Massachusetts Lottery of 1744-45: Letter of May 1745, p. 1
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    Massachusetts 1744/45 Lottery

    Introduction to a May 1745 Letter to Stop the Massachusetts Lottery

    On the following page is an image and transcription of a document that resides in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Notre Dame, MSN/COL/ 2710-1-F1. On Friday, May 3, 1745, a Boston Town Meeting was held in Faneuil Hall to elect four representatives to the General Court. Three hundred and forty two votes were cast and Thomas Cushing (326 votes), Andrew Oliver (218 votes), Thomas Hutchinson (186 votes) and Samuel Welles (175 votes) were elected. Following the election Jeremiah Alan moved that instructions be given to the new representatives to stop the lottery. After some additional business the meeting adjourned until 3:00 PM. During the afternoon session Allen's suggestion was approved. The record stated "Voted that a Committee be chose to draw up Instructions for the representatives relating to the said Lottery accordingly, also Voted that James Allen Esqr Ezekiel Lewes Esqr & Mr. Jeremiah Allen Esqr be the said Committee Who are desired to lay the draft of their instructions before the Town for their Consideration at the intended Adjournment of this Meeting" (Report of the record Commissioners of the City of Boston, vol. 14, Boston Town Records, 1742-1757, pp. 72-74 with the quote on p. 74). The document discussed is the item transcribed below. It was produced between Friday, May 3rd and Friday, May 17th. Another Town Meeting convened at 4:00 PM on May 17th where the instructions were presented and read allowed. The minutes of the meeting explain after the instruction were read "A Motion was thereupon made, & Seconded by Several of the Inhabitants, and a Question put, whether the Town would Accept of the Draft of Instructions, and it was Voted in the Negative."

    The reason for stopping the lottery was not directly stated but was implied in the letter. Apparently, as late as May 1745 there were several tickets that were as yet unpurchased. The problem arose in that the prizes from the lottery had been posted and the total of the prizes equalled the amount that would be taken in from the sale of all the printed tickets. There were 25,000 tickets which sold for 30s each (in Second New Tenor notes). The total receipts from the sale of all the tickets was £ 37,500 and the total of the prizes equaled £ 37,500. Thus all the money taken in was to be awarded (the colony would take a 20% tax from each of the winners and so end up with £7,500).

    Clearly the government would retain ownership of any ticket that went unpurchased, but would not be required to put up the 30s purchase price for each unsold ticket. According to the May 1745 letter it seemed likely many tickets would remain unsold, as the letter stated: "For the Province to take such a large share of the Tickets, as seems likely to fall to their Lott, without paying one Farthing for them" This implies the colony would not have the full amount of money needed to award the prizes. The letter went on to ask what if "the principal Benefit Tickets should fall to the Share of private Persons, how can They be paid?" That is, if the winning tickets are among those tickets that were sold to individuals (instead of among the unsold tickets held by the colony) then the colony would be bound to come up with the promised cash. How the cash would be raised was unknown as it was not thought to be legal to impose a tax for such a purpose.

    The letter concluded by stating the colony had born considerable expense in equipping the British military expedition against Fort Lewisburg and hoped the king would repay them for their expenses. It was thought the lottery would ease this financial burden but, if all the tickets were not sold the lottery would actually increase the burden! The committee concluded abandoning the lottery would be in the financial interest of the colony.


    All the tickets were finally sold by the start of the lottery drawing (which began either on the afternoon of Thursday June 6 or on Friday 7th) so the lottery was a success. Also, in 1749 the king finally repaid Massachusetts for their expenses in the Lewisburg expedition. The payment is discussed in our section on British regal halfpence in our Colonial Coin site.

    For a transcription and images of the letter Click here or use the NEXT arrow at the bottom.