Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion was sent from Calcutta to the miserable nabob, to tear Nundcomar, bis only support, from his side ; and to put the object of all his terrours, Mahomed Reza Cawn, in his place.

Thus began a new division, that split the presidency into violent factions ; but the faction, which adhered to Nundcomar, was undoubtedly the weakest. That most miserable of men, Meer Jaffier Ally Cawn, clinging, as to the last pillar, to Nundcomar, trembling at Mahomed Reza Cawn, died in the struggle, a miserable victim to all the revolutions, to all the successive changes and versatile politicks at Calcutta. Like all the rest of the great personages, whom we have degraded and brutalized by insult and oppression, he betook himself to the usual destructive resources of unprincipled misery-sensuality, opium, and wine. His gigantick frame of constitution soon gave way under the oppression of this relief, and he died, leaving children and grand-children by wives and concubines. On the old nabob's death Mahomed Reza Cawn was acknowledged deputy nabob, the money paid, and this revolution completed.

Here, my lords, opened a new source of plunder, peculation, and bribery, which was not neglected. Revolutions were no longer necessary, succession supplied their places ; and well the object agreed with the policy. Rules of succession could not be very well ascertained to an office like that of the nabob, which was hereditary only by the appointment of the Mogul. The issue by lawful wives would naturally be preferred by those who meant the quiet of the country. But a more doubtful title was preferred, as better adapted to the purposes of extortion and peculation. This miserable succession was sold, and the eldest of the issue of Munny Begum, an harlot, brought in to pollute the haram of the seraglio, of whom you will hear much hereafter, was chosen. He soon succeeded to the grave. Another son of the same prostitute succeeded to the same unhappy throne, and followed to the same untimely grave. Every succession was sold ; and between venal successions, and venal revolutions, in a very few years seven princes and six sales were seen successively in Bengal. The last was a minor, the issule of a legitimate wife, admitted to succeed because a mi

He was

nor, and because there was none illegitimate left. instantly stripped of the allowance of his progenitors, and reduced to a pension of 160,000 a year. He still exists, and continued to the end of Mr. Hastings's government, to furnish constant sources of bribery and plunder to him and his creatures.

The offspring of Munny Begum clinging, as his father did, to Nundcomar, they tore Nundcomar from his side, as they had done from the side of his father, and carried him down as a sort of prisoner to Calcutta ; where, having had the weakness to become the first informer, he was made the first example. This person, pushed to the wall, and knowing, that the man he had to deal with, was desperate and cruel in his resentments, resolves on the first blow, and enters before the council a regular information in writing, of bribery against Mr. Hastings. In his preface to that charge be excuses himself for what is considered to be an act equally insane and wicked, and as the one inexpiable crime of an Indian—the discovery of the money he gives ;— that Mr. Hastings had declaredly determined on his ruin, and to accomplish it had newly associated himself with one Mohun Persaud, a name I wish your lordships to remember, a bitter enemy of bis, an infamous person, whom Mr. Hastings knew to be such, and as such had turned him out of his house ; that Mr. Hastings bad lately recalled, and held frequent communications with this Mohun Persaud, the subject of which he had no doubt was his ruin. In the year 1775 he was hanged by those incorrupt English judges, who were sent to India by parliament to protect the natives from oppression.

Your lordships will observe, that this new sale of the office of ministers succeeded to the sale of that of nabobs. All these varied and successive sales shook the country to pieces. As if those miserable exhausted provinces were to be cured of inanition by phlebotomy-while Cossim Ally was racking it above, the company were drawing off all its nutriment below. A dreadful, an extensive, and most chargeable war followed. Half the northern force of India poured down like a torrent on Bengal, endangered our existence, and exhausted all our resources. The war was the

fruit of Mr. Hastings's cabals. Its termination, as usual, was the result of the military merit, and the fortune of this nation. Cossim Ally, after having been defeated by the military genius and spirit of England, (for the Adamses, Monroes, and others of that period, I believe, showed as much skill and bravery as any of their predecessors) in his flight swept away above three millions in money, jewels, or effects, out of a country, which he had plundered and exhausted by his unheard of exactions. However, he fought his way like a retiring lion, turning his face to his pursuers. He still fought along his frontier. His ability and his money drew to his cause the soubahdar of Oude, the famous Shuja ul Dowla. The Mogul entered into these wars, and penetrated into the lower provinces on one side, whilst Bulwant Sing, the rajah of Benares, entered them on another. After various changes of party, and changes of fortune, the loss, which began in the treachery of the civil service, was, as I have before remarked, redeemed by military merit. Many examples of the same sort have since been seen.

