Page images

fouled his hands and sullied his government with bribes. He has substituted oppression and tyranny in the place of legal government. With all that unbounded, licentious power, which he has assumed over the publick revenues, instead of Endeavouring to find a series of gradual, progressive, honourable, and adequate rewards for the persons, who serve the publick in the subordinate but powerful situations, he has left them to prey upon the people without the smallest degree of controul.

In default of honest emolument, there is the unbounded license of power; and (as one of the honestest and ablest servants of the company said to me in conversation) the civil service of the company resembled the military service of the Mahrattas, little pay, but unbounded license to plunder. I do not say, that some of the salaries given in India would not sound well here : but when you consider the nature of the trusts, the dignity of the situation, whatever the name of them may be, the powers, that are granted, the hopes, that every man has of establishing himself at home; I repeat, it is a source of infinite grievance-of infinite abuse : of which source of corrupt power we charge Mr. Hastings with having availed himself, in filling up the void of direct pay by finding out and countenancing every kind of oblique and unjust emolument: though it must be confessed, that he is far from being solely guilty of this offence.

Another circumstance, which distinguishes the East-India Company, is the youth of the persons, who are employed in the system of that service. The servants have almost universally been sent out to begin their progress and career in active occupation, and in the exercise of high authority, at that period of life, which, in all other places, bas been employed in the course of a rigid education. To put the matter in a few words, they are transferred from slippery youth to perilous independence, from perilous independence to inordinate expectations, from inordinate expectations to boundless power. School-boys without tutors, minors without guardians, the world is let loose upon them with all its temptations; and they are let loose upon the world with all the powers, that despotism involves.

It is further remarkable, these servants exercise, what your lordships are now exercising, high judicial powers; and they exercise them without the smallest study of any law, either general or municipal. It is made a sort of rule in the service, a rule confirmed even by the attempts, that were made to correct it, (I mean, confirmed by Sir Elijah Impey, when, under the auspices of Mr. Hastings, he undertook to be legislator for India) that the judicial character, the last in the order of legal progress, that, to which all professional men look up as the crown of their labours, that ultimate bope of med grown grey in professional practice, is among the first experimental situations of a company's servant. is expressly said in that body of regulations, to which I allude, that the office and situation of a judge of the dewanny courts of adawlet is to be filled by the junior servants of the company ; and, as the judicial emolument is not substantially equal to that of other situations, the office of a judge is to be taken, as it were in transitu, as a passage to other offices not of a judicial nature. As soon, therefore, as a young man has supplied the defects of his education by the advantage of some experience, he is immediately translated to a totally different office ; and another young man is substituted to learn, at the expense of the property of India, to fill a situation, which, when he may be qualified to all, he is no longer to hold.

It is in a great measure the same with regard to the other situations. They are the situations of great statesmen, which, according to the practice of the world, require, to fill properly, rather a large converse with men and much intercourse in life, than deep study of books; though that, too, has its eminent service. We know, that in the habits of civilized life, in cultivated society, there is imbibed by men a good deal of the solid practice of government, of the true maxims of state, and every thing, that enables a man to serve his country. But these men are sent over to exercise functions, at which a statesman here would tremble, without any theoretical study, and without any of that sort of experience, which, in mixed societies of business and converse, form men gradually and insensibly to great affairs. Low cunning, intrigue and

stratagem, are soon acquired; but manly, durable policy, which never sacrifices the general interest to a partial or momentary advantage, is not so cheaply formed in the human understanding

Mr. Hastings, in his defence before the House of Commons, and in the defences he has made before your lordships, has lamented his own situation in this particular.

It was much to be lamented indeed. How far it will furnish justification, extenuation, or palliation of his conduct, when we come to examine that conduct, will be seen.

