« PreviousContinue »
most frivolous, contemptible, and malignant motives were ascribed to him by' those who either 'were favourable to the GovernorGeneral, from admiration of his general conduct, from gratitude for particular benefits, or pretended to be so from receiving pay. Mr. M-Cormick, in deducing the proceedings of Burke from resentment against Mr. Hastings, on account of inattention to Mr. William Burke, is merely the repeater of hacknied abuse ; and has not, as in many of his assertions against this great man, the merit of originality. That Burke, or any man, would undertake so laborious a task, which required such minuteness of investigation concerning so intricate details, the materials to be fetched from such a distance, with so great and powerful a body inimical to an inquiry, merely because his friend had been sliglited, is hardly within the
compass of credibility. The allegation is supported by no proof, and is altogether improbable. *
* The same observation will apply to all the other prosecutors, as far as they were concerned; but to none with
Although the prosecution of Hastings long engaged, and at last fatigued the public attention ; and although Burke's conduct in it has been often discussed ; yet there are many who have neither considered the rise and progress of the discussion, nor the series of Burke's proceedings, so as to be able to form an accurate estimate of his motives and reasons.
It may, therefore, be not irrelative to the object of this work to take a short review of the steps that led to the impeachment.
more justness than to Mr. Francis. If riches or power had been the objects of that gentleman, whether would his official situation best enable him to gratify avarice or ambition, in supporting or opposing the Governor-General, who had so much the means of bestowing riches and power? Was it by thwarting the dispenser of wealth and high appointment that he could most effectually promote the interest of either himself or his friends? What benefit could have accrued to him from the admission of charges which he should know to be unfounded? What motives could be assigned for such a conduct? Mr. Francis is a man, and, as of that species, must act from some such motive as prompts the actions of ather men. To justify the hypothesis, that he made charges which he himself did not believe to be true, another must be admitted, that he is a being sui generis, and not actuated by the usual inducements of the rest of man. kind. The reader will observe, that it is not here meant to impeach Hastings, but to shew the absurdity of that cen. sure which imputes conduct to which there exist not motives,
The act of 1773 had empowered his Majesty to constitute a supreme court of judicature, whose authority should extend to British subjects, or such others as were for the time employed in the service of the India Company. Complaints were made by the Supreme Council, private subjects of Britain in India, and the Company, 1. That the Judges had greatly exceeded their powers: 2. That it extended its jurisdiction to persons whom it does not appear to have been the intention of the King or Parliament to submit to its jurisdiction : 3d. That it has taken cognizance of matters, both originally and pending the suit, the exclusive determination of which they humbly conceive it to have been the intention of the King and Parliament to leave to other Courts; 4. That the Judges consider the criminal law of England as in force, and binding upon the natives of Bengal, though utterly repugnant
to the laws and customs by which they have formerly been governed. Petitions were presented to Parliament by three classes, affected by what they conceived to be an unwarranted assumption of jurisdiction : first, the agents of the British subjects; secondly, the Governor-General and Council ; thirdly, the Company. Two committees were appointed and employed at the same time, in 1780 and 1781, on India affairs. The one was a select, the other a secret committee. Of the former, General Richard Smith was chairman ; of the latter, Mr. Dundas. In supporting the establishment of two committees, Burke said in the house,
• Try what the open, what the covert yield.'
The petitions were referred to the Secret Committee, composed of members of different sides of the house, of which Burke was one. The object of the Committee
an inquiry into the proceedings, not of Mr. Hastings, but of the Judges. A great variety of facts were stated to
the Committee, particularly under the first head of complaint. It appeared, that the English Judges had taken cognizance of causes between native land-holders not in the service of the Company; consequently, by the Act of Parliament, not within the jurisdiction of the English Court; and had proceeded in several cases to inflict severe penalties on those who refused to recognize. their authority. The most important instances of alledged extra-judicial assumption were, in civil actions, the Patna and the Cossijurah causes.
In the first, two native magistrates, men of rank and respectability, were imprisoned, and their effects confiscated, by an English Sheriff, for their official conduct in a case out of the jurisdiction of the English Court. In the second, the Rajah of Cossijurah having resisted the jurisdiction of the Court, the Sheriff had dispatched an armed force to compel obedience; but the Governor-General and Council ordered a more numerous body to march speedily, and prevent what they con