Divided by lottery

English: Prince Edward Island, farmland
Prince Edward Island, farmland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are often suggestions that hospitals, Medicare, and other public services in Canada should be financed by Federal lotteries, as they are in Ireland (Eire) and other countries. There are a number of precedents for public lotteries in Canada. Many of the United Empire Loyalists drew their holdings from a hat, as did the early settlers of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and Edmonton, Alberta.

The most spectacular lottery for land was in Prince Edward Island and it took place in London, England, on July 23, 1767. The results were not satisfactory because many of the people who received holdings in Prince Edward Island never went there. One of its worst problem for years was “absentee” landlords. If it had not been for the lottery, however, Prince Edward Island might have been a feudal kingdom, ruled by lords, with its people living little better than serfs.

When Prince Edward Island was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It was placed under Nova Scotia. The Earl of Egmont, First Lord of the Admiralty, asked King George III to grant him the island forever! He proposed to be the “Lord Paramount” while under him there would be 40 “Capital Lords,” 400 “Lords of the Manor,” and 800 “freeholders.” The lords would have castles, surrounded by moats, and the castles would be armed with cannons, capable of firing four pound balls. If there was any danger, the castle being attacked would fire its cannon; this would be heard by the next castle which would also fire, and so on around the island until everyone had been alerted. The Earl of Egmont claimed that the entire island could be armed in fifteen minutes!

King George referred the matter to the Board of Trade and Plantations, which turned down Egmont’s request as being adverse to the principles of settlement in the other colonies. Instead, it was decided to hold the lottery and divide Prince Edward Island among people who had claims for military or other public service. One of the lucky winners of the lottery, Captain Walter Patterson, became the first governor.

If you want to read more about this, there are a few sites I recommend: There’s Island Imagined, and the University of Prince Edward Island.


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