ca. 20 Jan. 1826
Thoughts on Lotteries, and that particularly now asked
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 the cause , we do not call it chance; but if we know we say it was produced by Chance. if we see a loded die turn it’s 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 knolege or ignorance of cause. not knowing why side of an unloaded die turns up, not make the act of throwing 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 on the chance of gain. the navigator risks his ship in the hope if she is not lost in the voyage gaining an advantageous freight, the merchant risks his cargo to gain a better price for it. a proprietor builds a house on the risk of indemnifying himself by a rent. , you stake you hope to win. but the greatest of all gamblers is the Farmer, who risks the seed he puts into the ground, the year’s labor on it, and the wear & tear of his cattle and gear, to win a crop, which too much or too little rain and the uncertainties of weather, waste Etc make a total or partial loss. these then are games of chance yet so far from being immoral are indispensable to the existence of man, and every has a natural right to pursue such one of them as he thinks most likely to furnish him subsistence. almost all these pursuits produce something useful to society. but there are some which produce nothing, and endanger the well being of the individuals engaged in them or others depending on them. such are games with cards, dice, billiards, Etc. and altho’ the pursuit of them is a matter of natural right, yet the society percieving the irresistable bent of some of it’s members to pursue them, and the ruin produced by them to the families dependg on these individuals, consider it as a case of insanity quoad hoc, step in to protect the individual against himself as in other cases of insanity, or infancy, imbecility, Etc 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 to excess. such are lotteries raffles, Etc, these they do not suppress, but take their regulation their own discretion. the insurance of a ship of chance, yet useful, and the right therefore left free to be exercised. so of houses against fire, of a doubtful debt, of the continuance of a life, and similar cases. money is wanting for an useful undertaking 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 the price of a ticket without injury, for the possibility of a high prize, an article of property, is sometimes of so large value, as that no purchaser can be found, while the owner owes debts & his creditors have no other chance of payment but by it’s sale at a fair price. here it is a salutary right of disposing of it by a lottery, wherein many run small risks for the chance of the high prize. in this way the great estate of the late Colo Byrd was sold which had the whole been brought into the market at once on forced sales, it would have the demand, sold at half or quarter value, and sacrificed the creditors, the half or of whom would have lost their debts. and this method of selling became at length so as to nourish too much a spirit of hazard, and to induce the legislature of Lotteries under their direction. this they did for the 1st time by the act of 1769. c.17 before which time every person exercised the right freely, and since which time it is made unlawful but when authorised by a special law of the legislre.
Since then the permission to exercise the right has been taken into the hands of the legislre let us examine the purposes for which they have permitted it in practice.
1. it was for a long time an item of the standing revenue.
1813. c.1.§3. an Act imposing taxes for the support of Govmt
1814. c.1.§.3. same title or object.
1814. Feb. c.1.§.3.
this then is a declarn the nation that an act was not immoral of which they were in the habitual use as a part of the means of , the tax on the Venders of the tickets their share of the profits, and if their share was innoncent, his cd not be criminal.
2. 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 withhold a part of the money (generally about 15.p.c.) for the use which the lottery is to be applied. so that while the adventurers paid 100.D. for tickets they recd back in the form of prize 55. only the remaing 15. being the tax laid on them with their own consent. examples are
|1784.||c.||34.||§5. authorizg city of Wmsbg to raise 2000.£ for a grammar school|
|1789.||c.||73.||academy to raise 500.£|
|74.||Fredsbg acad 4700.£|
|1790.||c.||46.||Transylva seminary 500.£|
|acad. in Southampton. 300.£|
|1796.||c.||82.||New London acad. sum?|
|1803.||c.||49.||Fredsbg charity school. sum?|
|c.||58.||Wm& M. Col.|
|1804.||c.||40.||Seminary at Hotsprings.|
|1805.||c.||24.||Rumford acad. K. Wm|
|1812.||c.||10.||Literary fund. 30,000D. annually for 7.y. to come.|
|1816||c.||80.||Lottery. 12M. to Norf. acad. 6.M. Lancastrian school. 2M female soc. Norfolk|
3. the next object of Lotteries has been rivers.
|bridge between Gosport and Portsmouth. 400£|
|1796.||c.||83.||for clearing Roanoke river|
|1816.||c.||49.||Dism. swamp. 50,000D|
|1796.||c.||85.||to repair certain roads. ? sum and roads.|
|1803.||c.||60.||improving road to Snigger’s & Ashby’s gaps|
|61.||do to Brock’s gap.|
|65.||to open a road from town of Monroe to Sweet Springs & Lewisbg|
|71.||for improving road to Brock’s gap.|
|1805.||c.||5.||improving road to Clarksbg|
|26||opening a road from Monongalia glades to Fishing cr.|
|1813.||c.||44.||do from Thornton’s gap.|
[see Farewell address 2. Pleasants 144. 1809. Feb. 7.]
