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not right, it is not worthy of us, in this manner to depreciate the value, to degrade the majesty, of this grave deliberation of policy and empire.
For my part, I have thought myself bound, when a matter of this extraordinary weight came before me, not to consider (as some gentlemen are so fond of doing) whether the bill originated from a Secretary of State for the Home Department or from a Secretary for the Foreign, from a minister of influence or a minister of the people, from Jacob or from Esau.* I asked myself, and I asked myself nothing else, what part it was fit for a member of Parliament, who has supplied a mediocrity of talents by the extreme of diligence, and who has thought himself obliged by the research of years to wind himself into the inmost recesses and labyrinths of the Indian detail, what part, I say, it became such a member of Parliament to take, when a minister of state, in conformity to a recommendation from the throne, has brought before us a system for the better government of the territory and commerce of the East. In this light, and in this only, I will trouble you with my sentiments.
It is not only agreed, but demanded, by the right honorable gentleman, † and by those who act with him, that a whole system ought to be produced ; that it ought not to be an half-measure; that it ought to be no palliative, but a legislative provision, vigorous, substantial, and effective. — I believe that no man who understands the subject can doubt for a moment that those must be the conditions of anything deserving the name of a reform in the Indian government; that anything short of them would not only be delu* An allusion made by Mr. Powis.
| Mr. Pitt.
sive, but, in this matter, which admits no medium, noxious in the extreme.
To all the conditions proposed by his adversaries the mover of the bill perfectly agrees; and on his performance of them he rests his cause. On the other hand, not the least objection has been taken with regard to the efficiency, the vigor, or the completeness of the scheme. I am therefore warranted to assume, as a thing admitted, that the bills accomplish what both sides of the House demand as essential. The end is completely answered, so far as the direct and immediate object is concerned.
But though there are no direct, yet there are various collateral objections made: objections from the effects which this plan of reform for Indian administration may have on the privileges of great public bodies in England; from its probable influence on the constitutional rights, or on the freedom and integrity, of the several branches of the legislature.
Before I answer these objections, I must beg leave to observe, that, if we are not able to contrive some method of governing India well, which will not of necessity become the means of governing Great Britain ill, a ground is laid for their eternal separation, but none for sacrificing the people of that country to our Constitution. I am, however, far from being persuaded that any such incompatibility of interest does at all exist. On the contrary, I am certain that every means effectual to preserve India from oppression is a guard to preserve the British Constitution from its worst corruption. To show this, I will consider the objections, which, I think, are four.
1st, That the bill is an attack on the chartered rights of men.
2ndly, That it increases the influence of the crown.
3rdly, That it does not increase, but diminishes, the influence of the crown, in order to promote the interests of certain ministers and their party.
4thly, That it deeply affects the national credit.
As to the first of these objections, I must observe that the phrase of “the chartered rights of men” is full of affectation, and very unusual in the discussion of privileges conferred by charters of the present description. But it is not difficult to discover what end that ambiguous mode of expression, so often reiterated, is meant to answer.
The rights of men — that is to say, the natural rights of mankind — are indeed sacred things; and if any public measure is proved mischievously to affect, them, the objection ought to be fatal to that measure, even if no charter at all could be set up against it. If these natural rights are further affirmed and declared by express covenants, if they are clearly defined and secured against chicane, against power and authority, by written instruments and positive engage ments, they are in a still better condition: they partake not only of the sanctity of the object so secured, but of that solemn public faith itself which secures an object of such importance. Indeed, this formal recog. nition, by the sovereign power, of an original right in the subject, can never be subverted, but by rooting up the holding radical principles of government, and even of society itself. The charters which we call by distinction great are public instruments of this nature: I mean the charters of King John and King Henry the Third. The things secured by these instruments may, without any deceitful ambiguity, be very fitly called the chartered rights of men.
These charters have made the very name of a charter dear to the heart of every Englishman. But, Sir, there may be, and there are, charters, not only differ. ent in nature, but formed on principles the very reverse of those of the Great Charter. Of this kind is the char. ter of the East India Company. Magna Charta is a charter to restrain power and to destroy monopoly. The East India charter is a charter to establish monopoly and to create power. Political power and commercial monopoly are not the rights of men; and the rights to them derived from charters it is fallacious and sophistical to call "the chartered rights of men." These chartered rights (to speak of such charters and of their effects in terms of the greatest possible moderation) do at least suspend the natural rights of mankind at large, and in their very frame and constitution are liable to fall into a direct violation of them.
It is a charter of this latter description (that is to say, a charter of power and monopoly) which is affected by the bill before you. The bill, Sir, docs without question affect it: it does affect it essentially and substantially. But, having stated to you of what description the chartered rights are which this bill touches, I feel no difficulty at all in acknowledging the existence of those chartered rights in their fullest extent. They belong to the Company in the surest manner, and they are secured to that body by every sort of public sanction. They are stamped by the faith of the king; they are stamped by the faithi of Parliament: they have been bought for money, for money honestly and fairly paid ; they have been bought for valuable consideration, over and over again.
I therefore freely admit to the East India Company their claim to exclude their fellow-subjects from the commerce of half the globe. I admit their claim to administer an annual territorial revenue of seven millions sterling, to command an army of sixty thousand men, and to dispose (under the control of a sovereign, imperial discretion, and with the due observance of the natural and local law) of the lives and fortunes of thirty millions of their fellow-creatures. All this they possess by charter, and by Acts of Parliament, (in my opinion,) without a shadow of controversy.
Those who carry the rights and claims of the Company
thie furthest do not contend for more than this; and all this I freely grant. But, granting all this, they must grant to me, in my turn, that all political power which is set over men, and that all privilege claimed or exercised in exclusion of them, being wholly artificial, and for so much a derogation from the natural equality of mankind at large, ought to be some way or other exercised ultimately for their benefit.
If this is true with regard to every species of political dominion and every description of commercial privilege, none of which can be original, self-derived rights, or grants for the mere private benefit of the holders, then such rights, or privileges, or whatever else you choose to call them, are all in the strictest sense a trust : and it is of the very essence of every trust to be rendered accountable, and even totally to cease, when it substantially varies from the purposes for which alone it could have a lawful existence.
This I conceive, Sir, to be true of trusts of power vested in the highest hands, and of such as seem to