Page images

presuming to question either the right or duty of but it would be the surrender of the very princiThe Commons of Great Britain to impeach; nei- ple on which alone the liberty of the English ther am I arraigning the propriety of their se- press can stand ; and I shall never defend any lecting, as they have done, the most extraordina- man from a temporary imprisonment by the per. ry persons for ability which the age has produced, manent loss of my own liberty, and the ruin of to manage their impeachment. Much less am I my country. I mean, therefore, to submit to you: censuring the managers themselves, charged with that though you should find a few lines in page the conduct of it before the Lords, who are un- thirteen or twenty-one ; a few more in page fiftydoubtedly bound, by their duty to the House and one, and some others in other places; containing to the public, to expatiate upon the crimes of the expressions bearing on the House of Commons, persons whom they had accused. None of these even as a body, which, if written as independent points are questioned by me, nor are in this place paragraphs by themselves, would be indefensible

questionable. I only desire to have libels, yet, that you have a right to pass them Recapitulation.

it decided whether, if the Commons, over in judgment, provided the substance clearly when national expediency happens to call in their appears to be a bonâ fide conclusion, arising from judgment for an impeachment, shall, instead of the honest investigation of a subject which it keeping it on their own records, and carrying it was lawful to investigate, and the questionable with due solemnity to the Peers for trial, permit expressions, the visible effusion of a zealous temit, without censure and punishment, to be sold like per, engaged in an honorable and legal pursuit. a common newspaper in the shop of my client, After this preparation, I am not afraid to lay the so crowded with their own members that no plain book in its genuine state before you. man, without privilege of Parliament, can hope The pamphlet begins thus : “ The House of even for a sight of the fire in the winter's day, Commons has now given its final decis- Comments every man buying it, reading it, and commenting ion with regard to the merits and de- thereon. upon it—the gentleman himself who is the ob- merits of Mr. Hastings. The Grand Inquest of ject of it, or his friend in his absence, may not, England have delivered their charges, and prewithout stepping beyond the bounds of English ferred their impeachment; their allegations are freedom, put a copy of what is thus published into referred to proof; and, from the appeal to the his pocket, and send back to the very same shop collective wisdom and justice of the nation in for publication a bonâ fide, rational, able answer the supreme tribunal of the kingdom, the questo it, in order that the bane and antidote may tion comes to be determined, whether Mr. Hastcirculate together, and the public be kept straight ings be guilty or not guilty ?” till the day of decision. If you think, gentlemen, Now if, immediately after what I have just that this common duty of self-preservation to the read to you—which is the first part charged by accused himself, which nature writes as a law the information—the author had said, "Will acupon the hearts of even savages and brutes, is cusations, built on such a baseless fabric, preposnevertheless too high a privilege to be enjoyed by sess the public in favor of the impeachment ? an impeached and suffering Englishman; or if What credit can we give to multiplied and acyou think it beyond the offices of humanity and cumulated charges, when we find that they origjustice, when brought home to the hand of a inate from misrepresentation and falsehood ?” brother or a friend, you will say so by your ver- every man would have been justified in prodict of guilty; the decision will then be yours ; nouncing that he was attacking the House of and the consolation mine, that I have labored to Commons; because the groundless accusations avert it. A very small part of the misery which mentioned in the second sentence could have no will follow from it is likely to light upon me; reference but to the House itself mentioned by the rest will be divided among yourselves and your name in the first and only sentence which prechildren.

ceded it. Gentlemen, I observe plainly and with infinite But, gentlemen, to your astonishment I will

satisfaction, that you are shocked and now read what intervenes between these two examination of offended at my even supposing it passages. From this you will see, beyond a

possible you should pronounce such possibility of doubt, that the author never meant a detestable judgment; and that you only require to calumniate the House of Commons, but to of me to make out to your satisfaction, as I prom- say that the accusations of Mr. Hastings before ised, that the real scope and object of this book the whole House grew out of a Committee of is a bona fide defense of Mr. Hastings, and not a Secrecy established some years before, and was cloak and cover for scandal on the House of Com- afterward brought forward by the spleen of pri

