Burke was one of the greatest political thinkers whom England has produced, and all his writings, like his speeches, are characterised by the welding together of knowledge, thought, and feeling. Unlike most orators he is more successful as a writer than as a speaker. He rose too far above the heads of his audience, which the continued splendour of his declamation, his inordinate copiousness, and his excessive vehemence, often passing into fury, at length wearied, and even disgusted: but in his writings are found some of the grandest examples of a fervid and richly elaborated eloquence. Though he was never admitted to the Cabinet, he guided and influenced largely the policy of his party, while by his efforts in the direction of economy and order in administration at home, and on behalf of kindly and just government in India, as well as by his contributions to political philosophy, he laid his country and indeed the world under lasting obligations. This is volume twelve out of twelve of his works, this volume containing speeches in the impeachment of Warren Hastings.
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The Works of Edmund Burke
The Works of E. Burke Volume 12
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
SPEECHES IN THE IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, ESQUIRE, LATE GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF BENGAL.1
SPEECH IN GENERAL REPLY. (CONTINUED.) June, 1794.1
FIFTH DAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 1794.1
SIXTH DAY, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 1794.40
SEVENTH DAY. THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 1794.77
EIGHTH DAY: SATURDAY, JUNE 14, 1794.127
NINTH DAY: MONDAY, JUNE 16, 1794.182
My Lords,—We will now resume the consideration of the remaining part of our charge, and of the prisoner's attempts to defend himself against it.
Mr. Hastings, well knowing (what your Lordships must also by this time be perfectly satisfied was the case) that this unfortunate Nabob had no will of his own, draws down his poor victim to Chunar by an order to attend the Governor-General. If the Nabob ever wrote to Mr. Hastings, expressing a request or desire for this meeting, his letter was unquestionably dictated to him by the prisoner. We have laid a ground of direct proof before you, that the Nabob's being at Chunar, that his proceedings there, and that all his acts were so dictated, and consequently must be so construed.
I shall now proceed to lay before your Lordships the acts of oppression committed by Mr. Hastings through his two miserable instruments: the one, his passive instrument, the Nabob; the other, Mr. Middleton, his active instrument, in his subsequent plans for the entire destruction of that country. In page 513 of the printed Minutes you have Mr. Middleton's declaration of his promptitude to represent everything agreeably to Mr. Hastings's wishes.
"My dear Sir,—I have this day answered your public letter in the form you seemed to expect. I hope there is nothing in it that may to you appear too pointed. If you wish the matter to be otherwise understood than I have taken up and stated it, I need not say I shall be ready to conform to whatever you may prescribe, and to take upon myself any share of the blame of the hitherto non-performance of the stipulations made on behalf of the Nabob; though I do assure you I myself represented to his Excellency and the ministers, conceiving it to be your desire, that the apparent assumption of the reins of his government, (for in that light he undoubtedly considered it at the first view,) as specified in the agreement executed by him, was not meant to be fully and literally enforced, but that it was necessary you should have something to show on your side, as the Company were deprived of a benefit without a requital; and upon the faith of this assurance alone, I believe I may safely affirm, his Excellency's objections to signing the treaty were given up. If I have understood the matter wrong, or misconceived your design, I am truly sorry for it. However, it is not too late to correct the error; and I am ready to undertake, and, God willing, to carry through, whatever you may, on the receipt of my public letter, tell me is your final resolve.
"If you determine, at all events, that the measures of reducing the Nabob's army, &c., shall be immediately undertaken, I shall take it as a particular favor, if you will indulge me with a line at Fyzabad, that I may make the necessary previous arrangements with respect to the disposal of my family, which I would not wish to retain here, in the event either of a rupture with the Nabob, or the necessity of employing our forces on the reduction of his aumils and troops. This done, I can begin the work in three days after my return from Fyzabad."
Besides this letter, which I think is sufficiently clear upon the subject, there is also another much more clear upon your Lordships' minutes, much more distinct and much more pointed, expressive of his being resolved to make such representations of every matter as the Governor-General may wish. Now a man who is master of the manner in which facts are represented, and whose subsequent conduct is to be justified by such representations, is not simply accountable for his conduct; he is accountable for culpably attempting to form, on false premises, the judgment of others upon that conduct. This species of delinquency must therefore be added to the rest; and I wish your Lordships to carry generally in your minds, that there is not one single syllable of representation made by any of those parties, except where truth may happen to break out in spite of all the means of concealment, which is not to be considered as the representation of Mr. Hastings himself in justification of his own conduct.
The letter which I have just now read was written preparatory to the transaction which I am now going to state, called the treaty of Chunar. Having brought his miserable victim thither, he forced him to sign a paper called a treaty: but such was the fraud in every part of this treaty, that Mr. Middleton himself, who was the instrument and the chief agent in it, acknowledges that the Nabob was persuaded to sign it by the assurance given to him that it never was to be executed. Here, then, your Lordships have a prince first compelled to enter into a negotiation, and then induced to accede to a treaty by false assurances that it should not be executed, which he declares nothing but force should otherwise have compelled him to accede to.
The first circumstance in this transaction that I shall lay before your Lordships is that the treaty is declared to have for its objects two modes of relieving the Nabob from his distresses,—from distresses which we have stated, and which Mr. Hastings has not only fully admitted, but has himself proved in the clearest manner to your Lordships. The first was by taking away that wicked rabble, the British troops, represented by Mr. Hastings as totally ruinous to the Nabob's affairs, and particularly by removing that part of them which was called the new brigade. Another remedial part of the treaty regarded the British pensioners. It is in proof before your Lordships that Mr. Hastings agreed to recall from Oude that body of pensioners, whose conduct there is described in such strong terms as being ruinous to the Vizier and to all his affairs. These pensioners Mr. Hastings engaged to recall; but he never did recall them. We refer your Lordships to the evidence before you, in proof that these odious pensioners, so distressing to the Nabob, so ruinous to his affairs, and so disgraceful to our government, were not only not recalled by Mr. Hastings, but that, both afterwards, and upon the very day of signing the treaty, (as Mr. Middleton himself tells you,) upon that very day, I say, he recommended to the Nabob that these pensioners might remain upon that very establishment which, by a solemn treaty of his own making and his own dictating, he had agreed to relieve from this intolerable burden.
