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WARREN HASTINGS, ESQUIRE.
WEDNESDAY, 28TH MAY, 1794.
FIRST DAY OF REPLY.
My LORDS,—This business which has so long employed the public councils of this kingdom, so long employed the greatest and most august of its tribunals, now approaches to a close. The wreck and fragments of our cause (which has been dashed to pieces upon rules by which your lordships have thought fit to regulate its progress) await your final determination. Enough, however, of the matter is left to call for the most exemplary punishment, that any tribunal ever inflicted upon any criminal ; and yet, my lords, the prisoner, by the plan of his defence, demands not only an escape, but a triumph. It is not enough for him to be acquitted, the Commons of Great Britain must be condemned ; and your lordships must be the instruments of his glory, and of our disgrace. This is the issue upon which he has put this cause, and the issue upon which we are obliged to take it now, and to provide for it hereafter.
My lords, I confess that at this critical moment I feel myself oppressed with an anxiety, that no words can adequately express. The effect of all our labors, the result of all our
inquiries, is now to be ascertained. You, my lords, are now to determine, not only whether all these labors have been vain and fruitless, but whether we have abused so long the public patience of our country, and so long oppressed merit, instead of avenging crime. I confess I tremble, when I consider that your judgment is now going to be passed, not on the culprit at your bar, but upon the House of Commons itself, and upon the public justice of this kingdom, as represented in this great tribunal. It is not that culprit who is upon trial, it is the House of Commons that is upon its trial, it is the House of Lords that is upon its trial, it is the British nation that is upon its trial before all other nations, before the present generation, and before a long, long posterity.
My lords, I should be ashamed, if at this moment I attempted to use any sort of rhetorical blandishments whatever. Such artifices would neither be suitable to the body that I represent, to the cause which I sustain, or to my own individual disposition upon such an occasion. My lords, we know very well what these fallacious blandishments too frequently are. We know that they are used to captivate the benevolence of the court, and to conciliate the affections of the tribunal rather to the person than to the
We know that they are used to stifle the remonstrances of conscience in the judge, and to reconcile it to the violation of his duty. We likewise know, that they are too often used in great and important causes (and more particularly in causes like this) to reconcile the prosecutor to the powerful factions of a protected criminal, and to the injury of those who have suffered by his crimes ; thus inducing all parties to separate in a kind of good humor, as if they had nothing more than a verbal dispute to settle, or a slight quarrel over a table to compromise. All this may now be done at the expense of the persons whose cause we pretend to espouse. We may all part, my lords, with the most perfect complacency, and entire good humor towards one another; while nations, whole suffering nations, are left to
beat the empty air with cries of misery and anguish, and to cast forth to an offended heaven the imprecations of disappointment and despair.
One of the counsel for the prisoner (I think it was one who has comported himself in this cause with decency) has told your lordships, that we have come here on account of some doubts entertained in the House of Commons, concerning the conduct of the prisoner at your bar; that we shall be extremely delighted when his defence, and your lordships' judgment shall have set him free, and shall have discovered to us our error; that we shall then mutually congratulate one another, and that the Commons, and the managers who represent them here, will be the first to rejoice in so happy an event, and so fortunate a discovery.
Far, far from the Commons of Great Britain be all manner of real vice; but ten thousand times farther from them, as far as from pole to pole, be the whole tribe of false, spurious, affected, counterfeit, hypocritical virtues. These are the things which are ten times more at war with real virtue, these are the things which are ten times more at war with real duty, than any vice known by its name, and distinguished by its proper character.
My lords, far from us, I will add, be that false and affected candor, that is eternally in treaty with crime; that half virtue, which, like the ambiguous animal that flies about in the twilight of a compromise between day and night, is to a just man's eye an odious and disgusting thing. There is no middle point, in which the Commons of Great Britain can meet tyranny and oppression. No; we never shall (nor can we conceive that we ever should) pass from this bar, without indignation, without rage and despair, if the House of Commons should, upon such a defence as has here been made against such a charge as they have produced, be foiled, baffled, and defeated. No, my lords, we never could forget it; a long, lasting, deep, bitter memory of it would sink into our minds.
My lords, the Commons of Great Britain have no doubt upon this subject. We came hither to call for justice, not to solve a problem : and if justice be denied us, the accused is not acquitted, but the tribunal is condemned. We know, that this man is guilty of all the crimes which he stands accused of by us. We have not come here to you, in the rash heat of a day, with that fervor which sometimes prevails in popular assemblies, and frequently misleads them. No; if we have been guilty of error in this cause, it is a deliberate error; the fruit of long, laborious inquiry; an error founded on a procedure in parliament, before we came here; the most minute, the most circumstantial, and the most cautious, that ever was instituted. Instead of coming, as we did in Lord Strafforde’s case, and in some others, voting the impeachment, and bringing it up on the same day, this impeachment was voted from a general sense prevailing in the House of Mr. Hastings's criminality, after an investigation begun in the year 1780, and which produced, in 1782, a body of resolutions condemnatory of almost the whole of his conduct. Those resolutions were formed by the Lord Advocate of Scotland, and carried in our House by the unanimous consent of all parties. I mean the then Lord Advocate of Scotland, now one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state, and at the head of this very Indian department.
Afterwards, when this defendant came home in the year 1785, we reinstituted our inquiry. We instituted it, as your lordships and the world know, at his own request made to us by his agent then a member of our House. We entered into it at large; we deliberately moved for every paper, which promised information on the subject. These papers were not only produced on the part of the prosecution, as is the case before grand juries; but the friends of the prisoner produced every document, which they could produce for his justification. We called all the witnesses, which could enlighten us in the cause, and the friends of the prisoner likewise called every witness, that could possibly throw any light in his
favor. After all these long deliberations, we referred the whole to a committee. When it had gone through that committee, and we thought it in a fit state to be digested into these charges, we referred the matter to another committee, and the result of that long examination and the labor of these committees is the impeachment now at your bar.
If therefore we are defeated here, we cannot plead for ourselves, that we have done this from a sudden gust of passion, which sometimes agitates and sometimes misleads the most grave popular assemblies. No; it is either the fair result of twenty-two years deliberation that we bring before you; or what the prisoner says is just and true ;—that nothing but malice in the Commons of Great Britain could possibly produce such an accusation as the fruit of such an inquiry. My lords, we admit this statement, we are at issue upon this point, and we are now before your lordships, who are to determine whether this man has abused his power in India for fourteen years, or whether the Commons have abused their power of inquiry, made a mock of their inquisitorial authority, and turned it to purposes of private malice and revenge. We are not come here to compromise matters, we do not admit that our fame, our honors, nay, the very inquisitorial power of the House of Commons is gone, if this man be not guilty.
My lords, great and powerful as the House of Commons is, (and great and powerful I hope it always will remain,) yet we cannot be insensible to the effects produced by the introduction of forty millions of money into this country from India. We know, that the private fortunes which have been made there pervade this kingdom so universally, that there is not a single parish in it unoccupied by the partisans of the defendant. We should fear, that the faction which he has thus formed by the oppression of the people of India would be too strong for the House of Commons itself, with all its power and reputation, did we not know, that we have brought before you a cause which nothing can resist.
I shall now, my lords, proceed to state what has been al