« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
why did he not deliver them up entirely, when he was going upon that service for all pretence of concealment in the business was now at an end, as we shall prove. Why did he not cancel these bonds ? why keep them at all ? why not enter truly the state of the account in the company's records. But I indorsed them, he says : Did you deliver them so indorsed into the treasury ? No, I delivered them indorsed into the hands of my bribe-broker and agent. But why not destroy them or give them up to the company, and say you were paid, which would have been the only truth in this transaction? Why did you not indorse them before? why not during the long period of so many years, cancel them ? No, he kept them to the very day when he was going from Calcutta, and had made a declaration, that they were not his. Never before, upon any account, had they appeared ; and though the committee of the House of Commons, in the eleventh report, had remarked upon all these scandalous proceedings and prevarications, yet he was not stimulated, even then, to give up these bonds. He held them in his hands, till the time when he was preparing for his departure from Calcutta, in spite of the directors, in spite of the parliament, in spite of the cries of his own conscience, in a matter, which was now grown publick, and would knock doubly upon his reputation and conduct. He then declares, they are not for his own use, but for the company's service. But were they then cancelled ? I do not find a trace of their being cancelled. In this letter of the 17th of January 1785, he says, “With regard to these bonds : the following sums were paid into the treasury, and bonds granted for the same, in the name of the governour-general, in whose possession the bonds remain, with a declaration upon each, indorsed, and signed by him, that he has no claim on the company for the amount either of principal or interest, no part of the latter having been received.”
To the account of the twenty-second of May, of the indorsement, is added the declaration upon oath.
But why any man need to declare upon oath, that the money, which he has fraudulently taken and concealed from another person, is not his, is the most extraordinary thing in the world : If VOL. VII.
he had a mind to have it placed to his credit as his own, then an oath would be necessary: but, in this case, any one would believe him upon his word. He comes, however, and says, This is indorsed upon oath. Oath! before what magistrate? In whose possession were the bonds ? were they given up? There is no trace of that upon the record, and it stands for him to prove, that they were ever given up, and in any hands but Mr. Larkins's and his own.
So here are the bonds, began in obscurity and ending in obscurity, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, corruption to corruption, and fraud to fraud. This is all we see of these bonds, till Mr. Larkins, to whom he writes some letter concerning them, which does not appear, is called to read a funeral sermon over them.
My lords, I am come now near the period of this class of Mr. Hastings's bribes. I am a little exhausted.
There are many circumstances, that might make me wish not to delay this business by taking up another day at your lordships' bar, in order to go through this long intricate scene of corruption. But my strength now fails me. I hope within a very short time, to-morrow or the next court day, to finish it, and to go directly into evidence, as I long much to do, to substantiate the charge ; but it was necessary that the evidence should be explained. You have heard as much of the drama as I could go through ; bear with my weakness a little. Mr. Larkins's letter will be the epilogue to it. I bave already incurred the censure of the prisoner ; I mean to increase it by bringing home to him the proof of his crimes, and to display them in all their force and turpitude. It is my duty to do it; I feel it an obligation nearest to my heart.
TRIAL.- THURSDAY, May 7th 1789.
(MR. BURKE.) MY LORDS, When I had the honour last to address you from this place, I endeavoured to press this position upon
your minds, and to fortify it by the example of the proceedings of Mr. Hastings, that obscurity and inaccuracies in a matter of account constituted a just presumption of fraud. I showed, from his own letters, that his accounts were confused and inaccurate. I am ready, my lords, to admit, that there are situations, in which a minister, in high office, may use concealment; it may be his duty to use concealment from the enemies of his masters : it may be prudent to use concealment from his inferiours in the service. It will always be suspicious to use concealment from his colleagues, and coordinates in office. But when, in a money transaction, any
uses concealment with regard to them to whom the money belongs, he is guilty of a fraud. My lords, I have shown you, that Mr. Hastings kept no account, by his own confession, of the moneys, that he had privately taken, as he pretends, for the company's service, and we have but too much reason to presume, for his own.
