* * * * *
We now proceed to another part of our charge, which Mr. Hastings has not thought proper to deny, but upon which we shall beg leave to make a few observations. You will first hear read to you, from the 17th article of our charge, the subject-matter to which we now wish to call your attention.
"That in or about the month of March, 1783, three of the said brothers of the Nabob, namely, Mirza Hyder Ali, Mirza Imayut Ali, and Mirza Syef Ali, did represent to the said Bristow that they were in distress for dry bread and clothes, and in consequence of such representation were relieved by the intervention of the said Bristow, but soon after the deputation of the said Warren Hastings to Oude, in the year 1784, that is to say, some time in or about the month of September, in the said year 1784, the said Mirza Hyder Ali, one of the three princes aforesaid, did fly to the province of Benares, and did remain there in great distress; and that, although the said Warren Hastings did write to the said Nabob an account of the aforesaid circumstances, in certain loose, light, and disrespectful expressions concerning the said Mirza Hyder Ali, he did not, as he was in duty bound to do, in any wise exert that influence which he actually and notoriously possessed over the mind of the said Nabob, for the relief of the said prince, the brother of the said Nabob, but, without obtaining any satisfactory and specific assurances, either from the said Nabob or the said minister, the said Warren Hastings did content himself with advising the said prince to return to his brother, the said Nabob."
The answer of Mr. Hastings to that part of the 17th article states:—
"And the said Warren Hastings says, that in or about the month of July, in the year 1783, a paper was received, inclosed in a letter to the Governor-General and Council, from Mr. Bristow, purporting to be a translation of a letter from three brothers of the said Vizier, in which they did represent themselves to be in distress for dry bread and clothes; but whether such distress actually existed, and was relieved by the said Bristow, the said Warren Hastings cannot set forth.
"And the said Warren Hastings further says, that some time in the month of September, 1784, the said Warren Hastings, being then at Benares, did receive information that Mirza Hyder Ali was arrived there, and the said Warren Hastings, not knowing before that time that there was any such person, did write to the Nabob Vizier, to the purport or effect following:—'A few days since I learnt that a person called Mirza Hyder Ali was arrived at Benares, and calls himself a son of the deceased Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah, and I was also told that he came from Fyzabad; as I did not know whether he left Fyzabad with or without your consent, I therefore did not pay him much attention, and I now trouble you to give me every information on this subject, how he came here, and what your intentions are about him; he remains here in great distress, and I therefore wish to know your sentiments.'
"And the said Warren Hastings further says, that, having received an answer from the said Vizier, he did, on or about the 13th of October, 1784, inclose the same in a letter to the said Mirza, of which letter the following is a copy:—'An answer is arrived to what I wrote on your account to the Nabob Vizier, which I inclose to you: having read it, you will send it back. I conceive you had better go to the Nabob Vizier's presence, who will certainly afford you protection and assistance. I will write what is proper to carry with you to the Nabob, and it will in every respect be for your good; whatever may be your intention on this head, you will write to me.'
"And the said Warren Hastings submits, that it was no part of his duty as Governor-General to interfere with the said Vizier on behalf of the said Mirza, or to obtain from the said Vizier any specific assurances on the subject."
Continuation of the 17th article of the charge:—
"That, in order to avoid famine at home, another of the said Nabob's brothers, by name Mirza Jungli, was under the necessity of flying from his native country, and did seek protection from a certain Mahometan lord called Mirza Shuffee Khan, then prime-minister of the Mogul, from whom he did go to the camp of the Mahratta chief Mahdajee Sindia, where he did solicit and obtain a military command, together with a grant of lands, or jaghire, for the subsistence of himself, his family, and followers; but wishing again to be received under the protection of the British government, the said Mirza Jungli, in 1783, did apply to the said Resident Bristow, through David Anderson, Esquire, then on an embassy in the camp of the said Sindia; and in consequence of such application, the said Bristow, sensible of the disgrace which the exile of the said Mirza Jungli reflected both on the said Nabob of Oude and the British nation, did negotiate with the said Nabob and his ministers for the return of the said Mirza Jungli, and for the settlement and regular payment of some proper allowance for the maintenance of the said Mirza Jungli; but the allowance required was ultimately refused; and although the whole of the transactions aforesaid were duly represented to the said Warren Hastings by the said Anderson and by the said Bristow, and although he had himself received, so early as the 23d of August, 1782, a letter from the Vizier, grievously complaining of the cruel and extortious demands made upon him by the said Warren Hastings, in which letter he did expressly mention the flight of his brothers, and the distresses of the women of his late father, who he said were all as his mothers, and that his said brothers, from the resumption of their jaghires, were reduced to great affliction and distress, and he did attribute the said flight of some of his brethren, and the distresses of the rest, and of the women who stood in a species of maternal relation to him, as owing to the aforesaid oppressive demands, yet he, the said Warren Hastings, did cruelly, inhumanly, and corruptly decline to make any order for the better provision of any of the said eminent family, or for the return of the said prince, who had fled from his brother's court to avoid the danger of perishing by famine."
Answer of Mr. Hastings to that part of the charge:—
"And the said Warren Hastings further says, that he was informed that Mirza Jungli, in the said article also mentioned, did leave his native country in distress, and did go to Mirza Shuffee Khan, in the said article also mentioned; and the said Warren Hastings likewise admits he was informed that the said Mirza Jungli did afterwards leave the said Mirza Shuffee Khan, and repair to the camp of Mahdajee Sindia, with a view of obtaining some establishment for himself and followers.
"And the said Warren Hastings further says, that in certain letters written by David Anderson, Esquire, and John Bristow, Esquire, it was represented that the said Mirza Jungli did apply to the said Bristow, through the said Anderson, then on an embassy in the camp of the said Sindia, and that in consequence thereof the said Bristow did, amongst other things, apply to the said Nabob Vizier for a certain allowance to be made for the said Mirza, and for the regular payment thereof, and that a certain allowance was accordingly settled by the said Vizier on the said Mirza; and the said Warren Hastings says, that information of the above transactions was transmitted to the Board of Council, and that a letter from the said Vizier was received on the 23d of August, 1782, containing certain representations of the distresses of himself and his family; and he admits that no order was made by him, the said Warren Hastings, for the provision of any of the said family, or for the return of the said Mirza; but the said Warren Hastings denies that he was guilty of any cruelty, inhumanity, or corruption, or of any misconduct whatsoever, in the matters aforesaid."
Continuation of the charge:—
"That some time in or about the month of December, 1783, the Nabob Bahadur, another of the brothers of the said Nabob of Oude, did represent to the said Bristow, that he, the said Nabob Bahadur, had not received a farthing of his allowance for the current year, and was without food; and being wounded by an assassin, who had also murdered his aunt in the very capital of Oude, the said Nabob Bahadur had not a daum to pay the surgeon, who attended him for the love of God alone. That at or about the period of this said representation the said Bristow was recalled, and the said Warren Hastings proceeded up to Lucknow, but did not inquire into the said representations transmitted by the said Bristow to Calcutta, nor did order any relief."
Mr. Hastings's answer to the part of the charge last read:—
"And the said Warren Hastings further says, that on the 29th of January, 1784, after the recall of the said Bristow, he, the said Bristow, did transmit to the Governor-General and Council two letters, one dated 28th of December, 1783, the other 7th of January, 1784, purporting to be written by the said Nabob Bahadur, addressed to him, the said Bristow, to the effect in the said article stated; and the said Warren Hastings admits, that, when at Lucknow, he did not institute any inquiry into the supposed transaction in the said 17th article stated, or make any order concerning the said Bahadur, and he denies that it was his duty so to do."
Here is the name of this Nabob from a list of the jaghiredars stated by Mr. Purling, page 485 printed Minutes. Amongst the names of jaghiredars, the times when granted, and the amount of the jaghires, there occurs that of the Nabob Bahadur, with a grant of a jaghire of the amount of 20,000 rupees.
[The Lord Chancellor here remarked, that what had been just read was matter of the 17th article of the charge and parts of the answer to it, and that, upon looking back to the former proceedings, it has escaped his attention, if any matter contained in the 17th article had been made matter of the charge; that it therefore seemed to him that it could not be brought in upon a reply, not having been made matter of the charge originally.
Mr. Burke. My Lords, I have to say to this, that I believe you have heard these facts made matter of charge by the House of Commons, that I conceive they have been admitted by the prisoner, and that the Commons have nothing to do with the proofs of anything in their charge which is fully and in terms admitted. The proofs which they have produced to your Lordships were upon matters which were contested; but here the facts are admitted in the fullest manner. We neither have abandoned them, intended to abandon them, or ever shall abandon them; we have made them, as a charge, upon record; the answers to them have been recorded, which answers are complete admissions of every fact in the charge.
Lord Chancellor. I do not make myself understood. The objection is not that there has not been evidence given upon the 17th article, but at the close of the case on the part of the Managers for the House of Commons no mention having been made of the matter contained in the 17th article, that therefore, although it may all have been admitted by the answer to be true, yet in justice, if from that answer you ground the charge, it is necessary the defendant should be heard upon it.
Mr. Burke. If your Lordships choose that the defendant shall be heard upon it, we have no kind of objection, nor ever had, or proposed an objection to the defendant being heard upon it. Your Lordships know that the defendant's counsel value themselves upon having abandoned their defence against certain parts of the charge; your Lordships know that they declared that they broke off thus in the middle of their defence in order to expedite this business.
Lord Chancellor. Referring to the proceedings, I think it a matter perfectly clear, that, in the course of the charge, after certain articles had been gone through, the Managers for the Commons closed the case there, leaving therefore all the other articles, excepting those that had been discussed, as matters standing with the answers against them, but not insisted upon in making out the charge. Of course, therefore, if the defendant had gone into any of those articles, the defendant must have been stopped upon them, because he would then have been making a case in defence to that which had not been made a case in the prosecution. The objection, therefore, is not at all that no evidence has been examined. To be sure, it would be an answer to that to say, you are now proceeding upon an admission; but even upon those facts that are admitted, (if the facts are admitted that are insisted upon as matter in charge,) that should come in the original state of the cause, and the defendant in common justice must be heard upon that, and then, and then only, come the observations in reply.
Mr. Burke. We do not know, not are informed, that any charge, information, or indictment, that is before the court, and upon record, and is not denied by the defendant, does not stand in full force against him. We conceive it to be so; we conceive it to be agreeable to the analogy of all proceedings; and the reason why we did not go into and insist upon it was, that, having a very long cause before us, and having the most full and complete admission upon this subject, we did not proceed further in it. The defendant defends himself by averring that it was not his duty. It was not our business to prove that it was his duty. It was he that admitted the facts assumed to be the foundation of his duty; the negative he was bound to prove, and he never offered to prove it. All that I can say upon this point is, that his delinquency in the matter in question appeared to us to be a clear, distinct case,—to be a great offence,—an offence charged upon the record, admitted upon the record, and never by us abandoned. As to his defence having been abandoned, we refer your Lordships to the last petition laid by him upon your table, (that libellous petition, which we speak of as a libel upon the House of Commons,) and which has no validity but as it asserts a matter of fact from the petitioner; and there you will find that he has declared explicitly, that, for the accommodation and ease of this business, and for its expedition, he did abandon his defence at a certain period.
Lord Chancellor. A charge consisting of a variety of articles in their nature (however connected with each other in their subject, but in their nature) distinct and specific, if only certain articles are pressed in the charge, to those articles only can a defence be applied; and all the other articles, that are not made matter of charge originally, have never, in the course of any proceeding whatever, been taken up originally in reply.
Mr. Burke. With great respect to your Lordship's judgment, we conceive that the objection taken from our not having at a certain period argued or observed upon the prisoner's answer to the articles not insisted upon is not conclusive; inasmuch as the record still stands, and as our charge still stands. It was never abandoned; and the defendant might have made a justification to it, if he had thought fit: he never did think fit so to do. If your Lordships think that we ought not to argue upon it here in our reply, because we did not argue upon it before,—well and good; but we have argued and do argue in our reply many things to which he never gave any answer at all. I shall beg leave, if your Lordships please, to retire with my fellow Managers for a moment, to consult whether we shall press this point or not. We shall not detain your Lordships many minutes.
(The Managers withdrew: in a few minutes the Managers returned, again into the Hall.)
Mr. Burke. My Lords, the Managers have consulted among themselves upon this business; they first referred to your printed proceedings, in order to see the particular circumstance on which the observation of your Lordship is founded; we find it thus stated:—"Then the Managers for the Commons informed the Lords, that, saving to themselves their undoubted rights and privileges, the Commons were content to rest their charge here." We rested our charge there, not because we meant to efface any precedent matter of the charge which had been made by us, and of which the facts had been admitted by the defendant, but, simply saving our rights and privileges, that is, to resume, (and to make new matter, if we thought fit,) the Commons were content to rest the charge there.
I have further to remark to your Lordships, that the counsel for the defendant have opened a vast variety of matter that is not upon record, either on our part or on theirs, in order to illustrate and to support their cause; and they have spoken day after day upon the principles on which their defence was made. My great object now is an examination of those principles, and to illustrate the effects of these principles by examples which are not the less cogent, the less weighty, and the less known, because they are articles in this charge. Most assuredly they are not. If your Lordships recollect the speeches that were made here, you know that great merit was given to Mr. Hastings for matters that were not at all in the charge, and which would put us under the greatest difficulties, if we were to take no notice of them in our reply. For instance, his merits in the Mahratta war, and a great mass of matter upon that subject, were obliquely, and for other purposes, brought before you, upon which they argued. That immense mass of matter, containing an immense mass of principles, and which was sometimes supported by alleged facts, sometimes by none, they have opened and argued upon, as matter relative to principle. In answer to their argument, we propose to show the mischiefs that have happened from the mischievous principles laid down by Mr. Hastings, and the mischievous consequences of them.
If, however, after this explanation, your Lordships are of opinion that we ought not to be allowed to take this course, wishing to fall in with your Lordships' sentiments, we shall abandon it. But we will remind your Lordships that such things stand upon your records; that they stand unanswered and admitted on your records; and consequently they cannot be destroyed by any act of ours, but by a renunciation of the charge, which renunciation we cannot make, because the defendant has clearly and fully admitted it to be founded in fact. We cannot plead error; we cannot retract it. And why? Because he has admitted it. We therefore only remind your Lordships that the charge stands uncontradicted; and that the observation we intended to make upon it was to show your Lordships that the principles upon which he defends all such conduct are totally false and groundless. But though your Lordships should be of opinion that we cannot press it, yet we cannot abandon it; it is not in your power, it is not in our power, it is not in his power to abandon that charge. You cannot acquit him of that charge; it is impossible. If, however, your Lordships, for the accommodation of business, method of proceedings, or any circumstance of that kind, wish we should say no more upon the subject, we close the subject there. Your Lordships are in possession both of the charge and the admission; and we wish, and we cannot wish better than, to leave it as it is upon the record.
The Lord Chancellor here said,—The opinion of the Lords can only be with me matter of conjecture. I certainly was not commanded by the House to state the observation that had occurred to me; but in the position in which it now stands, I feel no difficulty in saying, as my own judgment, that nothing can be matter in reply that does not relate to those articles that were pressed in the original charge; and therefore, in this position of the business of reply, you cannot go into new matter arising out of other articles that were not originally insisted upon.
Mr. Burke. We were aware of the objection that might be made to admitting our observations, if considered as observations upon the 17th article, but not when considered with reference to facts on the record before you, for the purpose of disproving the principles upon which the defendant and his counsel had relied: that was the purpose for which we proposed chiefly to make them. But your Lordship's [the Lord Chancellor's] own personal authority will have great weight with us, and, unless we perceive some other peer differ from you, we will take it in the course we have constantly done. We never have sent your Lordships out of the hall to consent [consult?] upon a matter upon which that noble lord appeared to have formed a decision in his own mind; we take for granted that what is delivered from the woolsack, to which no peer expresses a dissent, is the sense of the House; as such we take it, and as such we submit to it in this instance.
Therefore, leaving this upon the record as it stands, without observing upon it, and submitting to your Lordships' decision, that we cannot, according to order, observe in reply upon what was not declared by us to be a part of the charges we meant to insist upon, we proceed to another business.]
We have already stated to your Lordships, and we beg to remind you of it, the state and condition of the country of Oude when Mr. Hastings first came to it,—his subsequent and immediate usurpation of all the powers of government, and the use he made of them,—the tyranny he exercised over the Nabob himself,—the tyranny he exercised upon his mother and grandmother, and all the other females of his family, and their dependants of every description, to the number of about eight hundred persons,—the tyranny exercised (though we are not at liberty to press it now) upon his brethren. We have shown you how he confiscated the property of all the jaghiredars, the nobility of the country. We have proved to your Lordships that he was well acquainted with all the misery and distress occasioned by these proceedings, and that he afforded the sufferers no relief. We now proceed to review the effect of this general mass of usurpation, tyranny, and oppression upon the revenues and the prosperity of the country.
Your Lordships will first be pleased to advert to the state in which Mr. Hastings found the country,—in what state he found its revenues,—who were the executive ministers of the government,—what their conduct was, and by whom they were recommended and supported. For the evidence of these facts we refer your Lordships to your printed Minutes: there, my Lords, they stand recorded: they never can be expunged out of your record, and the memory of mankind, whether we be permitted to press them at this time upon your Lordships or not. Your Lordships will there find in what manner the government was carried on in Oude in 1775, before the period of Mr. Hastings's usurpation. Mr. Hastings, you will find, has himself there stated that the minister was recommended by the Begums; and you will remark this, because Mr. Hastings afterwards makes her interference in the government of her son a part of his crimination of the Begum.
* * * * *
The Resident at the court of Oude thus writes on the 2d of March, 1775.
"Notwithstanding the confidence the Nabob reposes in Murtezza Khan, the Begums are much dissatisfied with his elevation. They recommended to his Excellency to encourage the old servants of the government, whose influence in the country, and experience, might have strengthened his own authority, and seated him firmly on the musnud. In some measure this, too, may appear consistent with the interests of the Company; for, as Elija Khan and the old ministers have by frequent instances within their own knowledge experienced the power of our government, such men, I should conceive, are much more likely to pay deference to the Company than a person who at present can have but a very imperfect idea of the degree of attention which ought to be paid to our connection with the Nabob."
Your Lordships see that the Begums recommended the old servants, contrary to the maxims of Rehoboam,—those who had served his father and had served the country, and who were strongly inclined to support the English interest there. Your Lordships will remark the effects of the Begum's influence upon the state of things in 1775, that the Nabob had been advised by his mother to employ the confidential servants of his father,—persons conversant in the affairs of the country, persons interested in it, and persons who were well disposed to support the English connection. Your Lordships will now attend to a letter from Mr. Bristow, at Lucknow, to the board, dated 28th November, 1775.
"I also neglected no part of my duty on the spot, but advised the minister, even at Lucknow, according to my letter of the 3d instant, to recommend it to the Nabob to dismiss his useless and mutinous troops, which measure seems by present appearances to have succeeded beyond expectation: as the rest of the army do now pay the greatest attention to his Excellency's orders; already the complaints of the violences the troops used to commit are greatly decreased; they profess obedience; and, by the best intelligence I can obtain of their disposition, there seems to be little doubt that the example made by disbanding Bussunt's corps has every good effect we could wish, which had crossed the river and voluntarily surrendered their arms the day before yesterday to the Nabob."
His next letter is dated 13th June, 1776.
"Honorable Sir and Sirs,—It is Elija Khan's first object to regulate the Vizier's revenue; and I must do him the justice to say, that the short time he has been in office he has been indefatigable, and already settled the greater part of the province of Oude, and fixed on the districts for the assignments of the army subsidy; Corah and Allahabad he has disposed of, and called for the Dooab and Rohilcund accounts, in order to adjust them as soon as possible. This activity will, I hope, produce the most salutary effects,—as, the present juncture being the commencement of the season for the cultivation, the aumils, by being thus early placed in their offices, have the opportunity of advancing tukavy, encouraging the ryots, and making their agreements in their several districts, in letting under-farms, or disposing of the lands in such a manner as they may judge most expedient. If, though similar to the late minister's conduct, a delay of two or three months should occur in the settlement of the lands, the people throughout the country would be disheartened, and inevitably a very heavy balance accrue on the revenue. I have troubled the honorable board with this detail, in the first place, to show the propriety of Elija Khan's conduct, and, in the next, the essential service that will be rendered to the Vizier by continuing Colonel Parker's detachment during the whole rains in Corah, if required by the Vizier."
My Lords, you have now had a view of the state of Oude, previous to the first period of our connection with it. Your Lordships have seen and understand that part of the middle period, with which we do not mean to trouble you again. You will now be pleased to attend to a letter from Fyzoola Khan to the Governor-General, received the 13th of February, 1778.
"This country of Cuttah, which formerly depended on the Rohilla States, and which I consider as now appertaining to the Company, was very populous and flourishing; but since the commencement of the Nabob Vizier's government, the farmers appointed by his ministers have desolated the country. Its situation is at present very ruinous; thousands of villages, formerly populous, are now utterly deserted, and no trace left of them. I have already written to Roy Buckstowr Sing a full account of the tyranny and oppression exercised by the farmers, to be communicated to you: the constant revenue of a country depends on the care of its rulers to preserve it in a flourishing state. I have been induced to make the representation by my attachment to the interest of the Company; for otherwise it is no concern of mine. Should these oppressions continue one or two years longer, and the rulers take no measures to put a stop to them, the whole country will be a desert."
My Lords, upon these statements I have only to make this remark,—that you have seen the first state of this country, and that the period when it had fallen into the state last described was about two years after Mr. Hastings had obtained the majority in the Council and began to govern this country by his lieutenants. We know that the country was put by him under military collectors: you see the consequences. The person who makes this representation to Mr. Hastings of the state of the country, of its distress and calamity, and of the desolation of a thousand of the villages formerly flourishing in it, is no less a person than a prince of a neighboring country, a person of whom you have often heard, and to whom the cause of humanity is much indebted, namely, Fyzoola Khan,—a prince whose country the English Resident, travelling through, declares to be cultivated like a garden. That this was the state of the Rohilla country is owing to its having very fortunately been one of those that escaped the dominion of Mr. Hastings.
We will now read to your Lordships a letter from Sir Eyre Coote to the board at Calcutta, dated the 11th of September, 1779.
"Honorable Sir and Sirs,—The day before yesterday I encamped near Allahabad, where the Vizier did me the honor of a visit; and yesterday morning, in my way hither, I returned it, and was received by his Excellency with every mark of respect and distinction. This morning he called here, and we had some general conversation, which principally turned upon the subject of his attachment to the English, and his readiness to show the sincerity of it upon all occasions. It is to be wished we had employed the influence which such favorable sentiments must have given us more to the benefit of the country and ourselves; but I fear the distresses which evidently appear on the face of the one, and the failure of the revenues to the other, are not to be wholly ascribed to the Vizier's mismanagement."
This is the testimony of Mr. Hastings's own pensioner, Sir Eyre Coote, respecting the known state of the country during the time of this horrible usurpation, which Sir Eyre Coote mentions under the soft name of our influence. But there could be but one voice upon the subject, and that your Lordships shall now hear from Mr. Hastings himself. We refer your Lordships to the Minute of the Governor-General's Consultation, Fort William, 21st May, 1781: he is here giving his reasons for going into the upper provinces.
"The province of Oude having fallen into a state of great disorder and confusion, its resources being in an extraordinary degree diminished, and the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah having earnestly entreated the presence of the Governor-General, and declared, that, unless some effectual measures are taken for his relief, he must be under the necessity of leaving his country, and coming down to Calcutta, to present his situation to this government,—the Governor-General therefore proposes, with the concurrence of Mr. Wheler, to visit the province of Oude as speedily as the affairs of the Presidency will admit, in hopes that, from a minute and personal observation of the circumstances of that country, the system of management which has been adopted, and the characters and conduct of the persons employed, he may possibly be able to concert and establish some plan by which the province of Oude may in time be restored to its former state of affluence, good order, and prosperity."
Your Lordships have now the whole chain of the evidence complete, with regard to the state of the country, up to the period of Mr. Hastings's journey into the country. You see that Mr. Hastings himself admits it to have been formerly in a most flourishing, orderly, and prosperous state. Its condition in 1781 he describes to you in words than which no enemy of his can use stronger, in order to paint the state in which it then was. In this state he found it, when he went up in the year 1781; and he left it, with regard to any substantial regulation that was executed or could be executed, in the state in which he found it,—after having increased every one of those grievances which he pretended to redress, and taken from it all the little resources that remained in it.
We now come to a subsequent period, at which time the state of the country is thus described by Mr. Bristow, on the 12th December, 1782.
"Despotism is the principle upon which every measure is founded, and the people in the interior parts of the country are ruled at the discretion of the aumil or foujdar for the time being. They exercise, within the limits of their jurisdiction, the powers of life and death, and decisions in civil and other cases, in the same extent as the sovereign at the capital. The forms prescribed by the ancient institutions of the Mogul empire are unattended to, and the will of the provincial magistrate is the sole law of the people. The total relaxation of the Vizier's authority, his inattention and dislike to business, leave the aumils in possession of this dangerous power, unawed, uncontrolled by any apprehension of retrospection, or the interference of justice. I can hardly quote an instance, since the Vizier's accession to the musnud, of an aumil having been punished for oppression, though the complaints of the people and the state of the country are notorious proofs of the violences daily committed: it is even become unsafe for travellers to pass, except in large bodies; murders, thefts, and other enormities shocking to humanity, are committed in open day."
In another paragraph of the same letter, he says,—
"Such has been the system of this government, that the oppressions have generally originated with the aumils. They have been rarely selected for their abilities or integrity, but from favor, or the means to advance a large sum upon being appointed to their office. The aumil enters upon his trust ruined in reputation and fortune; and unless he accomplishes his engagements, which is seldom the case, disgrace and punishment follow. Though the balance of revenue may be rigorously demanded of him, it has not been usual to institute any inquiry for oppression. The zemindars, thus left at the mercy of the aumils, are often driven to rebellion. The weak are obliged to submit to his exactions, or fly the country; and the aumil, unable to reduce the more powerful, is compelled to enter into a disgraceful compromise. Every zemindar looks to his fort for protection, and the country is crowded with them: Almas Ali Khan asserts there are not less than seven hundred in his districts. Hence it has become a general custom to seize the brother, son, or some near relation or dependant of the different zemindars, as hostages for the security of the revenue: a great aumil will sometimes have three or four hundred of these hostages, whom he is obliged to confine in places of security. A few men like Almas Ali Khan and Coja Ain ul Din have, from their regularity in the performance of pecuniary engagements, rendered themselves useful to the Vizier. A strict scrutiny into his affairs was at all times irksome to his Excellency, and none of the ministers or officers about his person possessing the active, persevering spirit requisite to conduct the detail of engagements for a number of small farms, it became convenient to receive a large sum from a great farmer without trouble or deficiency. This system was followed by the most pernicious consequences; these men were above all control, they exacted their own terms, and the districts they farmed were most cruelly oppressed. The revenue of Rohilcund is reduced above a third, and Almas Ali Khan's administration is well known to have been extremely violent."
We will next read to your Lordships an extract from Captain Edwards's evidence.
