Page images

My lords, an extraordinary circumstance occurred in the course of our proceedings, in another place, which I must state to show you in what a horrible manner your laws have been trampled upon and despised. None of the proceedings which have been last stated to your lordships, respecting the seizure of the treasures of the begums, appear upon any public record whatever. From the manner in which they came to our knowledge, your lordships will perceive what must have been the prisoner's own opinion of the horrible nature of proceedings, which he thought so necessary to be concealed.

Whilst we were inquiring into the violences committed against the begums, in breach of the treaty entered into with them, there came into my hands an anonymous letter, containing a full account of all the matter which has lately been stated to you. It came anonymously; and I did not know from what quarter it came. I do not even know with certainty at this hour. I say, not with certainty, for I can only form a conjecture. This anonymous communication enabled us to produce all the correspondence with Mr. Middleton respecting the cruelties exercised towards the begums and their eunuchs, in order to extort money. We found the names of Major Gilpin and several other persons in these letters. We also found in them a strong fox smell of a Sir Elijah Impey, that his brush and crime had left behind him; we traced him by that scent; and as we proceeded we discovered the footsteps of as many of the wolves as Mr. Hastings thought proper to leave there. We sent for and examined Mr. Middleton, and Major Gilpin produced his correspondence. When we applied to Mr. Middleton, we found that all this part of his correspondence had been torn out of his book. But having come at it by means of our anonymous communication, we subsequently proved and established it, in the manner we have done, before your lordships. Here then you have important matter which this anonymous letter has brought to light; and otherwise the whole of this correspondence so

essential to the interests and justice of Great Britain would have been concealed by this wicked man. Thus I say, his

violation of a positive law would have remained undiscovered, if mere accident had not enabled us to trace this iniquity to its source. Therefore I begin our proceedings this day, by stating to your lordships this fact, and by calling upon your justice to punish him for this violation of the laws of his country.

We have told you who the instruments were, by which all this wickedness was committed, Mr. Middleton and Mr. Johnson, persons who were sent as ambassadors to represent the interests of the company at the court of an independent prince. Over this prince they usurped an absolute power, they even made use of British officers in his own service, and receiving his pay, to enslave his person, and to force him to rob his kindred. These agents were aided by an English chief justice, sent under the authority of an act of parliament to represent the sovereign majesty of English justice, and to be a restraint upon the misconduct of the company's servants. These are the instruments with which this man works. We have shown you his system; we have shown you his instruments; we will now proceed with the examination of the pretences upon which this horrid and nefarious act is attempted ro be justified. We have not entered into this examination for the sake of refuting things that want no refutation, but for the purpose of showing you the spirit of the whole proceeding, and making it appear to your lordships, as I trust it will appear, that the wicked act done there is not half so bad as the wicked defence made here.

The first part of Sir Elijah Impey's commission, as your lordships will remember, was to seize upon the begums' treasures. He had likewise another budget of instructions, which has been discovered in the trunks of which your lordships have heard,-secret instructions to be given by him to Mr. Middleton, for the furtherance of this business. And that his office of chief justice should not lie dormant, he was com

missioned to seek for affidavits, or written testimony from any persons, for the purpose of convicting these women of a design of atrociously revolting against their son, and deposing him from the government, with a view of getting rid of the English inhabitants. This was the accusation ;-and the evidence to support it Sir Elijah Impey was sent to collect.

My lords, I must here observe to your lordships, that there is no act of violence which, merely as an act of violence, may not in some sort be borne; because an act of violence infers no principle; it infers nothing but a momentary impulse of a bad mind, proceeding, without law or justice, to the execution of its object. For at the same time that it pays no regard to law, it does not debauch it; it does not wrest it to its purposes. The law disregarded still exists; and hope still exists in the sufferer, that, when law shall be resorted to, violence will cease, and wrongs will be redressed; but whenever the law itself is debauched, and enters into a corrupt coalition with violence, robbery, and wrong, then all hope is gone; and then it is not only private persons that suffer, but the law itself when so corrupted is often perverted into the worst instrument of fraud and violence. It then becomes most odious to mankind, and an infinite aggravation of every injury they suffer.