I engage to do this, and I engage for vate enemies and a faction in the government. nothing more. I shall make an open, manly de. This will appear not only from the grammatical fense. I mean to torture no expressions from construction of the words, but from what is bettheir natural constructions, to dispute no innuen- ter than words, from the meaning which a perdoes on the record, should any of them have a son writing as a friend of Mr. Hastings must be fair application; nor to conceal from your notice supposed to have intended to convey. Why any unguarded, intemperate expressions, which should such a friend attack the House of Com. may, perhaps, be found to chequer the vigorous mons ? Will any man gravely tell me that the and animated career of the work. Such a con- House of Commons, as a body, ever wished to duct might, by accident, shelter the defendant; | impeach Mr. Hastings? Do we not all know

Transition to an

the pamphlet.



that they constantly hung back from it, and hard- | their being the authors of twenty volumes in soly knew where they were, or what to do when lio, which will remain a secret to all posterity, they found themselves entangled with it? My as nobody will ever read them. The same conlearned friend, the Attorney General, is a mem- struction is equally plain from what immediately ber of this Assembly: perhaps he may tell you follows : “ The report of the Committee of Secrety by-and-by what he thought of it, and whether he also states that the happiness of the native inhabever marked any disposition in the majority of itants of India has been deeply affected, their conthe Commons hostile to Mr. Hastings. But why fidence in English faith and lenity shaken and imshould I distress my friend by the question ? the paired, and the character of this nation wantonly fact is sufficiently notorious; and what I am go and wickedly degraded.” ing to read from the book itself — which is left Here, again, you are grossly misled by the out in the information - is too plain for contro- omission of nearly twenty-one pages. For the versy.

author, though he is here speaking of this com. "Whatever may be the event of the impeach- mittee by name, which brought forward the ment, the proper exercise of such power is a charges to the notice of the House, and which valuable privilege of the British Constitution, a he continues to do onward to the next selected formidable guardian of the public liberty and paragraph, yet, by arbitrarily sinking the whole the dignity of the nation. The only danger is, context, he is taken to be speaking to the House that, from the influence of faction, and the awe as a body, when, in the passage next charged by which is annexed to great names, they may be the information, he reproaches the accusers of Mr. prompted to determine before they inquire, and to Hastings; although, so far is he from considerpronounce judgment without examination." ing them as the House of Commons, that in the

Here is the clue to the whole pamphlet. The very same page he speaks of the articles as the author trusts to, and respects, the House of Com- charges not even of the committee, but of Mr. mons, but is afraid their mature and just exam- Burke alone, the most active and intelligent memination may be disturbed by faction. Now, does ber of that body, having been circulated in India he mean government by faction? Does he mean by a relation of that gentleman : “ The charges the majority of the Commons by faction ? Will of Mr. Burke have been carried to Calcutta, and the House, which is the prosecutor here, sanc- carefully circulated in India.” tion that application of the phrase; or will the Now if we were considering these passages Attorney General admit the majority to be the of the work as calumniating a body of gentlemen, true innuendo of faction? I wish he would ; 1 many of whom I must be supposed highly to reshould then have gained something at least by spect, or as reflecting upon my worthy friend this extraordinary debate. But I have no ex- whose name I have mentioned, it would give rise pectation of the sort; such a concession would to a totally different inquiry, which it is neither be too great a sacrifice to any prosecution, at a my duty nor yours to agitate. But surely, the time when every thing is considered as faction more that consideration obtrudes itself upon us, that disturbs the repose of the minister in Par- the more clearly it demonstrates that the author's liament. But, indeed, gentlemen, some things whole direction was against the individual aceusare too plain for argument. The author cer- ers of Mr. Hastings, and not against the House tainly means my friends, who, whatever qualifi- of Commons, which merely trusted to the matter cations may belong to them, must be contented they had collected. with the appellation of faction, while they op- Although, from a caution which my situation pose the minister in the House of Commons ; dictates, as representing another, I have thought but the House having given this meaning to the it my duty thus to point out to you the real inphrase of faction for its own purposes, can not tention of the author, as it appears by the fair in decency change the interpretation, in order to construction of the work, yet I protest, that in my convict my client. I take that to be beyond the own apprehension it is very immaterial whether privilege of Parliament.