Whilst these things were transacted in India, the court of directors in London, hearing of so many changes, hearing of such an incredible mass of perfidy and venality, knowing, that there was a general market made of the country and of the company ; that the flame of war spread from province to province ; that, in proportion as it spread, the fire glowed with augmented fierceness; and that the rapacity, which originally gave rise to it, was following it in all its progress; the company, my lords, alarmed not only for their acquisitions but their existence, and finding themselves sinking lower and lower by every victory they obtained, thought it necessary at length to come to some system and some settlement. After composing their differences with lord Clive, they sent him out to that country about the year 1765, in order, by bis name, weight, authority, and vigour of mind, to give some sort of form and stability to government, and to rectify the innumerable abuses, which prevailed there ; and particularly that great source of disorders, that fundamental abuse-presents : for the bribes, by which all these revolutions were bought, had not the name of conditions, stipu

[ocr errors]

lations, or rewards; they even had the free and gratuitous style of presents. Tbo receivers contended, that they were mere gratuities given for service done, or mere tokens of affection and gratitude to the parties. They may give them what names they please, and your lordships will think of them what you please. But they were the donations of misery to power, the gifts of sufferers to the oppressours ; and consequently, where they prevailed, they left no certain property or fixed situation to any man in India, from the highest to the lowest.

The court of directors sent out orders to enlarge the servants' covenants, with new and severe clauses, strongly prohibiting the practice of receiving presents. Lord Clive himself had been a large receiver of them. Yet, as it was in the moment of a revolution, which gave them all they possessed, the company would hear no more of it. They sent him out to reform—whether they chose well or ill; does not signify. I think, upon the whole, they chose well ; because his name and authority could do much. They sent him out to redress the grievances of that country, and it was necessary he should be well armed for that service. They sent him out with such powers as no servant of the company ever held before. I would not be understood here in my own character, much less in the delegated character, in which I stand, to contend for any man in the totality of his conduct. Perhaps in some of his measures he was mistaken, and in some of his acts reprehensible : but justice obliges me to say, that the plan, which he formed, and the course, which he pursued, were in general great and well imagined ; that he laid great foundations, if they had been properly built upon. For, in the first place, he composed all the neighbouring countries, torn to pieces, by the wars of Cossim Ally, and quieted the apprehensions, raised by the opinion of the boundless ambition of England. He took strong measures to put an end to a great many of the abuses, that prevailed in the country subject to the company. He then proceeded to the upper provinces ; and formed a plan, which, for a military man, has great civil and political merit. He put a bound to the aspiring spirit

of the company's servants; he limited its conquests; he prescribed bounds to its ambition. First (says he) quiet the minds of the country ; what you have obtained, regulate ; make it known to India, that you resolve to acquire Do more. On this solid plan he fixed every prince, that was concerned in the preceding wars, on the one side and on the other, in an happy and easy settlement. He restored Shuja ul Dowla, who had been driven from his dominions by the military arm of Great Britain, to the rank of vizier, and to the dominion of the territories of Oude. With a generosity, that astonished all Asia, he reinstated this expelled enemy of his nation peaceably upon his throne. And this act of politick generosity did more towards quieting the minds of the people of Asia than all the terrour, great as it was, of the English arms. At the same time lord Clive, generous to all, took peculiar care of our friends and allies. He took care of Bulwant Sing, the great rajah of Benares, who had taken our part in the war. He secured him from the revenge of Shuja ul Dowla. The Mogul had granted us the superiority over Bulwant Sing. Lord Clive re-established him in a secure, easy, independency. He confirmed him, under the British guarantee, in the rich principality, which he held.

The Mogul, the head of the Mussulman religion in India, and of the Indian empire, a head honoured and esteemed even in its ruins, he procured to be recognized by all the persons, that were connected with his empire. The rents, that ought to be paid to the vizier of the empire, he gave to the vizeret. Thus, our alliances were cemented; our enemies were reconciled; all Asia was conciliated by our settlement with the king.

To that unhappy fugitive king, driven from place to place, the sport of fortune, now an emperour, and now a prisoner, prayed for in every mosque, in which his authority was conspired against, one day opposed by the coin struck in his name, and the other day sold for it, to this descendant of Tamerlane be allotted, with a decent share of royal dignity, an honourable fixed residence, where he might be useful, and could not be dangerous.

« PreviousContinue »