« PreviousContinue »
pends, and for the effect of which he presumes on the indulgence and patience of this country, or on the corruption of some persons in it.
And here I close what I had to say upon this subject; wishing and hoping, that, when I open before your Jordships the case more particularly, so as to state rather a plan of the proceeding, than the direct proof of the crimes, your lordships will hear me with the same goodness and indulgence 'I have hitherto experienced ; that you will consider, if I have detained you long, it was not with a view of exhausting my own strength, or putting your patience to too severe a trial; but from the sense I feel, that it is the most difficult and the most complicated cause, that was ever brought before any human tribunal. Therefore I was resolved to bring the whole substantially before you. And now, if your lordships will permit me, I will state the method of my future proceeding and the future proceeding of the gentlemen assisting me.
I mean first to bring before you the crimes as they are classed, and are of the same species and genus ; and how they mutually arose from one another. I shall first show, that Mr. Hastings's crimes had root in that, which is the root of all evil, I mean avarice ; that avarice and rapacity were the groundwork and foundation of all his other vitious system; that he showed it in setting to sale the native go. vernment of the country ; in setting to sale the whole landed interest of the country ; in setting to sale the British government and his own fellow servants to the basest and wickedest of mankind. I shall then show your lordships, that when, in consequence of such a body of corruption and peculation, he justly dreaded the indignation of his country, and the vengeance of its laws, in order to raise himself a faction embodied by the same guilt and rewarded in the same manner, he has, with a most abandoned profusion, thrown away the revenues of the country to form such a faction here.
I shall next show your lordships, that, having exhausted the resources of the company, and brought it to extreme difficulties within, he has looked to his external resources, as he calls them. He has gone up into the country.
will show, that he has plundered, or attempted to plunder, every person dependent upon, connected, or allied with this country.
We shall afterwards show what infinite mischief has followed in the case of Benares, upon which he first laid his hands ; next, in the case of the begums of Oude.
We shall then lay before you the profligate system, by which he endeavoured to oppress that country, first by residents, next by spies under the name of British agents; and lastly, that, pursuing his way up to the mountains, he has sound out one miserable chief, whose crimes were the prosperity of his country ; that him he endeavoured to torture and destroy, I do not mean in his body, but by exhausting the treasures, which he kept for the benefit of his people.
In short, having shown your lordships, that no man, who is in his power, is safe from his arbitrary will; that no man, within or without, friend, ally, rival, has been safe from him; having brought it to this point—if I am not able in my own person immediately to go up into the country, and show the ramifications of the system (I hope and trust I shall be spared to take my part in pursuing him through both. if I am not) I shall go at least to the root of it; and some other gentleman, with a thousand times more ability than I possess, will take up each separate part in its proper order. And I believe it is proposed by the managers, that one of them shall, as soon as possible, begin with the affair of Benares.
The point I now mean first to bring before your lordships is the corruption of Mr. Hastings, his system of peculation and bribery ; and to show your lordships the horrible consequences, which resulted from it : for, at first sight, bribery and peculation do not seem to be so horrid a matter; they may seem to be only the transferring a little money out of one pocket into another; but I shall show, that by such a system of bribery the country is undone.
I shall inform your lordships in the best manner I can, and afterwards submit the whole, as I do with a cheerful heart and with an easy and assured security, to that justice, which is the security for all the other justice in the kingdom.
TRIAL-FIFTH DAY, 17th FEBRUARY 1788.
(MR. BURKE.) MY LORDS,—The gentlemen who are appointed by the Commons to manage this prosecution, have directed me to inform your lordships, that they have very carefully and attentively weighed the magnitude of the subject, which they bring before you, with the time, which the nature and cir. cumstances of affairs allows for their conducting it.
My lords, on that comparison they are very apprehensive, that, if I should go very largely into a preliminary explanation of the several matters in charge, it might be to the prejudice of an early trial of the substantial merits of each article. We have weighed and considered this maturely. We have compared exactly the time with the matter, and we have found, that we are obliged to do, as all men must do, who would manage their affairs practicably, to make our opinion, of what might be most advantageous to the business, conform to the time that is left to perform it in. We must, as all men must, submit affairs to time, and not think of making time conform to our wishes: and therefore, my lords, I very willingly fall in with the inclinations of the gentlemen, with whom I have the honour to act, to come as soon as possible to close fighting, and to grapple immediately and directly with the corruptions of India; to bring before your lordships the direct articles ; to apply the evidence to the articles, and to bring the matter forward for your lordships' decision in that manner, which the confidence we have in the justice of our cause demands from the Commons of Great Britain.
My lords, these are the opinions of those, with whom I have the honour to act, and in their opinions I readily acquiesce. For I am far from wishing to waste any of your lordships' time upon any matter merely through any opinion I have of the nature of the business, when at the same time I find, that in the opinion of others it might militate against the production of its full, proper, and (if I may so say) its immediate effect.
It was my design to class the crimes of the late governour of Bengal—to show their mutual bearings—how they were mutually aided and grew and were formed out of each other. I proposed first of all to show your lordships, that they have their root in that, which is the origin of all evil, avarice and rapacity--to show how that led to prodigality of the publick money-and bow prodigality of the publick money by wasting the treasures of the East-India Company furnished an excuse to the governour-general to break its faith, to violate all its most solemn engagements, and to fall with a hand of stern, ferocious, and unrelenting rapacity upon all the allies and dependencies of the company. But I shall be obliged in some measure to abridge this plan ; and as your lordships already possess, from what I had the honour to state on Saturday, a general view of this matter, you will be in a condition to pursue it when the several articles are presented.
My lords, I have to state to-day the root of all these misdemeanours—namely, the pecuniary corruption and avarice, which gave rise and primary motion to all the rest of the delinquencies, charged to be committed by the governourgeneral.
My lords, pecuniary corruption forms not only, as your lordships will observe in the charges before you, an article of charge by itself, but likewise so intermixes with the whole, that it is necessary to give, in the best manner I am able, a history of that corrupt system, which brought on all the subsequent acts of corruption. I will venture to say, there is no one act, in which tyranny, malice, cruelty, and oppression can be charged, that does not at the same time carry evident marks of pecuniary corruption.
I stated to your lordships on Saturday last the principles, upon which Mr. Hastings governed his conduct in India, and upon which he grounds his defence. These may all be reduced to one short word, arbitrary power. My lords, if Mr. Hastings had contended, as other men have often done, that the system of government, which he patronizes, and on which he acted, was a system tending on the whole to the blessing and benefit of mankind, possibly something might be said for
him for setting up so wild, absurd, irrational, and wicked a system. Something might be said to qualify the act from the intention ; but it is singular in this man, that, at the time he tells you he acted on the principles of arbitrary power,
he takes care to inform you, that he was not blind to the consequences. Mr. Hastings foresaw, that the consequence of this system was corruption. An arbitrary system indeed must always be a corrupt one. My lords, there never was a man, who thought he had no law but his own will, who did not soon find, that he had no end but his own profit. Corruption and arbitrary power are of natural unequivocal generation, necessarily producing one another. Mr. Hastings foresees the abusive and corrupt consequences, and then he justifies his conduct upon the necessities of that system. These are things which are new in the world ; for there never was a man, I believe, who contended for arbitrary power (and there have been persons wicked and foolish enough to contend for it) that did not pretend, either that the system was good in itself, or that by their conduct they had mitigated or had purified it; and that the poison by passing through their constitution had acquired salutary properties. But if you look at his defence before the House of Commons, you will see, that that very system, upon which he governed, and under which he now justifies his actions, did appear to himself a system pregnant with a thousand evils and a thousand mischiess.
The next thing, that is remarkable and singular in the principles, upon which the governour-general acted, is, that when he is engaged in a vitious system, which clearly leads to evil consequences, he thinks himself bound to ralize all the evil consequences involved in that system. All other men have taken a directly contrary course; they have said, I have been engaged in an evil system, that led indeed to mischievous consequences, but I have taken care by my own virtues to prevent the evils of the system, under which I acted,
We say then, not only that he governed arbitrarily, but corruptly, that is to say, that he was a giver and receiver of bribes, and formed a system for the purpose of giving and