"Q. Had you any opportunity of observing the general face of the country in the time of Sujah Dowlah?—A. I had.—Q. Did you remark any difference in the general state of the country at that time and the period when you made your latter observation?—did you observe any difference between the condition of the country at that time, that of Sujah Dowlah in the year 1774, and the latter period you have mentioned?—A. I did,—a very material difference.—Q. In what respect?—A. In the general aspect that the country bore, and the cultivation of the country,—that it was infinitely better cultivated in 1774 than it was in 1783.—Q. You said you had no opportunity of observing the face of the country till you was appointed aide-de-camp to the Nabob?—A. No,—except by marching and countermarching. I marched in the year 1774 through the Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah's provinces into Rohilcund.—Q. Had you those opportunities from the time of your going there in 1774?—A. I had; but not so much as I had after being appointed aide-de-camp to the Vizier, because I was always before in a subordinate situation: I marched in a direct line before, with the troops; but afterwards, when I was aide-de-camp to his Excellency, I was my own master, and made frequent excursions into the different parts of the country.—Q. Had you an opportunity of observing the difference in the general happiness and disposition of the people?—A. I had.—Q. Did you observe a difference in that respect also between your first coming and the year 1783?—A. Yes, a very sensible difference: in Sujah ul Dowlah's time the country was in a very flourishing state, in merchandise, cultivation, and every article of commerce, and the people then seemed to be very happy under his government, which latterly was not the case; because the country in reality appeared in the year 1774 in a flourishing state, and in the year 1783 it appeared comparatively forlorn and desolate.—Q. Was the court of Asoph ul Dowlah, when you left India, equal in point of splendor to what it was in the time of Sujah ul Dowlah?—A. By no means: it was not equally splendid, but far inferior.—Q. Were the dependants and officers belonging to the court paid in the same punctual manner?—A. No: I really cannot say whether they were paid more regularly in Sujah Dowlah's time, only they appeared more wealthy and more able to live in a splendid style in his time than they ever have done since his death."
Here, then, your Lordships see the state of the country in 1783. Your Lordships may trace the whole progress of these evils, step by step, from the death of Sujah ul Dowlah to the time of Mr. Hastings's obtaining a majority in the Council, after which he possessed the sole and uncontrolled management of the country; you have seen also the consequences that immediately followed till the year 1784, when he went up a second time into the country.
I do not know, my Lords, that it is necessary to make any observation upon this state of things. You see that the native authority was, as we have proved, utterly extinguished by Mr. Hastings, and that there was no superintendent power but his. You have heard of the oppressions of the farmers of the revenues; and we have shown you that these farmers generally were English officers. We have shown you in what manner Colonel Hannay, one of these farmers sent by Mr. Hastings, acted, and particularly the accumulation of hostages which were made by him. We have shown you, that by their arbitrary and tyrannical proceedings all regular government was subverted, and that the country experienced the last and most dreadful effects of anarchy. We have shown you that no other security was left to any human being, but to intrench themselves in such forts as they could make, and that these forts, in one district only of the country, had increased in number to the amount of seven hundred. Your Lordships also know, that, when the prisons and mud forts in which Colonel Hannay kept his hostages confined were full, he kept them in uncovered cages in the open air. You know that all these farmers of revenue were either English and military men, or natives under an abject submission to them; you know that they had the whole country in assignments, that the jaghires were all confiscated for their benefits; and you find that the whole system had its origin at the time when Mr. Hastings alone formed in effect the authority of the Supreme Council. The weakness of the Nabob, as Sir Eyre Coote tells you, could not have been alone the cause of these evils, and that our influence over him, if not actually the cause of the utter ruin, desolation, and anarchy of that country, might have been successfully exerted in preventing.
When your Lordships shall proceed to judgment upon these accumulated wrongs, arising out of the usurped power of the prisoner at your bar, and redressed by him in no one instance whatever, let not the usurpation itself of the Nabob's power be considered as a trivial matter. When any prince at the head of a great country is entirely stripped of everything in his government, civil or military, by which his rank may be distinguished or his virtues exercised, he is in danger of becoming a mere animal, and of abandoning himself wholly to sensual gratifications. Feeling no personal interest in the institutions or in the general welfare of the country, he suffers the former (and many wise and laudable institutions existed in the provinces of the Nabob, for their good order and government) to fall into disuse, and he leaves the country itself to persons in inferior situations, to be wasted and destroyed by them. You find that in Oude, the very appearance of justice had been banished out of it, and that every aumil exercised an arbitrary power over the lives and fortunes of the people. My Lords, we have the proofs of all these facts in our hands; they are in your Lordships' minutes; and though we can state nothing stronger than is stated in the papers themselves, yet we do not so far forget our duty as not to point out to your Lordships such observations as arise out of them.
To close the whole, your Lordships shall how hear read an extract from a most curious and extraordinary letter, sent by him to the Court of Directors, preparatory to his return to England.
"My only remaining fear is, that the members of the Council, seeing affairs through a different medium from that through which I view them, may be disposed, if not to counteract the system which I have formed, to withhold from it their countenance and active support. While I myself remain, it will be sufficient if they permit it to operate without interruption; and I almost hope, in the event of a new administration of your affairs which shall confine itself to the same forbearance, and manifest no symptoms of intended interference, the objects of my arrangements will be effectually attained; for I leave them in the charge of agents whose interests, ambition, and every prospect of life are interwoven with their success, and the hand of Heaven has visibly blest the soil with every elementary source of progressive vegetation: but if a different policy shall be adopted, if new agents are sent into the country and armed with authority for the purpose of vengeance or corruption, to no other will they be applied. If new demands are raised on the Nabob Vizier, and accounts overcharged on one side with a wide latitude taken on the other to swell his debt beyond the means of payment,—if political dangers are portended, to ground on them the pleas of burdening his country with unnecessary defences and enormous subsidies,—or if, even abstaining from direct encroachment on the Nabob's rights, your government shall show but a degree of personal kindness to the partisans of the late usurpation, or by any constructive indication of partiality and disaffection furnish ground for the expectation of an approaching change of system, I am sorry to say that all my labors will prove abortive; for the slightest causes will be sufficient to deject minds sore with the remembrance of past conflicts, and to elevate those whose only dependence is placed in the renewal of the confusion which I have labored with such zeal to eradicate, and will of course debilitate the authority which can alone insure future success. I almost fear that this denunciation of effects from causes so incompetent, as they will appear to those who have not had the experience which I have had of the quick sensibility which influences the habits of men placed in a state of polity so loose, and subject to the continual variations of capricious and despotic authority, will be deemed overcharged, or perhaps void of foundation; nor, if they should come to pass, will it be easy to trace them with any positive evidence to their connection: yet it is my duty to apprise you of what I apprehend, on grounds which I deem of absolute certainty, may come to pass; and I rely on your candor for a fair interpretation of my intention."
Here, my Lords, the prisoner at your bar has done exactly what his bitterest accuser would do: he goes through, head by head, every one of the measures which he had himself pursued in the destruction of the country; and he foretells, that, if any one of those measures should again be pursued, or even if good cause should be given to suspect they would be renewed, the country must fall into a state of inevitable destruction. This supersedes all observation. This paper is a recapitulated, minute condemnation of every step which he took in that country, and which steps, are every one of them upon your Lordships' minutes.
But, my Lords, we know very well the design of these pretended apprehensions, and why he wished to have that country left in the state he speaks of. He had left a secret agent of his own to control that ostensible government, and to enable him, sitting in the place where he now sits, to continue to govern those provinces in the way in which he now governs them.
[A murmur having arisen here, Mr. Burke proceeded.]
If I am called upon to reword what I have just said, I shall repeat my words, and show strong grounds and reasons to indicate that he governs Oude now as much as he ever did.
You see, my Lords, that the reform which he pretended to make in 1781 produced the calamities which he states to have existed in 1784. We shall now show that the reform which he pretended to make in 1784 brought on the calamities which Lord Cornwallis states in his evidence to have existed in 1787.
We will now read two letters from Lord Cornwallis: the first is dated the 16th November, 1787.
"I was received at Allahabad and attended to Lucknow by the Nabob and his ministers with every mark of friendship and respect. I cannot, however, express how much I was concerned, during my short residence at his capital, and my progress through his dominions, to be witness of the disordered state of his finances and government, and of the desolate appearances of his country. The evils were too alarming to admit of palliation, and I thought it my duty to exhort him, in the most friendly manner, to endeavor to apply effectual remedies to them. He began with urging as apology, that, whilst he was not certain of the expense [extent?] of our demands upon him, he had no real interest in being economical in his expenses, and that, while we interfered in the internal management of his affairs, his own authority and that of his ministers were despised by his own subjects. It would have been useless to discuss these topics with him; but while I repeated my former declarations of our being determined to give no ground in future for similar complaints, he gave me the strongest assurances of his being resolved to apply himself earnestly to the encouragement of agriculture, and to endeavor to revive the commerce of his country."
The second is dated the 25th April, 1788.
"Till I saw the Vizier's troops, I was not without hope that upon an emergency he would have been able to have furnished us with some useful cavalry; but I have no reason to believe that he has any in his service upon which it would be prudent to place any dependence; and I think it right to add, that his country appears to be in so ruined a state, and his finances in so much disorder, that even in case of war we ought not to depend upon any material support from him."
My Lords, I have only to remark upon these letters, that, so far as they go, they prove the effects of Mr. Hastings's reformation, from which he was pleased to promise the Company such great things. But when your Lordships know that he had left his dependant and minister, Hyder Beg Khan, there, whose character, as your Lordships will find by a reference to your minutes he has represented as black as hell, to be the real governor there, and to carry on private correspondence with him here, and that he had left Major Palmer, his private agent, for a considerable time in that country to carry on his affairs, your Lordships will easily see how it has come to pass that the Vizier, such a man as you have heard him described to be, was not alone able to restore prosperity to his country.
