Hartley Shawcross, Baron Shawcross

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There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.

Hartley William Shawcross, Baron Shawcross (4 February 190210 July 2003) was a British barrister and politician, probably most famous for his role as the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal.


  • There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.
  • We are the masters at the moment and shall be for some considerable time.
    • Statement made in a 1945 debate to repeal the Conservatives' "Trade Disputes Act" of 1927 (following a quotation from Through the Looking-Glass in which Humpty-Dumpty observed that the question of definitions of words depended upon who was master). This has often been misquoted as "We are the masters now." His obituary in The Times [London] (11 July 2003) states "even if in its authentic form it was intended as a factual description rather than a boast, it did Shawcross a good deal of harm. It was certainly uncharacteristic, for he was neither a bully nor a zealot... he was hardly a fierce party warrior." The Independent [London] (11 July 2003) in its obituary states "he accepted that it was one of the most foolish things he ever said."
  • Let us not foist this humbug on the world.
  • All my moves were designed to promote the happiness and wellbeing of my family, rather than fame.
  • I know that in my public life I fell below the standards that I had set myself... I have seen what is wrong but not done enough to put it right. I have been more critical than correct. I have had opportunities of great positions in the service of the state, but I have put them aside. I know that I have not devoted myself enough to promoting the good of others.
    • As quoted in The Times (11 July 2003)
  • Getting up and criticising the other fellow because he's in and you are not seems to me a futile waste of time. Especially as you know in your heart that you would be doing more or less the same thing if you were in his place.
    • On his distaste for opposition politics, in an interview with Tom Stacey for the Daily Express, as quoted in The Independent (11 July 2003)
  • Step by step, I have arrived at the conviction that the aims of Communism in Europe are sinister and fatal. At the Nuremberg Trials, I, together with my Russian colleague, condemned Nazi Aggression and Terror. I believe now that Hitler and the German People did not want war. But we, {England}, declared war on Germany, intent on destroying it, in accordance with our principle of Balance of Power, and we were encouraged by the 'Americans' around Roosevelt. We ignored Hitler's pleading, not to enter into war. Now we are forced to realize that Hitler was right. He offered us the co-operation of Germany: instead, since 1945, we have been facing the immense power of the Soviet Empire. I feel ashamed and humiliated to see that the aims we accused Hitler of, are being relentlessly pursued now, only under a different label.
    • Speech at Stourbridge, March 16, 1984 (AP).


  • The new so called morality has too often the old immorality condoned.

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