Mr. Hastings, your Lordships will remember, had departed from Benares, frustrated in his designs of extorting 500,000l. from the Rajah for the Company's use. He had ravaged the country, without obtaining any benefit for his masters: the British soldiers having divided the only spoil, and nothing remaining for the share of his employers but disgrace. He was therefore afraid to return without having something of a lucrative pecuniary nature to exhibit to the Company. Having this object in view, Oude appears to have first presented itself to his notice, as a country from which some advantage of a pecuniary kind might be derived; and accordingly he turned in his head a vast variety of stratagems for effecting his purpose.
The first article that occurs in the treaty of Chunar is a power given to the Nabob to resume all the jaghires not guarantied by the Company, and to give pensions to all those persons who should be removed from their jaghires.
Now the first thing which would naturally occur to a man, who was going to raise a revenue through the intervention of the prince of the country, would be to recommend to that prince a better economy in his affairs, and a rational and equal assessment upon his subjects, in order to furnish the amount of the demand which he was about to make upon him. I need not tell your Lordships, trained and formed as your minds are to the rules and orders of good government, that there is no way by which a prince can justly assess his subjects but by assessing them all in proportion to their respective abilities, and that, if a prince should make such a body as the House of Lords in this kingdom (which comes near the case I am going to state) separately the subject of assessment, such a thing would be contrary to all the principles of regular and just taxation in any country in the universe. Some men may possibly, by locality or privileges, be excepted from certain taxes, but no taxation ever can be just that is thrown upon some particular class only; and if that class happen to be small and the demand great, the injustice done is directly proportionable to the greatness of the exaction, and inversely to the number of the persons who are the objects of it: these are clear, irrefragable, and eternal principles. But if, instead of exacting a part by a proportionable rate, the prince should go further and attempt to shake the whole mass of property itself, a mass perhaps not much less than that which is possessed by the whole peers of Great Britain, by confiscating the whole of the estates at once, as a government resource, without the charge or pretence of any crime, I say that such an act would be oppressive, cruel, and wicked in the highest degree. Yet this is what Mr. Hastings projected, and actually did accomplish.
My Lords, at the treaty of Chunar, as it is called, Mr. Hastings (for he always artfully feels his way as he proceeds) first says, that the Nabob shall be permitted to do this act, if he pleases. He does not assume the government. He does not compel the Nabob to do anything. He does not force upon him this abandoned and wicked confiscation of the property of the whole nobility of a great country. All that he says is this,—"The Nabob may be permitted to resume these jaghires." Why permitted? If the act had been legal, proper, and justifiable, he did not want our permission; he was a sovereign in his own dominions. But Mr. Hastings recollected that some of these jaghires (as they are called, and on which I shall say a very few words to your Lordships) were guarantied by the Company. The jaghires of his own house, of his mother and grandmother, were guarantied by us. I must inform your Lordships, that, upon some of our other exactions at an earlier period, the Nabob had endeavored to levy a forced loan upon the jaghiredars. This forced loan was made and submitted to by those people upon a direct assurance of their rights in the jaghires, which right was guarantied by the British Resident, not only to the Begums, and to the whole family of the Nabob, but also to all the other objects of the tax.
Before I proceed, I will beg leave to state to you briefly the nature of these jaghires. The jaghiredars, the holders of jaghires, form the body of the principal Mahometan nobility. The great nobility of that country are divided into two parts. One part consists of the zemindars, who are the ancient proprietors of land, and the hereditary nobility of the country: these are mostly Gentoos. The Mahometans form the other part, whose whole interest in the land consists in the jaghires: for very few indeed of them are zemindars anywhere, in some of the provinces none of them are so; the whole of them are jaghiredars.
We have heard, my Lords, much discussion about jaghires. It is in proof before your Lordships that they are of two sorts: that a jaghire signifies exactly what the word fee does in the English language, or feodum in the barbarous Latin of the Feudists; that it is a word which signifies a salary or a maintenance, as did originally the English word fee, derived from the word feod and feodum. These jaghires, like other fees and like other feods, were given in land, as a maintenance: some with the condition of service, some without any condition; some were annexed to an office, some were granted as the support of a dignity, and none were granted for a less term than life, except those that were immediately annexed to a lease. We have shown your Lordships (and in this we have followed the example of Mr. Hastings) that some of them are fees granted actually in perpetuity; and in fact many of them are so granted. We are farther to tell your Lordships, that by the custom of the empire they are almost all grown, as the feods in Europe are grown, by use, into something which is at least virtually an inheritance. This is the state of the jaghires and jaghiredars.
Among these jaghires we find, what your Lordships would expect to find, an ample provision for all the nobility of that illustrious family of which the Nabob is the head: a prince whose family, both by father and mother, notwithstanding the slander of the prisoner against his benefactor, was undoubtedly of the first and most distinguished nobility of the Mahometan empire. Accordingly, his uncles, all his near relations, his mother, grandmother, all possessed jaghires, some of very long standing, and most of them not given by the Nabob.
I take some pains in explaining this business, because I trust your Lordships will have a strong feeling against any confiscation for the purpose of revenue. Believe me, my Lords, if there is anything which will root the present order of things out of Europe, it will begin, as we see it has already begun in a neighboring country, by confiscating, for the purposes of the state, grants made to classes of men, let them be held by what names or be supposed susceptible of what abuses soever. I will venture to say that Jacobinism never can strike a more deadly blow against property, rank, and dignity than your Lordships, if you were to acquit this man, would strike against your own dignity, and the very being of the society in which we live.