My Lords, you have now seen what was the situation of the country in Sujah Dowlah's time, prior to Mr. Hastings's interference with the government of it, what it was during his government, and what situation it was in when Lord Cornwallis left it. Nothing now remains but to call your Lordships' attention to perhaps the most extraordinary part of these transactions. But before we proceed, we will beg leave to go back and read to your Lordships the Nabob's letter of the 24th February, 1780.
"I have received your letter, and understand the contents. I cannot describe the solidity of your friendship and brotherly affection which subsisted between you and my late father. From the friendship of the Company he received numberless advantages; and I, notwithstanding I was left an orphan, from your favor and that of the Company was perfectly at ease, being satisfied that everything would be well, and that I should continue in the same security that I was during my father's lifetime, from your protection. I accordingly, from the day of his death, have never omitted to cultivate your favor, and the protection of the Company; and whatever was the desire and directions of the Council at that time I have ever since conformed to, and obeyed with readiness. Thanks be given to God that I have never as yet been backward in performing the will of the English Company, of the Council, and of you, and have always been from my heart ready to obey them, and have never given you any trouble from my difficulties or wishes. This I have done simply from my own knowledge of your favor towards me, and from my being certain that you would learn the particulars of my distresses and difficulties from other quarters, and would then show your friendship and good-will in whatever was for my advantage. But when the knife had penetrated to the bone, and I was surrounded with such heavy distresses that I could no longer live in expectations, I then wrote an account of my difficulties. The answer which I have received to it is such, that it has given me inexpressible grief and affliction. I never had the least idea or expectation from you and the Council that you would ever have given your orders in so afflicting a manner, in which you never before wrote, and which I could not have imagined. As I am resolved to obey your orders, and directions of the Council, without any delay, as long as I live, I have, agreeably to those orders, delivered up all my private papers to him [the Resident], that, when he shall have examined my receipts and expenses, he may take whatever remains. As I know it to be my duty to satisfy you, the Company, and Council, I have not failed to obey in any instance, but requested of him that it might be done so as not to distress me in my necessary expenses: there being no other funds but those for the expenses of my mutsuddies, household expenses, and servants, &c. He demanded these in such a manner, that, being remediless, I was obliged to comply with what he required. He has accordingly stopped the pensions of my old servants for thirty years, whether sepoys, mutsuddies, or household servants, and the expenses of my family and kitchen, together with the jaghires of my grandmother, mother, and aunts, and of my brothers and dependants, which were for their support. I had raised fifteen hundred horse and three battalions of sepoys to attend upon me; but, as I have no resources to support them, I have been obliged to remove the people stationed in the mahals, and to send his people into the mahals, so that I have not now one single servant about me. Should I mention what further difficulties I have been reduced to, it would lay me open to contempt. Although I have willingly assented to this which brings such distress on me, and have in a manner altogether ruined myself, yet I failed not to do it for this reason, because it was for your satisfaction, and that of the Council; and I am patient, and even thankful, in this condition; but I cannot imagine from what cause you have conceived displeasure against me. From the commencement of my administration, in every circumstance, I received strength and security from your favor, and that of the Council; and in every instance you and the Council have shown your friendship and affection for me; but at present, that you have sent these orders, I am greatly perplexed."
We will not trouble your Lordships with the remainder of the letter, which is all in the same style of distress and affliction, and of the abject dependence of a man who considers himself as insulted, robbed, and ruined in that state of dependence.
In addition to the evidence contained in this letter, your Lordships will be pleased to recollect the Nabob's letter which we read to your Lordships yesterday, the humble and abject style of which you will never forget. Oh, consider, my Lords, this instance of the fate of human greatness! You must remember that there is not a trace anywhere, in any of the various trunks of Mr. Hastings, that he ever condescended so much as to give an answer to the suppliant letters of that unhappy man. There was no mode of indignity with which he did not treat his family; there was no mode of indignity with which he did not treat his person; there was no mode of indignity with which he did not treat his minister, Hyder Beg Khan,—this man whom he represents to be the most infamous and scandalous of mankind, and of whom he, nevertheless, at the same time declares, that his only support with the Vizier was the support which he, Warren Hastings, as representative of the English government, gave him.
We will now read a paper which perhaps ought not to have been received in evidence, but which we were willing to enter in your minutes as evidence, in order that everything should come before you. Your Lordships have heard the Nabob speak of his misery, distress, and oppression; but here he makes a complete defeasance, as it were, of the whole charge, a direct disavowal of every one of the complaints, and particularly that of having never received an answer to these complaints. Oh, think, I say, my Lords, of the degraded, miserable, and unhappy state to which human nature may be reduced, when you hear this unhappy man declare that all the charges which we have made upon this subject relative to him, and which are all either admitted by him or taken from his own representation, are now stated by him in a paper before you to be all false, and that there is not a word of the representation which he had made of Mr. Hastings that has the least truth in it! Your Lordships will find this in that collection of various papers which ought to be preserved and put into every museum in Europe, as one of the most extraordinary productions that was ever exhibited to the world.
Papers received the 8th of March, 1788, and translated pursuant to an Order of the Governor-General in Council, dated the 21th of April, 1788, under the Seal of His Excellency the Nabob Asoph ul Dowlah, Asoph Jah Bahadur, Vizier ul Momalik.
"I have at this time learnt that the gentlemen in power in England, upon the suspicion that Mr. Hastings, during his administration, acted contrary to the rules of justice and impartiality, and, actuated by motives of avidity, was inimical towards men without cause; that he broke such engagements and treaties as had been made between the Company and other chiefs; that he extended the hand of oppression over the properties of men, tore up the roots of security and prosperity from the land, and rendered the ryots and subjects destitute by force and extortion.—As this accusation, in fact, is destitute of uprightness and void of truth, therefore, with a view to show the truth in its true colors, I have written upon this sheet with truth and sincerity, to serve as an evidence, and to represent real facts,—to serve also as information and communication, that Mr. Hastings, from the commencement of his administration until his departure for England, whether during the lifetime of the deceased Nabob, of blessed memory, Vizier ul Moolk, Sujah ul Dowlah Bahadur, my father, or during my government, did not at any time transact contrary to justice any matter which took place from the great friendship between me and the Company, nor in any business depart from the path of truth and uprightness, but cultivated friendship with integrity and sincerity, and in every respect engaged himself in the duties of friendship with me, my ministers and confidants. I am at all times, and in every way, pleased with and thankful for his friendly manners and qualities; and my ministers and confidants, who have always, every one of them, been satisfied with his conduct, are forever grateful for his friendship and thankful for his virtues. As these matters are real facts, and according to truth, I have written these lines as an evidence, and transmit this paper to England, through the government of Calcutta, for the information of the gentlemen of power and rank in England."
Observe, my Lords, the candor of the Commons. We produce this evidence, which accuses us, as Mr. Hastings does, of uttering everything that is false; we choose to bring our shame before the world, and to admit that this man, on whose behalf and on the behalf of whose country we have accused Mr. Hastings, has declared that this accusation (namely, this impeachment) is destitute of uprightness and without truth. But, my Lords, this is not only a direct contradiction to all he has ever said, to all that has been proved to you by us, but a direct contradiction to all the representations of Mr. Hastings himself. Your Lordships will hence see what credit is to be given to these papers.
Your Lordships shall now hear what Hyder Beg Khan says: that Hyder Beg Khan who stands recorded in your minutes as the worst of mankind; who is represented as writing letters without the Nabob's consent, and in defiance of him; the man of whom Mr. Hastings says, that the Nabob is nothing but a tool in his hands, and that the Nabob is and ever must be a tool of somebody or other. Now, as we have heard the tool speak, let us hear how the workman employed to work with this tool speaks.
Extract from Hyder Beg Khan's Letter to the Governor and Council.
"It is at this time learnt by the Nabob Vizier, and us, his ministers, that the gentlemen of power in England are displeased with Mr. Hastings, on the suspicion that during his administration in this country, from motives of avidity, he committed oppressions contrary to the rules of justice, took the properties of men by deceit and force, injured the ryots and subjects, and rendered the country destitute and ruined. As the true and upright disposition of Mr. Hastings is in every respect free of this suspicion, we therefore with truth and sincerity declare by these lines, written according to fact, that Mr. Hastings, from the first of his appointment to the government of this country until his departure for Europe, during his authority in the management of the affairs of the country, whether in the lifetime of the Nabob Sujah ul Dowlah Bahadur, deceased, or whether during the present reign, did not, in any matters which took place from the great friendship between this government and the Company, act in any wise upon motives of avidity, and, not having, in any respect, other than justice and propriety in intention, did not swerve from their rules. He kept his Excellency the Vizier always pleased and satisfied" (you will remember, my Lords, the last expressions of his pleasure and satisfaction) "by his friendship and attention in every matter. He at all times showed favor and kindness towards us, the ministers of this government; and under his protection having enjoyed perfect happiness and comfort, we are from our hearts satisfied with and grateful for his benevolence and goodness."
Here, my Lords, you have the character which Hyder Beg Khan gives of Mr. Hastings,—of the man who he knew had loaded him, as he had done, with every kind of indignity, reproach, and outrage with which a man can be loaded. Your Lordships will see that this testimony repeats, almost word for word, the testimony of the Vizier Nabob,—which shows who the real writer is.
