I now go to another part of this evidence. There is a person they call Hoolas Roy,—a man in the employment of the Resident, Mr. Middleton. The gentlemen who are counsel for the prisoner have exclaimed, "Oh! he was nothing but a news-writer. What! do you take any notice of him?" Your Lordships would imagine that the man whom they treat in this manner, and whose negative evidence they think fit to despise, was no better than the writers of those scandalous paragraphs which are published in our daily papers, to misrepresent the proceedings of this court to the public. But who in fact is this Hoolas Roy, whom they represent, for the convenience of the day, to be nothing but a news-writer? I will read to your Lordships a letter from Major Naylor to Colonel Jaques, commanding the second battalion, twentieth regiment.
"Sir,—Hoolas Roy, the person appointed by the Nabob for transacting the business for which the troops are required here, will hold constant communication and intercourse with you; and as he is instructed and acquainted with the best method to accomplish this business, Mr. Middleton requests implicit attention to be paid to what he may from time to time represent respecting the prisoners or the business on which he is employed; in short, as he is the person nominated by the Nabob, he wishes Hoolas Roy to be considered in the same light as if he himself was present."
Mr. Middleton, in a letter to Lieutenant Francis Rutledge, writes thus of him:—
"Sir,—When, this note is delivered to you by Hoolas Roy, I have to desire that you order the two prisoners to be put in irons, keeping them from all food, &c., agreeable to my instructions of yesterday."
You will first see in how confidential a manner Hoolas Roy was employed, and in what light he was held: that he was employed to carry some instructions which do not indeed appear, but were accompanied by an order from Mr. Middleton. "When these instructions shall come to you, to put these prisoners in irons and keep them without food, &c." The Begums say, without food and water. Et cetera are words of large import; but he was "to keep them without food, &c., agreeable to my instructions of yesterday." This was a pretty general warrant for sufferings. This Hoolas Roy, this mere news-writer, was not only intrusted with this warrant, but Mr. Middleton declares him to be a person who was to be received there, and to represent the Nabob, and very justly too; for he, Mr. Middleton, was undoubtedly the real nabob of the country. The man, therefore, whom they talk of in this contemptuous manner in order to make slight of an observation we made, and which I shall make again, and whom they affect to consider as a mere paragraph-monger in some scandalous newspaper, was a man vested by Mr. Middleton with authority equal to that of the Nabob himself.
Mr. Hastings not only thought him of consequence enough to be a witness to the severities used on the ministers of the Begums, but he considered that he would afterwards be a fit witness to the rebellion. I pray your Lordships to mark this: he sent for this Hoolas Roy, (who is now nothing but a mere paragraph-monger,)—he sent for him from Fyzabad to Benares,—a pretty long journey; and at last caused him to be examined before Sir Elijah Impey. He has, however, sunk his evidence: a suppression which is strongly in favor of the Begums, and equally strong against their accuser. Here we have a man who was intrusted with all their orders,—who represented the English government,—who represented the Nabob's government: this man is sent for by Mr. Hastings; he gives his deposition before Sir Elijah Impey; and the deposition so given is not to be found either upon the Company's record, in Sir Elijah Impey's trunk, in Jonathan Scott's trunk, nor in any other place whatever. The evidence of a witness who could speak most clearly, as probably he did, and most decisively, upon this subject, is sunk. They suppress, and dare not produce, the affidavit of the man who was at the bottom of every secret of both governments. They had the folly to let you know, obliquely, that he had been sent for by Mr. Hastings, but they conceal the information obtained from him: a silence more damning than any positive evidence could be. You have here a proof of their practice of producing such evidence only as they thought most favorable to their wicked purposes, in the destruction of this great and ancient family.
But all the English, they say, believed in the existence of this rebellion. This we deny. Mr. Purling, who was Resident the year before its pretended explosion, has told you that he never knew of anything like a plot carrying on by these women. We were almost ashamed to put the question to him. Did Mr. Bristow, the next Resident, know or believe in this plot? He seems, indeed, to have been induced to give some oblique hints to Mr. Hastings of improper conduct on the part of the Begums, but without stating what it was. In a letter to Mr. Hastings, he appears to endeavor to soften the cruel temper of this inflexible man by going a little way with him, by admitting that he thought they had behaved improperly. When Mr. Wombwell, another Resident, is asked whether any Englishman doubted of it, he says Mr. Bristow doubted of it. No one, indeed, who reads these papers, can avoid seeing that Mr. Bristow did not believe one word of it,—no more, in fact, than did Mr. Hastings, or anybody else.
But, my Lords, let us go from these inferior agents and servants of the Company to their higher officers. Did Mr. Stables believe it? This gentleman was Mr. Hastings's colleague in the Council,—a man of as much honor, I really believe, as ever went to India,—a faithful old servant of the Company, and very worthy of credit. I believe there is not a spot upon him during all his long service under the Company: if any, it is his being a little too obsequious, sometimes, to Mr. Hastings. Did he believe it? No, he did not: and yet he was one of the persons authorized to investigate it coolly, and most able to do so.
Upon the whole, then, the persons who best knew the state of the country did not believe it; the Nabob did not believe it; the Begums were never charged with it; no ground of suspicion is suggested, except loose rumors and the story of two nudjeeves. Under these circumstances the treasures of these ancient ladies were seized, their property confiscated, and the Nabob dragged most reluctantly to this act. Yes, my Lords, this poor, miserable victim was forced to violate all the laws of Nature, all decency, all property, to rob his own mother, for the benefit of Mr. Hastings. All this he was forced to do: he was made the reluctant instrument of punishing his mother and grandmother for a plot of which even their accusers do not pretend to say that the parties accused had ever received any intimation.
My Lords, in forming your judgment upon this nefarious proceeding, your Lordships will not fail to advert to the fundamental principles, the acknowledged maxims and established rules, of all judgment and justice,—that conviction ought to precede execution, that trial ought to precede conviction, and that a prosecutor's information and evidence ought to be the preliminary step and substance of the trial. Here everything was reversed: Sir Elijah Impey goes up with the order for execution; the party accused is neither arraigned nor tried; this same Sir Elijah then proceeds to seek for witnesses and to take affidavits; and in the mean time neither the Nabob, the ostensible prosecutor, nor his mother and grandmother, the parties accused, knew one word of the matter.
But possibly some peculiarity in the circumstances of the case rendered such a proceeding necessary, and may justify it. No such peculiarity has been proved or even alleged; nay, it is in the highest degree improbable that it could have existed. Mr. Hastings had another opportunity of doing himself justice. When an account of this business was transmitted to the Court of Directors, they ordered him to inquire into it: and your Lordships will see what he did in consequence of this order. Your Lordships will then judge of the extreme audacity of the defence which he has made of this act at your bar, after having refused to institute any inquiry into it, although, he had the positive order of the Court of Directors, and was in the place where that inquiry could be made effectually, and in the place where the unfortunate women could have an opportunity of clearing themselves.
I will first read to your Lordships an extract from the letter of the Court of Directors to the board at Calcutta, dated the 14th of February, 1783.
"4. By the second article of the treaty [of Chunar] the Nabob is permitted to resume such jaghires as he shall think proper, with a reserve, that all such jaghiredars, for the amount of whose jaghires the Company are guaranties, shall, in case of a resumption of their lands, be paid the amount of the net collections through the Resident.
"5. We do not see how the Governor-General could consent to the resumption of such lands as the Company had engaged should remain in the hands of those who possessed them previous to the execution of the late treaty, without stronger proofs of the Begums' defection than have been laid before us; neither can we allow it to be good policy to reduce the several jaghiredars, and thus uniting the territory, and the troops maintained for the protection of that territory, under one head, who, by that means, at some future period, may become a very powerful enemy to the Company.
