The Hon. Mr. Lyttelton
rose, in pursuance of his notice, to call the attention of the House to the dangerous, immoral, and fraudulent measure so long established in this country as a financial arrangement, of raising money upon the people by way of lotteries. The prejudices that prevailed against a subject of this kind as well as 1170 against any other which proposed any thing that the gentlemen opposite were pleased to call "innovation," were very strong at this moment; indeed, he lamented to say, that there was a great inattention on the part of persons both within and without that House to every thing morally and politically connected with the means of raising of money. It was necessary, no doubt, that money should be raised to support the expenses of the state; but the utmost jealousy should be entertained by the people, and particularly by those who represented them in that House, that no taxes should be imposed that could be avoided, and more especially, that no mode of taxation should be adopted which would lead to the destruction of the morals of the community. It could not have escaped the notice of almost every gentleman, that it was usual to consider this subject as a sort of joke. The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, and those who sat beside him, had been used to say, "You only find fault with the lottery puff's;" this excited a laugh, and then the matter dropped These lottery puffs were considered merely as so much nonsense which every body saw through and not as having any injurious tendency. He was fully persuaded, therefore, it must be the effect of evidence that would get the better of the habitual prejudice on this subject. Amongst the different expedients that were resorted to for raising money, it was said, that the lottery was the only one to which the people cheerfully assented, because it was a voluntary, and not a compulsory tax which could not be said of any other tax; but what had the two committees, who were appointed at different periods, to inquire into the consequences of this species of taxation reported to the House? They had stated, that this system was radically vicious; that it was as improvident as it was immoral; and, in the last place, that the manner of raising the money was, on all accounts, objectionable. There could be no doubt, that it produced every species of fraud and irregularity that could be imagined. He held in his hand a report, stating the gross amount of the revenue; and it appeared that the whole annual sum derived from this source, on an average of the last five years, did not exceed 550,000l. He believed, however, that this estimate was a good deal more than the lottery really produced in most years; but certainly, in the last year, it could not 1171 be rated higher than 500,000l. This sum was raised on the public at a very enormous expense; the cost and charge of raising it amounting to 570,000l.; so that, in fact, the expense of its collection was greater in amount than the sum it brought into the exchequer. By the terms of the last lottery, a ticket, originally worth 10l., was sold to the public at 23l.: and the sum distributed into prizes was so unequal, that four men were plundered to make one rich. Nothing could justify such a system as that pursued by the public contractors. The scheme of the lottery now about to be drawn, had been published in the London Gazette, and this made the sixth lottery within twelve months. If the right hon. gentleman did actually set his signature to that scheme, if he had really been guilty of that gross imposture and deception on the public which the scheme disclosed, he knew not in what parliamentary terms he could sufficiently reprobate his conduct. He trusted, however, that the exposure of this fraudulent scheme would have some effect on the public, if it had none on the virtuous mind of the right hon. gentleman. The chance of any great prize was about 71 to 1. The prizes, two of which were stated as at 40,000l., two of 20,000l., were not prizes in money but in stock; so that the grand total of prizes apparently (and no doubt so stated for the purpose of deception), was full 220,000l., but in hard money amounted to no more than 108,000l.; and the worst of all was, that these great prizes were not convertible even into cash, but were to be kept in reserve, in part, to purchase shares in another subsequent lottery. By such false representations, many persons were induced to speculate in lotteries; and as the lottery contractors were too well aware of their own interest, to publish any thing that would tend to undeceive the public, they never permitted them to see the supplementary part of the scheme in the daily papers, so that none but persons fortunate enough to see the Gazette itself, were ever aware of the true state of the lottery. There were great numbers of very ignorant and illiterate people in the country, who might be induced to part with their money in this scheme; but as they were not aware that the contractors published a supplementary plan in the Gazette, they were unable to form any opinion as to the folly and madness of risking their hard-earned wages in this abominable speculation. But this de- 1172 testable scheme of fraud made its appearance in the Gazette, and was actually recommended by the chancellor of the exchequer and the lords of the treasury—a scheme so exceedingly dishonest, and the approval of it so extremely unjustifiable, that every gentleman, in his private transactions, would be ashamed of putting his name to it. And yet, in the Gazette of that day, he found the following notice attached to the foot of the scheme:—After our hearty commendations, having considered the above scheme of the fifth and supplementary lotteries, to be drawn pursuant to the provisions of an act of 56 Geo. 3d, we do hereby signify to you our consent and approbation of the said scheme.Whitehall, Treasury Chambers, the 11 th day of March, 1817.The right hon. gentleman had taken some pains in promoting religious societies; he had attended Bible meetings, and made some eloquent speeches