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appearance of novelty. At this time, when all Europe is in a state of, perhaps, contagious fermentation ; when antiquity has lost all its reverence and all its effect on the minds of men, at the same time that novelty is still attended with the suspicions, that always will be attached to whatever is new ; we have been anxiously careful in a business, which seems to combine the objections both to what is antiquated and what is novel, so to conduct ourselves, that nothing in the revival of this great parliamentary process shall afford a pretext for its future disuse.
My lords, strongly impressed as they are with these sentiments, the Commons have conducted themselves with singular care and caution. Without losing the spirit and zeal of a publick prosecution, they have comported themselves with such moderation, temper, and decorum, as would not bave ill become the final judgment, if with them rested the final judgment, of this great cause.
With very few intermissions, the affairs of India have constantly engaged the attention of the Commons for more than fourteen years.
We may safely affirm, we have tried every mode of legislative provision, before we had recourse to any thing of penal process. It was in the year 1774 we framed an act of parliament for remedy to the then existing disorders in India, such as the then information before us enabled us to enact. Finding, that the act of parliament did not answer all the ends that were expected from it, we had, in the year 1782, recourse to a body of monitory resolutions. Neither had we the expected fruit from them. When, therefore, we found, that our inquiries and our reports, our laws and our admonitions, were alike despised; that enormities increased in proportion as they were forbidden, detected, and exposed; when we found, that guilt stalked with an erect and upright front, and that legal authority seemed to skulk and hide its head like outlawed guilt; when we found, that some of those very persons, who were appointed by parliament to assert the authority of the laws of this kingdom, were the most forward, the most bold, and the most active, in the conspiracy for their destruction; then it was time for the justice of the nation to recollect itself. To
have forborne longer would not have been patience, but collusion; it would have been participation with guilt; it would have been to make ourselves accomplices with the criminal.
We found it was impossible to evade painful duty, without betraying a sacred trust. Having, therefore, resolved upon the last and only resource, a penal prosecution, it was our next business to act in a manner worthy of our long deliberation. In all points we proceeded with selection. We have chosen (we trust, it will so appear to your lordships ) such a crime, and such a criminal, and such a body of evidence, and such a mode of process, as would have recommended this course of justice to posterity, even if it had not been supported by any example in the practice of our forefathers.
First, to speak of the process: we are to inform your lordships, that, besides that long previous deliberation of fourteen years, we examined, as a preliminary to this proceeding, every circumstance, which could prove favourable to parties apparently delinquent, before we finally resolved to prosecute. There was no precedent to be found, in the journals, favourable to persons in Mr. Hastings's circumstances, that was not applied to. Many measures utterly unknown to former parliamentary proceedings, and which, indeed, seemed in some degree to enfeeble them, but which were all to the advantage of those, that were to be prosecuted, were adopted, for the first time, upon this occasion.-In an early stage of the proceeding, the criminal desired to be heard. He was heard; and he produced before the bar of the House that insolent and unbecoming paper, which lies
It was deliberately given in by his own hand, and signed with his own name. The Commons, however, passed by every thing offensive in that paper with a magnanimity, that became them. They considered nothing in it, but the facts, that the defendant alleged, and the principles he maintained ; and after a deliberation, not short of judicial, we proceeded with confidence to your bar.
So far as to the process; which, though I mentioned last in the line and order, in which I stated the objects of our selection, I thought it best to dispatch first.
upon our table.
As to the crime, which we chose, we first considered well what it was in its nature, under all the circumstances, which attended it. We weighed it with all its extenuations, and with all its aggravations. On that review we are warranted to assert, that the crimes, with which we charge the prisoner at the bar, are substantial crimes; that they are no errours or mistakes, such as wise and good men might possibly fall into ; which may even produce very pernicious effects, without being in fact great offences. The Commons are too liberal, not to allow for the difficulties of a great and arduous publick situation. They know too well the domineering necessities, which frequently occur in all great affairs. They know the exigency of a pressing occasion, which, in its precipitate career, bears every thing down before it, which does not give time to the mind to recollect its faculties, to reinforce its reason, and to have recourse to fixed principles, but, by compelling an instant and tumultuous decision, too often obliges men to decide in a manner, that calm judgment would certainly have rejected. We know, as we are to be served by men, that the persons, who serve us, must be tried as men, and with a very large allowance indeed, to human infirmity and human errour. This, my lords, we knew, and we weighed before we came before you.