We have shown you, my lords, that he has not only no accounts, but no memory: we have shown, that he does not even understand his own motives; that, when called upon to recollect them, he begs to guess at them; and that as his memory is to be supplied by his guess, so he has no confidence in his guesses. He at first finds, after a lapse of about a year and a half or somewhat less, that he cannot recollect what his motives were to certain actions, which upon the very face of them appeared fraudulent. He is called to an account some years after, to explain what they were, and he makes a just reflection upon it : namely, that as his memory did not enable bim to find out his own motive at the former time, it is not to be expected that it would be clearer a year after. Your lordships will, however, recollect, that in the Cheltenham letter, which is made of no perishable stuff, he begins again to guess; but after he has guessed, and guessed again, and after he has gone through all the motives he can possibly assign for the action, he tells you, he does not know, whether those were his real motives, or whether he has not invented them since.
In that situation the accounts of the company were left, with regard to very great sums, which passed through Mr.
Hastings's hands, and for which he, instead of giving his masters credit, took credit to himself; and, being their debtor, as he confesses himself to be, at that time, took a security for that debt, as if he had been their creditor. This required explanation : explanation he was called upon for, over and over again : explanation he did not give, and declared, he could not give. He was called upon for it when in India; he had not leisure to attend to it there.
He was called upon for it when in Europe ; he then says, he must send for it to India. With much prevarication, and much insolence too, he confesses himself guilty of falsifying the company's accounts by making himself their creditor, when he was their debtor, and giving false accounts of this false transaction. The court of directors was slow to believe him guilty ; parliament expressed a strong suspicion of his guilt, and wished for further information. Mr. Hastings, about this time, began to imagine his conscience to be a faithful and true monitor, which it were well he had attended to upon many occasions, as it would have saved him his
appearance here, and it told him, that he was in great danger from the parliamentary inquiries, that were going on. It was now to be expected, that he would have been in haste to fulfil the promise, which he had made in the Patna letter of the 20th of January 1782; and accordingly we find that about this time his first agent, Major Fairfax, was sent over to Europe, which agent entered himself at the India house, and appeared before the committee of the House of Commons, as an agent expressly sent over to explain whatever might appear doubtful in his conduct. Major Fairfax, notwithstanding the character, in which Mr. Hastings employed him, appeared to be but a letter carrier : he had nothing to say, he gave them no information in the India house at all; to the committee (I can speak with the clearness of a witness) he gave us no satisfaction whatever. However, this agent vanished in a moment, in order to make way for another, more substantial, more efficient agent: an agent perfectly known in this country. An agent known by the name given to him by Mr. Hastings, who like the princes of the East gives titles; he calls him an incomparable agent; and by that name
he is very well known to your lordships, and the world. This agent, Major Scott, who, I believe, was here prior to the time of Major Fairfax's arrival, in the character of an agent, and for the very same purposes, was called before the committee, and examined point by point, article by article, upon all that obscure enumeration of bribes, which the court of directors declare they did not understand ; but he declared, that he could speak nothing with regard to any of these transactions, and that he had got no instructions to explain any part of them.
There was but one circumstance, which in the course of his examination we drew from him, namely, that one of these articles, entered in the account of the 22d of May, as a deposit, had been received from Mr. Hastings as a bribe from Cheit. Sing : he produced an extract of a letter relative to it, which your lordships in the course of this trial may see, and which will lead us into a further and more minute inquiry on that head; but when that committee made their report in 1783, not one single article had been explained to parliament, not one explained to the company, except this bribe of Cheit Sing, which Mr. Hastings had never thought proper to communicate to the East-India Company, either by himself, nor, as far as we could find out, by his agent ; nor was it at last otherwise discovered, than as it was drawn out from him by a long examination in the committee of the House of Commons. And thus, notwithstanding the letters he had written, and the agents he employed, he seemed absolutely and firmly resolved to give his employers no satisfaction at all. What is curious in this proceeding is, that Mr. Hastings, all the time he conceals, endeavours to get himself the credit of a discovery. Your lordships have seen what his discovery is; but Mr. Hastings, among his other very extraordinary acquisitions, has found an effectual method of concealment through discovery.. I will venture to say, that whatever suspicions there might have been of Mr. Hastings's bribes, there was more effectual concealment in regard to every circumstance respecting them in that discovery, than if he had kept a total silence. Other means of discovery might have been found, but this standing in the way, prevented the employment of those means.