he speaks of the committee or of the House, proThe same bearing upon individual members vided you shall think the whole volume a bona of the Commons, and not on the Commons as a fide defense of Mr. Hastings. This is the great body, is obvious throughout. Thus, alter saying, point I am, by all my observations, endeavoring in page ninth, that the East India Company had to establish, and which, I think, no man who reads thanked Mr. Hastings for his meritorious serv- the following short passages can doubt. Very inices—which is unquestionably true—he adds, telligent persons have, indeed, considered them, " that mankind would abide by their deliberate if founded in facts, to render every other amplidecision, rather than by the intemperate asser- fication unnecessary. The first of them is as tion of a committee.'

follows: “It was known at that time that Mr. This he writes after the impeachment was Hastings had not only descended from a public found by the Commons at large. But he takes to a private station, but that he was persecuted no account of their proceedings; imputing the whole to the original committee — that is, the In 1782, the committees having made their reports, Committee of Secrecy?—so called, I suppose, from the chairman of the Secret Committee, moved no

which were exceedingly voluminous, Mr. Dundas, ? The Secret Committee and the Select Commit. less than one hundred and eleven resolutions, and tee for inquiring into the general management of the concluded with a censure on the conduct of Warren state of affairs in India were first ppointed in 1781. | Hastings.

[ocr errors]

with accusations and impeachments. But none spoiler, with tears and imprecations. It was not of these suffering millions have sent their com- by the eloquence of the orator, but by the cries plaints to this country; not a sigh nor a groan and tears of the miserable, that Cicero prevailed has been wafted from India to Britain. On the in that illustrious cause. Verres fled from the contrary, testimonies the most honorable to the oaths of his accusers and their witnesses, and not character and merit of Mr. Hastings have been from the voice of Tully. To preserve the fame transmitted by those very princes whom he has of his eloquence, he composed his five celebrated been supposed to have loaded with the deepest speeches, but they were never delivered against injuries.'

the criminal, because he had fled from the city, Here, gentlemen, we must be permitted to appalled with the sight of the persecuted and the pause together a little ; for, in examining wheth- oppressed. It may be said that the cases of Sicer these pages were written as an honest answer ily and India are widely different; perhaps they to the charges of the Commons, or as a prosti- may be ; whether they are or not, is foreign to tuted defense of a notorious criminal, whom the my purpose. I am not bound to deny the possi. writer believed to be guilty, truth becomes ma- bility of answers to such questions; I am only terial at every step. For if, in any instance, he vindicating the right to ask them." be detected of a willful misrepresentation, he is Gentlemen, the author, in the other passage no longer an object of your attention.

which I marked out to your attention, goes on Will the Attorney General proceed, then, to thus : "Lord Cornwallis and Sir John Macpher

