The Founders on Gambling

print


Continental Congress

Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of
public liberty and happiness: Resolved, That it be, and it is hereby earnestly
recommended to the several states, to take the most effectual measures for
the encouragement thereof, and for the suppressing theatrical entertainments,
horse racing, gaming, and such other diversions as are productive of idleness,
dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and manners.

Journals of the American Congress: From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. III, p. 85. This resolution passed on October 12, 1778.


Laws of Connecticut

Gaming is an amusement, the propensity of which is deeply implanted in human
nature. Mankind in the most unpolished state of barbarism and in the most
refined periods of luxury and dissipation, are attached to this practice with
an unaccountable ardor and fondness. To describe the pernicious consequences
of it, the ruin and desolation of private families, and the promotion of idleness
and dissipation, belong to a treatise on ethics.

Zephaniah Swift, A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham, CT: John Byrne, 1796), Vol. II, p. 351.


James Iredell

But there are two very dangerous vices, against which I must particularly
caution you-gaming and drinking. The incitement to the first is the hope of
gain. What incitement the other had, God knows-I know not. Now, how many men
have made fortunes by gaming? Or have any? And how many have been ruined by
it? Millions? God forbid any friend of mine should add to the number. Between
two persons of equal skill the chance is equal, and one must infallibly lose.
And when we again consider the innumerable harpies to be met with in all disguises, I would point at a gaming house as a place of utter destruction.

The Papers of James Iredell (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1976), Vol. I, p. 68. This is in a letter to his brother, Francis Iredell, Jr. on June 15, 1771.


Thomas Jefferson

In a world which furnishes so many employments which are useful, so many
which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui [weariness;
heaviness] is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resources of gaming,
which corrupts our dispositions, and teaches us a habit of hostility against
all mankind.

S.E. Forman, The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson,
(Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill Company, 1900), p. 266, in a letter to Martha Jefferson, 1787.

Any person who shall bet or play for money, or other goods, or who shall
bet on the hands or sides of those who play at any game in a tavern, racefield,
or other place of public resort, shall be deemed an infamous gambler, and
shall not be eligible to any office of trust or honor within this state.

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1950), Vol. 2, p. 306. From “A Bill to Prevent Gaming,”
part of series of bills proposed in a comprehensive effort led by Jefferson
to revise the laws of Virginia.


Benjamin Rush

[Gaming] This disorder seizes gentlemen in some instances before
breakfast in the morning, and continues with only short intervals for meals,
till 11 o’clock at night. It affects some people in the night as well as the
day, and on Sundays as well as week days. . . . This madness is of a destructive
tendency, and often conducts persons afflicted with it to poverty, imprisonment,
and an ignominious death.

The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush (New York:
Philosophical Library, 1947), p. 215, “On the Different Species of Mania.”


George Washington

I have always, so far as it was in my power, endeavored to discourage gaming
in the camp; and always shall so long as I have the honor to preside there.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript
Sources, 1745-1756 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing
Office, 1931), Vol. 1, p. 297, in a letter to Robert Dinwiddie, February 2, 1756.

All officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers are positively forbid
playing at cards, and other games of chance. At this time of public distress,
men may find enough to do in the service of their God, and their Country,
without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript
Sources, 1745-1799
(Washington, DC: United States Government Printing
Office, 1931), Vol. 4, p. 347. These were Washington’s General Orders for his
army issued on February 26, 1776.

As few vices are attended with more pernicious consequences, in civil life;
so there are none more fatal in a military one, than that of GAMING; which
often brings disgrace and ruin upon officers, and injury and punishment upon
the soldiery: And reports prevailing, which, it is to be feared are too well
founded, that this destructive vice has spread its baneful influence in the
army, and, in a peculiar manner, to the prejudice of the recruiting Service,-The
Commander in Chief, in the most pointed and explicit terms, forbids ALL officers
and soldiers, playing at cards, dice or at any games, except those of EXERCISE,
for diversion; it being impossible, if the practice be allowed, at all, to
discriminate between innocent play, for amusement, and criminal gaming, for
pecuniary and sordid purposes. . . . The commanding officer of every corps
is strictly enjoined to have this order frequently read, and strongly impressed
upon the minds those under his command. Any officer, or soldier, or other
person belonging to, or following, the army . . . presuming, under any pretence,
to disobey this order, shall be tried by a General Court Martial.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript
Sources, 1745-1799
(Washington, DC: United States Government Printing
Office, 1933), Vol. 8, pp. 28-29. These were Washington’s General Orders for
his army issued on May 8, 1777.

The last thing I shall mention, is first of importance and that is, to avoid
gaming. This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil, equally
injurious to the morals and health of its votaries. It is the child of avarice,
the brother of inequity, and father of mischief. It has been the ruin of many
worthy families; the loss of many a man’s honor; and the cause of suicide.
To all those who enter the list, it is equally fascinating; the successful
gamester pushes his good fortune till it is overtaken by a reverse; the losing
gamester, in hopes of retrieving past misfortunes, goes on from bad to worse;
till grown desperate, he pushes at everything; and loses his all. In a word,
few gain by this abominable practice (the profit, if any, being diffused)
while thousands are injured.

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript
Sources, 1745-1799
(Washington, DC: United States Government Printing
Office, 1938), Vol. 26, p. 40, in a letter to his nephew on January 15, 1783.

By | 2017-03-16T14:53:49+00:00 December 29th, 2016|Categories: Historical Writings|0 Comments