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receiving them. We wish your lordships distinctly to consider, that he did not only give and receive bribes accidentally, as it happened without any system and design, merely as the opportunity or momentary temptation of profit urged him to it, but that he has formed plans and systems of government for the very purpose of accumulating bribes and presents to himself. This system of Mr. Hastings's government is such a one, I believe, as the British nation in particular will disown; for I will venture to say, that, if there is any one thing, which distinguishes this nation eminently above another, it is, that in its offices at home, both judicial and in the state, there is less suspicion of pecuniary corruption attaching to them, than to any similar offices in any part of the globe, or that have existed at any time; so that he, who would set up a system of corruption, and attempt to justify it upon the principle of utility, that man is staining not only the nature and character of office, but that, which is the peculiar glory of the official and judicial character of this country ; and therefore in this house, which is eminently the guardian of the purity of all the offices of this kingdom, he ought to be called eminently and peculiarly to account. There are many things undoubtedly in crimes, which make them frightful and odious; but bribery, filthy hands, a chief governour of a great empire receiving bribes from poor miserable indigent people, this is what makes government itself base, contemptible and odious in the eyes of mankind.
My lords, it is certain, that even tyranny itself may find some specious colour, and appear as more severe and rigid execution of justice. Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety. Conquest may cover its baldness with its own laurels, and the ambition of the conquerour may be hid in the secrets of his own heart under a veil of benevolence, and make him imagine he is bringing temporary desolation upon a country, only to promote its ultimate advantage and his own glory. But in the principles of that governour, who makes nothing but money his object, there can be nothing of this. There are here none of those specious delusions, that look like
virtues, to veil either the governed or the governour.
If you look at Mr. Hastings's merits, as he calls them, what are they ? did he improve the internal state of the government by great reforms ? No such thing : or by a wise and incorrupt administration of justice ? No.-Has he enlarged the boundary of our government ? No; there are but too strong proofs of his lessening it. But his pretensions to merit are, that he squeezed more money out of the inhabitants of the country than other persons could have done, money got by oppression, violence, extortion from the poor, or the heavy hand of power upon the rich and great.
These are his merits. What we charge as his demerits are all of the same nature ; for though there is undoubtedly oppression, breach of faith, cruelty, perfidy, charged upon him, yet the great ruling principle of the whole, and that, from which you can never have an act free, is money—it is the vice of base avarice, which never is, nor ever appears even to the prejudices of mankind to be, any thing like a virtue. Our desire of acquiring sovereignty in India undoubtedly originated first in ideas of safety and necessity ; its next step was a step of ambition. That ambition, as generally happens in conquest, was followed by gains of money ; but afterwards there was no mixture at all ; it was, during Mr. Hastings's time, altogether a business of money. If he has extirpated a nation, I will not say whether properly or improperly, it is because (says he) you have all the benefit of conquest without expense, you have got a large sum of money from the people, and you may leave them to he governed by whom, and as they will. This is directly contrary to the principles of conquerours. If he has at any time taken any money from the dependencies of the company, he does not pretend, that it was obtained from their zeal and affection to our cause, or that it made their submission more complete ; very far from it. He says, they ought to be independent, and all, that you have to do, is to squeeze money from them.
In short, money is the beginning, the middle, and the end of every kind of act done by Mr. Hastings—pretendedly for the company, but really for himself.
Having said so much about the origin, the first principle both of that, which he makes his merit, and which we charge as his demerit; the next step is, that I should lay open to your lordships, as clearly as I can, what the sense of his employers, the East-India Company, and what the sense of the legislature itself has been upon those merits and demerits of money.
My lords, the company knowing, that these money transactions were likely to subvert that empire, which was first established upon them, did in the year 1765, send out a body of the strongest and most solemn covenants to their servants, that they should take no presents from the country powers under any name or description, except those things, which were publicly and openly taken for the use of the company, namely territories, or sums of money, which might be obtained by treaty. They distinguished such presents, as were taken from any persons privately and unknown to them, and without their authority, from subsidies ; and that this is the true nature and construction of their order, I shall contend, and explain afterwards to your lordships. They have said, nothing shall be taken for their private use ; for though in that and in every state there may be subsidiary treaties, by which sums of money may be received, yet they forbid their servants, their governours, whatever application they might pretend to make of them, to receive, under any other name or pretence, more than a certain marked simple sum of money, and this not without the consent and permission of the presidency, to which they belong. This is the substance, the principle, and the spirit of the covenants, and will show your lordships how radicated an evil this of bribery and presents was judged to be.
