Imagens da página

i t

deny. No immediate influence is to be given, but the nomination of the seven Commiinoners; the patronage of the East Indies has been in the hands of the Crown before; what great officer has been appointed, but by the advice and influence of Ministers? And ought they to have been otherwise? The only difference is, that before, the Court of Directors was a screen; and now they will themselves be responsible. I do not wish the Commissioners to be out of Parliament. I wish them to be like myself and my colleagues, constantly under the - eye and attack of the House. Whv order the new officers to give their reasons for what they have done? This regulation is questioned as being idle. It is not so—it is the character of despotic Governments to be dark—of popular Governments to have publicity—and I aver that it is their beauty and basis— Our judicial tribunals are bound to give their reasons. I certainly object to the plan of Mr. Dundas, because I cannot agree to give to a man, at the distance of half the globe, uncontroled power—even here it is dangerous; but not so much so, because it will be watched. The valuable jealousies of the country will be awake, and Parliament will be ready to crush its irregular acts. Some measure is admitted on all hands to be necessary; if the present is disapproved, those who disapprove of it are bound to propose a better. Perhaps it will be argued, that the distress of the Company is solely owing to the burdens and pressure of an expensive war, and that what has arisen from a specific misfortune ought not to be attributed to general misrule and mismanagemeqt. In proof that this is not true, I will read a letter from a person in a high and responsible situation in India, in 1772,—It is an extract, which, in the language of conviction, attributes all the disasters in India to a want of vigour in the principle of the system of its government, adopted and pursued by the Directors at home. The writer of the letter is not a favourite authority with me in all cafes; but his position carries wisdom in it, and his argument is founded on found policy. The other side of the

House, House, at least, I hope, will agree in this, when I inform them, that the writer of the letter is no other than Mr. Hastings himself. That the bill ought to pass, if it pasted at all, with the utmost dispatch, a variety of reasons concur to testify. The feeds of war are already sown in India; and a note left bySir Eyre Coote, a man whose memory deserves every possible praise on account of his gallant actions, afford alarming proof of it. The deceased leader of the troops in India wrote to the Governor of Madras, that the expence and the burdens incurred by the Company, in consequence of the late war, can only be recovered by a fresh war on Tippoo Saib. Let the House pause upon this; let them reflect on the last Gazette, the dispatches of which reached the India House, and filled the General Court with disappointment and dismay, in the very moment that an honourable gentleman, whose zealous ardour carries him generally too far, was loud in declaring that all was peace in India, and congratulating the Proprietors on the prosperous situation of their affairs. Let the House also learn from that Gazette, the pressing occasion for an immediate reform of the government of India. Let them see the cause of the disasters recorded in those direful dispatches—a quarrel among the officers on the common theme of quarrels in India, the division of the spoil, the disposal of the plunder taken from the natives! There are also additional causes to expect a war there, and to dread its communicating to the other quarters of the globe, if proper means to prevent it are not instantly resorted to. Every man must feel too for the alarming state of the civil government in India, in consequence of the dissensions between the different presidencies. I feel for Lord Macartney, for whom I have ever entertained the sincerest rc-spact. That noble Lord has proved himself the most obedient to direction from home, the purest in principle, and the most zealous in conduct, for the national honour, of any Governor ever sent to India; but who can fay that Lord Macartney has not been suspended? Nay, who can say that he is not at this instant < a prisoner,

a prisoner, or that he has not shared the fate of Lord Pigot? I consider suffering the Company to borrow more money, as, $n fact, lending them the security of Government for what <hey borrow, and that before I proceed that length, I hold myself bound to take every possible means to make the safety os the public, and the prosperity of the Company, go hand in hand together. I know that in doing so I put my own situation, as a Minister, to the hazard; but where upon a great national ground I can establish a measure at once salutary and useful, likely to rescue the natives of India from oppression, and save the country from disgrace, I little care how great the personal risques are that I am to encounter. The India regulating bill, which, however deficient in point of policy it. may be found, will not, I believe, be thought to be wanting in regard to numerous clauses, or shew that Ministers have not very fully applied themselves to the present situation of India. This bill, in almost every one of its clauses, restrains and lessens the exercise of the power of those who are to act under the authority of the bill now before the House. The two bills ought therefore to be considered as it were together, the regulations of the one tending to correct and temperate the other. To conclude, if I should fall in this, I shall fall in a great and glorious cause, struggling not only for the Company, but for the British and India people; for many, many millions of fouls! The separation of the sovereignty from the commerce, is a point which I think essential, and it is partly provided for in the bill; but in that and many other provisions, I should be happy to be assisted by the wisdom of the House in a Committee, to whicr^ I therefore hope they will go with me.

