“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

edmund burke

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”Edmund Burke (in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer).

That's the short version, attributed to Burke. A longer version reads as follows:

Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design. They are enabled to fathom it with common counsel, and to oppose it with united strength. Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable. Where men are not acquainted with each other’s principles, nor experienced in each other’s talents, nor at all practised in their mutual habitudes and dispositions by joint efforts in business; no personal confidence, no friendship, no common interest, subsisting among them; it is evidently impossible that they can act a public part with uniformity, perseverance, or efficacy. In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public. No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

–Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents 82-83 (1770) in: Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1, p. 146 (Liberty Fund ed. 1999).

It's as true today as it was 200 years ago--except for now, in modern times, the sin of giving into political apathy would be extended to women too. Edmund Burke's writings, which laid the intellectual foundations for modern conservatism (a cautious kind of conservatism, to be precise), can be found in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books. You can also download his major work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, through Audible's Free Trial program.

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Comments (27)
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  • Ella says:

    I feel like the information provided above is good but can be more reasearched. The following information can be included when the letter was discovered and by who.

  • Carl Gander says:

    Interesting that the phrase can appear as, The only thing necessary for the TRiUMPh of evil…..

  • Jan says:

    Interesting, but sad, that this quote resurfaced in my memories as I was listening to The Donald vomit forth some of his usual hate-speech.

  • Donna says:

    I appreciate the letterbeing posted on your site. It’s not as though we see this level of script online often.
    D. Early

  • Mel says:

    While Donald Trump may have a ungentlemanly and sometimes cruel way of speaking the truth, at least he seems to be on the side of the good people taking action against the evil in America. He seems to be pro-life, and the pro-lifers opposing the new New York legislature are good men and women taking action against the triumph of evil.

  • Tracey says:

    This is my favourite phrase.
    It still stands true today. Ive had a time of weakness and assumed as Ive spent my life helping friends and strangers alike that I would be supported. One has helped, the government help is so minimal and difficult to engage. When did the weak become viewed as evil parasites???

  • Pedro Lara says:

    Very True words Mel. He speaks like a street brawler, but is on the side of good.

  • Bubble tea says:

    Wrong, they think they are. Sure they have good intentions but the road to hell and all that jazz, seriously calling pro lifers good is like calling pro choice evil which in itself is evil

  • Joseph schmit says:

    Let us havé every man love every man ans every woman love every woman while we are at lets Kill allo thé babies André every One over60 is this What thé boys at d day hit thé beaches for. I am happy my dad is dead so hé can not see this

  • McChalium says:

    So Joseph and Bubble tea’
    Who gets to decide whether you were born or not. I simply do not trust people to have the wisdom to know which fetus is to be killed for the convenience of whomever. If we had known that you would support fetus killing back just before you were born, would not someone have argued for your abortion? Food for thought.

  • G says:

    By far the most insightful thing anyone has said here yet.

  • steve says:

    I agree with McChalium and you G! Don’t ya just love Godless baby killers calling An elected president “EVIL”? I suppose in their delusional state everyone who didn’t vote for that evil beast Hillery is evil raciest xenophobic homophobic,intolerant, misogynistic, and all the other pejoratives they are told to parrot, like parrots.
    Satan inspired Lib’s & Dem’s fighting hard to stop the Born Alive anti baby kill act best demonstrates their “love” for death & killing! Romans 6-23 tell us non savages “Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is Life through Jesus Christ our Lord,”

  • steve says:

    “When bad men combine,[to call Trump evil] the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
    Thanks sinazo for demonstrating Satan inspired “Contemptible”! I wonder how much more Evil & hateful you anti God, anti Creator inspired America, anti white man, anti Trump, anti thinking little boys & girls will get when president Trump is reelected in 2020?
    Our Creator made America great [once] maybe he could, MEGA!

  • JT Smith says:

    Matters not who said the quote in qu stun. It is a truism as far as I am concerned & until the Godless libs & muslim terrorist take over I will keep saying & believing it!! 🇺🇸🙏God Bless America!

  • Linda Myers says:

    Don’t moderate my comment. You have no right.

  • Linda Myers says:

    Looks like I’ve stumbled on a Russian trolling site. They’re censoring any thoughts that are not hate-filled and aimed to inflame and set us against one another. We’ll see if this gets posted.

  • Skengman says:

    Linda love you clearly are not on the right vibe.

    Please stop abusing drugs, I would like to see my kids again.

    Hope we can resolve this soon. Bless up

  • Veronica says:

    All I can say in response to this rhetoric is : God help us and save us”!

  • Hap Donoghue says:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
    ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

    “So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
    ― John F. Kennedy

    “Be excellent to each other.”
    – Bill S. Preston, Esq.

  • Russ says:

    Since you are pro life, what is your stance on the death penalty?

  • alan wright says:

    All Killing is evil, it matters not if it is some hierarchical power ordering it or an individual making their person choice, taking life is wrong ( EVIL )
    Simple its not complicated.

  • ele says:

    When is pro-life evil? And when is pro-death good?

  • AaronV says:

    “Pro life” is an expression specifically connected to the issue of abortion, a procedure in which an innocent unborn child is murdered. Capital punishment is a sentence of death imposed on someone found guilty of murdering an innocent thus can never be described as “pro death”. “Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made he man”… There is no conflict between pro life and pro capital punishment. Both are founded on the sanctity of life.

  • Adrian says:

    Lol, you religious losers are absolutely pathetic.

  • Kimberly says:

    What’s pathetic is the resorting to name-calling of those who do not believe the same way you do. Tell me, I am curious to know, why do you state that those who may be religious “are losers and absolutely pathetic”? Why are they losers? Why are they pathetic? Do you even have an answer for that? Or was it just so much easier to be a bully and call someone names because that’s what bullies do?

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