on religion and morality; he had professed the most lively interest for the comforts of the poor. But what did all this amount to? What would the House of Commons think, what could the people think, what could the right hon. gentleman himself think, of these gambling speculations? Did these fraudulent schemes accord with those pure notions of morality, of which he had for so many years been the advocate? But the House must not countenance such frauds; and as they could not expect to have another chancellor of the exchequer of such nice moral feeling, it was a strong argument against granting lotteries at present. With respect to the mode of drawing the lottery, nothing could be more mischievous than to employ boys who belonged to one of our noblest establishments, and who were thus brought up in the habit of witnessing gambling. The lottery, too, had been sometimes drawn by night; the persons appointed by government as inspectors having previously received an excellent dinner, at the expense of the contractors, by which they were, as he understood, frequently reduced to a state very little short of beastly drunkenness! He had heard the chancellor of the exchequer last year admit, that gambling was a vice, which, however, could not be exterminated, and that, on this ground, as much profit 1173 should be drawn from it as possible. "God grant," he had then said, "that the vice was exterminated; but since it cannot be so, let us not refuse to take the 500,000l.!" Now this was a most singular way of arguing, especially for the right hon. gentleman; and he wished to know on what scheme of morality he could reconcile his conduct, in this point, to his conscience as a Christian, or his duty as his majesty's chancellor of the exchequer. He (Mr. Lyttelton) denied, however, that the spirit of gambling was inherent in the people; and if a passion for gambling did exist in any part of the community at present, it had been created and promoted by the lotteries. The distresses arising from this species of gambling were not a matter of notoriety. Few in that House were acquainted with the real condition of the people. They read a lottery puff, laughed at it, and knew nothing more of its consequences than that some friend of their's might have been silly enough to purchase a share which turned up a blank; but they were little aware of the vast numbers of poor people who were grossly cheated out of their money. This system of lotteries was attended by one other disadvantage to the moral character of the nation, namely, the encouragement of informers. The abuses consequent on the employment of that class of persons, were of the grossest description, and subjected the secretary of lotteries to so many disagreeable circumstances, that, without meaning to make any personal allusion to the individual at present holding the office, he was assured, if that situation should become vacant, the right hon. gentleman opposite would find much difficulty in procuring a barrister of any character to accept of it. The preamble of the act for the suppression of little goes, about which so much noise had been made, applied in every respect to the great goes; for they, too, were subversive of morality, and tended to plunder the people of considerable sums of money by fraudulent misrepresentations; and against such an evil, the argument built on the increase or diminution of the revenue was very feeble. During the discussions on this question, in the last session, the chancellor of the exchequer had said, that the state lotteries were conducted on so magnificent a scale, that it was difficult, nay, almost impossible, for poor persons to adventure even in the purchase of a sixteenth, and, therefore, that they could not be exten- 1174 sively injurious to them; but to him (Mr. Lyttelton) it appeared by no means impossible, that a poor man might scrape together 1l. 12s. for that purpose; and if he could not do this honestly, a strong temptation existed, to make up the sum by a little roguery; a circumstance, the frequent occurrence of which was stated in one of the reports of a committee of that House on the subject. The difficulty, too, was met by the formation of clubs, for the purpose of purchasing sixteenths, by which means poor people were enabled to embark their little savings in the state gambling-house, under the sanction and "hearty commendation" of the chancellor of the exchequer. If this were a disadvantage to the country, in prosperous circumstances, what must be the consequences during the present state of general distress, when the parish rates had been so far increased in every part of the country? And if those burthens on the industrious were still farther aggravated by this baneful system of licensed gaming, the country had a right to exclaim against it. In the present wretched state of the country, what an evil it was, that missionaries should be dispatched throughout the kingdom to tempt the poor, by every description of fallacious enticement, to enter into this species of gambling! The inevitable consequence was, that many were thrown on the parish, and the poor-rates were considerably increased. By the city of London, in a petition to that House, the lottery was declared to be a nuisance. He had, some time ago, in consequence of the notice which he had given on this subject, received a letter from the active and most exemplary magistrate who now presided over the metropolis, who thanked him for the step which he was about to take, and told him, that he was thoroughly persuaded of the injurious effects of lotteries, the mischiefs of which were daily increasing. This opinion, proceeding from such high authority, and from one possessing so much local knowledge, ought to have considerable weight. In fact, he was persuaded, that if it were practicable to collect them, the sentiments of every wise and good man throughout the empire, would be found inimical to lotteries. There was one cause which no doubt produced a great deal of the tenacity that had appeared on the part of government on this subject. The lottery was the source