We have therefore in our charge strongly reprobated Sir Elijah Impey's going to take such affidavits.-Oh, but they say, a judge may take an affidavit in his chamber privately, and he may take an affidavit, though not exactly in the place of his jurisdiction, to authenticate a bond, or the like. are not to be cheated by words. It is not dirty shreds of worn out parchments, the sweepings of Westminster Hall, that shall serve us in place of that justice upon which the world stands. Affidavits! We know that, in the language of our courts, affidavits do not signify a body of evidence to sustain a criminal charge, but are generally relative to matter in process collateral to the charge, which, not coming before the jury, are made known to the judge by way of affidavit.

But was it ever heard, or will it be borne, that a person exercising a judicial office under his majesty should walk beyond the sphere of his jurisdiction? That he should desert the station in which he was placed for the protection of the natives, and should march to such a place as Lucknow, in order to take depositions for criminating persons in that country, without so much as letting these poor victims know one article in the depositions so taken? These depositions, my lords, were made to criminate; they were meant to justify a forfeiture; and are not in the nature of those voluntary affidavits which, whether made within jurisdiction or without, whether made publicly or privately, signify comparatively nothing to the cause. I do not mean to say, that any process of any court has not its weight, when the matter is within it in the ordinary course of proceedings; it is the extraordinary course, the extrajudicial conduct, which divests it of that just weight it otherwise would have.

This chief justice goes to Lucknow, where he holds his court, such as it was. He is ready to authenticate any process, by the signature of the English chief justice, in a court which he holds by night; in a court which he holds in darkness and secrecy. He holds his court in Fyzabad: he holds it unknown to the nabob of Oude, in his own capital, and without giving him the least knowledge of or any notice of what he was proceeding to do. He holds it at the lodgings of Colonel Morgan, a pensioner of the nabob, and the person assisting him is Mr. Middleton, who is likewise, as we have proved to you, one of the nabob's pensioners, a monopolizer of trade in the country, and a person who received much the major part of his emoluments from the nabob's hands.

In that clandestine manner, in the nabob's own house, in his own capital city, in the lodging of his dependent and pensioner, Colonel Morgan, with no other witness that we know of, than Mr. Middleton, was this iniquitous, dark procedure held, to criminate the mother of the nabob. We here see a scene of dark, mysterious contrivance; let us now

see what is brought out in the face of open day. The attestations themselves, which you have seen on the record before you. They were brought out; where? there? No; they were brought out in another place; they were brought out at Calcutta ; but were never communicated to the nabob. He never knew any thing of the matter. Let us now see what those attestations were: your lordships will bear in mind, that I do not advert to this thing, which they bring as evidence, in the way of imputation of its being weak, improper, and insufficient evidence, but as an incontrovertible proof of crimes, and of a systematic design to ruin the accused party, by force there and by chicane here; these are principles upon which I am going to talk to you upon this abominable subject; of which, I am sorry to say, I have no words sufficient to express my horror. No words can express it; nor can any thing but the severity of your lordships' judgments find an adequate expression of it. It is not to be expressed in words, but in punishment.

Having stated before whom the evidence collected in this body of affidavits was taken, I shall now state who the persons were that gave it; they were those very persons who were guilty of robbing and ruining the whole country: yes, my lords, the very persons who had been accused of this in the mass, by Mr. Hastings himself. They were nothing less than the whole body of those English officers, who were usurping the office of farmers-general, and other lucrative offices in the nabob's government, and whose pillage and peculations had raised a revolt of the whole kingdom against themselves. These persons are here brought in a mass to clear themselves of this charge, by criminating other persons, and clandestinely imputing to them the effect of their own iniquity.

But supposing these witnesses to be good for any thing, supposing it fit that the least attention should be paid them; the matter of their testimony may very possibly be true, without criminating the begum; it criminates Saadit Ali,

« PreviousContinue »