"Heads I Win, Tails You Lose"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Wilson Croker, a British politician and author, and member of Parliament between 1807 and 1832, took part, as a contributor to the Quarterly Review, in frequent literary feuds, such as his attack on Keats' Endymion, in 1818. His many writings were collected after his death. During the debates about the Corn Laws in England in 1846, Sir Robert Peel wanted to repeal them gradually, establish Free Trade, and help reduce the cost of living. One of his opponents was Lord Granby, son of the Duke of Rutland, who resigned his government post to oppose the repeal. His father wrote to Croker, who also was opposed to the total repeal of the Laws. The letter is dated Belvoir Castle, January 25, 1846. The duke begins by thanking Croker for his good opinion of his son's speech. He also talks about the "mess" in which England finds itself in India with its call for soldiers to fight the Sikhs. Then in mentioning the unfairness of the French position, he speaks of a game, or a phrase in it, which leaves the speaker the winner, no matter how the coin falls. The expression, at least, is still used among children. Here is the final paragraph of the letter:

Périer [Périer is Auguste Casimir Périer (1811-1878), a French politician and Minister.] has sent in the French Corn Protecting Duties, which seem very stringent. If they close their arms to us, while we open ours to them, we shall play at a game which a sharper once played with a dupe, intituled, "Heads I win, and tails you lose." I cautiously avoid forming my final opinion on the whole subject till the measure is in the House of Lords in the shape of a Bill.
Ever, my dear Croker, Most truly yours,