Imagens da página

nished for performing his share of a duty which is/equallyurgent on us all.

Add to this, that from the highest in place to the lowest, every British subject, Who, in obedience to the Company's orders, has been active in the discovery of peculations, has been ruined. They have been driven from India. When they made their appeal at home they were not heard. When they attempted to return they were stopped. No artifice of fraud, no violence at power, has been omitted, to destroy them in character as well as in fortune.

Worse, far worse, has been the fate of the poor creatures, the natives of India, whom the hypocrisy of the Company has betiayed into complaint of oppression, and discovery of peculation. The first women in Bengal, the Ranni of Rajeshahi, the Ranni of Burdwan, the Ranni of Amboa, by their weak and thoughtless trust in the Company's honour and protection, are utterly ruined: the first of these women, a person of princely rank, and once of correspondent fortune, who paid above two hundred thousand a year quit-rent to the State, is, according to very crediblein formation, so completely beggared as to stand in need of the relief of alms. Mahomed Reza Khan, the second Mussulman in Bengal, for having been distinguished by the ill-omened honour of the countenance and protection of the Court of Directors, was, without the pretence of any inquiry whatsoever into his condnct, stripped of all his employments, and reduced to the lowest condition. His ancient rival for power, the Rajah Nundcomar, was, by an insult on every thing which India holds respectable and sacred, hanged in the face of all his nation, by the judges you sent to protect that people; hanged for a pretended crime, upon an ex post facto British act of Parliament, in the midst of his evidence against Mr. Hastings. The accuser they saw hanged. The culprit, without acquittal or inquiry, triumphs on the ground of that murder j a murder not of Nundcomar only, but cf all living testimony, and even of evidence yet unborn. From that time, not a complaint has been heard from


the natives against the Governors. All the grievances of India have found a complete remedy.

Men will not look to acts of Parliament, to regulations, to votes, and resolutions. No; they are not such fools. They will ask, what is the road to power, credit, wealth, and honours? They will ask, what conduct ends in neglect, disgrace, poverty, exile, prison, and gibbet? These will teach them the course which they are to follow. It is your distribution of these that will give the character and tone to your government. All the rest is miserable grimace.

This, Sir,has been their conduct; and it has been the result of the alteration which was insensibly made in their constitution. The change was made insensibly; but it is now strong and adult, and as public and declared, as it is fixed beyond all power of reformation. So that there is none who hears me, that is not as certain as I am, that the Company, in the fense in. which it was formerly understood, has no existence. The question is, what injury you may do to the Proprietors of India stock; for there are no such men to be injured. If the active ruling part of the Company who form the general court, who fill the offices, and direct the measures (the rest tell for nothing) were persons who held their stock as a means of their subsistence, who in the part they took were only concerned in the government of India, for the rise or fall of their dividend, it would be indeed a defective plan of policy. The interest of the people who are governed by them would not be their primary object; perhaps a very small part of their consideration at all. But then they might well be depended on, and, perhaps, more than persons in other respects preferable, for preventing the peculations of their servants to their own prejudice. Such a body would not easily ha>e left their trade as a spoil to the avarice of those who received their wages. But. now things are totally reversed. The stock is of no value, whether it be the qualification of a Director or Proprietor; and it is impossible that it should. A Director's Qualification,

may tnay be worth about two thousand five hundred pounds—and the interest, at eight per cent. is about one hundred and sixtypounds a year. Of what value is that, whether it rife to ten, or fall to six, or to nothing, to him whose son, before he is m Bengal two months, and before he descends the steps of the Council Chamber, fells the grant of a single contract for forty thousand pounds? Accordingly the stock is bought up in qualifications. The vote is not to protect the stock, but the stock is bought to acquire the vote; and the end of the vote is to cover and support, against justice, some man of power who has made an obnoxious fortune in -India; or to maintain in power those who are actually employing it in the acquisition of 1-uch a fortune; and to avail themselves in return of his patronage, that he may shower the spoils of the East, "barbarie pearl and gold," on them, their families, and dependents. So that all the relations of the Company are not only changed, but inverted. The servants in India are not appointed by the Directors, but the Directors are chosen by them. The trade is carried on with their capitals. To them the revenues of the country are mortgaged. The feat of the supreme power Is in Calcutta. The house hi Leadenhall Street is nothing more than a change sor their agents, factors, and deputies, to meet in, to take care of their affairs, and support their interests; and this so avowedly, that we fee the known agents of the delinquent servants marshalling and disciplining their forces, and the prime spokesmen in all their assemblies.

