* * * * *
Nothing now remains to be pressed by me upon your Lordships' consideration, but the account given by the late Governor-General, Earl Cornwallis, of the state in which he found the country left by his predecessor, Mr. Hastings, the prisoner at your bar. But, patient as I know your Lordships to be, I also know that your strength is not inexhaustible; and though what I have farther to add will not consume much of your Lordships' time, yet I conceive that there is a necessity for deferring it to another day.
NINTH DAY: MONDAY, JUNE 16, 1794.
My Lords,—I should think it necessary to make an apology to your Lordships for appearing before you one day more, if I were inclined to measure this business either by the standard of my own ability, or by my own impatience, or by any supposed impatience of yours. I know no measure, in such a case, but the nature of the subject, and the duty which we owe to it. You will therefore, my Lords, permit me, in a few words, to lead you back to what we did yesterday, that you may the better comprehend the manner in which I mean to conclude the business to-day.
My Lords, we took the liberty of stating to you the condition of Bengal before our taking possession of it, and of the several classes of its inhabitants. We first brought before you the Mahometan inhabitants, who had the judicial authority of the country in their hands; and we proved to you the utter ruin of that body of people, and with them of the justice of the country, by their being, both one and the other, sold to an infamous woman called Munny Begum. We next showed you, that the whole landed interest, the zemindars, or Hindoo gentry of the country, was likewise ruined by its being given over, by letting it on a five years' lease, to infamous farmers, and giving it up to their merciless exactions,—and afterwards by subjecting the rank of those zemindars, their title-deeds, and all their pecuniary affairs, to the minutest scrutiny, under pain of criminal punishment, by a commission granted to a nefarious villain called Gunga Govind Sing. We lastly showed you that the remaining third class, that of the English, was partly corrupted, or had its authority dissolved, and that the whole superintending English control was subverted or subdued,—that the products of the country were diminished, and that the revenues of the Company were dilapidated, by an overcharge of expenses, in four years, to the amount of 500,000l., in consequence of these corrupt, dangerous, and mischievous projects.
We have farther stated, that the Company's servants were corrupted by contracts and jobs; we proved that those that were not so corrupted were removed from their stations or reduced to a state of abject dependence; we showed you the destruction of the Provincial Councils, the destruction of the Council-General, and the formation of a committee for no other ends whatever but for the purposes of bribery, concealment, and corruption. We next stated some of the most monstrous instances of that bribery; and though we were of opinion that in none of them any satisfactory defence worth mentioning had been made, yet we have thought that this should not hinder us from recalling to your Lordships' recollection the peculiar nature and circumstances of one of those proceedings.
The proceedings to which we wish to call your attention are those belonging to the second bribe given by the Nabob of Oude to Mr. Hastings. Mr. Hastings's own knowledge and opinion that that money was set apart for his use, either in bills or assets, I have before stated; and I now wish to call your Lordships' minute recollection to the manner in which the fraudulent impeachment of Mr. Middleton, for the purpose of stifling an inquiry into that business, was carried on. Your Lordships will remember that I proved to you, upon the face of that proceeding, the collusive nature of the accusation, and that the real state of the case was not charged,—and that Mr. Hastings acquitted the party accused of one article of the charge, not upon the evidence of the case, contrary to his own avowed, declared, moral certainty of his guilt, but upon a pretended appeal to the conscience of the man accused. He did not, however, give him a complete, formal, official acquittal, but referred the matter to the Court of Directors, who could not possibly know anything of the matter, without one article of evidence whatever produced at the time or transmitted. We lastly proved to you, that, after finding him guilty of five charges, and leaving the other to the Court of Directors, Mr. Hastings, without any reason assigned, appointed him to a great office in the Company's service.
These proceedings were brought before you for two purposes: first, to show the corrupt principle of the whole proceeding; next, to show the manner in which the Company's servants are treated. They are accused and persecuted, until they are brought to submit to whatever terms it may be thought proper to impose upon them; they are then formally, indeed, acquitted of the most atrocious crimes charged against them, but virtually condemned upon some articles, with the scourge hung over them,—and in some instances rewarded by the greatest, most honorable, and most lucrative situations in the Company's service. My Lords, it is on the same ground of the wicked, pernicious, and ruinous principles of Mr. Hastings's government, that I have charged this with everything that is chargeable against him, namely, that, if your Lordships should ratify those principles by your acquittal of him, they become principles of government,—rejected, indeed, by the Commons, but adopted by the Peerage of Great Britain.
There is another article which I have just touched, but which I must do more than barely notice, upon account of the evil example of it: I mean the taking great sums of money, under pretence of an entertainment. Your Lordships will recollect, that, when this business was charged against him in India, Mr. Hastings neither affirmed nor denied the fact. Confession could not be there extorted from him. He next appeared before the House of Commons, and he still evaded a denial or a confession of it. He lastly appeared before your Lordships, and in his answer to our charge he in the same manner evaded either a confession or a denial. He forced us to employ a great part of a session in endeavoring to establish what we have at last established, the receipt of the sums first charged, and of seven lacs more, by him. At length the proof could not be evaded; and after we had fought through all the difficulties which the law could interpose in his defence, and of which he availed himself with a degree of effrontery that has, I believe, no example in the world, he confesses, avows, and justifies his conduct. If the custom alleged be well founded, and be an honorable and a proper and just practice, why did he not avow it in every part and progress of our proceedings here? Why should he have put us to the necessity of wasting so many months in the proof of the fact? And why, after we have proved it, and not before, did he confess it, avow it, and even glory in it?
I must remind your Lordships that the sum charged to be so taken by way of entertainment made only a part, a single article, of the bribes charged by Nundcomar to have been received by Mr. Hastings; and when we find him confessing, what he could not deny, that single article, and evading all explanation respecting the others, and not giving any reason whatever why one was received and the others rejected, your Lordships will judge of the strong presumption of his having taken them all, even if we had given no other proofs of it. We think, however, that we have proved the whole very satisfactorily. But whether we have or not, the proof of a single present received is sufficient; because the principle to be established respecting these bribes is this,—whether or not a Governor-General, paying a visit to any of the poor, miserable, dependent creatures called sovereign princes in that country, (men whom Mr. Hastings has himself declared to be nothing but phantoms, and that they had no one attribute of sovereignty about them,) whether, I say, he can consider them to be such sovereign princes as to justify his taking from them great sums of money by way of a present. The Nabob, in fact, was not a sovereign prince, nor a country power, in any sense but that which the Company meant to exempt from the custom of making presents. It was their design to prevent their servants from availing themselves of the real dependence of the nominal native powers to extort money from them under the pretence of their sovereignty. Such presents, so far from being voluntary, were in reality obtained from their weakness, their hopeless and unprotected condition; and you are to decide whether or not this custom, which is insisted upon by the prisoner's counsel, with great triumph, to be a thing which he could not evade, without breaking through all the usages of the country, and violating principles established by the most clear law of India, is to be admitted as his justification.
It was on this very account, namely, the extortion suffered by these people, under the name or pretence of presents, that the Company first bound their servants by a covenant, which your Lordships shall now hear read.
"That they shall not take any grant of lands, or rents or revenues issuing out of lands, or any territorial possession, jurisdiction, dominion, power, or authority whatsoever, from any of the Indian princes, sovereigns, subahs, or nabobs, or any of their ministers, servants, or agents, for any service or services, or upon any account or pretence whatsoever, without the license or consent of the Court of Directors."
This clause in the covenant had doubtless a regard to Lord Clive, and to Sir Hector Munro, and to some others, who had received gifts, and grants of jaghires, and other territorial revenues, that were confirmed by the Company. But though this confirmation might be justifiable at a time when we had no real sovereignty in the country, yet the Company very wisely provided afterwards, that under no pretence whatever should their servants have the means of extorting from the sovereigns or pretended sovereigns of the country any of their lands or possessions. Afterwards it appeared that there existed abuses of a similar nature, and particularly (as was proved before us in the year 1773, and reported to our House, upon the evidence of Mahomed Reza Khan) the practice of frequently visiting the princes, and of extorting, under pretence of such visits, great sums of money. All their servants, and the Governor-General particularly, were therefore obliged to enter into the following covenant:—
"That they shall not, directly or indirectly, accept, take, or receive, or agree to accept, take, or receive, any gift, reward, gratuity, allowance, donation, or compensation, in money, effects, jewels, or otherwise howsoever, from any of the Indian princes, sovereigns, subahs, or nabobs, or any of their ministers, servants, or agents, exceeding the value of four thousand rupees, for any service or services performed or to be performed by them in India, or upon any other account or pretence whatsoever."
By this covenant, my Lords, Mr. Hastings is forbidden to accept, upon any pretence and under any name whatsoever, any sum above four thousand rupees,—that is to say, any sum above four hundred pounds. Now the sum that was here received is eighteen thousand pounds sterling, by way of a present, under the name of an allowance for an entertainment, which is the precise thing which his covenant was made to prevent. The covenant suffered him to receive four hundred pounds: if he received more than that money, he became a criminal, he had broken his covenant, and forfeited the obligation he had made with his masters. Think with yourselves, my Lords, what you will do, if you acquit the prisoner of this charge. You will avow the validity, you will sanction the principle of his defence: for, as the fact is avowed, there is an end of that.
Good God! my Lords, where are we? If they conceal their gifts and presents, they are safe by their concealment; if they avow them, they are still safer. They plead the customs of the country, or rather, the customs which we have introduced into the country,—customs which have been declared to have their foundation in a system of the most abominable corruption, the most flagitious extortion, the most dreadful oppression,—those very customs which their covenant is made to abolish. Think where your Lordships are. You have before you a covenant declaring that he should take under no name whatever (I do not know how words could be selected in the English language more expressive) any sum more than four hundred pounds. He says, "I have taken eighteen thousand pounds." He makes his counsel declare, and he desires your Lordships to confirm their declaration, that he is not only justifiable in so doing, but that he ought to do so,—that he ought to break his covenant, and act in direct contradiction to it. He does not even pretend to say that this money was intended, either inwardly or outwardly, avowedly or covertly, for the Company's service. He put absolutely into his own pocket eighteen thousand pounds, besides his salary.
Consider, my Lords, the consequences of this species of iniquity. If any servant of the Company, high in station, chooses to make a visit from Calcutta to Moorshedabad, which Moorshedabad was then the residence of our principal revenue government,—if he should choose to take an airing for his health, if he has a fancy to make a little voyage for pleasure as far as Moorshedabad, in one of those handsome barges or budgeros of which you have heard so much in his charge against Nundcomar, he can put twenty thousand pounds into his pocket any day he pleases, in defiance of all our acts of Parliament, covenants, and regulations.
Do you make your laws, do you make your covenants, for the very purpose of their being evaded? Is this the purpose for which a British tribunal sits here, to furnish a subject for an epigram, or a tale for the laughter of the world? Believe me, my Lords, the world is not to be thus trifled with. But, my Lords, you will never trifle with your duty. You have a gross, horrid piece of corruption before you,—impudently confessed, and more impudently defended. But you will not suffer Mr. Hastings to say, "I have only to go to Moorshedabad, or to order the Nabob to meet me half way, and I can set aside and laugh at all your covenants and acts of Parliament." Is this all the force and power of the covenant by which you would prevent the servants of the Company from committing acts of fraud and oppression, that they have nothing to do but to amuse themselves with a tour of pleasure to Moorshedabad in order to put any sum of money in their pocket that they please?
But they justify themselves by saying, such things have been practised before. No doubt they have; and these covenants were made that they should not be practised any more. But your Lordships are desired to say, that the very custom which the covenant is made to destroy, the very grievance itself, may be pleaded; the abuse shall be admitted to destroy the law made to prevent it. It is impossible, I venture to say, that your Lordships should act thus. The conduct of the criminal is not half so abhorrent as the justification is affronting to justice, whilst it tends to vilify and degrade the dignity of the Peerage and the character of the Commons of Great Britain, before the former and against the latter of which such a justification is produced in the face of the world.
At the same time that we call for your justice upon this man, we beseech you to remember the severest justice upon him is the tenderest pity towards the innocent victims of his crimes. Consider what was at that time the state of the people from whom, in direct defiance of his covenant, he took this sum of money. Were they at this time richer, were they more opulent, was the state of the country more flourishing than when Mr. Sumner, when Mr. Vansittart, in short, than when the long line of Mr. Hastings's predecessors visited that country? No, they were not. Mr. Hastings at this very time had reduced the Nabob's income from 450,000l. [400,000l.?] sterling a year, exclusive of other considerable domains and revenues, to 160,000l. He was, indeed, an object of compassion. His revenues had not only been reduced during his state of minority, but they were reduced when he afterwards continued in a state in which he could do no one valid act; and yet, in this state, he was made competent to give away, under the name of compensation for entertainments, the sum of 18,000l.,—perhaps at that time nearly all he had in the world.
Look at your minutes, and you will find Mr. Hastings had just before this time said that the bread of ten thousand persons, many of them of high rank, depended upon the means possessed by the Nabob for their support,—that his heart was cut and afflicted to see himself obliged to ruin and starve so many of the Mahometan nobility, the greatest part of whose yet remaining miserable allowances were now taken away. You know, and you will forgive me again remarking, that it is the nature of the eagles and more generous birds of prey to fall upon living, healthy victims, but that vultures and carrion crows, and birds of that base and degenerate kind, always prey upon dead or dying carcases. It is upon ruined houses, it is upon decayed families, it is upon extinguished nobility, that Mr. Hastings chooses to prey, and to justify his making them his prey.
But again we hear, my Lords, that it is a custom, upon ceremonial and complimentary visits, to receive these presents. Do not let us deceive ourselves. Mr. Hastings was there upon no visit either of ceremony or politics. He was a member, at that time, of the Committee of Circuit, which went to Moorshedabad for the purpose of establishing a system of revenue in the country. He went up upon that business only, as a member of the Committee of Circuit, for which business he was, like other members of the Committee of Circuit, amply paid, in addition to his emoluments as Governor, which amounted to about 30,000l. a year. Not satisfied with those emoluments, and without incurring new known expense of any kind or sort, he was paid for the extra expenses of his journey, as appears in your minutes, like other members of the Committee of Circuit. In fact, he was on no visit there at all. He was merely executing his duty in the settlement of the revenue, as a member of the Committee of Circuit. I do not mean to praise the Committee of Circuit in anyway: God forbid I should!—for we know that it was a committee of robbers. He was there as one of that committee, which I am pretty well justified in describing as I have done, because the Court of Directors, together with the Board of Control, did, in the year 1786, declare that the five years' settlement (which originated in that committee) was a thing bought and sold: your Lordships may read it whenever you please, in the 80th paragraph of their letter.
Your Lordships are now fully in possession of all the facts upon which we charge the prisoner with peculation, by extorting or receiving large sums of money, upon pretence of visits, or in compensation of entertainments. I appeal to your Lordships' consciences for a serious and impartial consideration of our charge. This is a business not to be hurried over in the mass, as amongst the acts of a great man, who may have his little errors among his great services; no, you cannot, as a judicial body, huddle all this into a hotchpotch, and decide upon it in a heap. You will have to ask yourselves,—Is this justifiable by his covenant? Is this justifiable by law? Is this justifiable, under the circumstances of the case, by an enlarged discretion? Is it to be justified under any principles of humanity? Would it be justifiable by local customs, if such were applicable to the case in question? and even if it were, is it a practice fit for an English Governor-General to follow?
I dwell the longer upon this, because the fact is avowed; the whole is an issue of law between us,—whether a Governor-General, in such a case, ought to take such money; and therefore, before I finally dismiss it, I beg leave to restate it briefly once more for your Lordships' consideration.
First I wish to leave fixed in your Lordships' minds, what is distinctly fixed, and shall never go out of ours, that his covenant did not allow him to take above four hundred pounds as a present, upon any pretence whatsoever.
Your Lordships will observe we contend, that, if there was a custom, this covenant puts an end to that custom. It was declared and intended so to do. The fact is, that, if such custom existed at all, it was a custom applicable only to an ambassador or public minister sent on a necessary complimentary visit to a sovereign prince. We deny, positively, that there is any such general custom. We say, that he never was any such minister or that he ever went upon any such complimentary visit. We affirm, that, when he took this money, he was doing an act of quite another nature, and came upon that business only to Moorshedabad, the residence of the prince of the country. Now do you call a man who is going to execute a commission, a commission more severe than those issued against bankrupts, a commission to take away half a man's income, and to starve a whole body of people dependent upon that income,—do you call this a complimentary visit? Is this a visit for which a man is to have great entertainments given him? No, the pretence for taking this money is worse than the act itself. When a man is going to execute upon another such harsh cruelty, when he is going upon a service at which he himself says his mind must revolt, is that precisely the time when he is to take from his undone host a present, as if he was upon a visit of compliment, or about to confer some honor or benefit upon him,—to augment his revenues, to add to his territories, or to conclude some valuable treaty with him? Was this a proper time to take at all from an helpless minor so large a sum of money?
And here I shall leave this matter for your Lordships' consideration, after reminding you that this poor Nabob is still at Moorshedabad, and at the mercy of any English gentleman who may choose to take 18,000l., or any other given sum of money from him, after the example of the prisoner at your bar, if it should be sanctioned by your connivance. Far different was the example set him by General Clavering. In page 1269 your Lordships will find the most honorable testimony to the uprightness and fidelity of this meritorious servant of the Company. It runs thus: "Conceiving it to be the intention of the legislature that the Governor-General and members of the Council should receive no presents, either from the Indian powers or any persons whatever, he [General Clavering] has strictly complied, since his arrival here, both with the spirit and the letter of the act of Parliament, and has accordingly returned all the presents which have been made to him." I have dwelt thus long upon this subject, not merely upon account of its own corrupt character, which has been sufficiently stigmatized by my honorable colleague, but upon account of the principle that is laid down by the prisoner, in his defence of his conduct,—a principle directly leading to a continuance of the same iniquitous practice, and subversive of every attempt to check or control it.
I must beg leave to recall your Lordships' attention to another, but similar instance of his peculation, another and new mode of taking presents: I mean, the present which Mr. Hastings took, through Gunga Govind Sing, from those farmers of the revenues amongst whom he had distributed the pillage of the whole country. This scandalous breach of his covenant he attempts to justify by the inward intention of his own mind to apply the money so taken to the public service. Upon this, my Lords, I shall only observe, that this plea of an inward intention in his own mind may, if admitted, justify any evil act whatever of this kind. You have seen how presents from the Nabob are justified; you have seen how the taking a sum of money or allowance for entertainment, directly contrary to the covenant, how that is attempted to be justified; you see in what manner he justifies this last-mentioned act of peculation; and your Lordships will now have to decide upon the validity of these pleas.
There still remains, unobserved upon, an instance of his malversation, wholly new in its kind, to which I will venture to desire your Lordships very seriously to turn your attention. In all the causes of peculation or malversation in office that ever have been tried before this high court, or before any lower court of judicature, in all the judicial records of modern crimes, or of antiquity, you will not find anything in any degree like it. We have all, in our early education, read the Verrine Orations. We read them not merely to instruct us, as they will do, in the principles of eloquence, and to acquaint us with the manners, customs, and laws of the ancient Romans, of which they are an abundant repository, but we may read them from a much higher motive. We may read them from a motive which the great author had doubtless in his view, when by publishing them he left to the world and to the latest posterity a monument by which it might be seen what course a great public accuser in a great public cause ought to pursue, and, as connected with it, what course judges ought to pursue in deciding upon such a cause. In these orations you will find almost every instance of rapacity and peculation which we charge upon Mr. Hastings. Undoubtedly, many Roman and English governors have received corrupt gifts and bribes, under various pretences. But in the cause before your Lordships there is one species of disgrace, in the conduct of the party accused, which I defy you to find in Verres, or in the whole tribe of Roman peculators, in any governor-general, proconsul, or viceroy. I desire you to consider it not included in any other class of crimes, but as a species apart by itself. It is an individual, a single case; but it is like the phoenix,—it makes a class or species by itself: I mean the business of Nobkissin. The money taken from him was not money pretended to be received in lieu of entertainment; it was not money taken from a farmer-general of revenue, out of an idea that his profits were unreasonable, and greater than government ought to allow; it was not a donation from a great man, as an act of his bounty. No, it was a sum of money taken from a private individual,—or rather, as has been proved to you by Mr. Larkins, his own book-keeper, money borrowed, for which he had engaged to give his bond. That he had actually deposited his bond for this money Mr. Larkins has proved to you,—and that the bond was carried to Nobkissin's credit, in his account with the government. But Mr. Hastings, when he was called upon for the money, withdraws the bond; he will not pay the money; he refused to pay it upon the applications made to him both in India and here at home; and he now comes to your Lordships and says, "I borrowed this money, I intended to give my bond for it, as has been proved before you; but I must have it for my own use." We have heard of governors being everything that is bad and wicked; but a governor putting himself in the situation of a common cheat, of a common swindler, never was, I believe, heard of since the creation of the world to this day. This does not taste of the common oppressions of power; this does not taste of the common abuses of office; but it in no way differs from one of those base swindling cases that come to be tried and heavily punished in the King's Bench every day. This is neither more nor less than a plain, barefaced cheat.
Now, my Lords, let us see how it is justified. To justify openly and directly a cheat, to justify a fraud upon an individual, is reserved for our times. But, good Heavens, what a justification have we here! Oh, my Lords, consider into what a state Indian corruption has brought us in this country, when any person can be found to come to the bar of the House of Lords and say, "I did cheat, I did defraud; I did promise, and gave my bond; I have now withdrawn it, but I will account for it to you as to a gang of robbers concerned with me in the transaction. I confess I robbed this man; but I have acted as trustee for the gang. Observe what I have done for the gang. Come forward, Mr. Auriol, and prove what handsome budgeros I gave the company: were not they elegantly painted, beautifully gilt, charming and commodious? I made use of them as long as I had occasion; and though they are little worse for wear, and would hardly suffer the least percentage deduction from prime cost upon them, I gave them to the company. Oh, I did not put the money into my own pocket. I provided for myself and wore a suit of lace clothes, when I was Jew bail for some of this company: it will turn, for it is hardly the worse for wear, though I appeared two or three times, in different characters, as bail for you on such and such an occasion. I therefore set off these items against this money which I gained by swindling on your account. It is true I also picked such a one's pocket of a watch; here it is; I have worn it as long as it was convenient; now I give the watch to the company, and let them send it to the pawnbroker for what it will bring. Besides all this, I maintained aide-de-camps for you, and gave them house-rent." (By the way, my Lords, what sort of aide-de-camps were these? Who made him a military man, and to have such a legion of aide-de-camps?) "But," says he, "I paid house-rent for them; that is, in other words, I paid, at night-cellars and houses in Saint Giles's, sixpence a week for some of the gang." (This, my Lords, is the real spirit of the whole proceeding, and more especially of the last item in it.) "Then," says he, "I was the gang's schoolmaster, and taught lessons on their account. I founded a Mahometan school." (Your Lordships have already heard something of this shameful affair, of this scene of iniquity,—I think of such iniquity as the world never yet had to blush at.) "I founded a Mahometan college for your use; and I bore the expense of it from September, 1780, when I placed a professor there, called Mudjed-o-Din."—This Mudjed-o-Din was to perfect men, by contract, in all the arts and sciences, in about six months; and the chief purpose of the school was, as Mr. Hastings himself tells you, to breed theologians, magistrates, and moulavies, that is to say, judges and doctors of law, who were to be something like our masters in chancery, the assessors of judges, to assist them in their judgments. Such was the college founded by Mr. Hastings, and he soon afterwards appropriated one of the Company's estates, (I am speaking of matters of public notoriety,) worth 3,000l. a year, for its support. Heaven be praised, that Mr. Hastings, when he was resolved to be pious and munificent, and to be a great founder, chose a Mahometan rather than a Christian foundation, so that our religion was not disgraced by such a foundation!
Observe how he charges the expense of the foundation to the Company twice over. He first makes them set aside an estate of 3,000l. a year for its support. In what manner this income was applied during Mr. Hastings's stay in India no man living knows; but we know, that, at his departure, one of the last acts he did was to desire it should be put into the hands of Mudjed-o-Din. He afterwards, as you have seen, takes credit to himself with the Company for the expenses relative to this college.
I must now introduce your Lordships to the last visitation that was made of this college. It was visited by order of Lord Cornwallis in the year 1788, upon the complaints made against it which I have already mentioned to your Lordships,—that it was a sink of filth, vermin, and misery. Mr. Chapman, who was the visitor, and the friend of Mr. Hastings, declares that he could not sit in it even for a few minutes; his words are,—"The wretched, squalid figures that from every part ran out upon me appeared to be more like anything else than students." In fact, a universal outcry was raised by the whole city against it, not only as a receptacle of every kind of abuse, not only of filth and excrements which made it stink in the natural nostrils, but of worse filth, which made it insufferably offensive to the moral nostrils of every inhabitant. Such is the account given of a college supported at an expense of 3,000l. a year, (a handsome foundation for a college,) and for building which the Company was charged 5,000l.: though no vouchers of its expenditure were ever given by Mr. Hastings. But this is not all. When Lord Cornwallis came to inquire into it, he found that Mudjed-o-Din had sunk the income of the estate from 3,000l. to 2,000l. a year,—in short, that it had been a scene of peculation, both by the masters and scholars, as well as of abandonment to every kind of vicious and licentious courses; and all this without the shadow of any benefit having been derived from it. The visitors expressly inquired whether there was any good mixed with all this evil; and they found it was all bad and mischievous, from one end to the other. Your Lordships will remark, that the greatest part of this disgusting business must have been known to Mr. Hastings when he gave to Mudjed-o-Din the disposal of 3,000l. a year. And now, my Lords, can you vote this money, expended in the manner which I have stated to you, to be a set-off in his favor, in an account for money which was itself swindled from a private individual?
But there still remains behind another more serious matter belonging to this affair; and I hope you will not think that I am laying too much stress upon it, when I declare, that, if I were to select from the whole of his conduct one thing more dishonorable than another to the British nation, it would be that which I am now about to mention. I will leave your Lordships to judge of the sincerity of this declaration, when you shall have heard read a paper produced by the prisoner in justification of conduct such as I have stated his to have been. It is the razinama, or attestation, of Munny Begum (the woman whom Mr. Hastings placed in the seat of justice in that country) concerning this college, made precisely at the time of this inquisition by Lord Cornwallis into the management of it. Your Lordships will see what sort of things attestations are from that country: that they are attestations procured in diametrical contradiction to the certain knowledge of the party attesting. It is in page 2350 of your Minutes. Indeed, my Lords, these are pages which, unless they are effaced by your judgment, will rise up in judgment against us, some day or other.
"He [Mr. Hastings] respected the learned and wise men, and, in order for the propagation of learning, he built a college, and endowed it with a provision for the maintenance of the students, insomuch that thousands reaping the benefits thereof offer up their prayers for the prosperity of the King of England, and for the success of the Company."
I must here remind your Lordships of another attestation of the same character, and to the same effect. It comes from Mahomed Reza Khan, who, as your Lordships will remember, had been reduced by Mr. Hastings from a situation of the highest rank and authority, with an income of suitable magnitude, to one of comparative insignificance, with a small salary annexed. This man is made to disgrace himself, and to abet the disgrace and injury done to his country, by bearing his testimony to the merits of this very college.
I hope your Lordships will never lose sight of this aggravating circumstance of the prisoner's criminality,—namely, that you never find any wicked, fraudulent, and criminal act, in which you do not find the persons who suffered by it, and must have been well acquainted with it, to be the very persons who are brought to attest in its favor. O Heaven! but let shame for one moment veil its face, let indignation suppress its feelings, whilst I again call upon you to view all this as a mere swindling transaction, in which the prisoner was attempting to defraud the Company.
Mr. Hastings has declared, and you will find it upon the Company's records, that this institution (which cost the Company not less than 40,000l. in one way or other) did not commence before October in the year 1780; and he brings it before the board in April, 1781,—that is, about six months after its foundation. Now look at his other account, in which he makes it to begin in the year 1779, and in which he has therefore overcharged the expenses of it a whole year.—But Mr. Larkins, who kept this latter account for him, may have been inaccurate.—Good Heavens! where are we? Mr. Hastings, who was bred an accountant, who was bred in all sorts of trade and business, declares that he keeps no accounts. Then comes Mr. Larkins, who keeps an account for him; but he keeps a false account. Indeed, all the accounts from India, from one end to another, are nothing but a series of fraud, while Mr. Hastings was concerned in them. Mr. Larkins, who keeps his private account just as his master kept the public accounts, has swindled from the Company a whole year's expenses of this college. I should not thus repeatedly dwell upon this transaction, but because I wish your Lordships to be cautious how you admit such accounts at all to be given in evidence, into the truth of which you cannot penetrate in any regular way. Upon the face of the two accounts there is a gross fraud. It is no matter which is true or false, as it is an account which you are in no situation to decide upon. I lay down this as a fixed judicial rule, that no judge ought to receive an account (which, is as serious a part of a judicial proceeding as can be) the correctness of which he has no means of ascertaining, but must depend upon the sole word of the accountant.
Having stated, therefore, the nature of the offence, which differs nothing from a common dog-trot fraud, such as we see amongst the meanest of mankind, your Lordships will be cautious how you admit these, or any other of his pretended services, to be set off against his crimes. These stand on record confessed before you; the former, of which you can form no just estimate, and into which you cannot enter, rest for their truth upon his own assertions, and they all are found, upon the very face of them, to carry marks of fraud as well as of wickedness.
I have only further to observe to your Lordships, that this Mudjed-o-Din, who, under the patronage of Mr. Hastings, was to do all these wonders, Lord Cornwallis turned out of his office with every mark of disgrace, when he attempted to put into some more respectable state that establishment which Mr. Hastings had made a sink of abuse.
I here conclude all that I have to say upon this business, trusting that your Lordships will feel yourselves more offended, and justice more insulted, by the defence than by the criminal acts of the prisoner at your bar; and that your Lordships will concur with us in thinking, that to make this unhappy people make these attestations, knowing the direct contrary of every word which they say to be the truth, is a shocking aggravation of his guilt. I say they must know it; for Lord Cornwallis tells you it is notorious; and if you think fit to inquire into it, you will find that it was unusually notorious.
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My Lords, we have now brought to a conclusion our observations upon the effects produced by that mass of oppression which we have stated and proved before your Lordships,—namely, its effects upon the revenues, and upon the public servants of the Company. We have shown you how greatly the former were diminished, and in what manner the latter were reduced to the worst of all bad states, a state of subserviency to the will of the Governor-General. I have shown your Lordships that in this state they were not only rendered incapable of performing their own duty, but were fitted for the worst of all purposes, cooeperation with him in the perpetration of his criminal acts, and collusion with him in the concealment of them. I have lastly to speak of these effects as they regard the general state and welfare of the country. And here your Lordships will permit me to read the evidence given by Lord Cornwallis, a witness called by the prisoner at your bar, Mr. Hastings himself.
The Evidence of Lord Cornwallis. Page 2721.
"Q. Whether your Lordship recollects an account that you have given to the Court of Directors, in your letter of the 2d of August, 1789, concerning the state of those provinces?—A. I really could not venture to be particular as to any letter I may have written so long since, as I have brought no copies of my letters with me from India, having left them at Bengal when I went to the coast.—Q. Whether your Lordship recollects, in any letter that you wrote about the 2d of August, 1789, paragraph 18, any expressions to this effect, namely: 'I am sorry to be obliged to say, that agriculture and internal commerce have for many years been gradually declining, and that at present, excepting the class of shroffs and banians, who reside almost entirely in great towns, the inhabitants of these provinces are advancing hastily to a general state of poverty and wretchedness':—whether your Lordship recollects that you have written a letter to that effect?—A. I cannot take upon me to recollect the words of a letter that I have written five years ago, but I conclude I must have written to that effect.—Q. Whether your Lordship recollects that in the immediately following paragraph, the 19th, you wrote to this effect: 'In this description' (namely, the foregone description) 'I must even include almost every zemindar in the Company's territories, which, though it may have been partly occasioned by their own indolence and extravagance, I am afraid must also be in a great measure attributed to the defects of our former system of management.' (Paragraph 20.) 'The settlement, in conformity to your orders, will only be made for ten years certain, with the notification of its being your intention to declare it a perpetual, an unalterable assessment of these provinces, if the amount and the principles upon which it has been made should meet with your approbation':—whether your Lordship recollects to have written something to the effect of these two last paragraphs, as well as of the first?—A. I do recollect that I did write it; but in that letter I alluded to the former system of annual assessments.—Q. Whether your Lordship recollects that you wrote, on or about the 18th of September, 1789, in one of your minutes, thus: 'I may safely assert that one third of the Company's territory in Hindostan is now a jungle, inhabited only by wild beasts: will a ten years' lease induce any proprietor to clear away that jungle, and encourage the ryot to come and cultivate his lands, when at the end of that lease he must either submit to be taxed ad libitum for the newly cultivated lands, or lose all hopes of deriving any benefit from his labor, for which perhaps by that time he will hardly be repaid?'—whether your Lordship recollects a minute to that effect?—A. I perfectly recollect to have written that minute.—Q. Now with respect to a letter, dated November the 3d, 1788, paragraph 38, containing the following sentiments: 'I shall therefore only remark in general, that, from frequent changes of system or other reasons, much is wanting to establish good order and regulations in the internal business of the country, and that, from various causes, by far the greatest part of the zemindars, and other landholders and renters, are fallen into a state much below that of wealth and affluence. This country, however, when the fertility of its soil, and the industry and ingenuity of its numerous inhabitants are taken into consideration, must unquestionably be admitted to be one of the finest in the world; and, with the uniform attention of government to moderation in exaction, and to a due administration of justice, may long prove a source of great riches both to the Company and to Britain.' (Paragraph 39.) 'I am persuaded, that, by a train of judicious measures, the land revenue of these provinces is capable in time of being increased; but, consistent with the principles of humanity, and even those of your own interest, it is only by adopting measures for the gradual cultivation and improvement of these waste lands, and by a gentle and cautious plan for the resumption of lands that have been fraudulently alienated, that it ought ever to be attempted to be accomplished. Men of speculative and sanguine dispositions, and others, either from ignorance of the subject, or with views of recommending themselves to your favor, may confidently hold forth specious grounds to encourage you to hope that a great and immediate accession to that branch of your revenue might be practicable. My public duty obliges me to caution you, in the most serious manner, against listening to propositions which recommend this attempt; because I am clearly convinced, that, if carried into execution, they would be attended with the most baneful consequences.' (Paragraph 40.) 'Desperate adventurers, without fortune or character, would undoubtedly be found, as has already been too often experienced, to rent the different districts of the country at the highest rates that could be put upon them; that [but?] the delusion would be of a short duration, and the impolicy and inhumanity of the plan would, when perhaps too late for effectual remedy, become apparent by the complaints of the people and the disappointments at the treasury in the payments of the revenue, and would probably terminate in the ruin and depopulation of the unfortunate country':—whether your Lordship recollects to have written anything to that effect about that time?—A. I perfectly recollect having written the extracts that have been read."
My Lords, Lord Cornwallis has been called, he has been examined before you. We stopped our proceedings ten days for the purpose of taking his evidence. We do not regret this delay. And he has borne the testimony which you have heard to the effects of Mr. Hastings's government of a country once the most fertile and cultivated, of a people the most industrious, flourishing, and happy,—that the one was wasted and desolated, the other reduced to a condition of want and misery, and that the zemindars, that is, the nobility and gentry of the country, were so beggared as not to be able to give even a common decent education to their children, notwithstanding the foundation of Mr. Hastings's colleges. You have heard this noble person, who had been an eye-witness of what he relates, supplicating for their relief, and expressly stating that most of the complicated miseries, and perhaps the cruelest of the afflictions they endured, arose from the management of the country having been taken out of the hands of its natural rulers, and given up to Mr. Hastings's farmers, namely, the banians of Calcutta. These are the things that ought to go to your Lordships' hearts. You see a country wasted and desolated. You see a third of it become a jungle for wild beasts. You see the other parts oppressed by persons in the form and shape of men, but with all the character and disposition of beasts of prey. This state of the country is brought before you, and by the most unexceptionable evidence,—being brought forward through Mr. Hastings himself. This evidence, whatever opinion you may entertain of the effrontery or of the impudence of the criminal who has produced it, is of double and treble force. And yet at the very time when Lord Cornwallis is giving this statement of the country and its inhabitants, at the very time when he is calling for pity upon their condition, are these people brought forward to bear testimony to the benign and auspicious government of Mr. Hastings, directed, as your Lordships know it was, by the merciful and upright Gunga Govind Sing.
My Lords, you have now the evidence of Lord Cornwallis on the one hand, and the razinamas of India on the other. But before I dismiss this part of my subject, I must call your Lordships' attention to another authority,—to a declaration, strictly speaking, legal, of the state to which our Indian provinces were reduced, and of the oppressions which they have suffered, during the government of Mr. Hastings: I speak of the act 24 Geo. III. cap. 25, intituled, "An act for the better regulation and management of the affairs of the East India Company, and of the British possessions in India, and for establishing a court of judicature for the more speedy and effectual trial of persons accused of offences committed in the East Indies," Sec. 39.
My Lords, here is an act of Parliament; here are regulations enacted in consequence of an inquiry which had been directed to be made into the grievances of India, for the redress of them. This act of Parliament declares the existence of oppressions in the country. What oppressions were they? The oppressions which it suffered by being let out to the farmers of the Company's revenues. Who was the person that sold these revenues to the farmers? Warren Hastings. By whom were these oppressions notified to the Court of Directors? By Lord Cornwallis. Upon what occasion were these letters written by my Lord Cornwallis? They were answers to inquiries made by the Court of Directors, and ordered by an act of Parliament to be made. The existence, then, of the grievances, and the cause of them, are expressly declared in an act of Parliament. It orders an inquiry; and Lord Cornwallis, in consequence of that inquiry, transmits to the Court of Directors this very information; he gives you this identical state of the country: so that it is consolidated, mixed, and embodied with an act of Parliament itself, which no power on earth, I trust, but the power that made it, can shake. I trust, I say, that neither we, the Commons, nor you, the Lords, nor his Majesty, the sovereign of this country, can shake one word of this act of Parliament,—can invalidate the truth of its declaration, or the authority of the persons, men of high honor and character, that made that inquiry and this report. Your Lordships must repeal this act in order to acquit Mr. Hastings.
But Mr. Hastings and his counsel have produced evidence against this act of Parliament, against the order of the Court of Directors by which an inquiry and report were made under that act, against Lord Cornwallis's return to that inquiry; and now, once for all, hear what the miserable wretches are themselves made to say, to invalidate the act of Parliament, to invalidate the authority of the Court of Directors, to invalidate the evidence of an official return of Lord Cornwallis under the act. Pray hear what these miserable creatures describe as an elysium, speaking with rapture of their satisfaction, under the government of Mr. Hastings.
"All we zemindars, chowdries, and talookdars of the district of Akbarnagur, commonly called Rajamahal, in the kingdom of Bengal, have heard that the gentlemen in England are displeased with Mr. Hastings, on suspicion that he oppressed us inhabitants of this place, took our money by deceit and force, and ruined the country; therefore we, upon the strength of our religion and religious tenets, which we hold as a duty upon us, and in order to act conformable to the duties of God in delivering evidence, relate the praiseworthy actions, full of prudence and rectitude, friendship and politeness, of Mr. Hastings, possessed of great abilities and understanding, and, by representing facts, remove the doubts that have possessed the minds of the gentlemen in England;—that Mr. Hastings distributed protection and security to religion, and kindness and peace to all; he is free from the charge of embezzlement and fraud, and that his heart is void of covetousness and avidity; during the period of his government, no one experienced from him other than protection and justice, never having felt hardships from him, nor did the poor ever know the weight of an oppressive hand from him; our characters and reputations have always been guarded in quiet from attack by the vigilance of his power and foresight, and preserved by the terror of his justice; he never omitted the smallest instance of kindness and goodness towards us and those entitled to it, but always applied by soothings and mildness the salve of comfort to the wounds of affliction, not allowing a single person to be overwhelmed by despair; he displayed his friendship and kindness to all; he destroyed the power of the enemies and wicked men by the strength of his terror; he tied the hands of tyrants and oppressors by his justice, and by this conduct he secured happiness and joy to us; he reestablished the foundation of justice, and we at all times, during his government, lived in comfort and passed our days in peace; we are many, many of us satisfied and pleased with him. As Mr. Hastings was perfectly well acquainted with the manners and customs of these countries, he was always desirous of performing that which would tend to the preservation of our religion, and of the duties of our sects, and guard the religious customs of each from the effects of misfortune and accidents; in every sense he treated us with attention and respect. We have represented without deceit what we have ourselves seen, and the facts that happened from him."
This, my Lords, is in page 2374 of the printed Minutes.
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My Lords, we spare you the reading of a great number of these attestations; they are all written in the same style; and it must appear to your Lordships a little extraordinary, that, as they are said to be totally voluntary, as the people are represented to be crowding to make these testimonials, there should be such an unison in the heart to produce a language that is so uniform as not to vary so much as in a single tittle,—that every part of the country, every province, every district, men of every caste and of every religion, should all unite in expressing their sentiments in the very same words and in the very same phrases. I must fairly say it is a kind of miraculous concurrence, a miraculous gratitude. Mr. Hastings says that gratitude is lost in this part of the world. There it blooms and flourishes in a way not to be described. In proportion as you hear of the miseries and distresses of these very people, in the same proportion do they express their comfort and satisfaction, and that they never knew what a grievance was of any sort. Lord Cornwallis finds them aggrieved, the Court of Directors find them aggrieved, the Parliament of Great Britain find them aggrieved, and the court here find them aggrieved; but they never found themselves aggrieved. Their being turned out of house and home, and having all their land given to farmers of revenue for five years to riot in and despoil them of all they had, is what fills them with rapture. They are the only people, I believe, upon the face of the earth, that have no complaints to make of their government, in any instance whatever. Theirs must be something superior to the government of angels; for I verily believe, that, if one out of the choir of the heavenly angels were sent to govern the earth, such is the nature of man, that many would be found discontented with it. But these people have no complaint, they feel no hardships, no sorrow; Mr. Hastings has realized more than the golden age. I am ashamed for human nature, I am ashamed for our government, I am ashamed for this court of justice, that these things are brought before us; but here they are, and we must observe upon them.
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My Lords, we have done, on our part; we have made out our case; and it only remains for me to make a few observations upon what Mr. Hastings has thought proper to put forward in his defence. Does he meet our case with anything but these general attestations, upon which I must first remark, that there is not one single matter of fact touched upon in them? Your Lordships will observe, and you may hunt them out through the whole body of your minutes, that you do not find a single fact mentioned in any of them. But there is an abundance of panegyric; and if we were doing nothing but making satires, as the newspapers charge us with doing, against Mr. Hastings, panegyric would be a good answer.
But Mr. Hastings sets up pleas of merit upon this occasion. Now, undoubtedly, no plea of merit can be admitted to extinguish, as your Lordships know very well, a direct charge of crime. Merit cannot extinguish crime. For instance, if Lord Howe, to whom this country owes so much as it owes this day for the great and glorious victory which makes our hearts glad, and I hope will insure the security of this country,—yet if Lord Howe, I say, was charged with embezzling the King's stores, or applying them in any manner unbecoming his situation, to any shameful or scandalous purpose,—if he was accused of taking advantage of his station, to oppress any of the captains of his ships,—if he was stated to have gone into a port of the allies of this country, and to have plundered the inhabitants, to have robbed their women, and broken into the recesses of their apartments,—if he had committed atrocities like these, his glorious victory could not change the nature and quality of such acts. My Lord Malmesbury has been lately sent to the King of Prussia; we hope and trust that his embassy will be successful, and that this country will derive great benefit from his negotiations; but if Lord Malmesbury, from any subsidy that was to be paid to the King of Prussia, was to put 50,000l. in his own pocket, I believe that his making a good and advantageous treaty with the King of Prussia would never be thought a good defence for him. We admit, that, if a man has done great and eminent services, though they cannot be a defence against a charge of crimes, and cannot obliterate them, yet, when sentence comes to be passed upon such a man, you will consider, first, whether his transgressions were common lapses of human frailty, and whether the nature and weight of the grievances resulting from them were light in comparison with the services performed. I say that you cannot acquit him; but your Lordships might think some pity due to him, that might mitigate the severity of your sentence. In the second place, you would consider whether the evidence of the services alleged to be performed was as clear and undoubted as that of the crimes charged. I confess, that, if a man has done great services, it may be some alleviation of lighter faults; but then they ought to be urged as such,—with modesty, with humility, with confession of the faults, and not with a proud and insolent defiance. They should not be stated as proofs that he stands justified in the eye of mankind for committing unexampled and enormous crimes. Indeed, humility, suppliant guilt, always makes impression in our bosoms, so that, when we see it before us, we always remember that we are all frail men; and nothing but a proud defiance of law and justice can make us forget this for one moment. I believe the Commons of Great Britain, and I hope the persons that speak to you, know very well how to allow for the faults and frailties of mankind equitably.
Let us now see what are the merits which Mr. Hastings has set up against the just vengeance of his country, and against his proved delinquencies. From the language of the prisoner, and of his counsel, you would imagine some great, known, acknowledged services had been done by him. Your Lordships recollect that most of these presumed services have been considered, and we are persuaded justly considered, as in themselves crimes. He wishes your Lordships to suppose and believe that these services were put aside either because we could not prove the facts against him or could not make out that they were criminal, and consequently that your Lordships ought to presume them to have been meritorious; and this is one of the grounds upon which he demands to be acquitted of the charges that have been brought forward and proved against him. Finding in our proceedings, and recorded upon our journals, an immense mass of criminality with which he is charged, and finding that we had selected, as we were bound to select, such parts as might be most conveniently brought before your Lordships, (for to have gone through the whole would have been nearly impossible,) he takes all the rest that we have left behind and have not brought here as charges, and converts them, by a strange metamorphosis, into merits.
My Lords, we must insist, on the part of the House of Commons, we must conjure your Lordships, for the honor of a cooerdinate branch of the legislature, that, whenever you are called upon to admit what we have condemned as crimes to be merits, you will at least give us an opportunity of being heard upon the matter,—that you will not suffer Mr. Hastings, when attempting to defend himself against our charges, in an indirect and oblique manner to condemn or censure the House of Commons itself, as having misrepresented to be crimes the acts of a meritorious servant of the public. Mr. Hastings has pleaded a variety of merits, and every one of these merits, without the exception of one of them, have been either directly censured by the House of Commons, and censured as a ground for legislative provision, or they remain upon the records of the House of Commons, with the vouchers for them, and proofs; and though we have not actually come to the question upon every one of them, we had come, before the year 1782, to forty-five direct resolutions upon his conduct. These resolutions were moved by a person to whom this country is under many obligations, and whom we must always mention with honor, whenever we are speaking of high situations in this country, and of great talents to support them, and of long public services in the House of Commons: I mean Mr. Dundas, then Lord Advocate of Scotland, and now one of the principal Secretaries of State, and at the head, and worthily and deservedly at the head, of the East Indian department. This distinguished statesman moved forty-five resolutions, the major part of them directly condemning these very acts which Mr. Hastings has pleaded as his merits, as being delinquencies and crimes. All that the House of Commons implore of your Lordships is, that you will not take these things, which we call crimes, to be merits, without hearing the House of Commons upon the subject-matter of them. I am sure you are too noble and too generous, as well as too just and equitable, to act in such a manner.
The first thing that Mr. Hastings brings forward in his defence is, that, whereas the Company were obliged to pay a certain tribute to the Mogul, in consideration of a grant by which the Moguls gave to us the legal title under which we hold the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, he did stop the payment of that tribute, or acknowledgment, small as it was,—that, though bound by a treaty recognized by the Company and recognized by the nation, though bound by the very sunnud by which he held the very office he was exercising, yet he had broken the treaty, and refused to pay the stipulated acknowledgment. Where are we, my Lords? Is this merit? Good God Almighty! the greatest blockhead, the most ignorant, miserable wretch, a person without either virtue or talents, has nothing to do but to order a clerk to strike a pen through such an account, and then to make a merit of it to you. "Oh!" says he, "I have by a mere breach of your faith, by a single dash of my pen, saved you all this money which you were bound to pay. I have exonerated you from the payment of it. I have gained you 250,000l. a year forever. Will you not reward a person who did you such a great and important service, by conniving a little at his delinquencies?"
But the House of Commons will not allow that this was a great and important service; on the contrary, they have declared the act itself to be censurable. There is our resolution,—Resolution the 7th:—
"That the conduct of the Company and their servants in India to the King," (meaning the Mogul king) "and Nudjif Khan, with respect to the tribute payable to the one, and the stipend to the other, and with respect to the transfer of the provinces of Corah, and Allahabad to the Vizier, was contrary to policy and good faith; and that such wise and practicable measures should be adopted in future as may tend to redeem the national honor, and recover the confidence and attachment of the princes of India."
This act of injustice, against which we have fulminated the thunder of our resolutions as a heavy crime, as a crime that dishonored the nation, and which measures ought to be taken to redress, this man has the insolence to bring before your Lordships as a set-off against the crimes we charge him with. This outrageous defiance of the House of Commons, this outrageous defiance of all the laws of his country, I hope your Lordships will not countenance. You will not let it pass for nothing: on the contrary, you will consider it as aggravating heavily his crimes. And, above all, you will not suffer him to set off this, which we have declared to be injurious to our national honor and credit, and which he himself does not deny to be a breach of the public faith, against other breaches of the public faith with which we charge him,—or to justify one class of public crimes by proving that he has committed others.
Your Lordships see that he justifies this crime upon the plea of its being profitable to the Company; but he shall not march off even on this ground with flying colors. My Lords, pray observe in what manner he calculates these profits. Your Lordships will find that he makes up the account of them much in the same manner as he made up the account of Nobkissin's money. There is, indeed, no account which he has ever brought forth that does not carry upon it not only ill faith and national dishonor, but direct proofs of corruption. When Mr. Hastings values himself upon this shocking and outrageous breach of faith, which required nothing but a base and illiberal mind, without either talents, courage, or skill, except that courage which defies all consequences, which defies shame, which defies the judgment and opinion of his country and of mankind, no other talents than may be displayed by the dash of a pen, you will at least expect to see a clear and distinct account of what was gained by it.
In the year 1775, at a period when Mr. Hastings was under an eclipse, when honor and virtue, in the character of General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, sat for a short period at the Council-Board,—during that time, Mr. Hastings's conduct upon this occasion was called into question. They called for an account of the revenues of the country,—what was received, and what had been paid; and in the account returned they found the amount of the tribute due to the Mogul, 250,000l., entered as paid up to October, 1774. Thus far all appeared fair upon the face of it; they took it for granted, as your Lordships would take it for granted, at the first view, that the tribute in reality had been paid up to the time stated. The books were balanced: you find a debtor; you find a creditor; every item posted in as regular a manner as possible. Whilst they were examining this account, a Mr. Croftes, of whom your Lordships have heard very often, as accountant-general, comes forward and declares that there was a little error in the account. And what was the error? That he had entered the Mogul's tribute for one year more than it had actually been paid. Here we have the small error of a payment to the Mogul of 250,000l. This appeared strange. "Why," says Mr. Croftes, "I never discovered it; nor was it ever intimated to me that it had been stopped from October, 1773, till the other day, when I was informed that I ought not to have made an entry of the last payments." These were his expressions. You will find the whole relation in the Bengal Appendix, printed by the orders of the Court of Directors. When Mr. Croftes was asked a very natural question, "Who first told you of your mistake? who acquainted you with Mr. Hastings's orders that the payment should be expunged from the account?" what is his answer? It is an answer worthy of Mr. Middleton, an answer worthy of Mr. Larkins, or of any of the other white banians of Mr. Hastings:—"Oh, I have forgotten." Here you have an accountant-general kept in ignorance, or who pretends to be ignorant, of so large a payment as 250,000l.; who enters it falsely in his account; and when asked who apprised him of his mistake, says that he has really forgotten.
Oh, my Lords, what resources there are in oblivion! what resources there are in bad memory! No genius ever has done so much for mankind as this mental defect has done for Mr. Hastings's accountants. It was said by one of the ancient philosophers, to a man who proposed to teach people memory,—"I wish you could teach me oblivion; I wish you could teach me to forget." These people have certainly not been taught the art of memory, but they appear perfect masters of the art of forgetting. My Lords, this is not all; and I must request your Lordships' attention to the whole of the account, as it appears in the account of the arrears due to the King, annexed to your minutes. Here is a kind of labyrinth, where fraud runs into fraud. On the credit side you find stated there, eight lacs paid to the Vizier, and to be taken from the Mogul's tribute, for the support of an army, of which he himself had stipulated to bear the whole expenses. These eight lacs are thus fraudulently accounted for upon the face of the thing; and with respect to eighteen lacs, the remainder of the tribute, there is no account given of it at all. This sum Mr. Hastings must, therefore, have pocketed for his own use, or that of his gang of peculators; and whilst he was pretending to save you eight lacs by one fraud, he committed another fraud of eighteen lacs for himself: and this is the method by which one act of peculation begets another in the economy of fraud.
Thus much of these affairs I think myself bound to state to your Lordships upon this occasion; for, although not one word has been produced by the counsel to support the allegations of the prisoner at your bar, yet, knowing that your Lordships, high as you are, are still but men, knowing also that bold assertions and confident declarations are apt to make some impression upon all men's minds, we oppose his allegations. But how do we oppose them? Not by things of the like nature. We oppose them by showing you that the House of Commons, after diligent investigation, has condemned them, and by stating the grounds upon which the House founded its condemnation. We send you to the records of the Company, if you want to pursue this matter further, to enlighten your own minds upon the subject. Do not think, my Lords, that we are not aware how ridiculous it is for either party, the accuser or the accused, to make here any assertions without producing vouchers for them: we know it; but we are prepared and ready to take upon us the proof; and we should be ashamed to assert anything that we are not able directly to substantiate by an immediate reference to uncontradicted evidence.
With regard to the merits pleaded by the prisoner, we could efface that plea with a single stroke, by saying there is no evidence before your Lordships of any such merits. But we have done more: we have shown you that the things which he has set up as merits are atrocious crimes, and that there is not one of them which does not, in the very nature and circumstances of it, carry evidence of base corruption, as well as of flagrant injustice and notorious breach of public faith.
The next thing that he takes credit for is precisely an act of this description. The Mogul had, by solemn stipulation with the Company, a royal domain insured to him, consisting of two provinces, Corah and Allahabad. Of both these provinces Mr. Hastings deprived the Mogul, upon weak pretences, if proved in point of fact, but which were never proved in any sense, against him. I allude particularly to his alleged alliance with the Mahrattas,—a people, by the way, with whom we were not then at war, and with whom he had as good a right as Nudjif Khan to enter into alliance at that time. He takes these domains, almost the last wrecks of empire left to the descendant of Tamerlane, from the man, I say, to whose voluntary grants we owe it that we have put a foot in Bengal. Surely, we ought, at least, to have kept our faith in leaving this last retreat to that unfortunate prince. The House of Commons was of that opinion, and consequently they resolved, "That the transfer of Corah and Allahabad to the Vizier was contrary to policy and good faith." This is what the Commons think of this business which Mr. Hastings pleads as merits.
But I have not yet done with it. These provinces are estimated as worth twenty-two lacs, or thereabouts, that is, about 220,000l., a year. I believe they were improvable to a good deal more. But what does Mr. Hastings do? Instead of taking them into the Company's possession for the purpose of preserving them for the Mogul, upon the event of our being better satisfied with his conduct, or of appropriating them to the Company's advantage, he sells them to the Nabob of Oude, who he knew had the art, above all men, of destroying a country which he was to keep, or which he might fear he was not to keep, permanent possession of. And what do you think he sold them for? He sold them at a little more than two years' purchase. Will any man believe that Mr. Hastings, when he sold these provinces to the Vizier for two years' purchase, and when there was no man that would not have given ten years' purchase for them, did not put the difference between the real and pretended value into his own pocket, and that of his associates?
We charge, therefore, first, that this act for which he assumes merit was in itself a breach of faith; next, that the sale of these provinces was scandalously conducted; and thirdly, that this sale, at one fifth of the real value, was effected for corrupt purposes. Thus an act of threefold delinquency is one of the merits stated with great pomp by his counsel.
Another of his merits is the stoppage of the pension which the Company was under an obligation to pay to Nudjif Khan: a matter which, even if admitted to be a merit, is certainly not worth, as a set-off, much consideration.
But there is another set-off of merit upon which he plumes himself, and sets an exceedingly high value: the sale of the Rohilla nation to that worthless tyrant, the Vizier, their cruel and bitter enemy,—the cruelest tyrant, perhaps, that ever existed, and their most implacable enemy, if we except Mr. Hastings, who appears to have had a concealed degree of animosity, public, private, or political, against them. To this man he sold this whole nation, whose country, cultivated like a garden, was soon reduced, as Mr. Hastings, from the character of the Vizier, knew would be the consequence, to a mere desert, for 400,000l. He sent a brigade of our troops to assist the Vizier in extirpating these people, who were the bravest, the most honorable, and generous nation upon earth. Those who were not left slaughtered to rot upon the soil of their native country were cruelly expelled from it, and sent to publish the merciless and scandalous behavior of Great Britain from one end of India to the other. I believe there is not an honest, ingenuous, or feeling heart upon the face of the globe, I believe there is no man possessing the least degree of regard to honor and justice, humanity and good policy, that did not reprobate this act. The Court of Directors, when they heard of it, reprobated it in the strongest manner; the Court of Proprietors reprobated it in the strongest manner; by the House of Commons, after the most diligent investigation, it was, in a resolution moved by Mr. Dundas, reprobated in the strongest manner: and this is the act which Mr. Hastings brings forward before your Lordships as a merit.
But, again, I can prove that in this, perhaps the most atrocious of all his demerits, there is a most horrid and nefarious secret corruption lurking. I can tell your Lordships that Sir Robert Barker was offered by this Vizier, for about one half of this very country, namely, the country of the Rohillas, a sum of fifty lacs of rupees,—that is, 500,000l. Mr. Hastings was informed of this offer by Sir Robert Barker, in his letter of the 24th March, 1773. Still, in the face of this information, Mr. Hastings took for the Company only forty lacs of rupees. I leave your Lordships to draw your own conclusion from these facts. You will judge what became of the difference between the price offered and the price accounted for as taken. Nothing on earth can hide from mankind why Mr. Hastings made this wicked, corrupt bargain for the extermination of a brave and generous people,—why he took 400,000l. for the whole of that, for half of which he was offered and knew he might have had 500,000l.
Your Lordships will observe, that for all these facts there is no evidence, on the one side or on the other, directly before you. Their merits have been insisted upon, in long and laborious details and discussions, both by Mr. Hastings himself and by his counsel. We have answered them for that reason; but we answer them with a direct reference to records and papers, from which your Lordships may judge of them as set-offs and merits. I believe your Lordships will now hardly receive them as merits to set off guilt, since in every one of them there is both guilt in the act, and strong ground for presuming that he had corruptly taken money for himself.
The last act of merit that has been insisted upon by his counsel is the Mahratta peace. They have stated to you the distresses of the Company to justify the unhandsome and improper means that he took of making this peace. Mr. Hastings himself has laid hold of the same opportunity of magnifying the difficulties which, during his government, he had to contend with. Here he displays all his tactics. He spreads all his sails, and here catches every gale. He says, "I found all India confederated against you. I found not the Mahrattas alone; I found war through a hundred hostile states fulminated against you; I found the Peshwa, the Nizam, Hyder Ali, the Rajah of Berar, all combined together for your destruction. I stemmed the torrent: fortitude is my character. I faced and overcame all these difficulties, till I landed your affairs safe on shore, till I stood the saviour of India."
My Lords, we of the House of Commons have before heard all this; but we cannot forget that we examined into every part of it, and that we did not find a single fact stated by him that was not a ground of censure and reprobation. The House of Commons, in the resolutions to which I have alluded, have declared, that Mr. Hastings, the first author of these proceedings, took advantage of an ambiguous letter of the Court of Directors to break and violate the most solemn, the most advantageous, and useful treaty that the Company had ever made in India; and that this conduct of his produced the strange and unnatural junction which he says he found formed against the Company, and with which he had to combat. I should trouble your Lordships with but a brief statement of the facts; and if I do not enter more at large in observing upon them, it is because I cannot but feel shocked at the indecency and impropriety of your being obliged to hear of that as merit which the House of Commons has condemned in every part. Your Lordships received obliquely evidence from the prisoner at your bar upon this subject; yet, when we came and desired your full inquiry into it, your Lordships, for wise and just reasons, I have no doubt, refused our request. I must, however, again protest on the part of the Commons against your Lordships receiving such evidence at all as relevant to your judgment, unless the House of Commons is fully heard upon it.
But to proceed.—The government of Bombay had offended the Mahratta States by a most violent and scandalous aggression. They afterwards made a treaty of peace with them, honorable and advantageous to the Company. This treaty was made by Colonel Upton, and is called the Treaty of Poorunder. Mr. Hastings broke that treaty, upon his declared principle, that you are to look in war for the resources of your government. All India was at that time in peace. Hyder Ali did not dare to attack us, because he was afraid that his natural enemies, the Mahrattas, would fall upon him. The Nizam could not attack us, because he was also afraid of the Mahrattas. The Mahratta state itself was divided into such discordant branches as to make it impossible for them to unite in any one object; that commonwealth, which, certainly at that time was the terror of India, was so broken, as to render it either totally ineffective or easy to be resisted. There was not one government in India that did not look up to Great Britain as holding the balance of power, and in a position to control and do justice to every individual party in it. At that juncture Mr. Hastings deliberately broke the treaty of Poorunder; and afterwards, by breaking faith with and attacking all the powers, one after another, he produced that very union which one would hardly have expected that the incapacity or ill faith of any Governor could have effected. Your Lordships shall hear the best and most incontrovertible evidence both of his incapacity and ill faith, and of the consequences which they produced. It is the declaration of one of the latest of their allies concerning all these proceedings. It is contained in a letter from the Rajah of Berar, directly and strongly inculpating Mr. Hastings, upon facts which he has never denied and by arguments which he has never refuted, as being himself the cause of that very junction of all the powers of India against us.
Letter from Benaram Pundit.
"As the friendship of the English is, at all events, the first and most necessary consideration, I will therefore exert myself in establishing peace: for the power of making peace with all is the best object; to this all other measures are subservient, and will certainly be done by them, the English. You write, that, after having laid the foundation of peace with the Pundit Purdhaun, it is requisite that some troops should be sent with General Goddard against Hyder Naig, and take possession of his country, when all those engagements and proposals may be assented to. My reason is confounded in discussing this suggestion, at a time when Hyder Naig is in every respect in alliance with the Peshwa, and has assisted with his soul and life to repel the English. For us to unite our troops with those of the enemy and extirpate him, would not this fix the stamp of infamy upon us forever? Would any prince, for generations to come, ever after assist us, or unite with the Peshwa? Be yourself the judge, and say whether such a conduct would become a prince or not. Why, then, do you mention it? why do you write it?
"The case is as follows.—At first there was the utmost enmity between Hyder Naig and the Pundit Purdhaun, and there was the fullest intention of sending troops into Hyder Naig's country; and after the conclusion of the war with Bombay and the capture of Ragonaut Row, it was firmly resolved to send troops into that quarter; and a reliance was placed in the treaty which was entered into by the gentlemen of Bombay before the war. But when Ragonaut again went to them, and General Goddard was ready to commence hostilities,—when no regard was paid to the friendly proposals made by us and the Pundit Peshwa,—when they desisted from coming to Poonah, agreeable to their promise, and a categorical answer was given to the deputies from Poonah,—the ministers of Poonah then consulted among themselves, and, having advised with the Nabob Nizam ul Dowlah, they considered that as enemies were appearing on both sides, and it would be difficult to cope with both, what was to be done? Peace must be made with one of them, and war must be carried on with the other. They wished above all things, in their hearts, to make peace with the English gentlemen, and to unite with them to punish Hyder Naig; but these gentlemen had plainly refused to enter into any terms of reconciliation. It was therefore advisable to accommodate matters with Hyder Naig, although he had been long an enemy. What else could be done? Having nothing left for it, they were compelled to enter into an union with Hyder."
My Lords, this declaration, made to Mr. Hastings himself, was never answered by him. Indeed, answered it could not be; because the thing was manifest, that all the desolation of the Carnatic by Hyder Ali, all these difficulties upon which he has insisted, the whole of that union by which he was pressed, and against which, as he says, he bore up with such fortitude, was his own work, the consequences of his bad faith, and his not listening to any reasonable terms of peace.
But, my Lords, see what sort of peace he afterwards made. I could prove, if I were called upon so to do, from this paper that they have had the folly and madness to produce to you for other purposes, that he might at any time have made a better treaty, and have concluded a more secure and advantageous peace, than that which at last he acceded to; that the treaty he made was both disadvantageous and dishonorable, inasmuch as we gave up every ally we had, and sacrificed them to the resentment of the enemy; that Mahdajee Sindia gained by it an empire of a magnitude dangerous to our very existence in India; that this chief was permitted to exterminate all the many little gallant nations that stood between us and the Mahrattas, and whose policy led them to guard against the ambitious designs of that government. Almost all these lesser powers, from Central India, quite up to the mountains that divide India from Tartary, almost all these, I say, were exterminated by him, or were brought under a cruel subjection. The peace he made with Mr. Hastings was for the very purpose of doing all this; and Mr. Hastings enabled him, and gave him the means of effecting it.
Advert next, my Lords, to what he did with other allies. By the treaty of Poorunder, made by Colonel Upton, and which he flagitiously broke, we had acquired, what, God knows, we little merited from the Mahrattas, twelve lacs, (112,000l.) for the expenses of the war,—and a country of three lacs of annual revenue, the province of Baroach and the isle of Salsette, and other small islands convenient for us upon that coast. This was a great, useful, and momentous accession of territory and of revenue: and we got it with honor; for not one of our allies were sacrificed by this treaty. We had even obtained from the Mahrattas for Ragonaut Row, our support of whom against that government was a principal cause of the war, an establishment of a thousand horse, to be maintained at their expense, and a jaghire for his other expenses of three lacs of rupees per annum, payable monthly, with leave to reside within their territories, with no other condition than that he should not remove from the place fixed for his residence for the purpose of exciting disturbances against their government. They also stipulated for the pardon, of all his adherents except four; and the only condition they required from us was, that we should not assist him in case of any future disturbance. But Mr. Hastings, by his treaty, surrendered that country of three lacs of revenue; he made no stipulation for the expenses of the war, nor indemnity for any of the persons whom he had seduced into the rebellion in favor of Ragonaut Row; he gave them all up to the vengeance of their governments, without a stroke of a pen in their favor, to be banished, confiscated, and undone; and as to Ragonaut Row, instead of getting him this honorable and secure retreat, as he was bound to do, this unfortunate man was ordered to retire to his enemy's (Mahdajee Sindia's) country, or otherwise he was not to receive a shilling for his maintenance.
I will now ask your Lordships, whether any man but Mr. Hastings would claim a merit with his own country for having broken the treaty of Poorunder? Your Lordships know the opinion of the House of Commons respecting it; his colleagues in Council had remonstrated with him upon it, and had stated the mischiefs that would result from it; and Sir Eyre Coote, the commander of the Company's forces, writing at the same time from Madras, states, that he thought it would infallibly bring down upon them Hyder Ali, who, they had reason to think, was bent upon the utter destruction of the power of this country in India, and was only waiting for some crisis in our affairs favorable to his designs. This, my Lords, is to be one of the set-offs against all the crimes, against the multiplied frauds, cruelties, and oppressions, all the corrupt practices, prevarications, and swindlings, that we have alleged against him.
My Lords, it would be an endless undertaking, and such as, at this hour of the day, we, as well as your Lordships, are little fitted to engage in, if I were to attempt to search into and unveil all the secret motives, or to expose as it deserves the shameless audacity of this man's conduct. None of your Lordships can have observed without astonishment the selection of his merits, as he audaciously calls them, which has been brought before you. The last of this selection, in particular, looks as if he meant to revile and spit upon the legislature of his country, because we and you thought it fit and were resolved to publish to all India that we will not countenance offensive wars, and that you felt this so strongly as to pass the first act of a kind that was ever made, namely, an act to limit the discretionary power of government in making war solely,—and because you have done this solely and upon no other account and for no other reason under heaven than the abuse which that man at your bar has made of it, and for which abuse he now presumes to take merit to himself. I will read this part of the act to your Lordships.
[Mr. Burke here read 24th Geo. III. cap. 25, sect. 34.]
"And whereas to pursue schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India are measures repugnant to the wish, the honor, and policy of this nation, be it therefore further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that it shall not be lawful for the Governor-General and Council of Port William aforesaid, without the express command and authority of the said Court of Directors, or of the Secret Committee of the said Court of Directors, in any case, (except where hostilities have actually been commenced, or preparations actually made for the commencement of hostilities, against the British nation in India, or against some of the princes or states dependent thereon, or whose territories the said United Company shall be at such time engaged by any subsisting treaty to defend or guaranty,) either to declare war, or commence hostilities, or enter into any treaty for making war, against any of the country princes or states in India, or any treaty for guarantying the possessions of any country princes or states; and that in such case it shall not be lawful for the said Governor-General and Council to declare war, or commence hostilities, or enter into treaty for making war, against any other prince or state than such as shall be actually committing hostilities or making preparations as aforesaid, or to make such treaty for guarantying the possessions of any prince or state, but upon the consideration of such prince or state actually engaging to assist the Company against such hostilities commenced or preparations made as aforesaid; and in all cases where hostilities shall be commenced or treaty made, the said Governor-General and Council shall, by the most expeditious means they can devise, communicate the same unto the said Court of Directors, together with a full state of the information and intelligence upon which they shall have commenced such hostilities or made such treaties, and their motives and reasons for the same at large."