Page images
[ocr errors]

Thus by his corrupt traffick of bribes with one scandalous woman he disgraced and enfeebled the native Mahomedan government, captived the person of the sovereign, and ruined and subverted the justice of the country.

What is worse, the steps taken for the murder of Nundcomar, his accuser, have confirmed and given sanction not only to the corruptions then practised by the governour-general, but to all, of which he has since been guilty. This will furnish your lordships with some general idea, which will enable you to judge of the bribe, for which he sold the country government.

Under this head you will have produced to you full proof of his sale of a judicial office to a person called Khân Jehân Khân, and the modes he took to frustrate all inquiry on that subject upon a wicked and false pretence, that according to his religious scruples he could not be sworn.

The great end and object I have in view is to show the criminal tendency, the mischievous nature, of these crimes, and the means taken to elude their discovery. I am now giving your lordships that general view, which may serve to characterize Mr. Hastings's administration in all the other parts of it.

It was not true in fact (as Mr. Hastings gives out) that there was nothing now against him, and that, when he had got rid of Nundcomar and his charge, he got rid of the whole. No such thing. An immense load of charges of bribery remained. They were coming afterwards from every part of the province ; and there was no office in the execution of justice, which he was not accused of having sold in the most flagitious manner.

After all this thundering the sky grew calm and clear, and Mr. Hastings sat with recorded peculation, with peculation proved upon oath on the minutes of that very council he sat at the head of that council and that board where his peculations were proved against him. These were afterwards transmitted, and recorded in the registers of his masters, as an eternal monument of his corruption, and of his high disobedience, and flagitious attempts to prevent a dis

covery of the various peculations, of which he had been guilty, to the disgrace and ruin of the country committed to his care.

Mr. Hastings, after the execution of Nundcomar, if he had intended to make even a decent and commonly sensible use of it, would naturally have said, this man is justly taken away, who has accused me of these crimes; but as there are other witnesses, as there are other means of a further inquiry, as the man is gone, of whose perjuries I might have reason to be afraid, let us now go into the inquiry. I think he did very ill not to go into the inquiry, when the man was alive ; but be it so, that he was afraid of him, and waited till he was removed, why not afterwards go into such an inquiry? Why not go into an inquiry of all the other peculations and charges upon him, which were innumerable, one of which I have just mentioned in particular, the charge of Munny Begum—of having received from her, or her adopted son, a bribe of 40,0001. ?

Is it fit for a governour to say,—will Mr. Hastings say before this august assembly, I may be accused in a court of justice, I am upon my defence, let all charges remain against me, I will not give you an account?

Is it fit, that a governour should sit with recorded bribery upon him at the head of a publick board, and the government of a great kingdom, when it is in his power by inquiry to do it away? No—the chastity of character of a man in that situation ought to be as dear to him as his innocence. Nay, more depended upon it. His innocence regarded himself, his character regarded the publick justice, regarded his authority, and the respect due to the English in that country. I charge it upon him, that not only did he suppress the inquiry to the best of his power (and it shall be proved) but he did not in any one instance endeavour to clear off that imputation and reproach from the English government. He went further, he never denied hardly any of those charges at the time. They are so numerous, that I cannot be positive ; some of them he might meet with some sort of denial, but the most part he did not.

The first thing a man under such an accusation owes to the world is to deny the charge; next to put it to the proof ; VOL. VII.


and lastly to let inquiry freely go on.

He did not permit this, but stopped it all in his power. I am to mention some exceptions perhaps hereafter, which will tend to fortify the principle tenfold.

He promised indeed the court of directors (to whom he never denied the facts) a full and liberal explanation of these transactions; which full and liberal explanation he never gave. Many years passed; even parliament took notice of it; and he never gave them a liberal explanation, or any explanation at all, of them. A man may say, I am threatened with a suit in a court, and it may be very disadvantageous to me, if I disclose my defence. That is a proper answer for a man in common life, who has no particular character to sustain; but is that a proper answer for a governour accused of bribery ? that accusation transmitted to his masters, and his masters giving credit to it ? Good God! is that a state, in which a man is to say, I am upon the defensive ? I am on my guard? I will give you no satisfaction ?