"6. With respect to the resumption of the jaghires possessed by the Begums in particular, and the subsequent seizure of the treasure deposited with the Vizier's mother, which the Governor-General, in his letter to the board, 23d January, 1782, has declared he strenuously encouraged and supported, we hope and trust, for the honor of the British nation, that the measure appeared to be fully justified in the eyes of all Hindostan. The Governor-General has informed us that it can be well attested, that the Begums principally excited and supported the late commotions, and that they carried their inveteracy to the English nation so far as to aim at our utter extirpation.
"7. It must have been publicly known that in 1775 the Resident at the Vizier's court not only obtained from the Begum, widow of the late Sujah Dowlah, on the Nabob's account, thirty lacs of rupees, half of which was to be paid to the Company, but also the forbearance of twenty-six lacs, for the repayment of which she had security in land, on the Nabob's agreeing to renounce all further claims upon her, and that to this agreement the Company were guaranties.
"8. We find that on the 21st December, 1775, the Begum complained of a breach of engagements on the part of the Nabob, soliciting your protection for herself, her mother, and for all the women belonging to the seraglio of the late Nabob, from the distresses to which they were reduced; in consequence whereof it was agreed in consultation, 3d January, 1776, to remonstrate with the Vizier,—the Governor-General remarking, that, as the representative of our government has become an agent in this business, and has pledged the honor and faith of the Company for the punctual observance of the conditions under which the treaty was concluded, you had a right to interfere, and justice demanded it, if it should appear that those engagements have been violated. And the board at the same time resolved, that, as soon as the Begum's engagements with the Nabob, to which Mr. Bristow is a party, shall be fulfilled on her part, this government will think themselves bound to protect her against any further demand or molestation.
"9. If, therefore, the disaffection of the Begums was not a matter of public notoriety, we cannot but be alarmed for the effects which these subsequent transactions must have had on the minds of the natives of India. The only consolation we feel upon this occasion is, that the amount of those jaghires for which the Company were guaranties is to be paid through our Resident at the court of the Vizier; and it very materially concerns the credit of your government on no account to suffer such payments to be evaded.
"10. If it shall hereafter be found that the Begums did not take that hostile part against the Company which has been represented, as well in the Governor-General's Narrative as in several documents therein referred to,—and as it nowhere appears, from the papers at present in our possession, that they excited any commotion previous to the imprisonment of Rajah Cheyt Sing, but only armed themselves in consequence of that transaction,—and as it is probable that such a conduct proceeded entirely from motives of self-defence, under an apprehension that they themselves might likewise be laid under unwarrantable contributions,—we direct that you use your influence with the Vizier that their jaghires may be restored to them; but if they should be under apprehensions respecting the future conduct of the Vizier, and wish our further protection, it is our pleasure that you afford those ladies an asylum within the Company's territories, and there be paid the amount of the net collections of their jaghires, agreeably to the second article of the late treaty, through the medium of our Resident, as may be ascertained upon an average estimate of some years back."
You see, my Lords, the Directors had received every one of his false impressions. They had conceived an idea, that, after the rebellion of Cheyt Sing, (but not before, upon his own showing,) the Begums had shown a disposition to arm. They here assume a false fact, which Mr. Hastings stated in his representation of the business to them. They assume a variety of other false facts: they assume that the amount of the jaghires of the Begums were to be paid them in regular pensions; whereas they were totally confiscated, without any compensation at all. And yet, upon Mr. Hastings's own showing, they found the transaction to be so dishonorable to the British government, that they desire him to make inquiry into it, and give redress accordingly.
Here, then, is another order of the Company, another call upon Mr. Hastings to examine to the bottom of this affair. The Directors, after giving him credit for that enormous mass of falsehoods which we have proved him to have stated in his Narrative, found themselves so utterly dissatisfied, that they gave this conditional order to restore the Begums to their jaghires. Your Lordships will find it in evidence upon your minutes, that he contumaciously disobeyed this order,—that he would not consent to the propositions of the Council for inquiring into the conduct of these injured women, but stifled every attempt that was made by others to do them justice. And yet he here has the effrontery to propose that your Lordships should inquire into the business at your bar,—that you should investigate a matter here which he refused to inquire into on the spot, though expressly ordered by his masters so to do.
I will now read to your Lordships a short extract from his own narrative of his own proceedings. It begins with reciting part of a note entered by Mr. Macpherson in the Consultations of the Council, at the time when the orders of the Court of Directors which I have just alluded to were taken into consideration.
"What the Court of Directors seem to have most at heart are, first, that the engagement of the second article of the Benares treaty should be faithfully fulfilled,—and, secondly, to guard against the future misconduct of the Vizier, if he should be disposed to oppress the Begums; that we should therefore ascertain whether the amount of the jaghires of the Begums is regularly paid to them through the Company's Resident, and give them notice that no future demands shall be made upon them. This the Governor-General might, I think, do in a letter that would make the Begums sensible of their past misconduct, yet inform them of the lenity and gracious intentions of the Company, in ordering them an asylum in Bengal, in case of future distress."
In consequence of the foregoing opinion from Mr. Macpherson, the following minute was delivered by the Governor-General.
"I should gladly acquiesce in the motion made by Mr. Macpherson, if I thought it possible to frame a letter to the Begums in any terms which should at the same time convey the intimation proposed by it and not defeat the purpose of it, or be productive of evils greater than any which exist in consequence of the proceedings which have already taken place, and which time has almost obliterated. The orders of the Court of Directors are conditional; they require nothing, but in the event of discoveries made subsequent to the advices which were before you on the 14th February last, in alleviation of the former conduct of the Begums. Nothing has since appeared in relation to them, but their refusal, or rather that of one, to fulfil her engagements for the payment of the remainder of the sum exacted from her by the Nabob Vizier in the beginning of last year. Whatever obedience may be due to the clear ascertained spirit of the orders of the Court of Directors, this obligation cannot extend to points to which neither the letter nor evident spirit of their orders apply. If I am rightly informed, the Nabob Vizier and the Begums are on terms of mutual good-will. It would ill become this government to interpose its influence by any act which might tend to revive their animosities: and a very slight occasion would be sufficient to effect it. It will be to little purpose to tell them that their conduct has, in our estimation of it, been very wrong, and at the same time to announce to them the orders of our superiors, which more than indicate the reverse. They will instantly take fire on such a declaration, proclaim the judgment of the Company in their favor, demand a reparation of the acts which they will construe wrongs with such a sentence warranting that construction,—and either accept the invitation, to the proclaimed scandal of the Vizier, which will not add to the credit of our government, or remain in his dominions, but not under his authority, to add to his vexations and the disorders of the country, by continual intrigues and seditions. Enough already exists to affect his peace, and the quiet of his people; if we cannot heal, let us not inflame the wounds which have been inflicted.
"If the Begums think themselves aggrieved to such a degree as to justify them in an appeal to a foreign jurisdiction,—to appeal to it against a man standing in the relation of son and grandson to them,—to appeal to the justice of those who have been the abettors and instruments of their imputed wrongs,—let us at least permit them to be the judges of their own feelings, and prefer their complaints before we offer to redress them: they will not need to be prompted. I hope I shall not depart from the simplicity of official language, in saying, that the majesty of justice ought to be approached with solicitation, not descend to provoke or invite it, much less to debase itself by the suggestion of wrongs and the promise of redress, with the denunciation of punishment before trial, and even before accusation."
My Lords, if, since the beginning of the world, such a paper as this was ever before written by a person standing in the relation of a servant to his master, I shall allow that every word we have said to your Lordships upon this occasion to mark his guilt ought to be expunged from your minutes and from our charges.
