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apprized, that all officers, representing government, and making, in that character, an authorized inquiry, are entitled to a presumptive credit for all their proceedings, and that their reports of facts ( where there is no evidence of corruption or malice) are in the first instance to be taken for truth, especially by those, who have authorized the inquiry; and it is their duty to put the burden of proof to the contrary on those, who would impeach or shake the report.
Other principles of policy, and other rules of government, and other maxims of office prevailed in the committee of Mr. Hastings's devising. In order to destroy that just and natural credit of the officer, and the protection and support they were bound to afford him, they in an instant shift and reverse all the relations, in which the parties stood.
This executive board, instituted for the protection of the revenue and of the people, and which was no court of justice in factor name, turned their own representative officer, -reporting facts according to his duty, into a voluntary accuser, who is to make good his charge at his peril. The farmer-general, whose conduct was not criminally attacked, but appeared as one of the grounds of a publick inquiry, is turned into a culprit before a court of justice, against whom every thing is to be juridically made out or not admitted : and the members of an executive board, by usurpation and fraud, erect themselves into judges, bound to proceed by strict rules of law.
By this infamous juggle they took away, as far as in them lay, the credit due to the proceedings of government. They changed the natural situation of proofs. They rejected the depositions of Paterson's witnesses, as not on oath, though they had never ordered or authorized them so to be taken.
They went further, and disabled, in a body, all the deponents themselves, whether on oath or not on oath, by discrediting the whole province, as a set of criminals, who gave evidence to palliate their own rebellion. They administered interrogatories to the commissioner instead of the culprit. They took a base fellow, whom they had themselves ordered their commissioner to imprison for crimes (crimes, charged on him, not by the commissioner, but by themselves,)
and made him a complainant and a witness against him in the stupidest and most improbable of all accusations ; namely, that Paterson had menaced him with punishment, if he did not, in so many words, slander and calumniate Debi Sing : and then the committee, seating this wretch as an assessor at their own board, who a few days before would have trembled like a whipped slave at the look of an European, encouraged him to interrogate their own commissioner. [Note.—Here Mr. Burke was taken ill, and obliged to
sit down. After some time Mr. Burke again addressed the House.]
My lords, I am sorry to break the attention of your lordships in such a way. It is a subject, that agitates me. It is long, difficult and arduous; but, with the blessing of God, if I can, to save you any further trouble, I will go through it this day.
I am to tell your lordships, that the next step they took was, after putting Mr. Paterson as an accuser to make good a charge, which he made out but too much to their satisfaction, they changed their battery. [Note.—Mr. Burke's illness increased, upon which the
House, on the motion of His Royal Highness the
TRIAL.-SIXTH DAY, 19th FEBRUARY 1788.
(MR. BURKE.) My LORDS,—In any great undertaking a failure in the midst of it, even from infirmity, though to be regarded principally as a misfortune, is attended with some slight shadow of disgrace ; but your lordships' humanity, and your love of justice, have remedied every thing, and I therefore proceed with confidence this day.
My lords, I think to the best of my remembrance) the House adjourned at the period of time, in which I was en
deavouring to illustrate the mischiefs, that happened from Mr. Hastings's throwing off his responsibility by delegating his power to a nominal council, and in feality to a black bad man, a native of the country, of the worst character, that could be found in it; and the consequence of it, in preventing the detection and the punishment of the grossest abuses, that ever were known to be committed in India, or any other part of the world.
My lords, I stated to you, that Mr. Commissioner Paterson was sent into that country. I stated, that he was sent into it with all the authority of government, with power to hear, and not only to hear and to report, but to redress the grievances, which he should find in the country. In short, there was nothing wanting to his power but an honest support. Your lordships will be convinced, that the road to fortune was easy to him. Debi Sing for a favourable report would have given a large sum of money. Your lordships will be convinced, that the committee would not have received such a report as a proof of bribery. They would rather consider him as a man, whose conduct tended to conciliate, and to soften troublesome and difficult matters, and to settle the order of government as soon as possible.
