Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

the hand of God. The case of a general famine is known to relax the severity even of the most rigorous government. Mr. Hastings does not deny, or shew the least doubt of the fact. The representation is humble, and almost abject. On this representation from a great Prince, of the distress of his subjects, Mr. Hastings falls into a violent passion; such as (it seems) would be unjustifiable in any one who speaks of any part of his conduct. He declares, " that the demands, the tone in which they were asserted, and the season in which they were made, are all equally alarming, and appear to him to require an adequate degree of firmness in this board, in opposition to them."— He proceeds to deal out very unreserved language on the person and character of the Nabob, and his Ministers. He declares, that in a division between him and the Nabob, " the strongest must decide? With regard to the urgent and instant necessity, from the failure of the crops, he fays, " that perhaps expedients may be found for affording a gradual relief from the burden of which he so heavily complains, and it shall be my endeavour to seek them out:" And, lest he should be suspected of too much haste to alleviate sufferings, and to remove violence, he fays, "that these must be gradually applied; and their complete affect may be distant; and this, I conceive, is all he can claim of right."

This complete effect of his lenity is distant indeed. Rejecting this demand (as he calls the Nabob's abject supplication) he attributes it, as he usually does all things of the kind, to the division in their government; and fays, this is a powerful motive with me (however inclined I might be, upon any other occasion, to yield to some part of his demand) to give them an absolute and unconditional refusal upon the present; and even to bring to punishment, is >n^ influence can produce that tffect, those incendiaries who have endeavoured to make themselves the instruments of division between us."

Here, Sir, is much heat and passion; but no more consideration of the distress of the country, from a failure of the means of subsistence, and (if possible) the worse evil of art useless and licentious soldiery, than if they were the most contemptible of all trisles. A letter is written in consequence, in such a style of lofty despotism, as, I believe, has hitherto been unexampled and unheard of in the records of the East. The troops were continued. The gradual relief, whose effects Were to be so distant, has never been substantially and beneficially applied—and the country is ruined.

[graphic]

Mr. Hastings, two years after, when it was too late, saw the absolute necessity of a removal of the intolerable grievance of this licentious soldiery, which, under a pretence of defending it, held the country under military execution. A new treaty and arrangement, according to the pleasure of Mr. Hastings, took place; and this new treaty was broken in the old manner, in every essential article. The soldiery were again sent, and again let loose. The effect of all his manœuvres, from which it seems he was sanguine enough to entertain hopes, upon the state of the country, he himself informs us^ "the event has proved the reverse of these hopes, and accumulation of distress, debasement, and dissatisfaction to the Nabob, and disappointment and disgrace to me. Every measure (which he had himself proposed) had been so conducted as to give him cause of displeasure; there are no officers established by which , his affairs could be regularly Conducted; mean, incapable, and indigent men, have been appointed. A number of the districts without authority, and without the means of personal protection; some of them have been murdered by the Zemindars, and those Zemindars, instead of punishment, have been permitted to retain their Zemindaries, with independent authority; all the other Zemindars suffered to rise up in rebellion, and to insult the authority of the Sircar, without any attempt made to suppress them; and the Company's debt, instead of being discharged by the assignments and extraordinary sources of money provided for that purpose, is likely to exceed even the

Vol. I J. F amount amount at which it food at the time in which the arrangement with his Excelleney was concluded" The House will smile at the resource on which the Directors take credit as such a certainty in their curious account.

This is Mr. Hastings's own narrative of the effects of his own settlement. This is the state of the country, which we , have been told is in perfect peace and order; and, what is curious, he informs us, that every part of this was foretold to him -m the order and manner in which it happened, at the very time he made his arrangement of men and measures.