My Lords, it is said, that there is no word in the Persian language to express gratitude. With these signal instances of gratitude before us, I think we may venture to put one into their dictionary. Mr. Hastings has said he has had the pleasure to find from the people of India that gratitude which he has not met with from his own countrymen, the House of Commons. Certainly, if he has done us services, we have been ungrateful indeed; if he has committed enormous crimes, we are just. Of the miserable, dependent situation to which these people are reduced, that they are not ashamed to come forward and deny everything they have given under their own hand,—all these things show the portentous nature of this government, they show the portentous nature of that phalanx with which the House of Commons is at present at war, the power of that captain-general of every species of Indian iniquity, which, under him, is embodied, arrayed, and paid, from Leadenhall Street to the furthermost part of India.
We have but one observation more to offer upon this collection of razinamas, upon these miserable testimonials given by these wretched people in contradiction to all their own previous representations,—directly in contradiction to those of Mr. Hastings himself,—directly in contradiction to those of Lord Cornwallis,—directly in contradiction to truth itself. It is this. Here is Mr. Hastings with his agents canvassing the country, with all that minuteness with which a county is canvassed at an election; and yet in this whole book of razinamas not one fact adduced by us is attempted to be disproved, not one fact upon which Mr. Hastings's defence can be founded is attempted to be proved. There is nothing but bare vile panegyrics, directly belied by the state of facts, directly belied by the persons themselves, directly belied by Mr. Hastings at your bar, and by all the whole course of the correspondence of the country.
We here leave to your Lordships' judgment the consideration of the elevated rank of the persons aggrieved and degraded to the lowest state of dependence and actual distress,—the consideration of the condition of the country gentlemen, who were obliged to hide their heads, wherever they could, from the plunderers and robbers established under his authority in every part of the country, and that of the miserable common people, who have been obliged to sell their children through want of food to feed them,—the consideration, I say, of the manner in which this country, in the highest, in the middle, and in the lowest classes of its inhabitants, nay, in physical works of God, was desolated and destroyed by this man.
Having now done with the province of Oude, we will proceed to the province of Bengal, and consider what was the kind of government which he exercised there, and in what manner it affected the people that were subjected to it.
* * * * *
Bengal, like every part of India subject to the British empire, contains (as I have already had occasion to mention) three distinct classes of people, forming three distinct social systems. The first is the Mahometans, which, about seven hundred years ago, obtained a footing in that country, and ever since has in a great degree retained its authority there. For the Mahometans had settled there long before the foundation of the Bengal empire, which was overturned by Tamerlane: so that this people, who are represented sometimes loosely as strangers, are people of ancient and considerable settlement in that country; and though, like Mahometan settlers in many other countries, they have fallen into decay, yet, being continually recruited from various parts of Tartary under the Mogul empire, and from various parts of Persia, they continue to be the leading and most powerful people throughout the peninsula; and so we found them there. These people, for the most part, follow no trades or occupation, their religion and laws forbidding them in the strictest manner to take usury or profit arising from money that is in any way lent; they have, therefore, no other means for their support but what arises from their adherence to and connection with the Mogul government and its viceroys. They enjoy under them various offices, civil and military,—various employments in the courts of law, and stations in the army. Accordingly a prodigious number of people, almost all of them persons of the most ancient and respectable families in the country, are dependent upon and cling to the subahdars or viceroys of the several provinces. They, therefore, who oppress, plunder, and destroy the subahdars, oppress, rob, and destroy an immense mass of people. It is true that a supervening government, established upon another, always reduces a certain portion of the dependants upon the latter to want. You must distress, by the very nature of the circumstances of the case, a great number of people; but then it is your business, when, by the superiority which you have acquired, however you may have acquired it, (for I am not now considering whether you have acquired it by fraud or force, or whether by a mixture of both,) when, I say, you have acquired it, it is your business not to oppress those people with new and additional difficulties, but rather to console them in the state to which they are reduced, and to give them all the assistance and protection in your power.
The next system is composed of the descendants of the people who were found in the country by the Mahometan invaders. The system before mentioned comprehends the official interest, the judicial interest, the court interest, and the military interest. This latter body includes almost the whole landed interest, commercial interest, and moneyed interest of the country. For the Hindoos not being forbidden by their laws or religious tenets, as laid down in the Shaster, many of them became the principal money-lenders and bankers; and thus the Hindoos form the greatest part both of the landed and moneyed interest in that country.
The third and last system is formed of the English interest; which in reality, whether it appears directly or indirectly, is the governing interest of the whole country,—of its civil and military interest, of its landed, moneyed, and revenue interest; and what to us is the greatest concern of all, it is this system which is responsible for the government of that country to the government of Great Britain. It is divided into two parts: one emanating from the Company, and afterwards regulated by act of Parliament; the other a judicial body, sent out by and acting under the authority of the crown itself. The persons composing that interest are those whom we usually call the servants of the Company. They enter into that service, as your Lordships know, at an early period of life, and they are promoted accordingly as their merit or their interest may provide for them. This body of men, with respect to its number, is so small as scarcely to deserve mentioning; but, from certain circumstances, the government of the whole country is fallen into their hands. Amongst these circumstances, the most important and essential are their having the public revenues and the public purse entirely in their own hands, and their having an army maintained by that purse, and disciplined in the European manner.
Such was the state of that country when Mr. Hastings was appointed Governor in 1772. Your Lordships are now to decide upon the manner in which he has comported himself with regard to all these three interests: first, whether he has made the ancient Mahometan families as easy as he could; secondly, whether he has made the Hindoo inhabitants, the zemindars and their tenants, as secure in their property and as easy in their tenure as he could; and lastly, whether he has made the English interest a blessing to the country, and, whilst it provided moderate, safe, and proper emoluments to the persons that were concerned in it, it kept them from oppression and rapine, and a general waste and ravage of the country: whether, in short, he made all these three interests pursue that one object which all interests and all governments ought to pursue, the advantage and welfare of the people under them.
My Lords, in support of our charge against the prisoner at your bar, that he acted in a manner directly the reverse of this, we have proved to you that his first acts of oppression were directed against the Mahometan government,—that government which had been before, not only in name, but in effect, to the very time of his appointment, the real government of the country. After the Company had acquired its right over it, some shadow still remained of the ancient government. An allowance was settled for the Nabob of Bengal, to support the dignity of his court, which amounted to between four and five hundred thousand pounds a year. In this was comprehended the support of the whole mass of nobility,—the soldiers, serving or retired,—all the officers of the court, and all the women that were dependent upon them,—the whole of the criminal jurisdiction of the country, and a very considerable part of the civil law and the civil government. These establishments formed the constitutional basis of their political government.
The Company never had (and it is a thing that we can never too often repeat to your Lordships)—the Company never had of right despotic power in that country, to overturn any of these establishments. The Mogul, who gave them their charters, could not give them such a power,—he did not de facto give them such a power; the government of this country did not by act of Parliament, and the Company did not and could not by their delegation, give him such a power; the act by which he was appointed Governor did not give him such a power. If he exercised it, he usurped it; and therefore, every step we take in the examination of his conduct in Bengal, as in every step we take upon the same subject everywhere else, we look for the justification of his conduct to laws,—the Law of Nations, the laws of this country, and the laws of the country he was sent to govern.
The government of that country, by the ancient constitution of the Mogul empire, besides the numberless individual checks and counter-checks in the inferior officers [offices?], is divided into the viceroyal part and the subahdarry part. The viceroyal part takes in all criminal justice and political government. Mr. Hastings found the country under a viceroy, governing according to law, acting by proper judges and magistrates under him: he himself not being the judicial, but executive power of the country,—that which sets the other in action, and does not supersede it or supply its place. The other, the subahdarry power, which was by the grant of the dewanny conferred upon the Company, had under its care the revenues, as much of the civil government as is concerned with the revenues, and many other matters growing out of it. These two offices are cooerdinate and dependent on each other. The Company, after contracting to maintain the army out of it, got the whole revenue into their power. The army being thus within their power, the subahdar by degrees vanished into an empty name.
When we thus undertook the government of the country, conscious that we had undertaken a task which by any personal exertion of our own we were unable to perform in any proper or rational way, the Company appointed a native of the country, Mahomed Reza Khan, who stands upon the records of the Company, I venture to say, with such a character as no man perhaps ever did stand, to execute the duties of both offices. Upon the expulsion of Cossim Ali Khan, the Nabob of Bengal, all his children were left in a young, feeble, and unprotected state; and in that state of things, Lord Clive, Mr. Sumner, who sits near Mr. Hastings, and the rest of the Council, wisely appointed Mahomed Reza Khan to fulfil the two offices of deputy-viceroy and deputy-dewan, for which he had immense allowances, and great jaghires and revenues, I allow. He was a man of that dignity, rank, and consideration, added to his knowledge of law and experience in business, that Lord Clive and Mr. Sumner, who examined strictly his conduct at that time, did not think that 112,000l. a year, the amount of the emoluments which had been allowed him, was a great deal too much; but at his own desire, and in order that these emoluments might be brought to stated and fixed sums, they reduced it to 90,000l.,—an allowance which they thought was not more than sufficient to preserve the state of so great a magistrate, and a man of such rank, exercising such great employments. The whole revenue of the Company depended upon his talents and fidelity; and you will find, that, on the day in which he surrendered the revenues into our hands, the dewanny, under his management, was a million more than it produced on the day Mr. Hastings left it. For the truth of this I refer your Lordships to a letter of the Company sent to the Board of Control. This letter is not in evidence before your Lordships, and what I am stating is merely historical. But I state the facts, and with the power of referring for their proof to documents as authentic as if they were absolutely in evidence before you. Assuming, therefore, that all these facts may be verified by the records of the Company, I have now to state that this man, by some rumors true or false, was supposed to have misconducted himself in a time of great calamity in that country. A great famine had about this time grievously afflicted the whole province of Bengal.—I must remark by the way, that these countries are liable to this calamity; but it is greatly blessed by Nature with resources which afford the means of speedy recovery, if their government does not counteract them. Nature, that inflicts the calamity, soon heals the wound; it is in ordinary seasons the most fertile country, inhabited by the most industrious people, and the most disposed to marriage and settlement, probably, that exists in the whole world; so that population and fertility are soon restored, and the inhabitants quickly resume their former industrious occupations.
During the agitation excited in the country by the calamity I have just mentioned, Mahomed Reza Khan, through the intrigues of Rajah Nundcomar, one of his political rivals, and of some English faction that supported him, was accused of being one of the causes of the famine. In answer to this charge, he alleged, what was certainly a sufficient justification, that he had acted under the direction of the English board, to which his conduct throughout this business was fully known. The Company, however, sent an order from England to have him tried; but though he frequently supplicated the government at Calcutta that his trial should be proceeded in, in order that he might be either acquitted and discharged or condemned, Mr. Hastings kept him in prison two years, under pretence (as he wrote word to the Directors) that Mahomed Reza Khan himself was not very desirous to hasten the matter. In the mean time the Court of Directors, having removed him from his great offices, authorized and commanded Mr. Hastings (and here we come within the sphere of your minutes) to appoint a successor to Mahomed Reza Khan, fit to fulfil the duties of his station. Now I shall first show your Lordships what sort of person the Court of Directors described to him as most fit to fill the office of Mahomed Reza Khan, what sort of person he did appoint, and then we will trace out to you the consequences of that appointment.
Letter from the Court of Directors to the President and Council at Fort William, dated 28th August, 1771.
"Though we have not a doubt but that, by the exertion of your abilities, and the care and assiduity of our servants in the superintendency of the revenues, the collections will be conducted with more advantage to the Company and ease to the natives than by means of a naib dewan, we are fully sensible of the expediency of supporting some ostensible minister in the Company's interest at the Nabob's court, to transact the political affairs of the sircar, and interpose between the Company and the subjects of any European power, in all cases wherein they may thwart our interest or encroach on our authority; and as Mahomed Reza Khan can no longer be considered by us as one to whom such a power can be safely committed, we trust to your local knowledge the selection of some person well qualified for the affairs of government, and of whose attachment to the Company you shall be well assured: such person you will recommend to the Nabob to succeed Mahomed Reza as minister of the government, and guardian of the Nabob's minority; and we persuade ourselves that the Nabob will pay such regard to your recommendation as to invest him with the necessary power and authority.
"As the advantages which the Company may receive from the appointment of such minister will depend on his readiness to promote our views and advance our interest, we are willing to allow him so liberal a gratification as may excite his zeal and secure his attachment to the Company; we therefore empower you to grant to the person whom you shall think worthy of this trust an annual allowance not exceeding three lacs of rupees, (thirty thousand pounds,) which we consider not only as a munificent reward for any services he shall render the Company, but sufficient to enable him to support his station with suitable rank and dignity. And here we must add, that, in the choice you shall make of a person to be the active minister of the Nabob's government, we hope and trust that you will show yourselves worthy of the confidence we have placed in you, by being actuated therein, by no other motives than those of the public good and the safety and interest of the Company."
Here, my Lords, a person was to be named fit to fill the office and supply the place of Mahomed Reza Khan, who was deputy-viceroy of Bengal, at the head of the criminal justice of the country, and, in short, at the head of the whole ostensible Mahometan government; he was also to supply the place of Mahomed Reza Khan as naib dewan, from which Reza Khan was to be removed: for you will observe, the Directors always speak of a man fit to perform all the duties of Mahomed Reza Khan; and amongst these he was to be as the guardian of the Nabob's person, and the representative of his authority and government.
Mr. Hastings, having received these orders from the Court of Directors, did—what? He alleges in his defence, that no positive commands were given him. But a very sufficient description was given of the person who ought to succeed Mahomed Reza Khan, in whom the Company had before recognized all the necessary qualities; and they therefore desire him to name a similar person. But what does Mr. Hastings do in consequence of this authority? He names no man at all. He searches into the seraglio of the Nabob, and names a woman to be the viceroy of the province, to be the head of the ostensible government, to be the guardian of the Nabob's person, the conservator of his authority, and a proper representative of the remaining majesty of that government.
Well, my Lords, he searched the seraglio. When you have to take into consideration the guardianship of a person of great dignity, there are two circumstances to be attended to: one, a faithful and affectionate guardianship of his person; and the other, a strong interest in his authority, and the means of exercising that authority in a proper and competent manner. Mr. Hastings, when he was looking for a woman in the seraglio, (for he could find women only there,) must have found actually in authority there the Nabob's own mother: certainly a person who by nature was most fit to be his guardian; and there is no manner of doubt of her being sufficiently competent to that duty. Here, then, was a legitimate wife of the Nabob Jaffier Ali Khan, a woman of rank and distinction, fittest to take care of the person and interests, as far as a woman could take care of them, of her own son. In this situation she had been placed before, during the administration of Mahomed Reza Khan, by the direct orders of the Governor, Sir John Cartier. She had, I say, been put in possession of that trust which it was natural and proper to give to such a woman. But what does Mr. Hastings do? He deposes this woman. He strips her of her authority with which he found her invested under the sanction of the English government. He finds out a woman in the seraglio, called Munny Begum, who was bound to the Nabob by no tie whatever of natural affection. He makes this woman the guardian of the young Nabob's person. She had a son who had been placed upon the musnud after the death of his father, Sujah Dowlah, and had been appointed his guardian. This young Nabob died soon afterwards, and was succeeded by Nujim ul Dowlah, another natural son of Sujah Dowlah. This prince being left without a mother, this woman was suffered to retain the guardianship of the Nabob till his death. When Mobarek ul Dowlah, a legitimate son of Sujah Dowlah, succeeded him, Sir John Cartier did what his duty was: he put the Nabob's own mother into the place which she was naturally entitled to hold, the guardianship of her own son, and displaced Munny Begum. The whole of the arrangement by which Munny Begum was appointed guardian of the two preceding Nabobs stands in the Company's records stigmatized as a transaction base, wicked, and corrupt. We will read to your Lordships an extract from a letter which has the signature of Mr. Sumner, the gentleman who sits here by the side of Mr. Hastings, and from which you will learn what the Company and the Council thought of the original nomination of Munny Begum and of her son. You will find that they considered her as a great agent and instrument of all the corruption there; and that this whole transaction, by which the bastard son of Munny Begum was brought forward to the prejudice of the legitimate son of the Nabob, was considered to be, what it upon the very face of it speaks itself to be, corrupt and scandalous.
Extract of a General Letter from the President and Council at Calcutta, Bengal, to the Select Committee of the Directors.
Paragraph 5.—"At Fort St. George we received the first advices of the demise of Mir Jaffier, and of Sujah Dowlah's defeat. It was there firmly imagined that no definitive measures would be taken, either with respect to a peace or filling the vacancy in the nizamut, before our arrival,—as the 'Lapwing' arrived in the month of January with your general letter, and the appointment of a committee with express powers to that purpose, for the successful exertion of which the happiest occasion now offered. However, a contrary resolution prevailed in the Council. The opportunity of acquiring immense fortunes was too inviting to be neglected, and the temptation too powerful to be resisted. A treaty was hastily drawn up by the board,—or rather, transcribed, with few unimportant additions, from that concluded with Mir Jaffier,—and a deputation, consisting of Messrs. Johnstone, senior, Middleton, and Leycester, appointed to raise the natural son of the deceased Nabob to the subahdarry, in prejudice of the claim of the grandson; and for this measure such reasons assigned as ought to have dictated a diametrically opposite resolution. Meeran's son was a minor, which circumstance alone would have naturally brought the whole administration into our hands at a juncture when it became indispensably necessary we should realize the shadow of power and influence, which, having no solid foundation, was exposed to the danger of being annihilated by the first stroke of adverse fortune. But this inconsistence was not regarded, nor was it material to the views for precipitating the treaty, which was pressed on the young Nabob at the first interview, in so earnest and indelicate a manner as highly disgusted him and chagrined his ministers, while not a single rupee was stipulated for the Company, whose interests were sacrificed that their servants might revel in the spoils of a treasury, before impoverished, but now totally exhausted.
"6. This scene of corruption was first disclosed at a visit the Nabob paid to Lord Clive and the gentlemen of the Committee a few days after our arrival. He there delivered to his Lordship a letter filled with bitter complaints of the insults and indignity he had been exposed to, and the embezzlement of near twenty lacs of rupees issued from his treasury for purposes unknown during the late negotiations. So public a complaint could not be disregarded, and it soon produced an inquiry. We referred the letter to the board in expectation of obtaining a satisfactory account of the application of this money, and were answered only by a warm remonstrance entered by Mr. Leycester against that very Nabob in whose elevation he boasts of having been a principal agent.
