I THANK you for pointing to me. I really wished much to engage your attention in an early stage of the debate. I have been long very deeply, though perhaps ineffectually, en∣gaged in the preliminary enquiries, which have continued without intermission for some years. Though I have felt, with some degree of sensibility, the natural and inevitable impres∣sions of the several matters of fact, as they have been successively disclosed, I have not at any time attempted to trouble you on the merits of the subject; and very little on any of the points which incidentally arose in the course of our pro∣ceedings. But I should be sorry to be found to∣tally silent upon this day. Our enquiries are now come to their final issue:—It is now to be deter∣mined whether the three years of laborious par∣liamentary research, whether the twenty years Page 2 of patient Indian suffering, are to produce a substantial reform in our Eastern administration; or whether our knowledge of the grievances has abated our zeal for the correction of them, and whether our very enquiry into the evil was only a pretext to elude the remedy which is demanded from us by humanity, by justice, and by every principle of true policy. Depend upon it, this business cannot be indifferent to our fame. It will turn out a matter of great disgrace or great glory to the whole British nation. We are on a conspicuous stage, and the world marks our de∣meanour.
I am therefore a little concerned to perceive the spirit and temper in which the debate has been all along pursued, upon one side of the House. The declamation of the Gentlemen who oppose the bill has been abundant and vehement, but they have been reserved and even silent about the fitness or unfitness of the plan to attain the direct ob∣ject it has in view. By some gentlemen it is taken up (by way of exercise I presume) as a point of law on a question of private property, and corporate franchise; by others it is re∣garded as the petty intrigue of a faction at court, and argued merely as it tends to set this man a little higher, or that a little lower in situa∣tion and power. All the void has been filled up with invectives against coalition; with allusions to the loss of America; with the activity and in∣activity of ministers. The total silence of these gentlemen concerning the interest and well-being of the people of India, and concerning the interest which this nation has in the commerce and reve∣nues of that country, is a strong indication of the value which they set upon these objects.
Page 3It has been a little painful to me to observe the intrusion into this important debate of such com∣pany as Quo Warranto, and Mandamus, and Certiorari; as if we were on a trial about mayors and aldermen, and capital burgesses; or engaged in a suit concerning the borough of Penryn, or Saltash, or St. Ives, or St. Mawes. Gentlemen have argued with as much heat and passion, as if the first things in the world were at stake; and their topics are such, as belong only to matter of the lowest and meanest litigation. It is not right, it is not worthy of us, in this manner to depreci∣ate the value, to degrade the majesty of this grave deliberation of policy and empire.
For my part, I have thought myself bound, when a matter of this extraordinary weight came before me, not to consider (as some Gentlemen are so fond of doing) whether the bill originated from a Secretary of State for the home department, or from a Secretary for the foreign; from a minis∣ter of influence or a minister of the people; from Jacob or from Esau*. I asked myself, and I asked myself nothing else, what part it was fit for a member of parliament, who has supplied a mediocrity of talents by the extreme of diligence, and who has thought himself obliged, by the re∣search of years, to wind himself into the inmost recesses and labyrinths of the Indian detail, what part, I say, it became such a member of parlia∣ment to take, when a minister of state, in con∣formity to a recommendation from the throne, has brought before us a system for the better govern∣ment of the territory and commerce of the East. In this light, and in this only, I will trouble you with my sentiments.
Page 4It is not only agreed but demanded, by the Right Honourable gentleman*, and by those who act with him, that a whole system ought to be produced; that it ought not to be an half measure; that it ought to be no palliative; but a legislative provision, vigorous, substantial, and effective.—I believe that no man who under∣stands the subject can doubt for a moment, that those must be the conditions of any thing deserving the name of a reform in the Indian government; that any thing short of them would not only be delusive, but, in this matter which admits no medium, noxious in the ex∣treme.
To all the conditions proposed by his adver∣saries the mover of the bill perfectly agrees; and on his performance of them he rests his cause. On the other hand, not the least objec∣tion has been taken, with regard to the efficiency, the vigour, or the completeness of the scheme. I am therefore warranted to assume, as a thing admitted, that the bills accomplish what both sides of the House demand as essential. The end is completely answered, so far as the direct and immediate object is concerned.
But though there are no direct, yet there are various collateral objections made; objections from the effects, which this plan of reform for Indian administration may have on the privileges of great public bodies in England; from its pro∣bable influence on the constitutional rights, or on the freedom and integrity of the several branches of the legislature.
Page 5Before I answer these objections I must beg leave to observe, that if we are not able to con∣trive some method of governing India well, which will not of necessity become the means or govern∣ing Great Britain ill, a ground is laid for their eternal separation; but none for sacrificing the people of that country to our constitution. I am however far from being persuaded that any such in∣compatibility of interest does at all exist. On the contrary I am certain that every means, effectual to preserve India from oppression, is a guard to pre∣serve the British constitution from its worst cor∣ruption. To shew this, I will consider the ob∣jections, which I think are four.
- 1st. That the bill is an attack on the chartered rights of men.
- 2dly. That it increases the influence of the crown.
- 3dly. That it does not increase, but diminishes, the influence of the crown, in order to pro∣mote the interests of certain ministers and their party.
- 4thly. That it deeply affects the national credit.
As to the first of these objections; I must ob∣serve that the phrase of
The rights of men, that is to say, the natural rights of mankind, are indeed sacred things; and if any public measure is proved mischievously to affect them, the objection ought to be fatal to that Page 6 measure, even if no charter at all could be set up a∣gainst it. If these natural rights are further affirm∣ed and declared by express covenants, if they are clearly defined and secured against chicane, against power, and authority, by written instruments and positive engagements, they are in a still better condition: they partake not only of the sanctity of the object so secured, but of that solemn pub∣lic faith itself, which secures an object of such importance. Indeed this formal recognition, by the sovereign power, of an original right in the subject, can never be subverted, but by rooting up the holding radical principles of government, and even of society itself. The charters, which we call by distinction great, are public instruments of this nature; I mean the charters of King John and King Henry the Third. The things secured by these instruments may, without any deceitful ambiguity, be very fitly called the chartered rights of men.
These charters have made the very name of a charter dear to the heart of every Englishman—But, Sir, there may be, and there are charters, not only different in nature, but formed on principles the very reverse of those of the great charter. Of this kind is the charter of the East India Company. Magna charta is a charter to restrain power, and to destroy monopoly. The East India charter is a charter to establish monopoly, and to create power. Political power and commercial mono∣poly are not the rights of men; and the rights to them derived from charters, it is fallacious and sophistical to call
It is a charter of this latter description (that is to say a charter of power and monopoly) which is af∣fected by the bill before you. The bill, Sir, does, without question, affect it; it does affect it essen∣tially and substantially. But, having stated to you of what description the chartered rights are which this bill touches, I feel no difficulty at all in acknow∣ledging the existence of those chartered rights, in their fullest extent. They belong to the Company in the surest manner; and they are secured to that body by every sort of public sanction. They are stamped by the faith of the King; they are stamped by the saith of Parliament; they have been bought for money, for money honestly and fairly paid; they have been bought for valuable consideration, over and over again.
I therefore freely admit to the East India Com∣pany their claim to exclude their fellow-subjects from the commerce of half the globe. I admit their claim to administer an annual territorial re∣venue of seven millions sterling; to command an army of sixty thousand men; and to dispose, (under the control of a sovereign imperial discretion, and with the due observance of the natural and local law) of the lives and fortunes of thirty millions of their fellow-creatures. All this they possess by charter and by acts of parliament, (in my opinion) without a shadow of controversy.
Those who carry the rights and claims of the Company the furthest do not contend for more than this; and all this I freely grant. But granting all this, they must grant to me in my turn, that all political power which is set over men, and that Page 8 all privilege claimed or exercised in exclusion of them, being wholly artificial, and for so much, a derogation from the natural equality of mankind at large, ought to be some way or other exercised ultimately for their benefit.
If this is true with regard to every species of political dominion, and every description of com∣mercial privilege, none of which can be ori∣ginal self-derived rights, or grants for the mere private benefit of the holders, then such rights, or privileges, or whatever else you choose to call them, are all in the strictest sense a trust; and it is of the very essence of every trust to be ren∣dered accountable; and even totally to cease, when it substantially varies from the purposes for which alone it could have a lawful existence.
This I conceive, Sir, to be true of trusts of power vested in the highest hands, and of such as seem to hold of no human creature. But about the application of this principle to subordinate derivative trusts, I do not see how a controversy can be maintained. To whom then would I make the East India Company accountable? Why, to Parliament to be sure; to Parliament, from whom their trust was derived; to Parliament, which alone is capable of comprehending the magnitude of its object, and its abuse; and alone capable of an effectual legislative remedy. The very charter, which is held out to exclude Parliament from cor∣recting malversation with regard to the high trust vested in the Company, is the very thing which at once gives a title and imposes a duty on us to interfere with effect, wherever power and autho∣rity originating from ourselves are perverted from their purposes, and become instruments of wrong and violence.
Page 9If Parliament, Sir, had nothing to do with this charter, we might have some sort of Epicurean excuse to stand aloof, indifferent spectators of what passes in the Company's name in India and in London. But if we are the very cause of the evil, we are in a special manner engaged to the redress; and for us passively to bear with op∣pressions committed under the sanction of our own authority, is in truth and reason for this House to be an active accomplice in the abuse.
That the power notoriously, grossly, abused has been bought from us is very certain. But this circumstance, which is urged against the bill, be∣comes an additional motive for our interference; lest we should be thought to have sold the blood of millions of men, for the base consideration of money. We sold, I admit, all that we had to sell; that is our authority, not our controul. We had not a right to make a market of our duties.
I ground myself therefore on this princi∣ple—that if the abuse is proved, the contract is broken; and we re-enter into all our rights; that is, into the exercise of all our duties. Our own authority is indeed as much a trust origi∣nally, as the Company's authority is a trust deri∣vatively; and it is the use we make of the re∣sumed power that must justify or condemn us in the resumption of it. When we have perfected the plan laid before us by the Right Honourable mover, the world will then see what it is we de∣stroy, and what it is we create. By that test we stand or fall; and by that test I trust that it will be found in the issue, that we are going to super∣sede a charter abused to the full extent of all the powers which it could abuse, and exercised in the plenitude of despotism, tyranny, and corruption; Page 10 and that, in one and the same plan, we pro∣vide a real chartered security for the rights of men cruelly violated under that charter.
This bill, and those connected with it, are in∣tended to form the Magna Charta of Hindostan. Whatever the treaty of Westphalia is to the liberty of the princes and free cities of the empire, and to the three religions there professed—Whatever the great charter, the statute of tallage, the pe∣tition of right, and the declaration of right, are to Great Britain, these bills are to the people of India. Of this benefit, I am certain, their con∣dition is capable; and when I know that they are capable of more, my vote shall most assuredly be for our giving to the full extent of their capacity of receiving; and no charter of dominion shall stand as a bar in my way to their charter of safety and protection.
The strong admission I have made of the Com∣pany's rights (I am conscious of it) binds me to do a great deal. I do not presume to condemn those who argue a priori, against the propriety of leaving such extensive political powers in the hands of a company of merchants. I know much is, and much more may be said against such a system. But, with my particular ideas and sen∣timents, I cannot go that way to work. I feel an insuperable reluctance in giving my hand to destroy any established institution of government, upon a theory, however plausible it may be. My experience in life teaches me nothing clear upon the subject. I have known merchants with the sentiments and the abilities of great statesmen; and I have seen persons in the rank of statesmen, with the conceptions and character of pedlars. Indeed, my observation has furnished me with Page 11 nothing that is to be found in any habits of life or education, which tends wholly to disqualify men for the functions of government, but that, by which the power of exercising those functions is very frequently obtained. I mean, a spirit and habits of low cabal and intrigue; which I have never, in one instance, seen united with a capa∣city for sound and manly policy.
To justify us in taking the administration of their affairs out of the hands of the East India Company, on my principles, I must see several conditions. 1st. The object affected by the abuse should be great and important. 2d. The abuse affecting this great object ought to be a great abuse. 3d. It ought to be habitual, and not acci∣dental. 4th. It ought to be utterly incurable in the body as it now stands constituted. All this ought to be made as visible to me as the light of the sun, before I should strike off an atom of their charter. A Right Honourable gentleman* has said, and said I think but once, and that very slightly (whatever his original demand for a plan might seem to require) that
With very few, and those inconsiderable inter∣vals, the British dominion, either in the Company's name, or in the names of princes absolutely de∣pendent upon the Company, extends from the mountains that separate India from Tartary, to Cape Comorin, that is, one-and-twenty degrees of latitude!
In the northern parts it is a solid mass of land, about eight hundred miles in length, and four or five hundred broad. As you go southward, it becomes narrower for a space. It afterwards dilates; but narrower or broader, you possess the whole eastern and north-eastern coast of that vast country, quite from the borders of Pegu. — Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, with Benares (now unfortunately in our immediate possession) measure 161,978 square English miles; a territory considerably larger than the whole kingdom of France. Oude, with its dependent provinces, is 53,286 square miles, not a great deal less than England. The Carnatic, with Tanjour and the Circars, is 65,948 square miles, very considerably larger than England; and the whole of the Company's dominion comprehending Bombay and Salsette, amounts to 281,412 square miles; which forms a territory larger than any European dominion, Russia and Turkey excepted. Through all that vast extent of country there is not a man who eats a mouthful of rice but by permission of the East India Company.
Page 13So far with regard to the extent. The popu∣lation of this great empire is not easy to be calculated. When the countries, of which it is composed, came into our possession, they were all eminently peopled, and eminently pro∣ductive; though at that time considerably de∣clined from their antient prosperity. But since they are come into our hands!—! How∣ever if we take the period of our estimate im∣mediately before the utter desolation of the Car∣natic, and if we allow for the havoc which our government had even then made in these regions, we cannot, in my opinion, rate the population at much less than thirty millions of souls; more than four times the number of persons in the island of Great Britain.
