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As to the crime, which we chose, we first considered well what it was in its nature, under all the circumstances, which attended it. We weighed it with all its extenuations, and with all its aggravations. On that review we are warranted to assert, that the crimes, with which we charge the prisoner at the bar, are substantial crimes; that they are no errours or mistakes, such as wise and good men might possibly fall into; which may even produce very pernicious effects, without being in fact great offences. The Commons are too liberal, not to allow for the difficulties of a great and arduous publick situation. They know too well the domineering necessities, which frequently occur in all great affairs. They know the exigency of a pressing occasion, which, in its precipitate career, bears every thing down before it, which does not give time to the mind to recollect its faculties, to reinforce its reason, and to have recourse to fixed principles, but, by compelling an instant and tumultuous decision, too often obliges men to decide in a manner, that calm judgment would certainly have rejected. We know, as we are to be served by men, that the persons, who serve us, must be tried as men, and with a very large allowance indeed, to human infirmity and human errour. This, my lords, we knew, and we weighed before we came before you. But the crimes, which we charge in these articles, are not lapses, defects, errours, of common human frailty, which, as we know and feel, we can allow for. We charge this offender with no crimes, that have not arisen from passions, which it is criminal to harbour ; with no offences, that have not their root in avarice, rapacity, pride, insolence, ferocity, treachery, cruelty, malignity of temper ; in short, in nothing, that does not argue a total extinction of all moral principle ; that does not manifest an inveterate blackness of heart, died in grain with malice, vitiated, corrupted, gangrened to the very core. If we do not plant his crimes in those vices, which the breast of man is made to abhor, and the spirit of all laws, human and divine, to interdict, we desire no longer to be heard upon this occasion. Let every thing, that can be pleaded on the ground of surprise or errour, upon those grounds be pleaded with success : we give up the whole of those predicaments. We urge no crimes, that were not crimes of forethought. We charge him with nothing, that he did not commit upon deliberation ; that he did not commit against advice, supplication, and remonstrance; that he did not commit against the direct command of lawful authority ; that he did not commit after reproof and reprimand, the reproof and reprimand of those, who are authorized by the laws to reprove and reprimand him. The crimes of Mr. Hastings are crimes, not only in themselves, but aggravated by being crimes of contumacy. They were crimes, not against forms, but against those eternal laws of justice, which are our rule and our birthright. His offences are not, in formal, technical language, but in reality, in substance and effect, high crimes and high misdemeanours.
So far as to the crimes. As to the criminal, we have chosen him on the same principle, on which we selected the crimes. We have not chosen to bring before you a poor, puny, trembling delinquent, misled, perhaps, by those, who ought to have taught him better, but who have afterwards oppressed him by their power, as they had first corrupted him by their example. Instances there have been many, wherein the punishment of minor offences, in inferiour persons, has been made the means of screening crimes of an high order, and in men of high description. Our course is different. We have not brought before you an obscure offender, who, when his insignificance and weakness are weighed against the power of the prosecution, gives even to publick justice something of the appearance of oppression ; no, my lords, we have brought before you the first man of India in rank, authority, and station. We have brought before you the chief of the tribe, the head of the whole body of eastern offenders; a captain-general of iniquity, under whom all the fraud, all the peculation, all the tyranny, in India, are embodied, disciplined, arrayed, and paid. This is the person, my lords, that we bring before you. We have brought before you such a person, that, if you strike at hiin with the firm and decided arm of justice, you will not have need of a great many more examples. You strike at the whole corps, if you strike at the head.
So far as to the crime : so far as to the criminal. Now, my lords, I shall say a few words relative to the evidence, which we have brought to support such a charge, and which ought to be equal in weight to the charge itself. It is chiefly evidence of record, officially signed by the criminal himself in many instances. We have brought before you his own letters, authenticated by his own hand. On these we chiefly rely. But we shall likewise bring before you living witnesses, competent to speak to the points, to which they are brought.
When you consider the late enormous power of the prisoner; when you consider his criminal, indefatigable assiduity in the destruction of all recorded evidence ; when you consider the influence he has over almost all living testimony; when you consider the distance of the scene of action ; I believe your lordships, and I believe the world, will be astonished, that so much, so clear, so solid, and so conclusive evidence of all kinds has been obtained against him. I have no doubt, that in nine instances in ten the evidence is such as would satisfy the narrow precision supposed to prevail, and to a degree rightly to prevail, in all subordinate power and delegated jurisdiction. But your lordships will maintain, what we assert and claim as the right of the subjects of Great Britain—that you are not bound by any rules of evidence, or any other rules whatever, except those of natural, immutable, and substantial justice.