"7. Mahomed Reza Khan, the naib subah, was then called upon to account for this large disbursement from the treasury; and he soon delivered to the Committee the very extraordinary narrative entered in our Proceedings the 6th of June, wherein he specifies the several names and sums, by whom paid, and to whom, whether in cash, bills, or obligations. So precise, so accurate an account as this of money for secret and venal services was never, we believe, before this period, exhibited to the Honorable Court of Directors, at least never vouched by undeniable testimony and authentic documents: by Juggut Seet, who himself was obliged to contribute largely to the sums demanded; by Muley Ram, who was employed by Mr. Johnstone in all these pecuniary transactions; by the Nabob and Mahomed Reza Khan, who were the heaviest sufferers; and, lastly, by the confession of the gentlemen themselves whose names are specified in the distribution list.
"8. Juggut Seet expressly declared in his narrative, that the sum which he agreed to pay the deputation, amounting to 125,000 rupees, was extorted by menaces; and since the close of our inquiry, and the opinions we delivered in the Proceedings of the 21st of June, it fully appears that the presents from the Nabob and Mahomed Reza Khan, exceeding the immense sum of seventeen lacs, were not the voluntary offerings of gratitude, but contributions levied on the weakness of the government, and violently exacted from the dependent state and timid disposition of the minister. The charge, indeed, is denied on the one hand, as well as affirmed on the other. Your honorable board must therefore determine how far the circumstance of extortion may aggravate the crime of disobedience to your positive orders,—the exposing the government in a manner to sale, and receiving the infamous wages of corruption from opposite parties and contending interests. We speak with boldness, because we speak from conviction founded upon indubitable evidence, that, besides the above sums specified in the distribution account, to the amount of 228,125l. sterling, there was likewise to the value of several lacs of rupees procured from Nundcomar and Roy Dullub, each of whom aspired at and obtained a promise of that very employment it was predetermined to bestow on Mahomed Reza Khan.
(Signed at the end,) "CLIVE. W^M B. SUMNER. JOHN CARNAC. H. VERELST. FRA^S SYKES."
My Lords, the persons who sign this letter are mostly the friends, and one of them is the gentleman who is bail for and sits near Mr. Hastings. They state to you this horrible and venal transaction, by which the government was set to sale, by which a bastard son was elevated to the wrong of the natural and legitimate heir, and in which a prostitute, his mother, was put in the place of the honorable and legitimate mother of the representative of the family.
Now, if there was one thing more than another under heaven, which Mr. Hastings ought to have shunned, it was the suspicion of being concerned in any such infamous transaction as that which is here recorded to be so,—a transaction in which the country government had before been sold to this very woman and her offspring, and in which two great candidates for power in that country fought against each other, and perhaps the largest offerer carried it.
When a Governor-General sees the traces of corruption in the conduct of his predecessors, the traces of injustice following that corruption, the traces of notorious irregularity in setting aside the just claimants in favor of those that have no claim at all, he has that before his eyes which ought to have made him the more scrupulously avoid, and to keep at the farthest distance possible from, the contagion and even the suspicion of being corrupted by it. Moreover, my Lords, it was in consequence of these very transactions that the new covenants were made, which bind the servants of the Company never to take a present of above two hundred pounds, or some such sum of money, from any native in circumstances there described. This covenant I shall reserve for consideration in another part of this business. It was in pursuance of this idea, and to prevent the abuse of the prevailing custom of visiting the governing powers of that country with a view of receiving presents from them, that the House of Commons afterwards, in its inquiries, took up this matter and passed the Regulating Act in 1773.
But to return to Munny Begum.—This very person, that had got into power by the means already mentioned, did Mr. Hastings resort to, knowing her to be well skilled in the trade of bribery,—knowing her skilful practice in business of this sort,—knowing the fitness of her eunuchs, instruments, and agents, to be dealers in this kind of traffic. This very woman did Mr. Hastings select, stigmatized as she was in the Company's record, stigmatized by the very gentleman who sits next to him, and whose name you have heard read to you as one of those members of the Council that reprobated the horrible iniquity of the transaction in which this woman was a principal agent. For though neither the young Nabob nor his mother ought to have been raised to the stations in which they were placed, and were placed there for the purpose of facilitating the receipt of bribes, yet the order of Nature was preserved, and the mother was made the guardian of her own son: for though she was a prostitute and he a bastard, yet still she was a mother and he a son; and both Nature and legitimate disposition with regard to the guardianship of a son went together.
But what did Mr. Hastings do? Improving upon the preceding transaction, improving on it by a kind of refinement in corruption, he drives away the lawful mother from her lawful guardianship; the mother of nature he turns out, and he delivers her son to the stepmother to be the guardian of his person. That your Lordships may see who this woman was, we shall read to you a paper from your Lordships' minutes, produced before Mr. Hastings's face, and never contradicted by him from that day to this.
At a Consultation, 24th July, 1775.—"Shah Chanim, deceased, was sister to the Nabob Mahub ul Jung by the same father, but different mothers; she married Mir Mahomed Jaffier Khan, by whom she had a son and a daughter; the name of the former was Mir Mahomed Sadduc Ali Khan, and the latter was married to Mir Mahomed Cossim Khan Sadduc. Ali Khan had two sons and two daughters; the sons' names are Mir Sydoc and Mir Sobeem, who are now living; the daughters were married to Sultan Mirza Daood.
"Baboo Begum, the mother of the Nabob Mobarek ul Dowlah, was the daughter of Summin Ali Khan, and married Mir Mahomed Jaffier Khan. The history of Munny Begum is this. At a village called Balkonda, near Sekundra, there lived a widow, who, from her great poverty, not being able to bring up her daughter Munny, gave her to a slave girl belonging to Summin Ali Khan, whose name was Bissoo. During the space of five years she lived at Shahjehanabad, and was educated by Bissoo after the manner of a dancing-girl. Afterwards the Nabob Shamut Jung, upon the marriage of Ikram ul Dowlah, brother to the Nabob Surajah ul Dowlah, sent for Bissoo Beg's set of dancing-girls from Shahjehanabad, of which Munny Begum was one, and allowed them ten thousand rupees for their expenses, to dance at the wedding. While this ceremony was celebrating, they were kept by the Nabob; but some months afterwards he dismissed them, and they took up their residence in this city. Mir Mahomed Jaffier Khan then took them into keeping, and allowed Munny and her set five hundred rupees per month, till at length, finding that Munny was pregnant, he took her into his own house. She gave birth to the Nabob Nujim ul Dowlah, and in this manner she has remained in the Nabob's family ever since."
My Lords, I do not mean to detain you long upon this part of the business, but I have thought it necessary to advert to these particulars. As to all the rest, the honorable and able Manager who preceded me has sufficiently impressed upon your Lordships' minds the monstrous nature of the deposing of the Nabob's mother from the guardianship of her son, for the purpose of placing this woman there at the head of all his family and of his domestic concerns in the seraglio within doors, and at the head of the state without, together with the disposal of the whole of the revenue that was allowed him. Mr. Hastings pretends, indeed, to have appointed at the same time a trusty mutsuddy to keep the accounts of the revenue; but he has since declared that no account had been kept, and that it was in vain to desire it or to call for it. This is the state of the case with respect to the appointment of Munny Begum.
With regard to the reappointment of Mahomed Reza Khan, you have heard from my worthy fellow Manager that he was acquitted of the charges that had been brought against him by Mr. Hastings, after a long and lingering trial. The Company was perfectly satisfied with the acquittal, and declared that he was not only acquitted, but honorably acquitted; and they also declared that he had a fair claim to a compensation for his sufferings. They not only declared him innocent, but meritorious. They gave orders that he should be considered as a person who was to be placed in office again upon the first occasion, and that he had entitled himself to this favor by his conduct in the place which he had before filled.
The Council of the year 1775, (whom I can never mention nor shall mention without honor,) who complied faithfully with the act of Parliament, who never disobeyed the orders of the Company, and to whom no man has imputed even the shadow of corruption, found that this Munny Begum had acted in the manner which my honorable fellow Manager has stated: that she had dissipated the revenue, that she had neglected the education of the Nabob, and had thrown the whole judicature of the country into confusion. They ordered that she should be removed from her situation; that the Nabob's own mother should be placed at the head of the seraglio, a situation to which she was entitled; and with regard to the rest of the offices, that Mahomed Reza Khan should be employed to fill them.
Mr. Hastings resisted these propositions with all his might; but they were by that happy momentary majority carried against him, and Mahomed Reza Khan was placed in his former situation. But Mr. Hastings, though thus defeated, was only waiting for what he considered to be the fortunate moment for returning again to his corrupt, vicious, tyrannical, and disobedient habits. The reappointment of Mahomed Reza Khan had met with the fullest approbation of the Company; and they directed, that, as long as his good behavior entitled him to it, he should continue in the office. Mr. Hastings, however, without alleging any ill behavior, and for no reason that can be assigned, but his corrupt engagement with Munny Begum, overturned (upon the pretence of restoring the Nabob to his rights) the whole of the Company's arrangement, as settled by the late majority, and approved by the Court of Directors.
I have now to show you what sort of a man the Nabob was, who was thus set up in defiance of the Company's authority; what Mr. Hastings himself thought of him; what the judges thought of him; and what all the world thought of him.