detect the hypocrisy of our author, by son, his successors in office, have given the same Hastings in giving us some details of the proofs voluntary tribute of approbation to his measures that of Verres. by which these personal enormities as Governor General of India. A letter from the have been established, and which the writer must former, dated the 10th of August, 1786, gives be supposed to have been acquainted with ? I the following account of our dominions in Asia : ask this as the defender of Mr. Stockdale, not of The native inhabitants of this kingdom are the Mr. Hastings, with whom I have no concern. I happiest and best protected subjects in India; our am sorry, indeed, to be so often obliged to repeat native allies and tributaries confide in our prothis protest; but I really feel myself embarrassed tection; the country powers are aspiring to the with those repeated coincidences of defense which friendship of the English ; and from the King of thicken on me as I advance, and which were, no | Tidore, toward New Guinea, to Timur Shah, on doubt, overlooked by the Commons when they di- the banks of the Indus, there is not a state that rected this interlocutory inquiry into his conduct has not lately given us proofs of confidence and I ask, then, as counsel for Mr. Stockdale, wheth- respect."" er, when a great state criminal is brought for Still pursuing the same test of sincerity, let us justice at an immense expense to the public, examine this defensive allegation. accused of the most oppressive cruelties, and Will the Attorney General say that he does charged with the robbery of princes and the de- not believe such a letter from Lord Cornwallis struction of nations, it is not open to any one to ever existed ? No: for he knows that it is as ask, Who are his accusers? What are the sour authentic as any document from India upon the ces and the authorities of these shocking com- table of the House of Commons. What, then, plaints ? Where are the embassadors or memo- is the letter ? “ The native inhabitants of this rials of those princes whose revenues he has kingdom, says Lord Cornwallis (writing from the plundered? Where are the witnesses for those very spot), are the happiest and best protected unhappy men in whose persons the rights of hu- subjects in India,” &c., &c., &c. The inhabitants manity have been violated ? How deeply buried of this kingdom! Of what kingdom? Of the is the blood of the innocent, that it does not rise very kingdom which Mr. Hastings has just reup in retributive judgment to confound the guilty! turned from governing for thirteen years, and for These, surely, are questions which, when a fel- the misgovernment and desolation of which he low-citizen is upon a long, painful, and expensive stands every day as a criminal, or rather as a trial, humanity has a right to propose ; which the spectacle, before us. This is matter for serious plain sense of the most unlettered man may be reflection, and fully entitles the author to put the expected to dictate, and which all history must question which immediately follows: "Does this provoke from the more enlightened. When Cic- authentic account of the administration of Mr. Ero impeached Verres before the great tribu- Hastings, and of the state of India, correspond nal of Rome, of similar cruelties and depredations with the gloomy picture of despotism and despair in her provinces, the Roman people were not left drawn by the Committee of Secrecy ?" to such inquiries. All Sicily surrounded the Fo- Had that picture been even drawn by the rum, demanding justice upon her plunderer and House of Commons itself, he would have been

Comparison of the case of


| Verres, as prætor and governor of Sicily, was 9 This passage was probably suggested by one in guilty of such extortion and oppression, that the Mr. Sheridan's speech on the Begum Charge (page Sicilian people brought an accusation against him 409), where he is showing the difficulties under in the Senate, and Cicero conducted the impeach- which the Managers labored in procuring their evi

Verres was defended by Hortensius, the dence. Nothing could be happier than Mr. Erskine's celebrated Roman orator ; but, aware of the justice application of the case of Verres to illastrate the of the accusation, he left Rome without waiting the point--nothing more vivid than his picture of the result.




fully justified in asking this question ; but you the rank of Zemindar. About four years after observe it has no bearing on it; the last words not the death of Bulwart Sing, the Governor General only entirely destroy that interpretation, but also and council of Bengal obtained the sovereignty the meaning of the very next passage, which is paramount of the province of Benares. On the selected by the information as criminal, namely, transfer of this sovereignty the governor and “What credit can we give to multiplied and ac- council proposed a new grant to Cheyte Sing, cumulated charges, when we find that they orig- confirming his former privileges, and conferring inate from misrepresentation and falsehood ?” upon him the addition of the sovereign rights of

This passage, which is charged as a libel on the Mint, and the powers of criminal justice with the Commons, when thus compared with its im- regard to life and death. He was then recog. mediate antecedent, can bear but one construc- nized by the Company as one of their Zemindars : tion. It is impossible to contend that it charges a tributary subject, or feudatory vassal, of the misrepresentation on the House that found the British empire in Hindostan. The feudal system, impeachment, but upon the Committee of Secre- which was formerly supposed to be peculiar to cy just before adverted to, who were supposed to our Gothic ancestors, has always prevailed in the have selected the matter, and brought it before East. In every description of that form of gov. the whole House for judgment.

