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appealed He was prepared,
Board of Control was somewhat awkward. If ever he should sanction a measure repugnant to the principles he had formerly laid down, the House would be able to judge how far his conduct was justifiable, by any new circumstances that might have arisen, and if they could not be so justified, would have a right to charge him with inconsistency. He was prepared, however, to meet a very rigid inquisitor in the person of the right hon. gentleman, who no doubt would compare and put together every part of his conduct in such a manner as to render it as censurable as possible; but he comforted himself by reflecting, that the time might come when even that right hon. gentleman's acrimony would be meliorated, and those principles that he now so violently reprobated, become objects of his compassion, nay even of his panegyric. For, however irritable the right hon. gentleman was in his political character, it was well known that he was as easily pacified and reconciled. Mr. Dundas stated, that the Rohilla war was an unjustifiable measure, but it was not more so now than it had been nine years ago. Since the period that it occurred, an act of parliament had been passed re-appointing Mr. Hastings governor-general of Bengal. The statute, therefore, might be considered as a parliamentary pardon; and unless some fresh circumstances of an aggravating nature had recently come to light, he saw no reason for calling Mr. Hastings to account for a transaction which the House had so many years ago, tacitly and by implication, consented to pass over. He dwelt on the essential services Mr. Hastings had ren-lustrate it by one more. He wished to dered his country, in the latter periods of know whether the learned gentlemen the war, and spoke of him as the saviour would be satisfied by a law for removing of India. He reminded the House, that a every Scotchman, and the descendants of great variety of treaties with the native Scotchmen, back to the other side of the princes of India, had been negociated by Tweed-or whether he would be inclined Mr. Hastings, and concluded under his to consider it in that insignificant light, in auspices. He appealed, therefore, to the which he seemed to look upon the removal good sense of the House, whether his im- of the unfortunate Rohillas beyond the peachment might not at this time be at- Ganges. He could hardly have expected tended with consequences in India much to find such an opposition, and from such more alarming, than any advantage which a quarter, to his motion: but he was decould be expected to result from making termined to persevere to the utmost of his him an example of parliamentary ven- ability; and if the motion were negatived, geance, could compensate. As in 1782, in justice to himself, and to leave behind neither he nor any of the members of the him a record, that neither motives of party secret committee had an idea of subjecting nor private animosity, had governed his Mr. Hastings to a criminal proceeding, conduct, to move the several facts on there could be no reason for his adopting which it was founded, as truisms, in senew opinions, in compliment to the right parate resolutions, that they might remain hon. gentleman who moved the charge. on the Journals, for his justification.
Mr. Burke contended, that the resolu tions of 1782, upon the Journals, amply justified him: if they had not, he felt the situation in which the right hon. and learned gentleman's conduct would have placed him. He repelled the argument that Mr. Hastings's re-appointment in 1780, was a parliamentary pardon, and appealed to the common sense of every man, whether Mr. Hastings had pleaded that sort of pardon in bar of any farther proceeding? Had he not, on the contrary, appeared indignant, and proudly angry at what had passed? Had he not talked in the style of their master, more than as a culprit before them? Had he not vomited forth the proffered pardon in their faces, and boldly and loudly demanded reparation for his injured honour? The new board of control and its members, by rubbing against each other, just as the old Scotch proverb said, "the pigs love by ligging together," would generate affection, and become cordial friends, however adverse their ancient opinions, however hostile their former political sentiments. The right hon. gentleman had pretended to palliate the shameful barbarity of extirpating the Rohillas, by arguing, that only a part of them, and those strangers and intruders, had been removed; but the place where a man's ancestors had settled and fixed their residence, became, to all intents and purposes, his home, and it was as great an act of injustice to remove him from thence, as if it had been his by the most remote and ancient possession. His right hon. friend had instanced this by an example from Ireland, and he would il
At half past seven in the morning the committee divided, and the numbers were: For the motion, 67; Against it, 119.
