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MR. BURKE'S SPEECH
MOTION MADE FOR PAPERS
RELATIVE TO THE DIRECTIONS FOR CHARGING THE
FEB. 28, 1785.
REVENUES OF THE CARNATICK.
Ευθαύθα τι πράττειν έχρήν άνδρα των Πλάτων και Αριστοτέλους ζολωλών δογμάτων και άρα περιοράν ανθρώπες άθλίες τους κλέπαις εκδιδομένες, και καλα δύναμιν αυτοις αμύνειν, όιμαι, ώς ήδη το κύκνειον εξάδουσι διοι το θεομισές εργασήριον των τοιέτων ; 'Εμοί μεν εν αισχρον είναι δοκεί τες μέν χιλιάρχες, όταν λείπωσι την τάξιν, καταδικαζειν" την δε υπέρ άθλίων ανθρώπων υπολείπείν τάξιν, όταν δέη προς κλεπlας αγωνίζεσθαι τοιέτες και ταύτα τε Θε8 συμμαχοντος ημίν, ώσπερ 8ν έτυξεν.
JULIANA, Epist. 17.
ADVERTISEMENT. THAT the least informed reader of this speech may be enabled to enter fully into the spirit of the transaction on occasion of which it was delivered, it may
be proper to acquaint him, that among the princes dependent on this nation in the southern part of India, the most considerable at present is commonly known by the title of the Nabob of Arcot.
This prince owed the establishment of his govern- . ment, against the claims of his elder brother, as well as those of other competitors, to the arms and in. fluence of the British East India company. Being thus established in a considerable part of the dominions he now possesses, he began, about the year 1765, to form, at the instigation (as he asserts) of the servants of the East India company, a variety of designs for the further extension of his territories. Some years after, he carried his views to certain objects of interiour arrangement, of a very pernicious
nature. None of these designs could be encompassed without the aid of the company's arms; nor could those arms be employed consistently with an obedience to the company's orders. He was therefore advised to form a more secret, but an equally power. ful interest among the servants of that company, and among
others both at home and abroad. By engaging them in his interests, the use of the company's power might be obtained without their ostensible authority; the power might even be employed in defiance of the authority; if the case should require, as in truth it often did require, a proceeding of that degree of boldness.
The company had put him into possession of se. veral great cities and magnificent castles. The good order of his affairs, his sense of personal dignity, his ideas of oriental splendour, and the habits of an Asiatick life (to which, being a native of India, and a Mahometan, he had from his infancy been inured) would naturally have led him to fix the seat of his government within his own dominions. Instead of this, he totally sequestered himself from his country; and abandoning all appearance of state, he took up his residence in an ordinary house, which he purchased in the suburbs of the company's factory at Madras. In that place he has lived, without removing one day from thence, for several years past.
He has there continued a constant cabal with the company's servants, from the highest to the lowest; creating, out of the ruins of the country, brilliant fortunes for those who will, and entirely destroying those who will not, be subservient to his purposes.
An opinion prevailed, strongly confirmed by several passages in his own letters, as well as by a combination of circumstances forming a body of evidence which cannot be resisted, that very great sums have been by him distributed, through a long course of years, to some of the company's servants. Besides these presumed payments in ready money (of which, from the nature of the thing, the direct proof is very difficult) debts have at several periods been acknowledged to those gentlemen, to an immense amount; that is, to some millions of sterling money. There is strong reason to suspect, that the body of these debts is wholly fictitious, and was never created by money bona fide lent. But even on a supposition that this vast sum was really advanced, it was impossible that the very reality of such an astonishing transaction should not cause some degree of alarm, and incite to some sort of inquiry.
It was not at all seemly, at a moment when the company itself was so distressed, as to require a suspension, by act of parliament, of the payment of bills drawn on them from India
and also a direct tax upon every house in England, in order to facilitate the vent of their goods, and to avoid instant insolvency--at that very moment that their servants should appear in so flourishing a condition, as, besides ten millions of other demands on their masters, to be entitled to claim a debt of three or four millions more from the territorial revenue of one of their dependent princes.
The ostensible pecuniary transactions of the nabob of Arcot, with very private persons, are so enormous, that they evidently set aside every pretence of policy, which might induce a prudent government in some instances to wink at ordinary loose practice in illmanaged departments. No caution could be too great in handling this matter; no scrutiny too exact. It was evidently the interest, and as evidently at least in the power, of the creditors, by admitting secret participation in this dark and undefined concern, to spread corruption to the greatest and the most alarming extent.
These facts relative to the debts were so notorious, the opinion of their being a principal source of the disorders of the British government in India was so undisputed and universal, that there was no party, no description of men in parliament, who did not think themselves bound, if not in honour and conscience, at least in common decency, to institute a vigorous inquiry into the very bottom of the business, before they admitted any part of that vast and suspi. cious charge to be laid upon an exhausted country. Every plan concurred in directing such an inquiry; in order that whatever was discovered to be corrupt, fraudulent, or oppressive, should lead to a due animadversion on the offenders; and if any thing fair and equitable in its origin should be found (no body suspected that much, comparitively speaking, would be so found) it might be provided for; in due subordination, however, to the ease of the subject, and the service of the state.
These were the alleged grounds for an inquiry, settled in all the bills brought into parliament relative to India, and there were I think no less than four of them. By the bill, commonly called Mr. Pitt's bill, the inquiry was specially, and by express words, committed to the court of directors, without any reserve for the interference of any other person or persons whatsoever. It was ordered that they should make the inquiry into the origin and justice of these debts, as far as the materials in their possession enabled them to proceed; and where they found those materials deficient, they should order the presidency of Fort St. George [Madras] to complete the inquiry.
The court of directors applied themselves to the execution of the trust reposed in them. They first examined into the amount of the debt, which they computed, at compound interest, to be 2,945,6007. sterling. Whether their mode of computation, either of the original sums, or the amount on compound interest, was exact; that is, whether they took the interest too high, or the several capitals too low, is not material. On whatever principle any of the calculations were made up, none of them found the debt to differ from the recital of the act, which asserted, that the sums claimed were “very large.” The last head of these debts the directors compute at 2,465,6801. sterling. Of the existence of this debt the directors heard nothing until 1776, and they say, that, “ although they had repeatedly written to the nabob of Arcot, and to their servants, respecting the
debt, yet they had never been able to trace the origin thereof, or to obtain any satisfactory information on the subject.”
The court of directors, after stating the circumstances under which the debts appeared to them to have been contracted, add as follows: “ For these reasons we should have thought it our duty to inquire very minutely into those debts, even if the act of parliament had been silent on the subject, before we concurred in any measure for their payment. But with the positive injunctions of the act before us, to examine into their nature and origin, we are indispensably bound to direct such an inquiry to be instituted.” They then order the president and council of Madras to enter into a full examination, &c. &c.
The directors having drawn up their order to the presidency on these principles, communicated the draught of the general letter in which those orders were contained, to the board of his majesty's ministers, and other servants, lately constituted by Mr. Pitt's East-India act. These ministers, who had just carried throụgh parliament the bill ordering a specifick inquiry, immediately drew up another letter, on a principle directly opposite to that, which was prescribed by the act of parliament, and followed by the directors. In these second orders, all idea of an inquiry into the justice and origin of the pretended debts, particularly of the last, the greatest, and the most obnoxious to suspicion, is abandoned. They are all admitted and established without any investigation whatsoever; except some private conference with the agents of the claimants is to pass for an investigation; and a fund for their discharge is assigned and set apart out of the revenues of the Carnatick.--To this arrangement in favour of their servants suspected of corruption, and convicted of disobedience, the directors of the East-India company were ordered to set their hands, asserting it to arise from their own conviction and opinion, in flat contradiction to their recorded sentiments, their strong remonstrance, and their declared sense of their