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rapine! No: these were none of their motives: they acted only by authority, and firmly relied on support from home.
Here Mr. Burke read extracts from some of Mr. Hastings's letters to the directors, in which an acknowledgment was explicitly made by that gentleman, of his having thus availed himself of such an expedient, even at a time when it was the current opinion, that all the power and authority of the Company were exerted in managing and controlling his proceedings. While, therefore, he was ravaging countries, depopulating kingdoms, reducing the garden of the universe to a desert, plundering opulent towns, and consigning to atrocious cruelty and destruction the innocent and industrious inhabitants of whole empires, he laid the entire obloquy of his conduct to the authority under which he pretended to act. From this originated all those foul enormities which had deluged the Indies in blood, and flung the British empire in that quarter into one complete scene of animosity and distraction. Whatever projects ambition proposed, avarice grasped, or cruelty perpetrated, this apology was ready to cover, to extenuate, to authorise, to urge, or to sanction the whole! It was always support and protection from home, which gave operation and effect to rapacity, to peculation, and to bloodshed abroad! In this manner the English government was traduced, and the very name of Britons rendered infamous and execrable.
There was a time, to be sure, when much was done in the House of Commons to counteract the malignant influence of such an impolitic and merciless principle. He had frequently heard a learned gentleman pour out a dreadful torrent of eloquence and invective, for the purpose of declaring to the whole world, that the servants of the Company were no longer the objects of support at home; that this country was not a sharer in their guilt; and that justice would undoubtedly overtake delinquents,
whose conduct had brought the foulest reproach on the British character. With what a catalogue of the blackest crimes had he not eharged them, in the face of that House and of the public; and by a detail of evidence, which swelled the Journals of parliament and blackened the annals of the nation, which interested the curiosity and roused the indignation of all Europe, and which would descend to posterity unbroken, unequivocal, and unimpeached, demonstrated, to the complete satisfaction of all who understood the subject, that the English government in India had become almost as infamous at home as abroad had lost all credit, even with its sovereigns in Leadenhallstreet- had not only refused compliance with the repeated orders of the Company, but uniformly contradicted them: and that therefore an immediate and universal reform was become indispensable! The recal of Governor-general Hastings was the consequence of these bold and spirited exertions. This seemed the only expedient which the wisdom of parliament thought adequate to the evil: and the measure undoubtedly possessed the confidence of the public at large. Things were now brought to a crisis: whoever doubted but an order from the court of directors, or an order from the House of Commons, might singly, but especially when connected, have been able to bring from India a servant of the Company? No such thing. The experiment was made, and made with every prospect of success, on the side of this country. But who can estimate the influence of corruption, when supported by all the treasures of India? This powerful and opulent country was evidently worsted in the struggle, and the sequel of the contest has proved, that the support from home, however secret and mysterious in its operation, was nevertheless real, and always at hand to answer the basest purposes, like prompt payment.
The great question, therefore, under such a series of misconduct, still was, How were the natives affected-what were their hardships - in what manner were they to be relieved from whom were they ultimately to expect as
sistance? Was there no door of mercy left open for so many millions of our fellow-creatures, who had long groaned under every species of the grossest oppression? Or were the whole British possessions in India formally proscribed by act of parliament, or consigned to the scourge of the men, whose outrages had already rendered the finest and most fertile provinces on earth one barren inhospitable solitude? He now appeared in behalf of those Indians, whom our barbarous policy had ruined and made desperate. Their grievances were unparalleled in history, and seemed to increase in proportion as they became unable to bear them. The English establishment among them appeared to have no other object than to accumulate their oppression and distress. Was such a monstrous abuse of power, such a desolating calamity, so enormous a mischief, to continue its operations without end or limitation? Where were the innocent sufferers to appeal? Their tyrants were evidently invested with new powers. Those, at least, by which so much damage had been done, were approved, and received such a protection from home, as was enough to make every individual Indian tremble for his life, in proportion as his property rendered him an object of rapacity and destruction. And were men in such a predicament as this, to be under the necessity of demanding justice from the very authors of their wrongs? Had they any thing like the mere forms of equity to expect from such as had injured them? Would not their heaviest complaints be treated as chimerical, and their most urgent petitions be rejected as groundless and absurd?
The people of Quebec had just brought forward a petition; their requisition would be heard; public justice demanded it in their name; and they wanted not friends in this country, who would faithfully represent, enforce, and facilitate their claims. They, happy people! were not oppressed by a governor-general, over whom the British legislature had no power, whose friends, both in Britain and India, triumphed in the plenitude of authority, and whose inhuman and exe
crable measures proceeded on full security of protection from home. No: they were connected with many who were determined to see them righted, who generously made their cause their own — who were even interested in taking their parts. But the natives of India were universally abandoned to their fate: they had not only to struggle against the most dreadful odds, but were absolutely without friends or resource. Their riches were gone to make the fortunes of those, who now turned a deaf ear to all their complaints. Where was the friend of the minister, or the favourite of the British court, or the member of parliament, whose influence promised success, who would stand up an advocate for the unfortunate Almass Ali Cawn? Alas! the situation and property of this man, like a great many of his countrymen, destroyed him, attracted the attention, stimulated the avarice, and brought down the vengeance of the British on his head. The crime of having money was imputed to this unfortunate prince, which—like the sin against the Holy Ghost in Christian theology—in Indian politics can never be forgiven. It seemed impossible, in this instance, to plunder without murder. The bloody edict is therefore issued. Mark how soon the fatal science in that country is brought to perfection! No matter what is done, provided the manner of doing it be properly managed. Yet, he had heard of a letter, and of a murder, or something very like it, recited in that letter; an extract of which had come to his hand. From this extract he learned that orders had been sent to arrest Almass Ali Cawn: but this gentlemanlike business must be done in the most gentleman-like manner. The chief must be taken, and he must also be put to death;' but all this must be so contrived as to imply no 'treachery.' Here was honour of a very singular and nice description - plunder, peculation, and even assassination, without treachery! Such was the extreme refinement which distinguished the cruelties of the East! All possible delicacy was even to be shewn in the exercise of a ferocity, the foulest and the most atrocious that ever blackened the prostitution of usurped authority. The reason of such ex
traordinary proceedings was not less extraordinary. The precaution is no compliment to the sensibility, but to the cunning and pusillanimity of the mind with whom the bloody mandate originated. There were persons to whom such a circumstance might procure a handle of reproach or invective. On this account, let Almas Ali Cawn be deprived of his life with as little indecency as possible. The proscription is absolute - he must die; but let his death be perpetrated honestly.
This, however, was only one instance of many where the same wild and outrageous policy prevailed, and threatened an utter extermination of all our settlements in that part of the world. Every district almost in India daily exhibited marks or specimens of the same inhumanity, and disclosed scenes of misery and degradation, by means of our mismanagement, of which few Europeans could have any conception. And what had been done to check the ravages and ambition of the Company's servants? Had government interfered to prevent or put an end to these extravagancies? Was there any probability of things as suming another or a milder aspect? Had the system framed and matured by the wisdom of the new parliament at home, or any late measures carried into execution by the supreme council abroad, given hopes of better things? He wished to God these and a thousand such questions could be answered in the affirmative. He appealed to the treasurybench, who had all undoubtedly made themselves masters of the facts in debate. He would appeal to a bench higher than the treasury-bench; he meant the Indian bench behind it, where the agents of the Company and of the Company's servants sat, the honorary supporters of their own administration. He asked what the House and the whole world were left to conclude from that impunity with which the most enormous transactions of those who had the good fortune to perpetrate them in India were treated? Could the House without horror and indignation recollect the barbarous usage which two unfortunate princesses had experienced? The tale which the history of these ladies, the