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´╗┐Title: Gamblers and Gambling
Author: Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gamblers and Gambling" ***

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              [Illustration: HENRY WARD BEECHER.]

                         Gamblers and

                        By Rev. Henry

                        Henry Altemus

             Copyrighted, 1896, by HENRY ALTEMUS.


                    GAMBLERS AND GAMBLING

      Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his
      garments and made four parts, to every soldier a part, and also
      his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top
      throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend
      it, but cast lots far it, whose it shall be. These things
      therefore the soldiers did.

I have condensed into one account the separate parts of this gambling
transaction as narrated by each evangelist. How marked in every age is a
Gambler's character! The enraged priesthood of ferocious sects taunted
Christ's dying agonies; the bewildered multitude, accustomed to cruelty,
could shout; but no earthly creature, but a Gambler, could be so lost to
_all_ feeling as to sit down coolly under a dying man to wrangle for his
garments, and arbitrate their avaricious differences by casting dice for
his tunic, with hands spotted with his spattered blood, warm and yet
undried upon them. The descendants of these patriarchs of gambling,
however, have taught us that there is nothing possible to hell,
uncongenial to these, its elect saints. In this lecture it is my
disagreeable task to lead your steps down the dark path to their cruel
haunts, there to exhibit their infernal passions, their awful ruin, and
their ghastly memorials. In this house of darkness, amid fierce faces
gleaming with the fire of fiercer hearts, amid oaths and groans and
fiendish orgies, ending in murders and strewn with sweltering
corpses,--do not mistake, and suppose yourself in Hell,--you are only
in its precincts and vestibule.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gambling is the staking or winning of property upon mere hazard. The
husbandman renders produce for his gains; the mechanic renders the
product of labor and skill for his gains; the gambler renders for his
gain the sleights of useless skill, or more often, downright cheating.
Betting is gambling; there is no honest equivalent to its gains.
Dealings in fancy-stocks are oftentimes sheer gambling, with all its
worst evils. Profits so earned are no better than the profits of dice,
cards, or hazard. When skill returns for its earnings a useful service,
as knowledge, beneficial amusements, or profitable labor, it is honest
commerce. The skill of a pilot in threading a narrow channel, the skill
of a lawyer in threading a still more intricate one, are as substantial
equivalents for a price received, as if they were merchant goods or
agricultural products. But all gains of _mere_ skill which result in no
real benefit, are gambling gains.

Gaming, as it springs from a principle of our nature, has, in some form,
probably existed in every age. We trace it in remote periods and among
the most barbarous people. It loses none of its fascinations among a
civilized people. On the contrary, the habit of fierce stimulants, the
jaded appetite of luxury, and the satiety of wealth, seem to invite the
master-excitant. Our land, not apt to be behind in good or evil, is full
of gambling in all its forms--the gambling of commerce, the gambling of
bets and wagers, and the gambling of games of hazard. There is gambling
in refined circles, and in the lowest; among the members of our national
government, and of our state governments. Thief gambles with thief, in
jail; the judge who sent them there, the lawyer who prosecuted, and the
lawyer who defended them, often gamble too. This vice, once almost
universally prevalent among the Western bar, and still too frequently
disgracing its members, is, however, we are happy to believe,
decreasing. In many circuits, not long ago, and in some now, the judge,
the jury, and the bar, shuffled cards by night, and law by day--dealing
out money and justice alike. The clatter of dice and cards disturbs your
slumber on the boat, and rings drowsily from the upper rooms of the
hotel. This vice pervades the city, extends over every line of travel,
and infests the most moral districts. The secreted lamp dimly lights the
apprentices to their game; with unsuspected disobedience, boys creep out
of their beds to it; it goes on in the store close by the till; it
haunts the shop. The scoundrel in his lair, the scholar in his room; the
pirate on his ship, gay women at parties; loafers on the street-corner,
public functionaries in their offices; the beggar under the hedge, the
rascal in prison, and some professors of religion in the somnolent hours
of the Sabbath,--waste their energies by the ruinous excitement of the
game. Besides these players, there are troops of professional gamblers,
troops of hangers-on, troops of youth to be _drawn_ in. An inexperienced
eye would detect in our peaceful towns no signs of this
vulture-flock;--so in a sunny day, when all cheerful birds are singing
merrily, not a buzzard can be seen; but let a carcass drop, and they
will push forth their gaunt heads from their gloomy roosts, and come
flapping from the dark woods to speck the air, and dot the ground with
their numbers.

The universal prevalence of this vice is a reason for parental
vigilance; and a reason of remonstrance from the citizen, the parent,
the minister of the gospel, the patriot, and the press. I propose to
trace its opening, describe its subjects, and detail its effects.

