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given by men of desperate fortunes and characters, to be one of the grievances instead of one of the advantages of
It has been necessary to lay these facts before you (and I have stated them to your lordships far short of their reality, partly through my infirmity, and partly on account of the odiousness of the task of going through things, that disgrace human nature) that you may be enabled fully to enter into the dreadful consequences, which attend a system of bribery and corruption in a governour-general. On a transient view, bribery is rather a subject of disgust than horrour ; the sordid practice of a venal, mean and abject mind; and the effect of the crime seems to end with the act. It looks to be no more than the corrupt transfer of property from one person to another ; at worst a theft. But it will appear in a very different light, when you regard the consideration, for which the bribe is given ; namely, that a governour-general, claiming an arbitrary power in himself, for that consideration delivers up the properties, the liberties, and the lives of an whole people to the arbitrary discretion of any wicked and rapacious person, who will be sure to make good from their blood the purchase he has paid for his power over them. It is possible, that a man may pay a bribe merely to redeem himself from some evil. It is bad however to live under a power, whose violence has no restraint except in its avarice. But no man ever paid a bribe for a power to charge and tax others, but with a view to oppress them. No man ever paid a bribe for the handling of the publick money, but to peculate from it. When once such offices become thus privately and corruptly venal, the very worst men will be chosen (as Mr. Hastings has in fact constantly chosen the very worst,) because none but those, who do not scruple the use of any means, are capable, consistently with profit, to discharge at once the rigid demands of a severe publick reve. nue, and the private bribes of a rapacious chief magistrate. Not only the worst men will be thus chosen, but they will be restrained by no dread whatsoever in the execution of their worst oppressions. Their protection is sure. thority, that is to restrain, to controul, to punish them, is
previously engaged ; he has his retaining fee for the support of their crimes. Mr. Hastings never dared, because he could not, arrest oppression in its course, without drying up the source of his own corrupt emolument. Mr. Hastings never dared, after the fact, to punish extortion in others, because he could not, without risking the discovery of bribery in himself. The same corruption, the same oppression, and the same impunity will reign through all the subordinate gradations.
A fair revenue may be collected without the aid of wicked, violent, and unjust instruments. But, when once the line of just and legal demand is transgressed, such instruments are of absolute necessity; and they comport themselves accordingly. When we know, that men must be well paid (and they ought to be well paid) for the performance of honourable duty, can we think, that men will be found to commit wicked, rapacious, and oppressive acts with fidelity and disinterestedness, for the sole emolument of dishonest employers ? No; they must have their full share of the prey, and the greater share as they are the nearer and more necessary instruments of the general extortion. We must not therefore flatter ourselves, when Mr. Hastings takes 40,0001. in bribes for Dinagepore and its annexed provinces, that from the people nothing more than 40,0001. is extorted. I speak within compass, four times forty must be levied on the people ; and these violent sales, fraudulent purchases, confiscations, inhuman and unutterable tortures, imprisonment, irons, whips, fines, general despair, general insurrection, the massacre of the officers of revenue by the people, the massacre of the people by the soldiery, and the total waste and destruction of the finest provinces in India, are things of course ; and all a necessary consequence involved in the very substance of Mr. Hastings's bribery.
I, therefore, charge Mr. Hastings with having destroyed, for private purposes, the whole system of government by the six provincial councils, which he had no right to destroy.
I charge him with having delegated to others that power, which the act of parliament had directed him to preserve unalienably in himself.
I charge him with having formed a committee to be mere instruments and tools, at the enormous expense of 62,0001. per annum.
I charge him with having appointed a person their dewan, to whom these Englishmen were to be subservient tools ; whose name, to his own knowledge, was by the general voice of India, by the general recorded voice of the company, by recorded official transactions, by every thing, that can make a man known, abhorred, and detested, stamped with infamy; and with giving him the whole power, which he had thus separated from the council-general, and from the provincial councils.
I charge him with taking bribes of Gunga Govin Sing.
I charge him with not having done that bribe-service, which fidelity even in iniquity requires at the hands of the worst of men.
I charge him with having robbed those people, of whom he took the bribes.
I charge him with having fraudulently alienated the fortunes of widows.
I charge him with having, without right, title, or purchase, taken the lands of orphans, and given them to wicked persons under him.
I charge him with having removed the natural guardians of a minor rajah, and with having given that trust to a strang. er, Debi Sing, whose wickedness was known to himself and all the world ; and by whom the rajah, his family, and dependants were cruelly oppressed.
I charge him with having committed to the management of Debi Sing three great provinces; and thereby, with having wasted the country, ruined the landed interest, cruelly harassed the peasants, burnt their houses, seized their crops, tortured and degraded their persons, and destroyed the honour of the whole female race of that country.
In the name of the Commons of England, I charge all this villany upon Warren Hastings, in this last moment of my application to you.
My lords, what is it, that we want here to a great act of national justice? Do we want a cause, my lords ? You have the cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, of desolated provinces, and of wasted kingdoms.
Do you want a criminal, my lords? When was there so much iniquity ever laid to the charge of any one ? —No, my lords, you must not look to punish any other such delinquent from India.—Warren Hastings has not left substance enough in India to nourish such another delinquent.
My lords, is it a prosecutor you want ?-You have before you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors; and, I believe, my lords, that the sun, in his beneficent progress round the world, does not behold a more glorious sight than that of men, separated from a remote people by the material bounds and barriers of nature, united by the bond of a social and moral community ;-all the Commons of England resenting, as their own, the indignities and cruelties, that are offered to all the people of India.
Do we want a tribunal ? My lords, no example of antiquity, nothing in the modern world, nothing in the range of human imagination, can supply us with a tribunal like this. My lords, here we see virtually in the mind's eye that sacred majesty of the crown, under whose authority you sit, and whose power you exercise. We see in that invisible authority, what we all feel in reality and life, the beneficent powers and protecting justice of bis majesty. We have here the heir apparent to the crown, such as the fond wishes of the people of England wish an heir apparent of the crown to be. We have here all the branches of the royal family in a situation between majesty and subjection, between the sovereign and the subject,--offering a pledge in that situation for the support of the rights of the crown, and the liberties of the people, both which extremities they touch. My lords, we have a great hereditary peerage here; those, who have their own honour, the honour of their ancestors, and of their posterity, to guard; and who will justify, as they have always justified, that provision in the constitution, by which justice is made an hereditary office. My lords, we have here a new nobility, who have risen, and exalted themselves by various merits, by great military services, which have extended the fame of this country from the rising to the setting sun: we have those, who by various civil merits and various civil talents have been exalted to a situation, which they well deserve, and in which they will justify the favour of their sovereign, and the good opinion of their fellow subjects; and make them rejoice to see those virtuous characters, that were the other day upon a level with them, now exalted above them in rank, but feeling with them in sympathy what they felt in common with them before. We have persons exalted from the practice of the law, from the place, in which they administered high, though subordinate, justice, to a seat here, to enlighten with their knowledge, and to strengthen with their votes those principles, which have distinguished the courts, in which they have presided.
My lords, you have here also the lights of our religion ; you have the bishops of England. My lords, you have that true image of the primitive church in its antient form, in its antient ordinances, purified from the superstitions and the vices which a long succession of ages will bring upon the best institutions. You have the representatives of that religion, which says, that their God is love, that the very vital spirit of their institution is charity ; a religion, which so much hatès oppression, that, when the God, whom we adore, appeared in human form, he did not appear in a form of greatness and majesty, but in sympathy with the lowest of the people;—and thereby made it a firm and ruling principle, that their welfare was the object of all government; since the person, who was the Master of Nature, chose to appear himself in a subordinate situation. These are the considerations, which influence them, which animate them, and will animate them, against all oppression ; knowing, that He, who is called first among them, and first among us all, both of the flock, that is fed, and of those, who feed it, made Him- . self “ the servant of all.”
My lords, these are the securities, which we have in all the constituent parts of the body of this house. We know them, we reckon, we rest upon them, and commit safely the interests of India and of humanity into your hands.
Therefore, it is with confidence, that, ordered by the Commons,