Imatges de pÓgina
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pay it. He should therefore leave those points as proved and admitted, and come to the other circumstances which constituted the remainder, and, in his opinion, the best founded parts of the charge. In the first place he perceived himself under a very disagreeable necessity of adapting in some degree his sentiments on the subject of government to the principles of Indian politics. The principles were certainly not conformable to European ideas; but they were in a great measure the only ones on which an European could take upon himself to judge of the transactions and conduct of an Indian governor. They were the principles of arbitrary power and despotism. But though the constitution of our Eastern possessions were arbitrary and despotic, still it was the duty of every administration in that country to conduct itself by the rules of justice and of liberty, as far as it was possible to reconcile them to the established government. He did not care whether the laws of Tamerlane, or of any other Indian emperor, had laid down such a doctrine. It was enforced by a higher authority, by the dictates of nature and of common sense. And it was upon this ground that he felt it impossible to acquit Mr. Hastings of the whole of the charge brought against him; for he felt in his conscience that he had pushed the exercise of that arbitrary discretion, which, from the nature of the Eastern government, was intrusted to him, to a greater length than he was warranted to do by the necessity of the service: he was firmly persuaded, that Mr. Hastings had been influenced through the whole of his government by the warmest zeal for the interest of his employers; but that zeal, however commendable in itself, lost its merit when exerted in a manner repugnant to principles, which ought not to give way to any motives of interest or policy whatsoever. The council of Bengal having made a demand which they had a right to make, and that demand having been contumaciously resisted, they were certainly justifiable in inflicting a punishment on the delinquent party; for, to give the right of demanding without the power of punishing the refusal, would be absurd and nugatory in the extreme. But then it was their duty to apportion the punishment to the degree of guilt. This, he was sorry to say, Mr. Hastings, in his opinion, had not done; but the hon. gentleman who had taken so active a part in the whole of those proceedings was not him

tion which distinguished his conduct in every other part of this proceeding, was, in the present instance, more unfortunately for himself than for Mr. Hastings, somewhat off its guard. A fourth considera. tion was, admitting the right of calling for extraordinary aids to meet extraordinary emergencies, and that in which the Company stood, to have been such an emergency, each of which he was, for his own part, fully persuaded of whether in that case the sum demanded from Cheit Sing was greater than he could with ease and convenience have paid? He should not take upon himself to say, whether the governor and council had formed their calculation of the ability of the Rajah on proper information; but from the event it was evident, that the sum demanded from him was greatly within his power to have paid; for in the castle of Bidgigur was found, besides what possibly had been conveyed away privately, at least 23 lacks of rupees in specie, and jewels and other moveables to the value of a crore and a half of rupees, which was a million and a half of money. That the demand of 1,000 or even 1,500 cavalry was not enormous, nor beyond the power of the Rajah to comply with, was evident from the circumstances which took place afterwards on the insurrection in Benares, from whence it plainly appeared, that Cheit Sing had a force fully sufficient to enable him to spare the numbers on behalf of his sovereign and benefactors. If it were to be objected, that the only way in which a demand of extraordinary supplies could in justice be made on the Rajah, was in the shape of an aid in men instead of money,for that the former in every point of view was just and proper, no man could pretend to deny, it then was a sufficient answer to the objection, that the first proposal of council related only to a military aid, namely, three battalions of Sepoys; and that it was on the suggestion of Cheit Sing's vakeel, that the demand for money had been substituted in the place of men.

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Thus, he trusted, he had fairly made it out on grounds perfectly just and reasonable, that there was a right in the council of Bengal to make a demand on Cheit Sing for assistance and aid towards the defence of the Company's interests in Bengal, threatened as they were with a most dangerous combination of enemies, and also that the aid demanded was by no means extravagant when compared with the well-known ability of Cheit Sing to

