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Having said so much about the origin, the first principle both of that, which he makes his merit, and which we charge as his demerit ; the next step is, that I should lay open to your lordships, as clearly as I can, what the sense of his einployers, the East-India Company, and what the sense of the legislature itself has been upon those merits and demerits of money.
My lords, the company knowing, that these money transactions were likely to subvert that empire, which was first established upon them, did in the year 1765, send out a body of the strongest and most solemn covenants to their servants, that they should take no presents from the country powers under any name or description, except those things, which were publicly and openly taken for the use of the company, namely territories, or sums of money, which might be obtained by treaty. They distinguished such presents, as were taken from any persons privately and unknown to them, and without their authority, from subsidies; and that this is the true nature and construction of their order, I shall contend, and explain afterwards to your lordships. They have said, nothing shall be taken for their private use ; for though in that and in every state there may be subsidiary treaties, by which sums of money may be received, yet they forbid their servants, their governours, whatever application they might pretend to make of them, to receive, under any other name or pretence, more than a certain marked simple sum of money, and this not without the consent and permission of the presidency, to which they belong. This is the substance, the principle, and the spirit of the covenants, and will show your lordships how radicated an evil this of bribery and presents was judged to be.
When these covenants arrived in India, the servants refused at first to execute them; and suspended the execution of them, till they had enriched themselves with presents. Eleven months elapsed, and it was not till Lord Clive reached the place of his destination, that the covenants were executed; and they were not executed then without some de
Soon afterwards the treaty was made with the country powers, by which Shuja ul Dowla was re-estab
gree of force.
lished in the province of Oude, and paid a sum of 500,0001. to the company for it. It was a publick payment, and there was not a suspicion, that a single shilling of private emolument attended it. But whether Mr. Hastings had the example of others or not, their example could not justify his briberies. He was sent there to put an end to all those examples. The company did expressly vest him with that power. They declared at that time, that the whole of their service was totally corrupted by bribes and presents, and by extravagance and luxury, which partly gave rise to them ; and these in their turn enabled them to pursue those excesses. They not only reposed trust in the integrity of Mr. Hastings, but reposed trust in his remarkable frugality and order in his affairs, which they considered as things, that distinguished his character. But in his defence we have him quite in another character, no longer the frugal attentive servant bred to business, bred to book-keeping, as all the company's servants are; be now knows nothing of his own affairs, knows not whether he is rich or poor, knows not what he has in the world. Nay, people are brought forward to say, that they know better than he does what his affairs are. He is not like a careful man bred in a countinghouse, and by the directors put into an office of the highest trust on account of the regularity of his affairs ; he is like one buried in the contemplation of the stars, and knows nothing of the things in this world. It was then on account of an idea of his great integrity, that the company put him into this situation. Since that he has thought proper to justify bimself, not by clearing himself of receiving bribes, but by saying, that no bad consequences resulted from it, and that, if any such evil consequences did arise from it, they arose rather from his inattention to money than from his desire of acquiring it.
I have stated to your lordships the nature of the covenants, which the East-India Company sent out. Afterwards, when they found their servants had refused to execute these covenants, they not only very severely reprehended even a moment's delay in their execution, and threatened the exacting the most strict and rigorous performance of them, but
they sent a commission to enforce the observance of them more strongly; and that commission had it specially in charge never to receive presents. They never sent out a person to India without recognizing the grievance, and without ordering, that presents should not be received, as the main fundamental part of their duty, and upon which all the rest depended, as it certainly must : for persons at the head of government should not encourage that by example, which they ought by precept, authority and force, to restrain in all below them. That commission failing, another commission was preparing to be sent out, with the same instructions, when an act of parliament took it up: and that act, which gave Mr. Hastings power, did mould in the very first stamina of his power this principle in words the most clear and forcible, that an act of parliament could possibly devise upon the subject. And that act was made not only upon a general knowledge of the grievance, but your lordships will see in the reports of that time, that parliament had directly in view before them the whole of that monstrous head of corruption under the name of presents, and all the monstrous consequences, that followed it.
Now, my lords, every office of trust, in its very nature, forbids the receipt of bribes. But Mr. Hastings was forbidden it, first, by bis official situation; next by covenant; and lastly by act of parliament—that is to say, by all the things, that bind mankind, or that can bind them,-first, moral obligation inherent in the duty of their office; next, the positive injunctions of the legislature of the country; and lastly, a man's own private, particular, voluntary act and covenant. These three, the great and only obligations, that bind mankind, all united in the focus of this single point that they should take no presents.
I am to mark to your lordships, that this law and this covenant did consider indirect ways of taking presents—taking them by others, and such like,—directly in the very same light as they considered taking them by themselves. It is perhaps a much more dangerous way, because it adds to the crime a false prevaricating mode of concealing it, and makes it much more mischievous by admitting others into the par
ticipation of it. Mr. Hastings has said, and it is one of the general complaints of Mr. Hastings, that he is made answerable for the acts of other men. It is a thing inherent in the nature of his situation. All those, who enjoy a great superintending trust, which is to regulate the whole affairs of an empire, are responsible for the acts and conduct of other men, so far as they had any thing to do with appointing them, or holding them in their places, or having any sort of inspection into their conduct.
But when a governour presumes to remove from their situations those persons, whom the publick authority and sanction of the company have appointed, and obtrudes upon them by violence other persons, superseding the orders of his masters, he becomes doubly responsible for their conduct. If the persons be names should be of notorious evil character and evil principles, and if this should be perfectly known to himself, and of publick notoriety to the rest of the world, then another strong responsibility attaches on him for the acts of those persons.
Governours, we know very well, cannot with their own h ands be continually receiving bribes; for then they must have as many hands, as one of the idols in an Indian temple, in order to receive all the bribes, which a governour-general may receive; but they have them vicariously. As there are many offices, so he has had various officers, for receiving and distributing his bribes; he has had a great many, some white and some black, agents. The white men are loose and licentious; they are apt to have resentments, and to be bold in revenging them. The black men are very secret and mysterious ; they are not apt to have very quick resentments, they have not the same liberty and boldness of language, which characterize Europeans; and they have fears too for themselves, which makes it more likely, that they will conceal any thing committed to them by Europeans. Therefore Mr. Hastings had his black agents, not one, two, three, but many, disseminated through the country; no two of them hardly appear to be in the secret of any one bribe. He has had likewise his white agents—they were necessarya Mr. Larkins and a Mr. Crofts. Mr. Crofts was
sub-treasurer, and Mr. Larkins accountant-general. These were the last persons of all others, that should have had any thing to do with bribes; yet these were some of his agents in bribery.. There are few instances in comparison of the whole number of bribes, but there are some, where two men are in the secret of the same bribe. Nay, it appears, that there was one bribe divided into different payments at different times—that one part was committed to one black secretary-another part to another black secretary. So that it is almost impossible to make up a complete body of all his bribery: you may find the scattered limbs, some here and others there; and while you are employed in picking them up, he may escape entirely in a prosecution for the whole.
The first act of his government in Bengal was the most bold and extraordinary, that I believe ever entered into the head of any man, I will say, of any tyrant.
It was no more or less than a general (almost exceptless) confiscation, in time of profound peace, of all the landed property in Bengal upon most extraordinary pretences. Strange as this may appear, he did so confiscate it; he put it up to a pretended publick, in reality to a private corrupt, auction; and such favoured landholders, as came to it, 'were obliged to consider themselves as not any longer proprietors of the estates, but to recognize themselves as farmers under government : and even those few, that were permitted to remain on their estates, had their payments raised at his arbitrary discretion; and the rest of the lands were given to farmers general, appointed by him and his committee, at a price fixed by the same arbitrary discretion.
It is necessary to inform your lordships, that the revenues of Bengal are for the most part territorial revenues, great quit rents issuing out of lands. I shall say nothing either of the nature of this property, of the rights of the people to it, or of the mode of exacting the rents, till that great question of revenues, one of the greatest, which we shall have to lay before you, shall be brought before your lordships particularly and specially as an article of charge. I only mention it now as an exemplification of the great principle of corruption, which guided Mr. Hastings's conduct.