A young man, proud of freedom, anxious to exert his manhood, has tumbled
his Bible, and sober books, and letters of counsel, into a dark closet.
He has learned various accomplishments, to flirt, to boast, to swear, to
fight, to drink. He has let every one of these chains be put around him,
upon the solemn promise of Satan that he would take them off whenever he
wished. Hearing of the artistic feats of eminent gamblers, he emulates
them. So, he ponders the game. He teaches what he has learned to his
shopmates, and feels himself their master. As yet he has never played
for stakes. It begins thus: Peeping into a book-store, he watches till
the sober customers go out; then slips in, and with assumed boldness,
not concealing his shame, he asks for cards, buys them, and hastens out.
The first game is to pay for the cards. After the relish of playing for
a stake, no game can satisfy them _without_ a stake. A few nuts are
staked; then a bottle of wine; an oyster-supper. At last they can
venture a sixpence in _actual money_--just for the amusement of it. I
need go no further--whoever wishes to do anything with the lad, can do
it now. If properly plied, and gradually led, he will go to any length,
and stop only at the gallows. Do you doubt it? let us trace him a year
or two further on.

With his father's blessing, and his mother's tears, the young man
departs from home. He has received his patrimony, and embarks for life
and independence. Upon his journey he rests at a city; visits the
"school of morals;" lingers in more suspicious places; is seen by a
sharper; and makes his acquaintance. The knave sits by him at dinner;
gives him the news of the place, and a world of advice; cautions him
against sharpers; inquires if he has money, and charges him to keep it
secret; offers himself to make with him the rounds of the town, and
secure him from imposition. At length, that he may see all, he is taken
to a gaming-house, but, with apparent kindness, warned not to play. He
stands by to see the various fortunes of the game; some, forever losing;
some, touch what number they will, gaining piles of gold. Looking in
thirst where wine is free. A glass is taken; another of a better kind;
next the best the landlord has, and two glasses of that. A change comes
over the youth; his exhilaration raises his courage, and lulls his
caution. Gambling _seen_, seems a different thing from gambling
_painted_ by a pious father! Just then his friend remarks that one might
easily double his money by a few ventures, but that it was, perhaps,
prudent not to risk. Only this was needed to fire his mind. What! only
prudence between me and gain? Then that shall not be long! He stakes; he
wins. Stakes again; wins again. Glorious! I am the lucky man that is to
break the bank! He stakes, and wins again. His pulse races; his face
burns; his blood is up, and fear gone. He loses; loses again; loses all
his winnings; loses more. But fortune turns again; he wins anew. He has
now lost all self-command. Gains excite him, and losses excite him more.
He doubles his stakes; then trebles them--and all is swept. He rushes
on, puts up his whole purse, and loses the whole! Then he would borrow;
no man will lend. He is desperate, he will fight at a word. He is led to
the street, and thrust out. The cool breeze which blows upon
his fevered cheek, wafts the slow and solemn stroke of the
clock,--one,--two,--three,--four; _four of the morning_! Quick work of
ruin!--an innocent man destroyed in a night! He staggers to his hotel,
remembers as he enters it, that he has not even enough to pay his bill.
It now flashes upon him that his friend, who never had left him for an
hour before, had stayed behind where his money is, and, doubtless, is
laughing over his spoils. His blood boils with rage. But at length comes
up the remembrance of home; a parent's training and counsels for more
than twenty years, destroyed in a night! "Good God! what a wretch I have
been! I am not fit to live. I cannot go home. I am a stranger here. Oh!
that I were dead! Oh! that I had died before I knew this guilt, and were
lying where my sister lies! Oh God! Oh God! my head will burst with
agony!" He stalks his lonely room with an agony which only the young
heart knows in its first horrible awakening to remorse--when it looks
despair full in the face, and feels its hideous incantations tempting
him to suicide. Subdued at length by agony, cowed and weakened by
distress, he is sought again by those who plucked him. Cunning to
subvert inexperience, to raise the evil passions, and to allay the
good, they make him their pliant tool.

Farewell, young man! I see thy steps turned to that haunt again! I see
hope lighting thy face; but it is a lurid light, and never came from
heaven. Stop before that threshold!--turn, and bid farewell to
home!--farewell to innocence!--farewell to venerable father and aged
mother!--the next step shall part thee from them all forever. And now
henceforth be a mate to thieves, a brother to corruption. Thou hast made
a league with death, and unto death shalt thou go.

Let us here pause, to draw the likeness of a few who stand conspicuous
in that vulgar crowd of gamblers, with which hereafter he will consort.
The first is a taciturn, quiet man. No one knows when he comes into
town, or when he leaves. No man hears of his gaining; for he never
boasts, nor reports his luck. He spends little for parade; his money
seems to go and come only through the game. He reads none, converses
none, is neither a glutton nor a hard drinker; he sports few ornaments,
and wears plain clothing. Upon the whole, he seems a gentlemanly man;
and sober citizens say, "his only fault is gambling." What then is this
"_only fault_?" In his heart he has the most intense and consuming lust
of play. He is quiet because every passion is absorbed in one; and that
one burning at the highest flame. He thinks of nothing else, cares only
for this. All other things, even the hottest lusts of other men, are too
cool to be temptations to him; so much deeper is the style of his
passions. He will sit upon his chair, and no man shall see him move for
hours, except to play his cards. He sees none come in, none go out.
Death might groan on one side of the room, and marriage might sport on
the other,--he would know neither. Every created influence is shut out;
one thing only moves him--the _game_; and that leaves not one pulse of
excitability unaroused, but stirs his soul to the very dregs.

