I shall now proceed to state briefly the abuses of the Company's government,—to show you what Mr. Hastings was expected to do for their reformation, and what he actually did do; I shall then show your Lordships the effects of the whole.
I shall begin by reading to your Lordships an extract from the Directors' letter to Bengal, of the 10th April, 1773.
"We wish we could refute the observation, that almost every attempt made by us and our administrations at your Presidency for the reforming of abuses has rather increased them, and added to the miseries of the country we are so anxious to protect and cherish. The truth of this observation appears fully in the late appointment of supervisors and chiefs. Instituted as they were, to give relief to the industrious tenants, to improve and enlarge our investments, to destroy monopolies and retrench expenses, the end has by no means been answerable to the institution. Are not the tenants more than ever oppressed and wretched? Are our investments improved? Have not the raw silk and cocoons been raised upon us fifty per cent in price? We can hardly say what has not been made a monopoly. And as to the expenses of your Presidency, they are at length swelled to a degree we are no longer able to support. These facts (for such they are) should have been stated to us as capital reasons why neither our orders of 1771, nor indeed any regulations whatever, could be carried into execution. But, perhaps, as this would have proved too much, it was not suggested to us; for nothing could more plainly indicate a state of anarchy, and that there was no government existing in our servants in Bengal."
"And therefore, when oppression pervades the whole country, when youths have been suffered with impunity to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over the natives, and to acquire rapid fortunes by monopolizing of commerce, it cannot be a wonder to us or yourselves, that dadney merchants do not come forward to contract with the Company, that the manufactures find their way through foreign channels, or that our investments are at once enormously dear and of a debased quality.
"It is evident that the evils which have been so destructive to us lie too deep for any partial plans to reach or correct; it is therefore our resolution to aim at the root of these evils: and we are happy in having reason to believe that in every just and necessary regulation we shall meet with the approbation and support of the legislature, who consider the public as materially interested in the Company's prosperity.
"In order to effectuate this great end, the first step must be to restore perfect obedience and due subordination to your administration. Our Governor and Council must reassume and exercise their delegated powers upon every just occasion,—punish delinquents, cherish the meritorious, discountenance that luxury and dissipation which, to the reproach of government, prevailed in Bengal. Our President, Mr. Hastings, we trust, will set the example of temperance, economy, and application; and upon this, we are sensible, much will depend. And here we take occasion, to indulge the pleasure we have in acknowledging Mr. Hastings's services upon the coast of Coromandel, in constructing, with equal labor and ability, the plan which has so much improved our investments there; and as we are persuaded he will persevere in the same laudable pursuit through every branch of our affairs in Bengal, he, in return, may depend on the steady support and favor of his employers.
"Your settlement being thus put into a train of reform, (without which, indeed, all regulations will prove ineffectual,) you are next to revert to the old system, when the business of your Presidency was principally performed by our own servants, who then had knowledge of our investments, and every other department of our concerns: you will therefore fill the several offices with the factors and writers upon your establishment, (for, with our present appointments, we are assured there will be sufficient for this purpose,) and thus you will banish idleness, and its attendants, extravagance and dissipation. And here we enjoin you to transmit to us a faithful and minute state of the pay and every known emolument of all below Council: for, as it is notorious that even youths in our service expend in equipage, servants, dress, and living infinitely more than our stated allowances can afford, we cannot but be anxious to discover the means by which they are enabled to proceed in this manner; and, indeed, so obnoxious is this conduct to us, and so injurious in its consequences, that we expect and require you to show your displeasure to all such as shall transgress in this respect, contrasting it at the same time with instances of kindness towards the sober, frugal, and industrious."
My Lords, you see the state in which the Directors conceived the country to be. That it was in this state is not denied by Mr. Hastings, who was sent out for the purpose of reforming it. The Directors had swept away almost the whole body of their Bengal servants for supposed corruption; and they appointed a set of new ones, to regenerate, as it were, the government of that country.
Mr. Hastings says, "I was brought to India like other people." This, indeed, is true; and I hope it will prove an example and instruction to all mankind never to employ a man who has been bred in base and corrupt practices, from any hope that his local knowledge may make him the fittest person to correct such practices. Mr. Hastings goes on to say, that you could not expect more from him than could be done by a man bred up, as he was, in the common habits of the country. This is also true. My Lords, you might as well expect a man to be fit for a perfumer's shop, who has lain a month in a pig's stye, as to expect that a man who has been a contractor with the Company for a length of time is a fit person for reforming abuses. Mr. Hastings has stated in general his history, his merits, and his services. We have looked over with care the records relative to his proceedings, and we find that in 1760 and 1761 he was in possession of a contract for bullocks and a contract for provisions. It is no way wrong for any man to take a contract, provided he does not do what Mr. Hastings has condemned in his regulations,—become a contractor with his masters. But though I do not bear upon Mr. Hastings for having spent his time in being a bullock-contractor, yet I say that he ought to have laid aside all the habits of a bullock-contractor when he was made a great minister for the reformation of a great service full of abuses. I will show your Lordships that he never did so; that, on the contrary, being bred in those bad habits, and having had the education that I speak of, he persevered in the habits which had been formed in him to the very last.
I understand it has been imputed as a sort of a crime in me, that I stated something of the obscurity of Mr. Hastings's birth. The imputation has no foundation. Can it be believed that any man could be so absurd as to attack a man's birth, when he is accusing his actions? No, I have always spoken of the low, sordid, and mercenary habits in which he was bred; I said nothing of his birth. But, my Lords, I was a good deal surprised when a friend of his and mine yesterday morning put into my hands, who had been attacking Mr. Hastings's life and conduct, a pedigree. I was appealing to the records of the Company; they answer by sending me to the Herald's Office. Many of your Lordships' pedigrees are obscure in comparison with that of Mr. Hastings; and I only wonder how he came to derogate from such a line of nobles by becoming a contractor for bullocks.
A man may be an honest bullock-contractor, (God forbid that many of them in this country should not be very honest!) but I find his terms were nearly four times as high as those which the House of Commons had condemned as exorbitant. They were not only unusually high, but the bullocks were badly supplied, and the contract had not been fairly advertised. It was therefore agreed to declare the same void at the expiration of twelve months, on the 1st December, 1763. I say again, that I do not condemn him for being a bullock-contractor; but I am suspicious of his honesty, because he has been nursed in bad and vicious habits. That of contracting with his masters is a bad habit, as he himself has stated in a record which is printed by the House of Commons. I condemn him for being a fraudulent bullock-contractor: for he was turned out of that contract for fraudulent practices; it was declared void, and given to another at a lower price. After it was so disposed of, Mr. Hastings himself, condemning his own original contract, which was at twelve rupees for a certain species of bullocks, took the contract again at seven; and on these terms it continued. What I therefore contend for is this, that he carried with him the spirit of a fraudulent bullock-contractor through the whole of the Company's service, in its greatest and most important parts.
My Lords, the wading through all these corruptions is an unpleasant employment for me; but what am I to think of a man who holds up his head so high, that, when a matter of account is in discussion, such as appears in this very defence that I have in my hand, he declares he does not know anything about it? He cannot keep accounts: that is beneath him. We trace him throughout the whole of his career engaged in a great variety of mercantile employments; and yet, when he comes before you, you would imagine that he had been bred in the study of the sublimest sciences, and had no concern in anything else,—that he had been engaged in writing a poem, an Iliad, or some work that might revive fallen literature. There is but one exception to his abhorrence of accounts: he always contrives to make up a good account for himself.