5. for Counties
|1796.||c.||78.||to authorise a lottery in the county of Shenandoah.|
6. for towns.
|1782.||c.||31.||Richmond. bridge over Shockoe cr. such sum as they think adequate.|
|1789.||c.||75.||Alexandria. 1500.£ paving streets|
|1796.||c.||79.||authorising one or more lotteries in Norfolk|
|81.||authorises a lottery in Petersbg|
|48.||Fredsbg for improving the main streets|
|73.||improving streets in Harrisonbg|
7. for religious Congregns.
|1785.||c.||111.||for compleating a church in Winchester & buildg one in the parish of Eliz. River|
|1791.||c.||69.||for the benefit of the Episcopal society|
|1790.||c.||46.||church in Warminster. building, £200.|
|building church in Halifx. 200.£|
|building church in Alexa 500.£|
|building church in Petersbg 750£|
|compleating a church in Shepherd’s town 250.£|
|1790.||c.||46.||Amicable society in Richmd 1000£|
|1791.||c.||70||building Free mason’s hall in Charlotte 750.£|
|1790.||c.||46.||to raise 2000.£ for Nathaniel Turnery|
|to erect paper mill in Staunton. 300.£|
|1791.||c.||73.||Wm Tatham 4000.£ to complete geograph work. not to take more than 10.p.c.|
|1796.||c.||80||sufferers by fire in town of Lexington|
|to enable an author to publish his book.|
We have seen then that every vocation in life is subject to the influence of chance, that so far from being rendered immoral by the mixture of that ingredient were they abandoned on that acct man could no longer that among them every has a natural right to chuse that which he thinks most likely to give him comfortable subsistence; but that while the great of these pursuits are productive of something adds to the necessaries and comforts of life, others are entirely unproductive, and yet so easy, and so seducing to man of a certain constn of mind they brings ruin ‘themselves their families and dependencies in case as in those of insanity, idiocy, infancy, Etc it is the duty of society to take them under it’s protection restrain their natural right from the choice of these pursuits by suppressing them absolutely. that there are others, as lotteries particularly which altho liable to chance also are useful for many purposes, and therefore are retained and placed under the discretion of the legislature to be permitted or refused accdg to the circumstances of every special case of which they are to judge. and between the years 1782. and 1820 a span of 30. years we have produced cases when the permission of them has been deemed useful by the legislat. and these cases relate to the convenience of the whole [. . .] as an item of revenue
2. to educn generally
3. to the accomodn of certain districts of country by improvg yr navign
4. by opening or improving their roads of communcn
5. by giving assistance to counties or
6. to towns for paving their streets and other conveniences
7. to enable religious to build or repair their churches,
8. or other private societies for buildings necessy for yr objects of yr assocn
9. and lastly to give relief to single individuals particular circumstances which may claim indulgence or favor.
The latter is the case now submitted to the legislre, and the question is whether the individual or his situan may merit that degree of considn which will justify the legislre in taking off the interdiction of lotteries in his particular case. permitting him to avail himself of the method of lottery to obtain a fair price for his property for the purpose of paying his debts.
that a fair price cannot be obtained by sale in the ordinary way, and in the present depressed state of Agricultural industry is well known. lands in this state will not now sell for more than a 3d or 4th of what they would have brought a few years ago, perhaps at the very time of the contraction of the debts for which they are sold. the low price in foreign markets of Agricultural produce generally and of wheat especially (the general staple of the US.) for a series of years past, the accumuln of taxes on the articles of consumption not produced in our particular state, not only disables the Farmer from adding to his farm by purchase, but forces him to sell his own and remove to the Western country, glutting the market he leaves while he lessens the number of bidders. to be protected against this sacrifice is the object of the present applicn, and whether the applicant has any particular claim to this protection is the present question.
others must give the answer. the least fit of all persons to estimate own merits. I may more readily then others the list of offices in which I have served.
I came of age in 1764 and was soon put into the nomination of Justices of the county: at the 1st election following I became representatives in the legislature.
Thence to 1st Congress.
then employed 2.y. with mr Wythe & Pendleton on the Revisal & reduction single code of all the British stat. acts asse and certain parts of the Com. L.
In these different offices, with scarcely any interval between them I have been in the public service now 61.y. and during the far greater part of the time in foreign countries or states, every one knows how inevitably a Virga estate goes to ruin when the master is so far as to be unable to attend to it . and the more especially when the employment is so different in character as to alienate his mind entirely from the knolege necessary to good and even saving management.
