Page images
PDF
EPUB

deavouring to illustrate the mischiefs, that happened from Mr. Hastings's throwing off his responsibility by delegating his power to a nominal council, and in feality to a black bad man, a native of the country, of the worst character, that could be found in it; and the consequence of it, in preventing the detection and the punishment of the grossest abuses, that ever were known to be committed in India, or any other part of the world.

My lords, I stated to you, that Mr. Commissioner Paterson was sent into that country. I stated, that he was sent into it with all the authority of government, with power to hear, and not only to hear and to report, but to redress the grievances, which he should find in the country. In short, there was nothing wanting to his power but an honest support. Your lordships will be convinced, that the road to fortune was easy to him. Debi Sing for a favourable report would have given a large sum of money.

Your lordships will be convinced, that the committee would not have received such a report as a proof of bribery. They would rather consider him as a man, whose conduct tended to conciliate, and to soften troublesome and difficult matters, and to settle the order of government as soon as possible.

Some of the things contained in his reports I have taken the liberty of laying before your lordships, but very faintly, very imperfectly, and far short of my materials. I have stated, that the criminal, against whom the commissioner had made his report, instead of being punished by that strong hand of power, which Mr. Hastings has thought proper to use upon other occasions, when he has endeavoured to make princes, or persons in the rank and with the attributes of sovereign princes, feel, whenever they have incurred his private resentments; that this man was put into every situation of offence, or defence, which the most litigious and prevaricating laws, that ever were invented in the very bosom of arbitrary power, could afford him, or by which peculation and power were to be screened from the cries of an oppressed people.

Mr. Paterson, I stated, from being a commissioner directed to report, under the authority of government, to that go

vernment, was considered as a voluntary accuser, obliged to make good the articles of his charge. But, I believe, I stated, that he did not long remain in that condition.

I shall now proceed to state to your lordships, that this Debi Sing, fortified by this protection, which was extended even to the lowest of his instruments, thought it high time to assume the superiority, that belonged to a personage, who had the governour-general for his pensioner. No longer the sneaking tone of apology ;-no longer the modest allegations, that the commissioner was misinformed ;-he boldly accuses the representative of English government of forgery in order to destroy him; he criminates and recriminates, and lays about him without mercy.

Things were now in a proper train ;~the committee find the cause growing and ripening to their wishes ;-answers, replies, objections, and interrogatories, accounts opposed to accounts,-balances now on the one side; now on the other. -Now debtor becomes creditor, and creditor debtor- until the proceedings were grown to the size of volumes, and the whole well fitted to perplex the most simple facts, and to darken the meridian sunshine of publick notoriety. They prepared a report for the governour-general and council, suitable to the whole tenour of their proceedings. Here the man, whom they had employed and betrayed, appeared in a new character.' Observe their course with him :-First, he was made a commissioner. Then, he was changed from a commissioner to be a voluntary accuser. He now undergoes another metamorphosis ;-he appears as a culprit, before Mr. Hastings, on the accusation of the donor of Mr. Hastings's bribes. He is to answer to the accusations of Debi Sing. He is permitted to find materials for his own defence; and he, an old company's servant is to acknowledge it as a favour to be again suffered to go into the province, without authority, without station, without publick character, under the discountenance and frowns, and in a manner under prosecution, of the government. As a favour, he is suffered to go again into Rungpore, in hopes of finding among the dejected, harassed, and enslaved race of Hindus, and in that undone province, men bold enough to stand for

ward, against all temptations of emolument, and at the risk of their lives, with a firm adherence to their original charge ; and, at a time, when they saw him an abandoned and persecuted private individual, whom they had just before looked upon as a protecting angel, carrying with him the whole power of a beneficent government, and whom they had applied to as a magistrate of high and sacred authority, to hear the complaints, and to redress the grievances of a whole people.

A new commission of junior servants was, at the same time, sent out to review and re-examine the cause, to inquire into the inquiry, to examine into the examination, to controul the report, to be commissioners upon the commission of Mr. Paterson. Before these commissioners he was made to appear as an accused person, and was put upon his defence, but without the authority, and without the favour, which ought to go with an accused person for the purpose of enabling him to make out such defence.

These persons went down into that country; and after spending a long time in mere matters of form, found they could not do without a representative of Debi Sing, and accordingly they ordered Debi Sing to send up his vakeel.