self entirely free from blame, for he had given his countenance to a considerable part of Mr. Hastings's improper conducthe had admitted the principle that, whether the demand had been just or not, it ought, having been once made, to be rigorously enforced as far as his authority would go; he had, by an acquiescence, encouraged Mr. Hastings to the rash steps which he took in consequence of Cheit Sing's obstinacy; for he had subjoined to the resolution which Mr. Hastings had entered on the books of consultation, to march into the country of Benares, his signature to the following words: "I acquiesce, although I hope there will be no necessity to put the threat into execution." And from his conduct then, and that which he pursued on the present occasion, it afforded some suspicion, that even at the time when he might have exerted himself to prevent many improper steps from having been taken, he sat by, with a secret satisfaction, contemplating the errors of Mr. Hastings, as laying the foundation of future persecutions against him. The grounds of his opinion, that the conduct of Mr. Hastings, subsequent to the demand of the troops and money from Cheit Sing, was censurable, were, that the fine which he determined to levy was beyond all proportion exorbitant, unjust, and tyrannical; he should therefore, certainly, on the present charge, agree to the motion that had been made, not considering himself as being thereby committed to a final vote of impeachment, but only meaning to be un-lated for the private perusal of the council, derstood, that if, upon the whole of the and it was a well-known fact, and sufficharges, it should be his opinion, that anciently substantiated by evidence, that he impeachment ought to be preferred against had taken every precaution by issuing the him, that then this act of oppression was necessary orders to prevent any avoidable such as ought to be made one of the arti- licentiousness of the soldiery, and that cles of that impeachment, being in his the cruelties committed were only by a judgment a very high crime and misde- party of disobedient and mutinous followmeanor. In fining the Rajah 500,000l. ers of the camp. As to the subsequent for a mere delay to pay 50,000l. (which parts of the charge, the second and third 50,000l. he had actually paid) Mr. Hast- revolutions of Benares, as well as those ings had proceeded in an arbitrary, tyran- upon which he had last touched, he should nical manner, and was not guided by any say but a few words, as they had not been principle of reason and justice. This pro- much relied upon, except as matter of ağceeding destroyed all relation and con- gravation, but not as direct charge. On nexion between the degrees of guilt and the head of the last-mentioned article, the punishment; it was grinding; it was over- right hon. gentleman had attempted to bearing; and admitting the supposed point out a contrast between the different guilt of the Rajah in delaying to pay an parts of Mr. Hastings's conduct in having additional tribute demanded of hiin, the first deposed Cheit Sing for not paying a punishment was utterly disproportionate, certain sum of money, and afterwards deand shamefully exorbitant. In all this he posing Jagher Deo Sheo for using rigormeant to confine himself expressly to the ous modes of collection in order to enable exorbitancy of the fine, and not to the himself to comply with similar demands.

subsequent revolution of Benares, which was an event that, under all the circumstances, could not possibly have been avoided: for Cheit Sing having reluctantly obeyed in one instance (the payment of the money) the orders of the council, after making false and contumacious excuses-for certainly his pretence of inability was of that description-and having actually disobeyed the other part of their commands, the furnishing of a certain number of troops, the governor was unquestionably at liberty to impose a fine upon him, and to march into his country in order to enforce it; and the Rajah not being acquainted, from any overt-act, that the fine intended to be levied was exorbitant (the only unjust instance of the transaction), his taking up arms in order to escape from an arrest to which he had subjected himself by his own fault, and exciting an insurrection among his men to massacre the British forces, and afterwards withdrawing himself and going into open rebellion, were actions which could not be excused by any consideration of that with which he was not acquaintedthe exorbitancy of the fine. All these circumstances considered, his deposition of the Rajah was indispensably just and necessary, and did naturally follow from what had preceded it. As to his encouraging the troops to commit ravage and devastation, that could not have been the consequence of the letter to which it was imputed; for that letter was only calcu

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In both cases he was strictly right in his principles, for one rajah deserved to be punished for not paying what he was able to pay, and what he ought in duty to pay the other was equally culpable in not making a proper collection of the revenue; but laying it on in a partial and unfair manner, The sole remaining subject on which he had any thing to say at present, was the restoration of Cheit Sing to his possessions. Whatever ought to be done in that case, could not now fall properly under consideration in the one case by determining to restore him, it would create an unfair prejudice against a man accused; and in the other, by determining to withhold his possessions, it might possibly have a tendency the contrary way, and carry with it an approbation of an act, which was hereafter to become a subject of criminal inquiry-he should therefore, for the present, beg leave to withhold the communication of his opinion.

Mr. Dempster observed, that there was but one point in which he differed from the right hon. gentleman, and that was in his conclusion, that there was matter of impeachment in the charge. He reasoned on the customs of the East compared with the customs of Europe; and said, that great allowance ought to be made for the extreme difference between the two. He urged many arguments in support of the meritorious services of Mr. Hastings, terming him the saviour of our possessions in Hindoston, and declaring, that France, during the course of the last war, considered him to be of so much importance, that they rested all their hopes of success in India on the chance of his being recalled. In short, if the late governorgeneral deserved impeachment at all, it certainly was for that foolish disinterestedness which would not suffer him to bring home a larger fortune.

Lord Mulgrave could not agree with Mr. Pitt, that Mr. Hastings's having arrested Cheit Sing was a matter deserving of impeachment. It was the duty of a zemindar to comply with the requisition of the sovereign power for a contribution towards the exigencies of the state; and Cheit Sing appeared to be a very shuffling, evasive, bad man, whose conduct called for punishment.