Very different is the roistering gamester. He bears a jolly face, a
glistening eye something watery through watching and drink. His fingers
are manacled in rings; his bosom grows with pearls and diamonds. He
learns the time which he wastes from a watch full gorgeously carved,
(and not with the most modest scenes,) and slung around his neck by a
ponderous golden chain. There is not so splendid a fellow to be seen
sweeping through the streets. The landlord makes him welcome--he will
bear a full bill. The tailor smiles like May--he will buy half his
shop. Other places bid him welcome--he will bear large stealings.

Like the Judge, he makes his circuit, but not for justice; like the
Preacher, he has his appointments, but not for instruction. His circuits
are the race-courses, the crowded capital, days of general convocation,
conventions, and mass-gatherings. He will flame on the race-track, bet
his thousands, and beat the ring at swearing, oaths vernacular,
imported, simple, or compound. The drinking-booth smokes when he draws
in his welcome suit. Did you see him only by day, flaming in apparel,
jovial and free-hearted at the Restaurateur or Hotel, you would think
him a Prince let loose--a cross between Prince Hal and Falstaff.

But night is his day. These are mere exercises, and brief prefaces to
his real accomplishments. He is a good fellow, who dares play deeper; he
is wild indeed, who seems wilder; and he is keen indeed, who is sharper
than he is, after all this show of frankness. No one is quicker, slyer,
and more alert at a game. He can shuffle the pack till an honest man
would as soon think of looking for a particular drop of water in the
ocean, as for a particular card in any particular place. Perhaps _he_ is
ignorant which is at the top and which at the bottom! At any rate,
watch him closely, or you will get a lean hand and he a fat one. A plain
man would think him a wizard or the devil. When he touches a pack they
seem _alive_, and acting to his _will_ rather than his _touch_. He deals
them like lightning, they rain like snow-flakes, sometimes one,
sometimes two, if need be four or five together, and his hand hardly
moved. If he loses, very well, he laughs; if he gains, he only laughs a
little more. Full of stories, full of songs, full of wit, full of
roistering spirit--yet do not trespass too much upon his good nature
with insult! All this outside is only the spotted hide which covers the
tiger. He who provokes this man, shall see what lightning can break out
of a summer-seeming cloud!

These do not fairly represent the race of gamblers,--conveying too
favorable an impression. There is one, often met on Steamboats,
travelling solely to gamble. He has the servants, or steward, or some
partner, in league with him, to fleece every unwary player whom he
inveigles to a game. He deals falsely; heats his dupe to madness by
drink, drinking none himself; watches the signal of his accomplice
telegraphing his opponent's hand; at a stray look, he will slip your
money off and steal it. To cover false playing, or to get rid of paying
losses, he will lie fiercely, and swear uproariously, and break up the
play to fight with knife or pistol--first scraping the table of every
penny. When the passengers are asleep, he surveys the luggage, to see
what may be worth stealing; he pulls a watch from under the pillow of
one sleeper; fumbles in the pockets of another; and gathers booty
throughout the cabin. Leaving the boat before morning, he appears at
some village hotel, a magnificent gentleman, a polished traveller, or
even a distinguished nobleman!

There is another gambler, cowardly, sleek, stealthy, humble, mousing,
and mean--a simple blood-sucker. For money, he will be a tool to other
gamblers; steal for them, and from them; he plays the jackal, and
searches victims for them, humbly satisfied to pick the bones afterward.
Thus, (to employ his own language,) he _ropes in_ the inexperienced
young, flatters them, teaches them, inflames their passions, purveys to
their appetites, cheats them, debauches them, draws them down to his own
level, and then lords it over them in malignant meanness. Himself
impure, he plunges others into lasciviousness; and with a train of
reeking satellites, he revolves a few years in the orbit of the game,
the brothel, and the doctor's shop; then sinks and dies: the world is
purer, and good men thank God that he is gone.

Besides these, time would fail me to describe the ineffable dignity of a
gambling judge; the cautious, phlegmatic lawyer, gambling from sheer
avarice; the broken-down and cast-away politician, seeking in the game
the needed excitement, and a fair field for all the base tricks he once
played off as a patriot; the pert, sharp, keen, jockey-gambler; the
soaked, obese, plethoric, wheezing, bacchanal; and a crowd of ignoble
worthies, wearing all the badges and titles of vice, throughout its base

