Page images

I trust your lordships will think, that time ought neither to be spared nor squandered in this business ; 'we will therefore proceed article by article, as far as the discretion of the House of Commons shall think fit for the justice of the case to limit the inquiry, or to extend it.

We are now going to bring before your lordships the sixth article. It is an article of charge of bribery and corruption against Mr. Hastings; but yet we must confess, that we feel some little difficulty in limine. We here

in the name and character not only of representatives of the Commons of Great Britain, but representatives of the inhabitants of Bengal : and yet we have had lately come into our hands such ample certificates, such full testimonials, from every person, in whose cause we complain, that we shall appear to be in the strangest situation in the world, the situation of persons complaining, who are disavowed by the persons, in whose name and character they complain. This would have been a very great difficulty in the beginning, especially as it is come before us in a flood-tide of panegyrick. No encomium can be more exalted, or more beautifully expressed. No language cán more strongly paint the perfect satisfaction, the entire acquiescence of all the nations of Bengal, and their wonderful admiration of the character of the person, whom we have brought as a criminal to your bar upon their part. I do admit, that it is a very awkward circumstance; but yet, at the same time, the same candour, which has induced the House of Commons to bring before you the bosom friends and confidants of Mr. Hastings as their evidence, will not suffer them to suppress or withhold for a moment from your lordships this universal voice of Bengal, as an attestation in Mr. Hastings's favour, and we shall produce it as a part of our evidence. Oh! my lords, consider the situation of a people, who are forced to mix their praises with their groans, who are forced to sign with hands, which have been in torture, and with the thumb-screws but just taken from them, an attestation in favour of the person, from whom all their sufferings have been derived. When we prove to you the things, that we shall prove, this will, I hope, give your lordships a full, conclusive, and satisfactory proof of the misery, to which these people have been reduced. You will see before you, what is so well expressed by one of our poets as the homage of tyrants, “ that homage with the mouth, which the heart would fain deny, but dares not.” Mr. Hastings has received that homage, and that homage we mean to present to your lordships ; we mean to present it, because it will show your lordships clearly, that after Mr. Hastings has ransacked Bengal from one end to the other, and has used all the power, which he derives from having every friend and every dependant of his in every office from one end of that government to the other, he has not in all those panegyricks, those fine high-flown eastern encomiums, got one word of refutation, or one word of evidence against any charge whatever, which we produce against him. Every one knows, that in the course of criminal trials, when no evidence of alibi can be brought, when all the arts of the Old Bailey are exhausted, the last thing produced is evidence to character. His cause therefore is gone, when having ransacked Bengal he has nothing to say for his conduct, and at length appeals to his character. In those little papers, which are given us of our proceedings in our criminal courts, it is always an omen of what is to follow : after the evidence of a murder, a forgery, or robbery, it ends in his character. He has an admirable character


- I have known him from a boy ; he is wonderfully good ; he is the best of men; I would trust him with untold gold ; and imniediately follows, guilty, death. This is the way in which our courts' character is generally followed by sentence. The practice is not modern. Undoubtedly Mr. Hastings has the example of criminals of high antiquity ; for Caius Verres, Antonius, and every other man, who has been famous for the pillage and destruction of provinces, never failed to bring before their judges the attestations of the injured to their character. Voltaire says, “Les bons mots sont toujours redits.” A similar occasion has here produced a similar conduct. He has got just the same character, as Caius Verres got in another cause; and the laudationes, which your lordships know always followed, to save trouble, we mean ourselves to give your lordships ; we mean to give them with this strong pre

sumption of guilt, that, in all this panegyrick, there is not one word of defence to a single article of charge; they are mere lip-honours; but we think we derive from those panegyricks, which Mr. Hastings has had sent over as evidence to supply the total want of it, an indication of the impossibility of attaining it. Mr. Hastings has brought them here, and, I must say we are under some difficulty about them, and the difficulty is this—we think we can produce before your lordships proofs of barbarity and peculation by Mr. Hastings: we have the proofs of them in specifick provinces, where those proofs may be met by contrary proofs, or may lose their weight from a variety of circumstances. We thought we had got the matter sure, that every thing was settled, that he could not escape us after he had himself coufessed the bribes he had taken from the specifick provinces. But in what condition are we now ? We have from those specifick provinces the strongest attestations, that there is not any credit to be paid to his own acknowledgments. In short, we have the complaints, concerning these crimes of Mr. Hastings, of the injured persons themselves : we have his own confessions : we shall produce both to your lordships. But these persons now declare, that not only their own complaints are totally unfounded, but that Mr. Hastings's confessions are not true, and not to be credited. These are circumstances, which your lordships will consider in the view you take of this wonderful body of attestation.