My Lords, we have read to you a letter in which the Court of Directors have described the disorders of their service, the utter ruin of it, the corruption that prevailed in it, and the destruction of the country by it. When we are said to exaggerate, we use no stronger words than they do. We cannot mince the matter; your Lordships should not mince it; no little paltry delicacies should hinder you, when there is a country expiring under all these things, from calling the authors to a strict account. The Court of Directors sent him that statement; they recommended to him a radical reformation. What does he do? We will read his letter of 1773, in which you will find seeds sown for the propagation of all those future abuses which terminated in the utter and irremediable destruction of the whole service. After he has praised the Directors for the trust that they had placed in him, after expressing his highest gratitude, and so on, he says,—
"While I indulge the pleasure which I receive from the past successes of my endeavors, I own I cannot refrain from looking back with a mixture of anxiety on the omissions by which I am sensible I may since have hazarded the diminution of your esteem. All my letters addressed to your Honorable Court, and to the Secret Committee, repeat the strongest promises of prosecuting the inquiries into the conduct of your servants, which you have been pleased to commit particularly to my charge. You will readily perceive that I must have been sincere in those declarations; since it would have argued great indiscretion to have made them, had I foreseen my inability to perform them. I find myself now under the disagreeable necessity of avowing that inability; at the same time I will boldly take upon me to affirm, that, on whomsoever you might have delegated that charge, and by whatever powers it might have been accompanied, it would have been sufficient to occupy the entire attention of those who were intrusted with it, and, even with all the aids of leisure and authority, would have proved ineffectual. I dare appeal to the public records, to the testimony of those who have opportunities of knowing me, and even to the detail which the public voice can report of the past acts of this government, that my time has been neither idly nor uselessly employed; yet such are the cares and embarrassments of this various state, that, although much may be done, much more, even in matters of moment, must necessarily remain neglected. To select from the miscellaneous heap which each day's exigencies present to our choice those points on which the general welfare of your affairs most essentially depends, to provide expedients for future advantages, and guard against probable evils, are all that your administration can faithfully promise to perform for your service, with their united labors most diligently exerted. They cannot look back without sacrificing the objects of their immediate duty, which are those of your interest, to endless researches, which can produce no real good, and may expose your affairs to all the ruinous consequences of personal malevolence, both here and at home."
My Lords, you see here, that, after admitting that he has promised to the Court of Directors to do what they ordered him to do, (and he had promised to make a radical reform in their whole service, and to cure those abuses which they have stated,) he declares that he will not execute them; he pleads a variety of other occupations; but as to that great fundamental grievance he was appointed to eradicate, he declares he will not even attempt it. "Why did you promise?"—it naturally occurs to ask him that question. "Why," says he, "you will readily perceive that I must have been sincere in those declarations; since it would have argued great indiscretion to have made them, had I known my inability to perform them." This is a kind of argument that belongs to Mr. Hastings exclusively. Most other people would say, "You may judge of the sincerity of my promises by my zeal in the performance"; but he says, "You may judge of the sincerity of my promises, because I would not promise, if I had not thought I should be able to perform." It runs in this ridiculous circle: "I promised to obey the Court of Directors; therefore I knew that I could obey them: but I could not obey them; therefore I was absolved from my promise, and did not attempt to obey them." In fact, there is not so much as one grievance or abuse in the country, that he reformed. And this was systematical in Mr. Hastings's conduct,—that he was resolved to connive at the whole of the iniquities of the service, because he was resolved that every one of those existing iniquities should be practised by himself. "But," says he, "the reformation required can produce no real good, and may expose your affairs to all the ruinous consequences of personal malevolence, both here and at home." This he gives you as a reason why he will not prosecute the inquiry into abuses abroad,—because he is afraid that you should punish him at home for doing his duty abroad,—that it will expose him to malevolence at home; and therefore, to avoid being subject to malevolence at home, he would not do his duty abroad.
He follows this with something that is perfectly extraordinary: he desires, instead of doing his duty, which he declares it is impossible to do, that he may be invested with an arbitrary power. I refer your Lordships to pages 2827, 2828, and 2829 of the printed Minutes, where you will find the system of his government to be formed upon a resolution not to use any one legal means of punishing corruption, or for the prevention of corruption; all that he desires is, to have an absolute arbitrary power over the servants of the Company. There you will see that arbitrary power for corrupt purposes over the servants of the Company is the foundation of every part of his whole conduct. Remark what he says here, and then judge whether these inferences are to be eluded by any chicane.
"In the charge of oppression, although supported by the cries of the people and the most authentic representations, it is yet impossible, in most cases, to obtain legal proofs of it; and unless the discretionary power which I have recommended be somewhere lodged, the assurance of impunity from any formal inquiry will baffle every order of the board; as, on the other hand, the fear of the consequences will restrain every man within the bounds of his duty, if he knows himself liable to suffer by the effects of a single control."
My Lords, you see two things most material for you to consider in the judgment of this great cause, which is the cause of nations. The first thing for you to consider is the declaration of the culprit at your bar, that a person may be pursued by the cries of a whole people,—that documents the most authentic and satisfactory, but deficient in technical form, may be produced against him,—in short, that he may be guilty of the most enormous crimes,—and yet that legal proofs may be wanting. This shows you how seriously you ought to consider, before you reject any proof upon the idea that it is not technical legal proof. To this assertion of Mr. Hastings I oppose, however, the opinion of a gentleman who sits near his side, Mr. Sumner, which is much more probable.
Mr. Hastings says, that the power of the Council is not effectual against the inferior servants, that [it?] is too weak to coerce them. With much more truth Mr. Sumner has said, in his minute, you might easily coerce the inferior servants, but that the dread of falling upon persons in high stations discourages and puts an end to complaint. I quote the recorded authority of the gentleman near him, as being of great weight in the affairs of the Company, to prove what is infinitely more probable, the falsehood of Mr. Hastings's assertion, that an inferior servant cannot be coerced, and that they must riot with impunity in the spoils of the people.
But we will go to a much more serious part of the business. After desiring arbitrary power in this letter, he desires a perpetuation of it. And here he has given you a description of a bad Governor, to which I must call your attention, as your Lordships will find it, in every part of his proceeding, to be exactly applicable to himself and to his own government.
"The first command of a state so extensive as that of Bengal is not without opportunities of private emoluments; and although the allowance which your bounty has liberally provided for your servants may be reasonably expected to fix the bounds of their desires, yet you will find it extremely difficult to restrain men from profiting by other means, who look upon their appointment as the measure of a day, and who, from the uncertainty of their condition, see no room for any acquisition but of wealth, since reputation and the consequences which follow the successful conduct of great affairs are only to be attained in a course of years. Under such circumstances, however rigid your orders may be, or however supported, I am afraid that in most instances they will produce no other fruits than either avowed disobedience or the worst extreme of falsehood and hypocrisy. These are not the principles which should rule the conduct of men whom you have constituted the guardians of your property, and checks on the morals and fidelity of others. The care of self-preservation will naturally suggest the necessity of seizing the opportunity of present power, when the duration of it is considered as limited to the usual term of three years, and of applying it to the provision of a future independency; therefore every renewal of this term is liable to prove a reiterated oppression. It is perhaps owing to the causes which I have described, and a proof of their existence, that this appointment has been for some years past so eagerly solicited and so easily resigned. There are yet other inconveniences attendant on this habit, and perhaps an investigation of them all would lead to endless discoveries. Every man whom your choice has honored with so distinguished a trust seeks to merit approbation and acquire an eclat by innovations, for which the wild scene before him affords ample and justifiable occasion."
You see, my Lords, he has stated, that, if a Governor is appointed to hold his office only for a short time, the consequence would be either an avowed disobedience, or, what is worse, extreme falsehood and hypocrisy. Your Lordships know that this man has held his office for a long time, and yet his disobedience has been avowed, and his hypocrisy and his falsehood have been discovered, and have been proved to your Lordships in the course of this trial. You see this man has declared what are the principles which should rule the conduct of men whom you have constituted the guardians of your property, and checks upon the morals and fidelity of others. Mr. Hastings tells you himself directly what his duty was; he tells you himself, and he pronounces his own condemnation, what was expected from him, namely, that he should give a great example himself, and be a check and guardian of the fidelity of all that are under him. He declares, at the end of this letter, that a very short continuance in their service would enable him to make a fortune up to the height of his desire. He has since thought proper to declare to you that he is a beggar and undone, notwithstanding all his irregular resources in that very service.
I have read this letter to your Lordships, that you may contrast it with the conduct of the prisoner, as stated by us, and proved by the evidence we have adduced. We have stated and proved that Mr. Hastings did enter upon a systematic connivance at the peculation of the Company's servants, that he refused to institute any check whatever for the purpose of preventing corruption, and that he carried into execution no one measure of government agreeably to the positive and solemn engagements into which he had entered with the Directors. We therefore charge him, not only with his own corruptions, but with a systematic, premeditated corruption of the whole service, from the time when he was appointed, in the beginning of the year 1772, down to the year 1785, when he left it. He never attempted to detect any one single abuse whatever; he never endeavored once to put a stop to any corruption in any man, black or white, in any way whatever. And thus he has acted in a government of which he himself declares the nature to be such that it is almost impossible so to detect misconduct as to give legal evidence of it, though a man should be declared by the cries of the whole people to be guilty.