These circumstances in the system have, in a great degree, vitiated and perverted what is in reality, and many things are in reality, excellent in it. They have rendered the application of all correctives and remedies to abuse, at best, precarious in their operation. The laws, that we have made, the covenants, which the company has obliged its servants to enter into, the occasional orders that have been given, at least ostensibly good, all have proved noxious to the country, instead of beneficial. To illustrate this point, I beg leave to observe to your lordships, that the servants of the company are obliged to enter into that service, not only with an impression of the general duty, which attaches upon all servants, but are obliged to engage in a specifick covenant with their masters, to perform all the duties described in that covenant (which are all the duties of their relation) under heavy penalties. They are bound to a repetition of these covenants at every step of their progress, from writer to factor, from factor to junior merchant, and from junior merchant to senior merchant. They ought, according to the rule, to renew these covenants at these times by something, (I speak without offence) which may be said to resemble confirmation in the church. They are obliged to renew their obligation in particular to receive no gifts, gratuities, or presents whatsoever.

This scheme of covenants would have been wise and proper, if it had belonged to a judicious order and rational consistent scheme of discipline. The orders of the company have forbidden their servants to take any extraneous emolu. ments. The act of parliament has fulminated against them. Clear positive laws, and clear positive private engagements,

bave no exception of circumstances in them, no difference quoad majus et minus, but every one, who offends against the law, is liable to the law. The consequence is this ; he, who has deviated but an inch from the straight line, he, who has taken but one penny of unlawful emolument-and all have taken many pennies of unlawful emolument-does not dare to complain of the most abandoned extortion and cruel oppression in any of his fellow-servants. He, who has taken a trifle perhaps as the reward of a good action, is obliged to be silent, when he sees whole nations desolated around him. The great criminal, at the head of the service, has the laws in his hand; he is always able to prove the small offence, and crush the person, who has committed it. This is one grand source of Mr. Hastings's power. After he had got the better of the parliamentary commission, no complaint from any part of the service has appeared against Mr. Hastings. He is bold enough to state it as one presumption of his merit, that there has been no such complaint. No such complaint, indeed, can exist. The spirit of the corps would, of itself, almost forbid it; to which spirit an informer is the most odious and detestable of all characters, and is hunted down, and has always been hunted down, as a common enemy. But here is a new security.

Who can complain, or dares to accuse ? The whole service is irregular : nobody is free from small offences; and, as I have said, the great offender can always crush the small one. If you examine the correspondence of Mr. Hastings, you would imagine, from many expressions very deliberately used by him, that the company's service was made out of the very filth and dregs of human corruption; but, if you examine his conduct towards the corrupt body he describes, you would imagine he had lived in the speculative schemes of visionary perfection.

He was fourteen years at the head of that service ; and there is not an instance, no, not one single instance, in which he endeavoured to detect corruption or that he ever, in any one single instance, attempted to punish it; but the whole service, with that whole mass of enormity, which he attributes to it, slept, as it were, at once under his terrour VOL. VII.


and his protection ;—under his protection, if they did not dare to move against him ; under terrour, from his power to pluck out individuals, and make a publick example of them, whenever he thought fit. And therefore that service, under his guidance and influence, was, beyond even what its own vature disposed it to, a service of confederacy, a service of connivance, a service composed of various systems of guilt, of which Mr. Hastings was the head and the protector. But this general connivance he did not think sufficient to secure to him the general support of the Indian interest. He went further. We shall prove to your lordships, that, when the company were driven by shame, not by inclination, to order several prosecutions against delinquents in their service, Mr. Hastings, directly contrary to the duty of his office, -directly contrary to the express and positive law of the court of directors, which law parliament had bound upon him as his rule of action, not satisfied with his long tacit connivance, ventured, before he left his government and among his last acts, to pass a general act of pardon and indemnity, and at once ordered the whole body of the prosecutions, directed by his masters, the company, to be discharged.

Having had fourteen years lease of connivance to bestow, and giving, at the end, a general release of all suits and actions, he now puts himself at the head of a vast body enriched by his bounties, connivances and indemnities, and expects the support of those, whom he had thus fully rewarded, and discharged from the pursuit of the laws. You will find, in the course of this business, that when charges have been brought against him of any bribery, corruption, or other malversation, bis course has been to answer little or nothing to that specifick bribery, corruption, or malversation; his way has been to call on the court of directors to inquire of every servant, who comes to Europe, and to say, whether there was any one man in it, that will give him an ill word. He has put himself into a situation, in which he may always safely call to his character, and will always find himself utterly incapable of justifying his conduct. So far I have troubled your lordships with the sys

« PreviousContinue »