Изображения страниц

racter; and particularly by his forcing the Nabob to become the means and instrument of reducing his mother and grandmother and their families to absolute want and distress.

I have now to call your attention to his treatment of another branch of this miserable family; the women and children of the late Nabob Sujah ul Dowlalı. These persons were dependent upon the Begums; and, by the confiscation of their property, and by the ruin of various persons who would otherwise have contributed to their maintenance, were reduced to the last extremity of indigence and want. Being left without the common necessaries of life, they were driven to the necessity of breaking through all those local principles of decorum, which constitute the character of the female sex in that part of the world; and, after fruitless supplications and shrieks of famine, they endeavoured to break the inclosure of the palace, and to force their way to the market-place in order to beg for bread. When they had thus been forced to submit to the ex. tremity of disgrace and degradation, by exposing themselves to publick view with the starving children of their late sovereign the brothers and sisters of the reigning Prince, they were, in this attempt, attacked by the sepoys armed with bludgeons, and driven back by blows into the palace...



you the

My Lords, we have first laid before sufferings and disgraces of women of the first distinction in Asia ; protected by their rank-protected by their sex--protected by their near relation to the prince of the country--protected by two guarantees of the representative of the British government in India. We now come to another class of women, who suffered by the violent misappropriation of the revenųes of the Nabob, by which their regular allowance was taken from them; and your Lordships will find, that this man's crimes, at every step we take, ripen in guilt ; his acts of positive injustice are always aggravated by his conduct with regard to the consequences of them, and form but a small part in the mass of oppression and tyranný, which we have brought before you,

My Lords, the unjust seizure of the jaghires and treasures of the Begums, out", of which those women were maintained, reduced them to a state of indigence, and exposed them not only to the sufferings which belong to the physical nature of man, but also to the indignities which particularly affected their sex and condition. But before I proceed, I will beg leave to re-state to your Lordships, and recall to your memory who these women were. : The Nabob Sujah Dowlah had but one legitimate wife; though the Mabometan law admits of this number's being extended


in certain cases even 'to four-yet it is for the most part held disreputable, especially when à person is married to a woman of the first distinction, to have more than one legitimate wife. Upon looking into the Hedaia your Lórdships will see with what extreme rigour fornication is forbidden; but we know that persons of high rank, by customs that supersede both religion and laws, add to the number of their wives or substitute in their room wives of a subordinatė description, and indulge themselves in this licence to an unlimited degree, you will find in Chardin's travels, where he treats of the subject of marriage, that such is the custom of all the princes of the East. The wives of this subor. dinate class, though they are in reality no better than concubines, and are subject to the power and caprices of their lords, are yet allowed, in the eye of the severest moralists, to have some excuse for their frailty and their weakness; and they accordingly always do find a degree of favour in this world, and become the object of particular protection.

We know that Sujah ul Dowlah was á man üñquestionably in his mariners very licentious with regard to women, that he had a great number of these women in his family, and that his women and the women attendant upon the

persons of his favourites had increased to a very


great number. We know, that his sons amounted to twenty; or according to Mr. Hastings's own account to nineteen.

Montesquieu supposes that there are more females born in the East than in the West. But he says this upon no good ground. We know by better and more regular information concerning this matter, that the birth of males and females in that country, is in the same proportion' as it is here; and therefore if you suppose that he had twenty sons, you may suppose he had about nineteen daughters. By the customs of that country all these sons and daughters were considered as persons of eminent distinction, though inferiour to the legitimate children; assuming the rank of their father, without considering the rank which their mother held. All these wives with their children, and all their female servants, and attendants, amounting in the whole to abouť eight hundred persons, were shut up in what they call the Khourd Mhal or lesser Palace. This place is described by one of the witnesses to be about as large as St. James's Square. Your Lordships have been told, that in other circumstances as well as: this, these women were considered as objects of a great degree of respect, and of the greatest degree of protection. I refer your Lordships to the treaty by which their


[ocr errors]

maintenance was guaranteed by the English government. . In order to let your Lordships see that I state nothing to you but what is supported not only by general history, which is enough to support an acccount of general manners, but by the particular and peculiar opinions of a person best. informed of the nature of the case; I will refer you to the Nabob himself, for undoubtedly the Nabob of Oudė, the Vizier of the empire, the Subadar of the country, was most likely to be the best judge of what respect was due to the women of his father's family. I will therefore read to your Lordships, from his own letters, what the Nabob's opinion was upon this šubject.

:::!.. Extract of a letter from the Vizier, received 23d of August 1782: _“I never found resource “ equal to the necessary expences. . Every year " by taking from the ministers and selling the

articles of my Harkhánna, I with great dis“ tress transacted the business; but I could not “ take care of my dependents, so that some of 44. my brothers, from their difficulties, arose and

departed; and the people of the Khourd Mhal “ of the late Nawab, who are all my mothers, 5 from their distresses are reduced to poverty

66 and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »