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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

A monied stake is usually proposed


It seldom happens, and it is much to be lamented, either that children, or that more mature persons, are satisfied with amusements of this kind, so as to use them simply as trials of skill. A monied stake is usually proposed, as the object to be obtained. This general attachment of a monied victory to cards is productive frequently of evil. It generates often improper feelings. It gives birth to uneasiness and impatience, while the contest is in doubt, and not unfrequently to anger and resentment, when it is over.

But the passions, which are thus excited among youth, are excited also, but worked up to greater mischief, where grown up persons follow these amusements imprudently, than where children are concerned. For though avarice, and impatience, and anger, are called forth among children, they subside sooner. A boy, though he loses his all when he loses his stake, suffers nothing from the idea of having impaired the means of his future comfort, and independence. His next week's allowance, or the next little gift, will set him right again. But when a grown up person, who is settled in the world, is led on by these fascinating amusements, so as to lose that which would be of importance to his present comfort, but more particularly to the happiness of his future life, the case is materially altered. The same passions, which harass the one, will harass the other, but the effects will be widely different. I have been told that persons have been so agitated before the playing of the card, that was to decide their destiny, that large drops of sweat have fallen from their faces, though they were under no bodily exertions. Now, what must have been the state of their minds, when the card in question proved decisive of their loss? Reason must unquestionably have fled. And it must have been succeeded instantly either by fury or despair. It would not have been at all wonderful, if persons in such a state were to have lost their senses, or, if unable to contain themselves, they were immediately to have vented their enraged feelings either upon themselves, or upon others, who were the authors, or the spectators, of their loss.

It is not necessary to have recourse to the theory of the human mind, to anticipate the consequences, that would be likely to result to grown up persons from such an extreme excitement of the passions. History has given a melancholy picture of these, as they have been observable among different nations of the world.

The ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, played to such desperation, that, when they had lost every thing else, they staked their personal liberty, and, in the event of bad fortune, became the slaves of the winners.

D'Israeli, in his curiosities of literature, has given us the following account. "Dice, says he, and that little pugnacious animal, the cock, are the chief instruments employed by the numerous nations of the east, to agitate their minds, and ruin their fortunes, to which the Chinese, who are desperate gamesters, add the use of cards. When all other property is played away, the Asiatic gambler does not scruple to stake his wife, or his child, on the cast of a dye, or on the strength and courage of a martial bird. If still unsuccessful, the last venture is himself."

"In the island of Ceylon, cock-fighting is carried to a great height. The Sumatrans are addicted to the use of dice. A strong spirit of play characterizes the Malayan. After having resigned every thing to the good fortune of the winner, he is reduced to a horrid state of desperation. He then loosens a certain lock of hair, which indicates war and destruction to all he meets. He intoxicates himself with opium, and working himself to a fit of frenzy, he bites and kills every one, who comes in his way. But as soon as ever this lock is seen flowing, it is lawful to fire at the person, and to destroy him as soon as possible."


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