Lottery Agents--- How they Were Back in the Day

Not all lottery agents were as corrupt as reformers charged.

Some firms managed schemes competently and also pioneered developments in finance and securities trading that ultimately supplanted the lottery as a tool for raising revenue and capital.

Such acumen and innovation did not always elevate these entrepreneurs above disfavor.

However, because they still were involved on the banking and speculation so characteristic of the 'money power' that Jacksonians castigated as a major reason for decline from the virtues of the Jeffersonian republic.

To make matters worse, in reformers' eyes, state governments legitimized such practices by authorizing contests and then turning them over to private companies.

Consequently, in addition to coming under attack from reformers who equated the schemes with such other 'vices' as slavery and intemperance, lotteries fell victim as well to plaints against government-fostered privilege and unearned wealth.

The money-raising device could hardly resist such an onslaught. Between 1830 and 1860, every state in the union banned lotteries.

Thereafter, in part because of the development of more sophisticated means of raising capital, the lottery did not play an important role, either for western or eastern communities, until the mid-twentieth century.

In its defense of the common man and its similarity to criticisms of the bank of the United States, the argument against lotteries took on distinctly Jacksonian tones.

In 1833, Thomas Man, an ardent opponent of lotteries, asked where the brunt of the schemes' burden fell.

In contrast to the common citizen as Jacksonian's hero, the lottery indeed seemed a 'Horrid Monster'--- the Hydra with its thousand Heads', making a 'monstrous profit' from the pockets of average people.

Such rhetoric derived directly from the sentiments of Old Hickory and his followers. In such schemes an adventurer would trade in his hard-earned coins for a virtually worthless scrap of paper.

Instead of authorizing lotteries and contracting with lottery brokers, the Jacksonians argued, government should work to protect the honestly acquired property of working people from those who sought wealth without labor.

In 1829, John Catron, a justice on the supreme court of Tennessee whom Jackson later appointed to the highest court in the land, decided in one case that government should ensure that dishonest schemes such as lotteries did not deprive people of the fruits of their toil.

Catron held government responsible for upholding 'industrious habits' discouraging such aristocratic practices as gaming.

He repeated the contemporary sentiment that gambling fostered poverty as well as a host of related problems and created debt which compromised the independence of individuals.

The government encouraged gambling and speculation by authorizing lotteries reassured Jacksonian ideologues that, indeed, the purity and simplicity of the virtuous republic truly were endangered by the money power.

Gentlemen like Jackson could clearly afford to play and were apparently immune to the temptations that seduced less worthy men.