Your Lordships will find in your printed Minutes who the jaghiredars were, and what was the amount of their estates. The jaghires of which Mr. Hastings authorized the confiscation, or what he calls a resumption, appear from Mr. Purling's account, when first the forced loan was levied upon them under his Residentship, to amount to 285,000l. sterling per annum; which 285,000l., if rated and valued according to the different value of provisions and other necessaries of life in that country and in England, will amount, as near as may be, to about 600,000l. a year. I am within compass. Everybody conversant with India will say it is equivalent at least to 600,000l. a year in England; and what a blow such a confiscation as this would be on the fortunes of the peers of Great Britain your Lordships will judge. I like to see your estates as great as they are; I wish they were greater than they are; but whatever they are, I wish, above all that they should be perpetual. For dignity and property in this country, Esto perpetua shall be my prayer this day, and the last prayer of my life. The Commons, therefore, of Great Britain, those guardians of property, who will not suffer the monarch they love, the government which they adore, to levy one shilling upon the subject in any other way than the law and statutes of this kingdom prescribe, will not suffer, nor can they bear the idea, that any single class of people should be chosen to be the objects of a contrary conduct, nor that even the Nabob of Oude should be permitted to act upon such a flagitious principle. When an English governor has substituted a power of his own instead of the legal government of the country, as I have proved this man to have done, if he found the prince going to do an act which would shake the property of all the nobility of the country, he surely ought to raise his hand and say, "You shall not make my name your sanction for such an atrocious and abominable act as this confiscation would be."
Mr. Hastings, however, whilst he gives, with an urbanity for which he is so much praised, his consent to this confiscation, adds, there must be pensions secured for all persons losing their estates, who had the security of our guaranty. Your Lordships know that Mr. Hastings, by his guaranty, had secured their jaghires to the Nabob's own relations and family. One would have imagined, that, if the estates of those who were without any security were to be confiscated at his pleasure, those at least who were guarantied by the Company, such as the Begums of Oude and several of the principal nobility of the Nabob's family, would have been secure. He, indeed, says that pensions shall be given them; for at this time he had not got the length of violating, without shame or remorse, all the guaranties of the Company. "There shall," says he, "be pensions given." If pensions were to be given to the value of the estate, I ask, What has this violent act done? You shake the security of property, and, instead of suffering a man to gather his own profits with his own hands, you turn him into a pensioner upon the public treasury. I can conceive that such a measure will render these persons miserable dependants instead of independent nobility; but I cannot conceive what financial object can be answered by paying that in pension which you are to receive in revenue. This is directly contrary to financial economy. For when you stipulate to pay out of the treasury of government a certain pension, and take upon you the receipts of an estate, you adopt a measure by which government is almost sure of being a loser. You charge it with a certain fixed sum, and, even upon a supposition that under the management of the public the estate will be as productive as it was under the management of its private owner, (a thing highly improbable,) you take your chance of a reimbursement subject to all the extra expense, and to all the accidents that may happen to a public revenue. This confiscation could not, therefore, be justified as a measure of economy; it must have been designed merely for the sake of shaking and destroying the property of the country.
The whole transaction, my Lords, was an act of gross violence, ushered in by a gross fraud. It appears that no pensions were ever intended to be paid; and this you will naturally guess would be the event, when such a strange metamorphosis was to be made as that of turning a great landed interest into a pensionary payment. As it could answer no other purpose, so it could be intended for no other, than that of getting possession of these jaghires by fraud. This man, my Lords, cannot commit a robbery without indulging himself at the same time in the practice of his favorite arts of fraud and falsehood.
And here I must again remind your Lordships, that at the time of the treaty of Chunar the jaghires were held in the following manner. Of the 285,000l. a year which was to be confiscated, the old grants of Sujah Dowlah, [and?] the grandfather of the Nabob, amounted to near two thirds of the whole, as you will find in the paper to which we refer you. By this confiscation, therefore, the Nabob was authorized to resume grants of which he had not been the grantor.
[Mr. Burke here read the list of the jaghires.]
Now, my Lords, you see that all these estates, except 25,782l. a year, were either jaghires for the Nabob's own immediate family, settled by his father upon his mother, and by his father's father upon his grandmother, and upon Salar Jung, his uncle, or were the property of the most considerable nobility, to the gross amount of 285,000l. Mr. Hastings confesses that the Nabob reluctantly made the confiscation to the extent proposed. Why? "Because," says he, "the orderlies, namely, certain persons so called, subservient to his debaucheries, were persons whom he wished to spare." Now I am to show you that this man, whatever faults he may have in his private morals, (with which we have nothing at all to do,) has been slandered throughout by Mr. Hastings. Take his own account of the matter. "The Nabob," says he, "would have confiscated all the rest, except his orderlies, whom he would have spared; but I, finding where his partiality lay, compelled him to sacrifice the whole; for otherwise he would have sacrificed the good to save the bad: whereas," says Mr. Hastings, "in effect my principle was to sacrifice the good, and at the same time to punish the bad." Now compare the account he gives of the proceedings of Asoph ul Dowlah with his own. Asoph ul Dowlah, to save some unworthy persons who had jaghires, would, if left to his own discretion, have confiscated those only of the deserving; while Mr. Hastings, to effect the inclusion of the worthless in the confiscation, confiscates the jaghires of the innocent and the virtuous men of high rank, and of those who had all the ties of Nature to plead for the Nabob's forbearance, and reduced them to a state of dependency and degradation.
Now, supposing these two villanous plans, neither of which your Lordships can bear to hear the sound of, to stand equal in point of morality, let us see how they stand in point of calculation. The unexceptionable part of the 285,000l. amounted to 260,000l. a year; whereas, supposing every part of the new grants had been made to the most unworthy persons, it only amounted to 25,000l. a year. Therefore, by his own account, given to you and to the Company, upon this occasion he has confiscated 260,000l. a year, the property of innocent, if not of meritorious individuals, in order to punish by confiscation those who had 25,000l. a year only. This is the account he gives you himself of his honor, his justice, and his policy in these proceedings.
But, my Lords, he shall not escape so. It is in your minutes, that so far was the Nabob from wishing to save the new exceptionable grants, that, at the time of the forced loan I have mentioned, and also when the resumption was proposed, he was perfectly willing to give up every one of them, and desired only that his mother, his uncles, and his relations, with other individuals, the prime of the Mahometan nobility of that country, should be spared. Is it not enough that this poor Nabob, this wretched prince, is made a slave to the man now standing at your bar, that he is made by him a shame and a scandal to his family, his race, and his country, but he must be cruelly aspersed, and have faults and crimes attributed to him that do not belong to him? I know nothing of his private character and conduct: Mr. Hastings, who deals in scandalous anecdotes, knows them: but I take it upon the face of Mr. Purling's assertion, and I say, that the Nabob would have consented to an arbitrary taxation of the jaghires, and would have given up to absolute confiscation every man except those honorable persons I have mentioned.
The prisoner himself has called Mr. Wombwell to prove the names of those infamous persons with a partiality for whom Mr. Hastings has aspersed the Nabob, in order to lay the ground for the destruction of his family. They amount to only six in number; and when we come to examine these six, we find that their jaghires were perfectly contemptible. The list of the other jaghiredars, your Lordships see, fills up pages; and the amount of their incomes I have already stated. Your Lordships now see how inconsiderable, both in number and amount, were the culpable jaghires, in the destruction of which he has involved the greater number and the meritorious. You see that the Nabob never did propose any exemption of the former at any time; that this was a slander and a calumny on that unhappy man, in order to defend the violent acts of the prisoner, who has recourse to slander and calumny as a proper way to defend violence, outrage, and wrongs.
We have now gone through the first stage of Mr. Hastings's confiscation of the estates of these unhappy people. When it came to be put in execution, Mr. Middleton finds the Nabob reluctant in the greatest degree to make this sacrifice of his family and of all his nobility. It touched him in every way in which shame and sympathy can affect a man. He falls at the feet of Mr. Middleton; he says, "I signed the treaty of Chunar upon an assurance that it was never meant to be put in force." Mr. Middleton nevertheless proceeds; he sends the family of the Nabob out of the country; but he entertains fears of a general revolt as the consequence of this tyrannical act, and refers the case back to Mr. Hastings, who insists upon its being executed in its utmost extent. The Nabob again remonstrates in the strongest manner; he begs, he prays, he dissembles, he delays. One day he pretends to be willing to submit, the next he hangs back, just as the violence of Mr. Hastings or his own natural feelings and principles of justice dragged him one way or dragged him another. Mr. Middleton, trembling, and under the awe of that dreadful responsibility under which your Lordships may remember Mr. Hastings had expressly laid him upon that occasion, ventures at once to usurp the Nabob's government. He usurped it openly and avowedly. He declared that he himself would issue his purwannahs as governor of the country, for the purpose of executing this abominable confiscation. He assumed, I say, to himself the government of the country, and Mr. Hastings had armed him with a strong military force for that purpose; he declared he would order those troops to march for his support; he at last got this reluctant, struggling Nabob to consent in the manner we have described.
I shall now read to your Lordships Mr. Middleton's letters, that you may hear these men with their own mouths describing their own acts, and that your Lordships may then judge whether the highest tone and language of crimination comes up to their own description of their own proceedings.
"Lucknow, the 6th of Dec., 1781.
"Finding the Nabob wavering in his determination about the resumption of the jaghires, I this day, in presence of, and with the minister's concurrence, ordered the necessary purwannahs to be written to the several aumils for that purpose, and it was my firm resolution to have dispatched them this evening, with proper people to see them punctually and implicitly carried into execution; but before they were all transcribed, I received a message from the Nabob, who had been informed by the minister of the resolution I had taken, entreating that I would withhold the purwannahs till to-morrow morning, when he would attend me, and afford me satisfaction on this point. As the loss of a few hours in the dispatch of the purwannahs appeared of little moment, and as it is possible the Nabob, seeing that the business will at all events be done, may make it an act of his own, I have consented to indulge him in his request; but, be the result of our interview whatever it may, nothing shall prevent the orders being issued to-morrow, either by him or myself, with the concurrence of the ministers. Your pleasure respecting the Begums I have learnt from Sir Elijah, and the measure heretofore proposed will soon follow the resumption of the jaghires; from both, or, indeed, from the former alone, I have no doubt of the complete liquidation of the Company's balance."
"Lucknow, the 7th Dec., 1781.
"My dear Sir,—I had the honor to address you yesterday, informing you of the steps I had taken in regard to the resumption of the jaghires. This morning the Vizier came to me, according to his agreement, but seemingly without any intention or desire to yield me satisfaction on the subject under discussion; for, after a great deal of conversation, consisting on his part of trifling evasion and puerile excuses for withholding his assent to the measure, though at the same time professing the most implicit submission to your wishes, I found myself without any other resource than the one of employing that exclusive authority with which I consider your instructions to vest me. I therefore declared to the Nabob, in presence of the minister and Mr. Johnson, who I desired might bear witness of the conversation, that I construed his rejection of the measure proposed as a breach of his solemn promise to you, and an unwillingness to yield that assistance which was evidently in his power towards liquidating his heavy accumulated debt to the Company, and that I must in consequence determine, in my own justification, to issue immediately the purwannahs, which had only been withheld in the sanguine hope that he would be prevailed upon to make that his own act, which nothing but the most urgent necessity could force me to make mine. He left me without any reply, but afterwards sent for his minister, and authorized him to give me hopes that my requisition would be complied with; on which I expressed my satisfaction, but declared that I could admit of no further delays, and, unless I received his Excellency's formal acquiescence before the evening, I should then most assuredly issue my purwannahs: which I have accordingly done, not having had any assurances from his Excellency that could justify a further suspension. I shall as soon as possible inform you of the effect of the purwannahs, which in many parts I am apprehensive it will be found necessary to enforce with military aid; I am not, however, entirely without hopes that the Nabob, when he sees the inefficacy of further opposition, may alter his conduct, and prevent the confusion and disagreeable consequences which would be too likely to result from the prosecution of a measure of such importance without his concurrence. His Excellency talks of going to Fyzabad, for the purpose heretofore mentioned, in three or four days; I wish he may be serious in this intention, and you may rest assured I shall spare no pains to keep him to it."
"Lucknow, 28th December, 1781.
"If your new demand is to be insisted upon, which your letter seems to portend, I must beg your precise orders upon it; as, from the difficulties I have within these few days experienced in carrying the points you had enjoined with the Nabob, I have the best grounds for believing that he would consider it a direct breach of the late agreement, and totally reject the proposal as such; and I must own to you, that, in his present fermented state of mind, I could expect nothing less than despair and a declared rupture.
"He has by no means been yet able to furnish me with means of paying off the arrears due to the temporary brigade, to the stipulated term of its continuance in his service. The funds necessary for paying off and discharging his own military establishment under British officers, and his pension list, have been raised, on the private credit of Mr. Johnson and myself, from the shroffs of this place, to whom we are at this moment pledged for many lacs of rupees; and without such aid, which I freely and at all hazards yielded, because I conceived it was your anxious desire to relieve the Nabob as soon as possible of this heavy burden, the establishment must have been at his charge to this time, and probably for months to come, while his resources were strained to the utmost to furnish jaidads for its maintenance to this period. I therefore hesitate not to declare it utterly impossible for him, under any circumstances whatever, to provide funds for the payment of the troops you now propose to send him.
"The wresting Furruckabad, Kyraghur, and Fyzoola Khân's country from his government, (for in that light, my dear Sir, I can faithfully assure you, he views the measures adopted in respect to those countries,) together with the resumption of all the jaghires, so much against his inclination, have already brought the Nabob to a persuasion that nothing less than his destruction, or the annihilation of every shadow of his power, is meant; and all my labors to convince him to the contrary have proved abortive. A settled melancholy has seized him, and his health is reduced beyond conception; and I do most humbly believe that the march of four regiments of sepoys towards Lucknow, under whatever circumstances it might be represented, would be considered by him as a force ultimately to be used in securing his person. In short, my dear Sir, it is a matter of such immediate moment, and involving, apparently, such very serious and important consequences, that I have not only taken upon me to suspend the communication of it to the Nabob until I should be honored with your further commands, but have also ventured to write the inclosed letter to Colonel Morgan: liberties which I confidently trust you will excuse, when you consider that I can be actuated by no other motive than a zeal for the public service, and that, if, after all, you determine that the measure shall be insisted on, it will be only the loss of six or at most eight days in proposing it. But in the last event, I earnestly entreat your orders may be explicit and positive, that I may clearly know what lengths you would wish me to proceed in carrying them into execution. I again declare it is my firm belief, and assure yourself, my dear Mr. Hastings, I am not influenced in this declaration by any considerations but my public duty and my personal attachment to you, that the enforcing the measure you have proposed would be productive of an open rupture between us and the Nabob; nay, that the first necessary step towards carrying it into effect must be, on our part, a declaration of hostility."
Your Lordships have now before your eyes proofs, furnished by Mr. Hastings himself from his correspondence with Mr. Middleton, irrefragable proofs, that this Nabob, who is stated to have made the proposition himself, was dragged to the signature of it; and that the troops which are supposed, and fraudulently stated, (and I wish your Lordships particularly to observe this,) to have been sent to assist him in this measure, were considered by him as a body of troops sent to imprison him, and to free him from all the troubles and pains of government.
When Mr. Hastings sent the troops for the purpose, as he pretended, of assisting the Nabob in the execution of a measure which was really adopted in direct opposition to the wishes of that prince, what other conclusion could be drawn, but that they were sent to overawe, not to assist him? The march of alien troops into a country upon that occasion could have no object but hostility; they could have been sent with no other design but that of bringing disgrace upon the Nabob, by making him the instrument of his family's ruin, and of the destruction of his nobility. Your Lordships, therefore, will not wonder that this miserable man should have sunk into despair, and that he should have felt the weight of his oppression doubly aggravated by its coming from such a man as Mr. Hastings, and by its being enforced by such a man as Mr. Middleton.
And here I must press one observation upon your Lordships: I do not know a greater insult that can be offered to a man born to command than to find himself made the tool of a set of obscure men, come from an unknown country, without anything to distinguish them but an usurped power. Never shall I, out of compliment to any persons, because they happen to be my own countrymen, disguise my feelings, or renounce the dictates of Nature and of humanity. If we send out obscure people, unknowing and unknown, to exercise such acts as these, I must say it is a bitter aggravation of the victim's suffering. Oppression and robbery are at all times evils; but they are more bearable, when exercised by persons whom we have been habituated to regard with awe, and to whom mankind for ages have been accustomed to bow.
Now does the history of tyranny furnish, does the history of popular violence deposing kings furnish, anything like the dreadful deposition of this prince, and the cruel and abominable tyranny that has been exercised over him? Consider, too, my Lords, for what object all this was done. Was Mr. Hastings endeavoring, by his arbitrary interference and the use of his superior power, to screen a people from the usurpation and power of a tyrant,—from any strong and violent acts against property, against dignity, against nobility, against the freedom of his people? No: you see here a monarch deposed, in effect, by persons pretending to be his allies, and assigning what are pretended to be his wishes as the motive for using his usurped authority in the execution of these acts of violence against his own family and his subjects. You see him struggling against this violent prostitution of his authority. He refuses the sanction of his name, which before he had given up to Mr. Hastings to be used as he pleased, and only begs not to be made an instrument of wrong which his soul abhors, and which would make him infamous throughout the world. Mr. Middleton, however, assumes the sovereignty of the country. "I," he says, "am Nabob of Oude: the jaghires shall be confiscated: I have given my orders, and they shall be supported by a military force."
