Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

duty, as well under their general trust and their oath as directors, as under the express injunctions of an act of parliament.

By another section of the same act, the same court of directors were ordered to take into consideration and to decide on the indeterminate rights of the rajah of Tanjore, and the nabob of Arcot; and in this, as in the former case, no power of appeal, revision, or alteration was reserved to any other. It was a jurisdiction, in a cause between party and party, given to the court of directors specifically. It was known, that the territories of the former of these princes had been twice invaded and pillaged, and the prince deposed and imprisoned, by the company's servants, inAuenced by the intrigues of the latter, and for the purpose of paying his pretended debts. The company had, in the year 1775, ordered a restoration of the rajah to his government, under certain conditions. The rajah complained that his territories had not been completely restored to him; and that no part of his goods, money, revenues, or records, unjustly taken and withheld from him, were ever returned. The nabob, on the other hand, never ceased to claim the country itself, and carried on a continued train of negotiation, that it should again be given up to him, in violation of the company's publick faith.

The directors, in obedience to this part of the act, ordered an inquiry, and came to a determination to restore certain of his territories to the rajah. The ministers proceeding as in the former case, without hearing any party, rescinded the decision of the directors, refused the restitution of the territory, and without regard to the condition of the country of Tanjore, which had been within a few years four times plundered (twice by the nabob of Arcot, and twice by enemies brought upon it solely by the politicks of the same nabob, the declared enemy of that people) and without discounting a shilling for their sufferings, they accumulate an arrear of about 400,000 pounds of pretended tribute to this enemy; and then they order the directors to put their hands to a new adju.

dication, directly contrary to a judgment in a judicial character and trust, solemnly given by them, and entered on their records.

These proceedings naturally called for some inquiry. On the 28th of February, 1785, Mr. Fox made the following motion in the house of commons, after moving that the clauses of the act should be read" That the proper officer do lay before this house copies and extracts of all letters and orders of the court of directors of the united East-India company, in pursuance of the injunctions contained in the 37th and 38th clauses of the said act;"--and the question being put, it passed in the negative by a very great majority.

SPEECH, &C.

THE times we live in, Mr. Speaker, have been distinguished by extraordinary events. Habituated, however, as we are, to uncommon combinations of men and of affairs, I believe nobody recollects any thing more surprising than the spectacle of this day. The right honourable gentleman,* whose conduct is now in question, formerly stood forth in this house, the prosecutor of the worthy baronett who spoke after him. He charged him with several grievous acts of malversation in office; with abuses of a publick trust of a great and heinous nature. In less than two years we see the situation of parties reversed; and a singular revolution puts the worthy baronet in a fair way of returning the prosecution in a recriminatory bill of pains and penalties, grounded on a breach of publick trust, relative to the government of the very same part of India. If he should undertake a bill of that kind, he will find no difficulty in conducting it with a degree of skill and vigour fully equal to all that have been exerted against him.

* Right honourable Henry Dundas. + Sir Thomas Rumbold, late governour of Madras,

But the change of relation between these two gentlemen is not so striking as the total difference of their deportment under the same unhappy circumstances. Whatever the merits of the worthy baronet's defence might have been, he did not shrink from the charge. He met it with manliness of spirit, and decency of behaviour. What would have been thought of him, if he had held the present language of his old accuser? When articles were exhibited against him by that right honourable gentleman, he did not think proper to tell the house that we ought to institute no inquiry, to inspect no paper, to examine no witness. He did not tell us (what at that time he might have told us with some show of reason) that our concerns in India were matters of delicacy; that to divulge any thing relative to them would be mischievous to the state. He did not tell us, that those who would inquire into his proceedings were disposed to dismember the empire. He had not the presumption to say, that for his part, having obtained in his Indian presidency, the ultimate object of his ambition, his honour was concerned in executing with integrity the trust which had been legally committed to his charge. That others, not having been so fortunate, could not be so disinterested; and therefore their accusations could spring from no other source than faction, and envy to his fortune.

Had he been frontless enough to hold such vain, vapouring language in the face of a grave, a detailed, a specified matter of accusation, whilst he violently resisted every thing which could bring the merits of his cause to the test; had he been wild enough to anticipate the absurdities of this day; that is, had he inferred, as his late accuser has thought proper to do, that he could not have been guilty of malversation in office, for this sole and curious reason, that he had been in office; had he argued the impossibility of his abusing his power on this sole principle, that he had power to abuse, he would have left but one impression on the mind of every man who heard him, and who

believed him in his senses-that in the utmost extent he was guilty of the charge.

But, sir, leaving these two gentlemen to alternate, as criminal and accuser, upon what principles they think expedient; it is for us to consider, Whether the chancellor of the exchequer, and the treasurer of the navy, acting as a board of control, are justified by law or policy, in suspending the legal arrangements made by the court of directors, in order to transfer the publick revenues to the private emolument of certain servants of the East India company, without the inquiry into the origin and justicc of their claims, prescribed by an act of parliament ?

It is not contended, that the act of parliament did not expressly ordain an inquiry. It is not asserted that this inquiry was not, with equal precision of terms, specially committed under particular regulations to the court of directors. I conceive, therefore, the board of control had no right whatsoever to intermeddle in that business. There is nothing certain in the principles of jurisprudence, if this be not undeniably true, that when a special authority is given to any persons by narze, to do some particular act, no others, by virtue of general powers, can obtain a legal title to intrude themselves into that trust, and to exercise those special functions in their place. I therefore consider the intermeddling of ministers in this affair as a downright usurpation. But if the strained construction, by which they have forced themselves into a suspicious office (which every man, delicate with regard to character, would rather have sought constructions to avoid) were perfectly sound and perfectly legal, of this I am certain, that they cannot be justified in declining the inquiry which had been prescribed to the court of directors. If the board of control did lawfully possess the right of executing the special trust given to that court, they must take it as they found it, subject to the very same regu. lations which bound the court of directors. It will be allowed that the court of directors had no authority to dispense with either the substance, or the

[blocks in formation]

mode of inquiry prescribed by the act of parliament. If they had not, where in the act, did the board of contrul acquire that capacity ? Indeed, it was impossible they should acquire it.-- What must we think of the fabrick and texture of an act of parliament which should find it necessary to prescribe a strict inquisition; that should descend into minute regulations for the conduct of that inquisition; that should commit this trust to a particular description of men, and in the very same breath should enable another body, at their own pleasure, to supersede all the provisions the legislature had made, and to defeat the whole purpose, end, and object of the law ? This cannot be supposed even of an act of parliament conceived by the ministers themselves, and brought forth during the delirium of the last session.

My honourable friend has told you in the speech which introduced his motion, that fortunately this question is not a great deal involved in the labyrinths of Indian detail. Certainly not. But if it were, I beg leave to assure you, that there is nothing in the Indian detail which is more difficult than in the detail of any other business. I admit, because I have some experience of the fact, that for the interiour regulation of India, a minute knowledge of India is requisite. But, on any specifick matter of delinquency in its government, you are as capable of judging, as if the same thing were done at your door. Fraud, injustice, oppression, peculation, engendered in India, are crimes of the same blood, family, and cast with those that are born and bred in England. To go no further than the case before 'us: you are just as competent to judge whether the sum of four millions sterling ought, or ought not, to be passed from the publick treasury into a private pocket, without any title except the claim of the parties, when the issue of fact is laid in Madras, as when it is laid in Westminster. Terms of art, indeed, are different in different places; but they are generaly understood in

The technical style of an Indian treasury is not one jot more remote than the jargon of our own

none.

« ForrigeFortsett »