A detail of the evils of gambling should be preceded by an illustration
of that constitution of mind out of which they mainly spring--I mean its
EXCITABILITY. The body is not stored with a fixed amount of strength,
nor the mind with a uniform measure of excitement; but both are capable,
by stimulation, of expansion of strength or feeling, almost without
limit. Experience shows, that within certain bounds, excitement is
healthful and necessary, but beyond this limit, exhausting and
destructive. Men are allowed to choose between moderate but
long-continued excitement, and intense but short-lived excitement. Too
generally they prefer the latter. To gain this intense thrill, a
thousand methods are tried. The inebriate obtains it by drink and drugs;
the politician, by the keen interest of the civil campaign; the young by
amusements which violently inflame and gratify their appetites. When
once this higher flavor of stimulus has been tasted, all that is less
becomes vapid and disgustful. A sailor tries to live on shore; a few
weeks suffice. To be sure, there is no hardship, or cold, or suffering;
but neither is there the strong excitement of the ocean, the gale, the
storm, and the world of strange sights. The politician perceives that
his private affairs are deranged, his family neglected, his character
aspersed, his feelings exacerbated. When men hear him confess that his
career is a hideous waking dream, the race vexatious, and the end
vanity, they wonder that he clings to it; but _he_ knows that nothing
but the fiery wine which he has tasted will rouse up that intense
excitement, now become necessary to his happiness. For this reason,
great men often cling to public office with all its envy, jealousy,
care, toil, hates, competitions, and unrequited fidelity; for these very
disgusts, and the perpetual struggle, strike a deeper chord of
excitement than is possible to the gentler touches of home, friendship
and love. Here too is the key to the real evil of promiscuous
novel-reading, to the habit of reverie and mental romancing. None of
life's common duties can excite to such wild pleasure as these; and they
must be continued, or the mind reacts into the lethargy of fatigue and
_ennui_. It is upon this principle that men love _pain_; suffering is
painful to a spectator; but in tragedies, at public executions, at
pugilistic combats, at cock-fightings, horse-races, bear-baitings,
bull-fights, gladiatorial shows, it excites a jaded mind as nothing else
can. A tyrant torments for the same reason that a girl reads her
tear-bedewed romance, or an inebriate drinks his dram. No longer
susceptible even to inordinate stimuli, actual moans, and shrieks, and
the writhing of utter agony, just suffice to excite his worn-out sense,
and inspire, probably, less emotion than ordinary men have in listening
to a tragedy or reading a bloody novel.

Gambling is founded upon the very worst perversion of this powerful
element of our nature. It heats every part of the mind like an oven. The
faculties which produce calculation, pride of skill, of superiority,
love of gain, hope, fear, jealousy, hatred, are absorbed in the game,
and exhilarated, or exacerbated by victory or defeat. These passions
are, doubtless, excited in men by the daily occurrences of life; but
then they are transient, and counteracted by a thousand grades of
emotion, which rise and fall like the undulations of the sea. But in
gambling there is no intermission, no counteraction. The whole mind is
excited to the utmost, and concentrated at its extreme point of
excitation for hours and days, with the additional waste of sleepless
nights, profuse drinking, and other congenial immoralities. Every other
pursuit becomes tasteless; for no ordinary duty has in it a stimulus
which can scorch a mind which now refuses to burn without blazing, or to
feel an interest which is not intoxication. The victim of excitement is
like a mariner who ventures into the edge of a whirlpool for a motion
more exhilarating than plain sailing. He is unalarmed during the first
few gyrations, for escape is easy. But each turn sweeps him further in;
the power augments, the speed becomes terrific as he rushes toward the
vortex; all escape now hopeless. A noble ship went in; it is spit out in
broken fragments, splintered spars, crushed masts, and cast up for many
a rood along the shore. The specific evils of gambling may now be almost

I. It diseases the mind, unfitting it for the duties of life. Gamblers
are seldom industrious men in any useful vocation. A gambling mechanic
finds his labor less relishful as his passion for play increases. He
grows unsteady, neglects his work, becomes unfaithful to promises; what
he performs he slights. Little jobs seem little enough; he desires
immense contracts, whose uncertainty has much the excitement of
gambling--and for the best of reasons; and in the pursuit of great and
sudden profits, by wild schemes, he stumbles over into ruin, leaving all
who employed or trusted him in the rubbish of his speculations.

A gambling lawyer, neglecting the drudgery of his profession, will court
its exciting duties. To explore authorities, compare reasons, digest,
and write,--this is tiresome. But to advocate, to engage in fiery
contests with keen opponents, this is nearly as good as gambling. Many a
ruined client has cursed the law, and cursed a stupid jury, and cursed
everybody for his irretrievable loss, except his lawyer, who gambled all
night when he should have prepared the case, and came half asleep and
debauched into court in the morning to lose a good case mismanaged, and
snatched from his gambling hands by the art of sober opponents.

A gambling student, if such a thing can be, withdraws from thoughtful
authors to the brilliant and spicy; from the pure among these, to the
sharp and ribald; from all _reading_ about depraved life, to _seeing_;
from sight to experience. Gambling vitiates the imagination, corrupts
the tastes, destroys the industry--for no man will drudge for cents, who
gambles for dollars by the hundred; or practise a piddling economy,
while, with almost equal indifference, he makes or loses five hundred in
a night.

II. For a like reason, it destroys all domestic habits and affections.
Home is a prison to an inveterate gambler; there is no air there that he
can breathe. For a moment he may sport with his children, and smile upon
his wife; but his heart, its strong passions, are not there. A little
branch-rill may flow through the family, but the deep river of his
affections flows away from home. On the issue of a game, Tacitus
narrates that the ancient Germans would stake their property, their
wives, their children, and themselves. What less than this is it, when a
man will stake that property which is to give his family bread, and that
honor which gives them place and rank in society?

When _playing_ becomes desperate _gambling_, the heart is a hearth where
all the fires of gentle feelings have smouldered to ashes; and a
thorough-paced gamester could rattle dice in a charnel-house, and
wrangle for his stakes amid murder and pocket gold dripping with the
blood of his own kindred.

III. Gambling is the parent and companion of every vice which pollutes
the heart, or injures society.

It is a practice so disallowed among Christians, and so excluded by mere
moralists, and so hateful to industrious and thriving men, that those
who practise it are shut up to themselves; unlike lawful pursuits, it is
not modified or restrained by collision with others. Gamblers herd with
gamblers. They tempt and provoke each other to all evil, without
affording one restraint, and without providing the counterbalance of a
single virtuous impulse. They are like snakes coiling among snakes,
poison and poisoning; like plague-patients, infected and diffusing
infection; each sick and all contagious. It is impossible to put bad men
together and not have them grow worse. The herding of convicts
promiscuously, produced such a fermentation of depravity, that, long
ago, legislators forbade it. When criminals, out of jail, herd together
by choice, the same corrupt nature will doom them to growing
loathsomeness, because of increasing wickedness.

IV. It is a provocative of thirst. The bottle is almost as needful as
the card, the ball, or the dice. Some are seduced to drink; some drink
for imitation, at first, and fashion. When super-excitements, at
intervals, subside, their victim cannot bear the deathlike gloom of the
reaction; and, by drugs or liquor, wind up their system to the glowing
point again. Therefore, drinking is the invariable concomitant of the
theatre, circus, race-course, gaming-table, and of all amusements which
powerfully excite all but the moral feelings. When the double fires of
dice and brandy blaze under a man, he will soon be consumed. If men are
found who do not drink, they are the more noticeable because exceptions.

V. It is, even in its fairest form, the almost inevitable _cause of
dishonesty_. Robbers have robbers' honor; thieves have thieves' law; and
pirates conform to pirates' regulations. But where is there a gambler's
code? One law there is, and this is not universal, _pay your gambling
debts_. But on the wide question, _how is it fair to win_--what law is
there? What will shut a man out from a gambler's club? May he not
discover his opponent's hand by fraud? May not a concealed thread,
pulling the significant _one_;--_one, two_; or _one, two, three_; or the
sign of a bribed servant or waiter, inform him, and yet his standing be
fair? May he not cheat in shuffling, and yet be in full orders and
canonical? May he not cheat in dealing, and yet be a welcome
gambler?--may he not steal the money from your pile by laying his hands
upon it, just as any other thief would, and yet be an approved gambler?
May not the whole code be stated thus: _Pay what you lose, get what you
can, and in any way you can!_ I am told, perhaps, that there are honest
gamblers, gentlemanly gamblers. Certainly; there are always ripe apples
before there are rotten. Men always _begin_ before they _end_; there is
always an approximation before there is contact. Players will play truly
till they get used to playing untruly; will be honest, till they cheat;
will be honorable, till they become base; and when you have said all
this, what does it amount to but this, that men who _really_ gamble,
really cheat; and that they only do not cheat, who are not _yet_ real
gamblers? If this mends the matter, let it be so amended. I have spoken
of gamesters only among themselves; this is the least part of the evil;
for who is concerned when lions destroy bears, or wolves devour
wolf-cubs, or snakes sting vipers? In respect to that department of
gambling which includes the _roping-in_ of strangers, young men,
collecting-clerks, and unsuspecting green-hands, and robbing them, I
have no language strong enough to mark down its turpitude, its infernal
rapacity. After hearing many of the scenes not unfamiliar to every
gambler, I think Satan might be proud of their dealings, and look up to
them with that deferential respect, with which one monster gazes upon a
superior. There is not even the expectation of honesty. Some
scullion-herald of iniquity decoys the unwary wretch into the secret
room; he is tempted to drink; made confident by the specious simplicity
of the game; allowed to win; and every bait and lure and blind is
employed--then he is plucked to the skin by tricks which appear as fair
as honesty itself. The robber avows _his_ deed, does it openly; the
gambler sneaks to the same result under skulking pretences. There is a
frank way, and a mean way of doing a wicked thing. The gambler takes the
meanest way of doing the dirtiest deed. The victim's own partner is
sucking his blood; it is a league of sharpers, to get his money at any
rate; and the wickedness is so unblushing and unmitigated, that it
gives, at last, an instance of what the deceitful human heart, knavish
as it is, is ashamed to try to cover or conceal; but confesses with
helpless honesty, that it is fraud, cheating, _stealing_,
_robbery_,--and nothing else.

If I walk the dark street, and a perishing, hungry wretch meets me and
bears off my purse with but a single dollar, the whole town awakes; the
officers are alert, the myrmidons of the law scout, and hunt, and bring
in the trembling culprit to stow him in the jail. But a worse thief may
meet me, decoy my steps, and by a greater dishonesty, filch ten thousand
dollars,--and what then? The story spreads, the sharpers move abroad
unharmed, no one stirs. It is the day's conversation; and like a sound
it rolls to the distance, and dies in an echo.

