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he felt a strong prepossession in his favour, from the lofty panegyrics he had heard of him; so much so, that the friends of Sir Elijah Impey had upbraided him with being greatly partial to the governor-general. If that partiality was now no more, it was because it had been rooted out by the discoveries he had made in the Company's records, while he sat in the select committee. All he wanted was, that the House would give him an opportunity to defend the Reports, and to make good all the charges they had brought against the governor-general. Since he saw he was not likely to obtain that, he would not say any thing more against the bill, but simply enter his protest against it in the name of the injured natives of India, whose grievances were to be inquired into and redressed by those who had occasioned them.
The question was then put upon the motion for the order of the day, which was carried; and Mr. Burke's was of course rejected. The order for the third reading of the bill was then read after which it was read a third time, and passed.
Mr. BURKE rose and desired the resolutions the House had come to in the year 1782, for the recal of Sir Elijah Impey and Mr. Hastings, might be read. This having been complied with, he said, that the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer had just received much eulogium for having abandoned a purpose* which he had originally proposed, and he abandoned it professedly because he found his purpose to be impracticable: in like manner, he rose to state to the House, that he should abandon any farther pursuit of measures against Sir Elijah Impey, and that for the same reason as that assigned by the right honourable gentleman, namely, because he found it
* A tax on coals.
would be impracticable for him to pursue any. But he did not intend to propose a substitution for what he abandoned; and therefore, as he was not about to follow the right honourable gentleman's example in all its parts, he presumed he should not share in all the glory that had attended it. Having said this, he reminded the House, that the resolutions he had just had read, originated in the proceedings of the secret and select committees; that one of them had been moved by Sir Adam Ferguson, and the other by General Smith, neither of whom, greatly to the loss of the public, were now in parliament; but as it was well known that he had taken an active part, as a member of the select committee, it might be thought that he would pursue what they had begun, and therefore he rose to signify that he abandoned all thoughts of so doing, from a conviction that it would be impracticable. He had read, he said, in a report of what had passed in that House, on a day when he was not present, that the chancellor of the exchequer, when he announced the arrival of Sir Elijah Impey in England, lamented the absence of some person concerned in proposing the resolution for his recal. As he might as well be that person as any other, he wished to know whether the right honourable gentleman had announced Sir Elijah's arrival as a minister, or by way of feasting the House with a piece of news. If he had done it with the latter view, he must tell the right honourable gentleman it was no news to him, for he had heard it before; but if he had given the information as a minister, that gave the business a very different complexion.
Mr. Burke then proceeded to argue, that it was rather the duty of the minister, as the minister and representative of the rest of the king's servants, to enforce the resolutions of that House respecting Sir Elijah, than that of any individual member of parliament. He said the committee and the House had laid the grounds of the proceeding, and it became the minister so far to fall in with the sense of the Honse, as to take up their resolution and act upon it. The resolution stated a charge, and that charge called for trial.
Perhaps impeachment before the House of Lords was the proper process; if so, with what hopes of success could he, an individual, venture to go on, when the person likely in that case to be the judge, a man high in abilities, high in situation, high in every respect, had expressly declared, that "with respect to the reports of the select committee of the House of Commons, he regarded them no more than the history of Robinson Crusoe?" Thus had that noble and learned lord, who was to be the judge, prejudged the cause, and declared his mind to be poisoned upon the subject.
Here Lord Mahon called Mr. Burke to order. His lordship said, he held it to be disorderly for any member to repeat the exact words that had been spoken in another House of parliament. If the honourable gentleman persisted in such a practice, he would have recourse to a similar practice.
Mr. BURKE said, with a smile, the noble lord was perfectly welcome, petimus damusque vicissim. In order to accommodate himself to the order of the House, however, he stated what had been said by Lord Thurlow in a speech before Christmas in the House of Lords, upon the first reading of Mr. Fox's East India bill, as words spoken in a coffee-house, and thus proceeded to comment upon those parts of that speech in which the learned lord had defended and extolled Mr. Hastings, at the same time that he had reprobated the conduct of those who had printed the reports of committees of the House of Commons, and sold them as pamphlets, in order to run down the governorgeneral's character. Mr. Burke said, by comparing the reports of the select committee to the history of Robinson Crusoe, he presumed the learned person meant to describe the reports to be fables. He could hardly mean more; nor did he suppose, though Robinson Crusoe was held in disrespect in another assembly, that every Robinson was equally disesteemed there. [A laugh.] After some pleasantry, Mr. Burke urged Mr. Pitt to take up the business,
and expressly declared that he had no personal enmity to Sir Elijah Impey; to his knowledge he had never seen him; he wished him well; it was his public conduct solely that he regarded: it had fallen to his lot to say a good deal, both relative to Sir Elijah and Mr. Hastings, but it had been to their actions only that he had spoken: he had nothing to say to the virtues or vices of any man; it was enough for him that their actions called for animadversion. He concluded with repeating his position, that as Sir Elijah stood charged in the resolution of that House with having been guilty of a breach of duty in office, it was the peculiar duty of the minister to conduct the prosecution against him.
- Mr. Pitt said, he thought it his duty to declare to the House, that Sir Elijah Impey, who had been recalled from India by his majesty, in consequence of an address of that House, was arrived; but he begged leave to decline the honour of being substituted as Sir Elijah's prosecutor; the business was in better hands. Here the conversation dropped.
Mr. BURKE rose, and begged leave to call the attention of the House. He said he was aware how different it was to act from facts sufficiently substantiated, and from reports which might be either true or false. The matters he was now about to lay before the House, were of pressing importance, and he doubted not would be found, upon trial, to depend on the best authority. The business he undertook would lead him to mention some articles of information, which, in his opinion, demanded the most minute and immediate investigation. He knew not how far his services as an informer might be liked; it was a character for which he professed no great predilection; and if he might judge of the present from the past, it was not likely that the part he was to act was either an acceptable or a popular one: there was at least this presumption
against it, that it would really prove offensive, in proportion as it was found to be true. For the mode of judging with a certain class of men had of late been, not upon, but against evidence; not because convinced of its reality, but because it was convenient to see no reality in any thing which had the most distant semblance of reality from that quarter. Here was the great stumbling-block which had undone India, and which would ultimately undo England. A very large body of individuals were united and determined to protect the Company's servants from every sort of inquisition. This was the only way by which the guilty could be screened from justice- by which those who deserved, could escape punishment. A confederacy was formed, for the sole purpose of extolling the Indian government as a good one, and the governor as unimpeachable. The whole drift of this crooked policy was to keep the poor natives wholly out of sight. We might hear enough about what great and illustrious exploits were daily performing on that conspicuous theatre by Britons; but unless some dreadful catastrophe was to take place, unless some hero or heroine was to fall, unless the tragedy was to be a very deep and bloody one, we were never to hear of any native being an actor! No: the field was altogether engrossed by Englishmen; and those who were chiefly interested in the matter actually, excluded. The extraordinary circumstance, to which the world owed so many unexampled transactions, was no other than a belief, industriously propagated in India, that all the measures of the Company's servants were approved and confirmed by authority from home. This had been long held up to that unfortunate race of men as the radical principle of the Indian government: so that whether their English masters dealt in peculation, in oppression, in tyranny, or in murder, it was not to gratify their own unbounded avarice or ambition - it was not to render themselves independent of those who employed them to amass enormous fortunes, and to return to this country, and, in the face of all law and justice, blazon the infamous trophies of extortion and