God forbid the Commons should desire, that any thing should be received as proof from them, which is not by nature adapted to prove the thing in question. If they should make such a request, they would aim at overturning the very principles of that justice, to which they resort. They would give the nation an evil example, that would rebound back on themselves, and bring destruction upon their own heads, and on those of all their posterity.
On the other hand, I have too much confidence in the learning, with which you will be advised, and the liberality and nobleness of the sentiments, with which you are born, to suspect, that you would, by any abuse of the forms, and a technical course of proceeding, deny justice to so great a
part of the world, that claims it at your hands. Your lordships always had an ample power, and almost unlimited jurisdiction; you have now a boundless object. It is not from this district, or from that parish, not from this city, or the other province, that relief is now applied for : exiled and undone princes, extensive tribes, suffering nations, infinite descriptions of men, different in language, in manners, and in rites -men, separated by every barrier of nature from you, by the providence of God are blended in one common cause, and are now become suppliants at your bar. For the honour of this nation, in vindication of this mysterious providence, let it be known, that no rule formed upon municipal maxims (if any such rule exists) will prevent the course of that imperial justice, which you owe to the people, that call to you from all parts of a great disjointed world. For, situated as this kingdom is, an object, thank God, of envy to the rest of the nations ; its conduct in that high and elevated situation will undoubtedly be scrutinized with a severity as great as its power is invidious.
It is well known, that enormous wealth has poured into this country from India through a thousand channels, publick and concealed; and it is no particular derogation from our honour to suppose a possibility of being corrupted by that, by which other empires have been corrupted, and assemblies, almost as respectable and venerable as your lordships, have been directly or indirectly vitiated. Forty millions of money, at least, hav. within our memory been brought from India into England. In this case the most sacred judicature ought to look to its reputation. Without offence we may venture to suggest, that the best way to secure reputation is, not by a proud defiance of publick opinion, but by guiding our actions in such a manner, as that publick opinion may in the end be securely defied, by having been previously respected and dreaded.
No direct false judgment is apprehended from the tribunals of this country. But it is feared, that partiality may lurk and nestle in the abuse of our forms of proceeding. It is necessary, therefore, that nothing in that proceeding should appear to mark the slightest trace, should betray the faintest odour, of chicane. God
forbid, that, when you try the most serious of all causes, that when you try the cause of Asia in the presence of Europe, there should be the least suspicion, that a narrow partiality, utterly destructive of justice, should so guide us, that a British subject in power should appear in substance to possess rights, which are denied to the humble allies, to the attached dependants of this kingdom, who by their distance have a double demand upon your protection, and who, by an implicit (I hope not a weak and useless) trust in you, have stripped themselves of every other resource under heaven.
I do not say this from any fear, doubt, or hesitation, concerning what your lordships will finally do, none in the world; but I cannot shut my ears to the rumours, which you all know to be disseminated abroad. The abusers of power may have a chance to cover themselves by those fences and intrenchments, which were made to secure the liberties of the people against men of that very description. But God forbid it should be bruited from Pekin to Paris, that the laws of England are for the rich and the powerful; but to the poor, the miserable, and defenceless, they afford no resource at all. God forbid it should be said, no nation is equal to the English in substantial violence and in formal justice—that in this kingdom we feel ourselves competent to confer the most extravagant and inordinate powers upon publick ministers, but that we are deficient, poor, helpless, lame, and impotent in the means of calling them to account for their use of them. An opinion has been insidiously circulated through this kingdom, and through foreign nations too, that, in order to cover our participation in guilt, and our common interest in the plunder of the East, we have invented a set of scholastick distinctions, abhorrent to the common sense, and unpropitious to the common necessities, of mankind; by which we are to deny ourselves the knowledge of what the rest of the world knows, and what so great a part of the world both knows and feels.
I do not deprecate any appearance, which may give countenance to this aspersion, from suspicion, that any corrupt motive can influence this court; I deprecate it from knowing, that hith