43 | From The Board Of Trade


    Whitehall April 21st. 1761.


    We have had under Our Consideration, the Laws passed in the Province of Massachusets Bay, between February and April 1760, amongst which, there are several providing for temporary and inconsiderable Services of Ferries, Roads &c. by Lotteries, which is a mode of raising money, that in Our Opinion ought never229 to be countenanced, and hardly to be admitted into practice upon the most pressing Exigency of the State, more especially in the Colonies, where the forms of Government may not admit of those regulations and Checks, which are necessary to prevent fraud and abuse, in a matter so peculiarly liable to them.

    We cannot therefore but disapprove these Laws upon this general principle,230 but when We consider the very unguarded and loose manner in which they are in general framed, the Objections are so many and so strong that We should certainly have thought it Our Duty to have laid them before His Majesty for His Majesty’s Disapprobation, were We not restrained by the consideration, that the purpose for which they were passed, having been carried into full execution and the Acts had their full Operation and Effect, some Inconveniences might attend the disannulling them; but it is Our Duty to desire, that you will not for the future give your Assent to any Laws of the like Nature

    We are, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servants


    E. Bacon

    Geo: Rice

    John Roberts231

    Francis Bernard Esqr. Govr: of Massachusets Bay

    dupLS, RC BP, 9: 186-189.

    This letter could not have been sent until after the appointment of commissioner John Roberts, which was after the letter’s given date. The date of Roberts’s appointment is uncertain: Oct. 1761, according to his biographer, or 3 Dec. according to official records. However, Roberts’s name is not appended to the entry-book copy, which instead has those of his predecessor Andrew Stone and his colleague Soame Jenyns. The dates of receipt suggest that both the duplicate and the original were dispatched late in 1761.

    On 17 Apr. 1761, the Board of Trade considered twenty-six acts passed by the General Court between Jan. and Apr. 1760, together with a report of Sir Matthew Lamb, K.C., dated 12 Apr. No objections were raised “in point of law” regarding the legislation, but it was agreed to prepare a draft letter to the governor of Massachusetts outlining the Board’s “dissatisfaction” with the practice of “raising money for temporary and inconsiderable services by lottery.” Lotteries had been a commonplace in Britain and the colonies since the seventeenth century, and the first licensed colonial lottery was in Massachusetts in 1745. Subsequently, British opposition, according to one historian, “probably arose” from apprehensions that lotteries “interfered with the development of trade and commerce,” and on 30 Jun. 1769, the secretary of state issued a circular requiring governors to obtain the royal sanction before assenting to any public or private lottery bills. JBT, 11: 189-190; John Ezell, “The Lottery in Colonial America,” WMQ 5 (1948): 185-200.