of considerable patronage. There 1175 were in the gift of the Crown, as connected with lotteries, four places of 500l. a year; five places of 850l. a year; one place of 300l. a year; one place of 230l. year; twenty-one places of 200l. a year; and six places of from 100l. to 150l. a year, being in the whole upwards of thirty offices of considerable value, a great portion of which were sinecures. In Ireland, also there was a first commissioner (sir A. Alexander), with 300l. a year; 4 commissioners with each 200l. a year; 2 certifying commissioners with each 100l. a year; 2 comptrollers with each 100l.; a stamp master (Mr.Thompson), with 242l. a year (who had been about 16years absent from Ireland); two clerks, with 60l. a year; and two clerks with 50l. a year: making, in the whole, the annual sum of 2,112l. although no lottery had been drawn in Ireland for sixteen years. This appeared a most shameful abuse, and required serious explanation. Every fresh consideration of the subject impressed on his mind a still deeper conviction of the importance of it. The system was radically bad and injurious; and he felt convinced, that if he could succeed in removing it, he would be doing an essential service to his country. It sickened the very heart to see the condition in which the poor of the country at present were. He did not state this as a charge against his majesty's government (it had been brought on by a war, unnecessary in its origin, and extravagant in its prosecution) but as an imperative call on them to remove every thing calculated to increase the distresses of the lower classes. On all sides, the government was now called on to make retrenchment; but when he saw that the retrenchment he proposed was one which would combine the suppression of a great evil with an advantage to the revenue of the country, he did hope that it would not meet with a rejection from the House. To abolish lotteries would be to combine a present good to the poor with no very remote benefit to the finances. It was true, that in the first instance, the 500,000l. raised by the lottery must be found elsewhere, but he would much rather see it taken fairly and honourably out of the pockets of the people, than obtained in the present insidious and mischievous manner. The state was to be saved, but of this he was convinced, that it was not to be saved by such crooked means. Under these impressions, it was his intention to move three resolutions, similar to those 1176 which he had proposed last year, but somewhat softened in their tendency; as his object was not censure of the past, but the prevention for the future, of a repetition of the evil. Those Resolutions were as follows:—
- "N. VANSITTART,
- "C. GRANT, junior,
- "G. W. ODELL."
The first Resolution being put,
- 1. "That, by the establishment of State Lotteries, a spirit of gambling is encouraged and provoked, which abates the moral strength of the state, and must ultimately diminish its financial resources.
- 2. "That such Lotteries are attended with peculiar evils, which the severest regulations have failed to extinguish, and which have been repressed only by laws, whose provisions are arbitrary and unconstitutional, and their enforcement liable to the greatest abuse.
- 3. "That this House therefore will no longer authorize the establishment of State Lotteries, under any system of regulation whatever."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose to impress on the House the important truth, that on the preservation of what remained of the public income of the county, the security of the empire depended. If they did not most seriously weigh every proposition, the tendency of which was to reduce that income, the situation of the country must speedily become most alarming. There was little of novelty in the speech made by the hon. gentleman, and he trusted therefore that the House would come to the same decision upon the proposition as they had done upon that brought forward by the hon. gentleman last year. With respect to the objections urged by the hon. gentleman against the details of the measure, they had no bearing on the principle of it. There was nothing immoral and illegal in the principle, unless all games of chance were prima facie to be so considered; a doctrine which very few, even of the most severe moralists would maintain. If games of chance were in any case to be considered lawful and innocent, they ought surely not to be held otherwise when they were rendered subservient to the benefit of the state. If it was allowed that games of chance were at all lawful, they could not certainly be in a more unobjectionable shape than under the regulation of state lotteries. It was certainly true that there were a few-instances of persons in very desperate circumstances rendering their situation worse by venturing in the lottery; but if there were no state lottery, persons of that 1177 disposition would not want means of ruining themselves. He had never argued (as it had been alleged of him) that private vices might be made public virtues. Parliament had not been neglectful of its duty in correcting the evils attendant on the details of lotteries. It would be recollected, that many years ago there were two principal evils objected to in lotteries. One was the almost infinite divisibility of tickets, which gave to the poorest of the people an opportunity of purchasing a share; the other was, the extension of the time of drawing to forty or fifty days; affording the greatest encouragement to illegal insurances. Some remains of this latter practice might possibly yet exist, but they could not be to a very great extent. One question for the House to determine was, if the suppression of lotteries would not tend to increase the mischiefs of that very species of gaming against which the observations of the hon. gentleman were chiefly directed. The maintenance of the lottery kept up an establishment, active in checking little-goes, and private gambling of that description, by which, were it not thus much diminished, the unwary would be still more frequently entrapped. The