I have promised it, but I have already deferred it for seven or eight years? Is not this tantamount to a denial ?

Mr. Hastings, with this great body of bribery against him, was providentially freed from Nundcomar, one of his accusers; and as good events do not come alone (I think there is some such proverb) it did so happen that all the rest, or a great many of them, ran away. But, however, the recorded evidence of the former charges continued; no new evidence came in ; and Mr. Hastings enjoyed that happy repose, which branded peculation, fixed and eternized upon the records of the company, must leave upon a mind conscious of its own integrity.

My lords, I will venture to say, there is no man but owes somethiog to his character. It is the grace, undoubtedly, of a virtuous firm mind often to despise common vulgar calumny; but if ever there is an occasion, in which it does become such a mind to disprove it, it is the case of being charged in high office with pecuniary malversation, pecuniary corruption. There is no case, in which it becomes an honest manmuch less a great man—to leave upon record specifick charges against him of corruption in his government without taking any one step whatever to refute them.

Though Mr. Hastings took no step to refute the charges, he took many steps to punish the authors of them; and those miserable people, who had the folly to make complaints against Mr. Hastings, to make them under the authority of an act of parliament, under every sanction of publick faith, yet in consequence of those charges every person concerned in them has been, as your lordships will see, since his restoration to power, absolutely undone ; brought from the highest situation to the lowest misery; so that they may bave good reason to repent they ever trusted an English council, that they ever trusted a court of directors, that they ever trusted an English act of parliament, that they ever dared to make their complaints.

And here I charge upon Mr. Hastings, that by never taking a single step to defeat, or detect the falsehood of, any of those charges against him, and by punishing the authors of them, he has been guilty of such a subversion of all the principles of British government as will deserve, and will I dare say meet, your lordships' most severe animadversion.

In the course of this inquiry we find a sort of pause in his peculations, a sort of gap in the history, as if pages were torn out. No longer we meet with the same activity in taking money, that was before found ; not even a trace of complimentary presents is to be found in the records during the time, whilst General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, formed the majority of the council. There seems to have been a kind of truce with that sort of conduct for a while, and Mr. Hastings rested upon his arms. However, the very moment Mr. Hastings returned to power, peculation began again just at the same instant; the moment we find him free from the compulsion and terrour of a majority of persons otherwise disposed than himself, we find him at his peculation again.

My lords, at this time very serious inquiries had begun in the House of Commons concerning peculation. They did not go directly to Bengal, but they began upon the coast of Coromandel, and with the principal governours there. There was, however, an universal opinion (and justly founded) that these inquiries would go to far greater lengths. Mr.

Hastings was resolved then to change the whole course and order of his proceeding. Nothing could persuade him upon any account to lay aside his system of bribery; that he was resolved to persevere in. The point was now to reconcile it with his safety. The first thing he did was to attempt to conceal it, and accordingly we find him depositing very great sums of money in the publick treasury through the means of the two persons I have already mentioned, namely, the deputy-treasurer and the accomptant, paying them in and taking bonds for them as money of his own, and bearing legal interest.

This was his method of endeavouring to conceal some at least of his bribes (for I would not suggest, nor have your lordships to think, that I believe, that these were his only bribes; for there is reason to think there was an infinite number besides ;) but it did so happen, that they were those bribes, which he thought might be discovered, some of which he knew were discovered, and all of which he knew might become the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.

Mr. Hastings said, he might have concealed them for ever. Every one knows the facility of concealing corrupt transactions every where, in India particularly. But this is by himself proved not to be universally true, at least not to be true in his own opinion. For he tells you in his letter from Cheltenham, that he would have concealed the nabob's 100,0001. but that the magnitude rendered it easy of discovery. He, therefore, avows an intention of concealment.

But it happens here very singularly, that this sum, which his fears of discovery by others obliged him to discover himself, happens to be one of those, of which no trace whatsoever appears, except merely from the operation of his own apprehensions. There is no collateral testimony; Middleton knew nothing of it; Anderson knew nothing of it. It was not directly communicated to the faithful Larkins, or the trusty Croftes—which proves indeed the facility of concealment. The fact is, you find the application always upon the discovery. But concealment or discovery is a thing of accident.

The bribes, which I have hitherto brought before your

« PreviousContinue »