« PreviousContinue »
think of the miserable situation of persons of the highest rank in that country, under the government of men who are disposed to disgrace and ruin them in this iniquitous manner!
Mr. Balfour is in Europe, I believe. How comes it that he is not produced here to tell your lordships who was his informer, and what he knows of the transaction? They have not produced him, but have thought fit to rely upon this miserable, beggarly semblance of evidence, the very production of which was a crime, when brought forward for the purpose of giving color to acts of injustice and oppression. If you ask, who is this Mr. Balfour? IIe is a person who was a military collector of revenue in the province of Rohil Cund; a country now ruined and desolated, but once the garden of the world. It was from the depth of that horrible devastating system that he gave this ridiculous, contemptible evidence, which if it can be equalled, I shall admit that there is not one word we have said, that you ought to attend to.
Your lordships are now enabled to sum up the amount, and estimate the result of all this iniquity. The rajah himself is punished, he is ruined and undone, but the £500,000 is not gained. He has fled his country, but he carried his treasures with him. His forts are taken possession of, but there was nothing found in them. It is the report of the country, and is so stated by Mr. Hastings, that he carried away with him, in gold and silver, to the value of about £400,000 and thus that sum was totally lost, even as an object of plunder, to the company. The author of the mischief lost his favorite object by his cruelty and violence. If Mr. Hastings had listened to Cheit Sing at first; if he had answered his letters, and dealt civilly with him; if he had endeavored afterwards to compromise matters; if he had told him what his demands were; if, even after the rebellion had broken out, he had demanded and exacted a fine; the company would have gained £220,000 at least, and per
haps a much larger sum, without difficulty. They would not then have had £400,000 carried out of the country by a tributary chief, to become, as we know that sum has become, the plunder of the Mahrattas and our other enemies. I state to you the account of the profit and loss of tyranny; take it as an account of profit and loss: forget the morality, forget the law, forget the policy; take it, I say, as a matter of profit and loss. Mr. Hastings lost the subsidy; Mr. Hastings lost the £220,000 which was offered him, and more that he might have got. Mr. Hastings lost it all, and the company lost the £400,000 which he meant to exact. carried from the British dominions, to enrich its enemies for
This man, my lords, has not only acted thus vindictively himself, but he has avowed the principle of revenge as a general rule of policy, connected with the security of the British government in India. He has dared to declare, that if a native once draws his sword, he is not to be pardoned; that you never are to forgive any man who has killed an English soldier. You are to be implacable and resentful; and there is no maxim of tyrants, which, upon account of the supposed weakness of your government, you are not to Was this the conduct of the Mogul conquerors of pursue. India? and must this necessarily be the policy of their Christian successors ? I pledge myself, if called upon, to prove the contrary. I pledge myself to produce, in the history of the Mogul empire, a series of pardons and amnesties for rebellions, from its earliest establishments, and in its most distant provinces.
` I need not state to your lordships, what you know to be the true principles of British policy in matters of this nature. When there has been provocation, you ought to be ready to listen to terms of reconciliation, even after war has been made. This you ought to do, to show that you are placable; such policy as this would doubtless be of the greatest benefit and advantage to you. Look to the case of Sujah Dowlah;
you had, in the course of a war with him, driven him from his country; you had not left him in possession of a foot of earth in the world. The mogul was his sovereign, and, by his authority, it was in your power to dispose of the vizierate, and of every office of state which Sujah Dowlah held under the emperor; for he hated him mortally, and was desirous of dispossessing him of every thing. What did you do? Though he had shed much English blood, you reestablished him in all his power; you gave him more than he before possessed, and you had no reason to repent your generosity. Your magnanimity and justice proved to be the best policy, and was the subject of admiration from one end of India to the other. But Mr. Hastings had other maxims and other principles. You are weak, he says, and therefore you ought never to forgive. Indeed, Mr. Hastings never does forgive. The rajah was weak, and he persecuted him; Mr. Hastings was weak, and he lost his prey. He went up the country with the rapacity, but not with the talons and beak, of a vulture. He went to look for plunder, but he was himself plundered, the country was ravaged, and the prey escaped.
