Page images

mation of the people by the magisterial command, which the new guardian must exercise over him ; with abilities and vigour of mind equal to the support of that authority; and the world will expect, that the guardian be especially qualified by his own acquired endowments to discharge the duties of that relation in the education of his young pupil, to inspire him with sentiments suitable to his birth, and to instruct him in the principles of bis religion.”

This, upon another occasion, is Mr. Hastings's sense of the inan, who ought to be placed in that situation of trust, in which the company ordered him to place him. Did Mr. Hastings obey that order ? No, my lords, he appointed no man to fill that office. What, no man at all!. No; he appointed no person at all in the sense, which is mentioned there, which constantly describes a person at least of the male sex : he appointed a woman to fill that office; he appointed a woman in a country where no woman can be seen, where no woman can be spoken to by any one without a curtain between them; for all these various duties, requiring all these qualifications described by himself, he appointed a

Do you want more proof than this violent transgression of the company's orders upon that occasion, that some corrupt motive must have influenced him ?

My lords, it is necessary for me to state the situation of the family, that you may judge from thence of the corrupt motives of Mr. Hastings's proceedings. The nabob Jaffier Ali Khân had, among the women of his seraglio, a person called Munny Begum; she was a dancing girl, whom he had seen at some entertainment ; and as he was of a licentious turn, this dancing girl, in the course of her profession as a prostitute, so far inveigled the nabob, that having a child, or pretending to have had a child by him, he brought her into the seraglio; and the company's servants sold to that son the succession of that father. This woman had been sold as a slave; her profession a dancer, her occupation a prostitute. And, my lords, this woman having put her natural son, as we state, and shall prove, in the place of the legitimate offspring of the nabob; having got him placed by the company's servants on the musnud, she came to be at the head of


that part of the household, which relates to the women; which is a large and considerable trust in a country where polygamy is admitted, and where women of great rank may possibly be attended by two thousand of the same sex in in. feriour situations. As soon as the legitimate son of the nabob came to the musnud, there was no ground for keeping this woman any longer in that situation; and upon an application of the company to Mahomed Reza Khân, to know who ought to have the right of superiourity; he answered, as he ought to have done, that though all the women of the seraglio ought to have honour, yet the mother of the nabob ought to have the superiourity of it. Therefore, this woman was removed, and the mother of the nabob was placed in her situation. In that situation Mr. Hastings found the seraglio. If his duties had gone no further than the regulation of an eastern household, he ought to have kept the nabob's mother there by the rules of that country.

What did he do? Not satisfied with giving to this prostitute every favour, that she could desire, (and money must be the natural object of such a person) Mr. Hastings deposes the nabob's own mother, turns her out of the employment, and puts at the head of the seraglio this prostitute, who at the best, in relation to him, could only be a step-mother. If you heard no more, do your lordships want any thing further to convince you, that this must be a violent, atrocious, and corrupt act ? suppose it had gone no further than the seraglio. But, when I call this woman a dancing girl, I state something lower than Europeans have an idea of respecting that situation. She was born a slave, bred a dancing girl. Her dancing was not any of those noble and majestick movements, which make part of the entertainment of the most wise, of the education of the most virtuous, which im. prove the manners without corrupting the morals of all civilized people; and of which, among uncivilized people, the professors have their due share of admiration; but these dancers were not decent to be seen, nor fit to be related. I shall pass them by. Your lordships are to suppose the lowest degree of infamy in occupation and situation, when I tell you, that Munny Begum was a slave, and a dancing girl.



The history of the Munny Begum is this : “ At a village called Balcunda, near Sekindra, there lived a widow, who, from her great poverty, not being able to bring up her daughter Munny, gave her to a slave girl belonging to Summin Ally Cawn, whose name was Bissoo. During the space of five years she lived at Shahjehunabad, and was educated by Bissoo after the manner of a dancing girl. Afterwards the nabob Shamut Jung, upon the marriage of Ikram ul Dowlah, brother to the nabob Surage ul Dowlah, sent for Bissoo Beg's set of dancing girls from Shahjehunabad, of which Munny Begum was one, and allowed them 10,000 rupees for their expenses, to dance at the wedding. While the ceremony was celebrating, they were kept by the nabob ; but some months afterwards he dismissed them, and they took up their residence in this city. Meer Mahomed Jaffier Cawn then took them into keeping, and allowed Munny and her set 500 rupees per month ; till at length finding, that Munny was pregnant, he took her into bis own house. She gave birth to the nabob Nijum ul Dowlah, and in this manner has she remained in the nabob's family ever since." · Now it required a very peculiar mode of selection to take such a woman, so circumstanced (resembling whom there was not just such another) to depose the nabob's own mother from the superiourity of the household, and to substitute this woman. It would have been an abominable abuse, and would have implied corruption in the grossest degree, if Mr. Hastings had stopped there ; he not only did this, but he put her, this woman, in the very place of Mahomed Reza Khân ; he made her guardian, he made her regent, he made her viceroy, he made her the representative of the native government of the country in the eyes of strangers. There was not a trust, not a dignity in the country, which he did not put, during the minority of this unhappy person, her step-son, into the hands of this woman.

