— Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury British politician 1830 - 1903
Context: There is no danger which we have to contend with which is so serious as an exaggeration of the power, the useful power, of the interference of the State. It is not that the State may not or ought not to interfere when it can do so with advantage, but that the occasions on which it can so interfere are so lamentably few and the difficulties that lie in its way are so great. But I think that some of us are in danger of an opposite error. What we have to struggle against is the unnecessary interference of the State, and still more when that interference involves any injustice to any people, especially to any minority. All those who defend freedom are bound as their first duty to be the champions of minorities, and the danger of allowing the majority, which holds the power of the State, to interfere at its will is that the interests of the minority will be disregarded and crushed out under the omnipotent force of a popular vote. But that fear ought not to lead us to carry our doctrine further than is just. I have heard it stated — and I confess with some surprise — as an article of Conservative opinion that paternal Government — that is to say, the use of the machinery of Government for the benefit of the people — is a thing in itself detestable and wicked. I am unable to subscribe to that doctrine, either politically or historically. I do not believe it to have been a doctrine of the Conservative party at any time. On the contrary, if you look back, even to the earlier years of the present century, you will find the opposite state of things; you will find the Conservative party struggling to confer benefits — perhaps ignorantly and unwisely, but still sincerely — through the instrumentality of the State, and resisted by a severe doctrinaire resistance from the professors of Liberal opinions. When I am told that it is an essential part of Conservative opinion to resist any such benevolent action on the part of the State, I should expect Bentham to turn in his grave; it was he who first taught the doctrine that the State should never interfere, and any one less like a Conservative than Bentham it would be impossible to conceive... The Conservative party has always leaned — perhaps unduly leaned — to the use of the State, as far as it can properly be used, for the improvement of the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of our people, and I hope that that mission the Conservative party will never renounce, or allow any extravagance on the other side to frighten them from their just assertion of what has always been its true and inherent principles.
Speech to the United Club (15 July, 1891), published in "Lord Salisbury On Home Politics" in The Times (16 July 1891), p. 10