HC Deb 18 May 1809 vol 14 cc620-5

Mr. Wharton brought up the Report of the Committee of Ways and Means of yesterday.

Mr. Whitbread

restated his objections to Lotteries, and declared his determination to take the sense of the house on the Resolution on this subject. A Committee had been appointed to consider the subject, and after a laborious investigation their report had been unfavourable. There was an argument advanced on the other side, that such was the spirit of gambling existing in the country, that whether parliament sanctioned it or not, it must produce the effect complained of. For his part, he thought that as far as this spirit of gambling was directed to Lotteries, parliament could easily devise a remedy, as they themselves were the cause of the mischief. It was the government themselves who encouraged the spirit of adventure in lotteries, which had produced all the evils stated in the Report of the Committee. Nothing could be more injurious in a country where habits of economy and sober industry were instilled into young people as the sure means of arriving at wealth, than to have in view a scheme where wealth was not to be earned by labour or industry; but to come merely from fortune. It must be evident to ministers that no real wealth was produced to the country by those adventurers in the Lottery. In a sober and religious view of the subject he thought it most improper that government should countenance the distribution of wealth in any other manner than as the reward of merit. The government not only held out encouragement to the idle to hope for wealth without labour, but also held out encouragement to part with all they had, with all that honestly or dishonestly they could appropriate, in order to be in fortune's way. The many evils that resulted from lotteries were sufficiently apparent, but the little good that was to be derived from them he should now take into his consideration. When it was proposed that 300,000l. should be raised in the way of lottery, it must be considered, that a million, or at least six hundred thousand pounds were actually taken out of the pockets of the public, and that in the most distressing way that, was possible. In that point of view alone the tax would be inexpedient, if it were not productive of vice and immorality; but it would be observed that a very great degree of vice and immorality were always produced by the lottery, in the encouragement they gave to insurance, and other speculations contrary to law. This was a defect which Mr. Pitt was never able to remedy, and he could tell the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that to his certain knowledge there were persons in this town who would outstrip him in calculations to evade the penalties of any legislative provisions he could propose. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would but put off his lottery scheme for a single year, he would venture to say, that it would be easy to provide for any defi- ciency that might be occasioned by it. When it was recollected, that our whole expence was near seventy millions, it could not be supposed that a deficiency of 300,000l. could be seriously felt, or if it was felt, it could be easily supplied from some source that did not affect the morals of the country. There were now many widows and orphans who bewailed the ruin that was brought upon them by the lottery. Without expatiating on the quality of vice that was produced, on the number of servants and apprentices who were tempted to rob their masters, on the number of fathers of families who were induced to spend upon wild speculations the fund which ought to have provided for their children; he would say, that there was a sufficient quantity of vice and immorality proved to result from the lottery, that the right hon. gent. should decline to propose such a measure. There was a society existing for the Suppression of Vice, and he understood that one of the rules of this society was, that no man should be a suppressor of vice unless he was a member of the established church. This regulation would certainly be highly relished by the No-Popery gentlemen of the present administration; but if they were to set their faces against minor offences, and yet countenance the lottery, it would be like casting out seven devils from a man, when a legion of other devils were immediately to enter. He believed that there was no sin pointed at in the Decalogue which was not encouraged by the lottery. It was a speculation which always began in covetousness, and often led to theft. The instances were not new, where murders, and particularly self murder, had been instigated by losses in the lottery. A person had been introduced to him that was said to he perfectly acquainted with lotteries. The man, however, would not confess to him that he knew any thing about insurances, although those that were acquainted with him declared, that he had been three times ruined in the lottery. The lower class of the people were dreadfully deluded by such men as publicans and waiters in public houses, who were always ready to persuade the idle to adventure in the lottery. The profanation of the Sabbath, and many other evils much to be regretted, often proceeded from the same source. Besides these publicans and their waiters, there were dreamers of dreams and calculators of horoscopes, who also deluded the ignorant with respect to lotteries. The whole gain that was stated as a balance for so much mischief, was the 300,000l. that was to be gained by the lottery. Now, he earnestly recommended that this sum should be left unprovided for until the end of the year, and if it were then found that there was a deficiency, other means could be taken to provide for it. There was no possibility of remedying the evils of lotteries. It might be said that insurances might be stopped by cunning informers, on the principle of "set a thief to catch a thief," but in the case of lotteries, this maxim did not hold, for from the highest to the lowest, all were concerned in the delusive scheme. If one walked in the public streets, we were sure to meet lottery-offices that called themselves peculiarly lucky, and enticed the ignorant to lay out their money with them. This, and all the other artifices by which the public were entrapped, appeared to him to be evils far beyond all the good that lotteries produced. He should therefore oppose, this Resolution.

