Page images

Your lordships will remember that the counsel at the bar have said, that they undertook the defence of Warren Hastings not in order to defend him, but to rescue the British character from the imputations which have been laid upon it by the Commons of Great Britain. They have said, that the Commons of Great Britain have slandered their country, and have misrepresented its character; while, on the contrary, the servants of the company have sustained and maintained the dignity of the English character, have kept its public faith inviolate, preserved the people from oppression, reconciled every government to it in India, and have made every person under it prosperous and happy.

My lords, you see what this man says himself, when endeavoring to prove his own innocence. Instead of proving it by the facts alleged by his counsel, he declares, that, by preserving good faith, you might have conquered India, the most glorious conquest that was ever made in the world; that all the people want our assistance, but dread our connection. Why? Because our whole conduct has been one perpetual tissue of perfidy and breach of faith, with every person who has been in alliance with us, in any mode whatever ; here is the man himself, who says it. Can we bear that this man should now stand up in this place as the asserter of the honor of the British nation against us, who charge this dishonor to have fallen upon us, by him, through him, and during his government?

But all the mischief, he goes on to assert, was in the previous system, in the formation of which he had no share; the system of 1775, when the first treaty with the nabob was made. "That system," says he, "is not mine, it was made by General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis." So it was, my lords. It did them very great It did them very great honor; and I believe it ever will do them honor, in the eyes of the British nation, that they took an opportunity, without the violation of faith, without the breach of any one treaty, and without injury to any person, to do great and eminent services to the

company; but Mr. Hastings disclaims it, unnecessarily dis

What we charge

To one of these

claims it, for no one charges him with it. him with, is the abuse of that system. abuses I will now call your lordships' attention. Finding, soon after his appointment to the office of governor-general, that the nabob was likely to get into debt, he turns him into a vassal, and resolves to treat him as such. You will observe that this is not the only instance in which, upon a failure of payment, the defaulter becomes directly a vassal. You remember how Durbedgy Sing, the moment he fell into an arrear of tribute, became a vassal, and was thrown into prison, without any inquiry into the causes which occasioned that arrear. With respect to the nabob of Oude, we assert, and can prove, that his revenue was £3,600,000 at the day of his father's death; and if the revenue fell off afterwards, there was abundant reason to believe that he possessed in abundance the means of paying the company every farthing. Before I quit this subject, your lordships will again permit me to reprobate the malicious insinuations by which Mr. Hastings has thought proper to slander the virtuous persons who are the authors of that system, which he complains of. They

men whose characters this country will ever respect, honor, and revere, both the living and the dead; the dead for the living, and the living for the dead. They will altogether be revered for a conduct honorable and glorious to Great Britain; whilst their names stand, as they now do, unspotted by the least imputation of oppression, breach of faith, perjury, bribery, or any other fraud whatever. I know there was a faction formed against them, upon that very account. Be corrupt, you have friends; stem the torrent of corruption, you open a thousand venal mouths against you. Men resolved to do their duty must be content to suffer such opprobrium, and I am content; in the name of the living and of the dead, and in the name of the Commons, I glory in our having appointed some good servants, at least, to India.

But to proceed. "This system was not," says he, "of my

making.' You would then naturally imagine that the persons, who made this abominable system, had also made some tyrannous use of it. Let us see what use they made of it during the time of their majority in the council. There was an arrear of subsidy due from the nabob. How it came into arrear, we shall consider hereafter. The nabob proposed to pay it by taxing the jaghires of his family, and taking some money from the begum. This was consented to by Mr. Bristow, at that time resident for the company in Oude; and to this arrangement Azoph ul Dowlah and his advisers lent a willing ear. What did Mr. Hastings then say of this transaction? He called it a violent assumption of power on the part of the council. He did not, you see, then allow that a bad system justified any persons whatever in an abuse of it. He contended that it was a violent attack upon the rights and property of the parties from whom the money was to be taken; that it had no ground or foundation in justice whatever, and that it was contrary to every principle of right and equity.

