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Message to Congress Requesting Legislation Empowering the Post-Office Department to Purge Mails Related to Lotteries

July 29, 1890

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

The recent attempt to secure a charter from the State of North Dakota for a lottery company, the pending effort to obtain from the State of Louisiana a renewal of the charter of the Louisiana State Lottery, and the establishment of one or more lottery companies at Mexican towns near our border have served the good purpose of calling public attention to an evil of vast proportions. If the baneful effects of the lotteries were confined to the States that give the companies corporate powers and a license to conduct the business, the citizens of other States, being powerless to apply legal remedies, might clear themselves of responsibility by the use of such moral agencies as were within their reach. But the case is not so. The people of all the States are debauched and defrauded. The vast sums of money offered to the States for charters are drawn from the people of the United States, and the General Government through its mail system is made the effective and profitable medium of intercourse between the lottery company and its victims. The use of the mails is quite as essential to the companies as the State license. It would be practically impossible for these companies to exist if the public mails were once effectively closed against their advertisements and remittances. The use of the mails by these companies is a prostitution of an agency only intended to serve the purposes of a legitimate trade and a decent social intercourse.

It is not necessary, I am sure, for me to attempt to portray the robbery of the poor and the widespread corruption of public and private morals which are the necessary incidents of these lottery schemes.

The national capital has become a subheadquarters of the Louisiana Lottery Company, and its numerous agents and attorneys are conducting here a business involving probably a larger use of the mails than that of any legitimate business enterprise in the District of Columbia. There seems to be good reason to believe that the corrupting touch of these agents has been felt by the clerks in the postal service and by some of the police officers of the District.

Severe and effective legislation should be promptly enacted to enable the Post-Office Department to purge the mails of all letters, newspapers, and circulars relating to the business.

The letter of the Postmaster-General which I transmit herewith points out the inadequacy of the existing statutes and suggests legislation that would be effective.

It may also be necessary to so regulate the carrying of letters by the express companies as to prevent the use of those agencies to maintain communication between the lottery companies and their agents or customers in other States.

It does not seem possible that there can be any division of sentiment as to the propriety of closing the mails against these companies, and I therefore venture to express the hope that such proper powers as are necessary to that end will be at once given to the Post-Office Department.


Benjamin Harrison, Message to Congress Requesting Legislation Empowering the Post-Office Department to Purge Mails Related to Lotteries Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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