Shall such astounding iniquities be vomited out amidst us, and no man
care? Do we love our children, and yet let them walk in a den of vipers?
Shall we pretend to virtue, and purity, and religion, and yet make
partners of our social life, men whose heart has conceived such damnable
deeds, and whose hands have performed them? Shall there be even in the
eye of religion no difference between the corrupter of youth and their
guardian? Are all the lines and marks of morality so effaced, is the
nerve and courage of virtue so quailed by the frequency and boldness of
flagitious crimes, that men, covered over with wickedness, shall find
their iniquity no obstacle to their advancement among a Christian

In almost every form of iniquity there is some shade or trace of good.
We have in gambling a crime standing alone--dark, malignant,
uncompounded wickedness! It seems in its full growth a monster without a
tender mercy, devouring its own offspring without one feeling but
appetite. A gamester, as such, is the cool, calculating, essential
_spirit_ of concentrated avaricious selfishness. His intellect is a
living thing, quickened with double life for villany; his heart is steel
of fourfold temper. When a man _begins_ to gamble he is as a noble tree
full of sap, green with leaves, a shade to beasts, and a covert to
birds. When one _becomes_ a thorough gambler, he is like that tree
lightning-smitten, rotten in root, dry in branch, and sapless; seasoned
hard and tough; nothing lives beneath it, nothing on its branches,
unless a hawk or a vulture perches for a moment to whet its beak, and
fly screaming away for its prey.

To every young man who indulges in the least form of gambling, I raise a
warning voice! Under the specious name of AMUSEMENT, you are laying the
foundation of gambling. Playing is the seed which comes up gambling. It
is the light wind which brings up the storm. It is the white frost which
preludes the winter. You are mistaken, however, in supposing that it is
harmless in its earliest beginnings. Its terrible blight belongs,
doubtless, to a later stage; but its consumption of time, its
destruction of industry, its distaste for the calmer pleasures of life,
belong to the very _beginning_. You will begin to play with every
generous feeling. Amusement will be the plea. At the beginning the game
will excite enthusiasm, pride of skill, the love of mastery, and the
love of money. The love of money, at first almost imperceptible, at last
will rule out all the rest,--like Aaron's rod,--a serpent, swallowing
every other serpent. Generosity, enthusiasm, pride and skill, love of
mastery, will be absorbed in one mighty feeling,--the savage lust of

There is a downward climax in this sin. The opening and ending are
fatally connected, and drawn toward each other with almost irresistible
attraction. If gambling is a vortex, playing is the outer ring of the
Maelstrom. The thousand pound stake, the whole estate put up on a
game--what are these but the instruments of kindling that tremendous
excitement which a diseased heart craves? What is the _amusement_ for
which you play but the _excitement_ of the game? And for what but this
does the jaded gambler play? You differ from him only in the degree of
the same feeling. Do not solace yourself that you shall escape because
others have; for they _stopped_, and _you go on_. Are you as safe as
they, when you are in the gulf-stream of perdition, and they on the
shore? But have you ever asked, _how many_ have escaped? Not one in a
thousand is left unblighted! You have nine hundred and ninety-nine
chances _against_ you, and one for you; and will you go on? If a disease
should stalk through the town, devouring whole families, and sparing not
one in five hundred, would you lie down under it quietly because you
have one chance in five hundred? Had a scorpion stung you, would it
alleviate your pangs to reflect that you had only one chance in one
hundred? Had you swallowed corrosive poison, would it ease your
convulsions to think there was only one chance in fifty for you? I do
not call every man who plays a gambler, but a gambler in _embryo_. Let
me trace your course from the amusement of innocent playing to its
almost inevitable end.

_Scene first._ A genteel coffee-house,--whose humane screen conceals a
line of grenadier bottles, and hides respectable blushes from
impertinent eyes. There is a quiet little room opening out of the bar;
and here sit four jovial youths. The cards are out, the wines are in.
The fourth is a reluctant hand; he does not love the drink, nor approve
the game. He anticipates and fears the result of both. Why is he here?
He is a whole-souled fellow, and is afraid to seem ashamed of any
fashionable gaiety. He will sip his wine upon the importunity of a
friend newly come to town, and is too polite to spoil that friend's
pleasure by refusing a part in the game. They sit, shuffle, deal; the
night wears on, the clock telling no tale of passing hours--the prudent
liquor-fiend has made it safely dumb. The night is getting old; its dank
air grows fresher; the east is grey; the gaming and drinking and
hilarious laughter are over, and the youths wending homeward. What says
conscience? No matter what it says; they did not hear, and we will not.
Whatever was said, it was very shortly answered thus: "This has not been
gambling; all were gentlemen; there was no cheating; simply a convivial
evening; no stakes except the bills incident to the entertainment. If
anybody blames a young man for a little innocent exhilaration on a
special occasion, he is a superstitious bigot; let him croak!" Such a
garnished game is made the text to justify the whole round of gambling,
Let us, then, look at

_Scene the second._ In a room so silent that there is no sound except
the shrill cock crowing the morning, where the forgotten candles burn
dimly over the long and lengthened wick, sit four men. Carved marble
could not be more motionless, save their hands. Pale, watchful, though
weary, their eyes pierce the cards, or furtively read each other's
faces. Hours have passed over them thus. At length they rise without
words; some, with a satisfaction which only makes their faces brightly
haggard, scrape off the piles of money; others, dark, sullen, silent,
fierce, move away from their lost money. The darkest and fiercest of the
four is that young friend who first sat down to make out a game! He will
never sit so innocently again. What says he to his conscience now? "I
have a right to gamble; I have a right to be damned too, if I choose;
whose business is it?"