I am ashamed to have so far distrusted your Lordships' honorable and generous feelings as to have offered you, upon this occasion, any remarks which you must have run before me in making. Those feelings which you have, and ought to have, feelings born in the breasts of all men, and much more in men of your Lordships' elevated rank, render my remarks unnecessary. I need not, therefore, ask what you feel, when a foreign resident at a prince's court takes upon himself to force that prince to act the part of a tyrant, and, upon his resistance, openly and avowedly assumes the sovereignty of the country. You have it in proof that Mr. Middleton did this. He not only put his own name to the orders for this horrible confiscation, but he actually proceeded to dispossess the jaghiredars of their lands, and to send them out of the country. And whom does he send, in the place of this plundered body of nobility, to take possession of the country? Why, the usurers of Benares. Yes, my Lords, he immediately mortgages the whole country to the usurers of Benares, for the purpose of raising money upon it: giving it up to those bloodsuckers, dispossessed of that nobility, whose interest, whose duty, whose feelings, and whose habits made them the natural protectors of the people.
My Lords, we here see a body of usurers put into possession of all the estates of the nobility: let us now see if this act was necessary, even for the avowed purposes of its agents,—the relief of the Nabob's financial difficulties, and the payment of his debts to the Company. Mr. Middleton has told your Lordships that these jaghires would pay the Company's debt completely in two years. Then would it not have been better to have left these estates in the hands of their owners, and to have oppressed them in some moderate, decent way? Might they not have left the jaghiredars to raise the sums required by some settlement with the bankers of Benares, in which the repayment of the money within five or six years might have been secured, and the jaghiredars have had in the mean time something to subsist upon? Oh, no! these victims must have nothing to live upon. They must be turned out. And why? Mr. Hastings commands it.
Here I must come in aid of Mr. Middleton a little; for one cannot but pity the miserable instruments that have to act under Mr. Hastings. I do not mean to apologize for Mr. Middleton, but to pity the situation of persons who, being servants of the Company, were converted, by the usurpation of this man, into his subjects and his slaves. The mind of Mr. Middleton revolts. You see him reluctant to proceed. The Nabob begs a respite. You find in the Resident a willingness to comply. Even Mr. Middleton is placable. Mr. Hastings alone is obdurate. His resolution to rob and to destroy was not to be moved, and the estates of the whole Mahometan nobility of a great kingdom were confiscated in a moment. Your Lordships will observe that his orders to Mr. Middleton allow no forbearance. He writes thus to him.
"Sir,—My mind has been for some days suspended between two opposite impulses: one arising from the necessity of my return to Calcutta; the other, from the apprehension of my presence being more necessary and more urgently wanted at Lucknow. Your answer to this shall decide my choice.
"I have waited thus long in the hopes of hearing that some progress had been made in the execution of the plan which I concluded with the Nabob in September last. I do not find that any step towards it has been yet taken, though three months are elapsed, and little more than that period did appear to me requisite to have accomplished the most essential parts of it, and to have brought the whole into train. This tardiness, and the opposition prepared to the only decided act yet undertaken, have a bad appearance. I approve the Nabob's resolutions to deprive the Begums of their ill-employed treasures. In both services, it must be your care to prevent an abuse of the powers given to those that are employed in them. You yourself ought to be personally present. You must not allow any negotiation or forbearance, but must prosecute both services, until the Begums are at the entire mercy of the Nabob, their jaghires in the quiet possession of his aumils, and their wealth in such charge as may secure it against private embezzlement. You will have a force more than sufficient to effect both these purposes.
"The reformation of his army and the new settlement of his revenues are also points of immediate concern, and ought to be immediately concluded. Has anything been done in either?
"I now demand and require you most solemnly to answer me. Are you confident in your own ability to accomplish all these purposes, and the other points of my instructions? If you reply that you are, I will depart with a quiet and assured mind to the Presidency, but leave you a dreadful responsibility, if you disappoint me. If you tell me that you cannot rely upon your power, and the other means which you possess for performing these services, I will free you from the charge. I will proceed myself to Lucknow, and I will myself undertake them; and in that case, I desire that you will immediately order bearers to be stationed, for myself and two other gentlemen, between Lucknow and Allahabad, and I will set out from hence in three days after the receipt of your letter.
"I am sorry that I am under the necessity of writing in this pressing manner. I trust implicitly to your integrity, I am certain of your attachment to myself, and I know that your capacity is equal to any service; but I must express my doubts of your firmness and activity, and above all of your recollection of my instructions, and of their importance. My conduct in the late arrangements will be arraigned with all the rancor of disappointed rapacity, and my reputation and influence will suffer a mortal wound from the failure of them. They have already failed in a degree, since no part of them has yet taken place, but the removal of our forces from the Dooab and Rohilcund, and of the British officers and pensioners from the service of the Nabob, and the expenses of the former thrown without any compensation on the Company.
"I expect a supply of money equal to the discharge of all the Nabob's arrears, and am much disappointed and mortified that I am not now able to return with it.
"Give me an immediate answer to the question which I have herein proposed, that I may lose no more time in fruitless inaction."
About this time Mr. Hastings had received information of our inquiries in the House of Commons into his conduct; and this is the manner in which he prepares to meet them. "I must get money. I must carry with me that great excuse for everything, that salve for every sore, that expiation for every crime: let me provide that, all is well. You, Mr. Middleton, try your nerves: are you equal to these services? Examine yourself; see what is in you: are you man enough to come up to it?" says the great robber to the little robber, says Roland the Great to his puny accomplice. "Are you equal to it? Do you feel yourself a man? If not, send messengers and dawks to me, and I, the great master tyrant, will come myself, and put to shame all the paltry delegate tools of despotism, that have not edge enough to cut their way through and do the services I have ordained for them."
