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was to be impartially divided between the sufferer and the oppressour; and in which, according to the standing manners of Bengal, he would recommend oblivion as the best remedy; and would end by remarking, that retrospect could have no advantage, and could serve only to irritate and keep alive animosities : and, by this kind of equitable, candid, and judge-like proceeding, they hoped the whole complaint would calmly fade away ; the sufferers remain in the possession of their patience, and the tyrant of his plunder. In confidence of this event from this presumed character, Mr. Hastings's committee, in appointing Mr. Paterson their commissioner, were not deficient in arming him with powers equal to the object of his commission. He was enabled to call before him all accountants, to compel the production of all accounts, to examine all persons ; not only to inquire and to report, but to decide and to redress.
Such is the imperfection of human wisdom, that the committee totally failed in their well-laid project. They were totally mistaken in their inan. Under that cold outside the commissioner Paterson concealed a firm, manly, and fixed principle ; a deciding intellect, and a feeling heart. My lords, he is the son of a gentleman of a venerable age and excellent character in this country, who long filled the seat of chairman of the committee of supply in the House of Commons, and who is now enjoying repose from his long labours in an honourable age. The son, as soon as he was appointed to this commission, was awed by, and dreaded, the consequences. He knew to what temptation he should be exposed, from the known character of Debi Sing, to suppress or to misrepresent facts. He, therefore, took out a letter he had from his father, which letter was the preservation or his character, and destruction of his fortune. This letter he always resorted to in all trying exigencies of his life.
He laid the letter before him, and there was enjoined such a line of integrity, of incorruptness, of bearing every degree of persecution rather than disguising truth, that he went up into the country in a proper frame of mind for doing his duty.
He went to Rungpore strongly impressed with a sense of the great trust, that was placed in him ; and he had not the least reason to doubt of full support in the execution of it; as he, with every other white man in Bengal, probably, and every black, except two, was ignorant of the fact, that the governour-general, under whose delegated authority he was sent, had been bribed by the farmer-general of those provinces, and had sold them to his discretion for a great sum of money. If Paterson had known this fact, no human consideration would have induced him, or any other man of common prudence, to undertake an inquiry into the conduct of Debi Sing. Pity, my lords, the condition of an honest servant in Bengal.
But Paterson was ignorant of this dark transaction, and went simply to perform a duty. He had hardly set his foot in the province, when the universal, unquestioned, uncontradicted testimony of the whole people, concurring with the manifest evidence of things, which could not lie; with the face of an utterly ruined, undone, depopulated country, and saved from literal and exceptionless depopulation only by the exhibition of scattered bands of wild, naked, meagre, half-famished wretches, who rent heaven with their cries and howlings, left him no sort of doubt of the real cause of the late tumults. In his first letters, he conveyed his sentiments to the committee with these memorable words,-“ In my two reports, I have set forth, in a general manner, the oppressions, which provoked the ryotts to rise. I shall, therefore, not enumerate them now. Every day of my inquiry serves but to confirm the facts. The wonder would have been, if they had not risen: it was not collection, but real robbery, aggravated by corporal punishment, and every insult of disgrace; and this, not confined to a few, but extended over every individual. Let the mind of man be ever so much inured to servitude, still there is a point where oppressions will rouse it to resistance. Conceive to yourselves, what must be the situation of a ryott, when he sees every thing he has in the world seized, to answer an exaggerated demand, and sold at so low a price, as not to answer one half of that demand : when he finds himself so far from being released, that he remains still subject to corporal pu
nishment. But, what must be his feelings, when his tyrant, seeing that kind of severity of no avail, adds family disgrace and loss of cast. You, gentlemen, who know the reserve of the natives in whatever concerns their women, and their attachment to their casts, must allow the full effect of these prejudices under such circumstances."
He, however, proceeded with steadiness and method ; and in spite of every discouragement, which could be thrown in his way by the power, craft, fraud and corruption of the farmer-general Debi Sing, by the collusion of the provincial chief, and by the decay of support from his employers, which gradually faded away, and forsook him, as his occasions for it increased. Under all these, and under many more discouragements and difficulties, he made a series of able, clear, and well-digested reports, attended with such evidence as never before, and, I believe, never will again appear, of the internal provincial administration of Bengal ; of evils universally understood, which no one was ever so absurd as to contradict, and whose existence was never denied, except in those places where they ought to be rectified, although none before Paterson had the courage to display the particulars. By these reports, carefully collated with the evidence, I have been enabled to lay before you some of the effects, in one province and part of another, of governour Hastings's general system of bribery.
But now as.peared, in the most striking light, the good policy of Mr. Hastings's system of 1780, in placing this screen of a committee between him and his crimes. The committee had their lesson. Whilst Paterson is left collecting his evidence, and casting up his accounts in Rungpore, Debi Sing is called up, in seeming wrath, to the capital ; where he is received as those, who have robbed and desolated provinces, and filled their coffers with seven hundred thousand pounds sterling, have been usually received at Calcutta, and sometimes in Great Britain.
Debi Sing made good his ground in Calcutta, and when he had well prepared his committee, in due time Paterson returns, appears, and reports.
Persons, even less informed than your lordships, are well
apprized, that all officers, representing government, and making, in that character, an authorized inquiry, are entitled to a presumptive credit for all their proceedings, and that their reports of facts (where there is no evidence of corruption or malice) are in the first instance to be taken for truth, especially by those, who have authorized the inquiry; and it is their duty to put the burden of proof to the contrary on those, who would impeach or shake the report.
Other principles of policy, and other rules of government, and other maxims of office prevailed in the committee of Mr. Hastings's devising. In order to destroy that just and natural credit of the officer, and the protection and support they were bound to afford him, they in an instant shift and reverse all the relations, in which the parties stood.
This executive board, instituted for the protection of the revenue and of the people, and which was no court of justice in fact or name, turned their own representative officer, reporting facts according to his duty, into a voluntary accuser, who is to make good his charge at his peril. The farmer-general, whose conduct was not criminally attacked, but appeared as one of the grounds of a publick inquiry, is turned into a culprit before a court of justice, against whom every thing is to be juridically made out or not admitted : and the members of an executive board, by usurpation and frauti, erect themselves into judges, bound to proceed by strict rules of law.
By this infamous juggle they took away, as far as in them lay, the credit due to the proceedings of government. They changed the natural situation of proofs. They rejected the depositions of Paterson's witnesses, as not on oath, though they had never ordered or authorized them so to be taken.
They went further, and disabled, in a body, all the deponents themselves, whether on oath or not on oath, by discrediting the whole province, as a set of criminals, wbo gave evidence to palliate their own rebellion. They administer- . ed interrogatories to the commissioner instead of the culprit. They took a base fellow, whom they had themselves ordered their commissioner to imprison for crimes (crimes, charged on him, not by the commissioner, but by themselves,)
and made him a complainant and a witness against him in the stupidest and most improbable of all accusations ; namely, that Paterson had menaced him with punishment, if he did not, in so many words, slander and calumniate Debi Sing : and then the committee, seating this wretch as an assessor at their own board, who a few days before would have trembled like a whipped slave at the look of an European, encouraged him to interrogate their own commissioner. [Note.—Here Mr. Burke was taken ill, and obliged to
sit down. After some time Mr. Burke again addressed the House.]
My lords, I am sorry to break the attention of your lordships in such a way. It is a subject, that agitates me. It is long, difficult and arduous; but, with the blessing of God, if I can, to save you any further trouble, I will go through it this day.
I am to tell your lordships, that the next step they took was, after putting Mr. Paterson as an accuser to make good a charge, which he made out but too much to their satisfaction, they changed their battery. [Note.—Mr. Burke's illness increased, upon which the
House, on the motion of His Royal Highness the
TRIAL.-SIXTH DAY, 19th FEBRUARY 1788.
(MR. BURKE.) MY LORDS,—In any great undertaking a failure in the midst of it, even from infirmity, though to be regarded principally as a misfortune, is attended with some slight shadow of disgrace ; but your lordships' humanity, and your love of justice, have remedied every thing, and I therefore proceed with confidence this day.
My lords, I think (to the best of my remembrance) the House adjourned at the period of time, in which I was enVOL. VII.