Major Scott said, that after the ample justification which Mr. Pitt had entered into of every part of Mr. Hastings's conduct, except as to the quantum of the fine, it would be presumption to waste the [VOL. XXVI.]

time of the committee. The right hon. gentleman had proved, that Mr. Hastings had an undoubted right to require military aid from Cheit Sing, and that Cheit Sing was criminal in having declined to give it; but the right hon. gentleman had concluded by saying, that he was not so far criminal as to justify Mr. Hastings in imposing so large a fine as 40 or 50 lacks upon him, and therefore Mr. Hastings was culpable. Upon this subject he would offer a few words. Mr. Hastings left Calcutta in July 1781, at a time when the very existence of the British empire in India depended upon his exertions in Bengal. Sir Eyre Coote was then upon the coast of Coromandel, opposed to Hyder Ally: about 50 lacks of rupees had been sent to Madras between Oct. 1780 and July 1781; and every grain of rice for our army, and every rupee for its disbursements, sir Eyre had informed Mr. Hastings, must come from Bengal. Added to this, we had the Mahratta war to support; a French fleet had appeared off Madras in Feb. 1781, and returned much reinforced under Suffrein the next season. The conduct of Cheit Sing, by the right hon. gentleman's own account, was criminal, and Mr. Hastings had received intelligence of his disaffection, which formerly he had treated too slightly. But what was the crime of Mr. Hastings in the eye of the right hon. gentleman? It was merely this, stating it in the strongest, terms, that when our very existence as a nation in India depended upon his exertions, he, in 1781, formed a resolution in his own mind, subject to alteration however, that to relieve the distresses of the Company, and to preserve India to Great Britain, he would exact a large fine from a man, whom the right hon. gentleman allowed to be criminal, though Mr. Hastings's proposed punishment exceeded what he conceived to be the rajah's offence; and in this excess of zeal in his country's service, without a suspicion of his being actuated by a corrupt or malicious motive, the right hon. gentleman thought there was impeachable matter in the charge, and for this only, for he had most completely exculpated him from every other part of it. The major said, he could not suppress his astonishment, that that part of Mr. Hastings's conduct, which had most strongly evinced his zeal for the preservation of the empire committed to his charge, should have been selected as des serving of censure.

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Mr. Vansittart observed, that proper allowances ought to be made for the customs of the East Indies, where it was no uncommon thing for a zemindar to be arrested.

Mr. Grenville defended the conduct of Mr. Hastings, declaring, that, as an honest man, he could not vote for the resolution.

The Attorney General could not agree to go the length of an impeachment; and unless the present resolution was followed by an impeachment, he saw no use in voting it. If part of the speech of a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Fox) were true to the extent which he had carried it, Mr. Hastings, instead of deserving impeachment, would deserve a halter; but as he did not believe the argument in its extent, although he was free to own Mr. Hastings had gone a great way with his power, he could not consent to vote the present resolution, not being at all prepared to impeach.

Mr. Powys expressed his satisfaction at having heard so honourable and manly an argument from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A more fair and satisfactory one had scarcely ever been delivered within those walls. He could not, however, but lament, that the right hon. gentleman should be deserted by his friends, and that two of the ministers for India should have argued against the resolution. Mr. Powys said, the two ministers for India had virtually avowed that a political expediency sanctified injustice; a maxim to which he could not accede.

Lord Mulgrave declared, that the right hon. gentleman would not be fit to be minister of the country for a single day, if, upon a question of that nature, where the House were sitting as judges, he was to expect his friends were to sacrifice their opinions.

Mr. Pitt lamented that there should be any difference of opinion between him and his friends; but it was an honourable difference, not a difference about a principle, but about the application of a prínciple.

The committee divided: Yeas, 119; Noes, 79. The resolution was therefore carried.

Debate in the Commons on the Wine Excise Bill.] June 7. On the order of the day for taking into further consideration the report of the Wine Excise Bill,

Mr. Beaufoy said:-Sir, I rise to propose a clause of much importance, as I conceive, to the interests of the kingdom. The business before us involves in it two

perfectly distinct questions. The one is, how far is the idea of applying the excise laws to the collection of a revenue from wine, effectually reducible to practice? The other is, admitting the practicability, how far is the extension of the excise laws consistent with the regard we owe to the civil rights of the subject? The applicability of the excise system to the wine trade will be easily determined by a plain and obvious fact, which is, that the whole system of excise regulation is founded on this one principle the officer shall take an account of the trader's stock. From this principle it follows, that to all trades in which the process is such as to admit of an account of stock, and to those trades alone, the excise law may be effectually applied. Thus, for example, in the business of a brewer the excise system operates with entire force; for the nature of his trade is such that no addition or diminu