difficulty also that at present existed in preventing the sale of tickets for foreign lotteries would be materially increased. They would be bought by thousands if the home lottery were ever to be destroyed to make way for them. The hon. gentleman had been pleased to say, that if he (the chancellor of the exchequer) had to look for a secretary to the lottery, he could not find any gentleman at the bar of credit and talents who would accept the situation. It certainly had not been his lot to be under the necessity of looking for a successor to the gentleman who now filled that office very much to his (the chancellor's) satisfaction; but he had no doubt, if a vacancy in that office was to occur, he could find many among his old friends at the bar who would be glad to fill it, who would fill it creditably—as creditably and as beneficially for the public service as it was now filled by the individual who so respectably filled it. Mr. Perceval, who would be suspected by no man pf a disposition to make his appointments from men without credit and talents, had chosen the gentleman who was the present secretary, and had found him highly qualified in every respect for the office. A disagreeable office in some points it certainly was, bringing the individual 1178 who held it into contact with people of a very mean and disagreeable description, the persons giving informations, and the persons against whom informations were given, being almost exclusively in the lowest walks of life; but this was an inconvenience common to several branches of the legal profession. It was a fact, however, that of all the individuals who had acted as informers on this subject, only one had ever been convicted of false allegations. When the hon. gentleman asserted that the patronage of the lottery was a principal cause of its continuance on the part of government, he ought to have had the candour to add that that patronage had been greatly diminished. Mr. Perceval (all of whose actions proceeded on the impulse either of private morality or of public honour), reduced the number of the commissioners of the lottery from 42 to 28. There was this objection to a further reduction of the number, namely, that the persons who engaged in the lottery had a great jealousy on the subject, and if they saw a small number of commissioners would imagine that some unfair practices were resorted to. The present commissioners were all gentlemen of high character, and they seldom met except on their public duty. Much less could he applaud the candour of the hon. gentleman in his observations on the Irish lottery. It was true, as the hon. gentleman stated, that no lottery had been drawn in Ireland for 16 years; it having been deemed inexpedient to have two lotteries drawn in the empire at the same time, and the suppression of the lottery in Ireland having been considered one of the sacrifices which government was bound to make for the welfare of that country, as its effect in that country had been much more pernicious than in England. The Irish lottery having ceased, the persons employed in it had since received only that allowance to which it was considered they were entitled as a compensation for the loss of their situations. Whenever a vacancy occurred it was not filled up, so that the establishment would soon become extinct. The hon. gentleman's statement as to the expense of the lottery to the public was erroneous; if the tickets were all sold indeed a larger sum might be paid by the public than ever came into the coffers of the state; but this was not the case, and lottery contractors seldom gained much by their bargains, though they had on some occasions been losers. But the trea- 1179 sury had limited the price of tickets to 19l. 10s. because too much had sometimes been asked. Neither was the present scheme so unfavourable as the hon. gentleman, had represented: the price of stocks might rise, and tickets would then be more valuable. So far from the chance in the present scheme being as low as 4 to 1, as the hon. gentleman, alleged, the price of a ticket was 19l. 10s., and the lowest sum that had been assigned for its value was 8l., so that the chance did not seem to be more than five to two. As to the employment of the Christ Church boys to draw the lottery, he really did not see so much objection to it as the hon. gentleman expressed. It was an ancient usage, with which it was not for the treasury to interfere. The governors of Christ's Hospital were well known to be very zealous for the character of those who were educated there, and if they thought the practice detrimental, they would assuredly put an end to it. But really he could not discover how the spirit of gambling was encouraged in a boy, by merely employing him as a machine to draw the tickets out of the wheel. Much stress had been laid by the hon. gentleman on the opinion expressed by the city of London on this subject. Their scruples, however, had seized them but lately. It was but a few years ago, since they procured the passing of an act for the purpose of disposing by lottery of houses built by them in the course of improvement. The hon. gentleman talked of the exaggerated value ascribed to the prizes in the state lottery, but what was that to the exaggeration used in the city lottery? He had an opportunity of knowing that one of the principle prizes in the city lottery, a house valued at 25,000l. was actually sold by auction for 7,500l. On the whole, the practical question for the House to determine was, whether a certain revenue of 500,000l. not levied by constraint, but being the voluntary contribution of those by whom it was furnished, was to be lightly given up? The hon. gentleman had dwelt much on the distress existing in the country. Did he think that any addition to the present taxes of 500,000l. a year could be made, without materially increasing that distress? Would not the mischief arising from any such attempt be much greater than the evil resulting from the lottery? Those who thought that it would be so, would vote with him against the hon. gentleman's resolutions.