called. When Mr. Hastings came over
The committee would, therefore, please particularly to carry in their mind, that Cheit Sing had been declared independent, on the express instance of Mr. Hastings,
Debate in the Commons on the Articles of Charge against Mr. Hastings-Benares Charge.] June 13. The order of the day for going into a Committee on the Charges against Warren Hastings, esq. having been read, the Speaker left the chair, and Mr. St. Andrew St. John took his seat at the table,
Mr. Fox then rose, and began a most able and eloquent speech with observing, that as something like censure had been cast on his right hon. friend (Mr. Burke), when the committee were last assembled, for having introduced a considerable deal of preliminary matter, generally allusive to the subject of the several charges, not then under immediate consideration, but, in his mind, extremely pertinent and extremely essential, and as he was convinced, that if censure could be at all deservedly imputed to his right hon. friend, on such an account, it might with much more foundation and propriety be imputed to him, were he to attempt to take up the time of the committee, with again going into the discussion of any topics not immediately connected with the subject to which he meant that day to call their attention; he therefore would make no preliminary observations whatever, but proceed directly to the matter upon which he meant to found the motion, which he should have the honour to offer to the committee, namely, to the third charge; to that relative to the conduct of Mr. Hastings respecting Benares. The committee, he trusted, as well from the preliminary remarks and arguments of his right hon. friend, as from what had passed within those walls, were so far familiar with the subject of all the charges, that he should find it no very difficult task to make them perfectly masters of the facts to which he meant to draw their attention. He would begin with the year 1770, in which Bulwant Sing, the prince, or zemin. dar of the province of Benares, died, and the presidency of Calcutta interfered, through the medium of captain Harper, to procure a confirmation of the succession to his son, Cheit Sing, and an agreement was entered into between that rajah and the vizier nabob of Oude, of whom he purchased, for valuable considerations, his right and inheritance in his zemindary, or by whatever other name it might be
that it was actually stipulated, that no more demands should be made upon him, besides his annual tribute; and that the stipulation might be the more clear and intelligible, the words of any kind' had been added. And yet, shortly after the deaths of sir John Clavering and Mr. Monson, Mr. Hastings, without any previous general communication with the > board, by a minute of consultation, made an extraordinary demand on the rajah of five lacks of rupees. Exorbitant, indeed, was this demand, and incompatible with the stipulated terms of the rajah's being declared independent in 1774! How were the words no more demands of any kind,' to be interpreted? And by what principle of construction was the meaning of the stipulation to be made to bear out this? The demand, however, was made, and the rajah murmured at it, and begged that he might be permitted to pay it by instalments, and with his quarterly payments; but Mr. Hastings peremptorily insisted on its being paid by a certain day, when it was accordingly paid, though on the express condition that the exaction should continue but for one year, and should not be drawn into precedent. Not withstanding this, the same demand was repeated a second year, and after some fruitless murmuring and complaint on the part of the rajah, paid; a third year a like demand was made, and in like manner satisfied. Various and extraordinary were the circumstances of vexation and despotism, under which these several demands were made, such as a threat at one time, to march the English Company's forces into the province of Benares to compel payment, &c.
Mr. Fox stated Mr. Hastings's defence of himself against these facts, and argued upon both the charge and the defence collectively and comparatively. He next spoke of the requisition for all the cavalry which Cheit Sing could spare; and observed, that general Clavering had by a minute recommended it to the rajah to keep up two thousand. From whence he inferred, that Cheit Sing was left at his discretion to keep up as many as he chose, and to send that number only which he could spare. Mr. Hastings, however, afterwards demanded, through his agent, Mr. Markham, two thousand, afterwards fifteen hundred, and, after that, he lowered the requisition to one thousand. But Cheit Sing sent word, that he had but thirteen hundred, and offered only five hundred,
declaring that he could spare no more, but same time in lieu of the remainder five hundred matchlock men. Upon this, Mr. Hastings said, in his defence, "My patience was exhausted by such repeated acts of contumacy"-an expression the absurdity of which might be unanswerably exemplified, by recapitulating the facts to which it applied. Mr. Hastings, after stipulating that no more demand of any kind than the annual tribute should be made upon the rajah, demanded first five lacks of rupees, which were paid, but with some murmuring; he next demanded five lacks more, which were also paid, though with some murmuring; he again demanded a third five lacks, and these again were paid. He then called for two thousand cavalry. Cheit Sing sent him word he had but thirteen hundred, and those distributed through his territories; that he could spare no more than 500, and those he should have. Would ever mortal have construed such conduct as this into contumacy but Mr. Hastings, who says, "his patience was exhausted by such repeated acts of contumacy;" and adds, that " he determined to convert them into an advantage for the Company's affairs."
