Page images

My lords, in the first place I have to remark to you, that the whole of the charge originally brought by Mr. Hastings against Cheit Sing, in justification of his wicked and tyrannical proceedings, is, that he had been dilatory, evasive, shuffling, and unwilling to pay that which, however unwilling, evasive, and shuffling, he did pay. And that, with regard to the business of furnishing cavalry, the rajah has asserted, and his assertion has not been denied, that when he was desired by the council to furnish these troopers, the purpose for which this application was made, was not mentioned or alluded to, nor was there any place of muster pointed out. We therefore contended, that the demand was not made for the service of the state; but for the oppression of the individual that suffered by it.

But admitting the rajah to have been guilty of delay and unwillingness, what is the nature of the offence? If you strip it of the epithets by which it has been disguised, it merely amounts to an unwillingness in the rajah, to pay more than the sums stipulated by the mutual agreement existing between him and the company. This is the whole of it; the whole front and head of the offence; and for this offence, such as it is, and admitting that he could be legally fined for it, he was subjected to the secret punishment of giving a bribe to Mr. Hastings, by which he was to buy off the fine, and which was consequently a commutation for it.

That your lordships may be enabled to judge more fully of the nature of this offence, let us see in what relation Cheit Sing stood with the company. He was, my lords, a person clothed with every one of the attributes of sovereignty, under a direct stipulation that the company should not interfere in his internal government. The military and civil authority, the power of life and death, the whole revenue, and the whole administration of the law, rested in him. Such was the sovereignty he possessed within Benares; but he was a subordinate sovereign, dependent upon a superior, according to the tenor of his compact, expressed or implied. Now

having contended, as we still contend, that the law of nations is the law of India as well as of Europe, because it is the law of reason and the law of nature, drawn from the pure sources of morality, of public good, and of natural equity, and recognised and digested into order by the labor of learned men, I will refer your lordships to Vattel, book 1, cap. 16, where he treats of the breach of such agreements, by the protector refusing to give protection, or the protected refusing to perform his part of the engagement. My design,

in referring you to this author, is to prove that Cheit Sing, so far from being blamable in raising objections to the unauthorized demand made upon him by Mr. Hastings, was absolutely bound to do so, nor could he have done otherwise, without hazarding the whole benefit of the agreement upon which his subjection and protection were founded. The law is the same with respect to both contracting parties; if the protected or protector does not fulfil with fidelity each his separate stipulation, the protected may resist the unauthorized demand of the protector, or the protector is discharged from his engagement; he may refuse protection, and declare the treaty broken.

We contend in favor of Cheit Sing, in support of the principles of natural equity, and of the law of nations, which is the birthright of us all; we contend, I say, that Cheit Sing would have established, in the opinions of the best writers on the law of nations, a precedent against himself for any future violation of the engagement, if he submitted to any new demand, without what our laws call a continual claim or perpetual remonstrance against the imposition. Instead, therefore, of doing that which was criminal, he did that which his safety and his duty bound him to do, and for doing this he was considered by Mr. Hastings as being guilty of a great crime. In a paper which was published by the prisoner, in justification of this act, he considers the rajah to have been guilty of rebellious intentions; and he represents these acts of contumacy, as he calls them, not as proofs of

contumacy merely, but as proofs of a settled design to rebel, and to throw off the authority of that nation by which he was protected. This belief he declares on oath to be the ground of his conduct towards Cheit Sing.

Now, my lords, we do contend, that if any subject under any name, or of any description, be not engaged in public open rebellion, but continues to acknowledge the authority of his sovereign, and if tributary to pay tribute conformably to agreement; such a subject, in case of being suspected of having formed traitorous designs, ought to be treated in a manner totally different from that which was adopted by Mr. Hastings. If the rajah of Benares had formed a secret conspiracy, Mr. Hastings had a state duty and a judicial duty to perform. He was bound, as governor, knowing of such a conspiracy, to provide for the public safety; and, as a judge, he was bound to convene a criminal court, and to lay before it a detailed accusation of the offence. He was bound to proceed publicly and legally against the accused, and to convict him of his crime, previous to his inflicting, or forming any intention of inflicting, punishment. I say, my lords, that Mr. Hastings, as a magistrate, was bound to proceed against the rajah, either by English law, by Mahomedan law, or by the Gentoo law; and that by all or any of these laws, he was bound to make the accused acquainted with the crime alleged, to hear his answer to the charge, and to produce evidence against him, in an open, clear, and judicial manner. And here, my lords, we have again to remark, that the Mahomedan law is a great discriminator of persons, and that it prescribes the mode of proceeding against those who are accused of any delinquency requiring punishment, with a reference to the distinction and rank which the accused held in society. The proceedings are exceedingly sober, regular, and respectful, even to criminals charged with the highest crimes; and every magistrate is required to exercise his office in the prescribed manner. In the Hedaia, after declaring and discussing the propriety of the cauzy's sitting openly in the