My next enquiry to that of the number, is the quality and description of the inhabitants. This multitude of men does not consist of an abject and barbarous populace; much less of gangs of savages, like the Guaranies and Chiquitos, who wander on the waste borders of the river of Amazons, or the Plate; but a people for ages civilized and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There, have been (and still the skeletons remain) princes once of great dignity, authority, and opulence. There, are to be found the chiefs of tribes and nations. There is to be found an antient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst living, and their consolation in death; a nobility of great antiquity and re∣nown; a multitude of cities, not exceeded in population and trade by those of the first class in Europe; merchants and bankers, individual Page 14 houses of whom have once vied in capital with the Bank of England; whose credit had often supported a tottering state, and preserved their governments in the midst of war and desolation; millions of ingenious manufacturers and me∣chanicks; millions of the most diligent, and not the least intelligent, tillers of the earth. Here are to be found almost all the religions professed by men, the Bramincal, the Mussulmen, the Eastern and the Western Christians.
If I were to take the whole aggregate of our possessions there, I should compare it, as the nearest parallel I can find, with the empire of Germany. Our immediate possessions I should compare with the Austrian dominions, and they would not suffer in the comparison. The Nabob of Oude might stand for the King of Prussia; the Nabob of Arcot I would compare, as su∣perior in territory, and equal in revenue, to the Elector of Saxony. Cheyt Sing, the Rajah of Benares, might well rank with the Prince of Hesse at least; and the Rajah of Tanjore (though hardly equal in extent of dominion, superior in revenue) to the Elector of Bavaria. The Polygars and the northern Zemindars, and other great chiefs, might well class with the rest of the Princes, Dukes, Counts, Marquisses, and Bishops in the empire; all of whom I mention to ho∣nour, and surely without disparagement to any or all of those most respectable princes and gran∣dees.
All this vast mass, composed of so many orders and classes of men, is again infinitely diversified by manners, by religion, by hereditary employment, through all their possible combinations. This renders the handling of India a matter in an Page 15 high degree critical and delicate. But oh! it has been handled rudely indeed. Even some of the reformers seem to have forgot that they had any thing to do but to regulate the tenants of a manor, or the shopkeepers of the next county town.
It is an empire of this extent, of this compli∣cated nature, of this dignity and importance, that I have compared to Germany, and the Ger∣man government; not for an exact resemblance, but as a sort of a middle term, by which India might be approximated to our understandings, and if possible to our feelings; in order to awaken something of sympathy for the unfortunate na∣tives, of which I am afraid we are not perfectly susceptible, whilst we look at this very remote object through a false and cloudy medium.
My second condition, necessary to justify me in touching the charter, is, Whether the Company's abuse of their trust, with regard to this great ob∣ject, be an abuse of great atrocity. I shall beg your permission to consider their conduct in two lights; first the political, and then the commercial. Their political conduct (for distinctness) I divide again into two heads; the external, in which I mean to comprehend their conduct in their federal capacity, as it relates to powers and states inde∣pendent, or that not long since were such; the other internal, namely their conduct to the coun∣tries either immediately subject to the Company, or to those who, under the apparent government of native sovereigns, are in a state much lower, and much more miserable, than common sub∣jection.
The attention, Sir, which I wish to preserve to method will not be considered as unnecessary or Page 16 affected. Nothing else can help me to selection out of the infinite mass of materials which have passed under my eye; or can keep my mind steady to the great leading points I have in view.
With regard therefore to the abuse of the ex∣ternal federal trust, I engage myself to you to make good these three positions:—First, I say, that from Mount Imaus, (or whatever else you call that large range of mountains that walls the northern frontier of India) where it touches us in the latitude of twenty-nine, to Cape Comorin, in the latitude of eight, that there is not a single prince, state, or potentate, great or small, in In∣dia, with whom they have come into contact, whom they have not sold. I say sold, though sometimes they have not been able to deliver according to their bargain.—Secondly, I say, that there is not a single treaty they have ever made, which they have not broken.—Thirdly, I say, that there is not a single prince or state, who ever put any trust in the Company, who is not utterly ruined; and that none are in any degree secure or flourishing, but in the exact proportion to their settled distrust and irreconcileable enmity to this nation.
These assertions are universal. I say in the full sense universal. They regard the external and political trust only; but I shall produce others fully equivalent, in the internal. For the present, I shall content myself with explaining my mean∣ing; and if I am called on for proof whilst these bills are depending (which I believe I shall not) I will put my finger on the Appendixes to the Reports, or on papers of record in the House, or the Committees, which I have distinctly present to my memory, and which I think I can lay before you at half an hour's warning.
Page 17The first potentate sold by the Company for money was the Great Mogul—the descendant of Tamerlane. This high personage, as high as hu∣man veneration can look at, is by every account amiable in his manners, respectable for his piety according to his mode, and accomplished in all the Oriental literature. All this, and the title derived under his charter, to all that we hold in India, could not save him from the general sale. Mo∣ney is coined in his name; In his name justice is administered; He is prayed for in every temple through the countries we possess—But he was sold.
It is impossible, Mr. Speaker, not to pause here for a moment, to reflect on the inconstancy of human greatness, and the stupendous revolutions that have happened in our age of wonders. Could it be believed, when I entered into existence, or when you, a younger man, were born, that on this day, in this House, we should be employed in discussing the conduct of those British subjects who had disposed of the power and person of the Grand Mogul? This is no idle speculation. Awful lessons are taught by it, and by other events, of which it is not yet too late to profit.
This is hardly a digression; but I return to the sale of the Mogul. Two districts, Corah and Allahabad, out of his immense grants, were re∣served as a royal demesne to the donor of a kingdom, and the rightful sovereign of so many nations. — After withholding the tribute of £.260,000 a year, which the Company was, by the charter they had received from this prince, under the most solemn obligation to pay, these districts were sold to his chief minister Sujah ul Dowlah; and, what may appear to some the worst part of Page 18 the transaction, these two districts were sold for scarcely two years purchase. The descendant of Tamerlane now stands in need almost of the com∣mon necessaries of life; and in this situation we do not even allow him, as bounty, the smallest portion of what we owe him in justice.
The next sale was that of the whole nation of the Rohillas, which the grand salesman, without a pretence of quarrel, and contrary to his own de∣clared sense of duty and rectitude, sold to the same Sujah ul Dowlah. He sold the people to utter extirpation, for the sum of four hundred thousand pounds. Faithfully was the bargain per∣formed upon our side. Hafiz Rhamet, the most eminent of their chiefs, one of the bravest men of his time, and as famous throughout the East for the elegance of his literature, and the spirit of his poetical compositions (by which he supported the name of Hafiz) as for his courage, was invaded with an army of an hundred thousand men, and an English brigade. This man, at the head of inferior forces, was slain valiantly fighting for his country. His head was cut off, and delivered for money to a barbarian. His wife and children, persons of that rank, were seen begging an handful of rice through the English camp. The whole nation, with inconsiderable exceptions, was slaugh∣tered or banished. The country was laid waste with fire and sword; and that land distinguished above most others, by the chearful face of paternal government and protected labour, the chosen seat of cultivation and plenty, is now almost through∣out a dreary desart, covered with rushes and briars, and jungles full of wild beasts.
The British officer who commanded in the delivery of the people thus sold, felt some Page 19 compunction at his employment. He represented these enormous excesses to the president of Ben∣gal, for which he received a severe reprimand from the civil governor; and I much doubt whether the breach caused by the conflict, between the compassion of the military and the firmness of the civil governor, be closed at this hour.
In Bengal, Seraja Dowla was sold to Mir Jaffier; Mir Jaffier was sold to Mir Cossim; and Mir Cos∣sim was sold to Mir Jaffier again. The succession to Mir Jaffier was sold to his eldest son;—another son of Mir Jaffier, Mobarech ul Dowla, was sold to his step-mother—The Maratta empire was sold to Ragoba; and Ragoba was sold and delivered to the Peishwa of the Marattas. Both Ragoba and the Peishwa of the Marattas were offered to sale to the Rajah of Berar. Scindia, the chief of Malva, was offered to sale to the same Rajah; and the Subah of the Decan was sold to the great trader Mahomet Ali, Nabob of Arcot. To the same Nabob of Arcot they sold Hyder Ali and the kingdom of Mysore. To Mahomet Ali they twice sold the kingdom of Tanjore. To the same Mahomet Ali they sold at least twelve sove∣reign princes, called the Polygars. But to keep things even, the territory of Tinnivelly, belong∣ing to their Nabob, they would have sold to the Dutch; and to conclude the account of sales, their great customer, the Nabob of Arcot himself, and his lawful succession, has been sold to his second son, Amir ul Omrah, whose character, views, and conduct, are in the accounts upon your table. It remains with you whether they shall finally perfect this last bargain.
All these bargains and sales were regularly at∣tended with the waste and havoc of the country, always by the buyer, and sometimes by the Page 20 object of the sale. This was explained to you by the Honourable mover, when he stated the mode of paying debts due from the country powers to the Company. An Honourable gentleman, who is not now in his place, objected to his jumping near two thousand miles for an example. But the southern example is perfectly applicable to the northern claim, as the northern is to the southern;—for, throughout the whole space of these two thousand miles, take your stand where you will, the proceeding is perfectly uniform, and what is done in one part will apply exactly to the other.
My second assertion is, that the Company never has made a treaty which they have not broken. This position is so connected with that of the sales of provinces and kingdoms, with the negotiation of universal distraction in every part of India, that a very minute detail may well be spared on this point. It has not yet been contended, by any enemy to the reform, that they have observed any public agreement. When I hear that they have done so in any one instance (which hitherto, I confess, I never heard alledged) I shall speak to the particular treaty. The governor general has even amused himself and the Court of Directors in a very singular letter to that board, in which he admits he has not been very delicate with regard to public faith; and he goes so far as to state a regular estimate of the sums which the Company would have lost, or never acquired, if the rigid ideas of public faith entertained by his colleagues had been observed. *The learned gentleman over against me has indeed saved me much trouble. On a former occasion he obtained no small credit, for the clear and forcible manner in which he Page 21 stated what we have not forgot, and I hope he has not forgot, that universal systematic breach of treaties which had made the British faith pro∣verbial in the East.
It only remains, Sir, for me just to recapitu∣late some heads.—The treaty with the Mogul, by which we stipulated to pay him £.260,000 annually, was broken. This treaty they have broken, and not paid him a shilling. They broke their treaty with him, in which they sti∣pulated to pay £.400,000 a year to the Soubah of Bengal. They agreed with the Mogul, for services admitted to have been performed, to pay Nudjif Cawn a pension. They broke this ar∣ticle with the rest, and stopped also this small pension. They broke their treaties with the Nizam, and with Hyder Ali. As to the Ma∣rattas, they had so many cross treaties with the States General of that nation, and with each of the chiefs, that it was notorious, that no one of these agreements could be kept without grossly violating the rest. It was observed, that if the terms of these several treaties had been kept, two British armies would at one and the same time have met in the field to cut each other's throats. The wars which desolate India, origi∣nated from a most atrocious violation of public faith on our part. In the midst of profound peace, the Company's troops invaded the Ma∣ratta territories, and surprised the island and fortress of Salsette. The Marattas nevertheless yielded to a treaty of peace, by which solid ad∣vantages were procured to the Company. But this treaty, like every other treaty, was soon violated by the Company. Again the Com∣pany invaded the Maratta dominions. The disaster that ensued gave occasion to a new Page 22 treaty. The whole army of the Company was obliged, in effect, to surrender to this injured, betrayed, and insulted people. Justly irritated however, as they were, the terms which they prescribed were reasonable and moderate; and their treatment of their captive invaders, of the most distinguished humanity. But the hu∣manity of the Marattas was of no power what∣soever to prevail on the Company to attend to the observance of the terms dictated by their moderation. The war was renewed with greater vigour than ever; and such was their in∣satiable lust of plunder, that they never would have given ear to any terms of peace, if Hyder Ali had not broke through the Gauts, and rushing like a torrent into the Carnatic, swept away every thing in his career. This was in consequence of that confederacy, which by a sort of miracle united the most discordant powers for our destruction, as a nation in which no other could put any trust, and who were the declared enemies of the human species.
It is very remarkable, that the late controversy between the several presidencies, and between them and the Court of Directors, with relation to these wars and treaties, has not been, which of the parties might be defended for his share in them; but on which of the parties the guilt of all this load of perfidy should be fixed. But I am content to admit all these proceedings to be per∣fectly regular, to be full of honour and good faith; and wish to fix your attention solely to that single transaction which the advocates of this sys∣tem select for so transcendant a merit as to cancel the guilt of all the rest of their proceedings; I mean the late treaties with the Marattas.
I make no observation on the total cession of Page 23 territory, by which they surrendered all they had obtained by their unhappy successes in war, and almost all that they had obtained under the treaty of Poor under. The restitution was proper, if it had been voluntary and seasonable. I attach on the spi∣rit of the treaty, the dispositions it shewed, the provisions it made for a general peace, and the faith kept with allies and confederates; in order that the House may form a judgment, from this chosen piece, of the use which has been made (and is likely to be made, if things continue in the same hands) of the trust of the federal powers of this country.
It was the wish of almost every Englishman, that the Maratta peace might lead to a ge∣neral one; because the Maratta war was only a part of a general confederacy formed against us on account of the universal ab∣horrence of our conduct which prevailed in every state and almost in every house in India. Mr. Hastings was obliged to pretend some sort of acquiescence in this general and ra∣tional desire. He therefore consented, in order to satisfy the point of honour of the Marattas, that an article should be inserted to admit Hyder Ali to accede to the pacification. But observe, Sir, the spirit of this man (which if it were not made manifest by a thousand things, and parti∣cularly by his proceedings with regard to Lord Macartney) would be sufficiently manifest by this—What sort of article think you does he re∣quire this essential head of a solemn treaty of ge∣neral pacification to be? In his instruction to Mr. Anderson, he desires him to admit
Hardly was this vague article inserted, than, without waiting for any act on the part of Hyder, Mr. Hastings enters into a negociation with the Maratta Chief, Scindia, for a partition of the ter∣ritories of the prince who was one of the objects to be secured by the treaty. He was to be par∣celled out in three parts—one to Scindia; one to the Peishwa of the Marattas; and the third to the East India Company, or to (the old dealer and chapman) Mahomet Ali.
During the formation or this project, Hyder dies; and before his son could take any one step, either to conform to the tenour of the article, or to contravene it, the treaty of partition is renewed on the old footing, and an instruction is sent to Mr. Anderson to conclude it in form.
