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excruciate the sense should wound and lacerate the sentiments and affections of nature.
On the same principle, and for the same ends, virgins who had never seen the sun were dragged from the inmost sanctuaries of their houses.
Wives were torn from the arms of their husbands, and suffered the same flagitious wrongs, which were indeed hid in the bottoms of the dungeons, in which their honor and their liberty were buried together.
The women thus treated lost their caste. My Lords, we are not here to commend or blame the institutions and prejudices of a whole race of people, radicated in them by a long succession of ages, on which no reason or argument, on which no vicissitude of things, no mixture of men, or foreign conquests have been able to make the smallest impression. The aboriginal Gentoo inhabitants are all dispersed into tribes or caste, each caste born to have an invariable rank, rights, and descriptions of employment; so that one caste cannot by any means pass into another. With the Gentoos certain impurities or disgraces, though without any guilt of the party, infer loss of caste; and when the highest caste (that of the Brahmin, which is not only noble but sacred,) is lost, the person who loses it does not slide down into one lower but reputable — he is wholly driven from all honest society. All the relations of life are at once dissolved. His parents are no longer his parents, his wife is no longer his wife, his children, no longer his, are no longer to regard him as their father. It is something far worse than complete outlawry, complete attainder, and universal excommunication. It is a pollution even to touch him, and if he touches any of his old caste they are justified in putting him to death. Contagion, leprosy, plague are not so much shunned. No honest occupation can be followed. He becomes an Halichore, if (which is rare) he survives that miserable degradation.
Your lordships will not wonder that these monstrous and oppressive demands, exacted with such tortures, threw the whole provinco into despair. They abandoned their crops on the ground. The people in a body would have fled out of its confines; but bands of soldiers invested the avenues of the province, and making a line of circumvallation, drove back those wretches, who sought exile as a relief, into the prison of their pative soil. Not suffered to quit the
district, they fled to the many wild thickets which oppression had scattered through it, and sought amongst the jungles and dens of tigers a refuge from the tyranny of Warren Hastings. Not able long to exist here, pressed at once by wild beasts and famine, the same despair drove them back; and seeking their last resource in arms, the most quiet, the most passive, the most timid of the human race rose up in an universal insurrection, and (what will always happen in popular tumults) the effects of the fury of the people fell on the meaner and sometimes the reluctant instruments of the tyranny, whe in several places were massacred. The insurrection began in Rungpore, and soon spread its fire to the neighboring provinces, which had been harassed by the same person with the same oppressions. The English chief in that province had been the silent witness, most probably the abettor and accomplice of all these horrors. He called in first irregular and then regular troops, who, by dreadful and universal military execution, got the better of the impotent resistance of unarmed and undisciplined despair. I am tired with the detail of the cruelties of peace. I spare you those of a cruel and inhuman war, and of the executions which, without law or process, or even the shadow of authority, were ordered by the English revenue chief in that province.
The following is the peroration of Mr. Burke's wonderful effort on this great occasion.
In the name of the Commons of England, I charge all this villainy 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 bonds 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 his majesty. We have here the heir-apparent to the crown, such as the fond wishes of the people of England wish an heir-apparent to 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 honor, the honor of their ancestors and of their posterity to guard, and who will justify, as they always have 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 favor 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 ancient form, in its ancient 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 hates 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 Himself 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, 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,
I impeach Warren Hastings, Esq., of high crimes and misdemeanors.
I impeach him in the name of all the Commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, whose parliamentary trust he has betrayed.
I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, whose national character he has dishonored.
I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights, and liberties he has subverted, whose properties he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate.
I impeach him in the name and by virtue of those eternal laws of justice which he has violated.
I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly outraged, injured, and oppressed in both sexes, in every age, rank, situation, and condition of life.
In April, 1789, Burke delivered another speech against Hastings, in which ho opened the charge of having taken bribes from the native princes. On this occasion the orator spoke for several days, and as usual in a fine strain of eloquence. Much, however, of what he said related to the minute details of the Anglo-Indian government at that period, and therefore does not possess much interest for the readers of the present day.
At the close of the trial Burke spoke for nine days, and his oration on this occasion is said to have been one of the most splendid instances on record of combined industry and oratory. He ranged over all Hastings' defence, and thus concluded.
My lords, I have done ; the part of the Commons is concluded. With a trembling solicitude we consign this product of our long, long labors to your charge. Take it; take it. It is a sacred trust. Never before was a cause of such magnitude submitted to any human tribunal. My lords, your house yet stands; it stands as a great edifice; but let me say that it stands in the midst of ruins — in the midst of the ruins that have been made by the greatest moral earthquake that ever convulsed and shattered this globe of ours (the French Revolution). My lords, it has pleased Providence to place us in such a state, that we appear every moment to be upon the verge of some great mutations. There is one thing, and one thing only, which defies all mutations — that which existed before the world, and will survive the fabric of the world itself — I mean justice; that justice which, emanating from the Divinity, has a place in the breast of every one of us, given us for our guide with regard to ourselves and with regard to others, and which will stand, after this globe is burned to ashes, our advocate or our accuser before the great Judge, when he comes to call upon us for the tenor of a wellspent life. My lords, if you must fall, may you so fall; but if you stand -- and stand I trust you will, together with the fortune of this ancient monarchy, together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom - may you stand as unimpeached in honor as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, a security for virtue; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants ; may you stand the refuge of afflicted nations ; may you stand a sacred temple for the perpetual residence of an inviolable justice.