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Bedford, move thither with my family, where I have not even a log hut to put my head into, and whether ground for burial, will depend on the depredations which, under the form of sales, shall have been committed on my property. The question then with me was, Utrum horum? But why afflict you with these details ? Indeed, I cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communication with a friend. The friendship which has subsisted between us, now balf a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period. And if I remove beyond the reach of attentions to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your care, and an assurance that it will not be wanting. It has also been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted too in acquiring for them. If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections.
- [The following paper it is deemed proper to insert, as well because of the explanation it contains of the reasons which led the author to ask permission of the legislature to sell his property by lottery, as of its otherwise interesting character.]
THOUGHTS ON LOTTERIES.
It is a common idea that games of chance are immoral. But what is chance? Nothing happens in this world without a cause. If we know the cause, we do not call it chance ; but if we do not know it, we say it was produced by chance. If we see a loaded die turn its lightest side up, we know the cause, and that it is not an effect of chance; but whatever side an unloaded die turns up, not knowing the cause, we say it is the effect of chance. Yet the morality of a thing cannot depend on our knowledge or ignorance of its cause. Not knowing why a particular side of an unloaded die turns up, cannot make the act of throwing it, or of betting on it, immoral. If we consider games of chance immoral, then every pursuit of human industry is immoral, for there is not a single one that is not subject to chance; not one wherein you do not risk a loss for the chance of some gain. The navigator, for example, risks his ship in the hope (if she is not lost in the voyage) of gaining an advantageous freight. The merchant risks his cargo to gain a better price for it. A landholder builds a house on the risk of indemnifying himself by a rent. The hunter hazards his time and trouble in the hope of killing game. In all these pursuits, you stake some one thing against another which you hope to win. But the greatest of all gamblers is the farmer. He risks the seed he puts into the ground, the rent he pays for the ground itself, the year's labor on it, and the wear and tear of his cattle and gear, to win a crop, which the chances of too much or too little rain, and general uncertainties of weather, insects, waste, &c. often make a total or partial loss. These, then, are games of chance. Yet so far from being immoral, they are indispensable to the existence of man, and every one has a natural right to choose for his pursuit such one of them as he thinks most likely. to furnish him subsistence. Almost all these pursuits of chance produce something useful to society. But there are some which produce nothing, and endanger the well-being of the individuals engaged in them, or of others depending on them. Such are games with cards, dice, billiards, &c. And although the pursuit of them is a matter of natural right, yet society, perceiving the irresistible bent of some of its members to pursue them, and the ruin produced by them to the families depending on these individuals, consider it as a case of insanity, quoad hoc, step in to protect the family and the party himself, as in other cases of insanity, infancy, imbecility, &c., and suppress the pursuit altogether, and the natural right of following it. There are some other games of chance, useful on certain occasions, and injurious only when carried beyond their useful bounds. Such are insurances, lotteries, raffles, &c. These they do not suppress, but take their regulation under their own discretion. The insurance of ships on voyages is a vocation of chance, yet useful, and the right to exercise it therefore is left free. So of houses against fire, doubtful debts, the continuance of a particular life, and similar cases. Money is wanting for an useful undertaking, as a school, &c., for which a direct tax would be disapproved. It is raised therefore by a lottery, wherein the tax is laid on the willing only, that is to say, on those who can risk the price of a ticket without sensible injury, for the possibility of a higher prize. An article of property, insusceptible of division at all, or not without great diminution of its worth, is
sometimes of so large value as that no purchaser can be found, while the owner owes debts, has no other means of payment, and his creditors no other chance of obtaining it, but by its sale at a full and fair price. The lottery is here a salutary instrument for disposing of it, where many run small risks for the chance of obtaining a high prize. In this way, the great estate of the late Colonel Byrd (in 1756) was made competent to pay his debts, which, had the whole been brought into the market at once, would have overdone the demand, would have sold at half or quarter the value, and sacrificed the creditors, half or three fourths of whom would have lost their debts. This method of selling was formerly very much resorted to, until it was thought to nourish too much a spirit of hazard. The legislature were therefore induced, not to suppress it altogether, but to take it under their own special regulation. This they did, for the first time, by their act of 1769, c. 17., before which time, every person exercised the right freely; and since which time, it is made unlawful but when approved and authorized by a special act of the legislature.