Sir T. Turton

replied to the arguments of the last speaker. He did not conceive him warranted, on good grounds, to state that all the ills he detailed arose from the lottery. Neither was he right in stating the sum accruing to government, from the lottery, at 300,000l. as with the duties on stamps, &c. it amounted to 700,000l. All the evils mentioned were to be traced to insurances, and these the hon. gent. would find from his own authorities had been almost done away within the last few years.

Mr. Windham

said he did not wish to detain the house by going into a detail of the measure, but he believed it to be a most scandalous and injurious way of raising money upon the public. That a lottery engendered vice no man could deny; the seductions were strong and numerous, and calculated to catch the lower orders of the people, whose minds were as weak as their passions were strong. A guinea for a shilling, and twenty thousand pounds for twenty were allurements they could not with stand. His feeling had ever been uniform on the subject, and he thought the evil so great that nothing but the necessities of the state could justify the resorting to lotteries. If it were at an earlier period of the practice, he should certainly vote against it, but as it was now become so interwoven with the system of finance, he saw no particular advantage in opposing it at present.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

defended the measure, and said the hon. gent. who opposed it (Mr. Whitbread) seemed to argue, that if this species of gambling was put an end to, it would stop all kind of vice. This was, however, straining the argument much further than it would bear. The circumstances of misery which had been alluded to, arose not out of lotteries, but from insurances, and could never be the effect even of insurance if the lottery-were drawn in one day. That end he thought he could effect, and the course he proposed to follow was to confine the drawing to that period. The Little Goes were much more mischievous than the lottery, and if that was given up those would be greatly multiplied. He had considered the Report of the Committee with great attention, and he could by no means see the mischievous results which the hon. gent. who opposed the resolution seemed always to have in his view.

Mr. Wilberforce

considered the Lottery peculiarly objectionable, because it diffused a spirit of gambling among the people, while it produced no benefit to the public treasury in any degree commensurate to the injury it inflicted upon the interest of the community, by the number of victims which it produced; by the crowds which it deprived of the means, and detached from the pursuit of industry. With regard to the argument that gambling would still go on, if this licensed course were put an end to, and therefore that it was better to continue the Lottery, and thus place the system under certain regulations, it appeared to be quite of the same nature, and equally fallacious with the reasons advanced to palliate the Slave Trade. For there it was urged, that if we discontinued the traffic, that it would be prosecuted by others without the mitigation of our regulated system. But such pretences could never reconcile his mind to the existence of a law for the toleration of that which was obviously wrong.

Sir S. Romilly

would not have obtruded himself on their notice at that late hour, had he not thought the arguments of his right hon. friend opposite, sophisticated and fallacious. The right hon. gent. had stated, that if Lotteries were abolished, Little Goes would still exist, and cause all those evils to fall on the lower orders, which were deplored as resulting from State Lotteries. Had not public Lotteries been countenanced, Little Ones would never have been so general. The latter, however, were only sought after by per- sons who had imbibed an itch for gaming. They did publicly hold out a temptation to seduce the honest and industrious from the paths of rectitude and sobriety, as is common with every State Lottery.

Mr. Bahington

made a few remarks on the bad effects of Lotteries.—After which the house divided, when the numbers appeared,

For Lotteries 90
Against them 36
Majority in favour of Lotteries 54