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all his offices, and turned out for reasons and principles which your Lordships will hereafter see; and at last the dewanny was entirely taken out of the native hands, and settled in the Supreme Council and Presidency itself in Calcutta ; and so it remained until the year 1781, when Mr. Hastings made another revolution, took it out of the hands of the Supreme Council, in which the orders of the Company, an act of Parliament, and their own act had vested it, and put it into a subordinate council: that is, it was entirely vested in himself.
Now your Lordships see the whole of the revolutions. I have stated them, I trust, with perspicuity,
stated the grounds and principles upon which they were made, - stated the abuses that grew upon them, -- and that every revolution produced its abuse. You saw the native government vanish by degrees, until it was reduced to a situation fit for nothing but to become a private perquisite, as it has been, to Mr. Hastings, and to be granted to whom he pleased. The English government succeeded, at the head of which Mr. Hastings was placed by an act of Parliament, having before held the office of President of the Council, — the express object of both these appointments being to redress grievances; and within these two periods of his power, as President and GovernorGeneral, were those crimes committed of which he now stands accused. All this history is merely by way of illustration : his crimination begins from his nomination to the Presidency; and we are to consider how he comported himself in that station, and in his office of Governor-General.
The first thing, in considering the merits or demer
its of any governor, is to have some test by which they are to be tried. And here, my Lords, we conceive, that, when a British governor is sent abroad, he is sent to pursue the good of the people as much as possible in the spirit of the laws of this country, which in all respects intend their conservation, their happiness, and their prosperity. This is the principle upon which Mr. Hastings was bound to govern, and upon which he is to account for his conduct here. His rule was, what a British governor, intrusted with the power of this country, was bound to do or to forbear. If he has performed and if he has abstained as he ought, dismiss him honorably acquitted from your bar; otherwise condemn him. He may resort to other principles and to other maxims; but this country will force him to be tried by its laws. The law of this country recognizes that well-known crime called misconduct in office; it is a head of the law of England, and, so far as inferior courts are competent to try it, may be tried in them. Here your Lordships' competence is plenary: you are fully competent both to inquire into and to punish the offence.
And, first, I am to state to your Lordships, by the direction of those whom I am bound to obey, the principles on which Mr. Hastings declares he has conducted his government, - principles which he has avowed, first in several letters written to the East India Company, next in a paper of defence delivered to the House of Commons explicitly, and more explicitly in his defence before your Lordships. Nothing in Mr. Hastings's proceedings is so curious as his several defences; and nothing in the defences is so singular as the principles upon which he proceeds. Your Lordships will have to decide not only upon a
large, connected, systematic train of misdemeanors, but an equally connected system of principles and maxims of government, invented to justify those misdemeanors. He has brought them forward and avowed them in the face of day. He has boldly and insultingly thrown them in the face of the representatives of a free people, and we cannot pass them by without adopting them. I am directed to protest against those grounds and principles upon which he frames his defence; for, if those grounds are good and valid, they carry off a great deal at least, if not entirely, the foundation of our charge.
My Lords, we contend that Mr. Hastings, as a British governor, ought to govern on British principles, not by British forms, - God forbid ! - for if ever there was a case in which the letter kills and the spirit gives life, it would be an attempt to introduce British forms and the substance of despotic principles together into any country. No! We call for that spirit of equity, that spirit of justice, that spirit of protection, that spirit of lenity, which ought to characterize every British subject in power; and on these, and these principles only, he will be tried.
But he has told your Lordships, in his defence, that actions in Asia do not bear the same moral qualities which the same actions would bear in Europe.
My Lords, we positively deny that principle. I am authorized and called upon to deny it. And having stated at large what he means by saying that the same actions have not the same qualities in Asia and in Europe, we are to let your Lordships know that these gentlemen have formed a plan of geographical morality, by which the duties of men, in public and in private situations, are not to be governed by their
relation to the great Governor of the Universe, or by their relation to mankind, but by climates, degrees of longitude, parallels, not of life, but of latitudes : as if, when you have crossed the equinoctial, all the virtues die, as they say some insects die when they cross the line; as if there were a kind of baptism, like that practised by seamen, by which they unbaptize themselves of all that they learned in Europe, and after which a new order and system of things commenced.
This geographical morality we do protest against; Mr. Hastings shall not screen himself under it; and on this point I hope and trust many words will not be necessary to satisfy your Lordships. But we think it necessary, in justification of ourselves, to declare that the laws of morality are the same everywhere, and that there is no action which would pass for an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery, and of oppression in England, that is not an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery, and oppression in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all the world over. This I contend for not in the technical forms of it, but I contend for it in the substance.
Mr. Hastings comes before your Lordships not as a British governor answering to a British tribunal, but as a subahdar, as a bashaw of three tails. He says, “I had an arbitrary power to exercise: I exercised it. Slaves I found the people: slaves they are, -- they are so by their constitution; and if they are, I did not make it for them. I was unfortunately bound to exercise this arbitrary power, and accordingly I did exercise it. It was disagreeable to me, but I did exercise it; and no other power can be exercised in that country.” This, if it be true, is a plea in bar.
But I trust and hope your Lordships will not judge by laws and institutions which you do not know, against those laws and institutions which you do know, and under whose power and authority Mr. Hastings went out to India. Can your Lordships patiently hear what we have heard with indignation enough, and what, if there were nothing else, would call these principles, as well as the actions which are justified on such principles, to your Lordships' bar, that it may be known whether the peers of England do not sympathize with the Commons in their detestation of such doctrine ? Think of an English governor tried before you as a British subject, and yet declaring that he governed on the principles of arbitrary power! His plea is, that he did govern there on arbitrary and despotic, and, as he supposes, Oriental principles. And as this plea is boldly avowed and maintained, and as, no doubt, all his conduct was perfectly correspondent to these principles, the principles and the conduct must be tried together.
Il your Lordships will now permit me, I will state one of the many places in which he has avowed these principles as the basis and foundation of all his conduct. “ The sovereignty which they assumed, it fell to my lot, very unexpectedly, to exert; and whether or not such power, or powers of that nature, were delegated to me by any provisions of any act of Parliament, I confess myself too little of a lawyer to pronounce. I only know that the acceptance of the sovereignty of Benares, &c., is not acknowledged or admitted by any act of Parliament; and yet, by the particular interference of the majority of the Council, the Company is clearly and indisputably seized of that sovereignty.” So that this gentleman, because