After the escape of Cheit Sing, there still existed in one corner of the country some further food for Mr. Hastings's rapacity. There was a place called Bidjigur, one of those forts which Mr. Hastings declared could not be safely left in the possession of the rajah; measures were therefore taken to obtain possession of this place, soon after the flight of its unfortunate proprietor. And what did he find in it? A great and powerful garrison? No, my lords; he found in it the wives and family of the rajah; he found it inhabited by two hundred women, and defended by a garrison of eunuchs and a few feeble militia men. This fortress was supposed by him to contain some money, which he hoped to lay hold of, when all other means of rapacity had escaped him. He first sends (and you have it on your minutes) a most cruel, most atrocious, and most insulting message to these unfor
tunate women; one of whom, a principal personage of the family, we find him in the subsequent negotiation scandalizing in one minute, and declaring to be a woman of respectable character in the next; treating her by turns as a prostitute and as an amiable woman, as best suited the purposes of the hour. This woman, with two hundred of her sex, he found in Bidjigur. Whatever money they had, was their own property, and as such Cheit Sing, who had visited the place before his flight, had left it for their support, thinking that it would be secure to them as their property, because they were persons wholly void of guilt as they must needs have been. This money the rajah might have carried off with him; but he left it them, and we must presume that it was their property; and no attempt was ever made by Mr. Hastings to prove otherwise. They had no other property that could be found. It was the only means of subsistence for themselves, their children, their domestics, and dependants, and for the whole female part of that once illustrious and next to royal family.
But to proceed. A detachment of soldiers was sent to seize the forts; soldiers are habitually men of some generosity; even when they are acting in a bad cause they do not wholly lose the military spirit. But Mr. Hastings, fearing that they might not be animated with the same lust of plunder as himself, stimulated them to demand the plunder of the place; and expresses his hopes, that no composition would be made with these women, and that not one shilling of the booty would be allowed them. He does not trust to their acting as soldiers who have their fortunes to make; but he stimulates and urges them not to give way to the generous passions and feelings of men.
He thus writes from Benares, the 22d of October, 1781, ten o'clock in the morning,-"I am this instant favored with yours of yesterday; mine to you of the same date has before this time acquainted you with my resolutions and sentiments respecting the raunee. I think every demand she has made
to you, except that of safety and respect for her person, is unreasonable. If the reports brought to me are true, your rejecting her offers, or any negotiation with her, would soon obtain you possession of the fort upon your own terms. I apprehend that she will contrive to defraud the captors of a considerable part of the booty, by being suffered to retire without examination; but this is your consideration, and not mine. I should be sorry that your officers and soldiers lost any part of the reward to which they are so well entitled, but I cannot make any objection; as you must be the best judge of the expediency of the promised indulgence to the raunee. What you have engaged for I will certainly ratify; but as to permitting the raunee to hold the pergunnah of Kurteck, or any other in the zemindary, without being subject to the authority of the zemindar; or any lands whatever; or indeed making any conditions with her for a provision; I will never consent to it."
My lords, you have seen the principles upon which this man justifies his conduct. Here his real nature, character, and disposition break out. These women had been guilty of no rebellion. He never charged them with any crime but that of having wealth and yet you see with what ferocity he
pursues every thing that belonged to the destined object of his cruel, inhuman, and more than tragic revenge. If, says he, you have made an agreement with them, and will insist upon it, I will keep it; but if you have not, I beseech you not to make any. Don't give them any thing; suffer no stipulations whatever of a provision for them. The capitulation I will ratify, provided it contains no article of future provision for them: this he positively forbad; so that his blood-thirsty vengeance would have sent out these two hundred innocent women to starve naked in the world.
But he not only declares, that the money found in the fort is the soldiers'; he adds, that he should be sorry if they lost. a shilling of it. So that you have here a man not only declaring that the money was theirs, directly contrary to the