« ForrigeFortsett »
in pursuance of a right thus uniformly power, but the removal of an old power, long recognised, and uniformly acted on, when since created, and then existing, from the parliament undertook the reformation of the management of those persons who had maniEast India company in 1773, a commission festly and dangerously abused their trust. This was appointed as the commission in the late house, which well knows the parliamentary bill was appointed ; and it was made to continue origin of all the company's powers and privifor a term of years, as the commission in the ieges, and is not ignorant or negligent of the late bill was to continue; all the commissioners authority which may vest those powers and were named in parliament, as in the late bill privileges in others, if justice and the public they were named. As they received, so they safety so require, is conscious to itself, that it held their offices, wholly independent of the no more creates a new order in the state, by crown; they held them for a fixed term ; they making occasional trustees for the direction of were not removable by an address of either the company, than it originally did in giving a house, or even of both houses of parliament, a much more permanent trust to the directors, or nrecaution observed in the late bill, relative to the general court of that body. The mono to the commissioners proposed therein ; nor poly of the East India company was a derowere they bound by the strict rules of pro- gation from the general freedom of trade beceeding which regulated and restrained the late longing to his majesty's people. The powers commissioners against all possible abuse of a of government, and of peace and war, are parts power which could not fail of being diligently of prerogative of the highest order. Of our and zealously watched by the ministers of the competence to restrain the rights of all his crown, and the proprietors of the stock, as well subjects by act of parliament, and to vest those as by parliament. Their proceedings were, high and eminent prerogatives cren in a parin that bill, directed to be of such a nature as ticular company of merchants, there has been easily to subjcct them to the strictest revision no question. We beg leave most humbly to of both, in case of any malversation.
claim as our right, and as a right which this In the year 1780, an act of parliament again house has always used, to frame such bills, for made provision for the government of those the regulation of that commerce, and of the terterritories for another four years, without any ritories held by the East India company, and sort of reference to prerogative; nor was the every thing relating to them, as to our discreleast objection taken at the second, more than tion shall seem fit: and we assert and maintain, at the first of those periods, as if an infringe- that therein we follow, and do not innovate on ment had been made upon the rights of the the constitution. crown ; yet his majesty's ministers have That his majesty's ministers, misled by thought fit to represent the late commission as their ambition, have endeavoured, if possible, an entire innovation on the constitution, and to form a faction in the country against the the setting up a new order and estate in the popular part of the constitution; and have nation, tending to the subversion of the mo- therefore thought proper to add to their slannarchy itself.
derous accusation against a house of parliaIf the government of the East Indies, other ment, relative to his majesty's prerogative, han by his majesty's prerogative, be, in effect, a another of a different nature, calculated for burth order in the communwealth, this order has the purpose of raising fears and jealousies long existed; because the East India
company among the corporate bodies of the kingdom, and bas for many years enjoyed it in the fullest of persuading uninformed persons belonging to extent, and does at this day enjoy the whole those corporations to look to, and to make adadministration of those provinces, and the dresses to them as protectors of their rights, patronage to off ces throughout that great em- under their several charters, from the designs pire, except as it is controuled by act of par- which they, without any ground, charged the iament.
then house of commons to have formed against It was the ill-condition, and ill-administra- charters in general. For this purpose they tion of the company's affairs, which induced have not scrupled to assert, that the exertion this house (merely as a temporary establish- of his majesty's prerogative in the late preciment) to vest the same powers which the com- pitate change in his administration, and the pany did before possess, (and no other,) for a dissolution of the late parliament, were mea. limited time, and under very strict directions, sures adopted in order to rescue the people and in proper hands, until they could be restored, their rights out of the hands of the house of or further provision made concerning them. commons, their representatives. It was therefore no creation whatever of a new We trust that his majesty's subjects are not
yet so far deiuged as to believe that the char- But the late house of commons in passing that ters, or that any other of their local or general bill, made no attack upon any powers or privie privileges can have a solid security in any leges, except such as a house of commons has place but where that security has always been frequently attacked, and will attack, (and they looked for, and always found, in the house of trust, in the end, with their wonted success, commons. Miserable and precarious indeed that is, upon those which are corruptly and would be the state of their franchises, if they oppressively administered ; and this house de were to find no defence but from that quarter faithfully assure his majesty, that we will corfrone whence they have always been attacked.* rect, and, if necessary for the purpose, as far
* The attempt upon charters and the privi. Strict law is by no means such a friend to the leges of the corporate bodies of the kingdom in rights of the subject, as they have been taugh: the reigns of Charles the Second, and James to believe. They who have been most conver the Second, was made by the crown. It was sant in this kind of learning, will be most sen. carried on by the ordinary course of law, in sible of the danger of submiuing corporate rights courts instituted for the security of the property of high political importance to these subordinate and franchises of the people. This attempt made tribunals. The general heads of law on that by the crowon, was attended with complete suc. subject are vulgar and trivial. On them there cess. The corporate rights of the city of Lon. is not much question. But it is far from easy to don, and of all the companies it contains, were determine what special acts, or what specialieg. by solemn judgment of law declared forfeited, lect of action, shall subject corporations to a and all their franchises, privileges, properties forfeiture. There is so much laxity in this doc. and estates, were of course seized into the hands trine, that great room is left for favour or preju. of the crown. The injury was from the crown; dice, which might give to the crown an entre the redress was by parliament. A bill was dominion over those corporations. On the other orought into the house of commons, by which hand, it is undoubtedly true, that every suborthe judgment against the city of London, and dinate corporate right ought to be subject to against the companies, was reversed; and this controul; io superiour direction ; and even to oill pessed the house of lords without any com. forfeiture upon just cause. In this reason and plaint of trespass on their jurisdiction, alihough law agree. "In every judgment given on a corThe bill was for a reversal of a judgment in law. porate right of great political importance, the By this act, which is in the second of William policy and prudence make no small part of the and Mary, chap. 8, the question of forfeiture of question. To these considerations a court of that charter is for ever taken out of the power law is not competent; and indeed an attempt at of any court of law. No cognizance can be the least intermixture of such ideas with the taken of it except in parliament.
matter of law, could have no other effect, than Although the act above-mentioned has de- wholly to corrupt the judicial character of the clared the judgment against the corporation of court, in which such a cause should come to London to be illegal; yet Blackstone makes no be tried. It is besides to be remarked, that, it scruple of asserting, that " perhaps in strict. in virtue of a legal process, a forfeiture should ness of law, the proceedings in most of them be adjudged, the court of law has no power to (the Quo Warranto causes) were sufficiently modify or mitigate. The whole franchise is an. regular,” leaving it in doubt, whether this regu. nihilated, and the corporate property goes into larity did not apply to the corporation of London, the hands of the crown. They who hold the new as well as to any of the rest ; and he seems to doctrines concerning the power of the house of blame the proceeding (as most blameable it was) commons, ought well to consider in such a case not so much on account of illegality, as for the by what means the corporate rights could be re. crown's having employed a legal proceeding for vived, or the property could be recovered out of political purposes. He calls it "an exertion of the hands of the crown. But parliament can do, an act of law for the purposes of the state.” what the courts neither can do nor ought to al.
The same security which was given to the tempt. Parliament is competent to give due City of London, would have been extended to all
to all political considerations. It may the corporations, if the house of commons could modify; it may mitigate; and it may render have prevailed.' But the bill for that purpose perfectly secure, all that it does not think fit to passed but by a majority of one in the lords; take away. It is not likely that parliament will and it was entirely lost by a prorogation, which ever draw to itself the cognizance of questions is the act of the crown. Small, indeed, was the concerning ordinary corporations, farther than security which the corporation of London en. to protect them in case attempts are made to injoyed, before the act of William and Mary, duce a forfeiture of their franchises. and which all the other corporations secured The case of the East India company is dit by no statute, enjoy ut this hour, if strict law ferent even from that of the greatest of these was employed against them. The use of corporations. No monopoly of trade, beyond etrict law has always been rendered very deli. their own limits, is vested in the corporate body cate by the same means, by which the almost of any town or city in the kingdom. Even unmeasured legal powers residing (and in many within these limits the monopoly is not general. instances dangerously residing) in the crown, The company has the monopoly of the irade of are kept within due bounds; I mean, that strong hall the world. The first corporation of the superintending power in the house of commons, kingdom, has for the object of its jurisdiction which inconsiderate people have been prevalled only a few matters of subordinate police. The on to condemn as trenching on prerogative. East India company governs an empire through
an us lies, will wholly destroy every spe of parliament. That bill, so far from confise cies of power and authority exercised by Bri- cating the company's property, was the only tish subjects to the oppression, wrong, and one which, for several years past, did not, in detriment of the people, and to the impoverish- some shape or other, affect their property, or ment and desolation of the countries subject restrain them in the disposition of it. to it.
It is proper that his majesty and all his The propagators of the calumnies against people should be informed, that the house of that house of parliament have been indefa- commons have proceeded, with regard to the tigable in exaggerating the supposed injury East India company, with a degree of care, done to the East India company by the sus circymspection, and deliberation, which has not pension of the authorities which they have, in been equalled in the history of parliamentary every instance, abused; as if power had been proceedings. For sixteen years the state and wrested, by wrong and violence, from just and condition of that body has nover been wholly prudent hands; but they have, with equal care, out of their view: in the year 1767, the house concealed the weighty grounds and reasons on
took those objects into consideration, in a comwhich that house had adopted the most mode- mittee of the whole house : the business was rate of all possible expedients for rescuing the pursued in the following year: in the year natives of India from oppression, and for 1772, two committees were appointed for the saving the interest of the real and honest pro- same purpose, which examined into their affairs prietors of their stock, as well as that great with much diligence, and made very ample national, commercial concern, from imminent reports: in the year 1773, the proceedings were
carried 10 an act of parliament, which proved The ministers aforesaid have also caused it ineffectual to its purpose; the oppressions and to be reported, that the house of commons have abuses in India have since rather increased confiscated the property of the East India com- than diminished, on account of the greatness pany. It is the reverse of truth. The whole of the temptations and convenience of the opmanagement was a trust for the proprietors, portunites, which got the better of the legis under their own inspection (and it was so pro- lative provisions calculated against ill pracvided for in the bill) and under the inspection tices, then in their beginnings: insomuch that,
in 1781, two committees were again instituted, all its concerns, and all its departments, from who have made seventeen reports. It was the lowest office of economy to the highest coun.
upon the most minute, exact, and laborious colcils of state,-an empire to which Great Britain is in comparison but a respectable province. lection and discussion of facts, that the late To leave these concerns without superiour house of commons proceeded in the reform cognizance would be madness; to leave them to which they attempted in the administration of be judged in the courts below on the principles India, but which has been frustrated by ways of confined jurisprudence, would be folly. It is well if the whole legislative power is compe.
and means the most dishonourable to his matent to the correction of abuses, which are com. jesty's government, and the most pernicious to mensurate to the immensity of the object they the constitution of this kingdom. His majesty affect. The idea of an absolute power has indeed its
was so sensible of the disorders in the comterrours ; but that objection lies to every par. pany's administration, that the consideration liamentary proceeding; and as no other can re. of that subject was no less than six times regulate the abuses of such a charter, it is fittest commended to this house in speeches from the that sovereign authority should be exercised, throne, where it is most likely to be attended with the most effectual correctives. These correctives
The result of the parliamentary inquiries are furnished by the nature and course of par has been, that the East India company was liamentary proceedings, and by the infinitely found totally corrupted, and totally perverted diversified characters who compose the two houses. In effect and virtually they form a vast
from the purposes of its institution, whether number, variety, and succession of judges and political or commercial; that the powers of jurors. The fulness, the freedom, and publicity war and peace given by the charter had been of discussion, leaves it easy to distinguish what abused, by kindling hostilities in every quarter are acts of power, and what the determinations of equity and reason. There prejudice corrects
for the purposes of rapine; that almost all the prejudice, and the different asperities of party
treaties of peace they have made, have only zeal mitigate and neutralize each other. So far given cause to so many breaches of public faith; from violence being the general characteristic that countries once the most flourishing, are of the proceedings of parliament, whatever the reduced to a state of indigence, decay, and de beginnings of any parliamentary process may be, kis general faule in the end is, that it is found in population, to the diminution of our strength, complete and ineffectual.
and to the infinite dishonour of our national
character; that the laws of this kingdom are moment, incurs the hazard of becoming obnox«
The enemies of the late house of commons the purchase of qualifications to vote in the resolved, if possible, to bring on that event. general court, and, at length, by getting the They therefore endeavoured to misrepresent company itself deeply in their debt, have ob- the provident means adopted by the house of tained the entire and absolute mastery in the commons for keeping off this invidious neces. body, by which they ought to have been ruled sity, as an attack on the rights of the East and coerced. Thus their malversations in India company; for they well knew that on the office are supported instead of being checked one hand if, for want of proper regulation and by the company. The whole of the affairs of relief, the company should become insolvent, that body are reduced to a most perilous situa- or even stop payment, the national credit and tion ; and many millions of innocent and de. commerce would sustain an heavy blow; and serving men, who are under the protection of that calamity would be jusily imputed to parthis nation, and who ought to be protected by liament, which after such long inquiries, and it, are oppressed by. a most despotic and rapa- such frequent admonitions from his majesty, cious tyranny. The company and their ser- had neglected so essential and so urgent an vants have strengthened themselves by this article of their duty: on the other hand they confederacy, have set at defiance the authority knew, that, wholly corrupted as the company and admonitions of this house employed to re- is, nothing effectual could be done to preserve form them; and when this house had selected that interest from ruin, without taking for a certain principal delinquents, whom they de- time the national objects of their trusts out of clared it the duty of the company to recall, the their hands; and then a cry would be induscompany held out its legal privileges against triously raised against the house of commons, all reformation; positively refused to recall as depriving British subjects of their legal prithem; and supported those who had fallen un- vileges. The restraint, being plain and simder the just censure of this house, with new and ple, must be easily understood by those who stronger marks of countenance and approbation. would be brought with great difficulty, to com
The late house discovering the reversed prehend the intricate detail of matters of fact, situation of the company, by which the nomi- which render this suspension of the adminisnal servants are really the masters, and the tration of India absolutely necessary on motives offenders are become their own judges, thought of justice, of policy, of public honour, and fit to examine into the state of their commerce; public safety. and they have also discovered that their com- The house of commons had not been able mercial affairs are in the greatest disorder, to deviso a method, by which the redress that their debts have accumulated beyond any of grievances could be effected through the present or obvious future means of payment, at authors of thosc grievances; nor could they least under the actual administration of their imagine how corruptions could be purified by affairs that this condition of the East India the corrupters and the corrupled; nor do we company has begun to affect the sinking fund conceive, how any reformation can proceed jiseif, on which the public credit of the king- from the known abettors and supporters of the dom rests, a million and upwards being due to persons who have been guilty of the misde the customs, which that house of commons, meanors which parliament has reprobated, and whose intentions towards the company have who for their own ill purposes have given been so grors!y misrepresented, were indulgent countenance to a false and delusive state of the er-Jugh in respite. And thus, instead of con- company's affairs, fabricated to mislead parlia fiscaping their property, the company received ment, and to impose upon the nation.* without interest (which in such a case had been before charged) the use of a very large now completely answered, there is no doubt
* The purpose of the misrepresentation being sum of the public money. The revenues are but the committee in this parliament, appointed under the peculiar care of this house, not only by the ministers themselves, will justify the as the revenues originate from us, but as, on
grounds upon which the last parliament proevery failure of the funds set apart for support dreadful state of the company's affairs, and the
