« PreviousContinue »
THE SIXTH ARTICLE OF CHARGE.
SECOND DAY: SATURDAY, APRIL, 25, 1789.
Y LORDS,— When I last had the honor of addressing your Lordships, I endeavored to state with as much perspicuity as the nature of an intricate affair would admit, and as largely as in so intricate an affair was consistent with the brevity which I endeavored to preserve, the proofs which had been adduced against Warren Hastings upon an inquiry instituted by an order of the Court of Directors into the corruption and peculation of persons in authority in India. My Lords, I have endeavored to show you by anterior presumptive proofs, drawn from the nature and circumstances of the acts themselves inferring guilt, that such actions and such conduct could be referable only to one cause, namely, corruption; I endeavored to show you afterwards, my Lords, what the specific nature and extent of the corruption. was, as far as it could be fully proved; and lastly, the great satisfactory presumption which attended the inquiry with regard to Mr. Hastings, namely, that, contrary to law, contrary to his duty, contrary to what is owed by innocence to itself, Mr. Hastings resisted that inquiry, and employed all the power of his office to prevent the exercise of it, either in himself or in others. These presumptions and these proofs
will be brought before your Lordships, distinctly and in order, at the end of this opening.
The next point on which I thought it necessary to proceed was relative to the presumptions which his subsequent conduct gave with regard to his guilt: because, my Lords, his uniform tenor of conduct, such as must attend guilt, both in the act, at the time of the inquiry, and subsequent to it, will form such a body of satisfactory evidence as I believe the human mind is not made to resist.
My Lords, there is another reason why I choose to enter into the presumptions drawn from his conduct and the fact, taking his conduct in two parts, if it may be so expressed, omission and commission, in order that your Lordships should more fully enter into the consequences of this system of bribery. But before I say anything upon that, I wish your Lordships to be apprised, that the Commons, in bringing this bribe of three lac and a half before your Lordships, do not wish by any means to have it understood that this is the whole of the bribe that was received by Mr. Hastings in consequence of delivering up the whole management of the government of the country to that improper person whom he nominated for it. My Lords, from the proofs that will be adduced before you, there is great probability that he received very nearly a hundred thousand pounds; there is positive proof of his receiving fifty; and we have chosen only to charge him with that of which there is such an accumulated body of proof as to leave no doubt upon the minds of your Lordships. All this I say, because we are perfectly apprised of the senti ments of the public upon this point: when they hear of the enormity of Indian peculation, when they see
the acts done, and compare them with the bribes received, the acts seem so enormous and the bribes comparatively so small, that they can hardly be got to attribute them to that motive. What I mean to state is this: that, from a collective view of the subject, your Lordships will be able to judge that enormous offences have been committed, and that the bribe which we have given in proof is a specimen of the nature and extent of those enormous bribes which extend to much greater sums than we are able to prove before you in the manner your Lordships would like and expect.
I have already remarked to your Lordships, that, after this charge was brought and recorded before the Council in spite of the resistance made by Mr. Hastings, in which he employed all the power and authority of his station, and the whole body of his partisans and associates in iniquity, dispersed through every part of these provinces, - after he had taken all these steps, finding himself pressed by the proof and pressed by the presumption of his resistance to the inquiry, he did think it necessary to make something like a defence. Accordingly he has made what he calls a justification, which did not consist in the denial of that fact, or any explanation of it. The mode he took for his defence was abuse of his colleagues, abuse of the witnesses, and of every person who in the execution of his duty was inquiring into the fact, and charging them with things which, if true, were by no means sufficient to support him, either in defending the acts themselves, or in the criminal means he used to prevent inquiry into them. His design was to mislead their minds, and to carry them from the accusation and the proof of it. With
respect to the passion, violence, and intemperate heat with which he charged them, they were proceeding in an orderly, regular manner; and if on any occasion they seem to break out into warmth, it was in consequence of that resistance which he made to them, in what your Lordships, I believe, will agree with them in thinking was one of the most important parts of their functions. If they had been intemperate in their conduct, if they had been violent, passionate, prejudiced against him, it afforded him only a better means of making his defence; because, though in a rational and judicious mind the intemperate conduct of the accuser certainly proves nothing with regard to the truth or falsehood of his accusation, yet we do know that the minds of men are so constituted that an improper mode of conducting a right thing does form some degree of prejudice against it. Mr. Hastings, therefore, unable to defend himself upon principle, has resorted as much as he possibly could to prejudice. And at the same time that there is not one word of denial, or the least attempt at a refutation of the charge, he has loaded the records with all manner of minutes, proceedings, and letters relative to everything but the fact itself. The great aim of his policy, both then, before, and ever since, has been to divert the mind of the auditory, or the persons to whom he addressed himself, from the nature of his cause, to some collateral circumstance relative to it, a policy to which he has always had recourse; but that trick, the last resource of despairing guilt, I trust will now completely fail him.
Mr. Hastings, however, began to be pretty sensible that this way of proceeding had a very unpromising and untoward look; for which reason he next declared
that he reserved his defence for fear of a legal prosecution, and that some time or other he would give a large and liberal explanation to the Court of Directors, to whom he was answerable for his conduct, of his refusing to suffer the inquiry to proceed, of his omitting to give them satisfaction at the time, of his omitting to take any one natural step that an innocent man would have taken upon such an occasion. Under this promise he has remained from that time to the time you see him at your bar, and he has neither denied, exculpated, explained, or apologized for his conduct in any one single instance.
While he accuses the intemperance of his adversaries, he shows a degree of temperance in himself which always attends guilt in despair: for struggling guilt may be warm, but guilt that is desperate has nothing to do but to submit to the consequences of it, to bear the infamy annexed to its situation, and to try to find some consolation in the effects of guilt with regard to private fortune for the scandal it brings them into in public reputation. After the business had ended in India, the causes why he should have given the explanation grew stronger and stronger: for not only the charges exhibited against him were weighty, but the manner in which he was called upon to inquire into them was such as would undoubtedly tend to stir the mind of a man of character, to rouse him to some consideration of himself, and to a sense of the necessity of his defence. He was goaded to make this defence by the words I shall read to your Lordships from Sir John Clavering.
"In the late proceedings of the Revenue Board it will appear that there is no species of peculation from which the Honorable Governor-General has thought