More Amazing Passages From Rick Atkinson’s “The British Are Coming”. This Time, It’s About Gambling.

by Daniel Russ on August 7, 2019

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Here Atkinson discusses the problem of drunkeness, fighting, licentious behavior and gambling. Gambling was a big problem to Colonial Generals.

“It also gambled without guilt. If London was “the devil’s drawing room,” in the phrase of author Tobias Smollett, gaming had become a diabolical national passion despite the monarch’s disapproval. Bets could be laid not only on horses, cockfights, and national lottery tickets, but on seemingly any future event, from how long a raindrop took to traverse a windowpane to how long Mr. Jones or Mrs. Smith would live; common wagers involved taking out insurance policies on other people’s lives. Walpole described seeing £ 10,000 on the table at Almack’s Club, where players wore” eyeshades to conceal their emotions and leather cuffs to preserve their laced ruffles, then turned their coats inside out for luck. Military pensioners in Royal Hospital Chelsea were said to bet on lice races, and workmen repairing a floor in Middle Temple Hall found nearly two hundred dice that over the years had fallen between the cracks. “Play at whist, commerce, backgammon, trictrac, or chess,” one society dame advised, “but never at quinze, lou, brag, faro, hazard, or any game of chance.” Few heeded her.”

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