Before I proceed to make any observations upon this act of open rebellion against his superiors, I must beg your Lordships to remark the cruelty of purpose, the hostile feeling, towards these injured women, which were displayed in this daring defiance. Your Lordships will find that he never is a rebel to one party without being a tyrant to some others; that rebel and tyrant are correlative terms, when applied to him, and that they constantly go together.
It is suggested by the Directors, that the Nabob is the persecutor, the oppressor, and that Mr. Hastings is the person who is to redress the wrong. But here they have mistaken the matter totally. For we have proved to your Lordships that Mr. Hastings was the principal in the persecution, and that the Nabob was only an instrument. "If I am rightly informed," he says, "the Nabob and the Begums are on terms of mutual good-will. It would ill become this government to interpose its influence by any act which might tend to revive their animosities: and a very slight occasion would be sufficient to effect it." What animosities had they towards each other? None that we know of. Mr. Hastings gets the Nabob to rob his mother; and then he supposes, contrary to truth, contrary to fact, contrary to everything your Lordships have heard, that the Nabob would fall into a fury, if his mother was to obtain any redress,—and that, if the least inquiry into this business was made, it would create a flame in the Nabob's mind, on account of the active, energetic, spirited part he had taken in these transactions. "Therefore," says he, "oh, for God's sake, soothe the matter! It is a green wound; don't uncover it; do nothing to irritate. It will be to little purpose to tell them that their conduct has in our estimation of it been very wrong, and at the same time announce to them the orders of our superiors, which more than indicate the reverse." Now, my Lords, to what does all this amount? "First," says he, "I will not do them justice,—I will not enter upon an inquiry into their wrongs." Why? "Because they charge us with having inflicted them." Then, surely, for that reason, you ought to commence an inquiry. "No," says he, "that would be telling them that our superiors suspect we are in the wrong." But when his superiors more than indicated suspicions, was he not bound tenfold to make that inquiry, for his honor and for their satisfaction, which they direct him to make? No, he will not do it, "because," says he, "the Begums would either accept the offer of an asylum in the Company's territories, to the proclaimed scandal of the Vizier, which would not add to the credit of our government, or they would remain in his dominions, but not under his authority, to add to his vexations, and the disorders of the country, by continual intrigues and seditions."
You see, my Lords, this man is constantly thrusting this peaceable Nabob before him; goading and pushing him on, as if with a bayonet behind, to the commission of everything that is base and dishonorable. You have him here declaring that he will not satisfy the Directors, his masters, in their inquiries about those acts, for fear of the Nabob's taking umbrage, and getting into a flame with his mother,—and for fear the mother, supported by the opinion of the Directors, should be induced to resent her wrongs. What, I say, does all this amount to? It amounts to this:—"The Begums accuse me of doing them injustice; the Directors indicate a suspicion that they have been injured; therefore I will not inquire into the matter." Why? "Because it may raise disturbances." But what disturbance could it raise? The mother is disarmed, and could not hurt the Nabob. All her landed estates he knew were confiscated; he knew all her money was in his own possession; he knew she had not the means, if she had been disposed, to create intrigues and cabals;—what disturbance, then, could be created by his sending a letter to know what she had to say upon the subject of her wrongs?
"If" says he, "the Begums think themselves aggrieved." Observe, my Lords, that the institution of an inquiry is no measure of the Begums; it is an order of the Court of Directors, made by them upon his own representation of his own case, and upon nothing else. The Begums did not dare to murmur; they did not dare to ask for redress, God knows the poor creatures were, at or about the time, his prisoners,—robbed,—stripped of everything,—without hope and without resource. But the Directors, doing their duty upon that occasion, did condemn him upon his own false representations contained in that bundle of affidavits upon which his counsel now contend that your Lordships should acquit him.—"But," says he, "are they to appeal to a foreign jurisdiction?" When these women were to be robbed, we were not foreigners to them; on the contrary, we adjudged them guilty of rebellion. We sent an English chief-justice to collect materials of accusation against them. We sent English officers to take their money. The whole was an English transaction. When wrong is to be done, we have then an interest in the country to justify our acting in it; but when the question is of redressing wrongs, when the question is of doing justice, when the question is of inquiry, when the question is of hearing complaints, then it is a foreign jurisdiction. You are to suffer Mr. Hastings—to make it foreign, or to make it domestic, just as it answers his purposes.—But they are "to appeal against a man standing in the relation of son and grandson to them, and to appeal to the justice of those who have been the abettors and instruments of their imputed wrongs." Why, my Lords, if he allows that he is the abettor of, and the instrument to which the Directors impute these wrongs, why, I ask, does he, with those charges lying upon him, object to all inquiry in the manner you have seen?
But the Company's Governor is, it seems, all at once transformed into a great sovereign;—"the majesty of justice ought to be approached with solicitation." Here, my Lords, he forgets at once the Court of Directors, he forgets the laws of England, he forgets the act of Parliament, he forgets that any obedience is due to his superiors. The Begums were to approach him by the orders of the Court of Directors; he sets at nought these orders, and asserts that he must be approached with solicitations.
"Time," says he, "has obliterated their sufferings." Oh, what a balm of oblivion time spreads over the wrongs, wounds, and afflictions of others, in the mind of the person who inflicts those wrongs and oppressions! The oppressor soon forgets. This robbery took place in 17; it was in the year 1783 when he asserted that the waters of Lethe had been poured over all their wrongs and oppressions. Your Lordships will mark this insulting language, when he says that both the order of the Directors and the application of the Begums for redress must be solicitations to him.
[Here Mr. Burke was interrupted by Mr. Hastings, who said, "My Lords, there was no order. I find a man's patience may be exhausted. I hear so many falsehoods, that I must declare there was no order of the Court of Directors. Forgive me, my Lords. He may say what he pleases; I will not again controvert it. But there is no order; if there is, read it." Mr. Burke then proceeded.]
Judge you, my Lords, what the insolence, audacity, and cruelty of this man must have been, from his want of patience in his present situation, and when he dares to hold this language here. Your Lordships will reckon with him for it, or the world will reckon with you.
[Mr. Hastings here again interrupted Mr. Burke, and said, "There was no order for inquiry."]
Mr. Burke.—Your Lordships have heard the letter read,—I mean the letter from the Directors, which I read just now. You will judge whether it is an order or not. I did hope within these two days to put an end to this business; but when your Lordships hear us charged with direct falsehood at your bar, when you hear this wicked wretch who is before you—
[From a Lord.—Order! order! order!]
Mr. Burke.—Order, my Lords, we call for, in the name of the Commons! Your Lordships have heard us accused at your bar of falsehood, after we had read the order upon which our assertion was founded. This man, whom we have described as the scourge and terror of India, this man gets up, and charges us, not with a mistake, an error, a wrong construction, but a direct falsehood,—and adds, that his patience is worn out with the falsehood he hears. This is not an English court of justice, if such a thing is permitted. We beg leave to retire, and take instructions from our constituents. He ought to be sent to Bridewell for going on in this manner.
[Mr. Wyndham here read the letter again.]
Mr. Burke.—With regard to the ravings of this unhappy man, I am sure, if I were only considering what passed from him to the Managers in this box, and knowing what allowance is due to a wounded conscience, brought before an awful tribunal, and smarting under the impressions of its own guilt, I would pass them over. But, my Lords, we have the honor of the Commons, we have the honor of this court to sustain. [Your Lordships, the other day, for an offence committed against a constable, who was keeping the way under your orders, did, very justly, and to the great satisfaction of the public, commit the party to Bridewell, for a much slighter insult against the honor and dignify of your court.] And I leave it, therefore, for the present, till your Lordships can seriously consider what the mode of proceeding in this matter ought to be.—I now proceed.
