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ticipation of it. Mr. Hastings has said, and it is one of the general complaints of Mr. Hastings, that he is made answerable for the acts of other men. It is a thing inherent in the nature of his situation. All those, who enjoy a great superintending trust, which is to regulate the whole affairs of an empire, are responsible for the acts and conduct of other men, so far as they had any thing to do with appointing them, or holding them in their places, or having any sort of inspection into their conduct.
But when a governour presumes to remove from their situations those persons, whom the publick authority and sanction of the company have appointed, and obtrudes upon them by violence other persons, superseding the orders of his masters, he becomes doubly responsible for their conduct. If the persons he names should be of notorious evil character and evil principles, and if this should be perfectly known to himself, and of publick notoriety to the rest of the world, then another strong responsibility attaches on him for the acts of those persons.
Governours, we know very well, cannot with their own hands be continually receiving bribes; for then they must have as many hands, as one of the idols in an Indian temple, in order to receive all the bribes, which a governour-general may receive; but they have them vicariously. As there are many offices, so he has had various officers, for receiving and distributing his bribes; he has had a great many, some white and some black, agents. The white men are loose and licentious; they are apt to have resentments, and to be bold in revenging them.
The black men are very secret and mysterious ; they are not apt to have very quick resentments, they have not the same liberty and boldness of language, which characterize Europeans; and they have fears too for themselves, which makes it more likely, that they will conceal any thing committed to them by Europeans. Therefore Mr. Hastings had his black agents, not one, two, three, but many, disseminated through the country; no two of them hardly appear to be in the secret of any one bribe. He has had likewise his white agents—they were necessary-a Mr. Larkins and a Mr. Crofts.
Mr. Crosts was
sub-treasurer, and Mr. Larkins accountant-general. These were the last persons of all others, that should have had any thing to do with bribes; yet these were some of his agents in bribery. There are few instances in comparison of the whole number of bribes, but there are some, where two men are in the secret of the same bribe. Nay, it appears, that there was one bribe divided into different payments at different times—that one part was committed to one black secretary—another part to another black secretary. So that it is alınost impossible to make up a complete body of all his bribery: you may find the scattered limbs, some here and others there; and while you are employed in picking them up, he may escape entirely in a prosecution for the whole.
The first act of his government in Bengal was the most bold and extraordinary, that I believe ever entered into the head of any man, I will say,
any tyrant. It was no more or less than a general (almost exceptless) confiscation, in time of profound peace, of all the landed property in Bengal upon most extraordinary pretences. Strange as this may appear, he did so confiscate it; he put it up to a pretended publick, in reality to a private corrupt, auction; and such favoured landholders, as came to it, were obliged to consider themselves as not any longer proprietors of the estates, but to recognize themselves as farmers under government : and even those few, that were permitted to remain on their estates, had their payments raised at his arbitrary discretion; and the rest of the lands were given to farmers general, appointed by him and his committee, at a price fixed by the same arbitrary discretion.
It is necessary to inform your lordships, that the revenues of Bengal are for the most part territorial revenues, great quit rents issuing out of lands. I shall say nothing either of the nature of this property, of the rights of the people to it, or of the mode of exacting the rents, till that great question of revenues, one of the greatest, which we shall have to lay before you, shall be brought before your lordships particularly and specially as an article of charge. I only mention it now as an exemplification of the great principle of corruption, which guided Mr. Hastings's conduct.