ernment, notwithstanding accidental variations, I do not mean, as I have often told you, to vin- there are two associations expressed or underdicate any calumny on that honorable committee, stood; one for internal security, the other for ex or upon any individual of it, any more than upon ternal defense. The King or Nabob confers prothe Commons at large; BUT THE DEFENDANT is tection on the seudatory baron as tributary prince,

on condition of an annual revenue in the time of

peace, and of military service, partly commutaLet me here pause once more to ask you, ble for money, in the time of war. The feudal whether the book in its genuine state, as far as incidents in the Middle Ages in Europe, the fine we have advanced in it, makes the same impres- paid to the superior on marriage, wardship, relief, sion on your minds now as when it was first read &c., correspond to the annual tribute in Asia. to you in detached passages; and whether, if I Military service in war, and extraordinary aids were to tear off the first part of it which I hold in the event of extraordinary emergencies, were in my hand, and give it to you as an entire work, common to both." the first and last passages, which have been se- “When the Governor General of Bengal, in lected as libels on the Commons, would now ap- 1778, made an extraordinary demand on the pear to be so, when blended with the interjacent Zemindar of Benares for five lacks of rupees, parts? I do not ask your answer; I shall have the British empire, in that part of the world, it in your verdict. The question is only put to was surrounded with enemies which threatened direct your attention in pursuing the remainder its destruction. In 1779, a general confederacy of the volume to this main point-Is it AN HON- was formed among the great powers of HindosEST, SERIOUS DEFENSE ? For this purpose, and tan for the expulsion of the English from their as an example for all others, I will read the au- Asiatic dominions. At this crisis the expectation thor's entire answer to the first article of charge of a French armament augmented the general caconcerning Cheyte Sing, the Zemindar of Bena- lamities of the country. Mr. Hastings is charged res, and leave it to your impartial judgments to by the committee with making his first demand determine whether it be a mere cloak and cover under the false pretense that hostilities had comfor the slander imputed by the information to the menced with France. Such an insidious attempt concluding sentence of it, which is the only part to pervert a meritorious action into a crime is attacked ; or whether, on the contrary, that con- new, even in the history of impeachments. On clusion itself, when embodied with what goes the 7th of July, 1778, Mr. Hastings received before it, does not stand explained and justified ? private intelligence from an English merchant "The first article of impeachment," continues at Cairo, that war had been declared by Great

our author, “is concerning Cheyte Britain on the 23d of March, and by France on Cheste Sing. Sing, the Zemindar of Benares. Bul- the 30th of April. Upon this intelligence, conwart Sing, the father of this Rajah, was merely an sidered as authentic, it was determined to attack aumil, or farmer and collector of the revenues for all the French settlements in India. The informSujah ul Dowlah, Nabob of Oude, and Vizier of ation was afterward found to be premature ; but the Mogul empire. When, on the decease of his in the latter end of August a secret dispatch was father, Cheyte Sing was confirmed in the office received from England, authorizing and appointof collector for the Vizier, he paid £200,000 as ing Mr. Hastings to take the measures which he a gist, or nuzzeranah, and an additional rent of had already adopted in the preceding month. £30,000 per annum.”

The Directors and the Board of Control have “ As the father was no more than an aumil expressed their approbation of this transaction [agent), the son succeeded only to his rights and by liberally rewarding Mr. Baldwyn, the merpretensions. But by a sunnud (decree) granted chant, for sending the earliest intelligence he to him by the Nabob Sujah Dowlah in Septem- could procure to Bengal. It was two days after ber, 1773, through the influence of Mr. Hast- | Mr. Hastings's information of the French war, ings, he acquired a legal title to property in the that he formed the resolution of exacting the land, and was raised from the office of aumil to five lacks of rupees from Cheyte Sing, and would

Case of

have made similar exactions from all the depend- / who is brought to what he thinks a just conc!uencies of the company in India, had they been sion in argument, which, perhups, becomes oflunsin the same circumstances. The fact is, that ive in proportion to its truth. Truth is undoubtthe great Zemindars of Bengal pay as much to edly no warrant for writing what is reproachsul government as their lands can afford. Cheyte of any private man. If a member of society lives Sing's collections were above fisty lacks, and his within the law, then, if he offends, it is against rent not twenty-four."

