Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
826
BESTUZHEV-RYUMIN, M. P.—BET AND BETTING

affairs, and at its first session (14th-30th of March) an alliance with Austria, France and Poland against Frederick II. was proposed, though Bestuzhev opposed any composition with France. He endeavoured to support his failing credit by a secret alliance with the grand-duchess Catherine, whom he proposed to raise to the throne instead of her Holstein husband, Peter, from whom Bestuzhev expected nothing good either for himself or for Russia. The negotiations were conducted through the Pole Stanislaus Poniatowski. The accession of Russia to the anti-Prussian coalition (1756) was made over his head, and the cowardice and incapacity of Bestuzhev’s friend, the Russian commander-in-chief, Stephen Apraksin, after the battle of Gross-Jagersdorf (1757), was made the pretext for overthrowing the chancellor. His unwillingness to agree to the coalition was magnified into a determination to defeat it, though it is quite obvious that he could only gain by the humiliation of Frederick, and nothing was ever proved against him. Nevertheless he was deprived of the chancellorship and banished to his estate at Goretovo (April 1759), where he remained till the accession of Catharine II., who recalled him to court and created him a field marshal. But he took no leading part in affairs and died on the 21st of April 1768, the last of his race.

See The Sbornik of the Russian Historical Society, vols. 1, 3, 5, 7, 12, 22, 26, 66, 79, 80, 81, 85-86, 91-92, 96, 99, 100, 103 (St Petersburg, 1870, &c.); Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Grossen, vols. 1-21 (Berlin, 1879-1904.); R. Nisbet Bain, The Daughter of Peter the Great (London, 1899).

 (R. N. B.) 

BESTUZHEV-RYUMIN, MIKHAIL PETROVICH, Count (1688-1760), Russian diplomatist, elder brother of the foregoing, was educated at Berlin, and was sent by Peter the Great to represent Russia at Copenhagen in 1705. In 1720 he was appointed resident at London at a time when the English court was greatly inflamed against Peter, who was regarded as a dangerous rival in the Baltic; and Bestuzhev was summarily dismissed for protesting against the lately-formed Anglo-Swedish alliance. On the conclusion of the peace of Nystad in 1721 he was sent as ambassador to the court of Stockholm. His first official act was the signing of a defensive alliance between Russia and Sweden for twelve years, in 1724. He was successively transferred to Warsaw (1726) and to Berlin (1730), but returned to Stockholm in 1732. How far Bestuzhev was concerned in the murder (June 28th, 1739) of the Swedish diplomatic agent Sinclair in Silesia on his journey home from Constantinople, it is difficult to say. It is certain that Bestuzhev sent information to his court of Sinclair’s mission, which was supposed to be hostile to Russia, and even supplied the portrait of the envoy for recognition. The Swedish authorities are unanimous in describing Bestuzhev as the arch-plotter in this miserable affair; yet, while the active agents were banished to Siberia, Bestuzhev was not even censured. The Sinclair murder led ultimately to the Swedish-Russian War of 1741, when Bestuzhev was transferred first to Hamburg and subsequently to Hanover, where he endeavoured to conclude an alliance between Great Britain and Russia. On his return to Russia in 1743, he was made grand marshal, and married Anna, the widow of Paul Yaguzhinsky, Peter the Great’s famous pupil. A few months later his wife was implicated in a bogus conspiracy got up by the French ambassador, the marquis de La Chétardie, to ruin the Bestuzhevs (see Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Alexius), and after a public whipping, had her tongue cut out and was banished to Siberia. Thither Bestuzhev had not the manhood to follow her, but went abroad, and subsequently resumed his diplomatic career. His last and most brilliant mission was to Versailles, shortly after the conclusion of the coalition against Frederick the Great, where he cut a great figure. He died at Paris on the 26th of February 1760.

See Robert Nisbet Bain, The Daughter of Peter the Great (London, 1899); Mikhail Sergyievich, History of Russia (Rus.), vols. xv.-xxii. (2nd ed., St Petersburg, 1897).

 (R. N. B.) 

BET and BETTING (probably from O. Fr. abeter, to instigate, Eng. “abet,” i.e. with money). To “bet” is to stake money or something valuable on some future contingency. Betting in some form or other has been in vogue from the earliest days, commencing in the East with royal and noble gamblers, and gradually extending itself westwards and throughout all classes. In all countries where the English tongue is spoken betting is now largely indulged in; and in the United Kingdom it spread to such an extent amongst all grades of society, during the 19th century, that the interference of the legislature was necessary (see Gaming and Wagering). Bets can, of course, be made on any subject, and are a common method of backing one’s opinion or skill, whether at games of cards or in any other connexion; but the commonest form of betting is associated with the turf. In the early days of horse-racing persons who wished to bet often failed to gratify their inclination because of the difficulty of finding any one ready to wager. To obviate this difficulty the professional bookmaker arose. It was perceived that if a man laid money against a number of horses, conducting his business on discreet principles, he would in all probability receive enough to pay the bettor who was successful and to leave a surplus for himself; for the “bookmaker,” as the professional betting man came to be called, had enormous advantages in his favour. He was presumably shrewd and wary, whereas many of those with whom he dealt were precisely the opposite, and benefit arose to him from the mistakes and miscalculations of owners and trainers of horses, and from the innumerable accidents which occur to prevent anticipated success; moreover, if he carried out the theory of his calling he would so arrange his book, by what is called “betting to figures,” that the money he received would be more than he could possibly be called upon to pay. In practice, of course, this often does not happen, because “backers” will sometimes support two or three horses in a race only, and the success of one may result in loss to the bookmaker; but in the long run it has been almost invariably found that the bookmaker grows rich and that the backer of horses loses money. It is the bookmaker who regulates the odds, and this he does, sometimes by anticipating, sometimes by noting, the desire of backers to support certain animals. Such things as stable secrets can scarcely be said to exist at the present time; the bookmaker is usually as well able as any one else to estimate the chances of the various horses engaged in races. Notwithstanding that the reports of a trial gallop are of comparatively little value to any except the few persons who know what weights the animals carried when tried, the bookmaker is extraordinarily keen, and frequently successful, in his search for information; and on this the odds depend.

Betting in connexion with horse-racing is of two kinds: “post,” when wagering does not begin until the numbers of the runners are hoisted on the board; and “ante-post,” when wagering opens weeks or months before the event; though of this latter there is far less than was formerly the case, doubtless for the reason that before the introduction of so many new and valuable stakes attention was generally concentrated on a comparatively small number of races. Bets on the Derby, the Oaks and the St Leger were formerly common nearly a year before the running of the races, and a few handicaps, such as the Chester Cup, used to occupy attention months beforehand; the weights, of course, being published at a much longer interval prior to the contest than is at present the rule. As regards ante-post betting, bookmakers have their own ideas as to the relative prospects of the horses entered. A person who wishes to back a horse asks the price, and accepts or declines, as the case may be. If the bet is laid it will probably be quoted in the newspapers, and other persons who propose to wager on the race are so likely to follow suit that it is shrewdly suspected that in not a few cases bets are quoted which never have been laid, in order to induce the backers to speculate. According to the public demand for a horse the price shortens. If there is little or no demand the odds increase, the market being almost entirely regulated by the money; so that if a great many people bet on a certain animal the odds become shorter and shorter, till in many cases instead of laying odds against a horse, the bookmaker comes to take odds, that is, to agree to pay a smaller sum than he would receive from the backer if the animal lost. Post betting is conducted on very much the same principles. When the numbers are