* * * * *
We have read to your Lordships the orders of the Court of Directors: I again say we consider them as orders: your Lordships are as good judges of the propriety of the term as we are. You have heard them read; you have also heard that the Council at Calcutta considered them as orders, for resolutions were moved upon them; and Mr. Stables, in evidence before you here, who was one of the Council, so considered them: and yet this man has the frantic audacity in this place to assert that they were not orders, and to declare that he cannot stand the repetition of such abominable falsehoods as are perpetually urged against him. We cannot conceive that your Lordships will suffer this; and if you do, I promise you the Commons will not suffer the justice of the country to be trifled with and insulted in this manner: because, if such conduct be suffered by your Lordships, they must say that very disagreeable consequences will ensue, and very disagreeable inferences will be drawn by the public concerning it. You will forgive, and we know how to forgive, the ravings of people smarting under a conscious sense of their guilt. But when we are reading documents given in evidence, and are commenting upon them, the use of this kind of language really deserves your Lordships' consideration. As for us, we regard it no more than we should other noise and brawlings of criminals who in irons may be led through the streets, raving at the magistrate that has committed them. We consider him as a poor, miserable man, railing at his accusers: it is natural he should fall into all these frantic ravings, but it is not fit or natural that the Court should indulge him in them. Your Lordships shall now hear in what sense Mr. Wheler and Mr. Stables, two other members of the Council, understood this letter.
Mr. Wheler thus writes.—"It always has been and always will be my wish to conform implicitly to the orders of the Court of Directors, and I trust that the opinion which I shall give upon that part of the Court's letter which is now before us will not be taken up against its meaning, as going to a breach of them. The orders at present under the board's consideration are entirely provisional. Nothing has passed since the conclusion of the agreement made by the Governor-General with the Vizier at Chunar which induces me to alter the opinion which I before held, as well from the Governor-General's reports to this board as the opinions which I have heard of many individuals totally unconcerned in the subject, that the Begums at Fyzabad did take a hostile part against the Company during the disturbances in Benares; and I am impressed with a conviction that the conduct of the Begums did not proceed entirely from motives of self-defence. But as the Court of Directors appear to be of a different opinion, and conceive that there ought to be stronger proofs of the defection of the Begums than have been laid before them, I think, that, before we decide on their orders, the late and present Resident at the Vizier's court, and the commanding officers in the Vizier's country, ought to be required to collect and lay before the board all the information they can obtain with respect to the defection of the Begums during the troubles in Benares, and their present disposition to the Company."
Mr. Stables, September 9th, 1783, writes thus.—"The Court of Directors, by their letter of the 14th February, 1783, seem not to be satisfied that the disaffection of the Begums to this government is sufficiently proved by the evidence before them. I therefore think that the late and present Resident and commanding officers in the Vizier's country at the time should be called upon to collect what further information they can on this subject, in which the honor and dignity of this government is so materially concerned, that such information may be immediately transmitted to the Court of Directors."
When questioned upon this subject at your Lordships' bar, he gives this evidence.—"Q. What was your motive for proposing that investigation?—A. A letter from the Court of Directors; I conceived it to be ordered by them.—Q. Did you conceive the letter of the Court of Directors positively to direct that inquiry?—A. I did so certainly at the time, and I beg to refer to the minutes which expressed it."—A question was put to the same witness by a noble lord. "Q. The witness has stated, that at the time he has mentioned he conceived the letter from the Court of Directors to order an inquiry, and that it was upon that opinion that he regulated his conduct, and his proposal for such inquiry. I wish to know whether the expression, 'at the time,' was merely casual, or am I to understand from it that the witness has altered his opinion of the intention of this letter since that time?—A. I certainly retain that opinion, and I wished the inquiry to go on."
My Lords, you see that his colleagues so understood it; you see that we so understood it; and still you have heard the prisoner, after charging us with falsehood, insultingly tell us we may go on as we please, we may go on in our own way. If your Lordships think that it was not a positive order, which Mr. Hastings was bound to obey, you will acquit him of the breach of it. But it is a most singular thing, among all the astonishing circumstances of this case, that this man, who has heard from the beginning to the end of his trial breaches of the Company's orders constantly charged upon him,—(nay, I will venture to say, that there is not a single step that we have taken in this prosecution, or in observations upon evidence, in which we have not charged him with an avowed direct breach of the Company's order,—you have heard it ten times this day,—in his defence before the Commons he declares he did intentionally, in naming Mr. Markham, break the Company's orders,)—it is singular, I say, that this man should now pretend to be so sore upon this point. What is it now that makes him break through all the rules of common decency and common propriety, and show all the burnings of guilt, upon being accused of the breach of one of the innumerable orders which he has broken, of which he has avowed the breaking, and attempted to justify himself a thousand times in the Company's books for having broken?
My Lords, one of his own body, one of the Council, has sworn at your bar what he repeatedly declared to be his sense of it. We consider it as one of the strongest orders that can be given, because the reason of the order is added to it: the Directors declaring, that, if it should not be found upon inquiry, (you see, my Lords, it puts the very case,)—"if you do not find such and such things, we shall consider the English honor wounded and stained, and we direct you to make reparation." There are, in fact, two orders contained in this letter, which we take to be equally strong and positive,—and we charge him with the breach of both: namely, the order for inquiry, and the conditional order of restoring to the Begums their jaghires, or making satisfaction for them; and in case of any apprehension of reluctance in the Nabob, to bring them for security into the Company's territories. The two last positive orders are preceded by the supposition of an inquiry which was to justify him either in the acts he had done or to justify him in making restitution. He did neither the one nor the other. We aver that he disobeyed all these orders. And now let his impatience break out again.
Your Lordships have seen, amongst the various pretences by which this man has endeavored to justify his various delinquencies, that of fearing to offend the Nabob by the restoration of their jaghires to the Begums is one. Your Lordships will form your own judgment of the truth or falsehood of this pretence, when you shall have heard the letter which I shall now read to you, written to Mr. Hastings by the Nabob himself.
Letter from the Nabob Vizier to Mr. Hastings, 25th February, 1782.
"You performed on every occasion towards me whatever was becoming of friendship: I, too, have done whatever affection required and you commanded; and in future also, whatever may be your pleasure, there shall be no deviation therefrom, because whatever you direct is altogether for my benefit. The business for which I came to Fyzabad is become settled by your favor: particulars will become known to your wisdom from the writings of Mr. Middleton. I am grateful for your favors. If in these matters you sincerely approve me, communicate it, for it will be a comfort to me. Having appointed my own aumils to the jaghire of the lady mother, I have engaged to pay her cash. She has complied with my views. Her pleasure is, that, after receiving an engagement, he should deliver up the jaghires. What is your pleasure in this matter? If you command, it will comfort the lady mother giving her back the jaghire after I have obtained my views; or I will have it under my aumil. I am obedient to your pleasure."
Your Lordships here see the Begum a suppliant to have her jaghire restored, (after entering into some engagement that might have been required of her,) and the Nabob, in a tone equally suppliant, expressing his consent, at least, that her request should be complied with, if the command of Mr. Hastings could be procured.
* * * * *
My Lords, in order to save your Lordships' time, and that I might not overload this business, I did not intend to have troubled you with any observations upon this part of it; but the charge of falsehood which the prisoner at your bar has had the audacity to bring against us has induced me to lay it more particularly before, you. We have now done with it; but before we retire, your Lordships will permit me to recapitulate briefly the substance of what has now been urged respecting his conduct towards these miserable women. We accuse him of reiterated breaches of the orders of the Court of Directors, both in the letter and spirit of them, and of his contempt of the opinions which his colleagues in office had formed of them. We charge him with the aggravation of these delinquencies, by the oppression and ruin which they brought upon the family of the Nabob, by the infraction of treaties, and by the disrepute which in his person was sustained by the government he represented, and by the stain left upon the justice, honor, and good faith of the English nation. We charge him with their farther aggravation by sundry false pretences alleged by him in justification of this conduct, the pretended reluctance of the Nabob, the fear of offending him, the suggestion of the Begums having forgotten and forgiven the wrongs they had suffered, and of the danger of reviving their discontent by any attempt to redress them, and by his insolent language, that the majesty of justice with which he impudently invests himself was only to be approached with solicitation. We have farther stated, that the pretence that he was only concerned in this business as an accessary is equally false; it being, on the contrary, notorious, that the Nabob was the accessary, forced into the service, and a mere instrument in his hands, and that he and Sir Elijah Impey (whose employment in this business we stated as a farther aggravation) were the authors and principal agents. And we farther contend, that each of these aggravations and pretences is itself, in fact and in its principle, a substantive crime.
Your Lordships witnessed the insolence with which this 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 everything 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 forever 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.
SEVENTH DAY. THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 1794.
My Lords,—When I had last the honor of addressing your Lordships from this place, my observations 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 market-place, 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 in 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 Mahometan law admits of this number's being extended in certain cases even to four, yet 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 Hedaya, 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 the rank of their father, without considering the rank which their mother held. All these wives with their children, and all their female servants and attendants, amounting in the whole to about eight hundred persons, were shut up in what they call the Khord Mohul, or Lesser Palace. This place is described by one of the witnesses to be about as large as St. James's Square. Your Lordships have been told, that, in other circumstances as well as this, these women were considered as objects of a great degree of respect, and of the greatest degree of protection. I refer your Lordships to the treaty by which their maintenance was guarantied by the English government.
In order to let your Lordships see that I state nothing to you but what is supported not only by general history, which is enough to support an account of general manners, but by the particular and peculiar opinions of a person best informed of the nature of the case, I will refer you to the Nabob himself: for, undoubtedly, the Nabob of Oude, the Vizier of the Empire, the Subahdar of the country, was most likely to be the best judge of what respect was due to the women of his father's family. I will therefore read to your Lordships, from his own letters, what the Nabob's opinion was upon this subject.
Extract of a Letter from the Vizier, received 23d of August, 1782.
"I never found resource equal to the necessary expenses. Every year, by taking from the ministers, and selling the articles of my harkhanna, I with great distress transacted the business. But I could not take care of my dependants: so that some of my brothers, from their difficulties, arose and departed; and the people of the Khord Mohul of the late Nabob, who are all my mothers, from their distresses are reduced to poverty and involved in difficulties. No man of rank is deficient in the care of his dependants, in proportion to his ability."
Another Letter from the Vizier, received the 31st July, 1784.
"My brother, dear as life, Saadut Ali Khan, has requested that I would permit his mother to go and reside with him. My friend, all the mothers of my brothers, and the women of the late Nabob, whom I respect as my own mothers, are here, and it is incumbent upon me to support them: accordingly I do it; and it is improper that they should be separated, nor do I approve it. By God's blessing and your kindness, I hope that all the women of the late Nabob may remain here; it is the wish also of my grandmother and my mother that they should."
Your Lordships now see in what degree of estimation the Nabob held these women. He regarded the wives of his father as his honorary mothers; he considers their children as his brethren; he thinks it would be highly dishonorable to his government, if one of them was taken out of the sanctuary in which they are placed, and in which, he says, the great of the country are obliged to maintain their dependants. This is the account given by the person best acquainted with the usages of the country, best acquainted with his own duties, best acquainted with his own wishes.
Now, my Lords, you will see in what light another person, the agent of a trading company, who designates himself under the name of Majesty, and assumes other great distinctions, presumes also to consider these persons,—and in what contempt he is pleased to hold what is respected and what is held sacred in that country. What I am now going to quote is from the prisoner's second defence. For I must remind your Lordships that Mr. Hastings has made three defences,—one in the House of Commons, another in the lobby of the House of Commons, and a third at your Lordships' bar. The second defence, though delivered without name, to the members in the lobby of the House of Commons, has been proved at your Lordships' bar to be written by himself. This lobby, this out-of-door defence, militates in some respects, as your Lordships will find, with the in-door defence; but it probably contains the real sentiments of Mr. Hastings himself, delivered with a little more freeness when he gets into the open air,—like the man who was so vain of some silly plot he had hatched, that he told it to the hackney-coachman, and every man he met in the streets.
He says,—"Begums are the ladies of an Eastern prince; but these women are also styled the ladies of the late Vizier, and their sufferings are painted in such strong colors that the unsuspecting reader is led to mix the subjects together, and to suppose that these latter, too, were princesses of Oude, that all their sufferings proceeded from some act of mine, or had the sanction of my authority or permission. The fact is, that the persons of the Khord Mohul (or Little Seraglio) were young creatures picked up wherever youth and beauty could be found, and mostly purchased from amongst the most necessitous and meanest ranks of the people, for the Nabob's pleasures." In the in-door defence, he says, "The said women, who were mostly persons of low condition, and the said children, if any such there were, lived in the Khord Mohul, on an establishment entirely distinct from the said Begums'."
My Lords, you have seen what was the opinion of the Nabob, who ought to know the nature and circumstances of his father's palace, respecting these women; you hear what Mr. Hastings's opinion is: and now the question is, whether your Lordships will consider these women in the same light in which the person does who is most nearly connected with them and most likely to know them, or in the way in which Mr. Hastings has thought proper, within doors and without doors, to describe them. Your Lordships will be pleased to observe that he has brought no proof whatever of facts which are so boldly asserted by him in defiance of proof to the contrary, totally at variance with the letter of the son of the man to whom these women belonged. Your Lordships, I say, will remark that he has produced not one word of evidence, either within the House of Commons or the House of Peers, or in the lobby, or anywhere else, to verify any one word he has said. He slanders these women in order to lessen that compassion which your Lordships might have for the sufferings he inflicted upon them. But admitting that some of these women were of a meaner condition, and that they derived nothing from their connection with the dignity of the person by whom they had children, (and we know that in the whole they amounted to about fourscore children, the Nabob having a race like the patriarchs of old, as many great persons in that part of the world still have,)—supposing, I say, all this to be true, yet, when persons are reduced from ease and affluence to misery and distress, they naturally excite in the mind a greater degree of compassion by comparing the circumstances in which they once stood with those into which they are fallen: for famine, degradation, and oppression were famine, degradation, and oppression to those persons, even though they were as mean as Mr. Hastings chooses to represent them. But I hope, as you will sympathize with the great on account of their condition, that you will sympathize with all mankind on the ground of the common condition of humanity which belongs to us all; therefore I hope your Lordships will not consider the calumny of Mr. Hastings against those women as any other than as an aggravation of his offence against them. That is the light in which the House of Commons considered it; for they had heard both his in-door and out-door defence, and they still persevered in making the charge, and do persevere in making it still.
We have first stated what these women were,—in what light they stood with the Nabob,—in what light they stood with the country at large. I have now to state in what light they stood with the British government, previous to this invasion of their rights; and we will prove they were the actual subjects of a guaranty by the Company.
Extract from an Agreement made by Mr. Middleton, to all the Particulars of which he engages to procure a Treaty from the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah, after his Arrival, and that he will also sign it, as follows.
"First, That, whenever the Begum shall choose to go to Mecca, she shall be permitted to go.
"Second, That, when the Nabob shall arrive, I [Mr. Middleton] will procure suitable allowances to be made to the ladies of the zenanah and the children of the late Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah, and take care that they are paid.
"Third, That the festivals (shadee) and marriages of the children of the late Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah shall be at the disposal of the Begum: whenever she thinks proper, she shall marry them; and whatever money shall be necessary for these expenses shall be paid by the Nabob.
