« PreviousContinue »
the capacity of a judge. He is declared by Mr. Lushington not to have been an interpreter in the transaction. After this, Mr. Hastings is himself examined. Your lordships will look at the transaction at your leisure, and I think you will consider it as a pattern for inquiries of this kind. Mr. Hastings is examined: he does not recollect. His memory also fails on a business, in which it is not easy to suppose a man could be doubtful whether he was present or not: he thinks he was not there; for that, if he had been there and acted as interpreter, he could not have forgot it.
I think it is pretty nearly as I state it; if I have fallen into any errour or inaccuracy it is easily rectified; for here is the state of the transaction given by the parties themselves. On this inaccurate memory of Mr. Hastings, not venturing, however, to say positively, that he was not the interpreter, or that he was not present, he is discharged from being an accomplice; he is remored from the bar, and leaps upon the seat of justice. The court thus completed, Major Calliaud comes manfully forward to make his defence. Mr. Lushington is taken off his back in the manner we have seen, and no one person remains but Captain Knox. Now, if Captain Knox was there and assenting, he is an accomplice too. Captain Knox asserts, that, at the consultation about the murder, he said, it was a pity, to cut off so fine a young fellow in such a manner, meaning that fine young fellow the prince, the descendant of Tamerlane, the present reigning Mogul, from whom the company derive their present charter. The purpose to be served by this declaration, if it had any purpose, was, that Captain Knox did not assent to the murder, and that therefore his evidence might be valid.
The defence set up by Major Calliaud was to this effect. He was apprehensive, he said, that the nabob was alarmed at the violent designs, that were formed against him by Mr. Holwell; and that therefore to quiet his mind (to quiet it by a proposition compounded of murder and treason, an odd kind of mind he had, that was to be quieted by such means !) but to quiet his mind, and to show, that the English were willing to go all lengths with him, to sell body and soul to
him, he did put his seal to this extraordinary agreement, he put his seal to this wonderful paper. He likewise stated, that he was of opinion at the time, that nothing at all sinister could happen from it, that no such murder was likely to take place, whatever might be the intention of the parties. In fact, he had very luckily said, in a letter of his written a day after the setting the seal, “ I think nothing will come of this matter, but it is no harm to try.” This experimental treachery, and these essays of conditional murder, appeared to him good enough to make a trial of ; but at the same time he was afraid nothing would come of it. In general, the whole gest of his defence comes to one point, in which
he persists,—that, whatever the act might be, his mind is i clear my hands are guilty, but my heart is free.” He
conceived, that it would be very improper, undoubtedly, to do such an act, if he suspected any thing could happen from it; he, however, let the thing out of his own hands; he put it into the hands of others; he put the commission into the hands of a murderer. The fact was not denied—it was fully before these severe judges. The extenuation was the purity of his heart, and the bad situation of the company's affairs, (the perpetual plea, which your lordships will hear of for ever, and which if it will justify evil actions, they will take good care, that the most nefarious of their deeds shall never want a sufficient justification.) But then he calls upon his life and his character to oppose to his seal ; and though he has declared, that Mr. Holwell had intended ill to the nabob, and that he approved of those measures, and only postponed them, yet he thought it necessary, he says, to quiet the fears of the nabob; and from this motive he did an act abhorrent to his nature, and which, he says, he expressed bis abhorrence of the morning after he signed it : not that he did so; but if he had, I believe it would only have made the thing so many degrees worse.
Your lordships will observe, that in this conference, as stated by himself, these reasons and apologies for it did not appear, nor did they appear in the letter, nor any where else, till next year when he came upon his trial. Then it was immediately recollected, that Mr. Holwell's designs were so wick
ed, they certainly must be known to the nabob, though he never mentioned them in the conference of the morning or the evening of the 15th ; yet such was now the weight and prevalence of them upon the Major's mind, that he calls upon Mr. Hastings to know whether the nabob was not informed of these designs of Mr. Holwell against him. Mr. Hastings's memory was not quite correct upon the occasion. He does not recollect any thing of the matter.
He certainly seems not to think, that he ever mentioned it to the nabob, or the nabob to him ; but he does recollect, he thinks, speaking something to some of the Dabob's attendants upon it, and further this deponent sayeth not. On this state of things, namely, the purity of intention, the necessities of the company, the propriety of keeping the nabob in perfect good humour and removing suspicions from his mind, which suspicions he had never expressed, they came to the resolution, I shall have the honour to read to you: “ that the representation, given in the said defence, of the state of the affairs of the country at that time (that is, about the month of April 1760) is true and just, [that is, the bad state of the country, which we shall consider hereafter ;] that, in such circumstances, the nabob's urgent account of his own distresses, the colonel's desire of making him easy, [for here is a recapitulation of the whole desence] as the first thing necessary for the good of the service, and the suddenness of the thing proposed, might deprive him for a moment of his recollection, and surprise him into a measure, which, as to the measure itself, he could not approve. That such only were the motives, which did or could influence Colonel Calliaud to assent to the proposal, is fully evinced by the deposition of Captain Knox and Mr. Lushington, that his (Calliaud's) conscience, at the time, never reproached him with a bad design.”
Your lordships have heard of the testimony of a person to his own conscience ; but the testimony of another man to any one's conscience—this is the first time, I believe, it ever appeared in a judicial proceeding. It is natural to say, “ my conscience acquits me of it ;" but they declare, that “ his conscience never reproached him with a bad design,
and therefore, upon the whole, they are satisfied, that his intention was good, though he erred in the measure.”
I beg leave to state one thing, that escaped me, that the nabob, who was one of the parties to the design, was, at the time of the inquiry, a sort of prisoner or an exile at Calcutta ; that his moonshee was there, or might have been had ; and that bis spy was likewise there ; and that they, though parties to this transaction, were never called to account for it in any sense or in any degree, or to show how far it was necessary to quiet the nabob's mind.
The accomplices by acquitting him upon their testimony to his conscience did their business nobly. But the good court of directors, who were so easily satisfied, so ready to condemn at the first proposition, and so ready afterwards to acquit, put the last finishing hand of a master to it.
For the accomplices acquit him of evil intentions, and excuse his act. The court of directors disapproving indeed the measure, but receiving the testimony of his conscience in justification of his conduct, and taking up the whole ground, honourably acquit hin, and commend this action as an instance of heroick zeal in their service.
The great end and purpose, for which I produce this to your lordships, is to show you the necessity there is for other inquiries, other trials, other acquittals of parties than those made by a collusive clan abroad, or by the directors at home, who had required the parties to inquire of themselves, and to take the testimony of the judges at secondhand, as to the conscience of the party accused, respecting acts, which neither they nor any man living can look upon but with horrour.
I have troubled your lordships with the story of the three seals, as a specimen of the then state of the service, and the politicks of the servants, civil and military, in the horrid abuses, which then prevailed, and which render at length the most rigorous reformation necessary.
I close this episode to resume the proceedings at the second revolution. This affair of the three seals was, we have seen, to quiet the fears of the nabob. His fears it was, indeed, necessary to quiet ; for your lordships will see, that
the man, whose fears were to be set asleep by Major Calliaud's offering him, in a scheme for murdering his sovereign, an odd sort of opiate, made up of blood and treason, was now in a fair way of being murdered himself by the machinations of him, whose seal was set to his murderous security of peace, and by those his accomplices, Holwell and Hastings ; at least they resolved to put him in a situation, in which his murder was in a manner inevitable, as you will see in the sequel of the transaction. Now the plan proceeds. The parties continued in the camp; but there was another remora. To remove a nabob, and to create a revolution, is not easy; houses are strong, who have sons grown up with vigour and fitness for the command of armies. They are not easily overturned by removing the principal, unless the secondary is got rid of: and if this remora could be removed, every thing was going on in a happy way in the business. This plan, which now (that is, about the month of July) began to get into great ripeness and forwardness, Mr. Holwell urged forward, Mr. Vansittart being hourly expected.
I do not know whether I am going to state a thing, though it is upon the records, which will not have too theatrical an appearance for the grave state, in which we are. But here it is—the difficulty, the knot, and the solution, as recorded by the parties themselves. It was the object of this bold, desperate, designing man, Cossim Ally Cawn, who aimed at every thing, and who scrupled not to do any thing in attaining what he aimed at, to be appointed the lieutenant of the nabob Jaffier Ally, and thus to get possession of his office during his lifetime under that name, with a design of murdering him ; for that office, according to many usages of that country, totally supersedes the authority of the first magistrate, renders him a cypher in bis hand, gives the administration of his affairs and command of his troops to the lieutenant. It was a part of his plan, that he was, after his appointment to the lieutenancy, to be named to the succession of the nabob, who had several other children; but the eldest son stood in the way.
But as things hastened to a crisis, this difficulty was removed in the most extraordinary and providential unheard of