Page images

other noise and brawlings of criminals, who in irons may be led through the streets, raving at the magistrate that has committed them. We consider him as a poor, miserable man, railing at his accusers; it is natural he should fall into all these frantic ravings, but it is not fit or natural that the court should indulge him in them. Your lordships shall now hear in what sense Mr. Wheler and Mr. Stables, two other members of the council, understood this letter.

Mr. Wheler thus writes :-"It always has been, and will be, my wish to perform implicitly the orders of the court of directors, and I trust that the opinion which I shall give upon that part of the court's letter, which is now before us, will not be taken up against its meaning, as going to a breach of them; the orders at present under the board's consideration are entirely provisional.

"Nothing has passed since the conclusion of the agreement made by the governor-general with the vizier at Chunar, which induces me to allow the opinion which I before held, as well as from the governor-general's reports to this board, as the opinions which I have heard of many individuals, totally unconcerned in the subject, that the begums at Fyzabad, did take a hostile part against the company during the disturbances at Benares; and I am impressed with a conviction that this conduct of the begums did not proceed entirely from motives of self-defence; but as the court of directors seem to be of a different opinion, and conceive that there ought to be stronger proofs of the defection of the begums than have been laid before them; I think, that before we decide on their orders, the late and present resident at the vizier's court, and the commanding officers in the vizier's country, ought to be required to collect and lay before the board all the information they can obtain, with respect to the defection of the begums during the troubles in Benares, and their present disposition to the company."

Mr. Stables, September 9th, 1783, writes thus: "The

court of directors, by their letter of the 14th February, 1783, seem not to be satisfied that the disaffection of the begums to this government is sufficiently proved by the evidence before them. I therefore think that the late and present resident, and commanding officers in the vizier's country at the time, should be called upon to collect what further information they can on the subject, in which the honor and dignity of the government is so materially concerned, and that such information may be immediately transmitted to the court of directors."

When questioned upon this subject at your lordships' bar, he gives this evidence:-"Q. What was your motive for proposing that investigation ?-A. A letter from the court of directors; I conceived it to be ordered by them. Q. Did you conceive the letter of the court of directors positively to direct that inquiry?—A. I did so certainly at the time, and I beg to refer to the minutes which expressed it. [A question was put to the same witness by a noble lord:] Q. The witness has stated, that at the time he has mentioned, he conceived the letter from the court of directors to order an inquiry, and that it was upon that opinion that he regulated his conduct, and his proposal for such inquiry; I wish to know whether the expression at the time was merely casual, or am I to understand from it that the witness has altered his opinion of the intention of this letter since that time?-A. I certainly retain that opinion, and I wished the inquiry to go on."

My lords, you see that his colleagues so understood it. You see that we so understood it, and still you have heard the prisoner, after charging us with falsehood, insultingly tell us, we may go on as we please, we may go on in our own way. If your lordships think that it was not a positive order which Mr. Hastings was bound to obey, you will acquit him of the breach of it. But it is a most singular thing, among all the astonishing circumstances of this case, that this man, who has heard, from the beginning to the end

of his trial, breaches of the company's orders constantly charged upon him,--nay, I will venture to say, that there is not a single step that we have taken in this prosecution, or in observations upon evidence, in which we have not charged him with an avowed direct breach of the company's orderyou have heard it ten times this day,-in his defence before the Commons, he declares he did intentionally, in naming Mr. Markham, break the company's orders: it is singular, I say, that this man should now pretend to be so sore upon this point. What is it now that makes him break through all the rules of common decency and common propriety, and show all the burnings of guilt, upon being accused of the breach of one of the innumerable orders which he has broken; of which he has avowed the breaking, and attempted to justify himself a thousand times in the company's books, for having broken?

My lords, one of his own body, one of the council, has sworn at your bar, what he repeatedly declared to be his sense of it. We consider it as one of the strongest orders that can be given, because the reason of the order is added to it; the directors declaring that, if it should not be found. upon inquiry—you see, my lords, it puts the very case—if you do not find such and such things, we shall consider the English honor wounded and stained, and we direct you to make reparation. There are, in fact, two orders contained in this letter, which we take to be equally strong and positive; and we charge him with the breach of both-namely, the order for inquiry, and the conditional order of restoring to the begums their jaghires, or making satisfaction for them; and in case of any apprehension of reluctance in the nabob, to bring them for security into the company's territories. The two last positive orders are preceded by the supposition of an inquiry, which was to justify him either in the acts he had done, or to justify him in making restitution. He did neither the one nor the other. We aver that he disobeyed all these orders. And now let his impatience break out again.

Your lordships have seen, amongst the various pretences by which this man has endeavored to justify his various delinquences, that of fearing to offend the nabob, by the restoration of their jaghires to the begums, is one. Your lordships will form your own judgment of the truth or falsehood of this pretence, when you shall have heard the letter which I shall now read to you, written to Mr. Hastings by the nabob himself.

Letter from the Nabob Vizier to Mr. Hastings, 25th February, 1782.

"You performed on every occasion towards me whatever was becoming of friendship; I too have done whatever affection required and you commanded, and in future also, whatever may be your pleasure, there shall be no deviation therefrom, because whatever you direct is altogether for my benefit. The business for which I came to Fyzabad is become settled by your favor; particulars will become known to your wisdom from the writings of Mr. Middleton. I am grateful for your favors. If in these matters you sincerely approve me, communicate it, for it will be a comfort to me. Having appointed my own aumils to the jaghire of the lady mother, I have engaged to pay her cash. She has complied with my views. Her pleasure is, that after receiving an engagement, he should deliver up the jaghires. What is your pleasure in this matter? If you command, it will comfort the lady mother giving her back the jaghire after I have obtained my views; or I will have it under my aumil. I am obedient to your pleasure."

Your lordships here see the begum a suppliant to have her jaghire restored, (after entering into some engagement that might have been required of her,) and the nabob, in a tone equally suppliant, expressing his consent, at least, that her request should be complied with, if the command of Mr. Hastings could be procured. My lords, in order to save your

lordships' time, and that I might not overload this business, I did not intend to have troubled you with any observations upon this part of it; but the charge of falsehood which the prisoner at your bar has had the audacity to bring against us, has induced me to lay it more particularly before you. We have now done with it; but before we retire, your lordships will permit me to recapitulate briefly the substance of what has now been urged respecting his conduct towards these miserable women. We accuse him of reiterated breaches of the orders of the court of directors, both in the letter and spirit of them, and of his contempt of the opinions which his colleagues in office had formed of them. We charge him with the aggravation of these delinquencies, by the oppression and ruin which they brought upon the family of the nabob, by the infraction of treaties, and by the disrepute which in his person was sustained by the government he represented, and by the stain left upon the justice, honor, and good faith of the English nation. We charge him with their farther aggravation, by sundry false pretences alleged by him in justification of this conduct, the pretended reluctance of the nabob, the fear of offending him, the suggestion of the begums having forgotten and forgiven the wrongs they had suffered, and of the danger of reviving their discontent by any attempt to redress them, and by his insolent language, that the majesty of justice with which he impudently invests himself, was only to be approached with solicitation. We have farther stated, that the pretence that he was only concerned in this business as an accessory, is equally false; it being on the contrary notorious, that the nabob was the accessory, forced into the service, and a mere instrument in his hands; and that he and Sir Elijah Impey, (whose employment in this business we stated as a farther aggravation,) were the authors and principal agents. And we farther contend, that each of these aggravations and pretences is itself, in fact, and in its principle, a substantive crime.

Your lordships witnessed the insolence with which this

« PreviousContinue »