§ Sir Samuel Romilly
greatly lamented 1180 that the chancellor of the exchequer should have ridiculed the altered opinions of the city of London: they were more worthy of being adopted than ridiculed. In his opinion, the right hon. gentleman should have been forward to follow the example of that great corporation. Sir Samuel admitted that the country could at present but badly afford to relinquish any source of revenue, but he contended it could just as badly afford to relinquish the morals of its lower orders. Even admitting that lotteries produced a very large revenue, he asked how much revenue was lost by taking away from the lower orders those habits of sober industry which were so essential to the well-being of the state, and so conducive to the production of legitimate revenue? The loss so sustained must be considerable; but the great injury was, the reducing to poverty and to the work-house many who, but for lotteries, would be giving to their families and their country the benefit of assiduous industry and untainted morals. He had no hesitation in saying, that lotteries greatly contributed to the increased amount of the poor's-rates. The right hon. gentleman took a most mistaken view of the subject, in supposing that the love of purchasing lottery tickets was a natural appetite. It was no such thing. It was an unnatural and artificial appetite; and, in the view of the present subject, one created by the most active efforts, and excited by the most powerful stimulants which ingenuity could devise. The state lottery afforded a multiplication of allurements and inducements to the spirit of gaming, which was an evil that increased and extended itself with great rapidity. The right hon. gentleman admitted, that having lotteries in different places was calculated to promote a spirit of gaming, and that gaming was one of those habits which a multiplication of lotteries necessarily tended to encourage. Then why did he sanction such a multiplication of lotteries as to permit six in a single year? Even the contractors themselves acknowledged that they had scarce time to recover from the effects of one lottery before they were assailed by another. Mr. Bish, who was examined before the committee in 1812, said, "Formerly there was but one lottery in the course of a year, but they are now so frequent, that the public have not recovered from one lottery, before another is drawn." This was what a dealer in the lottery said; and, from this it ap- 1181 peared, that no time was given to suffer the moral feelings of the people to take their natural course, and to throw aside this expensive and vicious propensity. It signified little what the feelings of those disinterested gentlemen, the contractors, might be upon such occasions, but it signified much to reflect what injury the morals of the people must sustain, when they were not permitted to recover from the effects of one lottery before they were endangered by the temptations of another. It was true, that now no lottery was drawn any where except in London, but its effects spread into every town—nay in to every village throughout the kingdom; where persons were employed in posting up bills to attract poor miserable creatures, and inflame them with the hope of sudden wealth. He regretted that the report of a committee of that House, made in 1808, had not now been reprinted, as it detailed a great number of facts which, in his opinion, would greatly assist the House in its decision upon the present subject. It stated, from the most unexceptionable testimony given before the committee, that when once the drawing of a lottery began, all trade ceased. Carts, covered with seductive bills, were driven about in all directions, in order to delude weak-minded persons to believe that they would get uncounted wealth, if once they tried their fortune. Butchers, bakers, and all other tradesmen were deserted by their usual customers—no trade was then carried on with spirit, but pawnbroking, in which the women always took a most active part, adding to the small pittance of their husband's earnings all the money which could be raised by pledging their furniture and their clothes, and those of their children, and then purchasing shares in the lottery. Some of the witnesses spoke strongly of the heart-breaking scenes of misery they had seen—of the total loss of all domestic comforts occasioned—of families converted from sociality into strife—of husbands driven to despair, and running away and leaving their families on the parish—of numbers, through this fatal propensity, being driven to madhouses, and of many suicides committed. The ordinary of Newgate stated, that, by the confessions of individual criminals, a large proportion of them traced their ill-fate to practices in the lottery. Merchants clerks, and apprenti- 1182 ces, young men of decent habits, were seduced frequently first to venture their own money, and then to risk that of their employers, until at length they were insensibly led to crimes, which brought upon them the punishment of an ignominious death. It was not enough to ascribe the evils to the former insurances; they still continued, from the temptation and seductions, to buy shares. Not only other poorer classes, but private soldiers were drawn in and ruined. The nature of these allurements might be seen in the advertisement in the newspapers, which contained the strongest moral poison, and the most diabolical arts to seduce even boys. Under the title of "Christmas boxes," one of them stated, that a careful lad had not spent his money in amusements, but ventured in the lottery by buying two sixteenths; that thereby he got a capital prize, and had become an opulent merchant in London. Another said, that a poor public-house lad had gained 1,200l., and was living in retirement; but that now 2,809l. might be acquired for a similar chance. Another stated, the milk-woman had come in for a little of the cream of the lottery by a sixteenth share of a prize of 20,000l. Another, under the title of "military success," was addressed to the soldiers, respecting a supplementary lottery; and they were told, that officers had got 2,500l. and 200l., and privates 600l. In distributing the lottery bills, selections were made of those most likely to purchase, namely, of boys, of women, and of those in the lower orders, for none but such could be made dupes to so palpable a fraud as the lottery. The chancellor of the exchequer might laugh at all this, and treat the opinions of others contemptuoushy. Knowing the private virtues of that right hon. gentleman, he must say, that his conduct excited his astonishment. He could not exactly tell what to make of the seeming incongruity of the right hon. gentleman's appearance on one day, taking the lead in a bible