A circumstance intervened, during the pen∣dency of this negociation, to set off the good faith of the Company with an additional brilliancy, and to make it sparkle and glow with a variety of splendid faces. General Matthews had re∣duced that most valuable part of Hyder's do∣minions called the Country of Biddenore. When the news reached Mr. Hastings he instructed Mr. Anderson to contend for an alteration in the treaty of partition, and to take the Biddenore country out of the common stock which was to be divided, and to keep it for the Com∣pany.
The first ground for this variation was its being a separate conquest made before the treaty had actually taken place. Here was a new proof given of the fairness, equity, and moderation, of the Company. But the second of Mr. Hastings's reasons for retaining the Biddenore as a separate Page 25 portion, and his conduct on that second ground, is still more remarkable. He asserted that that country could not be put into the partition stock, because General Matthews had received it on the terms of some convention, which might be in∣compatible with the partition proposed. This was a reason in itself both honourable and solid; and it shewed a regard to faith somewhere, and with some persons. But in order to demonstrate his utter contempt of the plighted faith which was alledged on one part as a reason for de∣parting from it on another, and to prove his im∣petuous desire for sowing a new war, even in the prepared soil of a general pacification, he directs Mr. Anderson, if he should find strong difficul∣ties impeding the partition, on the score of the subtraction of Biddenore, wholly to abandon that claim, and to conclude the treaty on the original terms. General Matthews's convention was just brought forward sufficiently to demonstrate to the Marattas the slippery hold which they had on their new confederate; on the other hand that con∣vention being instantly abandoned, the people of India were taught, that no terms on which they can surrender to the Company are to be re∣garded, when farther conquests are in view.
Next, Sir, let me bring before you the pious care that was taken of our allies under that treaty which is the subject of the Company's applauses. These allies were Ragonaut Row, for whom we had engaged to find a throne; the Guickwar, (one of the Guzerat princes) who was to be eman∣cipated from the Maratta authority, and to grow great by several accessions of dominion; and lastly, the Rana of Gohud, with whom we had entered into a treaty of partition for eleven sixteenths of our joint conquests. Some of these inestimable Page 26 securities, called vague articles, were inserted in favour of them all.
As to the first, the unhappy abdicated Peshwa, and pretender to the Maratta throne, Ragonaut Row, was delivered up to his people, with an article for safety, and some provision. This man, knowing how little vague the hatred of his countrymen was towards him, and well apprised of what black crimes he stood accused (among which our invasion of his country would not ap∣pear the least) took a mortal alarm at the security we had provided for him. He was thunderstruck at the article in his favour, by which he was surren∣dered to his enemies. He never had the least notice of the treaty; and it was apprehended that he would fly to the protection of Hyder Ali, or some other, disposed or able to protect him. He was therefore not left without comfort; for Mr. Anderson did him the favour to send a special messenger, desiring him to be of good cheer and to fear nothing. And his old enemy, Scindia, at our request, sent him a message equally well cal∣culated to quiet his apprehensions.
By the same treaty the Guickwar was to come again, with no better security, under the dominion of the Maratta state. As to the Rana of Gohud, a long negotiation depended for giving him up. At first this was refused by Mr. Hastings with great indignation; at another stage it was ad∣mitted as proper, because he had shewn himself a most perfidious person. But at length a method of reconciling these extremes was found out, by contriving one of the usual articles in his favour. What I believe will appear beyond all belief, Mr. Anderson exchanged the final ratifications of that treaty by which the Rana was nominally secured in his possessions, in the camp of the Maratta Page 27 chief, Scindia, whilst he was (really, and not nominally) battering the castle of Gualior, which we had given, agreeably to treaty, to this de∣luded ally. Scindia had already reduced the town; and was at the very time, by various detach∣ments, reducing, one after another, the fortresses of our protected ally, as well as in the act of chastising all the Rajahs who had assisted Colonel Camac in his invasion. I have seen in a letter from Calcutta, that the Rana of Gohud's agent would have re∣presented these hostilities (which went hand in hand with the protecting treaty) to Mr. Hastings; but he was not admitted to his presence.
In this manner the Company has acted with their allies in the Maratta war. But they did not rest here: the Marattas were fearful lest the persons delivered to them by that treaty should attempt to escape into the British territories, and thus might elude the punishment intended for them, and by reclaiming the treaty, might stir up new disturbances. To prevent this, they de∣sired an article to be inserted in the supplemental treaty, to which they had the ready consent of Mr. Hastings and the rest of the Company's representatives in Bengal. It was this,
To complete the system of pacific intention Page 28 and public faith, which predominate in these trea∣ties, Mr. Hastings fairly resolved to put all peace, except on the terms of absolute con∣quest, wholly out of his own power. For, by an article in this second treaty with Scindia, he binds the Company not to make any peace with Tippoo Saheb, without the consent of the Peishwa of the Marattas; and binds Scindia to him by a reci∣procal engagement. The treaty between France and England obliges us mutually to withdraw our forces, if our allies in India do not accede to the peace within four months; Mr. Hastings's treaty obliges us to continue the war as long as the Peishwa thinks fit. We are now in that happy situation, that the breach of the treaty with France, or the violation of that with the Marattas, is inevitable; and we have only to take our choice.
My third assertion, relative to the abuse made of the right of war and peace is, that there are none who have ever confided in us who have not been utterly ruined. The examples I have given of Ragonaut Row, of Guickwar, of the Ranah of Gohud, are recent. There is proof more than enough in the condition of the Mogul; in the slavery and indigence of the Nabob of Oude; the exile of the Rajah of Benares; the beggary of the Nabob of Bengal; the undone and captive condition of the Rajah and kingdom of Tanjour; the destruction of the Polygars; and lastly, in the destruction of the Nabob of Arcot himself, who when his dominions were invaded was found en∣tirely destitute of troops, provisions, stores, and (as he asserts) of money, being a million in debt to the Company, and four millions to others: the many millions which he had extorted from so many extirpated princes and their desolated coun∣tries Page 29 having (as he has frequently hinted) been ex∣pended for the ground-rent of his mansion-house in an alley in the suburbs of Madras. Compare the condition of all these princes with the power and authority of all the Maratta states; with the independence and dignity of the Soubah of the De∣can; and the mighty strength, the resources, and the manly struggle of Hyder Ali; and then the House will discover the effects, on every power in India, of an easy confidence, or of a rooted distrust in the faith of the Company.
These are some of my reasons, grounded on the abuse of the external political trust of that body, for thinking myself not only justified but bound to declare against those chartered rights which produce so many wrongs. I should deem myself the wickedest of men, if any vote of mine could contribute to the continuance of so great an evil.
Now, Sir, according to the plan I proposed, I shall take notice of the Company's internal go∣vernment, as it is exercised first on the dependent provinces, and then as it affects those under the direct and immediate authority of that body. And here, Sir, before I enter into the spirit of their interior government, permit me to observe to you, upon a few of the many lines of difference which are to be found between the vices of the Company's government, and those of the con∣querors who preceded us in India; that we may be enabled a little the better to see our way in an attempt to the necessary reformation.
The several irruptions of Arabs, Tartars, and Persians, into India were, for the greater part, ferocious, bloody, and wasteful in the extreme: our entrance into the dominion of that country was, as generally, with small comparative effusion of blood; being introduced by various frauds Page 30 and delusions, and by taking advantage of the incurable, blind, and senseless animosity, which the several country powers bear towards each other, rather than by open force. But the difference in favour of the first conquerors is this; the Asiatic conquerors very soon abated of their ferocity, be∣cause they made the conquered country their own. They rose or fell with the rise or fall of the territory they lived in. Fathers there de∣posited the hopes of their posterity; and chil∣dren there beheld the monuments of their fathers. Here their lot was finally cast; and it is the natu∣ral wish of all, that their lot should not be cast in a bad land. Poverty, sterility, and desolation, are not a recreating prospect to the eye of man; and there are very few who can bear to grow old among the curses of a whole people. If their passion or their avarice drove the Tartar lords to acts of rapacity or tyranny, there was time enough, even in the short life of man, to bring round the ill effects of an abuse of power upon the power itself. If hoards were made by violence and ty∣ranny, they were still domestic hoards; and do∣mestic profusion, or the rapine of a more powerful and prodigal hand, restored them to the people. With many disorders, and with few political checks upon power, Nature had still fair play; the sources of acquisition were not dried up; and therefore the trade, the manufactures, and the com∣merce of the country flourished. Even avarice and usury itself operated, both for the preservation and the employment of national wealth. The husbandman and manufacturer paid heavy interest, but then they augmented the fund from whence they were again to borrow. Their resources were dearly bought, but they were sure; and the gene∣ral stock of the community grew by the general effort.
Page 31But under the English government all this or∣der is reversed. The Tartar invasion was mis∣chievous; but it is our protection that destroys India. It was their enmity, but it is our friend∣ship. Our conquest there, after twenty years, is as crude as it was the first day. The natives scarcely know what it is to see the grey head of an Englishman. Young men (boys almost) go∣vern there, without society, and without sympathy with the natives. They have no more social ha∣bits with the people, than if they still resided in England; nor indeed any species of intercourse but that which is necessary to making a sudden fortune, with a view to a remote settlement. Animated with all the avarice of age, and all the impetuosity of youth, they roll in one after ano∣ther; wave after wave; and there is nothing be∣fore the eyes of the natives but an endless, hope∣less prospect of new flights of birds of prey and passage, with appetites continually renewing for a food that is continually wasting. Every rupee of profit made by an Englishman is lost for ever to India. With us are no retributory supersti∣tions, by which a foundation of charity compen∣sates, through ages, to the poor, for the rapine and injustice of a day. With us no pride erects stately monuments which repair the mischiefs which pride had produced, and which adorn a country out of its own spoils. England has erected no churches, no hospitals*, no palaces, no schools; England has built no bridges, made no high roads, cut no navigations, dug out no reservoirs. Every other conqueror of every other description has left some monument, either of state Page 32 or beneficence, behind him. Were we to be driven out of India this day, nothing would remain, to tell that it had been possessed, during the inglorious period of our dominion, by any thing better than the ouran-outang or the tiger.
There is nothing in the boys we send to India worse than the boys whom we are whipping at school, or that we see trailing a pike, or bending over a desk at home. But as English youth in India drink the intoxicating draught of au∣thority and dominion before their heads are able to bear it, and as they are full grown in fortune long before they are ripe in principle, neither nature nor reason have any opportunity to ex∣ert themselves for remedy of the excesses of their premature power. The consequences of their conduct, which in good minds, (and many of theirs are probably such) might produce penitence or amendment, are unable to pursue the rapidity of their flight. Their prey is lodged in England; and the cries of India are given to seas and winds, to be blown about, in even break∣ing up of the monsoon, over a remote and un∣hearing ocean. In India all the vices operate by which sudden fortune is acquired; in England are often displayed, by the same persons, the vir∣tues which dispense hereditary wealth. Arrived in England, the destroyers of the nobility and gentry of a whole kingdom will find the best company in this nation, at a board of elegance and hospitality. Here the manufacturer and hus∣bandman will bless the just and punctual hand, that in India has torn the cloth from the loom, or wrested the scanty portion of rice and salt from the peasant of Bengal, or wrung from him the very opium in which he forgot his oppressions and his oppressor. They marry into your families; Page 33 they enter into your senate; they ease your estates by loans; they raise their value by demand; they cherish and protect your relations which lie heavy on your patronage; and there is scarcely an house in the kingdom that does not feel some concern and interest that makes all reform of our eastern government appear officious and dis∣gusting; and, on the whole, a most discouraging attempt. In such an attempt you hurt those who are able to return kindness or to resent injury. If you succeed, you save those who cannot so much as give you thanks. All these things shew the difficulty of the work we have on hand: but they shew its necessity too. Our Indian government is in its best state a grievance. It is necessary that the correctives should be uncommonly vi∣gorous; and the work of men sanguine, warm, and even impassioned in the cause. But it is an arduous thing to plead against abuses of a power which originates from your own country, and affects those whom we are used to consider as strangers.
I shall certainly endeavour to modulate myself to this temper; though I am sensible that a cold style of describing actions which appear to me in a very affecting light, is equally contrary to the justice due to the people, and to all genuine hu∣man feelings about them. I ask pardon of truth and nature for this compliance. But I shall be very sparing of epithets either to persons or things. It has been said (and, with regard to one of them, with truth) that Tacitus and Machiavel, by their cold way of relating enormous crimes, have in some sort appeared not to disapprove them; that they seem a sort of professors of the art of tyranny, and that they corrupt the minds of their readers by not expressing the detestation and horror that naturally belong to horrible and Page 34 detestable proceedings. But we are in ge∣neral, Sir, so little acquainted with Indian de∣tails; the instruments of oppression under which the people suffer are so hard to be understood; and even the very names of the sufferers are so uncouth and strange to our ears, that it is very difficult for our sympathy to fix upon these objects. I am sure that some of us have come down stairs from the committee-room, with im∣pressions on our minds, which to us were the inevitable results of our discoveries, yet if we should venture to express ourselves in the proper language of our sentiments, to other gentlemen not at all prepared to enter into the cause of them, nothing could appear more harsh and dis∣sonant, more violent and unaccountable, than our language and behaviour. All these circumstances are not, I confess, very favourable to the idea of our attempting to govern India at all. But there we are; there we are placed by the Sove∣reign Disposer: and we must do the best we can in our situation. The situation of man is the pre∣ceptor of his duty.
Upon the plan which I laid down, and to which I beg leave to return, I was considering the con∣duct of the Company to those nations which are indirectly subject to their authority. The most considerable of the dependent princes is the Nabob of Oude. *My Right Honourable friend, to whom we owe the remedial bills on your table, has already pointed out to you, in one of the Re∣ports, the condition of that prince, and as it stood in the time he alluded to. I shall only add a few circumstances that may tend to awaken some sense of the manner in which the condition of the people is affected by that of the prince, and Page 35 involved in it; and to shew you, that when we talk of the sufferings of princes, we do not lament the oppression of individuals; and that in these cases the high and the low suffer together.
In the year 1779 the Nabob of Oude repre∣sented, through the British resident at his court, that the number of Company's troops stationed in his dominions was a main cause of his distress; and that all those which he was not bound by treaty to maintain should be withdrawn, as they had greatly diminished his revenue, and impove∣rished his country. I will read you, if you please, a few extracts from these representations.
It was now to be seen what steps the governor general and council took for the relief of this distressed country, long labouring under the vexa∣tions of men, and now stricken by the hand of God. The case of a general famine is known to relax the severity even of the most rigorous go∣vernment.—Mr. Hastings does not deny, or shew the least doubt of the fact. The representation is humble, and almost abject. On this representation from a great prince, of the distress of his subjects, Mr. Hastings falls into a violent passion; such as (it seems) would be unjustifiable in any one who speaks of any part of his conduct. He declares
Page 37This complete effect of his lenity is distant indeed. Rejecting this demand (as he calls the Nabob's abject supplication) he attributes it, as he usually does all things of the kind, to the di∣vision in their government; and says,
Here, Sir, is much heat and passion; but no more consideration of the distress of the country, from a failure of the means of subsistence, and (if possible) the worse evil of an useless and licentious soldiery, than if they were the most contemptible of all trifles. A letter is written in consequence, in such a style of lofty despotism, as I believe has hitherto been unexampled and unheard of in the records of the East. The troops were continued. The gradual relief, whose effect was to be so dis∣tant, has never been substantially and beneficially applied—and the country is ruined.
Mr. Hastings, two years after, when it was too late, saw the absolute necessity of a re∣moval of the intolerable grievance of this licen∣tious soldiery, which, under a pretence of defend∣ing it, held the country under military execution. A new treaty and arrangement, according to the pleasure of Mr. Hastings, took place; and this new treaty was broken in the old manner, in every essential article. The soldiery were again sent, and again set loose. The effect of all his ma∣noeuvres, from which it seems he was sanguine Page 38 enough to entertain hopes, upon the state of the country, he himself informs us,
This is Mr. Hastings's own narrative of the effects of his own settlement. This is the state of the country which we have been told is in perfect peace and order; and, what is curious, he informs us, that every part of this was foretold to him in the order and manner in which it happened, at the very time he made his arrangement of men and mea∣sures.
Page 39The invariable course of the Company's policy is this: Either they set up some prince too odious to maintain himself without the necessity of their assistance; or they soon render him odious, by making him the instrument of their govern∣ment. In that case troops are bountifully sent to him to maintain his authority. That he should have no want of assistance, a civil gentleman, called a Resident, is kept at his court, who, un∣der pretence of providing duly for the pay of these troops, gets assignments on the revenue into his hands. Under his provident management, debts soon accumulate; new assignments are made for these debts; until, step by step, the whole re∣venue, and with it the whole power of the coun∣try, is delivered into his hands. The military do not behold without a virtuous emulation the mo∣derate gains of the civil department. They feel that, in a country driven to habitual rebellion by the civil government, the military is necessary; and they will not permit their services to go unre∣warded. Tracts of country are delivered over to their discretion. Then it is found proper to convert their commanding officers into farmers of revenue. Thus, between the well paid civil, and well rewarded military establishment, the situation of the natives may be easily conjectured. The authority of the regular and lawful government is every where and in every point extinguished. Disorders and violences arise; they are repressed by other disorders and other violences. Wherever the collectors of the revenue, and the farming colonels and majors move, ruin is about them, rebellion before and behind them. The people in crowds fly out of the country; and the frontier is guarded by lines of troops, not to exclude an Page 40 enemy, but to prevent the escape of the inha∣bitants.
By these means, in the course of not more than four or five years, this once opulent and flourish∣ing country, which, by the accounts given in the Bengal consultations, yielded more than three crore of Sicca rupees, that is, above three millions ster∣ling, annually, is reduced, as far as I can discover, in a matter purposely involved in the utmost per∣plexity, to less than one million three hundred thousand pounds, and that exacted by every mode of rigour that can be devised. To complete the business, most of the wretched remnants of this revenue are mortgaged, and delivered into the hands of the usurers at Benares (for there alone are to be found some lingering remains of the an∣cient wealth of these regions) at an interest of near thirty per cent. per annum.
The revenues in this manner failing, they seized upon the estates of every person of emi∣nence in the country, and, under the name of resumption, confiscated their property. I wish, Sir, to be understood universally and literally, when I assert, that there is not left one man of property and substance for his rank, in the whole of these provinces, in provinces which are nearly the extent of England and Wales taken together. Not one landholder, not one banker, not one merchant, not one even of those who usually perish last, the ultimum moriens in a ruined state, no one farmer of revenue.
One country for a while remained, which stood as an island in the midst of the grand waste of the Company's dominion. My Right Honour∣able friend, in his admirable speech on moving the bill, just touched the situation, the offences, and the punishment, of a native prince, called Page 41 Fizulla Khân. This man, by policy and force, had protected himself from the general extirpa∣tion of the Rohilla chiefs. He was secured (if that were any security) by a treaty. It was stated to you, as it was stated by the enemies of that unfortunate man—
Dr. Swift somewhere says, that he who could make two blades of grass grow where but one grew before, was a greater benefactor to the human race than all the politicians that ever existed. This prince, who would have been dei∣fied by antiquity, who would have been ranked with Osiris, and Bacchus, and Ceres, and the divinities most propitious to men, was, for those very merits, by name attacked by the Company's government, as a cheat, a robber, a traitor. In the same breath in which he was accused as a rebel, he was ordered at once to furnish 5,000 horse. On delay, or (according to the technical phrase, when any remonstrance is made to them) "on evasion," he was declared a violator of trea∣ties, and every thing he had was to be taken from Page 42 him.—Not one word, however, of horse in this treaty.
The territory of this Fizulla Khân, Mr. Speaker, is less than the county of Norfolk. It is an in∣land country, full seven hundred miles from any sea port, and not distinguished for any one con∣siderable branch of manufacture whatsoever. From this territory a punctual payment was made to the British Resident of £.150,000 sterling a year. The demand of cavalry, without a shadow or de∣cent pretext of right, amounted to three hundred thousand a year more, at the lowest computation; and it is stated, by the last person sent to negotiate, as a demand of little use, if it could be complied with; but that the compliance was impossible, as it amounted to more than his territories could supply, if there had been no other demand upon him—four hundred and fifty thousand pounds a year from an inland country not so large as Norfolk!
The thing most extraordinary was to hear the culprit defend himself from the imputation of his virtues, as if they had been the blackest offences. He extenuated the superior cultivation of his country. He denied its population. He endea∣voured to prove that he had often sent back the poor peasant that sought shelter with him.—I can make no observation on this.
After a variety of extortions and vexations, too fatiguing to you, too disgusting to me, to go through with, they found
These intended rebellions are one of the Com∣pany's standing resources. When money has been thought to be heaped up any where, its owners are universally accused of rebellion, until they are acquitted of their money and their trea∣sons at once. The money once taken, all accu∣sation, trial, and punishment ends. It is so settled a resource, that I rather wonder how it comes to be omitted in the Directors account; Page 44 but I take it for granted this omission will be supplied in their next edition. The Company stretched this resource to the full extent, when they accused two old women, in the remotest corner of India (who could have no possible view or motive to raise disturbances) of being engaged in rebellion, with an intent to drive out the English nation in whose protection, purchased by money and secured by treaty, rested the sole hope of their existence. But the Company wanted money, and the old women must be guilty of a plot. They were accused of rebellion, and they were convicted of wealth. Twice had great sums been extorted from them, and as often had the British faith guaranteed the remainder. A body of British troops, with one of the military farmers general at their head, was sent to seize upon the castle in which these helpless women resided. Their chief eunuchs, who were their agents, their guardians, protectors, persons of high rank ac∣cording to the Eastern manners and of great trust, were thrown into dungeons, to make them discover their hidden treasures; and there they lie at present. The lands assigned for the main∣tenance of the women were seized and confis∣cated. Their jewels and effects were taken, and set up to a pretended auction in an obscure place, and bought at such a price as the gentlemen thought proper to give. No account has ever been transmitted of the articles or produce of this sale. What money was obtained is un∣known, or what terms were stipulated for the maintenance of these despoiled and forlorn crea∣tures; for by some particulars it appears as if an engagement of the kind was made.
Let me here remark, once for all, that though Page 45 the act of 1773 requires that an account of all proceedings should be diligently transmitted, that this, like all the other injunctions of the law, is totally despised; and that half at least of the most important papers are intentionally withheld.
I wish you, Sir, to advert particularly, in this transaction, to the quality and the numbers of the persons spoiled, and the instrument by whom that spoil was made. These ancient matrons called the Begums or Princesses, were of the first birth and quality in India, the one mother, the other wife, of the late Nabob of Oude, Sujah Dowlah, a prince possessed of extensive and flou∣rishing dominions, and the second man in the Mogul empire. This prince (suspicious, and not unjustly suspicious, of his son and successor) at his death committed his treasures and his fa∣mily to the British faith. That family and houshold, consisted of two thousand women; to which were added two other seraglios of near kindred, and said to be extremely nu∣merous, and (as I am well informed) of about fourscore of the Nabob's children, with all the eunuchs, the ancient servants, and a multitude of the dependants of his splendid court. These were all to be provided, for present maintenance and future establishment, from the lands assigned as dower, and from the treasures which he left to these matrons, in trust for the whole family.
So far as to the objects of the spoil. The instrument chosen by Mr. Hastings to despoil the relict of Sujah Dowlah was her own son, the reigning Nabob of Oude. It was the pious hand of a son that was selected to tear from his mother and grandmother the provision of their age, the maintenance of his brethren, and of Page 46 all the ancient household of his father. [Here a laugh from some young members]—The laugh is seasonable, and the occasion decent and proper.
By the last advices something of the sum ex∣torted remained unpaid. The women in de∣spair refuse to deliver more, unless their lands are restored and their ministers released from prison: but Mr. Hastings and his council, steady to their point, and consistent to the last in their conduct, write to the Resident to stimulate the son to accomplish the filial acts he had brought so near to their perfection.—"We desire," say they in their letter to the Resident (written so late as March last)
What their effectual means of enforcing de∣mands on women of high rank and condition are, I shall shew you, Sir, in a few minutes; when I represent to you another of these plots and rebellions, which always, in India, though so rarely any where else, are the offspring of an easy condition, and hoarded riches.
Benares is the capital city of the Indian reli∣gion. It is regarded as holy by a particular and distinguished sanctity; and the Gentûs in general think themselves as much obliged to visit it once in their lives as the Mahometans to perform their pilgrimage to Mecca. By this means that city grew great in commerce and opulence; and so effectually was it secured by the pious veneration Page 47 of that people, that in all wars and in all violences of power, there was so sure an asylum, both for poverty and wealth, (as it were under a divine protection) that the wisest laws and best assured free constitution could not better provide for the relief of the one, or the safety of the other; and this tranquillity influenced to the greatest degree the prosperity of all the country, and the terri∣tory of which it was the capital. The interest of money there was not more than half the usual rate in which it stood in all other places. The reports have fully informed you of the means and of the terms in which this city and the territory called Gazipour, of which it was the head, came under the sovereignty of the East India Company.
If ever there was a subordinate dominion plea∣santly circumstanced to the superior power, it was this; a large rent or tribute, to the amount of two hundred and sixty thousand pounds a year, was paid in monthly instalments with the punctuality of a dividend at the Bank. If ever there was a prince who could not have an interest in disturb∣ances, it was its sovereign, the Rajah Cheit Sing. He was in possession of the capital of his religion, and a willing revenue was paid by the devout people who resorted to him from all parts. His sovereignty and his independence, except his tri∣bute, was secured by every tie. His territory was not much less than half of Ireland, and displayed in all parts a degree of cultivation, ease, and plenty, under his frugal and paternal management, which left him nothing to desire, either for honour or satisfaction.
This was the light in which this country ap∣peared to almost every eye. But Mr. Hastings beheld it askance. Mr. Hastings tells us that it Page 48 was reported of this Cheit Sing, that his father left him a million sterling, and that he made annual accessions to the hoard. Nothing could be so ob∣noxious to indigent power. So much wealth could not be innocent. The House is fully ac∣quainted with the unfounded and unjust requisi∣tions which were made upon this prince. The question has been most ably and conclusively cleared up in one of the Reports of the Select Com∣mittee, and in an answer of the Court of Directors to an extraordinary publication against them by their servant, Mr. Hastings. But I mean to pass by these exactions, as if they were perfectly just and regular; and, having admitted them, I take what I shall now trouble you with, only as it serves to shew the spirit of the Company's govern∣ment, the mode in which it is carried on, and the maxims on which it proceeds.
Mr. Hastings, from whom I take the doctrine, endeavours to prove that Cheit Sing was no so∣vereign prince; but a mere Zemindar or common subject, holding land by rent. If this be granted to him, it is next to be seen under what terms he is of opinion such a land-holder, that is a British subject, holds his life and property under the Company's government. It is proper to under∣stand well the doctrines of the person whose ad∣ministration has lately received such distinguished approbation from the Company. His doctrine is—
Page 49Such is a British governor's idea of the condi∣tion of a great Zemindar holding under a British authority; and this kind of authority he supposes fully delegated to him; though no such delegation appears in any commission, instruction, or act of parliament. At his discretion he may demand, of the substance of any Zemindar over and above his rent or tribute, even what he pleases, with a sovereign authority; and if he does not yield an implicit unreserved obedience to all his commands, he forfeits his lands, his life, and his property, at Mr. Hastings's discretion. But, extravagant and even frantic as these positions appear, they are less so than what I shall now read to you; for he asserts, that if any one should urge an exemption from more than a stated payment, or should consider the deeds, which passed be∣tween him and the board,
But supposing the Rajah of Benares to be a mere subject, and that subject a criminal of the highest form; let us see what course was taken by an upright English magistrate. Did he cite this culprit before his tribunal? Did he make a charge? Did he produce witnesses? These are not forms; they are parts of substantial and eternal justice. No, not a word of all this. Mr. Hastings concludes him, in his own mind, to be Page 50 guilty; he makes this conclusion on reports, on hear-says, on appearances, on rumours, on con∣jectures, on presumptions; and even these never once hinted to the party, nor publicly to any hu∣man being, till the whole business was done.
But the governor tells you his motive for this extraordinary proceeding, so contrary to every mode of justice towards either a prince or a subject, fairly and without disguise; and he puts into your hands the key of his whole conduct:—
Crimes so convenient, crimes so politic, crimes so necessary, crimes so alleviating of distress, can never be wanting to those who use no process, and who produce no proofs.
But there is another serious part (what is not so?) in this affair. Let us suppose that the power, for which Mr. Hastings contends, a power which no sovereign ever did, or ever can vest in any of his subjects, namely, his own sovereign authority, to be conveyed by the act of parliament to any man or body of men whatsoever; it certainly was never given to Mr. Hastings. The powers given by the act of 1773 were formal and official; they were given, not to the governor general, but to the major vote of the board, as a board, on dis∣cussion amongst themselves, in their public cha∣racter and capacity; and their acts in that charac∣ter and capacity were to be ascertained by re∣cords and minutes of council. The despotic acts exercised by Mr. Hastings were done merely in his private character; and, if they had been moderate and just, would still be the acts of an usurped au∣thority, and without any one of the legal modes of proceeding which could give him competence for the most trivial exertion of power. There was no proposition or deliberation whatsoever in coun∣cil, no minute on record, by circulation or other∣wise, to authorize his proceedings. No delega∣tion of power to impose a fine, or to take any step Page 52 to deprive the Rajah of Benares of his government, his property, or his liberty. The minutes of consultation assign to his journey a totally dif∣ferent object, duty, and destination. Mr. Whe∣ler, at his desire, tells us long after, that he had a confidential conversation with him on various subjects, of which this was the principal, in which Mr. Hastings notified to him his secret intentions;
In what manner the powers thus usurped were employed, is known to the whole world. All the House knows, that the design on the Rajah proved as unfruitful as it was violent. The unhappy prince was expelled, and his more unhappy coun∣try was enslaved and ruined; but not a rupee was acquired. Instead of treasure to recruit the Company's finances, wasted by their wanton wars and corrupt jobbs, they were plunged into a new war, which shook their power in India to its foundation; and, to use the governor's own happy simile, might have dissolved it like a magic structure, if the talisman had been broken.
But the success is no part of my consideration, who should think just the same of this business, if the spoil of one Rajah had been fully acquired, and faithfully applied to the destruction of twenty other Rajahs. Not only the arrest of the Rajah in his palace was unnecessary and unwarrantable, and calculated to stir up any manly blood which re∣mained in his subjects; but the despotic style, Page 53 and the extreme insolence of language and demeanour, used to a person of great condition among the politest people in the world, was in∣tolerable. Nothing aggravates tyranny so much as contumely. Quicquid superbia in contumeliis was charged by a great man of antiquity, as a prin∣cipal head of offence against the governor general of that day. The unhappy people were still more insulted. A relation, but an enemy to the family, a notorious robber and villain, called Ussaun Sing, kept as a hawk in a mew, to fly upon this nation, was set up to govern there, instead of a prince honoured and beloved. But when the business of insult was accomplished, the revenue was too serious a concern to be entrusted to such hands. Another was set up in his place, as guardian to an infant.
But here, Sir, mark the effect of all these extra∣ordinary means, of all this policy and justice. The revenues which had been hitherto paid with such astonishing punctuality, fell into arrear. The new prince guardian was deposed without cere∣mony; and with as little, cast into prison. The government of that once happy country has been in the utmost confusion ever since such good order was taken about it. But, to complete the contumely offered to this undone people, and to make them feel their servitude in all its degradation, and all its bitterness, the govern∣ment of their sacred city, the government of that Benares which had been so respected by Persian and Tartar conquerors, though of the Mussul∣man persuasion, that, even in the plenitude of their pride, power, and bigotry, no magistrate of that sect entered the place, was now delivered over Page 54 by English hands to a Mahometan; and an Ali Ibrahim Khân was introduced, under the Compa∣ny's authority, with power of life and death, into the sanctuary of the Gentû religion.
After this, the taking off a slight payment, chearfully made by pilgrims to a chief of their own rites, was represented as a mighty benefit. It remains only to shew, through the conduct in this business, the spirit of the Company's govern∣ment, and the respect they pay towards other pre∣judices not less regarded in the East than those of religion; I mean the reverence paid to the female sex in general, and particularly to women of high rank and condition. During the general confusion of the country of Gazypore, Panna, the mother of Cheit Sing, was lodged with her train in a castle called Bidgé Gur, in which were likewise deposited a large portion of the treasures of her son, or more probably her own. To whomsoever they be∣longed was indifferent; for, though no charge of rebellion was made on this woman (which was rather singular, as it would have cost nothing) they were resolved to secure her with her fortune. The castle was besieged by Major Popham.
There was no great reason to apprehend that soldiers ill paid, that soldiers who thought they had been defrauded of their plunder on former services of the same kind, would not have been sufficiently attentive to the spoil they were ex∣pressly come for; but the gallantry and gene∣rosity of the profession was justly suspected, as being likely to set bounds to military rapacious∣ness. The Company's first civil magistrate dis∣covered the greatest uneasiness lest the women should have any thing preserved to them. Terms, Page 55 tending to put some restraint on military violence, were granted. He writes a letter to Mr. Pop∣ham, referring to some letter written before to the same effect, which I do not remember to have seen; but it shews his anxiety on this sub∣ject. Hear himself:—
Here your governor stimulates a rapacious and licentious soldiery to the personal search of wo∣men, lest these unhappy creatures should avail themselves of the protection of their sex to secure any supply for their necessities; and he positively orders that no stipulation should be made for any provision for them. The widow and mother of a prince, well informed of her miserable situation, and the cause of it, a woman of this rank became Page 56 a suppliant to the domestic servant of Mr. Has∣tings (they are his own words that I read);
The women being thus disposed of, that is, completely despoiled, and pathetically lament∣ed, Mr. Hastings at length recollected the great object of his enterprize, which, during his zeal lest the officers and soldiers should lose any part of their reward, he seems to have forgot; that is to say,
In all this there is nothing wonderful. We may rest assured, that when the maxims of any government establish among its resources extra∣ordinary means, and those exerted with a strong hand, that strong hand will provide those extra∣ordinary means for itself. Whether the soldiers had reason or not (perhaps much might be said for them) certain it is, the military discipline of India was ruined from that moment; and the same rage for plunder, the same contempt of subordi∣nation, which blasted all the hopes of extraor∣dinary means from your strong hand at Benares, have very lately lost you an army in Mysore. This is visible enough from the accounts in the last Gazette.
There is no doubt but that the country and city of Benares, now brought into the same order, will very soon exhibit, if it does not already dis∣play the same appearance with those countries and cities which are under better subjection. A great master, Mr. Hastings, has himself been at the pains of drawing a picture of one of these countries, I mean the province and city of Far∣ruckabad. There is no reason to question his knowledge of the facts; and his authority (on this point at least) is above all exception, as well for the state of the country, as for the cause. In his minute of consultation, Mr. Hastings describes forcibly the consequences which arise from the degradation into which we have sunk the native government.
This is a true and unexaggerated picture, not only of Farruckabad, but of at least three-fourths of the country which we possess, or rather lay waste, in India. Now, Sir, the House will be de∣sirous to know for what purpose this picture was drawn. It was for a purpose, I will not say laudable, but necessary, that of taking the un∣fortunate Prince and his country out of the hands of a sequestrator sent thither by the Nabob of Oude, the mortal enemy of the Prince thus ruined, and to protect him by means of a British Resident, who might carry his complaints to the superior Resident at Oude, or transmit them to Calcutta. But mark, how the reformer per∣sisted in his reformation. The effect of the mea∣sure was better than was probably expected. The Prince began to be at ease; the country began to recover; and the revenue began to be Page 61 collected. These were alarming circumstances. Mr. Hastings not only recalled the Resident, but he entered into a formal stipulation with the Nabob of Oude, never to send an English subject again to Farruckabad; and thus the country, de∣scribed as you have heard by Mr. Hastings, is given up for ever to the very persons to whom he had attributed its ruin, that is to the Sezawals or sequestrators of the Nabob of Oude.
Such was the issue of the first attempt to relieve the distresses of the dependent provinces. I shall close what I have to say on the condition of the northern dependencies, with the effect of the last of these attempts. You will recollect, Sir, the ac∣count I have not long ago stated to you as given by Mr. Hastings, of the ruined condition of the destroyer of others, the Nabob of Oude, and of the recal, in consequence, of Hannay, Middleton, and Johnson. When the first little sudden gust of passion against these gentlemen was spent, the sentiments of old friendship began to revive. Some healing conferences were held between them and the superior government. Mr. Hannay was per∣mitted to return to Oude; but death prevented the further advantages intended for him, and the future benefits proposed for the country by the provident care of the council general.
These three gentlemen were accused of the grossest peculations. The Court of Directors were informed, by the governor general and council, that a severe enquiry would be instituted against the two survivors; and they requested that court to suspend its judgment, and to wait the event of their proceedings. But no enquiry has been instituted, nor any steps taken towards it. By means of the bland and conciliatory dispositions of the charter Page 62 governors, and proper private explanations, the public enquiry has died away, the supposed pecu∣lators and destroyers of Oude repose in all security in the bosoms of their accusers; whilst others suc∣ceed to them to be instructed by their example.
It is only to complete the view I proposed of the conduct of the Company, with regard to the dependent provinces, that I shall say any thing at all of the Carnatic, which is the scene, if pos∣sible, of greater disorder than the northern pro∣vinces. Perhaps it were better to say of this center and metropolis of abuse, whence all the rest in India and in England diverge; from whence they are fed and methodized, what was said of Carthage—de Carthagine satius est silere quam parum dicere. This country, in all its de∣nominations, is about 46,000 square miles. It may be affirmed universally, that not one person of substance or property, landed, commercial, or mo∣nied, excepting two or three bankers, who are ne∣cessary deposits and distributors of the general spoil, is left in all that region. In that country the moisture, the bounty of Heaven, is given but at a certain season. Before the aera of our influence, the industry of man carefully husbanded that gift of God. The Gentûs preserved, with a pro∣vident and religious care, the precious deposit of the periodical rain in reservoirs, many of them works of royal grandeur; and from these, as occasion demanded, they fructified the whole country. To maintain these reservoirs, and to keep up an annual advance to the cultivators, for seed and cattle, formed a principal object of the piety and policy of the priests and rulers of the Gentû religion.
Page 63This object required a command of money; and there was no Pollam, or castle, which in the happy days of the Carnatic was without some hoard of treasure, by which the governors were enabled to combat with the irregularity of the seasons, and to resist or to buy off the invasion of an enemy. In all the cities were multitudes of merchants and bankers, for all occasions of mo∣nied assistance; and on the other hand, the native princes were in condition to obtain credit from them. The manufacturer was paid by the return of commodities, or by imported money, and not, as at present, in the taxes that had been originally exacted from his industry. In aid of casual distress, the country was full of choultries, which were inns and hospitals, where the traveller and the poor were relieved. All ranks of people had their place in the public concern, and their share in the common stock and common prosperity; but the chartered rights of men, and the right which it was thought proper to set up in the Nabob of Arcot, introduced a new system. It was their policy to consider hoards of money as crimes; to regard moderate rents as frauds on the sovereign; and to view, in the lesser princes, any claim of exemption from more than settled tribute, as an act of rebellion. Accordingly all the castles were, one after the other, plundered and destroyed. The native princes were expelled; the hospitals fell to ruin; the reservoirs of water went to decay; the merchants, bankers, and manufacturers disappeared; and sterility, indi∣gence, and depopulation, overspread the face of these once flourishing provinces.
The Company was very early sensible of these mischiefs, and of their true cause. They gave precise Page 64 orders,
It is now proper to compare these declarations with the Company's conduct. The principal rea∣son which they assigned against the extirpationPage 65 of the Polygars was, that the weavers were pro∣tected in their fortresses. They might have added, that the Company itself, which stung them to death, had been warmed in the bosom of these unfortunate princes: for, on the taking of Madras by the French, it was in their hospitable Pollams, that most of the inhabitants found refuge and pro∣tection. But, notwithstanding all these orders, rea∣sons, and declarations, they at length gave an in∣direct sanction, and permitted the use of a very direct and irresistible force, to measures which they had, over and over again, declared to be false policy, cruel, inhuman, and oppressive. Having, however, forgot all attention to the princes and the people, they remembered that they had some sort of interest in the trade of the country; and it is matter of curiosity to observe the protection which they afforded to this their natural object.
Full of anxious cares on this head, they direct,
The House perceives that the livery of the Com∣pany's government is uniform. I have described the condition of the countries indirectly, but most substantially, under the Company's authority. And now I ask, whether, with this map of misgovern∣ment before me, I can suppose myself bound by my Page 67 vote to continue, upon any principles of pre∣tended public faith, the management of these countries in those hands. If I kept such a faith (which in reality is no better than a fides latronum) with what is called the Company, I must break the faith, the covenant, the solemn, original, indispen∣sable oath, in which I am bound, by the eternal frame and constitution of things, to the whole human race.
As I have dwelt so long on these who are in∣directly under the Company's administration, I will endeavour to be a little shorter upon the countries immediately under this charter govern∣ment.—These are the Bengal provinces. The condition of these provinces is pretty fully de∣tailed in the Sixth and Ninth Reports, and in their Appendixes. I will select only such principles and instances as are broad and general. To your own thoughts I shall leave it, to furnish the detail of oppressions involved in them. I shall state to you, as shortly as I am able, the conduct of the Company;—1st, towards the landed interests;—next, the commercial interests;—3dly, the na∣tive government;—and lastly, to their own go∣vernment.
Bengal, and the provinces that are united to it, are larger than the kingdom of France; and once contained, as France does contain, a great and independent landed interest, composed of princes, of great lords, of a numerous nobility and gentry, of freeholders, of lower tenants, of religious communities, and public foundations. So early as 1769, the Company's servants perceived the decay into which these provinces had fallen under English administration, and they made a strong representation upon this decay, and what they Page 68 apprehended to be the causes of it. Soon after Mr. Hastings became president of Bengal. Instead of administering a remedy, upon the heels of a dread∣ful famine, in the year 1772, the succour which the new president and the council lent to this afflicted nation was—shall I be believed in relat∣ing it?—the landed interest of a whole kingdom, of a kingdom to be compared to France, was set up to public auction! They set up (Mr. Hastings set up) the whole nobility, gentry, and freeholders, to the highest bidder. No preference was given to the ancient proprietors. They must bid against every usurer, every temporary adventurer, every jobber and schemer, every servant of every Eu∣ropean, or they were obliged to content them∣selves, in lieu of their extensive domains, with their house, and such a pension as the state auctioneers thought fit to assign. In this general calamity, several of the first nobility thought (and in all appearance justly) that they had better sub∣mit to the necessity of this pension, than continue, under the name of Zemindars, the objects and in∣struments of a system, by which they ruined their tenants, and were ruined themselves. Another reform has since come upon the back of the first; and a pension having been assigned to these un∣happy persons, in lieu of their hereditary lands, a new scheme of oeconomy has taken place, and deprived them of that pension.
The menial servants of Englishmen, persons (to use the emphatical phrase of a ruined and patient Eastern chief
Page 69Such an universal proscription, upon any pre∣tence, has few examples. Such a proscription, without even a pretence of delinquency, has none. It stands by itself. It stands as a mo∣nument to astonish the imagination, to confound the reason of mankind. I confess to you, when I first came to know this business in its true nature and extent, my surprise did a little suspend my indignation. I was in a manner stupified by the desperate boldness of a few obscure young men, who having obtained, by ways which they could not comprehend, a power of which they saw nei∣ther the purposes nor the limits, tossed about, subverted, and tore to pieces, as if it were in the gambols of a boyish unluckiness and malice, the most established rights, and the most an∣cient and most revered institutions, of ages and nations. Sir, I will not now trouble you with any detail with regard to what they have since done with these same lands and land-holders; only to inform you, that nothing has been suffered to settle for two seasons together upon any basis; and that the levity and inconstancy of these mock legislators were not the least afflicting parts of the oppressions suffered under their usur∣pation; nor will any thing give stability to the pro∣perty of the natives, but an administration in Eng∣land at once protecting and stable. The country sustains, almost every year, the miseries of a revo∣lution. At present, all is uncertainty, misery, and confusion. There is to be found through these vast regions no longer one landed man, who is a resource for voluntary aid, or an object for particular rapine. Some of them were, not long since, great princes; they possessed treasures, they levied armies. There was a Zemindar in Bengal (I forget his name) that, on the threat of an invasion, supplied the Soubah of these provinces with the loan of a Page 70 million sterling. The family this day wants credit for a breakfast at the bazar.
I shall now say a word or two on the Com∣pany's care of the commercial interest of those kingdoms. As it appears in the Reports, that persons in the highest stations in Bengal have adopted, as a fixed plan of policy, the destruction of all intermediate dealers between the Company and the manufacturer, native merchants have dis∣appeared of course. The spoil of the revenues is the sole capital which purchases the produce and manufactures; and through three or four foreign companies transmits the official gains of indi∣viduals to Europe. No other commerce has an existence in Bengal. The transport of its plunder is the only traffic of the country. I wish to refer you to the Appendix to the Ninth Report for a full account of the manner in which the Company have protected the commercial interests of their dominions in the East.
As to the native government and the administra∣tion of justice, it subsisted in a poor tottering man∣ner for some years. In the year 1781, a total revo∣lution took place in that establishment. In one of the usual freaks of legislation of the council of Ben∣gal, the whole criminal jurisdiction of these courts, called the Phoujdary Judicature, exercised till then by the principal Mussulmen, was in one day, with∣out notice, without consultation with the magistrates or the people there, and without communication with the directors or ministers here, totally sub∣verted. A new institution took place, by which this jurisdiction was divided between certain English servants of the Company and the Gentû Zemindars of the country, the latter of whom ne∣ver petitioned for it, nor, for ought that appears, ever desired this boon. But its natural use was Page 71 made of it; it was made a pretence for new extortions of money.
The natives had however one consolation in the ruin of their judicature; they soon saw that it fared no better with the English government itself. That too, after destroying every other, came to its period. This revolution may well be rated for a most daring act, even among the ex∣traordinary things that have been doing in Bengal since our unhappy acquisition of the means of so much mischief.
An establishment of English government for civil justice, and for the collection of revenue, was planned and executed by the president and council of Bengal, subject to the pleasure of the Directors, in the year 1772. According to this plan, the country was divided into six great districts, or provinces. In each of these was established a provincial council, which adminis∣tered the revenue; and of that council one mem∣ber, by monthly rotation, presided in the courts of civil resort; with an appeal to the council of the province, and thence to Calcutta. In this system (whether, in other respects, good or evil) there were some capital advantages. There was in the very number of persons in each provincial council, authority, communication, mutual check, and controul. They were obliged, on their mi∣nutes of consultation, to enter their reasons and dissents; so that a man of diligence, of research, and tolerable sagacity, sitting in London, might, from these materials, be enabled to form some judgment of the spirit of what was going on on the furthest banks of the Ganges and Burrampûter.
The Court of Directors so far ratified this establishment, (which was consonant enough to their general plan of government) that they gave Page 72 precise orders, that no alteration should be made in it, without their consent. So far from being apprised of any design against this consti∣tution, they had reason to conceive that on trial it had been more and more approved by their council general, at least by the governor general, who had planned it. At the time of the revolu∣tion, the council general was nominally in two persons, virtually in one. At that time measures of an arduous and critical nature ought to have been forborne, even if, to the fullest council, this specific measure had not been prohibited by the superior authority. It was in this very situation, that one man had the hardiness to conceive, and the temerity to execute, a total revolution in the form and the persons composing the government of a great kingdom. Without any previous step, at one stroke, the whole constitution of Bengal, civil and criminal, was swept away. The coun∣sellors were recalled from their provinces. Up∣wards of fifty of the principal officers of go∣vernment were turned out of employ, and rendered dependent on Mr. Hastings for their immediate subsistence, and for all hope of future provision. The chief of each council, and one European col∣lector of revenue, was left in each province.
But here, Sir, you may imagine a new govern∣ment, of some permanent description, was esta∣blished in the place of that which had been thus suddenly overturned. No such thing. Lest these chiefs without councils should be conceived to form the ground plan of some future government, it was publicly declared, that their continuance was only temporary and permissive. The whole subordinate British administration of revenue was then vested in a committee in Calcutta, all Page 73 creatures of the governor general; and the pro∣vincial management, under the permissive chief, was delivered over to native officers.
But, that the revolution, and the purposes of the revolution, might be complete, to this committee were delegated, not only the func∣tions of all the inferior, but, what will surprize the House, those of the supreme administra∣tion of revenue also. Hitherto the governor general and council had, in their revenue de∣partment, administered the finances of those king∣doms. By the new scheme they are delegated to this committee, who are only to report their pro∣ceedings for approbation.
The key to the whole transaction is given in one of the instructions to the committee,
As the whole revenue and civil administration was thus subverted, and a clandestine govern∣ment substituted in the place of it, the judicial institution underwent a like revolution. In 1772 there had been six courts formed out of the six provincial councils. Eighteen new ones are appointed in their place, with each a judge, taken from the junior servants of the Company. To maintain these eighteen courts, a tax is le∣vied on the sums in litigation, of 2 ½ per cent. on the great, and of 5 per cent. on the less. This money is all drawn from the provinces to Cal∣cutta. The chief justice (the same who stays in defiance of a vote of this House, and of His Ma∣jesty's recal) is appointed at once the treasurer and disposer of these taxes, levied, without any sort of authority, from the Company, from the Crown, or from Parliament.
In effect, Sir, every legal regular authority in matters of revenue, of political administration, of criminal law, of civil law, in many of the most essential parts of military discipline, is laid level with the ground; and an oppressive, irregular, capricious, unsteady, rapacious, and peculating despotism, with a direct disavowal of obedience to any authority at home, and without any fixed maxim, principle, or rule of proceeding, to guide them in India, is at present the state of your charter-government over great kingdoms.
As the Company has made this use of their trust, I should ill discharge mine, if I refused to Page 75 give my most chearful vote for the redress of these abuses, by putting the affairs of so large and valuable a part of the interests of this nation and of mankind, into some steady hands, possessing the confidence, and assured of the support of this House, until they can be restored to regularity, order, and consistency.
I have touched the heads of some of the grievances of the people, and the abuses of go∣vernment. But I hope and trust, you will give me credit, when I faithfully assure you, that I have not mentioned one fourth part of what has come to my knowledge in your committee; and further, I have full reason to believe, that not one fourth part of the abuses are come to my knowledge, by that or by any other means. Pray consider what I have said only as an in∣dex to direct you in your enquiries.
If this then, Sir, has been the use made of the trust of political powers internal and external, given by you in the charter, the next thing to be seen is the conduct of the Company with regard to the commercial trust. And here I will make a fair offer:—If it can be proved that they have acted wisely, prudently, and frugally, as merchants, I shall pass by the whole mass of their enormities as statesmen. That they have not done this their present condition is proof sufficient. Their distresses are said to be owing to their wars. This is not wholly true. But if it were, is not that readiness to engage in wars which distinguishes them, and for which the Committee of Secrecy has so branded their politics, founded on the falsest principles of mer∣cantile speculation?
The principle of buying cheap and selling dear is the first, the great foundation of mercantile Page 76 dealing. Have they ever attended to this prin∣ciple? Nay, for years have they not actually authorized in their servants a total indifference as to the prices they were to pay?
A great deal of strictness in driving bargains for whatever we contract, is another of the prin∣ciples of mercantile policy. Try the Company by that test! Look at the contracts that are made for them. Is the Company so much as a good commissary to their own armies? I en∣gage to select for you, out of the innumerable mass of their dealings, all conducted very nearly alike, one contract only, the excessive profits on which during a short term would pay the whole of their year's dividend. I shall undertake to shew, that upon two others, that the inordi∣nate profits given, with the losses incurred in order to secure those profits, would pay a year's dividend more.
It is a third property of trading men, to see that their clerks do not divert the dealings of the master to their own benefit. It was the other day only, when their governor and coun∣cil taxed the Company's investment with a sum of fifty thousand pounds, as an inducement to persuade only seven members of their board of trade to give their honour that they would ab∣stain from such profits upon that investment as they must have violated their oaths if they had made at all.
It is a fourth quality of a merchant to be exact in his accounts. What will be thought, when you have fully before you the mode of accounting made use of in the treasury of Ben∣gal?—I hope you will have it soon. With re∣gard to one of their agencies, when it came to the material part, the prime cost of the Page 77 goods on which a commission of fifteen per cent. was allowed, to the astonishment of the factory to whom the commodities were sent, the accountant general reports that he did not think himself authorized to call for vouchers relative to this and other particulars,—because the agent was upon his honour with regard to them. A new principle of account upon honour seems to be regularly established in their dealings and their treasury, which in reality amounts to an entire annihilation of the principle of all accounts.
It is a fifth property of a merchant, who does not meditate a fraudulent bankruptcy, to calcu∣late his probable profits upon the money he takes up to vest in business. Did the Company, when they bought goods on bonds bearing 8 per cent. in∣terest, at ten and even twenty per cent. discount, even ask themselves a question concerning the possi∣bility of advantage from dealing on these terms?
The last quality of a merchant I shall advert to, is the taking care to be properly prepared, in cash or goods, in the ordinary course of sale, for the bills which are drawn on them. Now I ask, whether they have ever calculated the clear pro∣duce of any given sales, to make them tally with the four million of bills which are come and coming upon them, so as at the proper periods to enable the one to liquidate the other? No, they have not. They are now obliged to borrow money of their own servants to purchase their invest∣ment. The servants stipulate five per cent. on the capital they advance, if their bills should not be paid at the time when they become due; and the value of the rupee on which they charge this interest is taken at two shillings and a penny. Has the Company ever troubled them∣selves to enquire whether their sales can bear the Page 78 payment of that interest, and at that rate of ex∣change? Have they once considered the dilemma in which they are placed—the ruin of their credit in the East Indies, if they refuse the bills—the ruin of their credit and existence in England, if they ac∣cept them? Indeed no trace of equitable government is found in their politics; not one trace of com∣mercial principle in their mercantile dealing; and hence is the deepest and matured wisdom of Par∣liament demanded, and the best resources of this kingdom must be strained, to restore them; that is, to restore the countries destroyed by the mis∣conduct of the Company, and to restore the Com∣pany itself, ruined by the consequences of their plans for destroying what they were bound to preserve.
I required, if you remember, at my outset a proof that these abuses were habitual. But surely this it is not necessary for me to consider as a separate head; because I trust I have made it evident beyond a doubt, in considering the abuses themselves, that they are regular, permanent, and systematical.
I am now come to my last condition, without which, for one, I will never readily lend my hand to the destruction of any established government; which is, That in its present state, the government of the East India Company is absolutely incor∣rigible.
Of this great truth I think there can be little doubt, after all that has appeared in this House. It is so very clear, that I must consider the leaving any power in their hands, and the determined resolution to continue and counte∣nance every mode and every degree of peculation, oppression, and tyranny, to be one and the same thing. I look upon that body incorrigible, from the fullest consideration both of their uniform Page 79 conduct, and their present real and virtual con∣stitution.
If they had not constantly been apprized of all the enormities committed in India under their authority; if this state of things had been as much a discovery to them as it was to many of us; we might flatter ourselves that the de∣tection of the abuses would lead to their refor∣mation. I will go further: If the Court of Di∣rectors had not uniformly condemned every act which this House or any of its Committees had condemned; if the language in which they ex∣pressed their disapprobation against enormities and their authors had not been much more vehement and indignant than any ever used in this House, I should entertain some hopes. If they had not, on the other hand, as uniformly commended all their servants who had done their duty and obeyed their orders, as they had heavily censured those who rebelled; I might say, These people have been in an error, and when they are sensible of it they will mend. But when I reflect on the uniformity of their support to the objects of their uniform censure; and the state of insignificance and dis∣grace to which all of those have been reduced whom they approved; and that even utter ruin and premature death have been among the fruits of their favour; I must be convinced, that in this case, as in all others, hypocrisy is the only vice that never can be cured.
Attend, I pray you, to the situation and pros∣perity of Benfield, Hastings, and others of that sort. The last of these has been treated by the company with an asperity of reprehension that has no parallel. They lament,
On the other hand, consider the fate of those who have met with the applauses of the Directors. Colonel Monson, one of the best of men, had his days shortened by the applauses, destitute of the support, of the Company. General Clavering, whose panegyric was made in every dispatch from England, whose hearse was bedewed with the tears, and hung round with eulogies of the Court of Directors, burst an honest and indig∣nant heart at the treachery of those who ruined him by their praises. Uncommon patience and temper, supported Mr. Francis a while longer under the baneful influence of the commen∣dation of the Court of Directors. His health however gave way at length; and, in utter despair Page 81 he returned to Europe. At his return the doors of the India House were shut to this man, who had been the object of their constant admiration. He has indeed escaped with life, but he has for∣feited all expectation of credit, consequence, party, and following. He may well say, Me nemo mi∣nistro fur erit, atque ideo nulli comes exeo. This man, whose deep reach of thought, whose large legis∣lative conceptions, and whose grand plans of po∣licy, make the most shining part of our Reports, from whence we have all learned our lessons, if we have learned any good ones; this man, from whose materials those gentlemen who have least acknow∣ledged it have yet spoken as from a brief; this man, driven from his employment, discounte∣nanced by the Directors, has had no other reward, and no other distinction, but that inward
Add to this, that from the highest in place to the lowest, every British subject, who, in obe∣dience to the Company's orders, has been active in the discovery of peculations, has been ruined. They have been driven from India. When they made their appeal at home they were not heard; when they attempted to return they were stopped. No artifice of fraud, no violence of power, has been omitted, to destroy them in character as well as in fortune.