I forgot to state to your lordships what the condition of Debi Sing was during this proceeding. This man had been ordered to Calcutta on two grounds; one, on the matter of his flagitious misconduct at Rungpore, and, the other, for a great failure in the payment of his stipulated revenue. Under this double accusation be was to be considered, according to the usual mode of proceeding in such cases, as a prisoner; and he was kept, not in the common gaol of Calcutta, not in the prison of the fort, not in that gaol, in which rajah Nundcomar, who had been prime minister of the empire, was confined, but according to the mild ways of that country, where they choose to be mild, and the persons are protected by the official influence of power, under a free custody. He was put under a guard of sepoys, but not confined to his house ; he was permitted to go abroad, where he was daily in conference with those, who were to judge him ; and having an address which seldom fails, and a dexterity never wanting to,

a man possessed of 700,0001. he converted this guard into a retinue of honour: their bayonets were lowered, their musquets laid aside; they attended him with their side arms, and many with silver verges in their hand, to mark him out rather as a great magistrate attended by a retinue, than a prisoner under guard.

When he was ordered to send a vakeel to defend his conduct, he refused to send him. Upon which the commissioners, instead of saying, “ If you will not send your agent, we will proceed in our inquiry without him," (and indeed it was not made necessary by the commission, that he should be there either by vakeel or otherwise,) condescendingly admitted his refusal, and suffered him to come up in person.

He accordingly enters the province, attended with his guard, in the manner I have before mentioned, more as a person returning in triumph from a great victory, than as a man under the load of all those enormous charges, which I have stated. He enters the province in this manner; and Mr. Paterson, who saw himself lately the representative of the India company (an old servant of the company is a great man in that country,) was now left naked, destitute, without any mark of official situation or dignity. He was present, and saw all the marks of imprisonment turned into marks of respect and dignity to this consummate villain, whom I have the misfortune of being obliged to introduce to your lordships' notice. Mr. Paterson, seeing the effect of the proceeding every where, seeing the minds of the people broken, subdued and prostrate under it, and that so far from having the means of detecting the villanies of this insolent criminal, appearing as a magistrate, he had not the means of defending even his own innocence, because

every

kind of information fled and was annihi. lated before him, represented to these young commissioners, that this appearance of authority tended to strike terrour into the hearts of the natives, and to prevent his receiving justice. The council of Calcutta took this representation into their deliberate consideration; they found, that it was true, that, if he had such an attendance any longer in this situation, (and a large attendance it was, such as the chancellour of this kingdom, or the speaker of the House of Commons

does not appear with,) it would have an evil appearance. On the other hand, say they, “ if he should be left under a guard, the people would consider him as under disgrace.” They therefore took a middle way, and ordered the guard not to attend him with fixed bayonets, which had the appearance of the custody of a prisoner, but to lower their musquets, and unfix their bayonets.

The next step of these commissioners is to exclude Mr. Paterson from all their deliberations; and, in order that both parties might be put on an equality, one would naturally conclude, that the culprit Debi Sing was likewise excluded. Far from it: he sat upon the bench. Need I say any more upon this subject? The protection followed.

In this situation, Mr. Paterson wrote one of the most pathetick memorials, that ever was penned, to the council of Calcutta, submitting to his hard fate, but standing inflexibly to his virtue, that brought it upon him. To do the man justice, he bore the whole of this persecution like an hero. He never tottered in his principles, nor swerved to the right, or to the left, from the noble cause of justice and humanity, in which he had been engaged; and when your lordships come to see his memorials you will have reason to observe, that his abilities are answerable to the dignity of his cause, and make him worthy of every thing that he had the honour to suffer for it.

To cut short the thread of this shocking series of corruption, oppression, fraud and chicanery, which lasted for upwards of four years ; Paterson remains without employment :- The inhabitants of great provinces, whose substance and whose blood was sold by Mr. Hastings, remain without redress. And the purchaser Debi Sing, that corrupt, iniquitous and bloody tyrant, instead of being proceeded against by the committee in a civil suit for retribution to the sufferers, is handed over to the false semblance of a trial, on a criminal charge, before a Mahomedan judge,—an equal judge, however. The judge was Mahomed Reza Khân, his original patron, and the author of all his fortunes ;-a judge, who depends on him, as a debtor depends upon his creditor. To that judge is he sent, without a distinct charge, without a

« PreviousContinue »