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ought to consider the question as one in which they are opposed to this domineering Company. It is with the nation that that Company has made a bargain; it is from the nation that they hold their Charter; and, it is for the nation to consider, whether that Charter shall be renewed; whether it shall again grant a monopoly of trade to a select body of men, to the exclusion of all the rest of the King's subjects.
It is not a little impudent in the Company to pretend that the nation is guilty of injustice in withholding this renewal. What would be thought of a lenant, who should set up a clamour against his landlord, because the latter refused to renew his lease ? He would be called, at least, a very presumptuous man, and, if he endeavoured to show, that his landlord would lose by not renewing his lease, would not that landlord laugh in his face? The very endeavour to persuade the nation, that it will lose by not renewing the Charter, is enough to make any rational man distrust the views of those who make it.
In order to decide, whether a new Charter should be granted to the Company, we ought first to inquire how they have acted towards the nation in consequence of their last Charter. But, before we enter upon this inquiry, I will, in nearly the same words that I used seven years ago, give a brief description of that strange thing called the East India Com. pany.
You hear of great fortunes being made in the East; you hear of plunder enormous, and you see the plunderers come and elbow you from your homes; but, you never appear to perceive, that any part of this plunder is, either first or last, drawn from your own estates or their labour. You seem to think, that there are great quantities of goods, and of gold and precious stones in India ; and, the only feeling which the acquirers of these excite, seems to be that of envy, and, in some instances, of emulation. But, that this proceeds from a gross error would, in the two millions lately paid to the East India Company out of the taxes of the nation,* have been clearly demonstrated, had not our system of finance been such as to keep in darkness, upon this point, men otherwise well informed, Now, however, the demands upon the taxes m'ist, for the purposes of India, be such as will, I should imagine, open men's eyes, especially if the ministry make and promulgate an authentic statement of the nation's affairs. Thirteen years ago a Charter, by the influence of Mr. Pirt and his colleague Dundas, was granted to the East India Company, whereby were secured to the said company of merchants certain rights of sovereignty in, and, with some exceptions, an exclusive trade with, those countries in Asia, which we, taking them all together, call the East Indies, As the foundation of their firm, or partnership, of trade, this Company were allowed by the Charter, to create a quantity of stock; that is to say, to make loans, in the same way that i he ministry do, and to pay annually, or quarterly, in dividends, interest upon the amount of these loans. The Company became, in fact, a sort of under government, having its loans, its scrip, its debt, or, more properly speaking, its funds, or, still more properly, its engagements to pay interest to a number of individuals. The paper, of whatever form it may be, which entitles the holder to demand this interest, or these dividends, is called East India Stock, the principal of which has now been augmented to the sum of 12 millions sterling;
This was in 1806. There have been several millions granted in the same way since that time.
and, the holders of the stock are called East India Proprietors. The sources, whence the means of regularly discharging the interest upon the stock were to be derived, were, of course, the profits of the trade which the Company should carry, but, aided by the revenue which they were au. thorized to raise from their territory, the defence and government of which were, however, placed, in some sort, under the control of the mother government at Westminster. Thus set out in the world this company of sovereigns, furnished, at once, with dominions, subjects, taxes, and a funded debt. But, supposing the measure (which I do only by way of illustration) to have been, in other respects, just and politic, it certainly would have been neither, not to have bound these sovereigns to pay the nation something, or, more properly speaking, to contribute something towards the taxes, by way of consideration for the immense advantages to be derived from the exclusive trade of a country, while the nation might be called upon, as it has been, to defend in a naval war, and which must, at any rate, be defended on the land-board by troops drawn, in part at least, from the population of the kingdom. It was therefore, provided, that the Company, during the continuance of its Charter, which was to be for twenty years (thirteen of which have now nearly expired),* should pay into the Exchequer the sum of 500,0001. sterling a year, and that, upon all the money not so paid, an interest would arise and accumulate at the rate of fifteen per centum.-Such were the principal engagements on both sides, under which this Company started. The nation has fulfilled its engagements, and that, too, at an enormous expenditure both of men and of money; and, while the Company has been enjoying all the advantages of an exclusive trade, and all the receipts of a territorial revenue ; while hundreds and thousands of persons concerned in that trade have amassed fortunes so great as to overshadow and bear down, not only the clergy and the country gentlemen, but even the ancient nobility of the kingdom, not one penny (since the first year) has the Company ever paid into the Exchequer of the stipulated half-million a year; and, what is still more glaringly unjust, and more galling to the burthened people, two millions of our taxes have already been granted to this Company, wherewith to pay the dividends upon their stock; and, such has been the management, and such is now the state, of the Company's affairs, that we need not be at all suprised if another million be called for from us, during this present session of Parliament! For the causes of this state of the Company's concerns ; for the reasons why they have not been held to their engagements; why the Act of Parliament has thus been treated as if it had been passed merely as a job; why we have been called upon to pay to, instead of to receive from, this company of trading sovereigns; let the eulogists of Mr. Pitt's memory; let Mr. Canning and Old Rose ; let Lord Melville, with his 2,0001. a year pension from the Company (who are so poor as to come to us for money); let the Directors, those managers of the Company's affairs, and those staunch advocates of the Minister that suffered the Act to lie unenforced against them; let Lord Wellesley, who has so long been the Governor-General of India ; why the Act has not been enforced, why the law has thus been set at nought, let these persoos tel).
It seems incredible, that these things should have been; but, not only were they so up to the year 1806, they are so up to this hour, except, that four millions more of money have, since that time, been advanced by the nation to the Company, instead of the nation having received, as it ought to have done, nine millions and a half of principal money from the Company, with accumulated interest at fifteen per centum. The nation engaged to do certain things, and to grant certain privileges to the Company: these things have been done, and these privileges granted; but, of the money, which we were to receive in return, only one halfmillion out of twenty half-millions has ever been received by us. The Company entered in:o certain engagements with the nation : amongst these engagements was that of paying, on the part of the Company, under certain provisions and penalties, the sum of £500,000 a year into the King's Exchequer, as an equivalent, in part, for the exclusive advantages granted and secured to the Company by the nation. In case of failure to fulfil this important provision of the Act of Charter (being the 33 Geo. III. Chap. 52), the Lords of the Treasury, of whom Mr. Pitt, afterwards Mr. Addington, and then Mr. Pitt again, then Lord Grenville, then Perceval, and now Lord Liverpool, have been at the head, were to take certain steps, and to make certain reports thereon to the Parliament. It is now nearly 20 years since the Act of Charter was passed, of these 20 years the first year only has seen a payment made by the Company into the Exchequer, the Company, owing, therefore, to the nation, 6 millions sterling, with, as the Act provides, accumulated interest at 15 per centum a year; yet, in the whole of this series of years, during this long scene of defalcation and of forfeiture, have the Lords of the Treasury, though so positively thereunto enjoined by the Act, never taken any steps whatever, and never made any report to Parliament relating to the subject. It is possible, and, indeed, likely, that the present Lords of the Treasury will make a report agreeably to the law; but, that report cannot remove, or shake, any of the facts that I have stated. I have fairly stated the nature of the agreement between the nation and the Company; and it will, I imagine, require no very long time for any un. biassed man to decide, whether the nation ought again to trust this Com. pany with the advantages that it before enjoyed. I am not only for throwing open the trade, but for taking the sovereign authority wholly out of the hands of the Company. I am for not listening to them for a single moment, until they have paid up their arrears with interest agree. ably to the law.
* The 20 years are now about to expire.
But, you will ask, “ What do they say for themselves : what defence “ do they set up : what excuse do they make for not paying the stipulated
sums to the nation ?” The excuse they make is this : that they have been engaged in expensive, unavoidable wars; and, they say, that the Act of Charter provides, that, in such a case, they shall be excused. Yes ; but, only for a time; the sums are still to be due to the nation ; and interest is to run on against the Company. In fact, the law allows of a postponement only, and not that, except upon a report and recommendation of the Lords of the Treasury made to the Parliament; and, no such report has ever been made. In short, there is no legal defence ; no legal defence can be made; the Company owes the nation the nine and a half millions sterling, and, in this situation it has the assurance to come forward and reproach the ministry with a design not to trust it again to the same extent as it was trusted before. What would any man think of a tenant, who, during a term of twenty years, should pay but one year's
rent, and who should then becall his landlord for refusing a renewal of his lease? What you would think of such a man, you will readily think of this Company; but, you will not easily find terms to express your contempt of the landlord who should be fool enough to assent to such renewal.
Let us, for argument's sake, take the word of these trading sovereigns; let us, however common sense forbids it, believe them for once.
Let us suppose, that they, while they have been dividing their gains so largely, have spent the nine and a half millions in wars. With whom have they been at war? With those who were attacking England ? Oh, no! With the natives of a country at nine months' sail from our shores ; with a people whom Mr. Robert Grant, in his late speech in favour of the Com. pany, described as “the most pusillanimous, unresisting, and weak in the world.” This is the people, in wars against whom, they say they have spent so much as to be thereby rendered incapable of paying the sums due to the nation as a compensation for advantages given up to their exclusive possession. Could such wars be necessary ? Could such wars be just? Could such wars be unavoidable ? But, monstrous as is the supposition, let us grant it even for argument's sake; and, then, I ask what better reason can there be for not renewing their Charter ; what better reason for not again putting any of the power of government in their hands; what better reason for wholly breaking up their corporation? If from their Charter such scenes of blood and devastation have arisen, shall we consent to a renewal of that Charter ? The very excuse for their defalcation furnishes the best possible reason for the adoption of some measure that shall for ever put an end to their power.
