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For the origin of these strange appeals to fortune we must go
back to the classical ages. Even among the Athenians, games involving a similar solution from chance were popular; but the Romans, during the more luxurious period of the empire, had a species of lottery to enliven their feasts, at which excitement in the most violent form was the coveted pleasure. The prizes distributed were in proportion to the wealth of the host; and as many of the patricians were immensely rich, they were able to confer estates, splendid vases and plate, or beautiful and accomplished slaves on their guests. This was carried to an incredible extent, for few modern capitalists possess a tithe of the wealth of some of the ancient Romans. Even during the republic there were instances of great extravagance amongst them, as in the case of Lucullus, Sulla, Julius Cæsar, and Marc Antony; but the tendency grow far more general and excessive under Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero. A state lottery was first attempted at Genoa, and the Pope soon followed the example of the Doges. It proved a popular mode of taxation, for the excitable Italians gladly deprived themselves of necessaries, that they might secure a chance for the golden prizes offered.
The earliest English lottery was drawn in 1569. The profits were appropriated to repair the coast line, then in a
very unsafe condition. The prizes where in money and silver plate. 400,000 lots were to be drawn; the process went on night and day for upwards of four months, and the shareholders were kept in a wild state of excitement, to the neglect of their ordinary business, and the consequent misery of their families. There were but three London offices, and the gambling propensities of the inhabitants were fomented and heightened by the form the drawing took. The second lottery, in 1612, was projected to benefit the new colony in Virginia, and there is a tradition that a poor tailor gained the principal prize-4,000
It took but little shrewdness to discover that lottery gambling and immorality would increase together. Poverty was augmented by idleness; and when once the working man began to trust himself and family to the drawing of a ticket, as his best hope for wealth or comfort, the surer ways of diligent industry were despised. No sooner had the Government sanctioned lotteries as useful in finance, than subjects began to speculate on their chance of obtaining a share in the golden distribution. During the suspense of a protracted drawing, strong drink was sought to hearten and embolden the miserable speculator. Wives and children soon caught the destructive fever, and pauperism rushed in like a flood. In March, 1620, some of the evils consequent on lotteries must have been noticed, and they were suspended by an Order in Council. In 1630, however, Charles I. revived the system; yet the immediate object was praiseworthy, for the lottery he sanctioned was to assist a project just mooted for conveying water to London. During the Civil War men were too much occupied with the awful events impending to tolerate such a waste of money and time; but Charles II., always reckLess in his financial schemes, set up a lottery having for its object a distribution of rewards among those needy partizans who had so faithfully followed him during his
exilo. Severe strictures as to the evils caused by such a wild saturnalia of idleness and profligacy were delivered in Parliament, and some restraints were imposed. The divines of the age inveighed against lotteries from the pulpit, but neither law nor divinity availed much to check the growing passion. The chance of large gains allured all classes to subscribe. For the benefit of those whose means were small, opportunities for petty gambling were found, and penny lotteries where constantly in operation. In a volume called “Some Account of the Grocers' Company," written by J. B. Heath, we are told, “There is not one entry in the accounts to show that the prizes were ever paid, and no doubt it was a difficult matter to obtain them. The victims were induced to buy tickets by personal solicitation, for the system of advertising and placarding was then wholly unknown.”
William III., no less than the Merry Monarch, stooped to cajole his people by lotteries, for in 1694 he raised £1,000,000 sterling by the sale of tickets, the prizes in which were granted at 4 per cent. for sixteen years. Such Government sanctions of a pernicious principle increased the mischief a hundredfold; the ignorant artizan, soldier, or servant, thought his gambling completely excused by State authority. The few broad-sheet authors of that day are earnest, and apparently hopeless, in their complaints. " What a run of lotteries we have had-tickets from a crown to a penny! With what haste our dupes put in their money! What golden promises are made !—Will one of a thousand hold good ?" A pamphlet writer says,
People were tickled with the proposals of prodigious profits, when the proposers only meant it for themselves. Indeed, the people have been so damnably cheated, they have no need of dissuading, and their own troubles (one would think) are sufficient to convince them it is their interest to forbear A curious tract was printed in 1719,
entitled “The Anatomy of Exchange-alley." We shall use some of its information in our notice of “Stock Jobbing;" but it contains a passage relative to lotteries well worth notice :
"Let us look into the late lotteries. Had not a piercing eye detected the roguery, and not the fall of other things taken off the people's fancy for venturing, what would have happened? These artists have brought up the tickets to 168. apiece advance, even before the Act was passed. This was done by securing all the tickets in their own hands, except the select ones that had not come to market. This was by connivance, as every one knows. The connivance was by higher folks than those named, as everybody also knows. Who they were is none of my business to inquire, though it is easy to guess. It's hard when statesmen confederate to bite the people, and when dukes turn stockjobbers. Yet this was done, and a property made of their influence to bite the people. If Parliament appointed £500,000 in tickets, to be given out at a certain rate that was low and reasonable, was it not to encourage the people, on whom the rest of the national burthen lies? And if, by the knavery of jobbers, we are made to pay £600,000 for them, which is about the case, pray why not pay the £100,000 to the public, either to pay so much debt, or make the year's burthen lighter, of which I am sure there is need enough ? True, a worthy member detected the abominable cheat, and laid it before the House, which passed a vote to make voiá all bargains for tickets before the Act was passed; so the biters were bitten, and a certain Sir George
was obliged to refund; but the roguery of the design was never the less for that.”
1772 appears to have been the culminating point in the history of lottery gambling. The whole town seemed to go mad on the chance of making large gains from small ventures. There were lottery magazines; lottery tailors and
stay-makers; lottery glovers, hat-makers, and tea-dealere; lottery snuff and pigtail merchants; lottery barbers, who promised on a payment of 3d. to shave you, and give you a chance of being paid £10; lottery shoeblacks; lottery ordinaries, where, for 6d., a plate of boiled beef, and the chance of having sixty guineas might be obtained ; lottery oyster stalls, where 3d. yielded a dozen of oysters, and a distant prospect of five guineas; and, to wind up, at a sausage stall, in a blind alley, you might, by purchasing one farthing's worth of sausages, should the fates prove propitious, gain a bonus of five shillings. Quack doctors, too, then a high and trusted class, sold physic at a high price, giving their patients tickets in a lottery, promising numerous tempting prizes. Shopkeepers sold their goods by lottery; all ordinary business decreased, for people objected to buy things they hoped to get for nothing. Worthless articles of general consumption were disposed of by the wheel at an immense profit. When a State lottery was to be subscribed for at Mercers' Hall, the usual staff of clerks was insufficient to collect the names of bidders. “Little Goes," offshoots from the legal nuisance, produced still greater evils. The working man spent his last copper on these; fathers were so possessed by the infatuation that they gambled while their children starved; mothers sought the pawnshop to raise money to purchase tickets, while their infants cried for bread. In spite of the widespread demoralization and wretchedness thus occasioned, the evil continued and increased. Money began to be lent on lottery tickets, as marketable securities. In 1751, 30,000 such shares were pawned to the London bankers, though to have an even chance for a prize a purchaser must have held seven tickets, and it was fully ninety to one that even if you drew a prize it would be under £50.
A passion for lucky numbers was a new source of excite