Mr. Fox, November 27, 1783.

The noble and learned Lord has not yet given any solution to my difficulties. I ssk the noble and learned Lord, [Lord Loughborough] if he can reconcile the principle of the present bill t6 the principles of the British constitution, admitting even, what we have as yet not the smallest cause to admit, that the necessity of an immediate interference by Parliament is apparent. The noble and learned Lord fills so high an office ia two of His Majesty's Courts, that I should naturally expect to see him the champion of our glorious constitution. It is not fitting that so great a character should muddle in the dirty pool of politics. The present East India bill means evidently to create a power whicb is unknown to the constitution, an itnperium in imperlo; but as I abhor tyranny in all itsshapes, IshalJ oppose most strenuously this strange attempt to destroy the true balance of our constitution. The present bill does not tend £.0 increase the influence of the Crown; but it tends to set up a power in the kingdom^ which may be used in opposition to the Crown, and to the destruction of the liberties of the people. I wish to see the Crown great and respectable; but if the present bill should pass, it will be no longer worthy of a man of honour to wear. The King will, in fact, take the diadem from his own head, and place it on the head of Mr. Fox. Your Lordships have heard much of the Ninth Report of the Select Committee. That extraordinary performance has been in (every body's hands. The ingenious author states, that "The East-India Company is in possession of a vast empire, with such a boundless patronage, civil, military, marine, commercial, and financial; in every department of which such fortunes have been made as could be made no where else." This, my Lords, js the true description of that vast and boundless patronage, which this bill means to throw into the hands of the Minister of the present day. I speak the language of the late Marquis of Rockingham, for whom I had the highest respect and regard, and to whom I have been much obliged, when I say, that every Minister of this country will naturally strengthen his party by increasing his friends, and disposing of every office of honour or of emolument amongst those who will support his measures: with this explanation of the system on which the present Ministers act, and, indeed, in which all ministers must act, let me conjure your Lordships to weigh well the consequences which will result to the constitution of this country, should the present bill pass into a law. By the fundamental principles of this constitution, the executive power of the state is placed in the hands of the Crown. We have heard much, my Lords, of late years, of the alarming increase of the influence of the Crown; I will candidly confess to your Lordships, that I have never seen the influence of the Crown too great. I wish to see the Crown great and respectable; and if the boundless patronage of the East must be taken from the Company; if regulations wisely adapted, and steadily enforced, will not be sufficient to remedy existing evils, let the boundless patronage of the East be placed, where only with safety to the constitution of this country it can be placed, in the hands of the executive Government. In the last year, we pasted an act to prevent contractors from sitting in Parliament; but by the present bill, Mr. Fox's contractors do not even vacate their feats. Such is the distinction between the Crown and a subject.

In the last year we passed an act to prevent custom-house officers from voting for members of Parliament, so cautious wtre we to preserve the purity of the House of Commons, and to diminish the influence of the Crown: but in defiance of every principle which was then professed, no jealousy is expressed of the man who is to have in his posieffion the boundless patronage of the East. The doctrine advanced by the noble and learned Lord is indeed extraordinary. He tells ybu, that the act of 1773 was an infringement of the charter of the East-India Company, but that his objection was, that it did not go far enough, and therefore he would totally destroy the charter. The noble and learned Lord will recollect the doctrine of the King's Attorney General, Sir Robert Sawyer, in the unconstitutional and infamous reign of Charles the Seconds as detailed to us in that ministerial Gazette, that receptacle of all true intelligence, Mr. WoodfalPs paper. Yet, my Lords, how was the doctrine of Sir Robert Sawyer reprobated by the

« AnteriorContinuar »