Gambling, Commodity Speculation, and the 'Victorian Compromise'

18 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2007 Last revised: 30 May 2010

See all articles by Joshua C. Tate

Joshua C. Tate

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law


This Essay examines two major strands of nineteenth-century jurisprudence related to gambling: Southern cases defining public and private space for the purpose of state gambling statutes, and Northern cases applying the intent to deliver test to speculative contracts. The Essay argues that both lines of cases reflect what Lawrence Friedman has termed the Victorian compromise: A strong official stance against immoral behavior is conjoined with de facto acceptance of many questionable practices, provided that they are conducted in a manner acceptable to the elite. The Essay concludes that nineteenth-century judges sought to preserve the semblance of a strict prohibition against gambling while allowing more socially acceptable forms of speculation to pass muster.

Keywords: legal history, gambling, commodities, contracts, criminal law

Suggested Citation

Tate, Joshua C., Gambling, Commodity Speculation, and the 'Victorian Compromise'. Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 19, pp. 97-114, 2007, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 8, Available at SSRN:

Joshua C. Tate (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States
(214) 768-2791 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics