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has purposely obscured, and fairly stating what it was necessary for him to misrepresent. For this purpose, it is necessary you should know with some degree of distinctness, a little of the locality, the nature, the circumstances, the magnitude of the pretended debts on which this marvellous donation is founded, as well as of the persons from whom and by whom it is claimed.
Madras, with it dependencies, is the second (but with a long interval, the second) member of the British empire in the east. The trade of that city, and of the adjacent territory, was, not very long ago, among the most flourishing in Asia. But since the establishment of the British power, it has wasted away under a uniform, gradual decline; insomuch that in the year 1779 not one merchant of eminence was to be found in the whole country. During this period of decay, about six hundred thousand sterling pounds a year have been drawn off by English gentlemen on their private account, by the way of China alone. If we add four hundred thousand, as probably remitted through other channels, and in other mediums, that is, in jewels, gold, and silver directly brought to Europe, and in bills upon the British and foreign companies, you will scarcely think the matter over-rated. If we fix the commencement of this extraction of money from the Carnatick at a period no earlier than the year 1760, and close it in the year 1780, it probably will not amount to a great deal less than twenty millions of money.
During the deep silent flow of this steady stream of wealth, which set from India into Europe, it generally passed on with no adequate observation; but happening at some periods to meet rifts of rocks that checked its course, it grew more noisy, and attracted more notice. The pecuniary discussions caused by an accumulation of part of the fortunes of their servants in a debt from the nabob of Arcot, was the first thing which very particularly called for, and long engaged, the attention of the court of directors. This debt amounted to eight hundred and eighty
thousand pounds sterling, and was claimed, for the greater part, by English gentlemen, residing at Madras. This grand capital, settled at length by order at ten per cent. afforded an annuity of eightyeight thousand pounds.*
Whilst the directors were digesting their astonishment at this information, a memorial was presented to them from three gentlemen, informing them that their friends had lent likewise, to merchants of Canton in China, a sum of not more than one million sterling. In this memorial they called upon the company for their assistance and interposition with the Chinese government for the recovery of the debt. This sum lent to Chinese merchants, was at 24 per cent. which would yield, if paid, an annuity of two hundred and forty thousand pounds.
Perplexed as the directors were with these demands, you may conceive, sir, that they did not find themselves very much disembarrassed, by being made acquainted that they must again exert their influence for a new reserve of the happy parsimony of their servants, collected into a second debt from the nabob of Arcot, amounting to two millions four hundred thousand pounds, settled at an interest of 12 per cent. This is known by the name of the Consolidation of 1777, as the former of the nabob's debts was by the title of the Consolidation of 1767. To this was added, in a separate parcel, a little reserve called the Cavalry debt, of one hundred and sixty-thousand pounds, at the same interest. The whole of these four capitals, amounting to four millions four hundred and forty thousand pounds, produced at their several rates, annuities amounting to six hundred and twenty-three thousand pounds a year; a good deal more than one third of the clear land-tax
* Fourth report, Mr. Dundas's committee, p. 4.
† A witness examined before the committee of secrecy, says, that eighteen per cent. was the usual interest; but he had heard that more had been given. The above is the account which Mr. B. received.
of England, at four shillings in the pound; a good deal more than double the whole annual dividend of the East India company, the nominal masters to the proprietors in these funds. Of this interest, three hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred pounds a year stood chargeable on the publick revenues of the Carnatick.
Sir, at this moment, it will not be necessary to consider the various operations which the capital and interest of this debt have successively undergone. I shall speak to these operations when I come particularly to answer the right honourable gentleman on each of the heads, as he has thought proper to divide them. But this was the exact view in which these debts first appeared to the court of directors, and to the world. It varied afterwards. But it never appeared in any other than a most questionable shape. When this gigantick phantom of debt first appeared before a young minister, it naturally would have justified some degree of doubt and apprehension. Such a prodigy would have filled any common man with superstitious fears. He would exorcise that shapeless, nameless form, and by every thing sacred would have adjured it to tell by what means a small number of slight individuals, of no consequence or situation, possessed of no lucrative offices, without the command of armies, or the known administration of revenues, without profession of any kind, without any sort of trade sufficient to employ a pedlar, could have, in a few years (as to some even in a few months) amassed treasures equal to the revenues of a respectable kingdom? Was it not enough to put these gentlemen, in the noviciate of their administration, on their guard, and to call upon them for a strict inquiry (if not to justify them in a reprobation of those demands without any inquiry at all) that when all England, Scotland, and Ireland had for years been witness to the immense sums laid out by the servants of the company in stocks of all denominations, in the purchase of lands, in the buying and building of houses, in the securing quiet seats in parliament, or in the tumul
tuous riot of contested elections, in wandering throughout the whole range of those variegated modes of inventive prodigality, which sometimes have excited our wonder, sometimes roused our indignation; that after all India was four millions still in debt to them? India in debt to them! For what! Every debt for which an equivalent of some kind or other is not given, is on the face of it a fraud. What is the equivalent they have given? What equivalent had they to give? What are the articles of com. merce, or the branches of manufacture which those gentlemen have carried hence to enrich India? What are the sciences they beamed out to enlighten it? What are the arts they introduced to cheer and to adorn it? What are the religious, what the moral institutions they have taught among that people as a guide to life, or as a consolation when life is to be no more, that there is an eternal debt, a debt "still paying, still to owe," which must be bound on the present generation in India, and entailed on their mortgaged posterity forever? A debt of millions, in favour of a set of men, whose names, with few exceptions, are either buried in the obscurity of their origin and talents, or dragged into light by the enormity of their crimes?
In my opinion the courage of the minister was the most wonderful part of the transaction, especially as he must have read, or rather the right honourable gentleman says, he has read for him, whole volumes upon the subject. the subject. The volumes, by the way, are not by one tenth part so numerous as the right honourable gentleman has thought proper to pretend, in order to frighten you from inquiry; but in these volumes, such as they are, the minister must have found a full authority for a suspicion (at the very least) of every thing relative to the great fortunes made at Madras. What is that authority? Why no other than the standing authority for all the claims which the ministry has thought fit to provide forthe grand debtor-the nabob of Arcot himself. Hear that prince, in the letter written to the court of direc
tors, at the precise period, whilst the main body of these debts were contracting. In his letter he states himself to be, what undoubtedly he is, a most competent witness to this point. After speaking of the war with Hyder Ali in 1768 and 1769, and of other measures which he censures (whether right or wrong it signifies nothing) and into which he says he had been led by the company's servants; he proceeds in this manner-" If all these things were against the real interests of the company, they are ten thousand times more against mine, and against the prosperity of my country, and the happiness of my people; for your interests and mine are the same. What were they owing to then? to the private views of a few individuals, who have enriched themselves at the expense of your influence, and of my country; for your servants HAVE NO TRADE IN THIS COUNTRY; neither do you pay them high wages, yet in a few years they return to England with many lacks of pagodas. How can you or I account for such immense fortunes, acquired in so short a time without any visible means of getting them?”
When he asked this question, which involves its answer, it is extraordinary that curiosity did not prompt the chancellor of the exchequer to that inquiry which might come in vain recommended to him by his own act of parliament. Does not the nabob of Arcot tell us in so many words, that there was no fair way of making the enormous sums sent by the company's servants to England? and do you imagine that there was or could be more honesty and good faith in the demands for what remained behind in India? Of what nature were the transactions with himself? If you follow the train of his information you must see, that if these great sums were at all lent, it was not property, but spoil that was lent; if not lent, the transaction was not a contract, but a fraud. Either way, if light enough could not be furnished to authorize a full condemnation of these demands, they ought to have been left to the parties who best knew and understood each others proceed