_Scene the third._ Years have passed on. He has seen youth ruined, at
first with expostulation, then with only silent regret, then consenting
to take part of the spoils; and finally, he has himself decoyed, duped,
and stripped them without mercy. Go with me into that dilapidated house,
not far from the landing, at New Orleans. Look into that dirty room.
Around a broken table, sitting upon boxes, kegs, or rickety chairs, see
a filthy crew dealing cards smouched with tobacco, grease and liquor.
One has a pirate-face burnished and burnt with brandy; a shock of
grizzly, matted hair, half covering his villain eyes, which glare out
like a wild beast's from a thicket. Close by him wheezes a white-faced,
dropsical wretch, vermin-covered, and stenchful. A scoundrel-Spaniard,
and a burly negro, (the jolliest of the four,) complete the group. They
have spectators--drunken sailors, and ogling, thieving, drinking women,
who should have died long ago, when all that was womanly died. Here hour
draws on hour, sometimes with brutal laughter, sometimes with threat,
and oath, and uproar. The last few stolen dollars lost, and temper too,
each charges each with cheating, and high words ensue, and blows; and
the whole gang burst out the door, beating, biting, scratching, and
rolling over and over in the dirt and dust. The worst, the fiercest, the
drunkest, of the four, is our friend who began by making up the game!

_Scene the fourth._ Upon this bright day, stand with me, if you would be
sick of humanity, and look over that multitude of men kindly gathered to
see a murderer hung! At last, a guarded cart drags on a thrice-guarded
wretch. At the gallows' ladder his courage fails. His coward-feet refuse
to ascend; dragged up, he is supported by bustling officials; his brain
reels, his eye swims, while the meek minister utters a final prayer by
his leaden ear. The prayer is said, the noose is fixed, the signal is
given; a shudder runs through the crowd as he swings free. After a
moment, his convulsed limbs stretch down, and hang heavily and still;
and he who began to gamble to make up a game, and ended with stabbing an
enraged victim whom he had fleeced, has here played his last
game,--himself the stake!

I feel impelled, in closing, to call the attention of all sober citizens
to some potent influences which are exerted in favor of gambling.

In our civil economy we have Legislators to devise and enact wholesome
laws; Lawyers to counsel and aid those who need the laws' relief; and
Judges to determine and administer the laws. If Legislators, Lawyers,
and Judges are gamblers, with what hope do we warn off the young from
this deadly fascination, against such authoritative examples of high
public functionaries? With what eminent fitness does that Judge press
the bench, who in private commits the vices which officially he is set
to condemn! With what singular terrors does he frown on a convicted
gambler with whom he played last night, and will play again to-night!
How wisely should the fine be light which the sprightly criminal will
win and pay out of the Judge's own pocket!

With the name of JUDGE is associated ideas of immaculate purity, sober
piety, and fearless, favorless justice. Let it then be counted a dark
crime for a recreant official so far to forget his reverend place, and
noble office, as to run the gantlet of filthy vices, and make the word
_Judge_, to suggest an incontinent trifler, who smites with his mouth,
and smirks with his eye; who holds the rod to strike the criminal, and
smites only the law to make a gap for criminals to pass through! If God
loves this land, may he save it from truckling, drinking, swearing,
gambling, vicious Judges![A]

  [A] The general eminent integrity of the Bench is unquestionable--and
      no remarks in the text are to be construed as an oblique aspersion
      of the profession. But the purer our Judges generally, the more
      shameless is it that some will not abandon either their vices or
      their office.

With such Judges I must associate corrupt LEGISLATORS, whose bawling
patriotism leaks out in all the sinks of infamy at the Capital. These
living exemplars of vice, pass still-born laws against vice. Are such
men sent to the Capital only to practise debauchery? Laborious
seedsmen--they gather every germ of evil; and laborious sowers--at home
they strew them far and wide! It is a burning shame, a high outrage,
that public men, by corrupting the young with the example of manifold
vices, should pay back their constituents for their honors!

Our land has little to fear from abroad, and much from within. We can
bear foreign aggression, scarcity, the revulsions of commerce, plagues,
and pestilences; but we cannot bear vicious Judges, corrupt Courts,
gambling Legislators, and a vicious, corrupt, and gambling constituency.
Let us not be deceived! The decay of civil institutions begins at the
core. The outside wears all the lovely hues of ripeness, when the inside
is rotting. Decline does not begin in bold and startling acts; but, as
in autumnal leaves, in rich and glowing colors. Over diseased vitals,
consumptive laws wear the hectic blush, a brilliant eye, and transparent
skin. Could the public sentiment declare that PERSONAL MORALITY is the
first element of patriotism; that corrupt Legislators are the most
pernicious of criminals; that the Judge who lets the villain off, is the
villain's patron; that tolerance of crime is intolerance of virtue,--our
nation might defy all enemies and live forever!

