Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

The two parties assembled separately, and every thing was running fast into a confusion; which suspended government, and might very probably have ended in a civil war, had not the Judges of the Supreme Court, on a reference to them, settled the controversy, by deciding that the resignation was an invalid act, and that Mr. Hastings was still in the legal possession of his place, which had been actually filled up in England. It was extraordinary, that the nullity of this resignation should not have been discovered in England; where the Act authorizing the resignation then was; where the agent was personally present; where the witnesses were examined ; and where there was and could be no want of legal advice, either on the part of the Company or of the Crown. The Judges took no light matter upon them in superseding, and thereby condemning, the legality of His Majesty's appointment; for such it became by the royal approbation.

On this determination, such as it was, the division in the meeting, but not in the minds of the Council, ceased. General Clavering uniformly opposed the conduct of Mr. Hastings to the end of his life. But Mr. Hastings showed more temper under much greater provocations. In disclaiming his agent, and in effect accusing him of an imposture the most deeply injurious to his character and fortune, and of the grossest forgery to support it, he was 'so very mild and indulgent as'not to show any active

resentment

[ocr errors]

resentment against his unfaithful agent, nor to coniplain to the Court of Directors. It was expected in Bengal that some strong measures would have immediately been taken to preserve the just rights of the King and of the Court of Directors; as this proceeding, unaccompanied with the severest animadversion, manifestly struck a decisive blow at the existence of the most essential powers of both. But Your Committee do not find that any measures whatever, such as the case seemed to demand, were taken. The observations made by the Court of Directors on what they call “ these extraordinary transactionsare just and well applied. They conclude with a declaration, " that the measures, which it might be necessary for them to take, in .order to retrieve the honour of the Company, and " to prevent the like abuse from being practised in

future, should have their most serious and earliest consideration;" and with this declaration they appear to have closed the account, and to have dismissed the subject for ever.

A sanction was hereby given to all future defiance of every authority in this kingdom. Several other matters of complaint against Mr. Hastings, particularly the charge of peculation, fell to the ground at the same time. Opinions of Counsel had been taken, relative to a prosecution at law upon this charge, from the then Attorney and the then Solicitor General, and Mr. Dunning (now the

Lords

Lords Thurlow, Loughborough, and Ashburton] together with Mr. Adair [now Recorder of London.] None of them gave a positive opinion against the grounds of the prosecution. The Attorney-General doubted on the prudence of the proceedings, and censured (as it well deserved) the ill statement of the case.

Three of them, Mr. Wedderburn, Mr. Dunning, and Mr. Adair, were clear in favour of the prosecution. No prosecution however was had, and the Directors contented themselves with censuring and admonishing Mr. Hastings.

With regard to the Supreme Council, the members, who chose (for it was choice only) to attend to the orders, which were issued from the languishing Sauthority of the Directors, continued to receive unprofitable“ applauses and no support. Their corresspondence was always filled with complaints, the sjustice of which was always admitted by the Court of Directors; but this admission of the existence of the evil showed only the impotence of those, who - were to administer the remedy. The authority of the Court of Directors, resisted with success in so capital an instance as that of the resignation, 3 was not likely to be respected in any other. What influence it really had on the conduct of the Com

pany's servants may be collected from the facts, that followed it.

The disobedience of Mr. Hastings has of late not only become uniform and systematical in practice,

but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

but has been in principle also supported by him and by Mr. Barwell, late a member of the Supreme Council in Bengal, and now a member of this House.

In the Consultation of the 20th of July 1778, Mr. Barwell gives it as his solemn and deliberate opinion, that " while Mr. Hastings is in the Go

vernment, the respect and dignity of his station ” should be supported. In these sentiments I .“. must decline an acquiescence in any order, which “ has a tendency to bring the Governinent into dis

repute. As the Company have the means and power of forming their own Administration in * India, they may at pleasure place, whom they “ please at the head; but in my opinion they are “ not authorized to treat a person in that post with « indignity.

By treating them with indignity in the particular cases wherein they have declined obedience to orders) they must mean those orders, which imply a censure on any part of their conduct, a reversal of any of their proceedings, or, as Mr. Barwell expresses himself in words very significant, in any orders, that have a tendency to bring their Government into disrepute. The amplitude of this latter. description reserving to them the judgment of any orders, which have so much as that tendency, puts them in possession of a complete independence; an independence, including a despotick authority

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

over the subordinates and the country. The very means taken by the Directors for enforcing their authority becomes, on this principle, a cause of further disobedience. It is observable, that their principles of disobedience do not refer to

any

local consideration over-looked by the Directors, which might supersede their orders, or to any change of circumstances, which might render another course advisable, or even perhaps necessary; but it relates solely to their own interiour feelings in matters relative to themselves, and their opinion of their own dignity and reputation. It is plain, that they have wholly forgotten who they are, and what the nature of their office is. Mr. Hastings and Mr. Barwell are servants of the Company; and as such, by the duty inherent in that relation, as well as by their special covenants, were obliged to yield obedience to the orders of their masters. They have, as far as they were able, cancelled all the bonds of this relation, and all the sanctions of these covenants.

But in thus throwing off the authority of the Court of Directors, Mr. Hastings and Mr. Barwell have thrown off the authority of the whole Legis: lative power of Great Britain; for, by the Regulating Act of the Thirteenth of His Majesty, they are expressly " directed and required to pay due obe“ dience to all such orders as they shall receive «6 from the Court of Directors of the said United Company.” Such is the declaration of the Law.

But

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »