« ForrigeFortsett »
into a voluntary accuser of Debi Sing, and directed to make good the charges. They take an objection, that the depositions are not all upon oath, although it was never ordered that they should be upon oath. They thus throw a doubt, a shadow upon them all” [Mr. Burke was here taken ill; but he soon recovered, and proceeded thus :]
“ My Lords, I am sorry to break your attention. It is a subject that pains me very much; it is long, difficult, arduous; but, with the blessing of God, if I can, I will go through it this day. The next step they took was this to put Debi Sing into the shape of an accuser—"
[Mr. Burke was here seized with a cramp in his stomach, which obliged him to sit down; he was soon relieved from his pain, but was too much exhausted to be able to proceed. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, finding Mr. Burke so unwell, immediately moved to adjourn ; which was agreed to. Mr. Burke had been speaking above three hours and a quarter.]
Mr. BURKE, being sufficiently recovered from his indisposition of the preceding day, resumed his speech. He began by recapitulating the objects he had in view in the several matters that he submitted to the Court the day before; viz., that Mr. Hastings, by destroying the provincial councils, which formed the whole subordinate administration of the British Government in Bengal ; by delegating their powers nominally to a committee of four persons chosen by himself, but in fact to a secret agent of his own, their dewan or secretary: by making this board, which had the whole management of the revenues, independent of, and unaccountable to, the Supreme Council ; and by concurring in the appointment of persons of infamous characters to offices of the highest trust, had made himself responsible for all the mischiefs that flowed from those acts: that the acts themselves had, from the circumstances attending them, the strongest presumptive proofs that they were in the first intention corrupt, and that this presumption was strongly confirmed by the subsequent conduct of Mr. Hastings, particularly in the case of Mr. Patterson, which he proceeded to relate:
“ The report, with an immense body of evidence, being transmitted to the Committee, instead of giving that credit to Mr. Patterson, which persons acting in a public trust, and under the express orders of Government, are entitled to, they received it with great coldness, and visible disgust; instead of proceeding to act upon the report, by calling the delinquent to an account, Mr. Patterson was converted into a voluntary accuser of Debi Sing, and directed to make good the charges, which he had brought, by evidence upon oath ; and finally, he was himself accused by Debi Sing, (whose boldness increased with the protection he obtained) of falsehood and forgery, and was put as a criminal upon his defence. Under such circumstances, Mr. Patterson was sent back to that country, in which he had before been received as carrying the whole power of a beneficent Government, to see whether, among the Cor
a ruined, dejected, undone people, he could find constancy enough to stand to their former accusations against the known power of their former oppressor. In the mean time, Debi Sing was sent in custody to Calcutta, not upon the charges contained in the report, but for other offences. Here he remained some time a prisoner at large, and at last, a new commission being appointed to proceed to Rumpore, and inquire into the charges against Mr. Patterson, he was sent for by the Commissioners, and actually sat with them, whilst Mr. Patterson was excluded from all their deliberations. Four years had thus passed, during which Mr. Patterson remained in a state of affliction and continual conflict. Debi Sing remained a prisoner at large, with every mark of protection and authority, and the people of Rumpore, which,” said Mr. Burke, “is a consideration of much greater importance than Debi Sing, or even than Mr. Patterson himself, remained totally unredressed, remain so to this day, and will remain so for ever, if your lordships do not redress them.”
After some further observations upon the responsibility of Mr. Hastings, as arising from the abolition of the provincial councils, and the constitution of the new committee of revenue, by which he destroyed every check and control, and delivered the whole into the hands of his bribe agent, Gunga Govind Sing, he adverted to the defence set up by Mr. Hastings, that these presents were never received for his private emolument, but for the use of
any, and that it was the best method of supplying the necessities of the Company in the pressing exigencies of their affairs. With respect to this system of presents, by which bribery was to be made a supplement to exaction, Mr. Burke first observed, that however promising it might appear in theory, it had not answered in practice; and that he should prove, that wherever a bribe had been received, the revenue had always in some proportion, and often in a double proportion, fallen into arrears ; and, secondly, be called the attention of the Court to all those dreadful consequences which attended this clandestine mode of supplying the Company's necessities, as it was practised by Mr. Hastings.
Mr. Burke concluded this part of his speech with describing the last parting scene between Mr. Hastings and Gunga Govind Sing; a scene in which he appeared as an accomplice in the most cruel, perfidious, and iniquitous transaction, that, he said, was ever held forth to the indignation of mankind. When Mr. Hastings had quitted his office, and was now embarked upon the Ganges to sail for Europe, he writes a letter to the Council, in which he says, “ The concern I cannot but feel, in relinquishing the service of my honourable employers, would be much embittered, were it accompanied by the reflection, that I have neglected the merits of a man who deserves no less of them than of myself, Gunga Govind Sing."
Upon this singular recommendation, Mr. Burke first observed, that with respect to the circumstances of the person whose merits Mr. Hastings was so fearful of leaving unrewarded, he was notoriously known to have amassed upwards of three millions sterling. With regard to his public services, Mr. Hastings states, that he had served the Committee of Revenue as Dewan,
from its first institution to that time, with a very short intermission. Of this office, and of his services therein, Mr. Burke said he had already given some account: with respect to the intermission, Mr. Hastings had omitted a material circumstance, namely, that it was occasioned by his having been turned out of his office for a short time, upon proof of peculation and embezzlement of the public money. Other public services Mr. Hastings had not mentioned, and the records of the Company were equally silent. What his secret services were, was a subject which, however it might leave room for conjectures, was involved in the same silence and obscurity,
From services, Mr. Burke proceeded to consider the reward proposed ; and this was, that a grant of certain domains, the property of the young Rajah of Dinagepore, from which country Mr. Hastings had received the present of £40,000, should be confirmed to the son of Gunga Govind Sing, through whom that present had been conveyed. The circumstances of this case were briefly as follow: The son of Govind Sing had been appointed Registrar of the provinces of Dinagepore, &c., by virtue of which office he had the guardianship of all the temporalities of the Rajah, and the execution of the laws belonging thereto. In this situation he had obtained a fraudulent grant of a part of the Rajah's zemindary to an immense amount, contrary to law, which makes the acts of all minors void, the Rajah being at this time but nine years old, and contrary to the custom of the country, by which no Zemindar can alienate any part of his territory without the consent of the Government under which he holds. To cover this proceeding, the consent of one of the nearest relations of the Rajah was procured. Such was the grant which Mr. Hastings, at his parting, recommended to the Supreme Council for confirmation. He was no sooner gone than the other relations of the Rajah took courage, and applied to the Council to stop the grant. They proceed to inquire. The person who had consented for the Rajah was brought down to Calcutta, and declared, that he had been induced so to do by the threats of Gunga Govind Sing. Being thus pressed, Gunga Govind gave up the points of custom and law, and appealed to the arbitrary authority of the Council. In an address presented to them, he states, that their power in all such cases was unlimited; that they might act in it as they pleased; that they had frequently separated zemindaries from their lawsul proprietors, and given them to others, without right, title, or purchase; he cites the example of a zemindary given in this way, by Mr. Hastings, to the son of Cantoo Baboo, his banyan, and prays that he may have the same favour shown to him that had been shown to others.
After some observations upon this address, in which he showed, by other instances, that this practice had gone to a very great length indeed, Mr. Burke gave a short account of another transaction of Mr. Hastings, exactly similar in its principles, operation, and consequences, to that of Dinagepore: the settlement of the kingdom of Bahar. Here was the same selection of the most notorious wicked men, the same present taken, the like ruin of the country, the defalcation of the revenue. The pretence was also the same,
namely, the increase of the public revenue. But I hope and trust,” said Mr. Burke, “your Lordships will consider this idea of a monstrous bribe given by men in desperate situations, to men of desperate fortunes, and of desperate characters, to be one of the grievances, instead of one of the advantages, of this system. For where a just, natural, easy system of revenue is quitted in a country; where the limits which nature, justice, and reason prescribe are broken down, there the consequence is, that the revenues are shamefully neglected, and the worst men in the country will be chosen, as Mr. Hastings has actually chosen the worst, to effectuate this work; because it is impossible for any good man, by any honest means, to provide at once for the exigencies of a severe public exaction, and a private rapacious bribe given to the chief magistrate. He must have profit both upon the revenue to be paid, and the bribe to be given. Oppression, cruel exactions, rack and ruin on the tenant, must be the consequences of that system.
