Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Hastings with one single proof that any conspiracy with any foreign power existed.

In this absence of evidence, my lords, let us have recourse to probability. Is it to be believed that the zemindar of Benares, a person whom Mr. Hastings describes as being of a timid, weak, irresolute, and feeble nature, should venture to make war alone with the whole power of the company in India; aided by all the powers which Great Britain could bring to the protection of its Indian empire? Could that poor man, in his comparatively small district, possibly have formed such an intention, without giving Mr. Hastings access to the knowledge of the fact, from one or other of the numerous correspondents which he had in that country?

As to the rajah's supposed intrigues with the nabob of Oude, this man was an actual prisoner of Mr. Hastings, and nothing else; a mere vassal, as he says himself, in effect and substance, though not in name. Can any one believe or think, that Mr. Hastings would not have received from the English resident, or from some one of that tribe of English gentlemen and English military collectors, who were placed in that country in the exercise of the most arbitrary powers, some intelligence, which he could trust, if any rebellious designs had really existed previous to the rebellion, which did actually break out upon his arresting Cheit Sing?

There was an ancient Roman lawyer, of great fame in the history of Roman jurisprudence, whom they called Cui Bono, from his having first introduced into juridical proceedings the argument what end or object could the party have had in Surely it may be here

the act with which he is accused? asked, why should Cheit Sing wish to rebel, who held on easy and moderate terms (for such I admit they were) a very considerable territory with every attribute of royalty attached? The tribute was paid for protection, which he had a right to claim, and which he actually received. What reason under Heaven could he have to go and seek another master; to place himself under the protection of Sujah Dowlah, in whose

hands Mr. Hastings tells you, in so many direct and plain words, that neither the rajah's property, his honor, nor his life could be safe? Was he to seek refuge with the Mahrattas, who, though Gentoos like himself, had reduced every nation which they subdued, except those who were originally of their own empire, to a severe servitude? Can any one believe, that he wished either for the one or the other of these changes; or, that he was desirous to quit the happy independent situation in which he stood under the protection of the British empire, from any loose, wild, improbable notion of mending his condition? My lords, it is impossible. There is not one particle of evidence, not one word of this charge on record, prior to the publication of Mr. Hastings's narrative; and all the presumptive evidence in the world would scarcely be sufficient to prove the fact, because it is almost impossible that it should be true.

But, my lords, although Mr. Hastings swore to the truth of this charge, when he came before the House of Commons, yet in his narrative he thus fairly and candidly avowed, that he entertained no such opinion at the time. "Every step," says he, "which I had taken before that fatal moment, namely the flight of Cheit Sing, is an incontrovertible proof that I had formed no design of seizing upon the rajah's treasures or of deposing him. And certainly at the time when I did form the design of making the punishment, that his former ill conduct deserved, subservient to the exigencies of the state, by a large fine, I did not believe him guilty of that premeditated project for driving the English out of India, with which I afterwards charged him.” Thus then he declares upon oath, that the rajah's contumacy was the ground of his suspecting him of rebellion, and yet when he comes to make his defence before the House of Commons, he simply and candidly declares, that long after these alleged acts of contumacy had taken place, he did not believe him to be guilty of any such thing as rebellion, and that the fine imposed upon him was for another reason and another purpose.

In page 28 of your printed minutes, he thus declares the purpose for which the fine was imposed. "I can answer only to this formidable dilemma, that so long as I conceived Cheit Sing's misconduct and contumacy to have me rather than the company for its object, at least to be merely the effect of pernicious advice or misguided folly, without any formal design of openly resisting our authority or disclaiming our sovereignty; I looked upon a considerable fine as sufficient both for his immediate punishment and for binding him to future good behavior."

Here, my lords, the secret comes out. He declares it was not for a rebellion or a suspicion of rebellion that he resolved, over and above all his exorbitant demands, to take from the rajah £500,000, (a good stout sum to be taken from a tributary power,) that it was not for misconduct of this kind that he took this sum, but for personal ill behavior towards himself. I must again beg your lordships to note that he then considered the rajah's contumacy as having for its object not the company, but Warren Hastings, and that he afterwards declared publicly to the House of Commons; and now before your lordships, he declares finally and conclusively, that he did believe Cheit Sing to have had the criminal intention imputed to him.

"So long," says he, "as I conceived Cheit Sing's misconduct and contumacy to have me" (in italics as he ordered it to be printed) rather than the company, for its object, so long I was satisfied with a fine. I therefore entertained no serious thoughts of expelling him or proceeding otherwise to violence; but when he and his people broke out into the most atrocious acts of rebellion and murder, when the jus fortioris et lex ultima regum were appealed to on his part, (and without any sufficient plea afforded him on mine,) I from that moment considered him as the traitor and criminal described in the charge, and no concessions, no humiliations, could ever after induce me to settle on him the zemindary of Benares, or any other territory, upon any footing whatever."

Thus, then, my lords, he has confessed, that the era and the only era of rebellion was when the tumult broke out upon the act of violence offered by himself to Cheit Sing; and upon the ground of that tumult, or rebellion as he calls it, he says, he never would suffer him to enjoy any territory or any right whatever. We have fixed the period of the rebellion for which he is supposed to have exacted this fine; this period of rebellion was after the exaction of the fine itself, so that the fine was not laid for the rebellion, but the rebellion broke out in consequence of the fine and the violent measure accompanying it. We have established this, and the whole human race cannot shake it. He went up the country through malice to revenge his own private wrongs, not those of the company. He fixed £500,000 as a mulct for an insult offered to himself, and then a rebellion broke out in consequence of his violence. This was the rebellion and the only rebellion; it was Warren Hastings's rebellion, a rebellion which arose from his own dreadful exaction; from his pride, from his malice and insatiable avarice; a rebellion which arose from his abominable tyranny, from his lust of arbitrary power, and from his determination to follow the examples of Sujah Dowlah, Azoph ul Dowlah, Cossim Ali Khân, Aliverdi Khân, and all the gang of rebels who are the objects of his imitation.

My patience, says he, was exhausted. Your lordships have, and ought to have, a judicial patience. Mr. Hastings has none of any kind. I hold that patience is one of the great virtues of a governor; it was said of Moses, that he governed by patience, and that he was the meekest man upon earth. Patience is also the distinguishing character of a judge; and I think your lordships, both with regard to us and with regard to him, have shown a great deal of it; we shall ever honor the quality, and if we pretend to say, that we have had great patience in going through this trial, so your lordships must have had great patience in hearing it. But this man's patience, as he himself tells you, was soon exhausted.

"I considered," he says, "the light in which such behavior would have been viewed by his native sovereign, and I resolved he should feel the power he had so long insulted. Forty or fifty lacks of rupees would have been a moderate fine for Sujah ul Dowlah to exact: he who had demanded twenty-five lacks for the mere fine of succession, and received twenty in hand, and an increased rent tantamount to considerably above thirty lacks more; and therefore I rejected the offer of twenty, with which the rajah would have compromised for his guilt when it was too late."

Now, my lords, observe who his models were, when he intended to punish this man for an insult on himself. Did he consult the laws? Did he look to the Institutes of Timour, or to those of Ghinges Khân? Did he look to the Hedaia, or to any of the approved authorities in this country? No, my lords; he exactly followed the advice which Longinus gives to a great writer:- Whenever you have a mind to elevate your mind; to raise it to its highest pitch, and even to exceed yourself, upon any subject, think how Homer would have described it, how Plato would have imagined it, and how Demosthenes would have expressed it; and when you have so done, you will then, no doubt, have a standard which will raise you up to the dignity of any thing that human genius can aspire to. Mr. Hastings was calling upon himself, and raising his mind to the dignity of what tyranny could do; what unrighteous exaction could perform. He considered, he says, how much Sujah Dowlah would have exacted, and that he thinks would not be too much for him to exact. He boldly avows, I raised my mind to the elevation of Sujah Dowlah. I considered what Cossim Ali Khân would have done, or Aliverdi Khân, who murdered and robbed so many. I had all this line of great examples before me, and I asked myself what fine they would have exacted upon such an occasion. But, says he, Sujah Dowlah levied a fine of twenty lacks for a right of succession.

« PreviousContinue »