Reject, if you please, the strong presumption of corruption in disobeying the order of the company directing him to select a man fit to supply the place of Mahomed Reza Khân, to exercise all the great and arduous functions of government, and of justice, as well as the regulations of the nabob's house

hold ; and then I will venture to say, that neither your lordships, nor any man living, when he hears of this appointment, does or can hesitate a moment in concluding, that it is the result of corruption, and that you only want to be informed, what the corruption was. Here is such an arrangement as, I believe, never was before heard of a secluded woman in the place of a man of the world : a fantastick dancing girl in the place of a grave magistrate : a slave in the place of a woman of quality : a common prostitute made to superintend the education of a young prince : and a stepmother, a name of horrour in all countries, made to supersede the natural mother, from whose body the nabob had sprung I!

These are circumstances, that leave no doubt of the grossest and most flagrant corruption ; but was there no application made to Mr. Hastings upon that occasion ? The nabob's uncle, whom Mr. Hastings declares to be a man of no dangerous ambition, no alarming parts, no one quality, that could possibly exclude him from that situation, makes an application to Mr. Hastings for that place, and was by Mr. Hastings rejected. The reason he gives for his rejection is, because he cannot put any man in it without danger to the company, who had ordered him to put a man into it. One would imagine the trust to be placed in him was such as enabled him to overturn the company in a moment. Now the situation, in which the nabob's uncle, Zeteram O'Dowlah would have been placed, was this; he would have had no troops, he would have had no treasury, he would have had no collections of revenue, nothing in short, that could have made him dangerous, but he would have been an absolute pensioner and dependent upon the company, though in high office ; and the least attempt to disturb the company, instead of increasing, would have been subversive of his own power. If Mr. Hastings should still insist,

, that there might be danger from the appointment of a man, we shall prove, that he was of opinion, that there could be no danger from any one ; that the nabob himself was a mere shadow-a cipher, and was kept there only to soften the English government in the eyes and opinion of the natives.

My lords, I will detail these circumstances no further, but will bring some collateral proofs to show, that Mr. Hastings was at that yery time conscious of the wicked and corrupt act he was doing. For, besides this foolish principle of policy, which he gives as a reason for defying the orders of the company, and for insulting the country, that had never before seen a woman in that situation, and his declaration to the company, that their government cannot be supported by private justice (a favourite maxim, which he holds upon all occasions) besides these reasons, which he gave for his politick injustice, he gives the following; the company had ordered, that 30,0001. should be given to the person appointed. He knew, that the company could never dream of giving this woman 30,0001. a year, and he makes use of that circumstance to justify him in putting her in that place; for, he says, the company, in the distressed state of its affairs, could never mean to give 30,0001. a year for the office, which they order to be filled ; and accordingly, upon principles of economy, as well as upon principles of prudence, he sees there could be no occasion for giving this salary, and that it will be saved to the company. But no sooner had he given her the appointment, than that appointment became a ground for giving her that money. The moment he had appointed her, he overturns the very principle, upon which he had appointed her, and gives the 30,0001. to her, and the officers under her, saving not one shilling to the company by this infamous measure, which he justified only upon the principle of economy. The 30,0001. was given, the principle of economy vanished, a shocking arrangement was made, and Bengal saw a dancing girl administering its justice, presiding over all its remaining power, wealth, and influence, exhibiting to the natives of the country their miserable state of degradation, and the miserable dishonour of the English company in Mr. Hastings's abandonment of all his own pretences.

But there is a still stronger presumption; the company ordered, that this person, who was to have the management of the nabob's revenue, and who was to be his guardian, should keep a strict account, which account should be annu

« PreviousContinue »