The invariable course of the Company's policy is this:— Either they set up some Prince too odious to maintain himself without the necessity of their assistance, or they soon render him odious, by making him the instrument of their government. In that cafe, troops are bountifully sent to him to maintain his authority. That he should have no want of assistance, a civil gentleman, called a Resident, is kept at his Court, who, under the pretence of providing duly for the' pay of these troops, get^ assignments on the revenue into his hands. Under this provincial management, debts soon accumulate; new assignments are made for these debts; until, step by step, the whole revenue, and with it the whole power of the country, is delivered into his hands. The military do not behold, without a virtuous emulation, the moderate gains of the civil department. They feel that, in a country driven to habitual rebellion by the civil government, the military is necessary; and they will not permit .their services to go unrewarded. Tracts of country are delivered over to their discretion. Then it is found proper to convert their commanding officers into farmers of revenue. Thus, between the well-paid civil, and well rewarded military establishment, the situation of the natives may be easily conjectured. The authority of the regular and lawful government is every where, and in every point, extinguished. Disorders and violences arise; they are repressed by other disorders and other violences.

Where

Wherever the collectors of the revenue, and the farming colonels and mojors, move, ruin is about them, rebellion before and behind them. The people in crowds fly out of the country; and the frontier is guarded by lines of troops, not to exclude an enemy, but to prevent the escape of the inhabitants.

By these means, in the course of not more than four or five years, this once-opulent and flourishing country, which, by the accounts given in the Bengal consultations, yielded more than three crores of Sicca rupees, that is, above three millions sterling, annually, is reduced, as far as I can discover, in a matter purposely involved in the utmost perplexity, to less than one million three hundred thousand pounds, and that exacted by every mode of rigour that can be deviled. To complete the business, most of the wretched remnants of this revenue are mortgaged, and delivered into the hands of the usurers at Benares, (for there alone are to be found some lingering remains of the ancient wealth of these regions) at an interest of near thirty per cent. per annum.

The revenues, in this manner, failing, they seized upon the estates of every person of eminence in the country, and, under the name of resumption, confiscated their property. I wish, Sir, to be understood universally and literally, when I assert, that there is not left one man of property and substance, for his rank, in the whole of these provinces; in provinces which are nearly the extent of England and Wales taken together. Not one landholder, not one banker, not one merchant, not one even of those who usually perish last, the ultimum mcriens in a Tuined state, no one farmer of revenue.

One country for a while remained, which stood as an island in the midst of the grand waste of the Company's dominion. My right honourable friend, in his admirable speech on moving the bill, just touched the situation, the offences, and the punishment, of a native prince, called Fizulla Khan. This man, by policy and force, had protected himself from the general ex

F 2. tirpatioa tirpation of the Rohilla chiefs. He was secured (if that wefft any security) by a treaty. It was stated to you, as it was stated by the enemies of that unfortunate man, "that the whole of his country is, what the whole country of the Rohillas was, cultivated like a garden, without one neglected spot in it." Another accuser says, "Fizulla Khan, though a bad soldier, (that is the true source of his misfortune) has approved himself a good aumil; having, it is supposed, in the course of a few years, at least doubled the population and revenue of his country." In another part of the correspondence he is charged with making his country an asylum for the oppressed peasants, who fly from the territories of Oud. The improvement of his revenue, arising from this single crime, (which Mr. Hastings considers as tantamount to treason) is stated at an hundred and fifty thousand pounds a year.

Dr. Swift somewhere says, that he who could make two1 blades of grafs grow where but one grew before, was a greater benefactor to the human race than all the politicians that ever existed. This prince, who would have been deified by antiquity, who would have been ranked with Osiris, and Bacchus, and Ceres, and the divinities most propitious to men, was, for those very merits, by name attacked by the Company's government} as a cheat, a robber, a traitor. In the fame breath in which he was accused as a rebel, he was ordered at dnee to furnish 5000 horse. On delay? or (according to the technical phrase, when any remonstrance is made to them) "on evasion? he was declared a violator of treaties, and'every thing he had was to be taken from him. Not one word, however, of horse in this treaty.

The territory of this Fizulla Khan, Mr. Speaker, is less than the county of Norfolk. It is an inland country, full seven hundred miles from any sea port, and not distinguished for any one considerable branch of manufacture whatsoever. From this territory a punctual payment was made to the British Resident of 150,000l. sterling a year. The demand

of

« AnteriorContinuar »