I therefore conclude, what you all must conclude, that this body, being totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, is utterly incorrigible; and because they are incorrigible, both in conduct and constitution, power ought to be taken out of their hands; just on the fame principles on which have been made all the just changes and revolutions of government that kaye taken place since the beginning of the world.

Mr. Burke, Dec. i, 1783.


Ma. Speaker, I rise with the deepest anxiety to endeavour to prevent the farther progress of this bill; because* in my opinion, it destroys the ancient, establislied forms of all parliamentary proceedings in this House, violates the national faith, subverts every principle of justice and equity, and gives a mortal stab to this free Constitution. Sir, ths forms of proceeding in this House were wisely establislied by our ancestors, after the most mature deliberation, as a guard against surprise by any Ministers, and to give our constituents timely information of what was doing in Parliament, that the collected wisdom of the nation might be appealed to, and known, on every occasion of moment. This accounts for the flowness of our proceedings, compared with the mode of pasting bills in the other House of Parliament. Their Lordships have no constituents, whom it is a duty to consult. In the progress of this bill, the invariable rules and orders of the House have been set aside without the least shadow of necessity, almost without the slightest pretence; aud the bill continues to be hurried on with indecent haste. W hen the right honourable Secretary moved for leave to bring in a bill for the better regulation of the East-India Company, he stated the desperate condition of the Company's finances as the sole ground on which he stood. He represented it as a case of absolute and immediate necessity for the interposition of the Legislature. He expreslly disclaimed every other motive, although he invidiously went at large into every supposed delinquency of Mr. Hastings, and almost every other servant of the Company, for many years. He did not, indeed, in terms assert, that the Company were in a state of bankruptcy, but he declared, that they owed five millions more than they were able to pay, and went into a variety of accounts, without any attempt at the smallest proof of what he advanced, or calling for a singse paper, in so great a variety of matter. He pledged himself for the most scrupulous accuracy, yet, in. the very moment, forgot to give the Company credit for an immense slotting pto

V-ol. II. H perty,

[ocr errors]

perty, for all their stores, goods, and merchandises, in the ware houses at Calcutta, Bencoolen, Bombay, Fort St. George, and other factories in the East. An omission of this importance could not proceed from ignorance, where infinite pains were taken to examine into the most minute particulars; nor from carelessness, where no trace of a heedless inattention or forgetfulness was ever observed. It argued a total want of good faith, a deliberate resolution of taking the House by surprise, and it succeeded with a weary, puzzled, and embarrassed audience. Leave was given to bring in the bill.

Sir, I do not only complain of an omission of this magnitude on the credit side of this pretended account of the East-India Company's affairs, but likewise of the suppression of some interesting facts, which ought to have been brought forward, and placed in a full light. It appears by the printed accounts of the General State of the Affairs of the East-India Company, published by order of the General Court, " that the arrivals have been put so much out of their ordinary course, that only thirteen ships arrived in the season 1782, and eleven, in the season 1783, while forty-five are left to arrive in 1784, besides ten more, which are now abroad, and will be kept in India, so as to arrive in 1785, at the fame time with most of those now under dispatch from hence." Was it, Sir, consistent with candour or justice, to suppress facts of this moment, in a long and laboured investigation of every circumstance respecting the first commercial Company in the world.? The reason, however, is glaring. The property which these ships will bring home cannot fail of placing the. finances of -the Company on as solid a foundation as the most interested Proprietor could wish, or the most avaricious and grasping Minister desire; but, alas! it is a distant day, and the moment is pressing, big with the fate of Ministers. Needy dependents grow -importunate and clamorous, as being used not to give, but to take credit. Present plunder is preferred to suture golden dreams of all the treasures of the East, and with consummate ,. - prudence,.

« AnteriorContinuar »