Story type: Essay
The annual report of the gambling house at Monte Carlo shows a profit of about $5,000,000.
A large collection of human beings travel from all parts of the world to Monte Carlo for the sake of giving $5,000,000 to the gambling concern there.
Wherever you look on earth to-day or in the past you find human beings gambling, and you will find the gambling instinct stronger than any other–stronger than the love of drink, infinitely stronger than the love of normal, honest gain.
* * *
Christopher Columbus’s sailors gambled on the way over, and the Indians on this side were gambling while waiting to be discovered.
In an office overlooking Trinity graveyard, in New York City, an old man, past eighty, with a fortune of at least $50,000,000, gambles every day with all the excitement of youth. The fluctuations in his game bring to his sallow cheeks the color that no other human emotion could bring there.
On his way home this old man passes crowds of children in the streets and looks down, concerned and sorrowful, to find that they, too, are gambling.
They are matching pennies or shaking dice.
* * *
Clergymen are startled and amazed to find that women are gambling heavily.
They have gambled heavily ever since civilization has progressed far enough to give them large sums to gamble with.
Marie Antoinette staked thousands of louis at a time at Versailles.
She was so wrapped up in gambling she could not see that her neck was in danger.
When the lava came down from Vesuvius it buried Pompeiians who were gambling.
The men who dig up the old monuments in Africa find gambling instruments crumbling away side by side with appliances for taking human life.
* * *
Nowhere in the lower forms of animal life, so far as we know, is there the slightest indication of the gambling instinct.
The monkey, the elephant, love whiskey, and easily become drunkards.
The passion for alcohol seems innate in animal life; even the wise ant can be readily induced to disgrace himself if alcohol is put near him.
For all the human weaknesses and mainsprings–ambition, affection, vanity, drunkenness, ferocity, greediness, cunning–we can find beginnings among the lower animals.
But man appears to have evolved from within himself the gambling instinct for his own especial damnation.
Where did the instinct come from? Why was it planted in us?
Like every other instinct with which intelligent nature endows us, it must have its good purpose, and it must not be judged merely in the corrupted form in which we study it at Monte Carlo or in Wall Street.
Perhaps the spirit of gambling is really only an atrophied, perverted form of the spirit of adventure.
Columbus staked his life and gambled, when he started across the water.
The leaders of the American Revolution expressly staked their lives, their fortunes and their “sacred honor” in signing the Declaration of Independence. They were noble gamblers, working for the welfare of their fellows.
Perhaps gambling is only a perverted form of intelligent ambition–we are all natural gamblers because we have within us the quality which makes us willing to risk our own comfort, security and present happiness for a result that seems better worth while.
The universality of the gambling instinct in human beings is certainly worthy of our study.
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