“My Lords, none but wicked, bloody, and rapacious persons can be employed to execute such a task. Therefore, I charge Mr. Hastings—and we shall charge him when we come to bring it more home to him—I charge him with having destroyed the whole system of government, which he had no right to destroy, in the six provincial councils. I charge him with having delegated away
that power, which the Act of Parliament had directed him to preserve unalienably in himself. I charge him with having formed an ostensible committee to be instruments and tools, at the enormous expense of £62,000 a-year. I charge him with having appointed a person Dewan, to whom those tools were to be subservient; a man, whose name, to his own knowledge, by his own general recorded official transactions, by everything that can make a man known, abhorred, and detested, was stamped with infamy; with giving him this whole power, which he had thus separated from the Council-general, and from the Provincial Councils. I charge him with taking bribes of Gunga Govind Sing. I charge him that he has not done that bribe-duty with fidelity; for there is something like a fidelity in the transactions of the very worst of men. I charge him with having robbed those people of whom he took the bribes. I charge him with having alienated the fortunes of widows. I charge him with having, without right, title, or purchase, taken away the lands of orphans, and given them to the very person under whose protection those orphans were. I charge him with giving those very zemindaries to the most wicked of persons, knowing his wickedness; with having committed to him that great country, and with having wasted the country, destroyed the landed interest, cruelly harassed the peasants, burnt their houses, and destroyed their crops. I charge him with having tortured and dishonoured their persons, and destroyed the honour of the whole female race of that country. This I charge upon him in the name of the Commons of England.
Now, my Lords, what is it in this last moment that we want besides the cause of justice—the cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, of desolated provinces, and of wasted kingdoms? Do you
want a criminal, my Lords? When was there so much iniquity applied to any one ? No, my Lords, with respect to India, you must not look to punish in India more; for Mr. Hastings has not left substance enough in Asia to punish such another delinquent. My Lords, if a prosecutor you want, the Commons of Great Britain appear to prosecute. You have before you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors; and I believe, my Lords, I may venture to say, that the sun in his beneficent progress does not behold a more glorious sight, than to see those who are separated by the material bounds and barriers of nature, united by the bond of social and natural humanity; and all the Commons of England resenting as their own, the indignities and cruelties that have been offered to the people of India. My Lords, permit me to add, neither do we want a tribunal ; for a greater tribunal than the present, no example of antiquity, nor anything in the world, can supply. My Lords, here we see, virtually in the mind's eye, the sacred minister of the Crown, under whose authority you sit, and whose power you exercise. In that invisible authority, which we all feel the energy and life of, we see the protecting power of his Majesty. We have also, my Lords, sitting in judgment, in this great and august assembly, the Heir Apparent to the Crown, such as the fond wishes of the people of England desire an heir apparent to be. We have here all the nobles of England, offering themselves as a pledge for the support of the rights of the Crown, and the liberties of the people. We have here, my Lords, a great hereditary peerage; we have those who have their own honour, the honour of their ancestors, and the honour of their posterity to guard ; and who, while they inherit the virtues of those ancestors, will be anxious to transmit them to that posterity. My Lords, we have also here a new nobility, who have raised themselves by their integrity, their virtue, and their magnanimity, and those who, by their various talents and abilities, have been exalted to a situation, by the wisdom and bounty of their Sovereign, which they well deserve, and which may justify that favour, and secure to them the good opinion of their fellow-subjects. These will be equally careful not to sully those honours. My Lords, we have here persons highly exalted in the practice of the law, who come to sit in this tribunal, to enlighten it, and to strengthen and promote those principles which they have maintained in their respective courts below. These being ennobled for their superior knowledge, will, no doubt, see that the law is justly and impartially administered. My Lords, you have here also the lights of our holy religion, the bishops of our church. Here we behold the true image of the most uncorrupted religion, in its primitive and ancient forms; here you behold it in its primitive ordinances, purified from the superstitions that are but too apt to disgrace the best institutions in the world. You have here the representatives of that religion, which says, that God is a God of love, that of their institutions the very vital spirit is charity, and that it so much hates oppression, that when the God whom we adore appeared in human form, he did not appear in greatness of majesty, but in sympathy to the lower people, and made it a firm principle, that in that government which