God alone, and man has nothing to do with him; “ The right of calling for extraordinary aids and if he transgress the laws, the libeler should and military service in times of danger being arraign him before them, instead of presuming to universally established in India, as it was form- try him himself. But as to writings on general erly in Europe during the feudal times, the sub- subjects, which are not charged as an infringesequent conduct of Mr. Hastings is explained ment on the rights of individuals, but as of a seand vindicated. The Governor General and ditious tendency, it is far otherwise. When, in Council of Bengal having made a demand upon the progress either of legislation or of high naa tributary Zemindar for three successive years, tional justice in Parliament, they who are amenand that demand having been resisted by their able to no law are supposed to have adopted, vassal, they are justified in his punishment. The through mistake or error, a principle which, if necessities of the company, in consequence of drawn into precedent, might be dangerous to the the critical situation of their affairs in 1781, public, I shall not admit it to be a libel in the calling for a high fine—the ability of the Ze- course of a legal and bona fide publication, to mindar, who possessed near two crores of ru- state that such a principle had in fact been pees in money and jewels, to pay the sum re- adopted. The people of England are not to be quired—his backwardness to comply with the kept in the dark touching the proceedings of demands of his superiors—his disaffection to the their own representatives. Let us, therefore, English interest, and desire of revolt, which coolly examine this supposed offense, and see even then began to appear, and were afterward what it amounts to. conspicuous, fully justify Mr. Hastings in every First, was not the conduct of the right honor. subsequent step of his conduct. In the whole able gentleman, whose name is here mentioned, of his proceedings, it is manifest that he had not exactly what it is represented ? Will the Atearly formed a design hostile to the Zemindar, torney General, who was present in the House but was regulated by events which he could of Commons, say that it was not ? Did not the neither foresee nor control. When the necessa- minister vindicate Mr. Hastings in what he had ry measures which he had taken for supporting done, 10 and was not his consent to that article of the authority of the company, by punishing a the impeachment founded on the intention only refractory vassal, were thwarted and defeated of levying a fine on the Zemindar for the service by the barbarous massacre of the British troops, of the state, beyond the quantum which he, the and the rebellion of Cheyte Sing, the appeal was minister, thought reasonable? What else is this made to arms, an unavoidable revolution took but an impeachment of error in judgment in the place in Benares, and the Zemindar became the quantum of a fine ? author of his own destruction."

So much for the first part of the sentence, Here follows the concluding passage, which which, regarding Mr. Pitt only, is foreign to our is arraigned by the information :

purpose. And as to the last part of it, which "The decision of the House of Commons on imputes the sentiments of the minister to the this charge against Mr. Hastings is one of the majority that followed him with their votes on most singular to be met with in the annals of the question, that appears to me to be giving Parliament. The minister, who was followed handsome credit to the majority for having vot. by the majority, vindicated him in every thing ed from conviction, and not from courtesy to the that he had done, and found him blamable only for minister. To have supposed otherwise, I dare what he intended to do; justified every step of not say, would have been a more natural libel, his conduct, and only criminated his proposed but it would certainly have been a greater one. intention of converting the crimes of the Zemin. The sum and substance, therefore, of the paradar to the benefit of the state, by a fine of fifty graph is only this—that an impeachment for an lacks of rupees. An impeachment of error in error in judgment is not consistent with the thejudgment with regard to the quantum of a fine, ory or the practice of the English government. and for an intention that never was executed, So say I. I say, without reserve, speaking mereand never known to the offending party, charac- ly in the abstract, and not meaning to decide terizes a tribunal of inquisition rather than a upon the merits of Mr. Hastings's cause, that an court of Parliament."

impeachment for an error in judgment is contraGentlemen, I am ready to admit that this sen- ry to the whole spirit of English criminal justice, timent might have been expressed in language which, though not binding on the House of Commore reserved and guarded; but you will look mons, ought to be a guide to its proceedings. I to the sentiment itself, rather than to its dress— say that the extraordinary jurisdiction of impeachto the mind of the writer, and not to the blunt

10 Mr. Pitt expressed his opinion that, admitting ness with which he may happen to express it. the right of Mr. Hastings to tax the Zemindar, bis It is obviously the language of a warm man, en general conduct in the business had been unnecesgaged in the honest defense of his friend, and sarily severe.

« PreviousContinue »