"Those Who Have Much To Hope And Nothing To Lose, Will Always Be Dangerous"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Burke and Fox were members of Parliament for a considerable time. They were also close friends and worked together on many political issues. Burke, with assistance from Fox, defended the American Colonies both before and during the Revolutionary War. Although the present letter is primarily concerned with plans to take advantage of every opportunity to support the cause of the Colonies, near the end Burke disgresses to talk of Ireland, the country of his birth. The people of Ireland, he asserts, are restive because they have no political power; Ireland is governed by a small clique of vested interests:

. . . The Protestants of Ireland will be, I think, in general, backward. They are, for the infinitely greater part, the landed, and the moneyed interests, and they will not like to pay. The Papists are reduced to beasts of Burthen: they will give all they have, their Shoulders, readily enough, if they are flattered. Surely the state of Ireland ought forever to teach parties moderation in their victories. People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous, more or less. But this is not our present business.