"Fourth, That the syer of Coda Gunge and Ali Gunge shall be retained by the Begum as heretofore.
"Fifth, That I [Mr. Middleton] will, upon the arrival of the Nabob, procure Vizier Gunge and the garden of Sepoy Dand Khan, or their equivalent, for the Begum.
"Sixth, That I [Mr. Middleton] will endeavor to obtain from the Nabob the sum of 1,150,000 rupees on account of the purchase of Metchee Bohaun, and the house of Sahebjee, and the fort of the Gossim, with the land and garden and the barraderry on the banks of Goomply [Goomty?], and bazaar and garden of the house of Mahnarain and the house of Beng Peofand at Lucknow: all of which the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah has assumed possession of.
"Seventh, That I will settle with the Nabob the allowances to be made in ready money to the ladies of the zenanah and others specified, in the following amount: Total, 17 lacs 250 rupees per month.
"Eighth, Upon the arrival of the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah Bahadur, I will endeavor with all my influence to settle the monthly allowances of Mohrum Ali Khan and Mahmud Eltifant Khan, &c., the attendants of the Begums.
"Ninth, That, if the Begum shall go to Mecca, she shall leave her mahals and jaghires to the Begum, the mother of Asoph ul Dowlah, who shall remit the revenues thereof to the Burree Begum: no one shall prevent her enjoying her jaghires."
Now, my Lords, we will read the copy of an engagement under the seal of the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah, and under the seal and signature, in English, of Mr. Middleton, as follows.
"First, I, who am the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah Bahadur, do agree that the jaghires and the gunges and monthly allowance of the officers and servants, and of the ladies of the zenanah, and of those specified in the accounts annexed, shall be at the disposal and under the management and authority of the Begum, and no one shall oppose or prevent it: this I will punctually observe. In this agreement Mr. Middleton and the English are engaged.
"Second, Whenever the Begum may choose to go to Mecca, I will not oppose it.
"Third, Whenever the Begum should go to Mecca, she shall leave her lands, jaghires, &c., either in the care of my mother or of me; and I will procure bills for the amount of their revenues, and send them to her: no one shall oppose this.
"Fourth, The Begum shall have authority over all the ladies of her zenanah; she shall let them remain with me, and not let them go anywhere without my permission, or keep them with her.
"Fifth, The jaghires Coda Gunge and Ali Gunge, &c., with the mahal and syer belonging to the Begum and made over, shall remain as heretofore in her possession: Total, 14,460 rupees per month.
"Eighth, The Begum has authority over the ladies and attendants of the zenanah; neither myself nor any one else will oppose it.
"Ninth, The Begum, my grandmother, shall have the authority in all festivals, and in the marriage of the children of the late Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah, and, with the consent of my mother and myself, shall regulate them: excepting in the festivals (shadee), the authority is mine.
"The English are guaranties to the above engagements, so long as the Begum shall exist."
Your Lordships will observe something here worthy of your notice. You will first perceive, that the very treaty in which Mr. Hastings, by his representative, Mr. Middleton, was a party concerned, supposes that the Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah had other children besides the reigning prince by his sole legitimate wife; and yet Mr. Hastings, in his defence, has thought proper, with a full knowledge of that circumstance, to doubt whether there were any other children. You next see that these women have Mr. Middleton's (that is, Mr. Hastings's) guaranty for the allowances which are made and settled upon them, and for the maintenance of their attendants, for the security and enjoyment of their own possessions, for their having a law officer of high rank, a moulavy, of their own. In short, there is a regular establishment formed for all these women: they are not separated as a part distinct from the Begums, but they are put by this very guaranty entirely under their management; the maintenance of the children is secured; the whole order and economy of their establishment is delivered entirely to the Begum, the grandmother, and the Begum, the mother, of the Nabob.
My Lords, you see that all these arrangements have the solemn guaranty of the Company, and that these women form a very considerable part of that guaranty; and therefore your Lordships will not treat their sufferings, inflicted in violation of the Company's own settlement and guaranty, as a matter of no consideration for you.
But to proceed.—We have proved to your Lordships that the Nabob was reduced to a state of the greatest possible misery and distress; that his whole revenue was sequestered into the hands of Mr. Hastings's agents; that by the treaty of Chunar he was to be relieved from the expense of a body of troops with which he had been burdened without his own voluntary consent,—nay, more, the temporary brigade, which Mr. Hastings proposed to take off, but kept on, which he considers not only as a great distress to his finances, but a dreadful scourge and calamity to his country,—there was a whole pension-list upon it, with such enormous pensions as 18,000l. a year to Sir Eyre Coote, and other pensions, that Mr. Hastings proposed to take off, but did not; that, in proportion as the Nabob's distress increased, Mr. Hastings's demands increased too; he was not satisfied, with taking from him for the Company, but he took from him for himself; he demanded six hundred thousand pounds as a loan, when he knew he had neither money nor credit.
The consequence of these acts of violence was, that these people, besieged by the English troops, and deprived of every resource, even of the funds of charity, by which the protectors of the family, male and female, might have relieved them, but which the cruel rapacity of Mr. Hastings had either entirely taken away or greatly diminished, were reduced to the last extremity of distress.
After the length of time which has elapsed since we first brought these matters with their proofs, I shall beg leave, before you go to judgment, to refresh your memory with a recital of a part of that evidence, in order that your Lordships may again fully and distinctly comprehend the nature and extent of the oppression, cruelty, and injustice committed by Mr. Hastings, and by which you may estimate the punishment you will inflict upon him.
Letter from Captain Leonard Jaques to Richard Johnson, Esq., Resident at the Vizier's Court; March 6th, 1782.
"Sir,—The women belonging to the Khord Mohul complain of their being in want of every necessary of life, and are at last drove to that desperation, that they at night get on the top of the zenanah, make a great disturbance, and last night not only abused the sentinels posted in the gardens, but threw dirt at them; they threatened to throw themselves from the walls of the zenanah, and also to break out of it. Humanity obliges me to acquaint you of this matter, and to request to know if you have any direction to give me concerning it. I also beg leave to acquaint you, I sent for Letafit Ali Khan, the cojah who has the charge of them, who informs me their complaint is well grounded,—that they have sold everything they had, even to the clothes from their backs, and now have no means of existing. Inclosed, I transmit you a letter from Mandall on the subject."
Letter from Captain Jaques to Richard Johnson, Esq., March 7th, 1782.
"Sir,—I beg leave to address you again concerning the women in the Khord Mohul. Their behavior last night was so furious that there seemed the greatest probability of their proceeding to the utmost extremities, and that they would either throw themselves from the walls or force the doors of the zenanah. I have made every inquiry concerning the cause of their complaints, and find from Letafit Ali Khan that they are in a starving condition, having sold all their clothes and necessaries, and now have not wherewithal to support nature. And as my instructions are quite silent upon this head, should be glad to know how to proceed in case they were to force the doors of the zenanah; as I suspect it will happen, should no subsistence be very quickly sent to them."
Letter from Major Gilpin to John Bristow, Esq., Resident at the Court of Lucknow; 30th October, 1782.
"Last night, about eight o'clock, the women in the Khord Mohul Zenanah, under the charge of Letafit Ali Khan, assembled on the tops of the buildings, crying in a most lamentable manner for food,—that for the last four days they had got but a very scanty allowance, and that yesterday they had got none. The melancholy cries of famine are more easily imagined than described; and from their representations, I fear that the Nabob's agents for that business are very inattentive. I therefore think it requisite to make you acquainted with the circumstance, that his Excellency the Nabob may cause his agents to be more circumspect in their conduct to these poor, unhappy women."
Letter from Mr. Bristow to Major Gilpin; Fyzabad, 4th November, 1782.