I have already stated to your Lordships his reason and motives for this violence, and they are such as aggravated his crime by attempting to implicate his country in it. He says he was afraid to go home without having provided for the payment of the Nabob's debt. Afraid of what? Was he afraid of coming before a British tribunal, and saying, "Through justice, through a regard for the rights of an allied sovereign, through a regard to the rights of his people, I have not got so much as I expected"? Of this no man could be afraid. The prisoner's fear had another origin. "I have failed," says he to himself, "in my first project. I went to Benares to rob; I have lost by my violence the fruits of that robbery. I must get the money somewhere, or I dare not appear before a British House of Commons, a British House of Lords, or any other tribunal in the kingdom; but let me get money enough, and they won't care how I get it. The estates of whole bodies of nobility may be confiscated; a people who had lived under their protection may be given up into the hands of foreign usurers: they will care for none of these things; they will suffer me to do all this, and to employ in it the force of British troops, whom I have described as a set of robbers, provided I can get money." These were Mr. Hastings's views; and, in accordance with them, the jaghires were all confiscated, the jaghiredars with their families were all turned out, the possessions delivered up to the usurer, in order that Mr. Hastings might have the excuse of money to plead at the bar of the House of Commons, and afterwards at the bar of the House of Lords. If your Lordships, in your sacred character of the first tribunal in the world, should by your judgment justify those proceedings, you will sanction the greatest wrongs that have been ever known in history.
But to proceed. The next thing to be asked is, Were the promised pensions given to the jaghiredars? I suppose your Lordships are not idle enough to put that question to us. No compensation, no consideration, was given or stipulated for them. If there had been any such thing, the prisoner could have proved it,—he would have proved it. The means were easy to him. But we have saved him the trouble of the attempt. We have proved the contrary, and, if called upon, we will show you the place where this is proved.
I have now shown your Lordships how Mr. Hastings, having with such violent and atrocious circumstances usurped the government of Oude, (I hope I need not use any farther proof that the Nabob was in effect non-existent in the country,) treated all the landed property. The next question will be, How has he treated whatever moneyed property was left in the country? My Lords, he looked over that immense waste of his own creating, not as Satan viewed the kingdoms of the world and saw the power and glory of them,—but he looked over the waste of Oude with a diabolical malice which one could hardly suppose existed in the prototype himself. He saw nowhere above-ground one single shilling that he could attach,—no, not one; every place had been ravaged; no money remained in sight. But possibly some might be buried in vaults, hid from the gripe of tyranny and rapacity. "It must be so," says he. "Where can I find it? how can I get at it? There is one illustrious family that is thought to have accumulated a vast body of treasures, through a course of three or four successive reigns. It does not appear openly; but we have good information that very great sums of money are bricked up and kept in vaults under ground, and secured under the guard and within the walls of a fortress": the residence of the females of the family, a guard, as your Lordships know, rendered doubly and trebly secure by the manners of the country, which make everything that is in the hands of women sacred. It is said that nothing is proof against gold,—that the strongest tower will not be impregnable, if Jupiter makes love in a golden shower. This Jupiter commences making love; but he does not come to the ladies with gold for their persons, he comes to their persons for their gold. This impetuous lover, Mr. Hastings, who is not to be stayed from the objects of his passion, would annihilate space and time between him and his beloved object, the jaghires of these ladies, had now, first, their treasure's affection.
Your Lordships have already had a peep behind the curtain, in the first orders sent to Mr. Middleton. In the treaty of Chunar you see a desire, obliquely expressed, to get the landed estates of all these great families. But even while he was meeting with such reluctance in the Nabob upon this point, and though he also met with some resistance upon the part even of Mr. Middleton, Mr. Hastings appears to have given him in charge some other still more obnoxious and dreadful acts. "While I was meditating," says Mr. Middleton, in one of his letters, "upon this [the resumption of the jaghires], your orders came to me through Sir Elijah Impey." What these orders were is left obscure in the letter: it is yet but as in a mist or cloud. But it is evident that Sir Elijah Impey did convey to him some project for getting at more wealth by some other service, which was not to supersede the first, but to be concurrent with that upon which Mr. Hastings had before given him such dreadful charges and had loaded him with such horrible responsibility. It could not have been anything but the seizure of the Begum's treasures. He thus goaded on two reluctant victims,—first the reluctant Nabob, then the reluctant Mr. Middleton,—forcing them with the bayonet behind them, and urging on the former, as at last appears, to violate the sanctity of his mother's house.
Your Lordships have been already told by one of my able fellow Managers, that Sir Elijah Impey is the person who carried up the message alluded to in Mr. Middleton's letter. We have charged it, as an aggravation of the offences of the prisoner at your bar, that the Chief-Justice, who, by the sacred nature of his office, and by the express provisions of the act of Parliament under which he was sent out to India to redress the wrongs of the natives, should be made an instrument for destroying the property, real and personal, of this people. When it first came to our knowledge that all this private intrigue for the destruction of these high women was carried on through the intrigue of a Chief-Justice, we felt such shame and such horror, both for the instrument and the principal, as I think it impossible to describe, or for anything but complete and perfect silence to express.
But by Sir Elijah Impey was that order carried up to seize and confiscate the treasures of the Begums. We know that neither the Company nor the Nabob had any claim whatever upon these treasures. On the contrary, we know that two treaties had been made for the protection of them. We know that the Nabob, while he was contesting about some elephants and carriages, and some other things that he said were in the hands of their steward, did allow that the treasures in the custody of his grandmother and of his mother's principal servants were their property. This is the Nabob who is now represented by Mr. Hastings and his counsel to have become the instrument of destroying his mother and grandmother, and everything else that ought to be dear to mankind, throughout the whole train of his family.
Mr. Hastings, having resolved to seize upon the treasures of the Begums, is at a loss for some pretence of justifying the act. His first justification of it is on grounds which all tyrants have ready at their hands. He begins to discover a legal title to that of which he wished to be the possessor, and on this title sets up a claim to these treasures. I say Mr. Hastings set up this claim, because by this time I suppose your Lordships will not bear to hear the Nabob's name on such an occasion. The prisoner pretended, that, by the Mahometan law, these goods did belong to the Nabob; but whether they did or did not, he had himself been an active instrument in the treaty for securing their possession to the Begums,—a security which he attempts to unlock by his constructions of the Mahometan law. Having set up this title, the guaranty still remained; and how is he to get rid of that? In his usual way. "You have rebelled, you have taken up arms against your own son," (for that is the pretext,) "and therefore my guaranty is gone, and your goods, whether you have a title to them or not, are to be confiscated for your rebellion." This is his second expedient by way of justification.
