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Washington Forbids Gaming

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

The American republicans, like the rebels of all ages, from their justice, peaceloving, and mercy, pretend to have the especial favors of God, and none of the devil’s, on their side, and for this reason we rarely see a proclamation from the rebel camp, without a pious sentence bringing up the rear. The late orders given by the head rebel at Morristown, in the Jerseys, a copy of which is printed in all the rebel prints, is a greater illustration of this Yankee piety than any yet come out. In it Mr. Washington forbids card playing under the penalty of a court-martial, ostensibly for the reason that it is wicked and brings a disgrace on the officers, but in reality to enlist the parsons and other old women stronger in the cause of rebellion.

Old De Heister used to say, “Isht dakes de veek to fool der Deutsche, isht dakes de day to fool de Anglees, isht dakes der tyfel to fool de rebel, but all together couldn’t fool de Lord.” So it is with Mr. Washington: –However easily he may bait old Witherspoon, Billy Livingston, Jacky Jay, and some of the other pious ones, who are hanging on the rear of his moral forces; when the time comes, he’ll find he can’t “fool the Lord” with pretended piety or Presbyterian general orders.1


1 Carver, 113. The following are the orders referred to by this writer: —

Head-Quarters, Morristown, May 8, 1777.

General orders: –As few vices are attended with more pernicious consequences in civil life, so there are none more fatal in a military one than that of gaming, which often brings disgrace and ruin upon officers, and injury and punishment upon the soldiery. And reports prevailing, which it is to be feared are too well founded, that this destructive vice has spread its baneful influence in the army, and in a peculiar manner, to the prejudice of the recruiting service, the Commander-in-chief, in the most pointed and explicit terms, forbids all officers and soldiers playing at cards, dice, or at any games, except those of exercise or diversion, it being impossible, if the practice be allowed at all, to discriminate between innocent play for amusement and criminal gaming for pecuniary and sordid purposes.

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The commanding officer of every corps is strictly enjoined to have this order frequently read, and strongly impressed upon the minds of those under his command.

Any officer or soldier, or other person belonging to, or following the army, either in camp, in quarters, on the recruiting service, or elsewhere, presuming, under any pretence, to disobey this order, shall be tried by a court-martial, etc.

Pennsylvania Evening Post, May 13.

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