tion in his stock can easily be made without the knowledge of the officer. On the other hand, when the tax upon plate in the possession of private persons, was subjected, many years since, to the collection of the excise officers, the tax entirely failed; for as the exciseman had no right of surveying a private house, he had no possible means of knowing the stock of plate which any individual possessed. Judging, then, by this principle, that the applicability of the excise laws depends upon an account of stock, what shall we say to the proposal of subjecting to those laws the collection of the revenue from wine? Can the regulations of the present Bill, or can any regulations, enable the officers to keep a regular account of every increase or diminution of the trader's stock? My answer is, to keep such an account is difficult, but not impossible. The present Bill is far from being perfect; but though the provisions it contains will not enable the officer to keep so exact an account of stock as will exclude the possibility of fraud, yet it will narrow the extent of illicit dealing, and prescribe limits to the depredations which are committed on this important branch of the public revenue of the kingdom.

The next question that arises is, admitting the applicability of the excise system to the trade in wine, how far, consistently with the regard we owe to the civil rights of the subject, can we extend that system to a numerous description of persons not hitherto comprehended within its limits? To reason on this subject with

any degree of precision, it will be necessary to consider that the excise system is composed of two distinct parts, which have no necessary relation to each other. The one consists of rules for the collection of duties; the other of rules for judicial decisions. The first governs the proceedings of the officer in charging the impost; the last governs the proceedings of the court in the trial of offenders. Having stated this distinction, I have no hesitation in saying, that so far as the Bill proposes that the excise mode of levying the duty shall be applied to wine, its provisions are not inconsistent with a due regard to our ancient constitution, and to the civil rights of the subject; for, as the officer will have no admission to any other part of the trader's premises than that in which his wines are kept, and as that part of his premises in many instances is, and in all instances may be, separate, and even distant, from his own house, the repose of his private dwelling, the tranquillity of his home, will not be disturbed by the visits of the officer. That no inconvenience will attend the separation of the wine-cellar from the house of the wine-merchant, in those cases in which they are not separate at present, I do not pretend to say; but I assert that the inconvenience is not of that kind that trenches upon the constitution, and violates the rights of the subject. If, then, the present Bill was simply an application to a new object of that part of the excise system which directs the collection of the duties, I should say that it is not inconsistent with the laws and constitution of the country: but, Sir, the Bill contains other provisions which I own do excite my serious apprehension, and against the dangers of which I am persuaded the right hon. gentleman near me, will, upon reflection, think it necessary to guard. The provisions which I dread are those that subject the dealers in wine to that part of the excise law that relates to the trial of offences.

This is the part of the excise system which Blackstone reprobates as alien to the constitution, and abhorrent to the law of the land. For what is the course of its procedure? It is so summary, and is finished with such fearful dispatch, that a very few words are sufficient to describe it to the House. An exciseman, for the most part needy and necessitous, for his salary is less than a maintenance; an exciseman, who knows that the shortest road to wealth is that of accusation, since half

the penalties are his, informs the commissioners that an offence has been committed, and names the supposed offender. The commissioners immediately issue a summons to the accused, commanding him to appear before them, and to answer to the charge. Now in this summons three circumstances are very remarkable: the first is, that the summons does not specify the particulars of the charge, so that the accused, especially if innocent, knows not in what manner to prepare for his defence: the second is, that, contrary to the established custom of the King's courts, the summons gives the accused but three days notice of his trial, so that if he is absent from town, the summons will never reach him, and the first information he will have of the charge will probably be that judgment has been given against him for nonappearance, which the excise law construes as contempt; that a warrant of execution has been issued; and that the officers of justice are in possession of his house. The third circumstance is, that the summons may be left with his servant, or with his child, or in the key-hole of his street door; for the law expressly declares that the summons may be served in either of these ways; so that if the accused should be actually in town the summons may never reach him. Let us suppose, however, that fortune is his friend, and that he receives the summons. What is his situation when he attends the court? Uninformed of the particulars of the charge, he cannot be prepared for his defence. His accuser, on the other hand, comes with a charge matured by reflection, and guarded by every art that a personal interest in the event can possibly suggest. The accuser knows that if he can establish the charge, onehalf of the penalties incurred will be his; nor can it be thought surprising that urged by poverty on the one hand, and tempted by the prospect of wealth on the other, he swears with a determined mind. In this perilous situation, to whom shall the defendant turn for protection? Will the commissioners be counsel for the accused? Sir, the commissioners are appoipted by the Crown, are removable at the pleasure of the Crown, and are dependent for their salaries on the very revenue against the interests of which he is supposed to have offended; they are parties against the accused: how then shall he escape conviction? and if convicted, and penalties beyond his means, as may often be the case, should be imposed upon him, imprison

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