It is a pleasant thing to see in these addresses the different character and modes of eloquence of different coun. tries. In those, that will be brought before your lordships, you will see the beauty of chaste European panegyrick improved by degrees into high, oriental, exaggerated, and inflated metaphor. You will see, how the language is first written in English, then translated into Persian, and then retranslated into English. There may be something amusing to your lordships in this, and the beauty of these styles may, in this heavy investigation, tend to give a little gaiety and pleasure. We shall bring before you the European and Asiatick incense. You will have the perfume shops of the two countries,

One of the accusations, which we mean to bring against Mr. Hastings, is upon the part of the zemindar Radanaut, of the country of Dinagepore. Now hear what the zemindar says himself—“ As it has been learned by me, the mutsuddies, and the respectable officers of my zemindary, that the ministers of England are displeased with the late governour, Warren Hastings, Esquire, upon the suspicion, that he oppressed us, took money from us by deceit and force, and ruined the country ; therefore we, upon the strength of our religion, which we think it incumbent on and necessary for us to abide by, following the rules laid down in giving evidence, declare the particulars of the acts and deeds of Warren Hastings, Esquire, full of circumspection and caution, civility and justice, superiour to the conduct of the most learned ; and by representing what is fact, wipe away the doubts, that have possessed the minds of the ministers of England : that Mr. Hastings is possessed of fidelity and confidence, and yielding protection to us; that he is clear of the contamination of mistrust and wrong, and his mind is free of covetousness, or avarice. During the time of his administration no one saw other conduct than that of protection to the husbandman, and justice. No inhabitant ever experienced afflictions ; no one ever felt oppression from him ; our reputations have always been guarded from attacks by his prudence, and our families have always been protected by his justice. He never omitted the smallest instance of kindness towards us, but healed the wounds of despair with the salve of consolation, by means of his benevolent and kind behaviour, never permitting one of us to sink in the pit of despondence ; he supported every one by his goodness, overset the designs of evil-minded men by his authority, tied the hand of oppression with the strong bandage of justice, and by these means expanded the pleasing appearance of happiness and joy over us. He re-established justice and impartiality. We were, during his government, in the enjoyment of perfect happiness and ease, and many of us are thankful and satisfied. As Mr. Hastings was well acquainted with our manners and customs, he was always desirous, in every respect, of doing whatever would

preserve our religious rites, and guard them against every kind of accident and injury, and at all times protected us. Whatever we have experienced from him, and whatever happened from him, we have written without deceit or exaggeration.”

My lords, here is a panegyrick; and, directly contrary to the usual mode of other accusers, we begin by producing the panegyricks, made upon the person, whom we accuse. We shall produce along with the charge, and give as evidence the panegyrick and certificate of the persons, whom we suppose to have suffered these wrongs.

We suffer ourselves even to abandon, what might be our last resource, his own confession, by showing, that one of the princes, from whom he confesses, that he took bribes, has given a certificate of the direct contrary.

All these things will have their weight upon your lordships' minds; and when we have put ourselves under this disadvantage (what disadvantage it is, your lordships will judge,) at least we shall stand acquitted of unfairness in charging him with crimes, directly contrary to the panegyricks in this paper contained. . Indeed, I will say this for him, that general charge and loose accusation may be answered by loose and general panegyrick, and that, if ours were of that nature, this panegyrick would be sufficient to overset our accusation.

But we

come before your lordships in a different manner, and upon different grounds. I am ordered by the Commons of Great Britain to support the charge, that they have made, and persevere in making, against Warren Hastings, Esquire, late governour-general of Bengal, and now a culprit at your bar : first, for having taken corruptly several bribes, and extorted by force, or under the power and colour of his office, several sums of money from the unhappy natives of Bengal.

The next article, which we shall bring before you, is, that he is not only personally corrupted, but that he has personally corrupted all the other servants of the company; those under him, whose corruptions he ought to have controulled, and those above him, whose business it was to controul his corruptions.

« PreviousContinue »