I beg, most thinking people, once more to draw your attention to the nature of the argument contained in the Act of Charter, before referred to. The nation grants to the Company, the power of raising a revenue upon the millions of people in India; and, it further grants it a trade to India, while it stipulates to exclude from that trade, supposed to be very advantageous, all the rest of the King's subjects; and, while it agrees to send out forces, by land and water, for the protection of the trade and the territory against foreign enemies. In return for all this the nation is to receive, in money paid into the Exchequer, 500,0001. a year, during the twenty years that the Charter is to last. This sum was, of course, to go in aid of the taxes ; and 10,000,000 of pounds would have been something worth having. But, only half a million of this has been paid : the rest, we are told, has been spent in wars ; in “just and necessary wars ;" and, we have advanced them five millions besides. A very pretty way this of executing the terms of the Charter ! A decent way of fulfilling a bargain!
What the nation now demands is, that another such a bargain shall not be made ; and, the ministry propose, that the trade shall be open ; that other English merchants shall trade to India; that a country. the possession of which is, like Jamaica or any other Colony, held by the means of the national taxes, shall be open to all the King's subjects. And, what can be more just; what more reasonable ; what more mode rate than this proposition? Why should not all the people of the kingdom be free to profit from a territory, of which they all assist in main. taining the possession. Whether India ought to be held as a colony at all, is another question, to be hereafter considered; but, while it be so held, or whether it be so held or not, can any man devise a good reason for continuing the trade a monopoly in the hands of a Company, who, as experience proves, will pay the nation nothing for such monopoly ?
The opposition, which the City of London is making to the measure, proposed to be adopted, arises from a motive of the same sort as that which actuates the East India Company: namely, a preference of their own interests to those of their fellow-subjects at large. But, before I enter upon this subject more minutely, let me notice certain passages, in the speeches of Mr. FavelL and Mr. Alderman Birch, during the debate of the 25th instant.
Mr. Favell said, there was " great danger of transferring the govern"ment of India from the Company to the British Ministry. Now, “ Lord Buckinghamshire expressly threatened the Company with a new
Administration of India ; and therefore his worthy Friend, when he saw Government on the point of lying holil of the Indian army,
would certainly be disposed to stand forward and resist in time, what, “if adopted, would effectually put an end to every thing like resistance “ to the measures of the Executive of this country.” Mr. BIRCH said, 'He had no doubt that this was the first of a series of measures " by which the whole of the revenue of India would be taken by Govern“ment. They would thus obtain by stratagem, what, in the beginning, “they durst not ask.”
This is a sort of doctrine that I cannot comprehend ; and, I wonder how Mr. Favell and Mr. Birch have arrived at the discovery, that there is danger in putting the government, and Mr. Birch in putting the revenue, of India into the hands of those who have in their hands the government and revenue of England. If they mean to say, that the present ministry are unfit to be entrusted with the government and revenue of England; or, that any ministry that can be chosen in the present state of the representation in Parliament are unfit to be entrusted with the government and revenue of England, that gives rise to a new question ; but, to say, that the same men, who are fit to be entrusted with the ruling and the taxing of us at home, are unfit to be entrusted with the ruling and taxing of Hindostan, or, at least, more unfit than a company of merchants living and holding their court in London, is, to me, a proposition that requires very good arguments indeed to maintain it. For my part, my taste is the opposite of those of these Gentlemen. I would much rather trust the ministers with an army and a revenue in India than in England; and I would a million to one rather trust them with an arıny and a revenue in England, than I would trust the same in the hands of the East India Company, who are a body of men, of the individuals forming which body no one knows any thing. It is a nondescript sort of sovereign, from whose sway every man of common sense must wish to be preserved. The taste of Mr. Birch must be very curious. He has always been on the side of every ministry. There has been no act of their's, that I have ever observed, which he has not supported. He has no objection to trust them with the distribution of the 70 or 80 millions a year, which they raise upon the people of this kingdom; but he is in terrible alarm at their getting possession of the “ whole revenue of India.”
I would ask these two gentlemen, whether they seriously believe, that the ministry, that any ministry, that the present or any other, would, or could, make a worse use of power, than has been made of power by the East India Company? What could they do more than spend the revenues of India in wars? Hag war ever ceased since the Company's Charter was