My Lords, he desires an arbitrary power over the Company's servants to be given to him. God forbid arbitrary power should be given into the hands of any man! At the same time, God forbid, if by power be meant the ability to discover, to reach, to check, and to punish subordinate corruption, that he should not be enabled so to do, and to get at, to prosecute, and punish delinquency by law! But honesty only, and not arbitrary power, is necessary for that purpose. We well know, indeed, that a government requiring arbitrary power has been the situation in which this man has attempted to place us.
We know, also, my Lords, that there are cases in which the act of the delinquent may be of consequence, while the example of the criminal, from the obscurity of his situation, is of little importance: in other cases, the act of the delinquent may be of no great importance, but the consequences of the example dreadful. We know that crimes of great magnitude, that acts of great tyranny, can but seldom be exercised, and only by a few persons. They are privileged crimes. They are the dreadful prerogatives of greatness, and of the highest situations only. But when a Governor-General descends into the muck and filth of peculation and corruption, when he receives bribes and extorts money, he does acts that are imitable by everybody. There is not a single man, black or white, from the highest to the lowest, that is possessed in the smallest degree of momentary authority, that cannot imitate the acts of such a Governor-General. Consider, then, what the consequences will be, when it is laid down as a principle of the service, that no man is to be called to account according to the existing laws, and that you must either give, as he says, arbitrary power, or suffer your government to be destroyed.
We asked Mr. Anderson, whether the covenant of every farmer of the revenue did not forbid him from giving any presents to any persons, or taking any. He answered, he did not exactly remember, (for the memory of this gentleman is very indifferent, though the matter was in his own particular province,) but he thought it did; and he referred us to the record of it. I cannot get at the record; and therefore you must take it as it stands from Mr. Anderson, without a reference to the record,—that the farmers were forbidden to take or give any money to any person whatever, beyond their engagements. Now, if a Governor-General comes to that farmer, and says, "You must give a certain sum beyond your engagements," he lets him loose to prey upon the landholders and cultivators; and thus a way is prepared for the final desolation of the whole country, by the malversation of the Governor, and by the consequent oppressive conduct of the farmers.
Mr. Hastings being now put over the whole country to regulate it, let us see what he has done. He says, "Let me have an arbitrary power, and I will regulate it." He assumed arbitrary power, and turned in and out every servant at his pleasure. But did he by that arbitrary power correct any one corruption? Indeed, how could he? He does not say he did. For when a man gives ill examples in himself, when he cannot set on foot an inquiry that does not terminate in his own corruption, of course he cannot institute any inquiry into the corruption of the other servants.
But again, my Lords, the subordinate servant will say, "I cannot rise" (properly here, as Mr. Hastings has well observed) "to the height of greatness, power, distinction, rank, or honor in the government; but I can make my fortune, according to my degree, my measure, and my place." His views will be then directed so to make it. And when he sees that the Governor-General is actuated by no other views,—when he himself, as a farmer, is confidently assured of the corruptions of his superior,—when he knows it to be laid down as a principle by the Governor-General, that no corruption is to be inquired into, and that, if it be not expressly laid down, yet that his conduct is such as to make it the same as if he had actually so laid it down,—then, I say, every part of the service is instantly and totally corrupted.
* * * * *
I shall next refer your Lordships to the article of contracts. Five contracts have been laid before you, the extravagant and corrupt profits of which have been proved to amount to 500,000l. We have shown you, by the strongest presumptive evidence, that these contracts were given for the purpose of corrupting the Company's servants in India, and of corrupting the Company itself in England. You will recollect that 40,000l. was given in one morning for a contract which the contractor was never to execute: I speak of Mr. Sulivan's contract. You will also recollect that he was the son of the principal person in the Indian direction, and who, in or out of office, was known to govern it, and to be supported by the whole Indian interest of Mr. Hastings. You have seen the corruption of Sir Eyre Coote, in giving to Mr. Croftes the bullock contract. You have seen the bullock contracts stated to Mr. Hastings's face, and not denied, to have been made for concealing a number of corrupt interests. You have seen Mr. Auriol's contract, given to the secretary of the Company by Mr. Hastings in order that he might have the whole records and registers of the Company under his control. You have seen that the contract and commission for the purchase of stores and provisions, an enormous job, was given to Mr. Belli, an obscure man, for whom Mr. Hastings offers himself as security, under circumstances that went to prove that Mr. Belli held this commission for Mr. Hastings. These, my Lords, are things that cannot be slurred over. The Governor-General is corrupt; he corrupts all about him; he does it upon system; he will make no inquiry.
My Lords, I have stated the amount of the sums which he has squandered away in these contracts; but you will observe that we have brought forward but five of them. Good God! when you consider the magnitude and multiplicity of the Company's dealings, judge you what must be the enormous mass of that corruption of which he has been the cause, and in the profits of which he has partaken. When your Lordships shall have considered this document, his defence, which I have read in part to you, see whether you are not bound, when he imputes to us and throws upon us the cause of all his corruption, to throw back the charge by your decision, and hurl it with indignation upon himself.
But there is another shameless and most iniquitous circumstance, which I have forgotten to mention, respecting these contracts. He not only considered them as means of present power, and therefore protected his favorites without the least inquiry into their conduct, and with flagrant suspicion of a corrupt participation in their delinquency, but he goes still farther: he declares, that, if he should be removed from his government, he will give them a lease in these exorbitant profits, for the purpose of securing a corrupt party to support and bear him out by their evidence, upon the event of any inquiry into his conduct,—to give him a razinama, to give him a flourishing character, whenever he should come upon his trial. Hear what his principles are; hear what the man himself avows.
"Fort William, October 4, 1779.
"In answer to Mr. Francis's insinuation, that it is natural enough for the agent to wish to secure himself before the expiration of the present government, I avow the fact as to myself as well as the agent. When I see a systematic opposition to every measure proposed by me for the service of the public, by which an individual may eventually benefit, I cannot hesitate a moment to declare it to be my firm belief, that, should the government of this country be placed in the hands of the present minority, they would seek the ruin of every man connected with me; it is therefore only an act of common justice in me to wish to secure them, as far as I legally can, from the apprehension of future oppression."
Here is the principle avowed. He takes for granted, and he gives it the name of oppression, that the person who should succeed him would take away those unlawful and wicked emoluments, and give them to some other. "But," says he, "I will put out of the Company's power the very means of redress."
The document which I am now going to read to your Lordships contains a declaration by Mr. Hastings of another mean which he used of corrupting the whole Company's service.
Minute of the Governor-General.—Extract from that Minute.
"Called upon continually by persons of high rank and station, both in national and in the Company's councils, to protect and prefer their friends in the army, and by the merits and services which have come under my personal knowledge and observation, I suffer both pain and humiliation at the want of power to reward the meritorious, or to show a proper attention to the wishes of my superiors, without having recourse to means which must be considered as incompatible with the dignity of my station. The slender relief which I entreat of the board from this state of mortification is the authority to augment the number of my staff, which will enable me to show a marked and particular attention in circumstances such as above stated, and will be no considerable burden to the Company."
My Lords, you here see what he has been endeavoring to effect, for the express purpose of enabling him to secure himself a corrupt influence in England. But there is another point much more material, which brings the matter directly home to this court, and puts it to you either to punish him or to declare yourselves to be accomplices in the corruption of the whole service. Hear what the man himself says. I am first to mention to your Lordships the occasion upon which the passage which I shall read to you was written. It was when he was making his enormous and shameful establishment of a Revenue Board, in the year 1781,—of which I shall say a few words hereafter, as being a gross abuse in itself: he then felt that the world would be so much shocked at the enormous prodigality and corrupt profusion of what he was doing, that he at last spoke out plainly.
A Minute of Mr. Hastings, transmitted in a Letter by Mr. Wheler.
"In this, as it must be the case in every reformation, the interest of individuals has been our principal, if not our only impediment. We could not at once deprive so large a body of our fellow-servants of their bread, without feeling that reluctance which humanity must dictate,—not unaccompanied, perhaps, with some concern for the consequence which our own credit might suffer by an act which involved the fortunes of many, and extended its influence to all their connections. This, added to the justice which was due to your servants, who were removed for no fault of theirs, but for the public convenience, induced us to continue their allowances until other offices could be provided for them, and the more cheerfully to submit to the expediency of leaving others in a temporary or partial charge of the internal collections. In effect, the civil officers [offices?] of this government might be reduced to a very scanty number, were their exigency alone to determine the list of your covenanted servants, which at this time consist of no less a number than two hundred and fifty-two,—many of them the sons of the first families in the kingdom of Great Britain, and every one aspiring to the rapid acquisition of lacs, and to return to pass the prime of their lives at home, as multitudes have done before them. Neither will the revenues of this country suffice for such boundless pretensions, nor are they compatible with yours and the national interests, which may eventually suffer as certain a ruin from the effects of private competition and the claims of patronage as from the more dreaded calamities of war, or the other ordinary causes which lead to the decline of dominion."
My Lords, you have here his declaration, that patronage, which he avows to be one of the principles of his government, and to be the principle of the last of his acts, is worse than war, pestilence, and famine,—and that all these calamities together might not be so effectual as this patronage in wasting and destroying the country. And at what time does he tell you this? He tells it you when he himself had just wantonly destroyed an old regular establishment for the purpose of creating a new one, in which he says he was under the necessity of pensioning the members of the old establishment from motives of mere humanity. He here confesses himself to be the author of the whole mischief. "I could," says he, "have acted better; I might have avoided desolating the country by peculation; but," says he, "I had sons of the first families in the kingdom of Great Britain, every one aspiring to the rapid acquisition of lacs, and this would not suffer me to do my duty." I hope your Lordships will stigmatize the falsehood of this assertion. Consider, my Lords, what he has said,—two hundred and fifty men at once, and in succession, aspiring to come home in the prime of their youth with lacs. You cannot take lacs to be less than two; we cannot make a plural less than two. Two lacs make 20,000l. Then multiply that, by 252, and you will find more than 2,500,000l. to be provided for that set of gentlemen, and for the claims of patronage. Undoubtedly such a patronage is worse than the most dreadful calamities of war, and all the other causes which lead to decline of dominion.
My Lords, I beseech you to consider this plan of corrupting the Company's servants, beginning with systematical corruption, and ending with an avowed declaration that he will persist in this iniquitous proceeding, and to the utmost of his power entail it upon the Company, for the purpose of securing his accomplices against all the consequences of any change in the Company's government. "I dare not," says he, "be honest: if I make their fortunes, you will judge favorably of me; if I do not make their fortunes, I shall find myself crushed with a load of reproach and obloquy, from which I cannot escape in any other way than by bribing the House of Peers." What a shameful avowal this to be made in the face of the world! Your Lordships' judgment upon this great cause will obliterate it from the memory of man.
But his apprehension of some change in the Company's government is not his only pretext for some of these corrupt proceedings; he adverts also to the opposition which he had to encounter with his colleagues, as another circumstance which drove him to adopt others of these scandalous expediences. Now there was a period when he had no longer to contend with, or to fear, that opposition.
When he had got rid of the majority in the Council, which thwarted him, what did he do? Did he himself correct any of the evils and disorders which had prevailed in the service, and which his hostile majority had purposed to reform? No, not one,—notwithstanding the Court of Directors had supported the majority in all their declarations, and had accused him of corruption and rebellion in every part of his opposition to them. Now that he was free from the yoke of all the mischief of that cursed majority which he deprecates, and which I have heard certain persons consider as a great calamity, (a calamity indeed it was to patronage,)—as soon, I say, as he was free from this, you would imagine he had undertaken some great and capital reformation; for all the power which the Company could give was in his hands,—total, absolute, and unconfined.
I must here remind your Lordships, that the Provincial Councils was an establishment made by Mr. Hastings. So confident was he in his own opinion of the expediency of them, that he transmitted to the Court of Directors a draught of an act of Parliament to confirm them. By this act it was his intention to place them beyond the possibility of mutation. Whatever opinion others might entertain of their weakness, inefficacy, or other defects, Mr. Hastings found no such things in them. He had declared in the beginning that he considered them as a sort of experiment, but that in the progress he found them answer so perfectly well that he proposed even an act of Parliament to support them. The Court of Directors, knowing the mischiefs that innovation had produced in their service, and the desolations which it had brought on the country, commanded him not to take any step for changing them, without their orders. Contrary, however, to his own declarations, contrary to the sketch of an act of Parliament, which, for aught he knew, the legislature might then have passed, (I know that it was in contemplation to pass, about that time, several acts for regulating the Company's affairs, and, for one, I should have been, as I always have been, a good deal concerned in whatever tended to fix some kind of permanent and settled government in Bengal,)—in violation, I say, of his duty, and in contradiction to his own opinion, he at that time, without giving the parties notice, turns out of their employments, situations, and bread, the Provincial Councils.
And who were the members of those Provincial Councils? They were of high rank in the Company's service; they were not junior servants, boys of a day, but persons who had gone through some probation, who knew something of the country, who were conversant in its revenues and in the course of its business; they were, in short, men of considerable rank in the Company's service. What did he do with these people? Without any regard to their rank in the service,—no more than he had regarded the rank of the nobility of the country,—he sweeps them all, in one day, from their independent situations, without reference to the Directors, and turns them all into pensioners upon the Company. And for what purpose was this done? It was done in order to reduce the Company's servants, who, in their independent situations, were too great a mass and volume for him to corrupt, to an abject dependence upon his absolute power. It was, that he might tell them, "You have lost your situations; you have nothing but small alimentary pensions, nothing more than a maintenance; and you must depend upon me whether you are to have anything more or not." Thus at one stroke a large division of the Company's servants, and one of the highest orders of them, were reduced, for their next bread, to an absolute, submissive dependence upon his will; and the Company was loaded with the pensions of all these discarded servants. Thus were persons in an honorable, independent situation, earned by long service in that country, and who were subject to punishment for their crimes, if proved against them, all deprived, unheard, of their employments. You would imagine that Mr. Hastings had at least charged them with corruption. No, you will see upon your minutes, that, when he abolished the Provincial Councils, he declared at the same time that he found no fault with the persons concerned in them.
Thus, then, he has got rid, as your Lordships see, of one whole body of the Company's servants; he has systematically corrupted the rest, and provided, as far as lay in his power, for the perpetuation of their corruption; he has connived at all their delinquencies, and has destroyed the independence of all the superior orders of them.
Now hear what he does with regard to the Council-General itself. They had, by the act that made Mr. Hastings Governor, the management of the revenues vested in them. You have been shown by an honorable and able fellow Manager of mine, that he took the business of this department wholly out of the hand of the Council; that he named a committee for the management of it, at an enormous expense,—committee made up of his own creatures and dependants; and that, after destroying the Provincial Councils, he brought down the whole management of the revenue to Calcutta. This committee took this important business entirely out of the hands of the Council, in which the act had vested it, and this committee he formed without the orders of the Court of Directors, and directly contrary to the act, which put the superintendence in the hands of the Council.
Oh, but he reserved a superintendence over them.—You shall hear what the superintendence was; you shall see, feel, smell, touch; it shall enter into every avenue and pore of your soul. It will show you what was the real principle of Mr. Hastings's government. We will read to you what Sir John Shore says of that institution, and of the only ends and purposes which it could answer; your Lordships will then see how far he was justifiable in violating an act of Parliament, and giving out of the Council's hands the great trust which the laws of his country had vested in them. It is part of a paper written in 1785 by Mr. Shore, who was sole acting president of this committee to which all Bengal was delivered. He was an old servant of the Company, and he is now at the head of the government of that country. He was Mr. Hastings's particular friend, and therefore you cannot doubt either of his being a competent evidence, or that he is a favorable evidence for Mr. Hastings, and that he would not say one word against the establishment of which he himself was at the head, that was not perfectly true, and forced out of him by the truth of the case. There is not a single part of it that does not point out some abuse.
"In the actual collection of the revenues, nothing is more necessary than to give immediate attention to all complaints, which are preferred daily without number, and to dispatch them in a summary manner. This cannot be done where the control is remote. In every purgunnah throughout Bengal there are some distinct usages, which cannot be clearly known at a distance; yet in all complaints of oppression or extortion, these must be known before a decision can be pronounced. But to learn at Calcutta the particular customs of a district of Rajeshahye or Dacca is almost impossible; and considering the channel through which an explanation must pass, and through which the complaint is made, any coloring may be given to it, and oppression and extortion, to the ruin of a district, may be practised with impunity. This is a continual source of embarrassment to the Committee of Revenue in Calcutta.
"One object of their institution was to bring the revenues without the expenses of agency to the Presidency, and to remove all local control over the farmers, who were to pay their rents at Calcutta. When complaints are made against farmers by the occupiers of the lands, it is almost impossible to discriminate truth from falsehood; but to prevent a failure in the revenue, it is found necessary, in all doubtful cases, to support the farmer,—a circumstance which may give rise to and confirm the most cruel acts of oppression. The real state of any district cannot be known by the Committee. An occupier or zemindar may plead, that an inundation has ruined him, or that his country is a desert through want of rain. An aumeen is sent to examine the complaint. He returns with an exaggerated account of losses, proved in volumes of intricate accounts, which the Committee have no time to read, and for which the aumeen is well paid. Possibly, however, the whole account is false. Suppose no aumeen is employed, and the renter is held to the tenor of his engagement, the loss, if real, must occasion his ruin, unless his assessment is very moderate indeed.
"I may venture to pronounce that the real state of the districts is now less known, and the revenue less understood, than in the year 1774. Since the natives have had the disposal of accounts, since they have been introduced as agents and trusted with authority, intricacy and confusion have taken place. The records and accounts which have been compiled are numerous, yet, when any particular account is wanted, it cannot be found. It is the business of all, from the ryots to the dewan, to conceal and deceive. The simplest matters of fact are designedly covered with a veil through which no human understanding can penetrate.
"With respect to the present Committee of Revenue, it is morally impossible for them to execute the business they are intrusted with. They are invested with a general control, and they have an executive authority larger than ever was before given to any board or body of men. They may and must get through the business; but to pretend to assert that they really execute it would be folly and falsehood.
"The grand object of the native dewannies was to acquire independent control, and for many years they have pursued this with wonderful art. The farmers and zemindars under the Committee prosecute the same plan, and have already objections to anything that has the least appearance of restriction. All control removed, they can plunder as they please.
"The Committee must have a dewan, or executive officer, call him by what name you please. This man, in fact, has all the revenues paid at the Presidency at his disposal, and can, if he has any abilities, bring all the renters under contribution. It is of little advantage to restrain the Committee themselves from bribery or corruption, when their executive officer has the power of protecting [practising?] both undetected.
"To display the arts employed by a native on such an occasion would fill a volume. He discovers the secret resources of the zemindars and renters, their enemies and competitors, and by the engines of hope and fear raised upon these foundations he can work them to his purpose. The Committee, with the best intentions, best abilities, and steadiest application, must, after all, be a tool in the hand of their dewan."
Here is the account of Mr. Hastings's new Committee of Revenue, substituted in the place of an establishment made by act of Parliament. Here is what he has substituted for Provincial Councils. Here is what he has substituted in the room of the whole regular order of the service, which he totally subverted. Can we add anything to this picture? Can we heighten it? Can we do anything more than to recommend it to your Lordships' serious consideration?
But before I finally dismiss this part of our charge, I must request your Lordships' most earnest attention to the true character of these atrocious proceedings, as they now stand proved before you, by direct or the strongest presumptive evidence, upon the Company's records, and by his own confessions and declarations, and those of his most intimate friends and avowed agents.
Your Lordships will recollect, that, previously to the appointment of Mr. Hastings to be the Governor-General, in 1772, the collection of the revenues was committed to a naib dewan, or native collector, under the control of the Supreme Council,—and that Mr. Hastings did at that time, and upon various occasions afterwards, declare it to be his decided and fixed opinion, that nothing would be so detrimental to the interests of the Company, and to the happiness and welfare of the inhabitants of their provinces, as changes, and more especially sudden changes, in the collection of their revenues. His opinion was also most strongly and reiteratedly pressed upon him by his masters, the Court of Directors. The first step taken after his appointment was to abolish the office of naib dewan, and to send a committee through the provinces, at the expense of 50,000l. a year, to make a settlement of rents to be paid by the natives for five years. At the same time he appointed one of the Company's servants to be the collector in each province, and he abolished the General Board of Revenue, which had been established at Moorshedabad, chiefly for the following reasons: that, by its exercising a separate control, the members of the Supreme Council at Calcutta were prevented from acquiring that intimate acquaintance with the revenues which was necessary to persons in their station; and because many of the powers necessary for the collection of the revenues could not be delegated to a subordinate council. In consideration of these opinions, orders, and declarations, he, in 1773, abolished the office of collector, and transferred the management of the revenues to several councils of revenue, called Provincial Councils, and recommended their perpetual establishment by act of Parliament. In the year 1774, in contradiction of his former opinion respecting the necessity of the Supreme Council possessing all possible means of becoming acquainted with the details of the revenue, he again recommended the continuance of the Provincial Councils in all their parts. This he again declared to be his deliberate opinion in 1775 and in 1776.
In the mean time a majority of the Supreme Council, consisting of members who had generally differed in opinion from Mr. Hastings, had transmitted their advice to the Court of Directors, recommending some changes in the system of Provincial Councils. The Directors, in their reply to this recommendation, did in 1777 order the Supreme Council to form a new plan for the collection of the revenues, and to transmit it to them for their consideration.
No such plan was transmitted; but in the year 1781, Mr. Hastings having obtained a majority in the Council, he again changed the whole system, both of collection of the revenue and of the executive administration of civil and criminal justice. And who were the persons substituted in the place of those whom he removed? Names, my Lords, with which you are already but too well acquainted. At their head stands Munny Begum; then comes his own domestic, and private bribe-agent, Gunga Govind Sing; then his banian, Cantoo Baboo; then that instrument of all evil, Debi Sing; then the whole tribe of his dependants, white and black, whom he made farmers of the revenue, with Colonel Hannay at their head; and, lastly, his confidential Residents, secret agents, and private secretaries, Mr. Middleton, Major Palmer, &c., &c. Can your Lordships doubt, for a single instant, of the real spirit of these proceedings? Can you doubt of the whole design having originated and ended in corruption and peculation?
We have fully stated to you, from the authority of these parties themselves, the effects and consequences of these proceedings,—namely, the dilapidation of the revenues, and the ruin and desolation of the provinces. And, my Lords, what else could have been expected or designed by this sweeping subversion of the control of the Company's servants over the collections of the revenue, and the vesting of it in a black dewan, but fraud and peculation? What else, I say, was to be expected, in the inextricable turnings and windings of that black mystery of iniquity, but the concealment of every species of wrong, violence, outrage, and oppression?
Your Lordships, then, have seen that the whole country was put into the hands of Gunga Govind Sing; and when you remember who this Gunga Govind Sing was, and how effectually Mr. Hastings had secured him against detection, in every part of his malpractices and atrocities, can you for a moment hesitate to believe that the whole project was planned and executed for the purpose of putting all Bengal under contribution to Mr. Hastings? But if you are resolved, after all this, to entertain a good opinion of Mr. Hastings,—if you have taken it into your heads, for reasons best known to yourselves, to imagine that he has some hidden virtues, which in the government of Bengal he has not displayed, and which, to us of the House of Commons, have not been discernible in any one single instance,—these virtues may be fit subjects for paragraphs in newspapers, they may be pleaded for him by the partisans of his Indian faction, but your Lordships will do well to remember that it is not to Mr. Hastings himself that you are trusting, but to Gunga Govind Sing. If the Committee were tools in his hands, must not Mr. Hastings have also been a tool in his hands? If they with whom he daily and hourly had to transact business, and whose office it was to control and restrain him, were unable so to do, is this control and restraint to be expected from Mr. Hastings, who was his confidant, and whose corrupt transactions he could at any time discover to the world? My worthy colleague has traced the whole of Mr. Hastings's bribe account, in the most clear and satisfactory manner, to Gunga Govind Sing,—him first, him last, him midst, and without end. If we fail of the conviction of the prisoner at your bar, your Lordships will not have acquitted Mr. Hastings merely, but you will confirm all the robberies and rapines of Gunga Govind Sing. You will recognize him as a faithful governor of India. Yes, my Lords, let us rejoice in this man! Let us adopt him as our own! Let our country, let this House, be proud of him! If Mr. Hastings can be acquitted, we must admit Gunga Govind Sing's government to be the greatest blessing that ever happened to mankind. But if Gunga Govind Sing's government be the greatest curse that ever befell suffering humanity, as we assert it to have been, there is the man that placed him in it; there is his father, his godfather, the first author and origin of all these evils and, calamities. My Lords, remember Dinagepore; remember the bribe of 40,000l. which Gunga Govind Sing procured for Mr. Hastings in that province, and the subsequent horror of that scene.
But, my Lords, do you extend your confidence to Gunga Govind Sing? Not even the face of this man, to whom the revenues of the Company, together with the estates, fortunes, reputations, and lives of the inhabitants of that country were delivered over, is known in those provinces. He resides at Calcutta, and is represented by a variety of under-agents. Do you know Govind Ghose? Do you know Nundulol? Do you know the whole tribe of peculators, whom Mr. Hastings calls his faithful domestic servants? Do you know all the persons that Gunga Govind Sing must employ in the various ramifications of the revenues throughout all the provinces? Are you prepared to trust all these? The Board of Revenue has confessed that it could not control them. Mr. Hastings himself could not control them. The establishment of this system was like Sin's opening the gates of Hell: like her, he could open the gate,—but to shut, as Milton says, exceeded his power. The former establishments, if defective, or if abuses were found in them, might have been corrected. There was at least the means of detecting and punishing abuse. But Mr. Hastings destroyed the means of doing either, by putting the whole country into the hands of Gunga Govind Sing.
Now, having seen all these things done, look to the account. Your Lordships will now be pleased to look at this business as a mere account of revenue. You will find, on comparing the three years in which Mr. Hastings was in the minority with the three years after the appointment of this Committee, that the assessment upon the country increased, but that the revenue was diminished; and you will also find, which is a matter that ought to astonish you, that the expenses of the collections were increased by no less a sum than 500,000l. You may judge from this what riot there was in rapacity and ravage, both amongst the European and native agents, but chiefly amongst the natives: for Mr. Hastings did not divide the greatest part of this spoil among the Company's servants, but among this gang of black dependants. These accounts are in pages 1273 and 1274 of your Minutes.
My Lords, weighty indeed would have been the charge brought before your Lordships by the Commons of Great Britain against the prisoner at your bar, if they had fixed upon no other crime or misdemeanor than that which I am now pressing upon you,—his throwing off the allegiance of the Company, his putting a black master over himself, and his subjecting the whole of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, the whole of the Company's servants, the Company's revenues, the Company's farms, to Gunga Govind Sing. But, my Lords, it is a very curious and remarkable thing, that we have traced this man as Mr. Hastings's bribe-broker up to the time of the nomination of this Committee; we have traced him through a regular series of bribery; he is Mr. Hastings's bribe-broker at Patna; he is Mr. Hastings's bribe-broker at Nuddea; he is his bribe-broker at Dinagepore; we find him his bribe-broker in all these places; but from the moment that this Committee was constituted, it became a gulf in which the prevention, the detection, and the correction of all kind of abuses were sunk and lost forever. From the time when this Committee and Gunga Govind Sing were appointed, you do not find one word more of Mr. Hastings's bribes. Had he then ceased to receive any? or where are you to look for them? You are to look for them in that 500,000l. excess of expense in the revenue department, and in the rest of all that corrupt traffic of Gunga Govind Sing of which we gave you specimens at the time we proved his known bribes to you. These are nothing but index-hands to point out to you the immense mass of corruption which had its origin, and was daily accumulating in these provinces, under the protection of Mr. Hastings. And can you think, and can we talk of such transactions, without feeling emotions of indignation and horror not to be described? Can we contemplate such scenes as these,—can we look upon those desolated provinces, upon a country so ravaged, a people so subdued,—Mahometans, Gentoos, our own countrymen, all trampled under foot by this tyrant,—can we do this; without giving expression to those feelings which, after animating us in this life, will comfort us when we die, and will form our best part in another?
My Lords, I am now at the last day of my endeavors to inspire your Lordships with a just sense of these unexampled atrocities. I have had a great encyclopedia of crimes to deal with; I will get through them as soon as I can; and I pray your Lordships to believe, that, if I omit anything, it is to time I sacrifice it,—that it is to want of strength I sacrifice it,—that it is to necessity, and not from any despair of making, from the records and from the evidence, matter so omitted as black as anything that I have yet brought before you.
The next thing of which I have to remind your Lordships respecting these black agents of the prisoner is, that we find him, just before his departure from India, recommending three of them, Gunga Govind Sing, Gunga Ghose, and Nundulol, as persons fit and necessary to be rewarded for their services by the Company. Now your Lordships will find, that, of these faithful domestic servants, there is not one of them who was not concerned in these enormous briberies, and in betraying their own native and natural master. If I had time for it, I believe I could trace every person to be, in proportion to Mr. Hastings's confidence in him, the author of some great villany. These persons he thinks had not been sufficiently rewarded, and accordingly he recommends to the board, as his dying legacy, provision for these faithful attached servants of his, and particularly for Gunga Govind Sing. The manner in which this man was to be rewarded makes a part of the history of these transactions, as curious, perhaps, as was ever exhibited to the world. Your Lordships will find it in page 2841 of your Minutes.
The Rajah of Dinagepore was a child at that time about eleven years old, and had succeeded to the Rajahship (by what means I shall say nothing) when he was about five years old. He is made to apply to Mr. Hastings for leave to grant a very considerable part of his estate to Gunga Govind Sing, as a reward for his services. These services could only be known to the Rajah's family by having robbed it of at least 40,000l., the bribe given to Mr. Hastings. But the Rajah's family is so little satisfied with this bountiful and liberal donation to Gunga Govind Sing, that they desire that several purgunnahs, or farms, that are mentioned in the application made to the Council, should be separated from the family estate and given to this man. Such was this extraordinary gratitude: gratitude, not for money received, but for money taken away,—a species of gratitude unknown in any part of the world but in India; gratitude pervading every branch of the family; his mother coming forward and petitioning likewise that her son should be disinherited; his uncle, the natural protector and guardian of his minority, coming forward and petitioning most earnestly that his nephew should be disinherited: all the family join in one voice of supplication to Mr. Hastings, that Gunga Govind Sing may have a very large and considerable part of their family estate given to him. Mr. Hastings, after declaring that certain circumstances respecting this property, which are mentioned in his minutes, were to his knowledge true, but which your Lordships, upon examination, will find to be false, and falsified in every particular, recommends, in the strongest manner, to the board, a compliance with this application. He was at this time on the eve of his departure from India, in haste to provide for his faithful servants; and he well knew that this his last act would be held binding upon his successors, who were devoted to him.
Here, indeed, is genuine and heroic gratitude,—gratitude for money received, not for money taken away; and yet this gratitude was towards a person who had paid himself out of the benefit which had been conferred, at the expense of a third party. For Gunga Govind Sing had kept for himself 20,000l. out of 40,000l. taken from the Rajah. For this cheat, stated by Mr. Larkins to be such, and allowed by Mr. Hastings himself to be such, he, with a perfect knowledge of that fraud and cheat committed upon the public, (for he pretends that the money was meant for the Company,) makes this supplication to his colleagues, and departs.
After his departure, Gunga Govind Sing, relying upon the continuance of the corrupt influence which he had gained, had the impudence to come forward and demand the confirmation of this grant by the Council-General. The Council, though willing to accede to Mr. Hastings's proposition, were stopped in a moment by petitions much more natural, but of a direct contrary tenor. The poor infant Rajah raises his cries not to be deprived of his inheritance; his mother comes forward and conjures the Council not to oppress her son and wrong her family; the uncle comes and supplicates the board to save from ruin these devoted victims which were under his protection. All these counter-petitions come before the Council while the ink is hardly dry upon the petitions which Mr. Hastings had left behind him, as proofs of the desire of this family to be disinherited in favor of Gunga Govind Sing. Upon the receipt of these remonstrances, the board could not proceed in the business, and accordingly Gunga Govind Sing was defeated.
But Gunga Govind Sing was unwilling to quit his prey. And what does he do? I desire your Lordships to consider seriously the reply of Gunga Govind Sing, as it appears upon your minutes. It is a bold answer. He denies the right of the Rajah to these estates. "Why," says he, "all property in this country depends upon the will of your government. How came this Rajah's family into possession of this great zemindary? Why, they got it at first by the mere favor of government. The whole was an iniquitous transaction. This is a family that in some former age has robbed others; and now let me rob them." In support of this claim, he adds the existence of other precedents, namely, "that many clerks or mutsuddies and banians at Calcutta had," as he says, "got possession of the lands of other people without any pretence of right;—why should not I?" Good God! what precedents are these!