Your lordships will please to bear in mind, that afterwards, by his own consent, and the consent of the rest of the council, this business was compromised between the son, the mother, and their relations. A very great sum of money, which was most useful to the company at that period, was raised by a family compact and arrangement among themselves. This proceeding was sanctioned by the company, Mr. Hastings himself consenting; and a pledge was given to the begums and family of the nabob, that this should be the last demand made upon them, that it should be considered not as taken compulsively, but as a friendly and amicable donation. They never admitted, nor did the nabob ever contend, that he had any right at all to take this money from them. At that time, it was not Mr. Hastings's opinion, that the badness of the system would justify any violence as a consequence of it; and when the advancement of the money was agreed to between the parties, as a family and amicable

compact, he was as ready as any body to propose and sanction a regular treaty between the parties, that all claims on one side, and all kind of uneasiness on the other, should cease for ever, under the guardianship of British faith.

Mr. Hastings, as your lordships remember, has conceded that British faith is the support of the British empire; that if that empire is to be maintained, it is to be maintained by good faith; that if it is to be propagated, it is to be propagated by public faith; and that if the British empire falls, it will be through perfidy and violence. These are the principles which he assumes when he chooses to reproach others. But when he has to defend his own perfidy and breaches of faith, then, as your lordships will find set forth in his defence before the House of Commons on the Benares charge, he denies, or at least questions the validity of any treaty, that can at present be made with India. He declares, that he considers all treaties as being weakened by a considerable degree of doubt respecting their validity and their binding force, in such a state of things as exists in India.

Whatever was done, during that period of time to which I have alluded, by the majority of the council, Mr. Hastings considered himself as having nothing to do with, on the plea of his being a disentient member: a principle, which, like other principles, I shall take some notice of by and by. Colonel Monson and General Clavering died soon after, and Mr. Hastings obtained a majority in the council, and was then, as he calls it, restored to his authority; so that any evil that could be done by evil men, under that evil system, could have lasted but for a very short time indeed. From that moment Mr. Hastings, in my opinion, became responsible for every act done in council while he was there, which he did not resist; and for every engagement which he did not oppose. For your lordships will not bear that miserable jargon, which you have heard, shameful to office and to official authority, that a man, when he happens not to find himself in a majority upon any measure, may think himself excusable for the total

neglect of his dnty; that in such a situation he is not bound to propose any thing that it might be proper to propose, or to resist any thing that it might be proper to resist. What would be the inference from such an assumption? That he can never act in a commission; that unless a man has the supreme power, he is not responsible for any thing he does or neglects to do. This is another principle which your lordships will see constantly asserted, and constantly referred to by Mr. Hastings. Now I do contend, that notwithstanding his having been in a minority, if there was any thing to be done that could prevent oppressive consequences, he was bound to do that thing; and that he was bound to propose every possible remedial measure. This proud, rebellious proposition against the law, that any one individual in the council may say that he is responsible for nothing, because he is not the whole council, calls for your lordships' strongest reprobation.

I must now beg leave to observe to you, that the treaty was made (and I wish your lordships to advert to dates) in the year 1775. Mr. Hastings acquired the majority, in something more than a year afterwards; and therefore, supposing the acts of the former majority to have been ever so iniquitous, their power lasted but a short time. From the year 1776 to 1784, Mr. Hastings had the whole government of Oude in himself, by having the majority in the council. My lords, it is no offence, that a governor-general, or any body else, has the majority in the council. To have the government in himself is no offence. Neither was it any offence, if you please, that the nabob was virtually a vassal to the company, as he contends he was; for the question is not what a governor-general may do, but what Warren Hastings did do. He who has a majority in council, and records his own acts there, may justify these acts as legal; I mean the mode is legal. But as he executes whatever he proposes as governor-general, he is solely responsible for the nature of the acts themselves.

« PreviousContinue »