dalberg (afterwards wife of the second Lord Granville), was born at Naples, in 1834, and when about three years of age succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father. For a few years he was a student in the Catholic College of St. Mary's, Oscott, at the time when Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Wiseman was at the head of that institution; but his education was mainly due to the renowned ecclesiastical historian, Dr. Döllinger, of Munich, with whom he lived for a considerable time. Sir John Acton represented Carlow in the House of Commons from 1859 to 1865. In the latter year he stood as a candidate for the borough of Bridgnorth, when he announced, in a speech delivered to the electors, that he represented, not the body, but the spirit, of the Catholic Church. He was successful at the poll by a majority of one, but, on a scrutiny, was unseated. In 1869, on the recommendation of Mr. Gladstone, he was created a peer of the United Kingdom by the title of Baron Acton of Aldenham. In the same year he repaired to Rome, on the assembling of the Œcumenical Council, and while there rendered himself conspicuous by his hostility to the definition of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, and by the activity and secrecy with which he rallied, combined, and urged on those who appeared to be favourable to the views entertained by Dr. Döllinger. It is believed that he was in relation with the Allgemeine Zeitung, and that much of the news published by that journal on the subject of the Council was communicated by his lordship. Lord Acton may be regarded as the leader of the self-styled "Liberal Catholics," who are more or less out of accord with the traditions of the Holy See. He was the editor of the Home and Foreign Review, a trimestral periodical, commenced in 1862, and carried on till 1864, when it ceased to appear, owing to its having been condemned by the English Catholic hierarchy. At a later date he edited the Chronicle, a weekly newspaper, which had a brief existence, for want of adequate support; and still more recently he conducted the North British Review, formerly an organ of the Congregationalists, which expired under his management. His lordship also published, in September, 1870, "A Letter to a German Bishop present at the Vatican Council" (Sendschreiben an einen Deutschen Bischof des Vaticanischen Concils, Nördlingen, September, 1870). This elicited from Bishop Ketteler, of Mayence, a spirited reply, which has been translated into English. His lordship zealously advocated the cause of Dr. Döllinger, his former preceptor, and of the "Old Catholic" party; and, consequently, upon the occasion of the Jubilee of the University of Munich, in August, 1872, the Philosophical Faculty conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor. In 1874 he rendered himself conspicuous by the prominent part he took in the controversy which was raised by the publication of Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet on the Vatican Decrees. His lordship did not hesitate, in a series of letters to the Times, to bring grave charges against several of the Popes, although he took care to state that there was nothing in life which he valued more than communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Lord Acton is the author of the article on "Wolsey and the Divorce of Henry VIII." in the Quarterly Review for Jan. 1877. A French translation of Lord Acton's two letters on Liberty was published with a preface by M. de Laveleye, under the title of "Histoire de la Liberté dans l'Antiquité et le Christianisme," 1878.