Page images

man, stung to the quick by the recital of his crime, interrupted me; and you heard his recrimination of falsehood against us. We again avouch the truth of all and every word we have uttered, and the validity of every proof with which we have supported them. Let his impatience, I say, now again burst forth; he who feels so sensibly every thing that touches him, and yet seeks for an act of indemnity for his own atrocities, by endeavoring to make you believe, that the wrongs of a desolated family are, within one year, forgotten by them, and buried in oblivion.

I trust, my lords, that both his prosecutors and his judges will evince that patience, which the criminal wants. Justice is not to wait to have its majesty approached with solicitation; we see that throne, in which resides invisibly, but virtually, the majesty of England; we see your lordships representing, in succession, the juridical authority in the highest court in this kingdom; but we do not approach you with solicitation; we make it a petition of right; we claim it; we demand it. The right of seeking redress is not suppliant, even before the majesty of England; it comes boldly forward, and never thinks it offends its sovereign, by claiming what is the right of all his people.

We have now done with this business; a business as atrocious as any that is known in the history of mankind; a business that has stained, throughout all Asia, the British character, and by which our fame for honor, integrity, and public faith, has been forfeited; a business which has introduced us throughout that country, as breakers of faith, destroyers of treaties, plunderers of the weak and unprotected; and has dishonored, and will for ever dishonor, the British name. Your lordships have had all this in evidence. You have seen in what manner the nabob, his country, his revenues, his subjects, his mother, his family, his nobility, and all their fortunes, real and personal, have been disposed of by the prisoner at your bar; and having seen this, you will, by the impatience of this criminal, estimate the patience of the

unfortunate women into whose injuries he refused to inquire. What he would not do, the Commons have done. They know that you have a feeling different from that which he manifested on this occasion; they do not approach you suppliantly, but demand justice; they insist that as the Commons have done their part, your lordships will perform yours.

We shall next proceed to show your lordships how he acted towards another set of women, the women of the late Sujah Dowlah, and for whom the directors had ordered a maintenance to be secured by an express treaty. You will see that he is cruel towards the weak sex, and to all others, in proportion as they are weak and powerless to resist him.

You will see, I say, when he had usurped the whole government of Oude, and brought it into a servile dependence on himself, how these women fared, and then your lordships will judge whether or not, and in what degree, he is criminal.







When I had last the honor of addressing your lordships from this place, my obrervations were principally directed to the unjust confiscation and seizure of the jaghires and treasures of the begums, without previous accusation, or trial, or subsequent inquiry into their conduct; in violation of a treaty made with them and guarantied by the East India Company;-to the long imprisonment and cruel treatment of their ministers, and to the false pretences and abominable principles by which the prisoner at your bar has attempted to justify his conduct.

The several acts of violence and of oppression were, as we have shown your lordships, committed with circumstances of aggravated atrocity highly disgraceful to the British name and character; and particularly by his forcing the nabob to become the means and instrument of reducing his mother and grandmother and their families to absolute want and distress.

I have now to call your attention to his treatment of another branch of this miserable family; the women and children of the late nabob Sujah ul Dowlah. These persons were dependent upon the begums; and, by the confiscation of their property, and by the ruin of various persons who

would otherwise have contributed to their maintenance, were reduced to the last extremity of indigence and want. Being left without the common necessaries of life, they were driven. to the necessity of breaking through all those local principles of decorum, which constitute the character of the female sex in that part of the world; and, after fruitless supplications and shrieks of famine, they endeavored to break the inclosure of the palace, and to force their way to the marketplace in order to beg for bread. When they had thus been forced to submit to the extremity of disgrace and degradation, by exposing themselves to public view with the starving children of their late sovereign, the brothers and sisters of the reigning prince, they were, in this attempt, attacked by the sepoys armed with bludgeons, and driven back by blows into the palace.

My lords, we have first laid before you the sufferings and disgraces of women of the first distinction in Asia; protected by their rank-protected by their sex-protected by their near relation to the prince of the country-protected by two guaranties of the representative of the British government in India. We now come to another class of women, who suffered by the violent misappropriation of the revenues of the nabob, by which their regular allowance was taken from them; and your lordships will find, that this man's crimes, at every step we take, ripen into guilt; his acts of positive. injustice are always aggravated by his conduct with regard to the consequences of them, and form but a small part in the mass of oppression and tyranny, which we have brought before you.

My lords, the unjust seizure of the jaghires and treasures of the begums, out of which those women were maintained, reduced them to a state of indigence, and exposed them not only to the sufferings which belong to the physical nature of man, but also to the indignities which particularly affected their sex and condition. But before I proceed, I will beg leave to restate to your lordships, and recall to your memory

who these women were. The nabob Sujah Dowlah had but one legitimate wife; though the Mahomedan law admits of this number's being extended in certain cases even to fouryet it is for the most part held disreputable, especially when a person is married to a woman of the first distinction, to have more than one legitimate wife. Upon looking into the Hedaia your lordships will see with what extreme rigor fornication is forbidden; but we know that persons of high rank, by customs that supersede both religion and laws, add to the number of their wives, or substitute in their room wives of a subordinate description, and indulge themselves in this license to an unlimited degree; you will find in Chardin's Travels, where he treats of the subject of marriage, that such is the custom of all the princes of the East. The wives of this subordinate class, though they are in reality no better than concubines, and are subject to the power and caprices of their lords, are yet allowed, in the eye of the severest moralists, to have some excuse for their frailty and their weakness; and they accordingly always do find a degree of favor in this world, and become the object of particular protection.

We know that Sujah ul Dowlah was a man unquestionably in his manners very licentious with regard to women, that he had a great number of these women in his family; and that his women and the women attendant upon the persons of his favorites had increased to a very great number. We know, that his sons amounted to twenty; or according to Mr. Hastings's own account to nineteen. Montesquieu supposes that there are more females born in the East than in the West. But he says this upon no good ground. We know by better and more regular information concerning this matter, that the birth of males and females in that country, is in the same proportion as it is here; and therefore if you suppose that he had twenty sons, you may suppose he had about nineteen daughters. By the customs of that country all these sons and daughters were considered as persons of eminent distinction, though inferior to the legitimate children; assuming

« PreviousContinue »