When the antient nobility, the great princes (for such I may call them) a nobility, perhaps, as antient as that of your lordships (and a more truly noble body never existed in that character ;) my lords, when all the nobility, some of whom have borne the rank and port of princes, all the gentry, all the freeholders of the country, had their estates in that manner confiscated, that is, either given to themselves to hold on the footing of farmers, or totally confiscated; when such an act of tyranny was done, no doubt, some good was pretended. This confiscation was made by Mr. Hastings, and the lands let to these farmers for five years, upon an idea, which always accompanies his acts of oppression, the idea of anonied merit. He adopted this mode of confiscating the estates, and letting them to farmers, for the avowed purpose of seeing how much it was possible to take out of them. Accordingly he set them up to this wild and wicked auction, as it would have been, if it had been a real one-corrupt and treacherous, as it was. He set these lands up
for the purpose of making that discovery, and pretended, that the discovery would yield a most amazing increase of rent. And for some time it appeared so to do, till it came to the touchstone of experience ; and then it was found, that there was a defalcation from these monstrous raised revenues, which were to cancel in the minds of the directors the wickedness of so atrocious, flagitious, and horrid an act of treachery. At the end of five years what do you think was the failure ? —No less than 2,050,0001. Then a new source of corruption was opened, that is, how to deal with the balances : for every man, who had engaged in these transactions, was a debtor to government, and the remission of that debt depended upon the discretion of the governour-general. Then the persons, who were to settle the composition of that immense debt, who were to see how much was recoverable, and how much not, were able to favour, or to exact to the last shilling; and there never existed a doubt, but that, not only upon the original cruel exaction, but upon the remission afterwards, immense gains were derived. This will account for the manner, in which those stupendous fortunes, which astonish the world, have been made. They
have been made-first, by a tyrannous exaction from the people, who were suffered to remain in possession of their own land as farmers, then by setting the rest to farmers at rents and under hopes, which could never be realized, and then getting money for the relaxation of their debts. But whatever excuse, and however wicked, there might have been for this wicked act, namely, that it carried upon the face of it some sort of appearance of publick good, that is to say, that sort of publick good, which Mr. Hastings so often professed, of ruining the country for the benefit of the company ; yet, in fact, this business of balances is that nidus, in which have been nustled and bred and born all the corruptions of India ;-—-first, by making extravagant demands, and afterwards by making corrupt relaxations of them.
Besides this monstrous failure in consequence of a miserable exaction, by which more was attempted to be forced from the country than it was capable of yielding, and this by way of experiment, when your lordships come to inquire who the farmers-general of the revenue were, you would naturally expect to find them to be the men in the several countries, who had the most interest, the greatest wealth, the best knowledge of the revenue and resources of the country, in which they lived. These would be thought the natural proper farmers-general of each district. No such thing, my lords. They are found in the body of people, whom I have mentioned to your lordships. They were almost all let to Calcutta banyans. Calcutta banyans were the farmers of almost the whole. They sub-delegated to others, who sometimes had sub-delegates under them ad infinitum. The whole formed a system together through the succession of black tyrants scattered through the country, in which you at last find the European at the end, sometimes indeed not hid very deep, not above one between him and the farmer, namely, his banyan directly, or some other black person to represent him. But some have so managed the affair, that when you inquire who the farmer is Was such a one farmer ?-No. Cantoo Baboo ? -_-No. Another ? —No : at last you find three deep of fictitious farmers, and you find the European gentlemen, high in place
and authority, the real farmers of the settlement. So that the zemindars were dispossessed, the country racked and ruined for the benefit of an European, under the name of a farmer: for you will easily judge whether these gentlemen had fallen so deeply in love with the banyans, and thought so highly of their merits and services, as to reward them with all the possessions of the great landed interest of the country. Your lordships are too grave, wise and discerning, to make it necessary for me to say more upon that subject. Tell me, that the banyans of English gentlemen, dependants on them at Calcutta, were the farmers throughout, and I believe I need not tell your lordships, for whose benefit they were farmers.
But there is one of these, who comes so nearly, indeed so precisely within this observation, that it is impossible for me to pass him by. Whoever has heard of Mr. Hastings's name, with any knowledge of Indian connexions, has heard of his banyan Cantoo Baboo. This man is well known in the records of the company, as his agent for receiving secret gifts, confiscations and presents. You would have imagined, that he would at least have kept him out of these farms, in order to give the measure a colour at least of disinterestedness, and to show, that this whole system of corruption and pecuniary oppression was carried on for the benefit of the company.
The governour-general and council made an ostensible order, by which no collector, or person concerned in the revenue, should have any connexion with these farms. This order did not include the governour-general in the words of it, but more than included him in the spirit of it: because his power to protect a farmer-general in the person of his own servant was infinitely greater than that of any subordinate person. Mr. Hastings, in breach of this order, gave farms to his own banyan. You find him the farmer of great, of vast and extensive farms.
Another regulation, that was made on that occasion, was, that no farmer should have, except in particular cases, which were marked, described, and accurately distinguished, a greater farm than what paid 10,0001. a year to government. Mr. Hastings, who had broken the first regulation by giving