Upon this monstrous determination, Mr. Fox reasoned with great warmth and energy, appealing to the committee whether they ever before heard of such an idea as punishing men, not for the great end of all punishment, example, but-in order to convert it into an advantage for his employers. Mr. Fox put this in various strong points of view, and having here impressed the several facts he had stated very forcibly on the minds of the committee, proceeded to mention Mr. Hastings's determination to levy a fine of forty or fifty lacks of rupees upon Cheit Sing for the imputed contumacy, and his journey to Benares for that purpose. He spoke of his conduct on his arrival in terms of severe reprobation, declaring, that his language and conduct to the rajah, was rude and insolent in the extreme. Soon after his arrival he caused Cheit Sing to be put under an arrest in his own palace, an instance of unparalleled indignity; for what would be thought of any tributary prince in Europe being arrested in his palace by the order of the sovereign paramount? Would not his authority be lost for ever? This whole proceeding provoked Mr. Fox's execration: he condemned and denied the right of Mr. Hastings to levy,
and fine; and contended that there was | tice of the fourth and fifth articles of the no ground for such an unwarrantable charge, which he said he should speak to stretch of power, since the conditions of shortly, considering them rather as matthe stipulation had been all complied with, ters of aggravation, superadded to the the rajah having continued faithful in his treatment of Cheit Sing, than as charges engagements and punctual in his pay- of much importance themselves. He then ments, and having paid due obedience to stated all the circumstances that took the authority of the British government. place at the castle of Bidgigur, and of the He ridiculed the three rights to fine the inducements to plunder, held out by Mr. subordinate princes that Mr. Hastings had, Hastings to the soldiery, descanting on in his defence, laid claim to. The first of the mischievous consequences of such a these was, he said, the right derived from practice; a doctrine for which he declared Sujah ul Dowlah of fining in case the Mint he had the authority of Mr. Hastings himwas abused; the second was that of im- self, who some years before had written a posing a fine for investing, upon every declaration, that "the very idea of prizenew possession of the zemindary. This, money suggested to his remembrance the Mr. Fox observed, was a miserable cavil, former disorders which arose in their army and a gross perversion of the word 'fine,' from that source, and had almost proved since nothing was more distinct and dif- fatal to it. Of this circumstance you must ferent than the meaning of it in the two be sufficiently apprized, and of the necessenses here mentioned. And the third right sity for discouraging every expectation of was, he declared, still more extraordinary. this kind amongst the troops, it is to be In 1764, Bulwant Sing, father of Cheit avoided like poison, &c." Having thus Sing departed from his loyalty, and joined proved how very contradictorily Mr. Meer Jaffier and the English, against Hastings had behaved in that respect, he Sujah ul Dowlah, when the latter, as Mr. mentioned the strange sort of affidavits Hastings stated in his defence, "would and depositions that were made for the probably have fined him," had not the purpose of imputing suspicions of disEnglish protected him and prevented it. loyalty and designs to rebel to Cheit Sing. One of these from a person deeply interested in the ruin of the Rajah, he read, to show the House that almost all the allegations it contained were on hearsay evidence only.
Mr. Fox diverted himself for some time with the idea of what Sujah ul Dowlah would probably have done, had not the English prevented him. He pressed also upon the Committee the declaration of Mr. Hastings, that according to the institutes of Jengheez Khawn or Tamerlane, the rights of the subject are nothing, while the power of the sovereign is every thing, and urged the injustice of such a despotic maxim with great energy. He next took notice of the inordinate vanity and presumption of Mr. Hastings in saying, that if Cheit Sing was a great prince, he as his sovereign was a great king. In order to shew the absurdity of this, he put the case thus: suppose that the emperor of Germany were to send an ambassador to the Elector of Hanover or the Elector of Brandenburgh, and he were to tell either of them, " if you are a great Elector, I am a great Emperor." Having pushed the ridicule to some extent, he returned to his narrative of what had happened at Benares, and stated all the facts of the ill treatment of the Rajah, subsequent to his having been put under an arrest, to the massacre of the British, and the escape of Cheit Sing.
