Page images

We never said he was a tiger and a lion; no, we have said he was a weasel and a rat.

We have said, that he has desolated countries by the same means, that plagues of his description have produced similar desolations. We have said, that he, a fraudulent bullock contractor, exalted to great and unmerited powers, can do more mischief than even all the tigers and lions in the world. We know, that a swarm of locusts, although individually despicable, can render a country more desolate than Ghinges Khân or Tamerlane. When God Almighty chose to humble the pride and presumption of Pharaoh, and to bring him to shame, he did not effect his purpose with tigers and lions; but he sent lice, mice, frogs, and every thing loathsome and contemptible to pollute and destroy the country. Think of this, my lords; and of your listening here to these people's long account of Tamerlane's camp of two hundred thousand persons, and of his building a pyramid at Bagdad with the heads of ninety thousand of his prisoners!

We have not accused Mr. Hastings of being a great general, and abusing his military powers; we know that he was nothing at the best, but a creature of the bureau, raised by peculiar circumstances, to the possession of a power, by which incredible mischief might be done. We have not accused him of the vices of conquerors: when we see him signalized by any conquests we may then make such an accusation; at present we say, that he has been trusted with power much beyond his deserts, and that trust he has grossly abused. But to proceed

His counsel, according to their usual audacious manner, (I suppose they imagine, that they are counsel for Tamerlane, or for Ghinges Khân,) have thought proper to accuse the managers for the Commons of wandering in all the fabulous regions of Indian mythology. My lords, the managers are sensible of the dignity of their place; they have never offered any thing to you, without reason. We are not persons of an age-of a disposition-of a character, representative or nat

ural, to wanton as these counsel call it; that is, to invent fables concerning Indian antiquity. That they are not ashamed of making this charge, I do not wonder. are not to be thus diverted from our course.

But we

I have already stated to your lordships, a material circumstance of this case, which I hope will never be lost sight of; namely, the different situation in which India stood under the government of its native princes and its own original laws, and even under the dominion of Mahomedan conquerors, from that in which it has stood under the government of a series of tyrants, foreign and domestic, particularly of Mr. Hastings, by whom it has latterly been oppressed and desolated. One of the books, which I have quoted, was written by Mr. Halhed; and I shall not be accused of wantoning in fabulous antiquity, when I refer to another living author, who wrote from what he saw, and what he well knew. This author says, "In truth it would be almost cruelty to molest these happy people," (speaking of the inhabitants of one of the provinces near Calcutta,)" for in this district are the only vestiges of the beauty, purity, piety, regularity, equity, and strictness of the ancient Hindoostan government: here the property as well as the liberty of the people is inviolate." My lords, I do not refer you to this writer because I think it necessary to our justification;-nor from any fear that your lordships will not do us the justice to believe, that we have good authority for the facts which we state, and do not (as persons with their licentious tongues dare to say) wanton in fabulous antiquity. I quote the works of this author, because his observations and opinions could not be unknown to Mr. Hastings, whose associate he was in some acts, and whose adviser he appears to have been in that dreadful transaction, the deposition of Cossim Ali Khân. This writer was connected with the prisoner at your bar in bribery, and has charged him with detaining his bribe. To this Mr. Hastings has answered, that he had paid him long ago. How they have settled that corrupt transaction I know not. I merely

state all this, to prove that we have not dealt in fabulous history, and that if any body has dealt in falsehood, it is Mr. Hastings's companion and associate in guilt, who must have known the country, and who, however faulty he was in other respects, had in this case no interest whatever in misrepresentation.

[ocr errors]

I might refer your lordships, if it were necessary, to Scrafton's account of that ancient government, in order to prove to you the happy comparative state of that country, even under its former usurpers. Our design, my lords, in making such references, is not merely to disprove the prisoner's defence, but to vindicate the rights and privileges of the people of India. We wish to reinstate them in your sympathy. We wish you to respect a people as respectable as yourselves;—a people, who know as well as you, what is rank, what is law, what is property;—a people who know how to feel disgrace, who know what equity, what reason, what proportion in punishments, what security of property is, just as well as any of your lordships; for these are things which are secured to them by laws, by religion, by declarations of all their sovereigns. And what, my lords, is opposed to all this?—The practice of tyrants and usurpers, which Mr. Hastings takes for his rule and guidHe endeavors to find deviations from legal government, and then instructs his counsel to say, that I have asserted there is no such thing as arbitrary power in the East. Good God! if there was no such thing in any other part of the world, Mr. Hastings's conduct might have convinced me of the existence of arbitrary power, and have taught me much of its mischief.


But, my lords, we all know that there has been arbitrary power in India; that tyrants have usurped it; and that, in some instances, princes otherwise meritorious have violated the liberties of the people, and have been lawfully deposed for such violation. I do not deny that there are robberies on Hounslow Heath; that there are such things as forgeries,

burglaries, and murders; but I say, that these acts are against law, and that whoever commit them commit illegal acts. When a man is to defend himself against a charge of crime, it is not instances of similar violation of law, that is to be the standard of his defence. A man may as well say, I robbed at Hounslow Heath, but hundreds robbed there before me to which I answer, the law has forbibden you to rob there; and I will hang you for having violated the law, notwithstanding the long list of similar violations which you have produced as precedents. No doubt, princes have violated the law of this country; they have suffered for it. Nobles have violated the law; their privileges have not protected them from punishment. Common people have violated the law; they have been hanged for it. I know no human being exempt from the law. The law is the security of the people of England, it is the security of the people of India, it is the security of every person that is governed, and of every person that governs. There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity:-the law of nature and of nations. So far as any laws fortify this primeval law, and give it more precision, more energy, more effect by their declarations, such laws enter into the sanctuary, and participate in the sacredness of its character. But the man who quotes as precedents the abuses of tyrants and robbers, pollutes the very fountain of Justice, destroys the foundations of all law, and thereby removes the only safeguard against evil men, whether governors or governed :—the guard which prevents governors from becoming tyrants, and the governed from becoming rebels.

I hope your lordships will not think that I have unnecessarily occupied your time, in disproving the plea of arbitrary power, which has been brought forward at our bar : has been repeated at your lordship's bar, and has been put upon the records of both Houses. I hope your lordships will not think that such monstrous doctrine should be passed over,

[blocks in formation]

without all possible pains being taken to demonstrate its falsehood and to reprobate its tendency. I have not spared myself in exposing the principles avowed by the prisoner. At another time I will endeavor to show you the manner in which he acted upon these principles. I cannot command strength to proceed further at present; and you, my lords, cannot give me greater bodily strength than I have.


« PreviousContinue »