But the crimes, which we charge in these articles, are not lapses, defects, errours, of common human frailty, which, as we know and feel, we can allow for. We charge this offender with no crimes, that have not arisen from passions, which it is criminal to harbour ; with no offences, that have not their root in avarice, rapacity, pride, insolence, ferocity, treachery, cruelty, malignity of temper; in short, in nothing, that does not argue a total extinction of all moral principle ; that does not manifest an inveterate blackness of heart, died in grain with malice, vitiated, corrupted, gangrened to the very core. If we do not plant his crimes in those vices, which the breast of man is made to abhor, and the spirit of all laws, human and divine, to interdict, we desire no longer to be heard upon this occasion. Let every thing, that can be pleaded on the ground of surprise or errour, upon those grounds be pleaded with success : we give up the whole of those predicaments. We
urge no crimes, that were not crimes of forethought. We charge him with nothing, that he did not commit upon deliberation ; that he did not commit against advice, supplication, and remonstrance; that he did not commit against the direct command of lawful authority ; that he did not commit after reproof and reprimand, the reproof and reprimand of those, who are authorized by the laws to reprove and reprimand him. The crimes of Mr. Hastings are crimes, not only in themselves, but aggravated by being crimes of contumacy. They were crimes, not against forms, but against those eternal laws of justice, which are our rule and our birthright. His offences are not, in formal, technical language, but in reality, in substance and effect, high crimes and high misdemeanours.
So far as to the crimes. As to the criminal, we have chosen him on the same principle, on which we selected the crimes. We have not chosen to bring before you a poor, puny, trembling delinquent, misled, perhaps, by those, who ought to have taught him better, but who have afterwards oppressed him by their power, as they had first corrupted him by their example. Instances there have been many, wherein the punishment of minor offences, in inferiour persons, has been made the means of screening crimes of an high order, and in men of high description. Our course is different. We have not brought before you an obscure offender, who, when his insignificance and weakness are weighed against the power of the prosecution, gives even to publick justice something of the appearance of oppression ; no, my lords, we have brought before you the first man of India in rank, authority, and station. We have brought before you the chief of the tribe, the head of the whole body of eastern offenders; a captain-general of iniquity, under whom all the fraud, all the peculation, all the tyranny, in India, are embodied, disciplined, arrayed, and paid. This is the person, my lords, that we bring before you. We have brought before you such a person, that, if you strike at him with the firm and decided arm of justice, you will not have need of a great many more examples. You strike at the whole corps, if you strike at the head.
So far as to the crime : so far as to the criminal. Now, my lords, I shall say a few words relative to the evidence, which we have brought to support such a charge, and which ought to be equal in weight to the charge itself. It is chiefly evidence of record, officially signed by the criminal himself in many instances. We have brought before you his own letters, authenticated by his own hand. On these we chiefly rely. But we shall likewise bring before you living witnesses, competent to speak to the points, to which they are brought.
When you consider the late enormous power of the prisoner ; when you consider his criminal, indefatigable assiduity in the destruction of all recorded evidence; when you consider the influence he has over almost all living testimony; when you consider the distance of the scene of action ; I believe your lordships, and I believe the world, will be astonished, that so much, so clear, so solid, and so conclusive evidence of all kinds has been obtained against him. I have no doubt, that in nine instances in ten the evidence is such as would satisfy the narrow precision supposed to prevail, and to a degree rightly to prevail, in all subordinate power and delegated jurisdiction. But your lordships will maintain, what we assert and claim as the right of the subjects of Great Britain that you are not bound by any rules of evidence, or any other rules whatever, except those of natural, immutable, and substantial justice.
God forbid the Commons should desire, that any thing should be received as proof from them, which is not by nature adapted to prove the thing in question. If they should make such a request, they would aim at overturning the very principles of that justice, to which they resort. They would give the nation an evil example, that would rebound back on themselves, and bring destruction upon their own heads, and on those of all their posterity.
On the other hand, I have too much confidence in the learning, with which you will be advised, and the liberality and nobleness of the sentiments, with which you are born, to suspect, that you would, by any abuse of the forms, and a technical course of proceeding, deny justice to so great a VOL. VII.