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ART. V.-1. The Law relating to Betting, Time-Bargains, and
Gaming. By G. Herbert Stutfield. London, 1886. 2. Tempted London (Young Men). London, 1888. 3. The Gaming Table. By Andrew Steinmetz. 2 vols. Lon
don, 1870. 4. History of Playing Cards. By D. A. Chatto. London, 1848. 5. · The Guardian,' Oct. 3, 1888.
NE of the most fully attended Sectional Meetings of the
recent Church Congress was devoted to a discussion of gambling and betting. The Town Hall was filled to overflowing, and more nuinbers than the hall could accommodate desired to listen to the onslaught of learned clerical speakers on the evils of the most prevalent vice of the age. The inability of the Church itself to cope with the mischief was fully admitted. The idea of the formation of a society to attempt the task was mentioned only to be rejected, and speaker after speaker cited public opinion as the only real power. Such an admission is in itself somewhat remarkable. Time was when the Church of England would have recognized no such inability. Even now we are by no means sure that all the religious communities of the United Kingdom would allow, that the work of discountenancing or even putting down a mischievous social habit was beyond their powers.
But the Church is much in earnest in this question, and wisely seeks a strong alliance. Lay opinion did more to put an end to drunkenness in the upper classes of society than pulpit oratory. Men in the higher and middle ranks have long ceased to drink more wine than was good for them; but they have been moved to the abandonment of a custom of their forefathers, less by a feeling that it offended against morality or religion, than by the opinion that it offended against good taste. Jf the lower classes once are brought to understand that drunkenness is ungentlemanlike, drunkenness will disappear. Let it come to be admitted that a man who drinks too much is not a very fine fellow, but a contemptible fool; and first public, and then private, intoxication will become a thing of the past. It is a grave mistake to suppose that the lower classes have no canon of taste. It would be easy, were the task before us, to give many instances affording incontestable proof, that the working classes of Great Britain have an abundance of fine feeling, which operates largely on their habits and modes of life. Already there are many signs, that this influence is working effectually on the side of temperance, and that the day is coming when it will be as bad form for a working man
or artizan to get drunk, as it is for a member of those classes whose example is still powerful for good or evil.
It is to the same influence that we must look for the discouragement of an even more baneful habit. That influence is at present absolutely quiescent, and vigorous efforts are apparently needed to rouse it. For we have good reasons for thinking that there never a time when the taste for gambling was more widespread than it is now. It has, in fact, , become a trade or profession. It is not so much that cards and dice abound, as that betting is universal. Every class of society, from the highest to the lowest, is more or less affected with a mania for betting, for the development of which there are unhappily ample opportunities. To what extent these opportunities prevail, and what has been their recent development, we propose presently to discuss. Meanwhile a brief glance at gambling as a whole may not be without interest.
Gambling has been condemned by ethical authorities of many generations. Aristotle classes the gambler with the thief and the robber;* and we can well imagine the loathing which the philosopher, who hated even usury, had for so useless a means of seeking wealth. Blackstone calls gaming “a kind of tacit confession that the company engaged therein do in general exceed the bounds of their respective fortunes; and therefore they cast lots to determine upon whom the ruin shall at present fall, that the rest may be saved a little longer.' And Burton devotes a whole chapter of his · Anatomy of Melancholy' to a vigorous denunciation of gaming.t
What is gambling and what is its wrong? A learned writer of modern days condemns the gambler on the ground, that he desires to acquire without earning. But this answer will not bear close examination. The man who invests money in Consols acquires without earning, and if earning were made a condition of acquisition, the employment of capital would be impossible in all cases where the capitalist was unable to supervise its employment. Nor does the evil lie in the risk. At times enormous profits are made by trading. Hallam $ asserts that the interest of money was exceedingly high throughout the Middle Ages. He quotes a speech of Doge Mocenigo, reckoning the annual profit made by Venice on her mercantile capital at forty per cent. The speculator, who buys largely in one part of the world goods which he hopes to sell at a profit in another,
* ο μέν τοι κυβευτής και ο λωποδύτης και ο ληστής των ανελευθέρων είσιν, aio Xpoxepdeis gép.–Aristot. * Eth. Nic' iv. 1, $ 43. † • Anatomy of Melancholy,' iv. c. 13, 8.
Hallain's Middle Ages,' vol. iii. p. 337, ed. 1860.
runs grave risk. The miner, who spends all his wealth in prospecting for a valuable metal, runs grave risk. In every one of the myriad fields of commerce, there is hazard in the working, and ruin, as utter and as ghastly as any which has whelmed the gambler, may at any time overthrow the honest but unsuccessful tradesman. Nevertheless, though speculation may lead to rashness and be censurable, it is not gambling. Its harm is not ejusdem generis. Gambling may be said to be the risking of larger sums, than a man can afford, on ventures over which his own industry can exercise little or no control. And its evil lies in this. When two or more men gamble, the winners win and the losers lose, but there is no possible benefit to any one else, except maybe the owner of the building where they play. Commerce, even when wildly speculative, benefits some one. But by gambling no good is done to the world. In this fact lies the aio xpoxepoeia of the gambler. He spends his time and his energies in that which can be of no good. As a matter of fact, as we shall hereafter show, it is productive of enormous evil. But the disgrace of the means which the gambler adopts to gain his end lies in this essential, that it benefits no one. It is a pure waste of time.
