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company's positive orders upon other similar occasions, and after he had himself declared that prize money was poison to soldiers; but directly inciting them to insist upon their right to it.
A month had been allowed by proclamation, for the submission of all persons who had been in rebellion, which submission was to entitle them to indemnity. But, my lords, he endeavored to break the public faith with these women, by inciting the soldiers to make no capitulation with them, and thus depriving them of the benefit of the proclamation, by preventing their voluntary surrender.
[Mr. Burke here read the proclamation.]
From the date of this proclamation, it appears that the surrender of the fort was clearly within the time given to those who had been guilty of the most atrocious acts of rebellion, to repair to their homes and enjoy an indemnity. These women had never quitted their homes, nor had they been charged with rebellion, and yet they were cruelly excluded from the general indemnity; and after the army had taken unconditional possession of the fort, they were turned out of it, and ordered to the quarters of the commanding officer, Major Popham. This officer had received from Mr. Hastings a power to rob them, a power to plunder them, a power to distribute the plunder, but no power to give them any allowance, nor any authority even to receive them.
In this disgraceful affair the soldiers showed a generosity, which Mr. Hastings neither showed nor would have suffered, if he could have prevented it. They agreed amongst themselves to give to these women three lacks of rupees, and some trifle more; and the rest was divided as a prey among the army. The sum found in the fort was about £238,000, not the smallest part of which was in any way proved to be Cheit Sing's property, or the property of any person but the unfortunate women who were found in the possession of it. The plunder of the fort being thus given to the soldiers, what does Mr. Hastings next do? He is astonished and stu
pefied to find so much unprofitable violence; so much tyranny, and so little pecuniary advantage; so much bloodshed, without any profit to the company. He therefore breaks his faith with the soldiers; declares that, having no right to the money, they must refund it to the company; and, on their refusal, he instituted a suit against them. With respect to the three lacks of rupees, or £30,000, which was to be given to these women, have we a scrap of paper to prove its payment? Is there a single receipt or voucher to verify their having received one sixpence of it? I am rather inclined to think that they did receive it, or some part of it, but I don't know a greater crime in public officers than to have no kind of vouchers for the disposal of any large sums of money which pass through their hands; but this, my lords, is the great vice of Mr. Hastings's government.
I have briefly taken notice of the claim which Mr. Hastings thought proper to make, on the part of the company, to the treasure found in the fort of Bidjigur, after he had instigated the army to claim it as the right of the captors. Your lordships will not be at a loss to account for this strange and barefaced inconsistency. This excellent governor foresaw that he would have a bad account of this business to give to the contractors in Leadenhall street; who consider laws, religion, morality, and the principles of state policy of empires, as mere questions of profit and loss. Finding that he had dismal accounts to give of great sums expended without any returns, he had recourse to the only expedient that was left him. He had broken his faith with the ladies in the fort, by not suffering his officers to grant them that indemnity which his proclamation offered. Then, finding that the soldiers had taken him at his word, and appropriated the treasure to their own use, he next broke his faith with them. A constant breach of faith is a maxim with him. He claims the treasure for the company; and institutes a suit before Sir Elijah Impey, who gives the money to the company, and not to the soldiers. The soldiers appeal; and since the begin
ning of this trial, I believe even very lately, it has been decided by the council, that the letter of Mr. Hastings was not, as Sir Elijah Impey pretended, a mere private letter, because it had "Dear Sir," in it; but a public order, authorizing the soldiers to divide the money among themselves.
Thus £200,000 was distributed among the soldiers ; £400,000 was taken away by Cheit Sing, to be pillaged by all the company's enemies, through whose countries he passed; and so ended one of the great sources from which this great financier intended to supply the exigencies of the company, and recruit their exhausted finances.
By this proceeding, my lords, the national honor is disgraced; all the rules of justice are violated, and every sanction, human and divine, trampled upon. We have, on one side, a country ruined, a noble family destroyed, a rebellion raised by outrage and quelled by bloodshed, the national faith pledged to indemnity, and that indemnity faithlessly withheld from helpless, defenceless women; while the other side of the picture is equally unfavorable. The East India Company have had their treasure wasted, their credit weakened, their honor polluted, and their troops employed against their own subjects, when their services were required against foreign enemies.
My lords, it only remains for me, at this time, to make a few observations upon some proceedings of the prisoner, respecting the revenue of Benares. I must first state to your lordships, that, in the year 1780, he made a demand upon that country, which, by his own account, if it had been complied with, would only have left £23,000 a year, for the maintenance of the rajah and his family. I wish to have this account read, for the purpose of verifying the observations which I shall have to make to your lordships.
[Here the account was read.]
I must now observe to your lordships, that Mr. Markham and Mr. Hastings have stated the rajah's net revenue at forty-six lacks: but the accounts before you state it at forty
lacks only. Mr. Hastings had himself declared, that he did not think the country could safely yield more; and that any attempt to extract more would be ruinous.
Your lordships will observe, that the first of these estimates is unaccompanied with any document whatever, and that it is contradicted by the papers of receipt and the articles of account, from all of which it appears, that the country never yielded more than forty lacks, during the time that Mr. Hastings had it in his possession; and you may be sure he squeezed as much out of it as he could. He had his own residents; first Mr. Markham, then Mr. Fowke, then Mr. Grant; they all went up with a design to make the most of it. They endeavored to do so; but they never could screw it up to more than forty lacks, by all the violent means which they employed. The ordinary subsidy, as paid at Calcutta by the rajah, amounted to twenty-two lacks; and it is therefore clearly proved by this paper, that Mr. Hastings's demand of fifty lacks (£500,000) joined to the subsidies, was more than the whole revenue which the country could yield. What hoarded treasures the rajah possessed, and which Mr. Hastings says he carried off with him, does not appear. That it was any considerable sum, is more than Mr. Hastings knows; more than can be proved; more than is probable. He had not, in his precipitate flight, any means, I think, of carrying away a great sum. It further appears from these accounts, that after the payment of the subsidy, there would only have been left £18,000 a year for the support of the rajah's family and establishments.
Your lordships have now a standard, not a visionary one, but a standard verified by accurate calculation, and authentic accounts. You may now fairly estimate the avarice and rapacity of this man, who describes countries to be enormously rich, in order that he may be justified in pillaging them. But however insatiable the prisoner's avarice may be, he has other objects in view, other passions rankling in his heart, besides the lust of money. He was not ignorant, and
we have proved it by his own confession, that his pretended expectation of benefit to the company could not be realized; but he well knew, that by enforcing his demands he should utterly and effectually ruin a man, whom he mortally hated and abhorred; a man, who could not, by any sacrifices offered to the avarice, avert the cruelty, of his implacable enemy.
As long as truth remains, as long as figures stand, as long as two and two are four, as long as there is mathematical and arithmetical demonstration, so long shall his cruelty, rage, ravage, and oppression remain evident to an astonished posterity. I shall undertake, my lords, when this court meets again, to develop the consequences of this wicked proceeding. I shall then show you, that that part of the rajah's family which he left behind him, and which Mr. Hastings pretended to take under his protection, was also ruined, undone, and destroyed; and that the once beautiful country of Benares, which he has had the impudence to represent as being still in a prosperous condition, was left by him in such a state, as would move pity in any tyrant in the world, except the one who now stands before