Your Lordships shall now hear the razinama, or testimonial, which, since Mr. Hastings's arrival in England, this Rajah has been induced to send to the Company from India, and you will judge then of the state in which Mr. Hastings has left that country. Hearken, my Lords, I pray you, to the razinama of this man, from whom 40,000l. was taken by Mr. Hastings and Gunga Govind Sing, and against whom an attempt was made by the same persons to deprive him of his inheritance. Listen to this razinama, and then judge of all the other testimonials which have been produced on the part of the prisoner at your bar. His counsel rest upon them, they glory in them, and we shall not abate them one of these precious testimonials. They put the voice of grateful India against the voice of ungrateful England. Now hear what grateful India says, after our having told you for what it was so grateful.
"I, Radanaut, Zemindar of Purgunnah Havelly Punjera, commonly called Dinagepore:—As it has been learnt by me, the mutsuddies and respectable officers of my zemindary, that the ministers of England are displeased with the late Governor, Warren Hastings, Esquire, upon the suspicion that he oppressed us, took money from us by deceit and force, and ruined the country, therefore we, upon the strength of our religion, which we think it incumbent on and necessary for us to abide by, following the rules laid down in giving evidence, declare the particulars of the acts and deeds of Warren Hastings, Esquire, full of circumspection and caution, civility and justice, superior to the conduct of the most learned, and by representing what is fact wipe away the doubts that have possessed the minds of the ministers of England; that Mr. Hastings is possessed of fidelity and confidence, and yielding protection to us; that he is clear from the contamination of mistrust and wrong, and his mind is free of covetousness and avarice. During the time of his administration, no one saw other conduct than that of protection to the husbandmen, and justice; no inhabitant ever experienced affliction, no one ever felt oppression from him. Our reputations have always been guarded from attacks by his prudence, and our families have always been protected by his justice."
Good God! my Lords, "our families protected by his justice"! What! after Gunga Govind Sing, in concert with Mr. Hastings, had first robbed him of 40,000l., and then had attempted to snatch, as it were, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings the inheritance of their fathers, and to deprive this infant of a great part of his family estate? Here is a child, eleven years old, who never could have seen Mr. Hastings, who could know nothing of him but from the heavy hand of oppression, affliction, wrong, and robbery, brought to bear testimony to the virtues of Mr. Hastings before a British Parliament! Such is the confidence they repose in their hope of having bribed the English nation by the millions and millions of money, the countless lacs of rupees, poured into it from India, that they had dared to bring this poor robbed infant to bear testimony to the character of Mr. Hastings! These are the things which are to be opposed to the mass of evidence which the House of Commons bring against this man,—evidence which they bring from his own acts, his own writing, and his own records,—a cloud of testimony furnished by himself in support of charges brought forward and urged by us agreeably to the magnitude of his crimes, with the horror which is inspired by them, and with the contempt due to this paltry attempt towards his defence, which they had dared to produce from the hands of an infant but eleven years old when Mr. Hastings quitted that country!
But to proceed with the razinama.
"He never omitted the smallest instance of kindness towards us, but healed the wounds of despair with the salve of consolation, by means of his benevolent and kind behavior, never permitting one of us to sink in the pit of despondence. He supported every one by his goodness, overset the designs of evil-minded men by his authority, tied the hand of oppression with the strong bandage of justice, and by these means expanded the pleasing appearance of happiness and joy over us. He reestablished justice and impartiality. We were during his government in the enjoyment of perfect happiness and ease, and many of us are thankful and satisfied. As Mr. Hastings was well acquainted with our manners and customs, he was always desirous in every respect of doing whatever would preserve our religious rites, and guard them against every kind of accident and injury, and at all times protected us. Whatever we have experienced from him, and whatever happened from him, we have written without deceit or exaggeration."
My Lords, before I take leave of this affair of bribes and of the great bribe-broker, let me just offer a remark to your Lordships upon one curious transaction. My Lords, we have charged a bribe taken from the Nabob of Oude, and we have stated the corrupt and scandalous proceeding which attended it. I thought I had done with Oude; but as there is a golden chain between all the virtues, so there is a golden chain which links together all the vices. Mr. Hastings, as you have seen, and as my honorable colleague has fully opened it to you, received a bribe or corrupt present from the Nabob of Oude in September, 1781. We heard no more of this bribe than what we had stated, (no other trace of it ever appearing in the Company's records, except in a private letter written by Mr. Hastings to the Court of Directors, and afterwards in a communication such as you have heard through Mr. Larkins,) till October, 1783.
But, my Lords, we have since discovered, through and in consequence of the violent disputes which took place between Mr. Hastings and the clan of Residents that were in Oude,—the Resident of the Company, Mr. Bristow, the two Residents of Mr. Hastings, Mr. Middleton and Mr. Johnson, and the two Residents sent by him to watch over all the rest, Major Palmer and Major Davy,—upon quarrels, I say, between them, we discovered that Mr. Middleton had received the offer of a present of 100,000l. in February, 1782. This circumstance is mentioned in a letter of Mr. Middleton's, in which he informs Mr. Hastings that the Nabob had destined such a sum for him.
Now the first thing that will occur to your Lordships upon such an affair will be a desire to know what it was that induced the Nabob to make this offer. It was but in the September preceding that Mr. Hastings had received, for his private use, as the Nabob conceived, so bountiful a present as 100,000l.; what motive, then, could he have had in February to offer him another 100,000l.? This man, at the time, was piercing heaven itself with the cries of despondency, despair, beggary, and ruin. You have seen that he was forced to rob his own family, in order to satisfy the Company's demands upon him; and yet this is precisely the time when he thinks proper to offer 100,000l. to Mr. Hastings. Does not the mind of every man revolt, whilst he exclaims, and say, "What! another 100,000l. to Mr. Hastings?" What reason had the Nabob to think Mr. Hastings so monstrously insatiable, that, having but the September before received 100,000l., he must give him another in February? My Lords, he must, in the interval, have threatened the Nabob with some horrible catastrophe, from which he was to redeem himself by this second present. You can assign no other motive for his giving it. We know not what answer Mr. Hastings made to Mr. Middleton upon that occasion, but we find that in the year 1783 Mr. Hastings asserts that he sent up Major Palmer and Major Davy to persuade the Nabob to transfer this present, which the Nabob intended for him, to the Company's service. Remark, my Lords, the progress of this affair. In a formal accusation preferred against Mr. Middleton, he charges him with obstructing this design of his. In this accusation, my Lords, you find him at once in the curious character of prosecutor, witness, and judge.
Let us see how he comports himself. I shall only state to you one of the articles of his impeachment; it is the third charge; it is in page 1267 of your Lordships' Minutes.
"For sending repeatedly to the Vizier, and to his minister, Hyder Beg Khan, to advise them against transferring the ten lacs of rupees intended as a present to the Governor-General to the Company's account; as it would be a precedent for further demands, which if the Vizier did not refuse in the first instance, the government would never cease to harass him for money."
The first thing that will occur to your Lordships is an assertion of the accuser's:—"I am morally certain, that jaidads or assets for ten lacs, either in assignment of land or in bills, had been prepared, and were in the charge or possession of Mr. Middleton, before Major Palmer's arrival, and left with Mr. Johnson on Mr. Middleton's departure."
My Lords, here is an accusation that Mr. Middleton had actually received money, either in bills or assets of some kind or other,—and that, upon quitting his Residency, he had handed it over to his successor, Mr. Johnson. Here are, then, facts asserted, and we must suppose substantiated. Here is a sum of money to be accounted for, in which there is a gross malversation directly charged as to these particulars, in Mr. Hastings's opinion. Mr. Macpherson, another member of the Council, has declared, that he understood at the time that the ten lacs were actually deposited in bills, and that it was not a mere offer made by the Nabob to pay such a sum from the future revenue of the country. Mr. Hastings has these facts disclosed to him. He declares that he was "morally certain" of it,—that is, as certain as a man can be of anything; because physical certitude does not belong to such matters. The first thing you will naturally ask is, "Why does he not ask Mr. Johnson how he had disposed of that money which Mr. Middleton had put in his hands?" He does no such thing; he passes over it totally, as if it were no part of the matter in question, and the accusation against Mr. Middleton terminates in the manner you will there find stated. When Mr. Johnson is asked, "Why was not that money applied to the Company's service?" he boldly steps forward, and says, "I prevented it from being so applied. It never was, it never ought to have been, so applied; such an appropriation of money to be taken from the Nabob would have been enormous upon that occasion."