"Sir,—I have received your letters of the 12th, 19th, 27th, and 30th ultimo. I communicated the contents of that of the 30th to the minister, who promised me to issue orders for the payment of a sum of money to relieve the distress of the Khord Mohul. I shall also forward a bill for 10,000 rupees to you in the course of three or four days; and if in the mean time you may find means to supply to the amount of that sum, I will become personally responsible to you for the repayment."
Letter from Major Gilpin to John Bristow, Esq., at the Court of Lucknow; Fyzabad, 15th November, 1782.
"Sir,—The repeated cries of the women in the Khord Mohul Zenanah for subsistence have been truly melancholy. They beg most piteously for liberty, that they may earn their daily bread by laborious servitude, or be relieved from their misery by immediate death. In consequence of their unhappy situation, I have this day taken the liberty of drawing on you in favor of Ramnarain at ten days' sight, for twenty son Kerah rupees, ten thousand of which I have paid to Cojah Letafit Ali Khan, under whose charge that zenanah is."
These, my Lords, are the state of the distresses in the year 1782, and your Lordships will see that they continued almost, with only occasional reliefs, during the period of that whole year. Now we enter into the year 1783, to show you that it continued during the whole time; and then I shall make a very few remarks upon it.
I will now read to your Lordships a part of Mr. Holt's evidence, by which it is proved that Mr. Hastings was duly advertised of all these miserable and calamitous circumstances.
"Q. Whether you saw a letter of intelligence from Fyzabad containing a relation of the treatment of the women in the Khord Mohul?—A. Yes, I did, and translated it.—Q. From whom did it come?—A. Hoolas Roy.—Q. Who was he?—A. An agent of the Resident at Fyzabad, employed for the purpose of transmitting information to the Resident.—Q. Was that paper transmitted to Mr. Hastings?—A. To the best of my recollection, it was transmitted to the Board, after I had attested it.—Q. Do you remember at what distance of time after the receipt of the intelligence respecting the distresses of the Khord Mohul that paper was transmitted to Calcutta?—A. I cannot say.—Q. Do you believe it was transmitted within ten months after the time it was received?—A. I understood it to be a letter received just before it was transmitted.—Q. Then you understand it was transmitted as soon as received?—A. Yes, in the course of three days.—Q. Can you bring to your mind the time at which the translation was made?—A. To the best of my recollection, it was in January, 1784.—Q. Whether the distresses that had been complained of had ceased for above a twelvemonth before the distresses of the Khord Mohul?—A. I understood they were new distresses.—Q. Then you state that that account transmitted in 1784 was, as you understand, an account of new distresses?—A. Yes."
I shall now refer your Lordships to page 899 of your printed Minutes.
[The Managers for the Commons acquainted the House, that they would next read the paper of intelligence which had been authenticated by Mr. Holt, in his evidence at the bar, relative to the miserable situation of these women, which they meant to bring home to Mr. Hastings.]
An Extract of a Consultation of the 17th February, 1784.
"At a Council: present, the Honorable Warren Hastings, Esq., Governor-General, President, Edward Wheler and John Stables, Esqrs.; Mr. Macpherson absent from the Presidency for the benefit of his health: the following letter and its inclosures were received from Mr. Bristow on the 8th instant, and circulated.
"'Honorable Sir, and Gentlemen,—I have the honor to forward, for your further information, the inclosure No. 3; it contains a relation of the hardships endured by the ladies of the late Vizier's zenanah.'
(Signed) 'JOHN BRISTOW.'
"Translation of a Paper of Intelligence from Fyzabad.
"'The ladies, their attendants, and servants were still as clamorous as last night. Letafit, the darogah, went to them, and remonstrated with them on the impropriety of their conduct, at the same time assuring them that in a few days all their allowances would be paid, and should that not be the case, he would advance them ten days' subsistence, upon condition that they returned to their habitations. None of them, however, consented to his proposal, but were still intent upon making their escape through the bazaar, and in consequence formed themselves in the following order,—the children in the front, behind them the ladies of the seraglio, and behind them again their attendants; but their intentions were frustrated by the opposition which they met with from Letafit's sepoys. The next day Letafit went twice to the women, and used his endeavors to make them return into the zenanah, promising to advance them ten thousand rupees, which, upon the money being paid down, they agreed to comply with; but night coming on, nothing transpired.
"'On the day following, their clamors were more violent than usual. Letafit went to confer with them on the business of yesterday, offering the same terms. Depending upon the fidelity of his promises, they consented to return to their apartments, which they accordingly did, except two or three of the ladies, and most of their attendants. Letafit went then to Hossmund Ali Khan, to consult with him about what means they should take. They came to a resolution of driving them in by force, and gave orders to their sepoys to beat any one of the women who should attempt to move forward; the sepoys accordingly assembled, and each one being provided with a bludgeon, they drove them, by dint of beating, into the zenanah. The women, seeing the treachery of Letafit, proceeded to throw stones and bricks at the sepoys, and again attempted to get out; but finding that impossible, from the gates being shut, they kept up a continual discharge till about twelve o'clock, when, finding their situation desperate, they returned into the Rung Mohul, and forced their way from thence into the palace, and dispersed themselves about the house and gardens. After this they were desirous of getting into the Begum's apartments; but she, being apprised of their intentions, ordered the doors to be shut. In the mean time Letafit and Hossmund Ali Khan posted sentries to secure the gates of the Lesser Mohul. During the whole of this conflict, the ladies and women remained exposed to the view of the sepoys.
"'The Begum then sent for Letafit and Hossmund Ali Khan, whom she severely reprimanded, and insisted upon knowing the cause of this infamous behavior. They pleaded in their defence the impossibility of helping it, as the treatment the women had met with had only been conformable to his Excellency the Vizier's orders. The Begum alleged, that, even admitting that the Nabob had given these orders, they were by no means authorized in this manner to disgrace the family of Sujah Dowlah, and should they not receive their allowances for a day or two, it could be of no great moment; what had passed was now at an end, but that the Vizier should certainly be acquainted with the whole of the affair, and that whatever he directed she should implicitly comply with. The Begum then sent for two of the children who were wounded in the affray of last night, and after endeavoring to soothe them, she again sent to Letafit and Hossmund Ali Khan, and in the presence of the children again expressed her disapprobation of their conduct, and the improbability of Asoph ul Dowlah's suffering the ladies and children of Sujah Dowlah to be disgraced by being exposed to the view of the sepoys. Upon which Letafit produced the letter from the Nabob, representing that he was amenable only to the order of his Excellency, and that whatever he ordered it was his duty to obey; and that, had the ladies thought proper to have retired quietly to their apartments, he would not have used the means he had taken to compel them. The Begum again observed, that what had passed was now over. She then gave the children four hundred rupees and dismissed them, and sent word by Sumrud and the other eunuchs, that, if the ladies would peaceably retire to their apartments, Letafit would supply them with three or four thousand rupees for their present expenses, and recommended them not to incur any further disgrace, and that, if they did not think proper to act agreeably to her directions, they would do wrong. The ladies followed her advice, and about ten at night went back to the zenanah. The next morning the Begum waited upon the mother of Sujah Dowlah, and related to her all the circumstances of the disturbance. The mother of Sujah Dowlah returned for answer, that, after there being no accounts kept by crores of revenue, she was not surprised that the family of Sujah Dowlah, in their endeavors to procure subsistence, should be obliged to expose themselves to the meanest of the people. After bewailing their misfortunes and shedding many tears, the Begum took her leave and returned home.'"
