The Colonial and Early National Frontiers

As the new year of 1612 dawned over London, the officers of the Virginia Company fretted over their plantation in the New World.

Reports from Jamestown continued to betray the glorious hopes once raised for North American Settlement.

The company, after sinking hundreds of men and thousands of pounds into that death trap in the wilderness, had realized nary a dividend on its investment .

Far from achieving self-sufficiency, the colony still depended utterly on a tenuous lifeline across the Atlantic that supplied provisions and replacements for dying settlers.

Desperately seeking funds to keep the project going, the leaders of the debt-ridden company also searched for an explanation of the predicament.

They might have held themselves to account to poor planning, inadequate financing, and unrealistic expectations, but they tended to assign most of the responsibility to the colonists in Jamestown.

While the company had only itself to blame for the low caliber of men that had sent to the Chesapeake, it was justified in pointing out shortcomings of the early settlers.

As with the unsuccessful experiment at Sagadahoc on the coast of Maine in 1607-1608, the initial English population in Virginia proved largely unfit for colonizing the New World.

Misled by expectations of a life of ease in North America, and demoralized by the strangeness and deadlines of the place, the colonists did less than was necessary to survive.

Captain John Smith recalled that many were devoted to pure idleness at the beginning, and Gabriel Archer, upon arriving at Jamestown in mid-1609, decided that idleness and other vices were primarily responsible for the inability of the colony to sustain itself.

Among the vices naturally associated with idleness was gambling.

The Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall, codified between 1610 and 1612, provided specific and serious penalties for the most threatening kinds of betting, and foreshadowed the other anti-gambling ordinances that soon followed.

At the same time that company officials tried to check gaming and other idle practices in Virginia in an effort to secure returns on their investment, they resorted to the gambling spirit of Englishmen in order to provide a sounder financial footing for the American plantation.

The third charter of the Virginia Company of London, granted by the Crown in 1612, not only extended the boundaries of the colony to include Bermuda and encouraged additional investment by making the firm a full-fledged joint-stock company, but also permitted the privilege of holding lotteries to raise money for the colonial venture.

Lotteries had long been familiar to Europeans on the Continent, but to Englishmen they remained novelties as late as 1612.

Queen Elizabeth authorized the first official raffle in 1566 in order to finance harbor improvements, but Britons' unfamiliarity with the method of gambling limited the success of early lotteries.

When James I allowed the Virginia Company to conduct the contests, it was still among the very first such authorizations in English history.

Yet, this new mode of raising capital was quite appropriate for planting a settlement in the New World. Participants in both speculations were aptly termed 'adventurers', and for the both the colonists in Jamestown and the ticketholders in England, prospects for success were not very good.

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