This essay analyses the thought of Lord Elgin in relation to his transnational colonial service in Jamaica, Canada, China, Japan, and India between the 1840s and the 1860s. Elgin was implicated in the most eventful processes of the Victorian age: the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, the implementation of “responsible government” in Canada, the Second Opium War, and the establishment of the Indian Raj. In the course of his 20-year imperial career, Elgin expressed original views on politics and society, which were first inspired by his knowledge of Aristotle, the Scottish Enlightenment, and Coleridge, then influenced by his militancy among the Peelite liberal conservatives, and eventually developed during his administration of the colonial empire. After detailing Elgin’s view of social order, this essay examines the constitution as a tool of government of colonial societies, and focuses on the figure of the Governor as a fundamental constitutional actor. The article concludes by considering Elgin’s liberal imperialism as a lens through which to rethink notions of civilization and barbarism on the imperial scale.