Mr. Fox came at last to the fourth and fifth articles, and stated the appointment of Derbege Sing to act as representative of the abdicated Rajah, and his being soon afterwards deprived of his office, and thrown into prison, and the administration of affairs given to Jagher Deo Seo, who levied and collected the revenue with extraordinary severity, to the great oppression of the natives. He also read the celebrated letter to the Council at Calcutta, from Mr. Hastings at Lucknow, which was deemed so disgraceful to the British government; and he appealed to the common sense of the committee, if it was to be wondered at that Jagher Deo Seo should be rigorous in his collection of the revenue, when it was considered what an example Mr. Hastings had held out to him.
After having circumstantially gone through the whole, and applied a great deal of reasoning as he proceeded, in order to elucidate and enforce the criminality of the facts, he at length appealed to the
Mr. Fox, after having gone through the
whole of the facts, proceeded to take no-honour and justice of the House, to de
cide by their vote of that evening, whether they chose to be considered as the avengers of those oppressed by Mr. Has tings, or his accomplices? There was, he declared, no alternative. They must either appear as the one or as the other. He recollected the language that had been held in 1782, when that code of laws, the Resolutions, were voted, and when it had been well said by an hon. and learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Dundas), that Mr. Hastings scarcely ever left the walls of Calcutta, that his steps were not followed with the deposition of some prince, the desertion of some ally, or the depopulation of some country. How oddly, then, must have sounded in his ears, the arguments in justification of the Rohilla war, that had lately come from the bench on which the learned gentleman sat-arguments that appeared to him to be the voice of the directors and proprietors of old, defending those servants who had disobeyed their orders, and disgraced the British character by their rapine and injustice, but had taken care to make the Company sharers in the spoil, by remitting home the produce of their plunder in investments, so as to insure a good dividend to the proprietors.
There had been, he acknowledged, something like a colour for the vote the committee had come to respecting the Rohilla war; the extreme distance of the time at which it happened, the little information the House had of it till of late, the alleged important services of Mr. Hastings since, (though he maintained that they were neither meritorious nor services), and other causes and justifications; but there were none such to be urged against voting on the present occasion. The facts were all of them undeniable, and they were atrocious, and they were important; so much so, that upon the vote of that night, would, in his mind, the fate of Bengal depend. Happy was it for them that they could plead ignorance of East India affairs for so long a period. It was the best salvo for their honours, and could be advanced with confidence as an argument, that the individual servants of the Company alone had been guilty of all the enormities that had disgraced and disgusted Indostan ; but that they had neither participated in the guilt, nor approved of the principle upon which it had been carried on. The facts had
intelligible a point of view, that they had no longer their former plea to fly to for an excuse. They must do something; and they might rejoice that the happy hour was arrived when they might make the distinction manifest to all the world, between the enormities committed by individuals, and the sense of a British House of Commons, as to the system under which those enormities have been committed. From their vote that night, France and allEurope would learn what the system of government was that they chose to be carried on in India, and it would be proved whether they determined, upon sufficient proof of his guilt, to reprobate oppression and punish the oppressor. He never would be the advocate of despotism, but he had, he said, often heard it argued, that the happiness of a people was secure, where the despot's mind was virtuous. He never had heard it contended, that the most despotic had a right to use his power for the misery of those under him, and not for their happiness. He thanked his right hon. friend, therefore, for having brought the Charges forward. In one shape or other, they must have been subjected to discussion; and let the House in general decide as they thought proper, what had passed would prove, that there were Englishmen who did not avow those principles which had originated in the corrupt heart of a most corrupt individual; but that they set their faces against them, and execrated the conduct, which had been marked with the most gross oppression, inhumanity and injustice. Nor was it in his mind, Mr. Fox said, enough that the House should content itself with the punishment of an oppressor, it ought also to make atonement to the oppressed. He heartily wished, therefore, that all that had been taken from individuals could be restored; but as that, necessarily, could not be proceeded upon just at present, he should, till an opportunity offered, content himself with singling out an offender for justice.
Mr. Fox emphatically repeated, that they must appear either as the avengers of the oppressed, or the accomplices of their oppressor. He hoped they would not confess themselves the accomplices of Mr. Hastings, but would assume the nobler character. He added an infinite number of warm appeals to the feelings of the committee, and before he sat down, moved,
now been brought before them, and that" That this committee, having considered in so able, so clear, so comprehensive and the third Article of Charge of High Crimes [VOL. XXVI. ] [H]