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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

By a previous agreement upon a monied stake


By means of these prohibitions, which are enforced, in a great measure, by the discipline, the Quakers have put a stop to gaming more effectually than others, but particularly by means of the latter. For history has shewn us, that we cannot always place a reliance on a mere prohibition of any particular amusement or employment, as a cure for gaming, because any pastime or employment, however innocent in itself, may be made an instrument for its designs. There are few customs, however harmless, which avarice cannot convert into the means of rapine on the one hand, and of distress on the other.

Many of the games, which are now in use with such pernicious effects to individuals, were not formerly the instruments of private ruin. Horse-racing was originally instituted with a view of promoting a better breed of horses for the services of man. Upon this principle it was continued. It afforded no private emolument to any individual. The by-standers were only spectators. They were not interested in the victory. The victor himself was remunerated not with money, but with crowns and garlands, the testimonies of public applause. But the spirit of gaming got hold of the custom, and turned it into a private diversion, which was to afford the opportunity of a private prize.

Cock-fighting, as we learn from AElian, was instituted by the Athenians, immediately after their victory over the Persians, to perpetuate the memory of the event, and to stimulate the courage of the youth of Greece in the defence of their own freedom; and it was continued upon the same principle, or as a public institution for a public good. But the spirit of avarice seized it, as it has done the custom of horse-racing, and continued it for a private gain.

Cards, that is, European cards, were, as all are agreed, of an harmless origin. Charles the sixth, of France, was particularly afflicted with the hypochondriasis. While in this disordered state, one of his subjects invented them, to give variety of amusement to his mind. From the court they passed into private families. And here the same avaricious spirit fastened upon them, and, with its cruel talons, clawed them, as it were, to its own purposes, not caring how much these little instruments of cheerfulness in human disease were converted into instruments for the extension of human pain.

In the same manner as the spirit of gaming has seized upon these different institutions and amusements of antiquity, and turned them from their original to new and destructive uses, so there is no certainty, that it will not seize upon others, which may have been innocently resorted to, and prostitute them equally with the former. The mere prohibition of particular amusements, even if it could be enforced, would be no cure for the evil. The brain of man is fertile enough, as fast as one custom is prohibited, to fix upon another. And if all the games, now in use, were forbidden, it would be still fertile enough to invent others for the same purposes. The bird that flies in the air, and the snail, that crawls upon the ground, have not escaped the notice of the gamester, but have been made, each of them, subservient to his pursuits. The wisdom, therefore, of the Quakers, in making it to be considered as a law of the society, that no member is to lay wagers, or reap advantage from any doubtful event, by a previous agreement upon a monied stake, is particularly conspicuous. For, whenever it can be enforced, it must be an effectual cure for gaming. For we have no idea, how a man can gratify his desire of gain by means of any of the amusements of chance, if he can make no monied arrangements about their issue.


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