Worse, far worse, has been the fate of the poor creatures, the natives of India, whom the hypo∣crisy of the Company has betrayed into complaint Page 82 of oppression, and discovery of peculation. The first woman in Bengal, the Ranni of Rajeshahi, the Ranni of Burdwan, the Ranni of Amboa, by their weak and thoughtless trust in the Company's honour and protection, are utterly ruined: the first of these women, a person of princely rank, and once of correspondent fortune, who paid above two hundred thousand a year quit-rent to the state, is, according to very credible information, so com∣pletely beggared as to stand in need of the relief of alms. Mahomed Reza Khân, the second Mussulman in Bengal, for having been distin∣guished by the ill-omened honour of the counte∣nance and protection of the Court of Directors, was, without the pretence of any enquiry whatso∣ever into his conduct, stripped of all his employ∣ments, and reduced to the lowest condition. His ancient rival for power, the Rajah Nundcomar, was, by an insult on every thing which India holds respectable and sacred, hanged in the face of all his nation, by the judges you sent to protect that people; hanged for a pretended crime, upon an ex post facto British act of parliament, in the midst of his evidence against Mr. Hastings. The ac∣cuser they saw hanged. The culprit, without acquittal or enquiry, triumphs on the ground of that murder: a murder not of Nundcomar only, but of all living testimony, and even of evidence yet unborn. From that time not a complaint has been heard from the natives against their gover∣nors. All the grievances of India have found a complete remedy.
Men will not look to acts of parliament, to re∣gulations, to declarations, to votes, and resolu∣tions. No, they are not such fools. They will ask, what is the road to power, credit, wealth, and honours? They will ask, what conduct ends in Page 83 neglect, disgrace, poverty, exile, prison, and gibbet? These will teach them the course which they are to follow. It is your distribution of these that will give the character and tone to your go∣vernment. All the rest is miserable grimace.
When I accuse the Court of Directors of this habitual treachery, in the use of reward and pu∣nishment, I do not mean to include all the indi∣viduals in that Court. There have been, Sir, very frequently, men of the greatest integrity and virtue amongst them; and the contrariety in the declarations and conduct of that Court has arisen, I take it, from this:—That the honest Directors have, by the force of matter of fact on the records, carried the reprobation of the evil measures of the servants in India. This could not be prevented, whilst these records stared them in the face; nor were the delinquents, either here or there, very solicitous about their reputation, as long as they were able to secure their power. The agreement of their partizans to censure them, blunted for a while the edge of a severe proceed∣ing. It obtained for them a character of impar∣tiality, which enabled them to recommend, with some sort of grace, what will always carry a plau∣sible appearance, those treacherous expedients, called moderate measures. Whilst these were un∣der discussion, new matter of complaint came over, which seemed to antiquate the first. The same circle was here trod round once more; and thus through years they proceeded in a compromise of censure for punishment; until, by shame and de∣spair, one after another, almost every man, who preferred his duty to the Company to the inte∣rests of their servants, has been driven from that Court.
This, Sir, has been their conduct; and it has been the result of the alteration which was insensibly Page 84 made in their constitution. The change was made insensibly; but it is now strong and adult, and as public and declared, as it is fixed beyond all power of reformation. So that there is none who hears me, that is not as certain as I am, that the Company, in the sense in which it was for∣merly understood, has no existence. The question is not, what injury you may do to the proprietors of India stock; for there are no such men to be injured. If the active ruling part of the Company who form the general court, who fill the offices, and direct the measures (the rest tell for no∣thing) were persons who held their stock as a means of their subsistence, who in the part they took were only concerned in the govern∣ment of India, for the rise or fall of their dividend, it would be indeed a defective plan of policy. The interest of the people who are governed by them would not be their primary object; perhaps a very small part of their consi∣deration at all. But then they might well be depended on, and perhaps more than persons in other respects preferable, for preventing the pe∣culations of their servants to their own prejudice. Such a body would not easily have left their trade as a spoil to the avarice of those who received their wages. But now things are totally reversed. The stock is of no value, whether it be the qua∣lification of a director or proprietor; and it is impossible that it should. A director's qualifica∣tion may be worth about two thousand five hun∣dred pounds—and the interest, at eight per cent. is about one hundred and sixty pounds a year. Of what value is that, whether it rise to ten, or fall to six, or to nothing, to him whose son, before he is in Bengal two months, and before he de∣scends the steps of the council chamber, sells the grant of a single contract for forty thousand Page 85 pounds? Accordingly the stock is bought up in qualifications. The vote is not to protect the stock, but the stock is bought to acquire the vote; and the end of the vote is to cover and support, against justice, some man of power who has made an obnoxious fortune in India; or to maintain in power those who are actually employ∣ing it in the acquisition of such a fortune; and to avail themselves in return of his patronage, that he may shower the spoils of the East,
Every thing has followed in this order, and ac∣cording to the natural train of events. I will close what I have to say on the incorrigible con∣dition of the Company, by stating to you a few facts, that will leave no doubt of the obstinacy of that corporation, and of their strength too, in re∣sisting the reformation of their servants. By these facts you will be enabled to discover the sole grounds upon which they are tenacious of their charter. It is now more than two years that, upon account of the gross abuses and ruinous situation of the Compa∣ny's affairs, (which occasioned the cry of the whole world long before it was taken up here) that we Page 86 instituted two Committees to enquire into the mis∣managements by which the Company's affairs had been brought to the brink of ruin. These enqui∣ries had been pursued with unremitting diligence; and a great body of facts was collected and printed for general information. In the result of those enquiries, although the Committees consisted of very different descriptions, they were unanimous. They joined in censuring the conduct of the In∣dian administration, and enforcing the responsi∣bility upon two men, whom this House, in con∣sequence of these reports, declared it to be the duty of the Directors to remove from their sta∣tions, and recal to Great Britain,
Here was no attempt on the charter. Here was no question of their privileges. To vindicate their own honour, to support their own interests, to enforce obedience to their own orders; these were the sole object of the monitory resolution of this House. But as soon as the general court could assemble, they assembled to demonstrate who they really were. Regardless of the proceed∣ings of this House, they ordered the Directors not to carry into effect any resolution they might come to for the removal of Mr. Hastings and Mr. Hornby. The Directors, still retaining some sha∣dow of respect to this House, instituted an enquiry themselves, which continued from June to Octo∣ber; and after an attentive perusal and full consi∣deration of papers, resolved to take steps for re∣moving the persons who had been the objects of our resolution; but not without a violent struggle against evidence. Seven Directors went so far as to enter a protest against the vote of their court. Page 87 Upon this the general court takes the alarm; it re-assembles; it orders the Directors to rescind their resolution, that is, not to recal Mr. Hastings and Mr. Hornby, and to despise the resolution of the House or Commons. Without so much as the pretence of looking into a single paper, without the formality of instituting any committee of en∣quiry, they superseded all the labours of their own Directors, and of this House.
It will naturally occur to ask, how it was possi∣ble that they should not attempt some sort of examination into facts, as a colour for their resist∣ance to a public authority, proceeding so very de∣liberately; and exerted, apparently at least, in favour of their own? The answer, and the only answer which can be given, is, that they were afraid that their true relation should be mistaken. They were afraid that their patrons and masters in India should attribute their support of them, to an opinion of their cause, and not to an attachment to their power. They were afraid it should be suspected, that they did not mean blindly to sup∣port them in the use they made of that power. They determined to shew that they at least were set against reformation; that they were firmly resolved to bring the territories, the trade, and the stock of the Company, to ruin, rather than be wanting in fidelity to their nominal servants and real masters, in the ways they took to their pri∣vate fortunes.
Even since the beginning of this session, the same act of audacity was repeated, with the same circumstances of contempt of all the decorum of enquiry, on their part, and of all the proceedings of this House. They again made it a request to their favourite, and your culprit, to keep his post; and thanked and applauded him, without calling for a paper which could afford light into the Page 88 merit or demerit of the transaction, and with∣out giving themselves a moment's time to con∣sider, or even to understand, the articles of the Maratta peace. The fact is, that for a long time there was a struggle, a faint one indeed, between the Company and their servants. But it is a struggle no longer. For some time the supe∣riority has been decided. The interests abroad are become the settled preponderating weight both in the Court of Proprietors, and the Court of Directors. Even the attempt you have made to enquire into their practices and to reform abuses, has raised and piqued them to a far more regular and steady support. The Company has made a common cause, and identified themselves, with the destroyers of India. They have taken on themselves all that mass of enormity; they are supporting what you have reprobated; those you condemn they applaud; those you order home to answer for their conduct, they request to stay, and thereby encourage to proceed in their practices. Thus the servants of the East India Company triumph, and the representatives of the people of Great Britain are defeated.
I therefore conclude, what you all conclude, that this body, being totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, is utterly incorrigible; and because they are incorrigible, both in conduct and constitution, power ought to be taken out of their hands; just on the same principles on which have been made all the just changes and revolu∣tions of government that have taken place since the beginning of the world.
I will now say a few words to the general prin∣ciple of the plan which is set up against that of my Right Honourable friend. It is to re-com∣mit the government of India to the Court of Directors. Those who would commit the refor∣mation Page 89 of India to the destroyers of it, are the enemies to that reformation. They would make a distinction between Directors and Proprietors, which, in the present state of things, does not, cannot exist. But a Right Honourable gentleman says, he would keep the present government of India in the Court of Directors; and would, to curb them, provide salutary regulations;—wonderful! That is, he would appoint the old offenders to correct the old offences; and he would render the vicious and the foolish wise and virtuous, by salutary regulations. He would appoint the wolf as guar∣dian of the sheep; but he has invented a curious muzzle, by which this protecting wolf shall not be able to open his jaws above an inch or two at the utmost. Thus his work is finished. But I tell the Right Honourable gentleman, that controuled depravity is not innocence; and that it is not the labour of delinquency in chains, that will cor∣rect abuses. Will these gentlemen of the direc∣tion animadvert on the partners of their own guilt? Never did a serious plan of amending of any old tyrannical establishment propose the au∣thors and abettors of the abuses as the reformers of them. If the undone people of India see their old oppressors in confirmed power, even by the reformation, they will expect nothing but what they will certainly feel, a continuance, or rather an aggravation, of all their former sufferings. They look to the seat of power, and to the per∣sons who fill it; and they despise those gentle∣men's regulations as much as the gentlemen do who talk of them.
But there is a cure for every thing. Take away, say they, the Court of Proprietors, and the Court of Directors will do their duty. Yes; as they have done it hitherto. That the evils in India have solely arisen from the Court of Proprietors, Page 90 is grossly false. In many of them, the Directors were heartily concurring; in most if them they were encouraging, and sometimes commanding; in all they were conniving.
But who are to choose this well-regulated and reforming Court of Directors?—Why, the very proprietors who are excluded from all manage∣ment, for the abuse of their power. They will choose undoubtedly, out of themselves, men like themselves; and those who are most forward in resisting your authority, those who are most en∣gaged in faction or interest with the delinquents abroad, will be the objects of their selection. But Gentlemen say, that when this choice is made, the proprietors are not to interfere in the measures of the Directors, whilst those Directors are busy in the control of their common pa∣trons and masters in India. No, indeed, I believe they will not desire to interfere. They will choose those whom they know may be trusted, safely trusted, to act in strict conformity to their common principles, manners, measures, interests, and con∣nections. They will want neither monitor nor con∣trol. It is not easy to choose men to act in con∣formity to a public interest against their private: but a sure dependance may be had on those who are chosen to forward their private interest, at the expence of the public. But if the Directors should slip, and deviate into rectitude, the punishment is in the hands of the general court, and it will surely be remembered to them at their next election.
If the government of India wants no reforma∣tion; but gentlemen are amusing themselves with a theory, conceiving a more democratic or aris∣tocratic mode of government for these depen∣ances, or if they are in a dispute only about pa∣tronage; the dispute is with me of so little con∣cern, that I should not take the pains to utter an Page 91 affirmative or negative to any proposition in it. If it be only for a theoretical amusement that they are to propose a bill; the thing is at best frivolous and unnecessary. But if the Company's government is not only full of abuse, but is one of the most corrupt and destructive tyrannies, that probably ever existed in the world (as I am sure it is) what a cruel mockery would it be in me, and in those who think like me, to propose this kind of remedy for this kind of evil!
I now come to the third objection, That this bill will increase the influence of the Crown. An Honourable gentleman has demanded of me, whether I was in earnest when I proposed to this House a plan for the reduction of that influence. Indeed, Sir, I was much, very much, in earnest. My heart was deeply concerned in it; and I hope the public has not lost the effect of it. How far my judgment was right, for what concerned per∣sonal favour and consequence to myself, I shall not presume to determine; nor is its effect upon me of any moment. But as to this bill, whether it encreases the influence of the Crown, or not, is a question I should be ashamed to ask. If I am not able to correct a system of oppression and tyranny, that goes to the utter ruin of thirty mil∣lions of my fellow-creatures and fellow-subjects, but by some increase to the influence of the Crown, I am ready here to declare, that I, who have been active to reduce it, shall be at least as active and strenuous to restore it again. I am no lover of names; I contend for the substance of good and protecting government, let it come from what quarter it will.