Some of the things contained in his reports I have taken the liberty of laying before your lordships, but very faintly, very imperfectly, and far short of my materials. I have stated, that the criminal, against whom the commissioner had made his report, instead of being punished by that strong hand of power, which Mr. Hastings has thought proper to use upon other occasions, when he has endeavoured to make princes, or persons in the rank and with the attributes of sovereign princes, feel, whenever they have incurred his private resentments; that this man was put into every situation of offence, or defence, which the most litigious and prevaricating laws, that ever were invented in the very bosom of arbitrary power, could afford him, or by which peculation and power were to be screened from the cries of an oppressed people.
Mr. Paterson, I stated, from being a commissioner directed to report, under the authority of government, to that go
vernment, was considered as a voluntary accuser, obliged to make good the articles of his charge. But, I believe, I stated, that he did not long remain in that condition.
I shall now proceed to state to your lordships, that this Debi Sing, fortified by this protection, which was extended even to the lowest of his instruments, thought it high time to assume the superiority, that belonged to a personage, who had the governour-general for his pensioner. No longer the sneaking tone of apology ;-no longer the modest allegations, that the commissioner was misinformed ;-be boldly accuses the representative of English government of forgery in order to destroy him; he criminates and recriminates, and lays about him without mercy.
Things were now in a proper train ;-the committee find the cause growing and ripening to their wishes ;-answers, replies, objections, and interrogatories, accounts opposed to accounts,-balances now on the one side; now on the other. -Now debtor becomes creditor, and creditor debtor until the proceedings were grown to the size of volumes, and the whole well fitted to perplex the most simple facts, and to darken the meridian sunshine of publick notoriety. They prepared a report for the governour-general and council, suitable to the whole tenour of their proceedings. Here the man, whom they had employed and betrayed, appeared in a new character. Observe their course with him :—First, he was made a commissioner. Then, he was changed from a commissioner to be a voluntary accuser. He now undergoes another metamorphosis ;-he appears as a culprit, before Mr. Hastings, on the accusation of the donor of Mr. Hastings's bribes. He is to answer to the accusations of
He is permitted to find materials for his own defence; and he, an old company's servant is to acknowledge it as a favour to be again suffered to go into the province, without authority, without station, without públick character, under the discountenance and frowns, and in a manner under prosecution, of the government. As a favour, he is suffered to go again into Rungpore, in hopes of finding among the dejected, harassed, and enslaved race of Hindus, and in that undone province, men bold enough to stand for
ward, against all temptations of emolument, and at the risk of their lives, with a firm adherence to their original charge ; and, at a time, when they saw him an abandoned and persecuted private individual, whom they had just before looked upon as a protecting angel, carrying with him the whole power of a beneficent government, and whom they had applied to as a magistrate of high and sacred authority, to hear the complaints, and to redress the grievances of a whole people.
A new commission of junior servants was, at the same time, sent out to review and re-examine the cause, to inquire into the inquiry, to examine into the examination, to controul the report, to be commissioners upon the commission of Mr. Paterson. Before these commissioners he was made to appear as an accused person, and was put upon his defence, but without the authority, and without the favour, which ought to go with an accused person for the purpose of enabling him to make out such defence.
These persons went down into that country; and after spending a long time in mere matters of form, found they could not do without a representative of Debi Sing, and accordingly they ordered Debi Sing to send up his vakeel.
I forgot to state to your lordships what the condition of Debi Sing was during this proceeding. This man had been ordered to Calcutta on two grounds; one, on the matter of his flagitious misconduct at Rungpore, and, the other, for a great failure in the payment of his stipulated revenue. Under this double accusation he was to be considered, according to the usual mode of proceeding in such cases, as a prisoner; and he was kept, not in the common gaol of Calcutta, not in the prison of the fort, not in that gaol, in which rajah Nundcomar, who had been prime minister of the empire, was confined, but according to the mild ways of that country, where they choose to be mild, and the persons are protected by the official influence of power, under a free custody. He was put under a guard of sepoys, but not confined to his house ; he was permitted to go abroad, where he was daily in conference with those, who were to judge him ; and having an address which seldom fails, and a dexterity never wanting to,