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Hastings has made of the powers vested in him, it will be expedient to consider a little, who the people are, to whose prejudice he has abused these powers. I shall explain this point with as much brevity as is consistent with the distinctness, with which I mean to bring the whole before your lordships ; and I beg to observe to you, that this previous discourse, rather explanatory than accusatorial (if I may use the expression), is meant rather to elucidate the nature of the matter to come before you in regular charges, than as proof of the charges themselves.
I know, that a good deal of latitude is allowed to advocates, when opening a cause in a private court, to indulge themselves in their narratives leading to the charges they intend to bring. They are not always called to the strictest account for such prefatory matter, because the court, when it comes to judge, sifts and distinguishes it from the points to be strictly proved, and on whose merits the cause relies.
But I wish your lordships to know, that, with the high opinion I have of your gravity (and it is impossible for a man to conceive a higher), and sensible of the weight of those I represent at this place, namely, the Commons of Great Britain, I should be sorry, that any one substantial fact, even in this explanatory opening, or even the colour of the fact, should be alleged, which, when called upon, I should not be ready to make good to you by proof : I mean, by proof adapted to its nature; publick opinion by evidence of publick opinion ; by record that, to which record is applicable ; by oral testimony things, to which oral testimony alone can be produced ; and last of all, that, which is matter of historick proof, by historick evidence. This I hope to do · with the usual allowance to errours and mistakes, which is the claim of human infirmity.
Then, my lords, two distinct people inhabit India. Two sorts of people inhabit the same country, as totally distinct from each other in characters, lives, opinions, prejudices, and manners, as the inhabitants of countries most remote from each other. For both of these descriptions Mr. Hastings was bound to provide equally, agreeable to the terms of the charter, which the company received from the lawful
governing power of that country ;-a charter received at its own solicitation ;a charter, not forced upon us by a superiour power, but given at the immediate solicitation of the principal servants belonging to the company ;-a charter solemnly accepted by the company; and by them, I am very sorry to say, little regarded; or, at least, little regarded by their principal servants.
My lords, the first description of people, who are subjected virtually to the British empire through those mediums, which I have described to you, are the original inhabitants of Hindostan, who have in all time, and beyond all the eras, which we use, (I mean always the two grand eras excepted), been the aboriginal inhabitants and proprietors of that country; with manners, religion, customs, and usages appropriated to themselves, and little resembling those of the rest of mankind. This description of men is commonly called Gentûs. The system and principle of that government is locality. Their laws, their manners, their religion, are all local.
Their legislator, whoever he was (for who he was is a matter lost in the mists of a most obscure antiquity), had it as a great leading principle of his policy to connect the people with their soil. Accordingly, by one of those anomalies, which a larger acquaintance with our species daily discovers, and whicb perhaps an attentive reflection might explain in the nature of man, this aboriginal people of India, who are the softest in their manners of any of our race, approaching almost te feminine tenderness, who are formed constitutionally benevolent, and, in many particulars, made to fill a larger circle of benevolence than our morals take in, who extend their good-will to the whole animal creation ;these people are, of all nations, the most unalliable to any other part of mankind. They cannot—the highest orders of them, at least, cannot come into contact with any other. That bond, which is one of the chief instruments of society, and which, supporting the individual, connects the species, can have no existence with them-I mean the convivial bond. That race can be held to no other by that great link of life. No Hindû can mix at meals even with those, on whom he depends for the meat he eats. This circumstance
It is a great
renders it difficult for us to enter with due sympathy into their concerns, or for them to enter into ours, even when we meet on the same ground. But there are other circumstances, which render our intercourse, in our mutual relation, very full of difficulty. The sea is between us. The mass of that element, which, by appearing to disconnect, unites mankind, is to them a forbidden road. gulf fixed between you and them—not so much that elementary gulf, but that gulf, which manners, opinions and laws have radicated in the very nature of the people. None of their high casts, without great danger to his situation, religion, rank and estimation, can ever pass the sea ; and this forbids, for ever, all direct communication between that country and this.
That material and affecting circumstance, my lords, makes it ten times more necessary, since they cannot come to us, to keep a strict eye upon all persons, who go to them. It imposes upon us a stricter duty to guard, with a firm and powerful vigilance, those, whose principles of conscience weaken their principles of self-defence. If we undertake to govern the inhabitants of such a country, we must govern them upon their own principles and maxims, and not upon ours. We must not think to force them into the narrow circle of our ideas ; we must extend ours to take in their system of opinions and rites, and the necessities, which result from both ; all change on their part is absolutely impracticable. We have more versatility of character and manners, and it is we, who must conform. We know what the empire of opinion is in human nature. I had almost said, that the law of opinion was human nature itself. It is, however, the strongest principle in the composition of the frame of the human mind; and more of the happiness and unhappiness of mankind resides in that inward principle, than in all external circumstances put together. But if such is the empire of opinion even amongst us, it has a pure, unrestrained, complete, and despotick power amongst them. The variety of balanced opinions in our minds weakens the force of each ; for in Europe, sometimes, the laws of religion differ from the laws of the land ; sometimes, the laws of the land differ from our laws of ho
nour; our laws of honour are full of caprice, differing from those other laws, and sometimes differing from themselves : but there the laws of religion, the laws of the land, and the laws of honour, are all united and consolidated in one invariable system, and bind men by eternal and indissoluble bonds to the rules of what, amongst them, is called his cast.
It may be necessary just to state to your lordships what a cast is. The Gentù people, from the oldest time, have been distributed into various orders, all of them hereditary : these family orders are called casts; these casts are the fundamental part of the constitution of the Gentû commonwealth, both in their church and in their state.
Your lordships are born to hereditary honours in the chief of your houses. The rest mix with the people. With the Gentùs, they, who are born noble, can never fall into any second rank. They are divided into four orders ; the Brahmins, the Chittery, the Bice, and the Soodur, with many subdivisions in each.
An eternal barrier is placed between them. The higher cannot pass into the lower; the lower cannot rise into the higher. They have all their appropriated rank, place, and situation, and their appropriated religion too; which is essentially different in its rites and ceremonies, sometimes in its object, in each of those casts. A man, who is born in the highest cast, which at once unites what would be tantamount, in this country, to the dignity of the peerage, and the ennobled sanctity of the Episcopal character;—the Brahmin, who sustains these characters, if he loses his cast, does not fall into an inferiour order, the Chittery, the Bice, or the Soodur, but he is thrown at once out of all ranks of society. He is precipitated from the proudest elevation of respect and honour to a bottomless abyss of contempt; from glory to infamy ; from purity to pollution ; from sanctity to profanation. No bonest occupation is open to him. His children are no longer his children. Their parent loses that name. jugal bond is dissolved. Few survive this most terrible of all calamities. To speak to an Indian of this cast is to speak to him of his all.
But the rule of cast has, with them, given one power
more to fortune, than the manners of any other nation were ever known to do. For it is singular, the cast may be lost, not only by certain voluntary crimes, but by certain involuntary sufferings, disgraces, and pollutions, that are utterly out of their power to prevent. Those, who bave patiently submitted to imprisonment—those, who have not flinched from the scourge—those, who have been as unmoved as marble under torture-those, who have laughed at the menaces of death itself-have instantly given way, when it has been attempted to subject them to any of those pollutions, by which they lose cast. To this cast they are bound by all laws of all descriptions, human and divine ; and inveterate usage has radicated it in them to a depth, and with an adhesion, with which no other known prejudice has been known to exist Tyranny is, therefore, armed against them with a greater variety of weapons than are found in its ordinary stores.
This, amongst a thousand other considerations, speaks to us in very authoritative language, with what care and circumspection we ought to handle people so delicate. In the course of this trial your lordships will see with horrour the use, which Mr. Hastings made, through several of bis wicked and abominable instruments, chosen from the natives themselves, of these superadded means of oppression. I shall prove, in the course of this trial, that he has put his own menial domestick servant—a wretch totally dependent -a wretch grossly ignorant-the common instrument of his bribery and peculation ;-he bas enthroned him, I say, on the first seat of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which was to decide upon the casts of all those people, including their rank, their family, their honour, and their happiness here, and, in their judgment, their salvation hereaster. Under the awe of this power, no
man dared to breathe a murmur against his tyranny. Fortified in this security, he says, Who complains of me ? —No, none of us dare complain of you, says the trembling Gentů. No ! your menial servant has my cast in his power. I shall not trouble your lordships with mentioning others; it was enough, that Canto Baboo, and Ginga Govind Sing, names, to which your lordships are to VOL. VII.