« PreviousContinue »
propriety of opening fully to you this circumstance in the government of India; that is, that the company's government is a government of writing; a government of record. The strictest court of justice, in its proceeding, is not more, perhaps not so much a court of record as the India company's executive service is, or ought to be, in all its proceedings.
In the first place, they oblige their servants to keep a journal or diary of all their transactions, publick and private : they are bound to do this by an express covenant.
They oblige them, as a corrective upon that diary, to keep a letterbook, in which all their letters are to be regularly entered. And they are bound, by the same covenant, to produce all those books upon requisition, although they should be mixed with affairs concerning their own private negotiations and transactions of commerce, or their closest and most retired concerns in private life. But, as the great corrective of all, they have contrived, that every proceeding in publick council shall be written :-no debates merely verbal. guments, first or last, are to be in writing, and recorded. All other bodies, the Houses of Lords, Commons, Privy Council, Cabinet Councils for secret state deliberations, enter only resolves, decisions, and final resolutions of affairs ; the argument, the discussion, the dissent, does very rarely, if at all, appear. But the company has procee led much further, and done much more wisely, because they proceeded upon mercantile principles; and they have provided, either by orders or course of office, that all shall be written, the proposition, the argument, the dissent. This is not confined to their great council ; but this order ought to be observed, as I conceive, and I see considerable traces of it in practice, in every provincial council, whilst the provincial councils existed, and even down to the minutest ramification of their service. These books, in a progression from the lowest councils to the highest presidency, are ordered to be transmitted, duplicate and triplicate, hy every ship, that sails to Europe. On this system an able servant of the conpany, and high in their service, has recorded his opinion, and strongly expressed his sentiments. Writing to the court of directors, he says, “It ought to be remembered, that the
basis, upon which you rose to power, and have been able to stand the shock of repeated convulsions, has been the accuracy and simplicity of mercantile method, which makes every transaction in your service, and every expenditure, a matter of record.”
My lords, this method not only must produce to them, if strictly observed, a more accurate idea of the nature of their affairs, and the nature of their expenditures, but it must afford them no trivial opportunity and means of knowing the true characters of their servants, their capacities, their ways of thinking, the turn and bias of their minds.
If well employed, and but a little improved, the East-India Company possessed an advantage unknown before to the chief of a remote government. In the most remote parts of the world, and in the minutest parts of a remote service, every thing came before the principal with a domestick accuracy and local familiarity. It was in the power of a director, sitting in London, to form an accurate judgment of every incident, that happened upon the Ganges and the Gogra.
The use of this recorded system did not consist only in the facility of discovering what the nature of their affairs, and the character and capacity of their servants, was ; but it furnished the means of detecting their misconduct; frequently of proving it too, and of producing the evidence to it judicially under their own hands. For your lordships must have observed, that it is rare indeed, that, in a continued course of evil practices, any uniform method of proceeding will serve the purposes of the delinquent. Innocence is plain, direct and simple : guilt is a crooked, intricate, inconstant and various thing. The iniquitous job of to-day may be covered by specious reasons; but when the job of iniquity of to-morrow succeeds, the reasons, that have coloured the first crime, may expose the second malversation. The man of fraud falls into contradiction, prevarication, confusion. This hastens, this facilitates conviction. Besides, time is not allowed for corrupting the records. They are flown out of their hands; they are in Europe; they are safe in the registers of the company; perhaps they are under the eye of parliament, before the writers of them VOL. VII.
have time to invent an excuse for a direct contrary conduct to that, to which their former pretended principles applied. This is a great, a material part of the constitution of the company. My lords, I do not think it to be much apologized for, if I repeat, that this is the fundamental regulation of that service; and which, if preserved in the first instance, as it ought to be, in official practice in India, and then used as it ought to be in England, would afford such a mode of governing a great, foreign, dispersed empire, as, I will venture to say, few countries ever possessed even in governing the most limited and narrow jurisdiction.
It was the great business of Mr. Hastings's policy to subvert this great political edifice. His first mode of subyerting it was by commanding the publick ministers, paid by the company, to deliver their correspondence upon the most critical and momentous affairs to him, in order to be suppressed and destroyed at his pleasure. To support him in this plan of spoliation, he has made a mischievous distinction in publick business between publick and private correspondence. The company's orders and covenants made none. There are, readily 1 admit, thousands of occasions, in which it is not proper to divulge promiscuously a private correspondence, though on publick affairs, to the world; but there is no occasion, in which it is not a necessary duty, on requisition, to communicate your correspondence to those, who form the paramount government, on whose interests, and on whose concerns, and under whose authority, this correspondence has been carried on. The very same reasons, which require secrecy with regard to others, demand the freest communication to them. But Mr. Hastings has established principles of confidence and secrecy towards himself, which have cut off all confidence between the directors and their ministers, and effectually kept them at least out of the secret of their own affairs.
Without entering into all the practices, by which he has attempted to maim the company's records, I shall state one more to your lordships ; that is, his avowed appointment of spies and under-agents, who shall carry on the real state business, while there are publick and ostensible agents, who
are not in the secret. The correspondence of those private agents he holds in his own hands, communicates as he thinks proper, but most commonly withholds. There remains nothing for the directors but the shell and husk of a dry, formal, official correspondence, which neither means any thing, nor was intended to mean any thing.
These are some of the methods, by which he has defeated the purposes of the excellent institution of a recorded administration. But there are cases to be brought before this court, in which he has laid the axe at once to the root ; which was, by delegating out of his own hands a great department of the powers of the company, which he was himself bound to execute, to a board, which was not bound to record their deliberations with the same strictness as he himself was bound. He appointed of his own usurped authority a board for the administration of the revenue, the members of which were expressly dispensed from recording their dissents, until they chose it; and in that office, as in a great gulf, a most important part of the company's transactions has been buried.
Notwithstanding his unwearied pains in the work of spoliation, some precious fragments are left, which we ought infinitely to value ; by which we may learn, and lament, the loss of what he has destroyed. If it were not for those inestimable fragments and wrecks of the recorded government, which have been saved from the destruction, which Mr. Hastings intended for them all, the most shameful enormities, that have ever disgraced a government, or harassed a people, would only be known in this country by secret whispers, and unauthenticated anecdotes : the disgracers of government, the vexers and afflicters of mankind, instead of being brought before an awful publick tribunal, might have been honoured with the highest distinctions and rewards their country has to bestow; and sordid bribery, base peculation, iron-banded extortion, fierce, unrelenting tyranny, might themselves have been invested with those sacred robes of justice, before which this day they have cause to tremble.
Mr. Hastings, sensible of what he suffers from this register of acts and opinions, has endeavoured to discredit and ruin what remains of it. He refuses, in his defence to the House of Commons, in letters to the court of directors, in various writings and declarations, he refuses to be tried by his own recorded declarations; he refuses to be bound by his own opinions, delivered under his own hand. He knows, that he and the record cannot exist together. He knows, that what remains of the written constitution, which he has not destroyed, is enough to destroy him. He claims a privilege of systematick inconstancy; a privilege of prevarication; a privilege of contradiction ; a privilege of not only changing his conduct, but the principles of his conduct, whenever it suits his occasions. But I hope your lordships will show the destroyers of that wise constitution, and the destroyers of those records, which are to be the securities against malversation in office, the discoverers and avengers of it, that whoever destroys the discoverer establishes the iniquity ; that, therefore, your lordships will bind him to his own declarations, given on record under his own hand ; that you will say to this unfaithful servant of the company, what was said to another unfaithful person, upon a far less occasion, by a far greater authority, “out of thy own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”
Having gone through what I have been instructed might be necessary to state to your lordships concerning the company's constitution, I mean the real inside, and not the shell, of its constitution ; having stated the abuses, that existed in it; having stated how Mr. Hastings endeavoured to perpetuate and to increase and to profit of the abuse, and how he has systematically endeavoured to destroy, and has in some instances in fact destroyed, many things truly excellent in that constitution ; if I have not wasted your time in explanation of matters, that you are already well acquainted with, I shall next beg leave to state to you the abuse in some particulars of the other part of the publick authority, which the company acquired over the natives of India in virtue of the royal charter of the present Mogul emperour, in the year 1766.
My lords, that you may the better judge of the abuse Mr.