And now, my young friends, I beseech you to let alone this evil before
it be meddled with. You are safe from vice when you avoid even its
appearance; and only then. The first steps to wickedness are
imperceptible. We do not wonder at the inexperience of Adam; but it is
wonderful that six thousand years' repetition of the same arts, and the
same uniform disaster, should have taught men nothing! that generation
after generation should perish, and the wreck be no warning!

The mariner searches his chart for hidden rocks, stands off from
perilous shoals, and steers wide of reefs on which hang shattered
morsels of wrecked ships, and runs in upon dangerous shores with the
ship manned, the wheel in hand, and the lead constantly sounding. But
the mariner upon life's sea, carries no chart of other men's voyages,
drives before every wind that will speed him, draws upon horrid shores
with slumbering crew, or heads in upon roaring reefs as though he would
not perish where thousands have perished before him.

Hell is populated with the victims of "_harmless amusements_." Will man
never learn that the way to hell is through the valley of DECEIT? The
power of Satan to _hold_ his victims is nothing to that mastery of art
by which he first _gains_ them. When he approaches to charm us, it is
not as a grim fiend, gleaming from a lurid cloud, but as an angel of
light radiant with innocence. His words fall like dew upon the flower;
as musical as the crystal-drop warbling from a fountain. Beguiled by
his art, he leads you to the enchanted ground. Oh! how it glows with
every refulgent hue of heaven! Afar off he marks the dismal gulf of vice
and crime; its smoke of torment slowly rising, and rising forever! and
he himself cunningly warns you of its dread disaster, for the very
purpose of blinding and drawing you thither. He leads you to captivity
through all the bowers of lulling magic. He plants your foot on odorous
flowers; he fans your cheek with balmy breath; he overhangs your head
with rosy clouds; he fills your ear with distant, drowsy music, charming
every sense to rest. Oh ye! who have thought the way to hell was bleak
and frozen as Norway, parched and barren as Sahara, strewed like
Golgotha with bones and skulls reeking with stench like the vale of
Gehenna,--witness your mistake! The way to hell is gorgeous! It is a
highway, cast up; no lion is there, no ominous bird to hoot a warning,
no echoings of the wailing-pit, no lurid gleams of distant fires, or
moaning sounds of hidden woe! Paradise is imitated to build you a way to
death; the flowers of heaven are stolen and poisoned; the sweet plant of
knowledge is here; the pure white flower of religion; seeming virtue and
the charming tints of innocence are scattered all along like native
herbage. The enchanted victim travels on. Standing afar behind, and
from a silver-trumpet, a heavenly messenger sends down the wind a solemn
IS DEATH. And again, with louder blast: THE WISE MAN FORESEETH THE EVIL;
FOOLS PASS ON AND ARE PUNISHED. Startled for a moment, the victim
pauses; gazes round upon the flowery scene, and whispers, _Is it
not harmless?_--"_Harmless_," responds a serpent from the
grass!--"_Harmless_," echo the sighing winds!--"_Harmless_," re-echo a
hundred airy tongues! If now a gale from heaven might only sweep the
clouds away through which the victim gazes; oh! if God would break that
potent power which chains the blasts of hell, and let the sulphur-stench
roll up the vale, how would the vision change!--the road become a track
of dead men's bones!--the heavens a lowering storm!--the balmy breezes,
distant wailings--and all those balsam-shrubs that lied to his senses,
sweat drops of blood upon their poison-boughs!

Ye who are meddling with the edges of vice, ye are on this road!--and
utterly duped by its enchantments! Your eye has already lost its honest
glance, your taste has lost its purity, your heart throbs with poison!
The leprosy is all over you, its blotches and eruptions cover you. Your
feet stand on slippery places, whence in due time they shall slide, if
you refuse the warning which I raise. They shall slide from heaven,
never to be visited by a gambler; slide down to that fiery abyss below
you, out of which none ever come. Then, when the last card is cast, and
the game over, and you lost; then, when the echo of your fall shall ring
through hell,--in malignant triumph, shall the Arch-Gambler, who
cunningly played for your soul, have his prey! Too late you shall look
back upon life as a MIGHTY GAME, in which you were the stake, and Satan
the winner!

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  HYMNS OF PRAISE AND GLADNESS, by Elisabeth R. Scovil.
  DIFFICULTIES, by Hannah Whitall Smith.
  GAMBLERS AND GAMBLING, by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.
  HAVE FAITH IN GOD, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
  TWELVE CAUSES OF DISHONESTY, by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.
  IN MY NAME, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
  SIX WARNINGS, by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.
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                        HENRY ALTEMUS.
      _507, 509, 511, 513 Cherry Street, Philadelphia._

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