When these covenants arrived in India, the servants refused at first to execute them; and suspended the execution of them, till they had enriched themselves with presents. Eleven months elapsed, and it was not till Lord Clive reached the place of his destination, that the covenants were executed; and they were not executed then without some de
Soon afterwards the treaty was made with the country powers, by which Shuja ul Dowla was re-estab
gree of force.
lished in the province of Oude, and paid a sum of 500,0001. to the company for it. It was a publick payment, and there was not a suspicion, that a single shilling of private emolument attended it. But whether Mr. Hastings had the example of others or not, their example could not justify his briberies. He was sent there to put an end to all those examples. The company did expressly vest him with that power. They declared at that time, that the whole of their service was totally corrupted by bribes and presents, and by extravagance and luxury, which partly gave rise to them; and these in their turn enabled them to pursue those excesses. They not only reposed trust in the integrity of Mr. Hastings, but reposed trust in his remarkable frugality and order in his affairs, which they considered as things, that distinguished his character. But in his defence we have him quite in another character, no longer the frugal attentive servant bred to business, bred to book-keeping, as all the company's servants are; he now knows nothing of his own affairs, knows not whether he is rich or poor, knows not what he has in the world. Nay, people are brought forward to say, that they know better than he does what his affairs are. He is not like a careful man bred in a countinghouse, and by the directors put into an office of the highest trust on account of the regularity of his affairs; he is like one buried in the contemplation of the stars, and knows nothing of the things in this world. It was then on account of an idea of his great integrity, that the company put him into this situation. Since that he has thought proper to justify himself, not by clearing bimself of receiving bribes, but by saying, that no bad consequences resulted from it, and that, if any such evil consequences did arise from it, they arose rather from his inattention to money than from his de sire of acquiring it.
I have stated to your lordships the nature of the covenants, which the East-India Company sent out. Afterwards, when they found their servants had refused to execute these covenants, they not only very severely reprehended even a moment's delay in their execution, and threatened the exacting the most strict and rigorous performance of them, but they sent a commission to enforce the observance of them more strongly; and that commission had it specially in charge never to receive presents. They never sent out a person to India without recognizing the grievance, and without ordering, that presents should not be received, as the main fundamental part of their duty, and upon which all the rest depended, as it certainly must: for persons at the head of government should not encourage that by example, which they ought by precept, authority and force, to restrain in all below them. That commission failing, another commission was preparing to be sent out with the same instructions, when an act of parliament took it up: and that act, which gave Mr. Hastings power, did mould in the very first stamina of his power this principle in words the most clear and forcible, that an act of parliament could possibly devise upon the subject.
And that act was made not only upon a general knowledge of the grievance, but your lordships will see in the reports of that time, that parliament had directly in view before them the whole of that monstrous head of corruption under the name of presents, and all the monstrous consequences, that followed it.
Now, my lords, every office of trust, in its very nature, forbids the receipt of bribes. But Mr. Hastings was forbidden it, first, by his official situation; next by covenant; and lastly by act of parliament—that is to say, by all the things, that bind mankind, or that can bind them,-first, moral obligation inherent in the duty of their office; next, the positive injunctions of the legislature of the country; and lastly, a man's own private, particular, voluntary act and covenant. These three, the great and only obligations, that bind mankind, all united in the focus of this single point—that they should take no presents.
I am to mark to your lordships, that this law and this covenant did consider indirect ways of taking presents—taking them by others, and such like,—directly in the very same light as they considered taking them by themselves. It is perhaps a much more dangerous way, because it adds to the crime a false prevaricating mode of concealing it, and makes it much more mischievous by admitting others into the par