What, then, does Mr. Hastings do? Does he examine Mr. Middleton upon the subject, who charges himself with having received the money? Mr. Middleton was at that very time in Calcutta, called down thither by Mr. Hastings himself. One would naturally expect that he would call upon him to explain for what purpose he left the money with Mr. Johnson. He did no such thing. Did he examine Mr. Johnson himself, who was charged with having received the money from Mr. Middleton? Did he ask him what he had done with that money? Not one word. Did he send for Major Palmer and Major Davy to account for it? No. Did he call any shroff, any banker, any one person concerned in the payment of the money, or any one person in the management of the revenue? No, not one. Directly in the face of his own assertions, directly contrary to his moral conviction of the fact that the money had been actually deposited, he tries Mr. Johnson collusively and obliquely, not upon the account of what was done with the money, but why it was prevented from being applied to the Company's service; and he acquits him in a manner that (taking the whole of it together) will give your Lordships the finest idea possible of a Bengal judicature, as exercised by Mr. Hastings.
"I am not sorry," says he, "that Mr. Johnson chose to defeat my intentions; since it would have added to the Nabob's distresses, but with no immediate relief to the Company. If, in his own breast, he can view the secret motives of this transaction, and on their testimony approve it, I also acquit him."
Merciful God! Here is a man accused by regular articles of impeachment. The accuser declares he is morally certain that the money had been received, but was prevented from being applied to its destination by the person accused; and he acquits him. Does he acquit him from his own knowledge, or from any evidence? No: but he applies to the man's conscience, and says, "If you in your conscience can acquit yourself, I acquit you."
Here, then, is a proceeding the most astonishing and shameless that perhaps was ever witnessed: a court trying a man for a delinquency and misapplication of money, destined, in the first instance, for the use of the judge, but which he declares ought, in his own opinion, to be set apart for the public use, and which he was desirous of applying to the Company's service, without regard to his own interest, and then the judge declaring he is not sorry that his purpose had been defeated by the party accused. Instead, however, of censuring the accused, he applies to the man's own conscience. "Does your conscience," says he, "acquit you of having acted wrong?" The accused makes no reply; and then Mr. Hastings, by an hypothetical conclusion, acquits him.
Mr. Hastings is accused by the Commons for that, having a moral certainty of the money's being intended for his use, he would not have ceased to inquire into the actual application of it but from some corrupt motive and intention. With this he is charged. He comes before you to make his defence. Mr. Middleton is in England. Does he call Mr. Middleton to explain it here? Does he call upon Mr. Johnson, who was the other day in this court, to account for it? Why did he not, when he sent for these curious papers and testimonials to Major Palmer, (the person authorized, as he pretends, by him, to resign all his pretensions to the money procured,) send for Major Palmer, who is the person that accused him in this business,—why not send for him to bear some testimony respecting it? No: he had time enough, but at no one time and in no place did he do this; therefore the imputation of the foulest corruption attaches upon him, joined with the infamy of a collusive prosecution, instituted for the sake of a collusive acquittal.
Having explained to your Lordships the nature, and detailed the circumstances, as far as we are acquainted with them, of this fraudulent transaction, we have only further to remind you, that, though Mr. Middleton was declared guilty of five of the six charges brought against him by Mr. Hastings, yet the next thing you hear is, that Mr. Hastings, after declaring that this conduct of Mr. Middleton had been very bad, and that the conduct of the other servants of the Company concerned with him had been ten times worse, he directly appoints him to one of the most honorable and confidential offices the Company had to dispose of: he sends him ambassador to the Nizam,—to give to all the courts of India a specimen of the justice, honor, and decency of the British government.
My Lords, with regard to the bribe for the entertainment, I only beg leave to make one observation to you upon that article. I could say, if the time would admit it, a great deal upon that subject; but I wish to compress it, and I shall therefore only recommend it in general to your Lordships' deliberate consideration. The covenant subsisting between the Company and its servants was made for the express purpose of putting an end to all such entertainments. By this convention it is ordered that no presents exceeding 200l. [400l.?] shall be accepted upon any pretence for an entertainment. The covenant was intended to put an end to the custom of receiving money for entertainments, even when visiting an independent Oriental prince. But your Lordships know that the Nabob was no prince, but a poor, miserable, undone dependant upon, the Company. The present was also taken by Mr. Hastings at a time when he went upon the cruel commission of cutting down the Nabob's allowance from 400,000l. to 260,000l. [160,000l.?], and when he was reducing to beggary thousands of persons who were dependent for bread upon the Nabob, and ruining, perhaps, forty thousand others. I shall say no more upon that subject, though, in truth, it is a thing upon which much observation might be made.
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I shall now pass on to another article connected with, though not making a direct part of, that of corrupt bribery: I mean the swindling subterfuges by which he has attempted to justify his corrupt practices. At one time, he defends them by pleading the necessities of his own affairs,—as when he takes presents and entertainments avowedly for his own profits. At another time he defends them by pleading the goodness of his intentions: he intended, he says, to give the money to the Company. His last plea has something in it (which shall I say?) of a more awful or of a more abandoned character, or of both. In the settlement of his public account, before he left India, he takes credit for a bond which he had received from Nobkissin upon some account or other. He then, returns to England, and what does he do? Pay off? No. Give up the bond to the Company? No. He says, "I will account to the Company for this money." And when he comes to give this account of the expenditure of this money, your Lordships will not be a little astonished at the items of it. One is for founding a Mahometan college. It is a very strange thing that Rajah Nobkissin, who is a Gentoo, should be employed by Mr. Hastings to found a Mahometan college. We will allow Mr. Hastings, who is a Christian, or would be thought a Christian, to grow pious at last, and, as many others have done, who have spent their lives in fraud, rapacity, and peculation, to seek amends and to expiate his crimes by charitable foundations. Nay, we will suppose Mr. Hastings to have taken it into his head to turn Mahometan, (Gentoo he could not,) and to have designed by a Mahometan foundation to expiate his offences. Be it so; but why should Nobkissin pay for it? We will pass over this also. But when your Lordships shall hear of what nature that foundation was, I believe you will allow that a more extraordinary history never did appear in the world.
In the first place, he stated to the Council, on the 18th of April, 1781, that in the month of November, 1780, a petition was presented to him by a considerable number of Mussulmen, in compliance with which this Mahometan college appears to have been founded. It next appears from his statement, that in the April following, (that is, within about six months after the foundation,) many students had finished their education. You see what a hot-bed bribery and corruption is. Our universities cannot furnish an education in six years: in India they have completed it within six months, and have taken their degrees.
Mr. Hastings says, "I have supported this establishment to this time at my own expense; I desire the Company will now defray the charge of it." He then calculates what the expenses were; he calculates that the building would cost about 6,000l., and he gets from the Company a bond to raise money for paying this 6,000l. You apparently have the building now at the public expense, and Mr. Hastings still stands charged with the expense of the college for six months. He then proposes that a tract of land should be given for the college, to the value of about three thousand odd pounds a year,—and that in the mean time there should be a certain sum allotted for its expenses. After this Mr. Hastings writes a letter from the Ganges to the Company, in which he says not a word about the expense of the building, but says that the college was founded and maintained at his own expense, though it was thought to be maintained by the Company; and he fixes the commencement of the expense in September, 1779. But, after all, we find that the very professor who was to be settled there never so much as arrived in Calcutta, or showed his face there, till some time afterwards. And look at Mr. Larkins's private accounts, and you will find that he charges the expense to have commenced not until October, 1781. It is no error, because it runs through and is so accounted in the whole: and it thus appears that he has charged, falsely and fraudulently, a year more for that establishment than it cost him.
At last, then, when he was coming away, (for I hasten to the conclusion of an affair ludicrous indeed in some respects, but not unworthy of your Lordships' consideration,) "after remarking that he had experienced for three years the utility of this institution, he recommends that they will establish a fund for 3,000l. a year for it, and give it to the master." He had left Gunga Govind Sing as a Gentoo legacy, and he now leaves the Mussulman as a Mahometan legacy to the Company.
Your Lordships shall now hear what was the upshot of the whole. The Company soon afterwards hearing that this college was become the greatest nuisance in Calcutta, and that it had raised the cries of all the inhabitants against it, one of their servants, a Mr. Chapman, was deputed by the Governor, Sir John Shore, to examine into it, and your Lordships will find the account he gives of it in your minutes. In short, my Lords, we find that this was a seminary of robbers, housebreakers, and every nuisance to society; so that the Company was obliged to turn out the master, and to remodel the whole. Your Lordships will now judge of the merits and value of this, one of the sets-off brought forward by the prisoner against the charges which we have brought forward against him: it began in injustice and peculation, and ended in a seminary for robbers and housebreakers.