Gambling has prevailed in every era and in every clime. Casting of lots was frequently adopted by the Israelites ; Saul being thus chosen for one destiny, and Jonah for another. • The Hindoo code,' says Steinmetz,* 'a promulgation of very high antiquity, denounces gambling. Herodotus † refers to a story told by the Priests of Egypt, that one of their kings gambled with Demeter in the infernal regions; and Plutarch relates a fable of Hermes gambling with the moon. In China gambling prevailed from the earliest times, and cards were known to Chinese long ere they were introduced into Europe, Steinmetz tells us that the Greenlanders gamble with a board and a revolving finger-piece, and that the African negro uses shells as dice. Many Indian tribes of North America are determined gamblers. The Mahabharata, the old Hindoo Epic, describes a gambling match between Yudhishthiva, chief warrior of the Pandavas, and Satruni, prince of the Kauravas, in which the latter by cheating won all the possessions of the former, including a lovely Queen, with the result of a murderous conflict. In Persia, dicing was a fashionable diversion, and Plutarch 9 relates a story of Parysatis, mother of Cyrus, who played with the King her husband for the slave who had slain her son, and, inasmuch as she excelled at playing a certain game with dice, won him. A statement which seems to point to the * The Gaming Table, p. 3.
+ ii, 122. •De Isid, et Osir.'c. 12.
§ Artaxerxes, c. 17.
conclusion that, even in such early days and such high society, the operations of chance were not always left uncontrolled.
In Greece, gambling prevailed to a vast extent. Homer describes Penelope's suitors as playing at draughts,* and Patroclus lost his temper at dice.
We have mentioned Aristotle's cold censure. Steinmetz quotes Callistratus's condemnation of high play, the games in which the losers go on doubling their stakes, resemble everrecurring wars which terminate only with the extinction of the combatants. The Romans loved gambling with tessera and talus, and betted largely on the circenses. Augustus had and deserved the reputation of a gambler, though he did not mind it, aleæ rumorem nullo modo expavit. Claudius played eagerly, and wrote a treatise upon gambling. Seneca fancies Claudius in the lower regions condemned to play dice with a box without a bottom. Domitian often played all day long, || and many of the other Emperors did the same. Oddly enough, Horace nowhere pours on gambling the scathing satire with which he lashes other vices; the reason may have been that so many of his patrons played, or did he .compound the sin he was inclined to ?' The fact, however, remains, that one allusion to 'vetita legibus alea's is his only reference. Even Juvenal scourges gambling lightly, using rather the scutica’ than the
horribile flagellum,' and condemns the selfishness of high play rather than the habit of playing at all.** Sallust attributes to Catiline the friendship and the following of men who by gambling had dissipated their inheritance. All gambling was forbidden by Justinian,tt and earlier the penalty of infamia seems to have been incurred by those who were convicted of gaming. It But games of chance were lawful at the Saturnalia, and public opinion allowed old men to amuse themselves thus.$$ There can be no doubt, however, that the gambler was, in the Republic at least, held in disrepute.
* πεσσοίσι προπάροιθε θυράων θυμόν έτερπον, “Od. i. 107.
$ Suet. “Claud.' 33. | Suet. . Dom.' 21.
Hor. Carm.' iii. 21, 58.
Simplexne furor sestertia centum,
Juv. 'Sat.' i. 88-92. Elsewhere, however, he speaks of “alea turpis ... mediocribus' (xi. 176) and * damnosa alea' (xiv. 4). it Cod. 3, tit. 43.
11 See as to this, Cicero, · Phil.' ii. 23, 56. $$ Plaut. Curc.' ii. 37, 5; and Cic. de Senect.' 16, 58.
Coming to more recent times, and to nearer countries, we find that in the fourteenth century, Alphonso of Castille endeavoured to prevent gambling by founding an order of chivalry in which it was forbidden; and later, John of Castille attempted to do the same by edict. In spite of several lukewarm attempts to prevent it, gambling ever throve in France. Charles VI. lost five thousand livres one day to his brother. In the reign of that monarch flourished the Hôtel de Nesle, where,
Maint gentilshommes tres hault
Argent honeur et seigrourie.' and
Jouers experts deviennent Rufien
Jouers de Dez gourmands et plains d'Yvresse,' and to the same reign is attributed, not perhaps with good reason, the introduction of cards into Europe.
Henri III. gambled at tennis, a game which in late times has been absolutely free from such a reproach. Notre grand Henri' was a gambler from his youth, and fostered, if he did not invent, the system of playing on paper or by vouchers, which perhaps more than any other has led to the development of high play, and stakes quite beyond the means of the players. There are many stories of the cupidity, the meanness, and the rashness of a king, who in many respects deserved the admiration of his subjects. Under him académies de jeu'were established, to which all classes of society were attracted, to follow the example of the Court. Huge sums were lost by distinguished officers of state. Biron in a single year was half-a-million of crowns to the bad. The well-known diplomatist and courtier, Bassompierre, flourished for many years on his winnings, but ended, like many other successful gamesters, in penury and wretched ness. An Italian named Pimentello, whom Sully seems to have called a piffre, or greedy guts, won large sums by dexterity rather than good fortune. The example set by the King was followed by all classes of Parisian society, and in the teeth of the law magistrates and judges sold permissions to play. Louis XIII. was less of a gambler than his predecessors or successor, and the law which was made more stringent was
* For a long while the invention of cards was beliered to have occurred in the reign of Charles VI. in consequence of the researches of Père Menestrier, who found a memoir on the subject of some cards painted by Gringonneur, from which he assumed that these cards were the first examples. But traces of much earlier cards have been discovered, and there are many reasons, too long to examine, for the opinion that cards were introduced into Europe by the Gipsies or Zingari somewhere in the thirteenth century.