society, and on another, meeting a set of lottery contractors. The matter seemed unaccountable. It would be good for persons holding high stations, which gave them so much influence over the condition of their fellow creatures, to see personally the miseries of others. If the right hon. gentleman entered the poor houses, he would see the numbers of miserable diseased and squalid objects; in the madhouses he would see the agonizing wretches; and in 1183 dungeons he would find honest unfortunate individuals of whom a great part had been reduced to the lowest state of human woe by the temptations of the lotteries. Many, after spending all they had of their own, and all they could borrow, became at last victims to public justice. These results were proved. Could the right hon. gentleman see these things, it was not in his nature to render it possible for him to persevere. It was to be hoped the House would redeem its character. The restrictions on the lottery were quite insufficient. It was easy to understand that there might exist great evils which could not be suppressed. In natural vices we could only correct, but in the lottery we created the vice, and why should we seek to give partial alleviation in a case in which a perfect cure might be effected? It was no answer to the hon. gentleman's motion to say that the evil had decreased. In fact he (sir S. R.) thought the evil had increased; and that, if it should appear less this year, it might arise only from want of means in the public. He should not, however, be surprised if the lottery trade increased even in the present year, for distressed persons were led to sacrifice what remained to them by vain hopes. He could have nothing new to offer in objection to lotteries: the evils were well known; and he could only repeat objections formerly stated. He trusted his hon. friend would persevere. If he did not, he (sir S. R.) would: and the chancellor of the exchequer should hear all the objections re-stated, whenever he might think proper to propose a measure so injurious to the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. J. W. Ward
observed, that it was a serious question how to supply the sum of 500,000l. to the revenue, if it were deducted by refusing the lottery. In balancing the evils, it might appear better to continue the system at present than to impose 500,000l. of fresh taxes. He was ready however, to admit that a lottery, as an ordinary resource, was a shameful one for a moral and religious nation. It was injurious to the principles and practice of industry and economy. If it was thought a great object of finance to get one pound to the treasury, which cost the payer two, he could only say it was a very injurious contrivance. But the principle was as bad in finance as it was execrable in morality. Saving banks, he thought, were excellent institutions, but so long as lotteries were 1184 tolerated, the advantages of saving banks might be greatly abused, and besides, there was gross inconsistency in the legislature tolerating lotteries and instituting saving banks. It was as if they said to the people, in approving the saving banks, "be industrious and frugal," and in allowing lotteries, "when you have collected a little money by economy, and by the sale of your clothes and furniture, and every thing you can convert into cash, go and purchase a share in the lottery, which may bring you uncounted wealth, and enable you to be as drunk and as lazy as you please for the rest of your lives." This was really the spirit of the language. It reminded one of the choice of Hercules. Vice and Virtue were both represented. The people were asked for two things quite contrary to each other. Scarcely any gambler who understood calculations would attend to the lottery allurements. Even a prize often did more harm than good to a poor man. Frequently nothing was worse for him than to lift him into a sudden wealth. He would think his new-gotten wealth would never be at an end, like Gil Blas and the 40 ducats. An old proverb said, "Lightly come, lightly go." So it was very likely to be with lottery money. It was observed, respecting the propensity to gambling, that it went on in the intervals between the lotteries by means of little-goes and other contrivances. So it did, because the feeling went on, arising out of the system which made gambling an habitual object, and therefore the spirit was increased. So much had been so ably said on the subject, that he should not proceed further upon it; but he wished to explain the nature of his vote. He would ask any gentleman to show him any other preferable mode, under all circumstances, for the service of the year, by which the 500,000l. were to be obtained? Unless that could be done, he should not think himself inconsistent in the vote he should give. He could wish that the end of lotteries was looked to by the chancellor of the exchequer; and he thought that their abolition was a boon which the government ought to grant to the country, when a sufficient degree of prosperity enabled them to dispense with the revenue which lotteries produced.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
expressed great surprise that the hon. gentleman who had just spoken did not mean to yield to the force of his own arguments; and that he should 1185 have concluded an able speech against the lottery system, by a declaration that he would vote in favour of that system. That the House, for the mere reason of he money so levied, should consent to continue those dreadful evils—evils which he feared were yearly increasing, would appear to him very strange; but it was above all extraordinary, that those who voted in favour of the system, should, at the same time that they declared their resolution to give such a vote, confess that there was nothing to be said in defence of that system. If he entertained a hope that the system would ultimately be abolished, it gave him much cause to fear whether that hone was well founded, when he heard members of whose principles and talents he thought so highly as of those of his hon. friend who spoke last, claiming the complacencies of virtue for a speech against the evils of the system, and then voting in favour of it. Was it not extremely inconsistent for any one at the time those evils were acknowledged, to vote for their continuance? In such conduct, principle and practice were directly at variance. The arguments used for the lottery might be brought to justify other practices; such as the farming of the public stews, by which perhaps 500,000l. might be obtained. It was surprising to hear virtue maintained, and wickedness allowed and encouraged at the same time; I or to hear of the taking a profitable commission on vice. It was high time to put an end to a system which had so long been a disgrace to the parliament and the country. The principle of the system might license any other kind of immorality. It promoted dispositions adverse to every sort of domestic or national comfort and virtue. Would any of the hon. members who supported the continuance of the lotlery like to have a servant who had a propensity to gambling of that description? It was directly adverse to the principles and objects of our national education. It tended to render even our best benefits poisonous. While the system continued, It might almost be made matter of doubt whether we should establish institutions to pat a little money into a poor man's hand; for the saving banks would give him the: means of buying lottery shares, which, by their failure, would render him miserable. Let hon. gentlemen visit the poor houses, and mad houses, and gaols, and he believed no man would have nerves strong enough to resist the impression of what he might 1186 see there. The lottery annually sowed the seeds of the gambling principle. It was most unjustly called a voluntary contribution. Voluntary! From persons who, in this gambling, were leading themselves perhaps to the gallows! Every real friend the man had in the world was looking at him with concern, and all his dearest relatives and connexions trying, in vain probably, to dissuade him from it; but the poor unfortunate creature was seduced; and this was called his voluntary contribution! After the attacks made upon it, it was impossible this system could remain, for it could not be justified.
felt with the hon. and learned gentleman opposite, that the question had been so often discussed, and the arguments so strongly impressed on the minds of gentlemen that it was unnecessary for him to travel over it in detail. It would give him great satisfaction, if the situation of the country would allow his majesty's ministers to give up any tax that went, even indirectly, to debase the morals of the people. But this was not the only branch of revenue which his hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce) would find it very easy to inveigh against as having a tendency unfavourable to morals. There were many taxes that bore heavily on all ranks of society particularly on the lowest ranks; and it would be very easy for a gentleman possessed of his hon. friend's eloquence, to dwell on the privations which they occasioned as a ground for their removal. He might descant on the misery, the crimes, the immorality, that arose out of the consumption of many articles, that produced a considerable portion of revenue. They ought to look to the present state of the country, and consider if they could afford to give up any portion of the revenue, before they indulged too strongly those feelings, the principle of which was hostile not merely, to the lottery, but to many other sources of revenue. If this were a thing malum in se, the legislature ought to interpose ' undoubtedly. But if the evil were to be found merely in its effects, and not in itself, the fair question then was, whether the quantum of good which resulted from it did not exceed the quantum of mischief. Gentlemen ought not to act precipitately—they ought not to remove this source of revenue until they considered whether the present public receipts were more than sufficient for the expenditure. They were 1187 exceedingly eloquent and astute in directing his right hon. friend to abandon certain portions of revenue—but he doubted whether they would be equally willing and equally capable to point out to him new sources of taxation—and he strongly deprecated any attempt, at present, to shake the system of the revenue, by the adoption of speculative opinions. In the attack made on the lottery, one of the great weapons was exaggeration—and those rhetorical pictures which had been drawn of the miseries brought upon private families by gambling in the lottery, applied to the system as it was carried on many years ago, when insurance was allowed, and before the other improvements in it had been made by the legislature.—The same was the case with Mr. Colquhoun's opinion on the subject. The hon. and learned gentleman said, that the lottery system was carried on to a six-fold extent. The fact was, that formerly one lottery contained as many tickets as the six which were usually drawn at present; and the drawing of that lottery lasted about forty-five days—during which period the greatest not and confusion prevailed. At present the lotteries were drawn at six periods of the year, and took up, in the whole, only 12 days. By this change the insurances were cut up. He was not an advocate for the lottery, but he was yet to find why the statesmen of the present day were expected to be more virtuous than those who had preceded them—and who had, for many years, tolerated the lottery as an honourable and beneficial source of revenue. The poor were not the chief purchasers in the lottery. One-sixth of the lottery was sold in whole tickets—and a great proportion of it in halves and quarters, which the poor were unable to buy. He did not call on gentlemen to determine in their own minds, that lotteries were intended to be permanent in this country. He should be glad to dispense with all sorts of resources that could be made the subject of controversy on a moral principle. But he called on them to consider whether the state of the country would admit of such a subtraction of revenue, particularly when the taxes proposed to make up the deficiency would probably be as objectionable as that which had been removed. If the house listened to the arguments of gentlemen, and took away 500,000l., of revenue, they would find as many criticisms on any substitutes that could be proposed; and thus they might 1188 open a door to shake the system of our finances to its very foundation. He would therefore move the previous question.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
contended, that the numerous mischiefs arising from lotteries had been proved over and over again in that House. They were subjected to the charge of all the evils of gaming. Was the country really reduced to so low an ebb as to cause ministers to bargain and sell its vices?—for the lottery was nothing else. If our finances were in such a distressed state under the noble lord's and his colleagues auspices, their conduct must have occasioned it. There was not one instance in all the reports that could palliate any of the facts stated by his hon. friend, of the evils and bad policy of lotteries, in any shape. The sum total that could be said in favour of them was this—"We want revenue, and revenue we must have, even at the expense of the morals and character of the people, and, what is of more consequence, the character of parliament."