if it were thought proper to specify any particular services rendered, I would refer to the specification of them made by the legislature itself in their Farewell address on my retiring from the Presidency Feb. 7. 1809. which will be found in 2. Pleasant’s Collection pa 144. there is one however not therein specified the most important in it’s consequences of any transaction in any portion of my life. the head I personally made agt the Federal principles and practices . their usurpns and violns their majority in both houses of Congress was so great, so decided, and so daring that after combating their aggressions, the constn, inch by inch and one by one, without being able to check their career, the Republican leaders thot it would be best for them to give up their useless efforts there, go home, get into their respective legislres, embody whatever of resistance could be formed into, and die there as in last ditch. all therefore retired, mr Gallatin alone remaining in the H. of R. and myself in the Senate where I then presided as V. P. we remained firmly bidding defiance to the brow beatings and insults with which they assailed us, in and keeping the mass of republicans in phalanx , until the legislres could be led onto and nothing on earth is more certain that if myself particularly head of the republicans, had given way and withdrawn from my post, the republican thro’out the Union would have given up in despair and the cause have been lost for ever. by holding on, we obtained time for the legislatures to come up with their weight, and of Virga and Ky particularly but more especially the former by their celebrated resolns saved the constn at it’s last gasp. no person who was not a witness of the scenes of that gloomy period can form, any idea of the persecutions & personal indignities we had to brook . they saved our country the spirits of the people were so much subdued rendered desperate machinations that they would have sunk into apathy & monarchy as the only form of govmt which could maintain itself.
If legislve services are worth mentioning and the stamp of liberality and equality which was necessary to be empressed on our laws in the first crisis of our revolution was of any value they will find that the leading and most important were prepared by myself and carried chiefly by my effort. indeed by able and faithful coadjutors from the ranks of the house, very effective as seconds but who would not have taken the field as leaders.
The prohibition of the further importn of slaves was the first in time. this was followed by which up the high-handed aristocracy which by immense masses of property in single lines of a family divided our citizens into two distinct orders of nobles and .
But further to compleat equality among our citizens so essential to the maintenance of republican govmt, I procured the abolition of the principle of primogeniture by the law of descents [. . .] by myself which gave an equal inheritance in lands to sons & daurs of [. . .].
The attack on the establishment of a dominant religion was first made by myself; it could be carried at first suspending salaries for one year battling again the bill for religious freedom which I had prepared for the revised code. was at length established permanently by the efforts of mr Madison, being myself in Europe at the time that work was brought forward.
To these particular services I think I might add the establmt of our University as principally my work, acknoleging the great assistance recieved from my able coadjutors burthen of the enterprise the effect of this institution on the future fortune of our country can as yet be seen but at a distance. but 100. well educated youths which it will turn out annually and ere long will fill all it’s offices with men of superior qualifns and raise it from it’s humbled state to an eminence among it’s associates which it has never yet know. that instn is now qualified to raise it’s youth to an order of science unequalled in any other state and the free range of encouraged by the shackles of a domineering hierarchy and a superstitutious adhesion to antient habits. [. . .] those now on the state of affairs will enjoy the order of science & intellect unknown to themselves. our sister states will also be repairing to the same fountains will bring hither their genius to be kindled at our fires and will carry back the fraternal affections which nourished by the same Alma mater, will knit us indissoluble bonds of early personal frdships. the good old Dominion the blessed mother of us all will then raise her head with pride among the nations, will present to them that splendor of genius which she has ever possessed has too long suffered to rest uncultivated & unknown, and will to the states whose youth she has instructed, and, as it were, adopted.
I claim some share in the merits of this great work of regeneration. my whole labors, now for many years, have been devoted to it, and I stand pledged to follow it up through the remnant of life remaining to me. and what remuneration do I ask? money from the treasury?—not a cent. I ask nothing from the earnings or labors of my f. c. for for the services rendered on all former occns have been always paid to my full satisfn I never wished a dollar more than has been freely given me. my only request is to be permitted to sell my own property to pay my own debts. to sell it I say and not to sacrifice it. not to have it gobbled up by Speculators to make fortunes for them leavg unpaid those who have trusted to my good faith and myself in my old age without house or home, if permitted to sell it in a way which will bring me a fair price, all will be honestly & honorably paid and there will remain a competence for myself and for those who look to me for subsistence. to sell it in a way which will offend no moral principle and expose none to risk but the willing & wishing to take the chance of gain, and to indulge me with the mode of relief you are dayly granting to others for not more moral.
Will it be objected that altho’ not evil in itself, it may as a precedent lead to evil? but let those who shall quote the precedent within it’s limits. have they devoted of their lives uninterruptedly to the service of their country? have the times of those services been as trying, as those which have embraced our revoln, our transition from a colonial to a free structure of govmt? have the stations of their trial been of equal importance? has the share they have borne in holding their new govmt to it’s republican principles been equally marked? has the cause of the distress against which they seek a remedy proceeded not merely from themselves but from errors of the public authorities over which they had no controul, and which have in fact doubled, & trebled debts by reducing in that proportion the means of paying them? if all these circumstances which characterize the present case taken place in theirs also, then follow the precedent. be assured they will be so rare as to produce no embarrassment as never to an habit. the single feature of a 60. years service as no other instance has yet in our country, so it is probable it never may again. and should it occur even once and again it will not improverish your treasury as it takes nothing from that, and asks but a simple permission, by an act of natural right to do one of moral justice.
mill too valble to produce competn
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.