As a proof of the extremity of the distress which reigned in the Khord Mohul, your Lordships have been told that these women must have perished through famine, if their gaolers, Captain Jaques and Major Gilpin, had not raised money upon their own credit, and supplied them with an occasional relief. And therefore, when they talk of his peculation, of his taking but a bribe here and a bribe there, see the consequences of his system of peculation, see the consequences of a usurpation which extinguishes the natural authority of the country, see the consequences of a clandestine correspondence that does not let the injuries of the country come regularly before the authorities in Oude to relieve it, consider the whole mass of crimes, and then consider the sufferings that have arisen in consequence of it.
My Lords, it was not corporal pain alone that these miserable women suffered. The unsatisfied cravings of hunger and the blows of the sepoys' bludgeons could touch only the physical part of their nature. But, my Lords, men are made of two parts,—the physical part, and the moral. The former he has in common with the brute creation. Like theirs, our corporeal pains are very limited and temporary. But the sufferings which touch our moral nature have a wider range, and are infinitely more acute, driving the sufferer sometimes to the extremities of despair and distraction. Man, in his moral nature, becomes, in his progress through life, a creature of prejudice, a creature of opinions, a creature of habits, and of sentiments growing out of them. These form our second nature, as inhabitants of the country and members of the society in which Providence has placed us. This sensibility of our moral nature is far more acute in that sex which, I may say without any compliment, forms the better and more virtuous part of mankind, and which is at the same time the least protected from the insults and outrages to which this sensibility exposes them. This is a new source of feelings, that often make corporal distress doubly felt; and it has a whole class of distresses of its own. These are the things that have gone to the heart of the Commons.
We have stated, first, the sufferings of the Begum, and, secondly, the sufferings of the two thousand women (I believe they are not fewer in number) that belong to them, and are dependent upon them, and dependent upon their well-being. We have stated to you that the Court of Directors were shocked and astonished, when they received the account of the first, before they had heard the second. We have proved they desired him to redress the former, if, upon inquiry, he found that his original suspicions concerning their conduct were ill-founded. He has declared here that he did not consider these as orders. Whether they were orders or not, could anything have been more pressing upon all the duties and all the sentiments of man than at least to do what was just,—that is, to make such an inquiry as in the result might justify his acts, or have entitled them to redress? Not one trace of inquiry or redress do we find, except we suppose, as we hear nothing after this of the famine, that Mr. Bristow, who seems to be a man of humanity, did so effectually interpose, that they should no longer depend for the safety of their honor on the bludgeons of the sepoys, by which alone it seems they were defended from the profane view of the vulgar, and which we must state as a matter of great aggravation in this case.
The counsel on the other side say that all this intelligence comes in an anonymous paper without date, transmitted from a newspaper-writer at Fyzabad. This is the contempt with which they treat this serious paper, sent to Mr. Hastings himself by official authority,—by Hoolas Roy, who was the news-writer at Fyzabad,—the person appointed to convey authentic intelligence concerning the state of it to the Resident at Lucknow. The Resident received it as such; he transmitted it to Mr. Hastings; and it was not till this hour, till the counsel were instructed (God forgive them for obeying such instructions!) to treat these things with ridicule, that we have heard this Hoolas Roy called a common news-writer of anonymous information, and the like. If the information had come in any way the least authentic, instead of coming in a manner the most authentic in which it was possible to come to Mr. Hastings, he was bound by every feeling of humanity, every principle of regard to his own honor and his employers', to see whether it was true or false; if false, to refute it; if true, to afford redress: he has done neither. Therefore we charge him with being the cause; we charge upon him the consequences, with all the aggravations attending them; and we call both upon justice and humanity for redress, as far as it can be afforded to these people, and for the severest punishments which your Lordships can inflict upon the author of these evils. If, instead of the mass of crimes that we have brought before you, this singly had been charged upon the prisoner, I will say that it is a greater crime than any man has ever been impeached for before the House of Lords, from the first records of Parliament to this hour.
I need not remind your Lordships of one particular circumstance in this cruel outrage. No excuse or pretence whatever is brought forward in its justification. With respect to the Begums, they have been charged with rebellion; but who has accused the miserable inhabitants of the Khord Mohul of rebellion, or rebellious designs? What hearsay is there, even, against them of it? No: even the persons permitted by Mr. Hastings to rob and destroy the country, and who are stated by him to have been so employed,—not one of that legion of locusts which he had sent into the country to eat up and devour the bread of its inhabitants, and who had been the cause both of the famine itself and of the inability of the Begums to struggle with it,—none of these people, I say, ventured even a hearsay about these women.
Were the sufferers few? There were eight hundred of them, besides children. Were they persons of any rank and consequence? We are told that they were persons of considerable rank and distinction, connected with and living under the protection of women of the first rank in Asia. Were they persons not deserving pity? We know that they were innocent women and children, not accused, and unsuspected, of any crime. He has taken into his head to speak contemptuously of these women of the Khord Mohul: but your Lordships will consider both descriptions generally with some respect; and where they are not objects of the highest respect, they will be objects of your compassion. Your Lordships, by your avenging justice, will rescue the name of the British government from the foulest disgrace which this man has brought upon it.
An account of these transactions, as we have proved by Mr. Holt's evidence, was regularly transmitted and made known to him. But why do I say made known to him? Do not your Lordships know that Oude was his,—that he treated it like his private estate,—that he managed it in all its concerns as if it were his private demesne,—that the Nabob dared not do a single act without him,—that he had a Resident there, nominated by himself, and forced upon the Nabob, in defiance of the Company's orders? Yet, notwithstanding all this, we do not find a trace of anything done to relieve the aggravated distresses of these unfortunate people.
These are some of the consequences of that abominable system which, in defiance of the laws of his country, Mr. Hastings established in Oude. He knew everything there; he had spies upon his regular agents, and spies again upon them. We can prove, (indeed, he has himself proved,) that, besides his correspondence with his avowed agents, Major Palmer and Major Davy, he had secret correspondence with a whole host of agents and pensioners, who did and must have informed him of every circumstance of these affairs. But if he had never been informed of it at all, the Commons contend, and very well and justly contend, that he who usurps the government of a country, who extinguishes the authority of its native sovereign, and places in it instruments of his own, and that in defiance of those whose orders he was bound to obey, is responsible for everything that was done in the country. We do charge him with these acts of delinquencies and omissions, we declare him responsible for them; and we call for your Lordships' judgment upon these outrages against humanity, as cruel perhaps as ever were suffered in any country.
My Lords, if there is a spark of manhood, if there is in your breasts the least feeling for our common humanity, and especially for the sufferings and distresses of that part of human nature which is made by its peculiar constitution more quick and sensible,—if, I say, there is a trace of this in your breasts, if you are yet alive to such feelings, it is impossible that you should not join with the Commons of Great Britain in feeling the utmost degree of indignation against the man who was the guilty cause of this accumulated distress. You see women, whom we have proved to be of respectable rank and condition, exposed to what is held to be the last of indignities in that country,—the view of a base, insulting, ridiculing, or perhaps vainly pitying populace. You have before you the first women in Asia, who consider their honor as joined with that of these people, weeping and bewailing the calamities of their house. You have seen that in this misery and distress the sons of the Nabob were involved, and that two of them were wounded in an attempt to escape: and yet this man has had the impudence to declare his doubts of the Nabob's having had any children in the place, though the account of what was going on had been regularly transmitted to him. After this, what is there in his conduct that we can wonder at?
My Lords, the maintenance of these women had been guarantied by the Company; but it was doubly guarantied under the great seal of humanity. The conscience of every man, and more especially of the great and powerful, is the keeper of that great seal, and knows what is due to its authority. For the violation of both these guaranties, without even the vain and frivolous pretence of a rebellion, and for all its consequences, Mr. Hastings is answerable; and he will not escape your justice by those miserable excuses which he has produced to the Court of Directors, and which he has produced here in his justification. My Lords, that justification we leave with your Lordships.