The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969 Page: 396
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
perior rank, he continued, "gambling hath frequently been attended
with the sudden ruin and desolation of ancient and opulent families."
Finally, said Blackstone, "gaming prostitutes every principle of honor
But, true or false, this did little to deter wagering on games of
chance either in the Old World or the New World. Massachusetts, for
example, in 1646, 1651, and 1670, passed laws prohibiting gambling
in houses of public entertainment, and this included not only cards
and dice but also shuffleboard and bowling. In 1742 a general law
stipulated that all security for money won at gaming or betting would
be void, and that a loser, after payment of game losses, might recover
those losses. If a loser did not wish to recover, any other person might
sue and recover treble the amount lost to the winner. The act pro-
vided also that a winner must, under oath, disclose the amount he
won. Repayment by the winner to the loser would, of course, excuse
the winner from any penalty." Among the earliest directives sent by
James I to Governor Sir Francis Wyatt of Virginia, was one dated July
24, 1621, urging that drunkenness and gaming be suppressed." Per-
sons, both in England and her colonies in America, who played at
unlawful games could be prosecuted under the vagrancy acts, which
lumped together divers characters such as minstrels, jugglers, tinkers,
peddlers, and, curiously enough, all scholars of Oxford or Cambridge
who begged without a license from the university.'
Gambling with cards and dice increased between the American
Revolution and the War of 1812 despite the fact that legislatures
made strenuous effort to curtail the placing of bets and wagers. Both
English and French packs of cards were easy enough to come by, and
2William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, edited by George Shar-
wood (2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1872, 1873), II, bk. 4, pp. 171-172. See Stat. 33 Hen.
VIII, c. 9, 33 Geo. II, c. 24, 16 Car. II, c. 7, 9 Ann, c. 14.
'General Court, Charter and General Laws of the Colony and Province of Massachu-
setts Bay (Boston, 1814), 118-119.
'William Waller Hening (ed.), The Statutes-at-Large Being a Collection of All the
Laws of Virginia From the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619 (13 vols.;
New York, 1823), I, 114.
"Austin Van der Slice, "Elizabethan Houses of Correction," Journal of the American
Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, XXVII (May-June, 1936), 54; General Court,
Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 178o-1807 (3 vols.; Boston, 1807), I, 411-
413. Other states included gamblers in vagrancy laws. See, for example, Laws of the
State of New Jersey (Trenton, 1821), 49, where, in a definition of vagrancy, was included
"all straggling persons, who shall practise any unlawful gaming, to trick and deceive the
people." Also L. Bradford Prince (comp.), General Laws of New Mexico . . . (Albany,
New York, 1880), 300-303, where "common gamblers and persons who go from plaza to
plaza without any other means of visible support" are deemed vagrants.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969, periodical, 1969; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/m1/350/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.