But I am not obliged to have recourse to this expedient. Much, very much the contrary. I am sure that the influence of the Crown will by no means aid a reformation of this kind; which Page 92 can neither be originated nor supported, but by the uncorrupt public virtue of the representatives of the people of England. Let it once get into the ordinary course or administration, and to me all hopes of reformation are gone. I am far from knowing or believing, that this bill will encrease the influence of the Crown. We all know, that the Crown has ever had some influence in the Court of Directors; and that it has been extremely in∣creased by the acts of 1773 and 1780. The gen∣tlemen who, as part of their reformation, propose
But, Sir, there is one kind of influence far greater than that of the nomination to office. This gentlemen in opposition have totally overlooked, although it now exists in its full vigour; and it will do so, upon their scheme, in at least as much force as it does now. That influence this bill cuts up by the roots; I mean the influence of protection. I shall explain myself:—The office given to a young man going to India is of trifling consequence. But he that goes out an insigni∣ficant boy, in a few years returns a great Nabob. Mr. Hastings says he has two hundred and fifty of that kind of raw materials, who expect to be Page 94 speedily manufactured into the merchantable qua∣lity I mention. One of these gentlemen, sup∣pose, returns hither, loaded with odium and with riches. When he comes to England he comes as to a prison or as to a sanctuary; and either are ready for him, according to his demeanor. What is the influence in the grant of any place in India, to that which is acquired by the protection or compromise with such guilt, and with the command of such riches, under the domi∣nion of the hopes and fears which power is able to hold out to every man in that condition? That man's whole fortune, half a million per∣haps, becomes an instrument of influence, without a shilling of charge to the Civil List; and the influx of fortunes which stand in need of this protection is continual. It works both ways; it influences the delinquent, and it may cor∣rupt the minister. Compare the influence ac∣quired by appointing for instance even a go∣vernor general, and that obtained by protecting him. I shall push this no further. But I wish gentlemen to roll it a little in their own minds.
The bill before you cuts off this source of influence. Its design and main scope is to re∣gulate the administration of India upon the prin∣ciples of a Court of Judicature; and to exclude, as far as human prudence can exclude, all pos∣sibility of a corrupt partiality, in appointing to office or supporting in office, or covering from enquiry and punishment, any person who has abused or shall abuse his authority. At the board, as appointed and regulated by this bill, reward and punishment cannot be shifted and reversed by a whisper. That commission becomes fatal to cabal, to intrigue, and to secret representa∣tion, those instruments of the ruin of India. Page 95 He that cuts off the means of premature fortune, and the power of protecting it when acquired, strikes a deadly blow at the great fund, the Bank, the capital stock of Indian influence, which cannot be vested any where, or in any hands, without most dangerous consequences to the public.
The third and contradictory objection, is, That this bill does not increase the influence of the Crown. On the contrary, That the just power of the Crown will be lessened, and transferred to the use of a party, by giving the patronage of India to a commission nominated by par∣liament, and independent of the Crown. The contradiction is glaring, and it has been too well exposed to make it necessary for me to insist upon it. But passing the contradiction, and taking it without any relation, of all objections that is the most extraordinary. Do not gentlemen know, that the Crown has not at present the grant of a single office under the Company, civil or military, at home or abroad? So far as the Crown is concerned, it is certainly rather a gainer; for the vacant offices in the new com∣mission are to be filled up by the King.
It is argued as a part of the bill, derogatory to the prerogatives of the Crown, that the commissioners named in the bill are to continue for a short term of years (too short in my opinion) and because, during that time, they are not at the mercy of every predominant faction of the court. Does not this objection lie against the present Directors; none of whom are named by the Crown, and a proportion of whom hold for this very term of four years? Did it not lie against the governor general and council named in the act of 1773—who were invested by name, as the present commissioners are to be ap∣pointed Page 96 in the body of the act of parliament, who were to hold their places for a term of years, and were not removable at the discretion of the Crown? Did it not lie against the re∣appointment, in the year 1780, upon the very same terms? Yet at none of these times, what∣ever other objections the scheme might be liable to, was it supposed to be a derogation to the just prerogative of the Crown, that a commission created by act of parliament should have its members named by the authority which called it into existence? This is not the disposal by parliament of any office derived from the authority of the Crown, or now disposable by that authority. It is so far from being any thing new, violent, or alarming, that I do not recollect, in any par∣liamentary commission, down to the commissioners of the land tax, that it has ever been otherwise.
The objection of the tenure for four years is an objection to all places that are not held during pleasure; but in that objection I pronounce the gentlemen, from my knowledge of their com∣plexion and of their principles, to be perfectly in earnest. The party (say these gentlemen) of the minister who proposes this scheme will be ren∣dered powerful by it; for he will name his party friends to the commission. This objection against party is a party objection; and in this too these gentlemen are perfectly serious. They see that if, by any intrigue, they should succeed to office, they will lose the clandestine patronage, the true instru∣ment of clandestine influence, enjoyed in the name of subservient Directors, and of wealthy trembling Indian delinquents. But as often as they are beaten off this ground, they return to it again. The minister will name his friends, and persons of his own party.—Who should he name? Should he name his adver∣saries? Should he name those whom he cannot trust? Page 97 Should he name those to execute his plans, who are the declared enemies to the principles of his reform? His character is here at stake. If he proposes for his own ends (but he never will pro∣pose) such names as, from their want of rank, fortune, character, ability, or knowledge, are likely to betray or to fall short of their trust, he is in an independent House of Commons; in an House of Commons which has, by its own virtue, destroyed the instruments of parliamentary subser∣vience. This House of Commons would not en∣dure the sound of such names. He would perish by the means which he is supposed to pursue for the security of his power. The first pledge he must give of his sincerity in this great reform will be in the confidence which ought to be reposed in those names.
For my part, Sir, in this business I put all indi∣rect considerations wholly out of my mind. My sole question, on each clause of the bill, amounts to this:—Is the measure proposed required by the ne∣cessities of India? I cannot consent totally to lose sight of the real wants of the people who are the objects of it, and to hunt after every matter of party squabble that may be started on the several provisions. On the question of the duration of the commission I am clear and decided. Can I, can any one who has taken the smallest trouble to be informed concerning the affairs of India, amuse himself with so strange an imagination, as that the habitual despotism and oppression, that the mono∣polies, the peculations, the universal destruction of all the legal authority of this kingdom, which have been for twenty years maturing to their present enormity, combined with the distance of the scene, the boldness and artifice of delinquents, Page 98 their combination, their excessive wealth, and the faction they have made in England, can be fully corrected in a shorter term than four years? None has hazarded such an assertion—None, who has a regard for his reputation, will hazard it.
Sir, the gentlemen, whoever they are, who shall be appointed to this commission, have an under∣taking of magnitude on their hands, and their sta∣bility must not only be, but it must be thought, real;—and who is it will believe, that any thing short of an establishment made, supported, and fixed in its duration, with all the authority of par∣liament, can be thought secure of a reasonable stability? The plan of my Honourable friend is the reverse of that of reforming by the authors of the abuse. The best we could expect from them is, that they should not continue their ancient pernicious activity. To those we could think of nothing but applying control; as we are sure, that even a regard to their reputation (if any such thing exists in them) would oblige them to cover, to conceal, to suppress, and consequently to prevent, all cure of the grievances of India. For what can be discovered, which is not to their disgrace? Every attempt to correct an abuse would be a sa∣tire on their former administration. Every man they should pretend to call to an account, would be found their instrument or their accomplice. They can never see a beneficial regulation, but with a view to defeat it. The shorter the tenure of such persons, the better would be the chance of some amendment.
But the system of the bill is different. It calls in persons no wise concerned with any act cen∣sured by parliament; persons generated with, and for the reform of which, they are themselves the Page 99 most essential part. To these the chief regula∣tions in the bill are helps, not fetters; they are authorities to support, not regulations to restrain them. From these we look for much more than innocence. From these we expect zeal, firmness, and unremitted activity. Their duty, their cha∣racter, binds them to proceedings of vigour; and they ought to have a tenure in their office which precludes all fear, whilst they are acting up to the purposes of their trust; a tenure without which, none will undertake plans that require a se∣ries and system of acts. When they know that they cannot be whispered out of their duty, that their public conduct cannot be censured without a public discussion; that the schemes which they have begun will not be committed to those who will have an interest and credit in defeat∣ing and disgracing them; then we may enter∣tain hopes. The tenure is for four years, or during their good behaviour. That good be∣haviour is as long as they are true to the princi∣ples of the bill; and the judgment is in either House of Parliament. This is the tenure of your judges; and the valuable principle of the bill is, to make a judicial administration for India. It is to give confidence in the execution of a duty, which requires as much perseverance and forti∣tude as can fall to the lot of any that is born of woman.
As to the gain by party, from the Right Ho∣nourable gentleman's bill, let it be shewn, that this supposed party advantage is pernicious to its object, and the objection is of weight; but until this is done, and this has not been at∣tempted, I shall consider the sole objection, from its tendency to promote the interest of a party, as altogether contemptible. The kingdom is Page 100 divided into parties, and it ever has been so di∣vided, and it ever will be so divided; and if no system for relieving the subjects of this kingdom from oppression, and snatching its affairs from ruin, can be adopted, until it is demonstrated that no party can derive an advantage from it, no good can ever be done in this country. If party is to derive an advantage from the reform of India, (which is more than I know, or believe) it ought to be that party which alone, in this king∣dom, has its reputation, nay its very being, pledged to the protection and preservation of that part of the empire. Great fear is expres∣sed, that the commissioners named in this bill will shew some regard to a minister out of place. To men made like the objectors, this must ap∣pear criminal. Let it however be remembered by others, that if the commissioners should be his friends, they cannot be his slaves. But dependants are not in a condition to adhere to friends, nor to principles, nor to any uniform line of conduct. They may begin censors, and be obliged to end accomplices. They may be even put under the direction of those whom they were appointed to punish.
The fourth and last objection is, That the bill will hurt public credit. I do not know whether this requires an answer. But if it does, look to your foundations. The sinking fund is the pillar of credit in this country; and let it not be forgot, that the distresses, owing to the mismanagement of the East India Company, have already taken a million from that fund by the non-payment of duties. The bills drawn upon the Company, which are about four millions, cannot be accepted without the consent of the treasury. The trea∣sury, acting under a parliamentary trust and Page 101 authority, pledges the public for these millions. If they pledge the public, the public must have a security in its hands for the management of this interest, or the national credit is gone. For otherwise it is not only the East India Company, which is a great interest, that is undone, but, clinging to the security of all your funds, it drags down the rest, and the whole fabric perishes in one ruin. If this bill does not provide a direction of integrity and of ability competent to that trust, the objection is fatal. If it does, public credit must depend on the support of the bill.
It has been said, if you violate this charter, what security has the charter of the Bank, in which public credit is so deeply concerned, and even the charter of London, in which the rights of so many sub∣jects are involved? I answer, In the like case they have no security at all—No—no security at all. If the Bank should, by every species of misma∣nagement, fall into a state similar to that of the East India Company; if it should be oppressed with demands it could not answer, engagements which it could not perform, and with bills for which it could not procure payment; no charter should protect the mismanagement from correc∣tion, and such public grievances from redress. If the city of London had the means and will of destroying an empire, and of cruelly oppressing and tyrannizing over millions of men as good as themselves, the charter of the city of London should prove no sanction to such tyranny and such oppression. Charters are kept, when their purposes are maintained: they are violated when the pri∣vilege is supported against its end and its object.
Now, Sir, I have finished all I proposed to say, as my reasons for giving my vote to this Bill. If Page 102 I am wrong, it is not for want of pains to know what is right. This pledge, at least, of my rec∣titude I have given to my country.
And now, having done my duty to the Bill, let me say a word to the author. I should leave him to his own noble sentiments, if the un∣worthy and illiberal language with which he has been treated, beyond all example of parliamentary liberty, did not make a few words necessary; not so much in justice to him, as to my own feelings. I must say then, that it will be a distinction ho∣nourable to the age, that the rescue of the greatest number of the human race that ever were so grievously oppressed, from the greatest tyranny that was ever exercised, has fallen to the lot of abilities and dispositions equal to the task; that it has fallen to one who has the enlarge∣ment to comprehend, the spirit to undertake, and the eloquence to support, so great a measure of hazardous benevolence. His spirit is not owing to his ignorance of the state of men and things; he well knows what snares are spread about his path, from personal animosity, from court intrigues, and possibly from po∣pular delusion. But he has put to hazard his ease, his security, his interest, his power, even his darling popularity, for the benefit of a people whom he has never seen. This is the road that all heroes have trod before him. He is traduced and abused for his supposed motives. He will remember, that obloquy is a necessary in∣gredient in the composition of all true glory: he will remember, that it was not only in the Roman customs, but it is in the nature and constitution of things, that calumny and abuse are essential parts of triumph. These thoughts will support Page 103 a mind, which only exists for honour, under the burthen of temporary reproach. He is doing in∣deed a great good; such as rarely falls to the lot, and almost as rarely coincides with the desires, of any man. Let him use his time. Let him give the whole length of the reins to his benevolence. He is now on a great eminence, where the eyes of mankind are turned to him. He may live long, he may do much. But here is the summit. He never can exceed what he does this day.
He has faults; but they are faults that, though they may in a small degree tarnish the lustre, and sometimes impede the march of his abilities, have nothing in them to extinguish the fire of great virtues. In those faults, there is no mixture of deceit, of hypocrisy, of pride, of ferocity, of complexional despotism, or want of feeling for the distresses of mankind. His are faults which might exist in a descendant of Henry the Fourth of France, as they did exist in that father of his country. Henry the Fourth wished that he might live to see a fowl in the pot of every peasant of his kingdom. That sentiment of homely benevo∣lence was worth all the splendid sayings that are recorded of kings. But he wished perhaps for more than could be obtained, and the goodness of the man exceeded the power of the King. But this gentleman, a subject, may this day say this at least, with truth, that he secures the rice in his pot to every man in India. A poet of antiquity thought it one of the first distinctions to a prince whom he meant to celebrate, that through a long succession of generations, he had been the pro∣genitor of an able and virtuous citizen, who by force of the arts of peace, had corrected Page 104 governments of oppression, and suppressed wars of rapine.
Page 105I have spoken what I think, and what I feel, of the mover of this Bill. An Honourable friend of mine, speaking of his merits, was charged with having made a studied panegyric. I don't know what his was. Mine, I am sure, is a studied panegyric; the fruit of much meditation; the result of the observation of near twenty years. For my own part, I am happy that I have lived to see this day; I feel myself overpaid for the labours of eighteen years, when, at this late period, I am able to take my share, by one hum∣ble vote, in destroying a tyranny that exists to the disgrace of this nation, and the destruction of so large a part of the human species.