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some similitude of health and substance the languishing chimeras of fraudulent reformation.
Whilst he is thus employed according to his policy and to his taste, he has not leisure to inquire into those abuses in India that are drawing off money by millions from the treasures of this country, which are exhausting the vital juices from members of the state, where the public inanition is far more sorely felt than in the local exchequer of England. Not content with winking at these abuses, whilst he attempts to squeeze the laborious ill-paid drudges of English revenue, he lavishes in one act of corrupt prodigality upon those who never served thc public in any honest occupation at all, an annual income equal to two thirds of the whole collection of the revenues of this kingdom.
Actuated by the same principle of choice, he has now on the anvil another scheme, full of difficulty and desperate hazard, which totally alters the commercial relation of two kingdoms; and what end soever it shall have, may bequeath a legacy of heart-burning and discontent to one of the countries, perhaps to both, to be perpetuated to the latest posterity. This project is also undertaken on the hope of profit. It is provided, that out of some (I know not what) remains of the Irish hereditary revenue, a fund at some time, and of some sort, should be applied to the protection of the Irish trade. Here we are commanded again to task our faith, and to persuade ourselves, that out of the surplus of deficiency, out of the savings of habitual and systematic prodigality, the minister of wonders will provide support for this nation, sinking under the mountainous load of two hundred and thirty millions of debt. But whilst we look with pain at his desperate and laborious trifling; whilst we are apprehensive that he will break his back in stooping to pick up chaff and straws, he recovers himself in an elastic bound, and with a broad-cast swing of his arm, he squanders over his Indian field a sum far greater than the clear produce of the whole hereditary revenue of the kingdom of Ireland.
Strange as this scheme of conduct in ministry is, and inconsistent with all just policy, it is still true to itself, and faithful to its own perverted order. Those who are bountiful to crimes, will be rigid to merit, and penurious to service. Their penury is even held out as a blind and cover to their prodigality. The economy of injustice is, to furnish resources for the fund of corruption. Then they pay off their protection to great crimes and great criminals, by being inexorable to the paltry frailties of little men; and their modern flagellants are sure, with a rigid fidelity, to whip their own enormities on the vicarious back of every small offender.
It is to draw your attention to economy of quite another order ; it is to animadvert on offences of a far different description, that my honourable friend has brought before you the motion of this day. It is to perpetuate the abuses which are subverting the fabric of your empire, that the motion is opposed. It is therefore with reason (and if he has power to carry himself through, I commend his prudence), that the right honourable gentleman makes his stand at the very out, .set, and boldly refuses all parliamentary information. Let him admit but one step towards inquiry, and he is undone. You must be ignorant, or he cannot be safe. But before his curtain is let down, and the shades of eternal night shall veil our eastern dominions from our view, permit me, Sir, to avail myself of the means which were furnished in anxious and inquisitive times, to demonstrate out of this single act of the present minister what advantages you are to derive from permitting the greatest concern of this nation to be separated from the cognizance, and exempted even out of the competence, of parliament. The greatest body of your revenue, your most numerous armies, your most important commerce, the richest sources of your public credit, contrary to every idea of the known settled policy of England) are on the point of being converted into a mystery of state. You are going to have one half of the globe bid even from the common liberal curiosity of an English gentleman. Here a grand revolution commences. Mark the period, and mark the circumstances. In most of the capital changes that are recorded in the principles and system of any government, a public benefit of some kind or other has been pretended. The revolution commenced in something plausible ; in something which carried the appearance at least of punishment of delinquency or correction of abuse. But here, in the very moment of the conversion of a department of British government into an Indian mystery, and in the very act in which the change commences, a corrupt private interest is set up in direct opposition to the necessities of the nation. A diversion is made of millions of the public money from the public treasury to a private purse. It is not into secret negociations for war, peace, or alliance, that the House of Commons is forbidden to inquire. It is a matter of account; it is a pecuniary transaction; it is the demand of a suspected steward upon ruined tenants and an embarrassed master that the commons of Great Britain are commanded not to inspect. The whole tenor of the right honourable gentleman's argument is consonant to the nature of his policy. The system of concealment is fostered by a system of falsehood. False facts, false colours, false names of persons and things, are its whole .support.
Sir, I mean to follow the right honourable gentleman over that field of deception, clearing what he 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 its 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 an 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 overrated. 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 year1780, 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 period 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 £880,000 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 £88,000.
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 £240,000.
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 2 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 £160,000 at the same interest. The whole of these four capitals, amounting to £4,440,000, produced at their several rates annuities amounting to £623,000 a-year-a good deal more than one-third of the clear land-tax 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 £383,200 a-year stood chargeable on the public 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 gigantic 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 everything 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 (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 build
ing of houses, in the securing quiet seats in parliament, or in the tamultuous 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 bave given ? What equivalent had they to give? What are the articles of commerce, or the branches of manufacture which those gentlemen have carried hence to enrich India ? What are the sciences they beamed out to enlighten it? the arts they introduced to cheer and to adorn it? What are the religions, 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 for ever? 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 volumes, by the way, are not by one tenth part so numerous as the right honourable gentleman has thonght 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 everything 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 for-the grand debtor-the Tabob of Arcot himself. Hear that prince, in the letter written to the court of directors, 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