ceeded; and will lay open to the world, the of the national credit, or to provide for the grossness of their own calumnies upon this head national strength and safety, the task of sup. By delay, the new assembly is conic lu this dis, plying every deficiency falls upon liis :1.gjesty's graceful sittati, oi air swing a divi loud of
parliament, without ine faithful commons, this house mu:1, un clieci, right her.com by act
lear: latter belire them to justify ibe granting tax the people. This house therefot, at every of a 15 dividend at all
Your commons feel, with a just resentment, If, therefore, in the arduous afíairs recomthe inadequate estimate which your ministers mended to us, our proceedings should be ill have formed of the importance of this great con- adapted, feeble and ineffectual; if no delin. cern. They call on us to act upon the prin- quency should be prevented, and no delinquent ciples of those who have not inquired into the should be called to account; if every person subject; and to condemn those who, with the should be caressed, promoted, and raised in most laudable diligence, have examined and power, in proportion to the enormity of his scrutinized every part of it. The deliberations offences; if no relief should be given to any of parliament have been broken; the season of of the natives unjustly dispossessed of theii the year is unfavourable; many of us are now rights, jurisdictions, and properties; if no cruei members, who must be wholly unacquainted and unjust exactions shall be forborne ; if the with the subject, which lies remote from the source of no peculation, or oppressive gain ordinary course of general information. should be cut off'; if, by the omission of the
We are cautioned against an infringement opportunities that were in our hands, our of the constitution; and it is impossible to Indian empire should fall into ruin irretrieknow, what the secret advisers of the crown, vable, and in its fall crush the credit, and overwho have driven out the late ministers for their whelm the revenues of this country, we stand conduct in parliament, and have dissolved the acquitted to our honour, and to our conscience, .ate parliament for a pretended attack upon who have reluctantly seen the weightiest inteprerogative, will consider as such an infringe- rests of our country, at times the most critical ment. We are not furnished with a rule, the to its dignity and safety, rendered the sport of zbservance of which can make us safe from the inconsiderate and unmeasured ambition of che resentment of the crown, even by an im- individuals, and by that means the wisdom plicit obedience to the dictates of the minise of his majesty's government degraded in the ters who have advised that speech: we know public estimation, and the policy and character not how soon those ministers may be disa- of this renowned nation rendered contemptible vowed; and how soon the members of this in the eyes of all Europe. house, for our very agreement with them, may It passed in the negative. be considered as objects of his majesty's displeasure. Until by his majesty's goodness and the Indian administration, and all its endeavours
for the reformation of the government there, wisdom the late example is completely done
without any distinction of times, or of the per. away, we are not free.
ons concerned, will appear from the following We are well aware, in providing for the extract from a speech of the present lord chan. affairs of the east, with what an adult strength cellor. After making a high-town panegyric of abuse, and of wealth and influence growing demned by their resolutions, he said—" Let us out of that abuse, his majesty's commons had,
not be misled by reports from committees of in the last parliament, and we still have, to another house, to which, I again repeat I pay struggle. We are sensible that the influenc as much attention, as I would do to the history of that wealth, in a much larger degree and of Robinson Crusoe. Let the conduct of the
East India company be fairly and fully inquired measure than at any former period, may have into ; let it be acquitted or condemned by evj. penetrated into the very quarter from whence dence brought to the bar of the house. Without alone any real reformation can be expected.*
entering very deep into the subject, let me reply in a few words to an observation which fell from
a noble and learned lord, that the company's * This will be evident to those who consider inances are distressed, and that they owe at the number and description of directors and ser. this moment, a million sterling, to the nation. vants of the East India company, chosen into When such a charge is brought, will parliament the present parliament. The light in which the in its justice forget, that the company is restricted present ministers hold the labours of the house from employing that credit, which its great and of commons, in searching into the disorders in flourishing siluation gives to it?"