execution of his office, it is added, that there is no impropriety in the cauzy sitting in his own house to pass judgment; but it is requisite that he give orders for a free access to the people. It then proceeds thus: "It is requisite that such people sit along with the cauzy as were used to sit with him, prior to his appointment to the office; because, if he were to sit alone in his house, he would thereby give rise to suspicion.":

My lords, having thus seen what the duty of a judge is in such a case, let us examine whether Mr. Hastings observed any part of the prescribed rules. First, with regard to the publicity of the matter. Did he ever give any notice to the supreme council of the charges, which, he says, he had received against Cheit Sing? Did he accuse the rajah in the council, even when it was reduced to himself and his poor, worn down, cowed, and, I am afraid, bribed colleague, Mr. Wheler? Did he even then, I ask, produce any one charge against this man? He sat in council as a judge; as an English judge; as a Mahomedan judge; as a judge by the Gentoo law, and by the law of nature. He should have summoned the party to appear in person, or by his attorney, before him, and should have there informed him of the charge against him. But, my lords, he did not act thus. He kept the accusation secret in his own bosom. And why? Because he did not believe it to be true. This may at least be inferred from his having never informed the council of the matter. He never informed the rajah of Benares of the suspicions entertained against him, during the discussions which took place respecting the multiplied demands that were made upon him. He never told this victim, as he has had the audacity to tell us and all this kingdom, in the paper that is before your lordships, that he looked upon these refusals to comply with his demands to be overt acts of rebellion; nor did he ever call upon him to answer or to justify

* Hedaia, 2 vol. p. 621.

himself with regard to that imputed conspiracy or rebellion. Did he tell Sadanund, the rajah's agent, when that agent was giving him a bribe or a present in secret, and was thus endeavoring to deprecate his wrath, that he accepted that bribe because his master was in rebellion? Never, my lords; nor did he, when he first reached Benares, and had the rajah in his power, suggest one word concerning this rebellion. Did he, when he met Mr. Markham at Bauglepore, where they consulted about the destruction of this unhappy man, did he tell Mr. Markham, or did Mr. Markham insinuate to him any one thing about this conspiracy and rebellion? No; not a word there, or in his whole progress up the country. While at Bauglepore he wrote a letter to Lord Macartney upon the state of the empire, giving him much and various advice. Did he insinuate in that letter, that he was going up to Benares to suppress a rebellion of the rajah Cheit Sing or to punish him? No; not a word. Did he, my lords, at the eve of his departure from Calcutta, when he communicated his intention of taking £500,000, which he calls a fine or penalty, from the rajah, did he inform Mr. Wheler of it? No, not a word of his rebellion nor any thing like it. Did he inform his secret confidants, Mr. Anderson and Major Palmer, upon that subject? Not a word, there was not a word dropped from him of any such rebellion, or of any intention in the rajah Cheit Sing to rebel. Did he, when he had vakeels in every part of the Mahratta empire and in the country of Sujah Dowlah; when he had in most of those courts English ambassadors and native spies; did he either from ambassadors or spies receive any thing like authentic intelligence upon this subject? While he was at Benares he had in his hands Beneram Pundit, the vakeel of the rajah of Berar, his own confidential friend, a person whom he took out of the service of his master, and to whom he gave a jaghire in this very zemindary of Benares. This man, so attached to Mr. Hastings, so knowing in all the transactions of India, neither accused Cheit Sing of rebellious intentions, nor furnished

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »