Page images





MY LORDS,-We are called, with an awful voice, to come forth, and make good our charge against the prisoner at your bar; but as a long time has elapsed since your lordships heard that charge, I shall take the liberty of requesting my worthy fellow manager near me, to read that part to your lordships, which I am just now going to observe upon, that you may be the better able to apply my observations to the letter of the charge.

[Mr. Wyndham reads.]

"That the said Warren Hastings, having as aforesaid expelled the said Cheit Sing from his dominions, did, of his own usurped authority, and without any communication with, or any approbation given by, the other members of the council, nominate and appoint rajah Mehipnerain to the government of the provinces of Benares, and did appoint his father Durbedgy Sing as administrator of his authority, and did give to the British resident, Mr. Markham, a controlling authority over both; and did further abrogate and set aside all treaties and agreements which subsisted between the states of Benares and the British nation; and did arbitrarily and tyrannically, of his mere authority raise the tribute to the sum of £400,000 sterling, or thereabouts; did further

wantonly and illegally impose certain oppressive duties upon goods and merchandise, to the great injury of trade and ruin of the province; and did farther dispose of, as his own, the property within the said provinces, by granting the same, or parts thereof, in pensions to such persons as he thought fit.

"That the said Warren Hastings did, sometime in the year 1782, enter into a clandestine correspondence with William Markham, Esq., the then resident at Benares, which said Markham had been by him the said Warren Hastings, obtruded into the said office, contrary to the positive orders of the court of directors; and in consequence of the representation of the said Markham, did, under pretence that the new excessive rent or tribute was in arrear, and that the affairs of the province were likely to fall into confusion, authorize and empower him, by his own private authority, to remove the said Durbedgy Sing from his office, and deprive him of his estate.

"That the said Durbedgy Sing was, by the private orders and authorities given by the said Warren Hastings, and in consequence of the representations aforesaid, violently thrown into prison, and cruelly confined therein, under the pretence of the non-payment of the arrears of the tribute aforesaid.

"That the widow of Bulwant Sing, and the rajah Mehipnerain, did pointedly accuse the said Markham of being the sole cause of any delay in the payment of the tribute aforesaid, and did offer to prove the innocence of the said Durbedgy Sing, and also to prove that the faults ascribed to him were solely the faults of the said Markham; yet the said Warren Hastings did pay no regard whatever to the said representations, nor make any inquiry into the truth of the same, but did accuse the said widow of Bulwant Sing and rajah aforesaid, of gross presumption for the same; and listening to the representation of the person accused (namely, the resident Markham), did continue to confine the said Durbedgy Sing in prison, and did invest the resident Markham

with authority to bestow his office upon whomsoever he pleased.

"That the said Markham did bestow the said office of administrator of the province of Benares upon a person, named Jagger Deo Sing, who, in order to gratify the arbitrary demands of the said Warren Hastings, was obliged greatly to distress and harass the unfortunate inhabitants of the said province.

"That the said Warren Hastings did, some time in the year 1784, remove the said Jagger Deo Sing from the said office, under pretence of certain irregularities and oppressions, which irregularities and oppressions are solely imputable to him, the said Warren Hastings.

"That the consequence of all these violent changes and arbitrary acts was the total ruin and desolation of the country, and the flight of the inhabitants; the said Warren Hastings having found every place abandoned at his approach, even by the officers of the very government which he established; and seeing nothing but traces of devastation in every village, the province in effect without a government, the administration misconducted, the people oppressed, the trade discouraged, and the revenue in danger of a rapid decline.

"All which destruction, devastation, oppression, and ruin are solely imputable to the above-mentioned, and other arbitrary, illegal, unjust, and tyrannical acts of him, the said. Warren Hastings, who, by all and every one of the same, was and is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors."

[Mr. Burke proceeded.]

My lords, you have heard the charge; and you are now going to see the prisoner at your bar, in a new point of view. I will now endeavor to display him in his character of a legislator in a foreign land, not augmenting the territory, honor, and power of Great Britain, and bringing the acquisition under the dominion of law and liberty, but desolating a flourishing country, that to all intents and purposes was our own; a

[blocks in formation]

country which we had conquered from freedom, from tranquillity, order, and prosperity, and submitted, through him, to arbitrary power, misrule, anarchy, and ruin. We now see the object of his corrupt vengeance utterly destroyed, his family driven from their home, his people butchered, his wife and all the females of his family robbed and dishonored in their persons, and the effects which husband and parents had laid up in store for the subsistence of their families, all the savings of provident economy, distributed amongst a rapacious soldiery. His malice is victorious. He has well avenged, in the destruction of this unfortunate family, the rajah's intended visit to General Clavering; he has well avenged the suspected discovery of his bribe to Mr. Francis. "Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all."

Let us see, my lords, what use he makes of this power; how he justifies the bounty of fortune bestowing on him this strange and anomalous conquest. Anomalous I call it, my lords, because it was the result of no plan in the cabinet, no operation in the field. No act or direction proceeded from him the responsible chief, except the merciless orders, and the grant to the soldiery. He lay skulking and trembling in the fort of Chunar, while the British soldiery entitled themselves to the plunder which he held out to them. Nevertheless, my lords, he conquers; the country is his own; he treats it as his own. Let us therefore see how this successor of Tamerlane, this emulator of Ghinges Khân, governs a country conquered by the talents and courage of others, without assistance, guide, direction, or counsel, given by himself.

My lords, I will introduce his first act to your lordships' notice, in the words of the charge. "The said Warren Hastings did, some time in the year 1782, enter into a clandestine correspondence with William Markham, Esq., the then resident at Benares, which said Markham had been, by him, the said Warren Hastings, obtruded into the said office, contrary to the positive orders of the court of directors." This unjustifiable obtrusion, this illegal appointment, shows you, at the

very outset, that he defies the laws of his country; most positively and pointedly defies them. In attempting to give a reason for this defiance, he has chosen to tell a branch of the legislature, from which originated the act, which wisely and prudently ordered him to pay implicit obedience to the court of directors, that he removed Mr. Fowke from Benares, contrary to the orders of the court, on political grounds; "because," says he, "I thought it necessary the resident there should be a man of my own nomination and confidence. I avow the principle, and think no government can subsist without it. The punishment of the rajah made no part of my design in Mr. Fowke's removal, or Mr. Markham's appointment, nor was his punishment an object of my contemplation at the time I removed Mr. Fowke to appoint Mr. Markham; an appointment of my own choice, and a signal to notify the restoration of my own authority, as I had before removed Mr. Fowke and appointed Mr. Graham for the same purpose."

Here, my lords, he does not even pretend that he had any view whatever in this appointment of Mr. Markham, but to defy the laws of his country. "I must," says he, "have a man of my own nomination, because it is a signal to notify the restoration of my own authority, as I had before removed Mr. Fowke for the same purpose."

I must beg your lordships to keep in mind, that the greater part of the observations with which I shall trouble you, have a reference to the principles upon which this man acts; and I beseech you to remember always, that you have before you a question and an issue of law. I beseech you to consider what it is that you are disposing of; that you are not merely disposing of this man and his cause; but that you are disposing of the laws of your country.

You, my lords, have made, and we have made, an act of parliament, in which the council at Calcutta is vested with a special power, distinctly limited and defined. He says, my authority is absolute. I defy the orders of the court of directors, because it is necessary for me to show that I can disre

« PreviousContinue »