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This makes it necessary for me to inform your lordships who Debi Sing is.
[Mr. Burke read the coinmittee's recommendation of Debi
Sing to the governour-general and council : but the copy of th: paper alluded to is wanting.)
Here is a choice, here is Debi Sing presented for his knowledge in business, his trust and fidelity; and that he is a person, against whom no objection can be made. This is presented to Mr. Hastings, by him recorded in the council books, and by him transmitted to the court of directors. Mr. Hastings has since recorded, that he knew this Debi Sing, (though he here publicly authorizes the nomination of him to all that great body of trusts) that he knew him to be a man completely capable of the most atrocious iniquities, that were ever charged upon man. Debi Sing is appointed to all those great trusts through the means of Gunga Govin Sing, from whom he (Mr. Hastings) had received 30,0001. as a part of a bribe.
Now though it is a large field, though it is a thing, that, I must confess, I feel a reluctance almost in venturing to undertake, exhausted as I am, yet such is the magnitude of the affair, such the evil consequences, that followed from a system of bribery, such the horrible consequences of superseding all the persons in office in the country to give it into the hands of Debi Sing, that though it is the publick opinion, and though no man, that has ever heard the name of Debi Sing, does not know, that he was only second to Gunga Govin Sing, yet it is not to my purpose, unless I prove, that Mr. Hastings knew his character at the very time he accepts him as a person, against whom no exception could be made.
It is necessary to inform your lordships who this Debi Sing was, to whom these great trusts were committed, and those great provinces given. It may be thought, and not unnaturally, that in this sort
of corrupt and venal appointment to high trust and office Mr. Hastings has no other consideration than the money he received. But whoever thinks so will be deceived. Mr. Hastings was very far from indifferent to the character of the persons he dealt with. On the contrary, he made a most careful selection ; he had a very scrupulous regard to the aptitude of the men for the purposes, for which he employed them; and was much guided by his experience of their conduct in those offices, which had been sold to them upon former occasions.
Except Gunga Govin Sing (whom, as justice required, Mr. Hastings distinguished by the highest marks of his confidence,) there was not a man in Bengal, perhaps not upon earth, a match for this Debi Sing. He was not an unknown subject; not one rashly taken up as an experiment. He was a tried man ; and if there had been one more desperately and abandonedly corrupt, more wildly and flagitiously oppressive, to be found unemployed in India, large as his offers were, Mr. Hastings would not have taken this money from Debi Sing.
Debi Sing was one of those, who in the early stages of the English power in Bengal attached himself to those natives, who then stood high in office. He courted Mahomed Reza Khân, a Mussulman of the highest rank, of the tribe of Koreish, whom I have already mentioned, then at the head of the revenue, and now at the head of the criminal justice of Bengal, with all the supple assiduity, of which those, who possess no valuable art or useful talent, are commonly complete masters. Possessing large funds acquired by his apprenticeship and novitiate in the lowest frauds, he was enabled to lend to this then powerful man, in the several emergencies of his variable fortune, very large sums of money. This great man had been brought down by Mr. Hastings, under the orders of the court of directors, upon a cruel charge to Calcutta. He was accused of many crimes, and acquitted 220,0001. in debt. That is to say, as soon as he was a great debtor, he ceased to be a great criminal.
Debi Sing obtained by his services no slight influence over Mahomed Reza Khân, a person of a character very different from his.
From that connexion he was appointed to the farın of the revenue, and inclusively of the government of Purnea, a province of very great extent, and then in a state of no inconsiderable opulence. In this office he exerted his talents with so much vigour and industry, that in a very short time the province was half depopulated, and totally ruined.
The farm, on the expiration of his lease, was taken by a set of adventurers in this kind of traffick from Calcutta. But when the new undertakers came to survey the object of their future operations, and future profits, they were so shocked at the hideous and squalid scenes of misery and desolation, that glared upon them in every quarter, that they instantly fled out of the country, and thought themselves but too happy to be permitted, on the payment of a penalty of twelve thousand pounds, to be released from their engagements.
To give in a few words as clear an idea, as I am able to give, of the immense volume, which might be composed of the vexations, violence, and rapine of that tyrannical administration, the territorial revenue of Purnea, which had been let to Debi Sing at the rate of 160,0001. sterling a year, was with difficulty leased for a yearly sum under 90,0001. and with all rigour of exaction produced in effect little more than 60,0001. falling greatly below one half of its original estimate.—So entirely did the administration of Debi Sing exhaust all the resources of the province; so totally did his baleful influence blast the very hope and spring of all future revenue.
The administration of Debi Sing was too notoriously destructive not to cause a general clamour. It was impossible, that it should be passed over without animadversion. Accordingly, in the month of September 1772, Mr. Hastings then at the head of the committee of circuit removed him for mal-administration; and he has since publicly declared on record, that he knew him to be capable of all the most horrid and atrocious crimes, that can be imputed to man.
This brand, however, was only a mark for Mr. Hastings to find him out hereafter in the crowd; to identify him for his own; and to call him forth into action, when his virtues
should be sufficiently matured for the services, in which he afterwards employed him through his instruments Mr. Anderson and Gunga Govin Sing. In the mean time he left Debi Sing to the direction of his own good genius.
Debi Sing was stigmatized in the company's records, his reputation was gone, but his funds were safe. In the arrangement made by Mr. Hastings in the year 1773, by which provincial councils were formed, Debi Sing became deputy steward, or secretary, (soon in effect and influence principal steward) to the provincial council of Moorshedabad, the seat of the old government, and the first province of the kingdom ; and to his charge were committed various extensive and populous provinces, yielding an annual revenue of 120 lacks of rupees, or 1,500,0001. This division of provincial council included Rungpore, Edrackpore, and others, where he obtained such a knowledge of their resources, as subsequently to get possession of them.
Debi Sing found this administration composed mostly of young men, dissipated and fond of pleasure, as is usual at that time of life ; but desirous of reconciling those pleasures, which usually consume wealth, with the means of making a great and speedy fortune ; at once eager candidates for opulence, and perfect novices in all the roads, that lead to it. Debi Sing commiserated their youth and inexperience, and took upon him to be their guide.
There is a revenue in that country, raised by a tax more productive than laudable. It is an imposition on publick prostitutes, a duty upon the societies of dancing girls ; those seminaries, from which Mr. Hastings has selected an administrator of justice and governour of kingdoms. Debi Sing thought it expedient to farm this tax ; not only because he neglected no sort of gain, but because he regarded it as no contemptible means of power and influence. Accordingly, in plain terms, he opened a legal brothel, out of which he carefully reserved (you may be sure) the very flower of his collection for the entertainment of his young superiours; ladies recommended not only by personal merit, but according to the eastern custom, by sweet and enticing names, which he had given them. For, if they were to be trans
lated, they would sound, -Riches of my Life; Wealth of my Soul ; Treasure of Perfection; Diamond of Splendour; Pearl of Price; Ruby of Pure Blood, and other metaphorical descriptions, that, calling up dissonant passions to enhance the value of the general harmony, heightened the attractions of love with the allurements of avarice.
A moving seraglio of these ladies always attended his progress, and were always brought to the splendid and multiplied entertainments, with which he regaled his council. In these festivities, whilst his guests were engaged with the seductions of beauty, the intoxications of the most delicious wines of France, and the voluptuous vapour of perfumed India smoke, uniting the vivid satisfactions of Europe with the torpid blandishments of Asia, the great magician himself, chaste in the midst of dissoluteness, sober in the centre of debauch, vigilant in the lap of negligence and oblivion, attended with an eagle's eye the moment for thrusting in business, and at such times was able to carry without difficulty points of shameful enormity, which at other hours he would not so much as have dared to mention to his employers, young men rather care less and inexperienced than intentionally corrupt. Not satisfied with being pander to their pleasures, he anticipated, and was purveyor to, their wants, and supplied them with a constant command of money; and by these means he reigned with an uncontroulled dominion over the province and over its governours.
For you are to understand, that in many things we are very much misinformed with regard to the true seat of power in India. Whilst we were proudly calling India a British government, it was in substance a government of the lowest, basest, and most flagitious of the native rabble; to whom the far greater. part of the English, who figured in employment and station, had from their earliest youth been slaves and instruments. Banyans had anticipated the period of their power in premature advances of money; and have ever after obtained the entire dominion over their nominal masters.
By these various ways and means Debi Sing contrived to add job to job, employment to employment, and to hold, besides the farms of two very considerable districts, various