Since then, this right of sale, by way of lottery, has been exercised only under the discretion of the legislature. Let us examine the purposes for which they have allowed it in practice, not looking beyond the date of our independence.
1: It was for a long time an item of the standing revenue of the State.
1813. c. 1. § 3 An act imposing taxes for the support of govern
mnent, and c. 2. $ 10. 1814. Dec. c. 1. $ 3. 1814. Feb. c. 1. $ 3. 1818. c. 1. $ 1. 1819. c. 1.
1820. c. 1. This then is a declaration by the nation, that an act was not immoral, of which they were in the habitual use themselves as a part of the regular means of supporting the government: the tax on the vender of tickets was their share of the profits, and if their share was innocent, his could not be criminal.
2. It has been abundantly permitted, to raise money by lottery for the purposes of schools; and in this, as in many other cases, the lottery has been permitted to retain a part of the money (generally from ten to fifteen per cent.) for the use to which the lottery has been applied. So that while the adventurers paid one hundred dollars for tickets, they received back eighty-five or ninety dollars only, in the form of prizes, the remaining ten or fifteen being the tax levied on them, with their own consent. Examples are,
1784. C. 34. Authorizing the city of Williamsburg to raise
£2000 for a grammar school. 1789. c. 68. For Randolph Academy, £1000. 1789. c. 73. For Fauquier Academy, £500.
c. 74. For the Fredericksburg Academy, £4000. 1790. c. 46. For the Transylvania Seminary, £500.
For the Southampton Academy, £300.
50. For finishing the Strasburg Seminary.
62. For the Bannister Academy.
C. 82. For the Petersburg Academy. 1804. c. 40. For the Hotsprings Seminary.
c. 76. For the Stevensburg Academy.
c.100. For William and Mary College. 1805. c. 24. For the Rumford Academy. 1812. c. 10. For the Literary Fund. To sell the privilege for
$30,000 annually, for seven years. 1816. c. 80. For Norfolk Academy, $12,000.
Norfolk Female Society, $2000.
3. The next object of lotteries has been rivers. 1790. C. 46. For a bridge between Gosport and Portsmouth,
£400. 1796. c. 83. For clearing Roanoke River. 1804. c. 62. For clearing Quantico Creek. 1805. c. 42. For a toll-bridge over Cheat River. 1816. c. 49. For the Dismal Swamp, $50,000.
4. For roads. 1790. C. 46. For a road to Warminster, £200.
For cutting a road from Rockfish gap to Scott's
and Nicholas's landing, £400. 1796. c. 85. To repair certain roads. 1803. c. 60. For improving roads to Snigger's and Ashby's
gaps. c. 61. For opening a road to Brock's gap. c. 65. For opening a road from the town of Monroe to
Sweet Springs and Lewisburg.
* The acts not being at hand, the gums allowed are not known.
1803. c. 71. For improving the road to Brock's gap. 1805. c. 5. For improving the road to Clarksburg. c. 26. For opening a road from Monongalia Glades to
Fishing Creek. 1813. c. 44. For opening a road from Thornton's gap.
5. Lotteries for the benefit of counties. 1796. c. 78. To authorize a lottery in the county of Sheran
doah. C. 84. To authorize a lottery in the county of Gloucester.
6. Lotteries for the benefit of towns. 1782. c. 31. Richmond, for a bridge over Shockoe, amount not'
limited. 1789. c. 75. Alexandria, to pave its streets, £1500. 1790, c. 46. do.
do. £5000, 1796. c. 79. Norfolk, one or more lotteries authorized.
c. 81. Petersburg, a lottery authorized. 1803. c. 12. Woodstock, do.
c. 48. Fredericksburg, for improving its main street.
7. Lotteries for religious congregations. 1785. c.111. Completing a church in Winchester.
For rebuilding a church in the parish of Elizabeth
in Halifax, £200.
8. Lotteries for private societies. 1790. c. 46. For the Amicable Society in Richmond, £1000. 1791. c. 70. For building a Freemason's hall in Charlotte, £750..
9. Lotteries for the benefit of private individuals. [To raise mon
ey for them.] 1796. c. 80. For the sufferers by fire in the town of Lexington. 1781. c. 6. For completing titles under Byrd's lottery. 1790. c. 46. To erect a paper-mill in Staunton, £300.
To raise £2000 for Nathaniel Twining.