was of opinion, that lotteries occasioned a vast deal of mischief; and that if we abolished lotteries, other countries would be found to follow our example. The mischiefs of lotteries in Paris, were greater even than here. A writer, who had recently published a volume of travels, particularly stated, that the lotteries in Paris had produced the most dreadful effects. He was told by a person connected with one of those gambling establishments, that the lotteries occasioned, in Paris, 100 instances of suicide in the course of the year. The king of Spain, it seemed amongst the other extraordinary acts of his reign, had instituted a lottery on the English plan.—He did not choose to imitate any of our beneficial establishments—he would not introduce toleration, or trial by jury, or any other useful and praise-worthy system—nothing but a lottery would please him. The lottery was now extended to the most remote villages. He had seen lottery invitations stuck up, directing applications to the post-masters in the neighbourhood. It was certainly curious, at the time of the assizes, to hear the clerk, in court, reading the king's proclamation against gambling and other vices, while his majesty's post-master outside of the door was tempting the people to a gambling speculation, by representing himself as an authorized vender of lottery tickets and shares.
§ Mr. Thompson
admitted, that it was of 1189 great importance that the revenue should be encouraged; but he thought that the lotteries materially injured the revenue by their frequent recurrence. A very intelligent man had given his evidence, that during the sale of lottery shares, the bakers, the butchers, and other tradesmen, complained that they could get no money from the lower orders of people; and that the wives of poor persons were drawn into these miserable schemes to the ruin of the interests and happiness of their families. Even Mr. Bish said, that the six lotteries outrun the public, and gave them no time to breathe, though they kept them in perpetual expectation. Mr. Hale had given strong facts of the distresses, from the lotteries in Spital-fields. There was no such thing as a fair lottery; they were nothing but cheats and frauds upon the public, and the injury that the country suffered by their destroying the moral bonds and ties of society, was only known to those who were acquainted with the state of the poor. He was proud to see the happy connexion now existing between the rich and the poor, and the laudable benevolence of the former to the latter. This was bringing things to their proper sphere; but we never could expect purity of principle to exist where temptations of so strong a nature were held out to gambling. He remembered reading of the Jesuits permitting old women to gamble, and afterwards restraining them from so doing, as they purloined money from their husbands. If you could persuade a man that gaming was no crime, he was, in his opinion, fit for the commission of any crime whatever. The reports made by committees of that House, abounded with instances to show that the infatuation of the lottery constantly induced servants, clerks, and others, to rob their employers.
declared, in opposition to what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, that innocent persons had frequently suffered in consequence of false informations being laid against them under the lottery acts. He particularly alluded to the case of two sisters whom he had seen in the house of correction for perjury, and who, he had no doubt, had been the cause of much mischief to many innocent persons.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
in reply, denied both the moral principle and policy of lotteries, which tended to choke up the springs of industry. He was glad, however, to hear that the principle of the thing was given 1190 up by its advocates, who only tolerated the immoral practice as a matter of necessity. But he would say, "If you must have money, raise it by borrowing, or any other means, rather than by swindling."
The House then divided;
For the previous question 72 Against it 26 Majority —46
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, hon. J.||Thompson, Thos.|
|Calcraft, J.||Plunkett, rt. hon. W.|
|Grenfel, P.||Webb, Thos.|
|Lambton, J.||Butterworth, Jos.|
|Baring, sir T.||Babington, Thos.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.|
|Barnet, J.||Bennet, hon. H. G.|
|Brougham, H.||Gipps, G.|
|Monck, sir C.||Macdonald, J.|
|Phillimore, Jos.||Upton, hon. G.|
|Martin, J.||Rashleigh, C.|
|Bernard, S. M.||Tellers.|
|Sharp, Rich.||Romilly, sir S.|
|Wilberforce, Wm.||Lyttelton, hon. W.|
|Guise, sir Wm.|