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Lotteries Not only as a Form of Gambling

As members of a more loose-knit society, Americans were accustomed to smaller ventures devised to support purposes more concrete than the great and glorious American cause.

It is no wonder that in the late 1770s, ticket sales slowed markedly and sponsors repeatedly delayed drawings.

Other contests promoted by states or private parties to defray military expenses probably detracted from interest in the national scheme.

In addition, prizes offered in the United States Lottery declined steadily in value. Winners received promissory notes due in five years at 4 percent interest per annum, but with drastic inflation the value of such prizes declined precipitously.

The interest rate on notes awarded to later winners was raised to 6 percent, but that hardly sufficed to attract new adventurers.

Though all the drawings were completed and publicized, the scheme fizzled and disappeared from sight before all winners received their prizes.

The nation's first venture into gambling by lottery raised some cash for the underfinanced war effort, but proved largely unsuccessful.

The participation of all colonies in lotteries, and the involvement of every state in the United States Lottery, indicated that to some extent the polarization between Puritans and cavaliers, between New England and Virginia, had diminished.

Even to descendants of the saints, the evils inherent in lotteries seemed less important than the good causes, such as Harvard College, that they benefited.

The relative consensus on lottery contests did not really extend to other kinds of gambling, however.

Citizens in the Northeast invoked the puritan legacy during the post-Revolutionary period when they set about overturning English legal precedents that sanctioned gambling.

Southerners meanwhile maintained that broad toleration of gambling inherited from the planter elite of the early Chesapeake settlements.

But surely as important as the continuing sway of puritanism in New England and the heritage of old English customs in the South were the challenges in both regions to century-old traditions.

The pioneers of the seventeenth-century imperial frontier has sought social harmony by pursuing cultural homogeneity.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay did not tolerate such dissenters as Thomas Morton of Ma-Re Mount, the Quakers of Pennsylvania tried to bar traditional forms of recreation, and the Virginia gentry asserted its values unilaterally through Chesapeake society.

The goal of cultural uniformity perhaps seemed attainable during the seventeenth-century, but yielded to diversity afterwards.

Economic and territorial expansion, immigration of non-English peoples, and the divisive force of the Great Awakening all contributed to increased heterogeneity in the colonies.

Heightened diversity meant that cultural enclaves like New England and tidewater Virginia, once diametrically opposed in new styles of living, grew more alike because each grew more heterogeneous.

In both places, the ruling elites encountered challenges to the cultural hegemony they had once imposed.





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