Your Lordships will observe the strange situation in which we are here placed. If the fact of the rebellion can be proved, the discussion of the title to the property in question will be totally useless; for, if the ladies had actually taken up arms to cut the Nabob's throat, it would require no person to come from the dead to prove to us that the Nabob, but not Mr. Hastings, had a right, for his own security and for his own indemnification, to take those treasures, which, whether they belonged to him or not, were employed in hostilities against him. The law of self-defence is above every other law; and if any persons draw the sword against you, violence on your part is justified, and you may use your sword to take from them that property by which they have been enabled to draw their sword against you.
But the prisoner's counsel do not trust to this justification; they set up a title of right to these treasures: but how entirely they have failed in their attempts to substantiate either the one or the other of these his alleged justifications your Lordships will now judge. And first with regard to the title. The treasure, they say, belonged to the state. The grandmother and mother have robbed the son, and kept him out of his rightful inheritance. They then produce the Hedaya to show you what proportion of the goods of a Mussulman, when he dies, goes to his family; and here, certainly, there is a question of law to be tried. But Mr. Hastings is a great eccentric genius, and has a course of proceeding of his own: he first seizes upon the property, and then produces some Mahometan writers to prove that it did not belong to the persons who were in possession of it. You would naturally expect, that, when he was going to seize upon those goods, he would have consulted his Chief-Justice, (for, as Sir Elijah Impey went with him, he might have consulted him,) and have thus learnt what was the Mahometan law: for, though Sir Elijah had not taken his degree at a Mahometan college, though he was not a mufti or a moulavy, yet he had always muftis and moulavies near him, and he might have consulted them. But Mr. Hastings does not even pretend that such consultations or conferences were ever had. If he ever consulted Sir Elijah Impey, where is the report of the case? When were the parties before him? Where are the opinions of the moulavies? Where is the judgment of the Chief-Justice? Was he fit for nothing but to be employed as a messenger, as a common tipstaff? Was he not fit to try these rights, or to decide upon them? He has told you here, indeed, negatively, that he did not know any title Mr. Hastings had to seize upon the property of the Begums, except upon his hypothesis of the rebellion. He was asked if he knew any other. He answered, No. It consequently appears that Mr. Hastings, though he had before him his doctors of all laws, who could unravel for him all the enigmas of all the laws in the world, and who had himself shone upon questions of Mahometan law, in the case of the Nuddea Begum, did not dare to put this case to Sir Elijah Impey, and ask what was his opinion concerning the rights of these people. He was tender, I suppose, of the reputation of the Chief-Justice. For Sir Elijah Impey, though a very good man to write a letter, or take an affidavit in a corner, or run on a message, to do the business of an under-sheriff, tipstaff, or bum-bailiff, was not fit to give an opinion on a question of Mahometan law.
You have heard Ali Ibrahim Khân referred to. This Mahometan lawyer was carried by Mr. Hastings up to Benares, to be a witness of the vast good he had done in that province, and was made Chief-Justice there. All, indeed, that we know of him, except the high character given of him by Mr. Hastings, is, I believe, that he is the Ali Ibrahim Khân whom in the Company's records I find mentioned as a person giving bribes upon some former occasion to Mr. Hastings; but whatever he was besides, he was a doctor of the Mahometan law, he was a mufti, and was made by Mr. Hastings the principal judge in a criminal court, exercising, as I believe, likewise a considerable civil jurisdiction, and therefore he was qualified as a lawyer; and Mr. Hastings cannot object to his qualifications either of integrity or of knowledge. This man was with him. Why did not he consult him upon this law? Why did he not make him out a case of John Doe and Richard Roe, of John Stokes and John à Nokes? Why not say, "Sinub possesses such things, under such and such circumstances: give me your opinion upon the legality of the possession"? No, he did no such thing.
Your Lordships, I am sure, will think it a little extraordinary, that neither this chief-justice made by himself, nor that other chief-justice whom he led about with him in a string,—the one an English chief-justice, with a Mahometan suit in his court, the other a Mahometan chief-justice of the country,—that neither of them was consulted as lawyers by the prisoner. Both of them were, indeed, otherwise employed by him. For we find Ali Ibrahim Khân employed in the same subservient capacity in which Sir Elijah Impey was,—in order, I suppose, to keep the law of England and the law of Mahomet upon a just par: for upon this equality Mr. Hastings always values himself. Neither of these two chief-justices, I say, was ever consulted, nor one opinion taken; but they were both employed in the correspondence and private execution of this abominable project, when the prisoner himself had not either leisure or perhaps courage to give his public order in it till things got to greater ripeness.
To Sir Elijah Impey, indeed, he did put a question; and, upon my word, it did not require an Œdipus or a Sphinx to answer it. Says he, "I asked Sir Elijah Impey." What? a question on the title between the Nabob and his mother? No such thing. He puts an hypothetical question. "Supposing," says he, "a rebellion to exist in that country; will the Nabob be justified in seizing the goods of the rebels?" That is a question decided in a moment; and I must have a malice to Sir Elijah Impey of which I am incapable, to deny the propriety of his answer. But observe, I pray you, my Lords, there is something peculiarly good and correct in it. He does not take upon him to say one word of the actual existence of a rebellion, though he was at the time in the country, and, if there had been any, he must have been a witness to it; but, so chaste was his character as a judge, that he would not touch upon the juries' office. "I am chief-justice here," says he, "though a little wandering out of my orbit; yet still the sacred office of justice is in me. Do you take upon you the fact; I find the law." Were it not for this sacred attention to separate jurisdictions, he might have been a tolerable judge of the fact,—just as good a judge as Mr. Hastings: for neither of them knew it any other way, as it appears afterwards, but by rumor and reports,—reports, I believe, of Mr. Hastings's own raising; for I do not know that Sir Elijah Impey had anything to do with them.
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