Page images

tees of 1773. It is not, indeed, till within this year, that I have been thoroughly acquainted with that memorable history of the three seals.

The history is this : in the year 1760, the allies were in the course of operations against the son of the Mogul, now the present Mogul, who, as I have already stated, had made an irruption into the kingdom of Bahar, in order to reduce the lower provinces to his obedience. The parties opposing him were the nabob of Bengal, and the company's troops under Major Calliaud. It was whilst they faced the common enemy as one body, this negotiation for the destruction of the nabob of Bengal by his faithful allies of the company was going on with diligence. At that time, the nabob's son, Meeran, a youth in the flower of his age, bold, vigorous, active ; full of the politicks, in which those, who are versed in usurpation, are never wanting ; commanded the army under his father ; but was, in reality, the efficient person in all things. About the fifteenth of April 1760, as I have it from Major Calliaud's letter of that date, the nabob came into his tent; and, with looks of the utmost embarrassment, big with some design, which swelled his bosom, something, that was too large and burdensome to conceal, and yet too critical to be told, appeared to be in a state of great distraction. The Major, seeing him in this condition, kindly, gently, like a fast and sure friend, employed (to use his own expression) some of those assurances, that tend to make men fully open their hearts; and accordingly, fortified by his assurances, and willing to disburden himself of the secret, that oppressed him, he opens his heart to the commanding officer of his new friends, allies, and protectors. The nabob, thus assured, did open himself, and informed Major Calliaud, that he had just received a message from the prince, or his principal minister, informing him, that the Prince Royal, now the Mogul, had an intention (as indeed he rationally might, supposing, that we were as well disposed to him as we showed ourselves afterwards) to surrender himself into the hands of him, the nabob; but at the same time wished, as a guarantee, that the commander-in-chief of the English forces should give him security for his life and his honour, when he should in that manner surrender himself to the nabob. I do not mean,

my lords, by surrendering, that it was supposed he intended to surrender himself prisoner of war ; but as a sovereign, dubious of the fidelity of those about him, would put hiinself into the hands of his faithful subjects, of those, who claimed to derive all their power, as both we and the nabob did, under his authority. The nabob stated to the English general, that, without this English security, the prince would not deliver himself into his hands. Here he confessed he found a difficulty. For the giving this faith, if it were kept, would defeat his ultimate view, which was, when the prince had delivered himself into his hands, in plain terms to murder him. This grand act could not be accomplished without the English general. In the first place, the prince, without the English security, would not deliver himself into the nabob's bands; and afterwards, without the English concurrence, he could not be murdered. These were difficulties, that pressed upon the mind of the nabob.

The English commander heard this astonishing proposition without any apparent emotion. Being a man habituated to great affairs, versed in revolutions, and with a mind fortified against extraordinary events, he heard it, and answered it without showing any signs of abhorrence or detestation; at the same time with a protestation, that he would indeed serve him, the nabob, but it should be upon such terms as honour and justice could support ; informing him, that an assurance for the prince's safety could not be given by him, until he had consulted Mr. Holwell, who was governour, and his superiour. This conversation passed in the morning. On that very morning, and whilst the transaction was hot, Major Calliaud writes to Mr. Holwell an account of it. In his letter he informs him, that he made an inquiry, without stating from whom, but that he did inquire the probability of the nabob's getting possession of the prince from some persons, who assured him, that there was no probability of the prince's intention to deliver himself to the nabob on any terms. Be that as it may, it is impossible not to remark, that the whole transaction of the morning of the 15th of April was not very discouraging to the nabob; not such as would induce him to consider this most detestable of

all projects as a thing utterly unfeasible, and as such to abandon it. The evening came on without any thing to alter his opinion. Major Calliaud that evening came to the nabob's tent to arrange some matters relative to the approaching campaign. The business soon ended with regard to the campaign; but the proposal of the morning to Major Calliaud, as might be expected to happen, was in effect renewed. Indeed the form was a little different; but the substantial part remained the same. Your lordships will see what these alterations were.

In the evening scene the persons were more numerous. On the part of the company, Major Calliaud, Mr. Lushington, Mr. Knox, and the ambassadour at the nabob's court, Mr. Warren Hastings. On the part of the Moorish government, the nabob himself, his son Meeran, a Persian secretary, and the nabob's head spy, an officer well known in that part of the world, and of some rank. These were the persons of the drama in the evening scene.

The nabob and his son did not wait for the prince's committing himself to their faith, which, it seems, Major Calliaud did not think likely to happen: so that one act of treachery is saved; but another opened of as extraordinary a nature. Intent and eager on the execution, and the more certain, of their design, they accepted the plan of a wicked wretch, principal servant of the then prime minister to the Mogul, or themselves suggested it to him. A person called conery, dewan or principal steward to Camgar Khân, a great chief in the service of the shậh zadda or prince, (now the Great Mogul, the sovereign, under whom the company holds their charter) had, it seems, made a proposal to the nabob, that, if a considerable territory, then held by his master, was assured to him, and a reward of a lack of rupees, ten or twelve thousand pounds, secured to him, he would for that consideration, deliver the prince, the eldest son of the Mogul, alive into the hands of the nabob; or, if that could not be effected, he engaged to murder him for the same reward. But as the assassin could not rely on the nabob and his son for his reward for this meritorious action, and thought better of English honour and fidelity in such delicate cases, he required, that

Major Calliaud should set his seal to the agreement. This proposition was made to an English commander ; what discourse happened upon it is uncertain. Mr. Hastings is stated by some evidence to have acted as interpreter in this memorable congress. But Major Calliaud agreed to it without any difficulty. Accordingly an instrument was drawn, an indenture tripartite prepared by the Persian secretary, securing to the party the reward of this infamous, perfidious, murderous act. First, the nabob put his own seal to the murder. The nabob's son, Meeran, affixed his seal. А third seal, the most important of all, was yet wanting. А pause ensued : Major Calliaud's seal was not at hand; but Mr. Lushington was sent near half a mile to bring it. It was brought at length; and the instrument of blood and treachery was completely executed. Three seals were set to it.

This business of the three seals, by some means not quite fully explained, but (as suspected by the parties) by means of the information of Mr. Holwell, who soon after came home, was conveyed to the ears of the court of directors. The court of directors wrote out, under date of the 7th of October 1761, within a little more than a year after this extraordinary transaction, to this effect :—that, in conjunction with the nabob, Major Calliaud had signed a paper, offering a reward of a lack of rupees, or some such sum, to several black persons for the assassination of the shấh zadda, or prince heir apparent; which paper was offered to the then chief of Patna, to sign ; but which he refused on account of the infamy of the measure. As it appeared in the same light to them, the directors, they ordered a strict inquiry into it.

The India company, who here did their duty with apparent manliness and vigour, were resolved, however, to do it with gentleness, and to proceed in a manner, that could not produce any serious mischief to the parties charged; for they directed the commission of inquiry to the very clan and set of people, who, from a participation in their common offences, stood in awe of one another; in effect, to the parties in the transaction. Without a prosecutor, without an impartial director of the inquiry, they left it substan



tially to those persons to try one another for their common acts. Here I come upon the principle, which I wish most strongly to mark to your lordships ; I mean collusive trials, and collusive acquittals. When this matter came to be examined, according to the orders of the court, which was on the 4th of October 1762, the council consisted of Peter Maguire, Warren Hastings, and Hugh Watts.

Mr. Hastings had by this time accomplished the business of resident with the nabob, and had taken his seat, to which his seniority entitled him, in council. Here a difficulty arose in limine. Mr. Hastings was represented to have acted as interpreter in this business; he was therefore himself an object of the inquisition; he was doubtful as evidence; he was disqualified as a judge. It likewise appeared, that there might be some objection to others, whose evidence was wanting, but who were themselves concerned in the guilt. Mr. Lushington's evidence would be useful, but there were two circumstances rather unlucky. First, he had put the seal to the instrument of murder; and secondly, and what was most material, he had made an affidavit at Patna, whilst the affair was green and recent, that he had done so; and in the same affidavit had deposed, that Warren Hastings was interpreter in that transaction. Here were difficulties both on him and Mr. Hastings. The question was, how to get Mr. Hastings, the interpreter, out of his interpretation, and to put him upon the seat of judgment. It was effected, however, and the manner, in which it was effected, was something curious. Mr. Lushington, who by this time was got completely over, himself tells you, that in conferences with Major Calliaud, and by arguments and reasons by him delivered, he was persuaded to unsay his swearing, and to declare, that he believed, that the affidavit, which he made at Patna, and while the transaction was recent, or nearly recent, must be a mistake ; that he believed (what is amazing indeed for any belief) that not Mr. Hastings, but he himself, interpreted. Mr. Lushington completely loses his own memory, and he accepts an offered, a given memory, a memory supplied to him by a party in the transaction. By this operation all difficulties are removed ; Mr. Hastings is at once put into

« PreviousContinue »