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EIGHTH DAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 14, 1794.
Y LORDS, – Your Lordships heard, upon thu
last day of the meeting of this high court, the distribution of the several matters which I should have occasion to lay before you, and by which I resolved to guide myself in the examination of the conduct of Mr. Hastings with regard to Bengal. I stated that I should first show the manner in which he comported himself with regard to the people who were found in possession of the government when we first entered into Bengal. We have shown to your Lordships the progressive steps by which the native government was brought into a state of annihilation. We have stated the manner in which that government was solemnly declared by a court of justice to be depraved, and incompetent to act, and dead in law. We have shown to your Lordships (and we have referred you to the document) that its death was declared upon a certificate of the principal attending physician of the state, namely, Mr. Warren Hastings himself. This was declared in an affidavit made by him, wherein he has gone through all the powers of government, of which he had regularly despoiled the Nabob Mobarek ul Dowlah, part by part, exactly according to the ancient formula by which a degraded
knight was despoiled of his knighthood: they took, I say, from him all the powers of government, article by article, - his helmet, his shield, his cuirass; at last they hacked off his spurs, and left him nothing. Mr. Hastings laid down all the premises, and left the judges to draw the conclusion.
Your Lordships will remark (for you will find it on your minutes) that the judges have declared this affidavit of Mr. Hastings to be a delicate affidavit. We have heard of affidavits that were true; we have heard of affidavits that were perjured; but this is the first instance that has come to our knowledge and we receive it as a proof of Indian refinement) of a delicate affidavit. This affidavit of Mr. Hastings we shall show to your Lordships is not entitled to the description of a good affidavit, however it might be entitled, in the opinion of those judges, to the description of a delicate affidavit, - a phrase by which they appear to have meant that he had furnished all the proofs of the Nabob's deposition, but had delicately avoided to declare him expressly deposed. The judges drew, however, this indelicate conclusion; the conclusion they drew was founded upon the premises; it was very just and logical ; for they declared that he was a mere cipher. They commended Mr. Hastings's delicacy, though they did not imitate it; but they pronounced sentence of deposition upon the said Nabob, and they declared that any letter or paper that was produced from him could not be considered as an act of government. So effectually was he removed by the judges out of the way, that no minority, no insanity, no physical circumstances, not even death itself, could put a man more completely out of sight. They declare that they would consider his letters in no other light than as the letters of the Company, represented by the Governor-General and Council. Thus, then, we find the Nabob legally dead.
We find next, that he was politically dead. Mr. Hastings, not satisfied with the affidavit he made in court, has thought proper upon record to inform the Company and the world of what he considered him to be civilly and politically.
Minute entered by the Governor-General. “ The Governor-General. — I object to this motion,” (a motion relative to the trial above alluded to,) “because I do not apprehend that the declaration of the judges respecting the Nabob's sovereignty will involve this government in any difficulties with the French or other foreign nations.” (Mark, my Lords, these political effects.) “How little the screen of the Nabob's name has hitherto availed will appear in the frequent and inconclusive correspondence which has been maintained with the foreign settlements, the French especially, since the Company have thought proper to stand forth in their real character in the exercise of the dewanny. From that period the government of these provinces has been wholly theirs; nor can all the subtleties and distinctions of political sophistry conceal the possession of power, where the exercise of it is openly practised and universally felt in its operation. In deference to the commands of the Company, we have generally endeavored, in all our correspondence with foreigners, to evade the direct avowal of our possessing the actual rule of the country,— employing the unapplied term government, for the power to which we exacted their submission; but I do not remember any instance, and I hope none will be found, of our having been so disingenuous as to disclaim our own power, or to affirm that the Nabob was the real sovereign of these provinces. In effect, I do not hesitate to say that I look upon this state of indecision to have been productive of all the embarrassments which we have experienced with the foreign settlements. None of them have ever owned any dominion but that of the British government in these provinces. Mr. Chevalier has repeatedly de. clared, that he will not acknowledge any other, but will look to that only for the support of the privileges possessed by his nation, and shall protest against that alone as responsible for any act of power by which their privileges may be violated or their property disturbed. The Dutch, the Danes, have severally applied to this government, as to the ruling power, for the grant of indulgences and the redress of their grievances. In our replies to all, we have constantly assumed the prerogatives of that character, but eluded the direct avowal of it; under the name of influence we have offered them protection, and we have granted them the indulgences of government under elusive expressions, sometimes applied to our treaties with the Nabobs, sometimes to our own rights as the dewan; sometimes openly declaring the virtual rule which we held of these provinces, we have contended with them for the rights of government, and threatened to repel with force the encroachments on it; we in one or two instances have actually put these threats into execution, by orders directly issued to the officers of government and enforced by detachments from our own military forces; the Nabob was never consulted, nor was the pretence ever made that his orders or concurrence were necessary: in a word, we have always allowed ourselves to be treated as principals, we have treated as principals, but we have contented ourselves with letting our actions insinuate the character which we effectually possessed, without asserting it.
“For my own part, I have ever considered the reserve which has been enjoined us in this respect as a consequence of the doubts which have long prevailed, and which are still suffered to subsist, respecting the rights of the British government and the Company to the property and dominion of these provinces, not as inferring a doubt with respect to any foreign pow
It has, however, been productive of great inconveniences; it has prevented our acting with vigor in our disputes with the Dutch and French. The former refuse to this day the payment of the bahor peshcush, although the right is 'incontestably against them, and we have threatened to enforce it. Both nations refuse to be bound by our decrees, or to submit to our regulations; they refuse to submit to the payment of the duties on the foreign commerce but in their own way, which amounts almost to a total exemption; they refuse to submit to the duty of ten per cent which is levied upon foreign salt, by which, unless a stop can be put to it by a more decisive rule, they will draw the whole of that important trade into their own colonies; and even in the single instance in which they have allowed us to prescribe to them, namely, the embargo on grain on the apprehension of a dearth, I am generally persuaded that they acquiesced from the secret design of taking advantage of the general suspension, by exporting grain clandestinely under cover of their