The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. VIII. (of 12)
by Edmund Burke
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As soon as the Nabob's requisition was communicated to the board, it was moved and resolved that Mahomed Reza Khan should be divested of his office; and the House have seen in what manner it was disposed of. The Nabob had stated various complaints against him:—that he had dismissed the old established servants of the Nizamut, and filled their places with his own dependants;—that he had regularly received the stipend of the Nizamut from the Company, yet had kept the Nabob involved in debt and distress, and exposed to the clamors of his creditors, and sometimes even in want of a dinner. All these complaints were recorded at large in the proceedings of the Council; but it does not appear that they were ever communicated to Mahomed Reza Khan, or that he was ever called upon, in any shape, to answer them. This circumstance inclines your Committee to believe that all of these charges were groundless,—especially as it appears on the face of the proceedings, that the chief of them were not well founded. Mr. Hastings, in his letter to Mr. Wheler, urges the absolute necessity of the monthly payment of the Nabob's stipend being regularly made, and says, that, to relieve the Nabob's present wants, he had directed the Resident to raise an immediate supply on the credit of the Company, to be repaid from the first receipts. From hence your Committee conclude that the monthly payments had not been regularly made, and that whatever distresses the Nabob might have suffered must have been owing to the Governor-General and Council, not to Mahomed Reza Khan, who, for aught that appears to the contrary, paid away the stipend as fast as he received it. Had it been otherwise, that is, if Mahomed Reza Khan had reserved a balance of the Nabob's money in his hands, he should, and undoubtedly he would, have been called upon to pay it in; and then there would have been no necessity for raising an immediate supply by other means.

The transaction, on the whole, speaks very sufficiently for itself. It is a gross instance of repeated disobedience to repeated orders; and it is rendered particularly offensive to the authority of the Court of Directors by the frivolous and contradictory reasons assigned for it. But whether the Nabob's requisition was reasonable or not, the Governor-General and Council were precluded by a special instruction from complying with it. The Directors, in their letter of the 14th of February, 1779, declare, that a resolution of Council, (taken by Mr. Francis and Mr. Wheler, in the absence of Mr. Barwell,) viz., "that the Nabob's letter should be referred to them for their decision, and that no resolution should be taken in Bengal on his requisitions without their special orders and instructions," was very proper. They prudently reserved to themselves the right of deciding on such questions; but they reserved it to no purpose. In England the authority is purely formal. In Bengal the power is positive and real. When they clash, their opposition serves only to degrade the authority that ought to predominate, and to exalt the power that ought to be dependent.

* * * * *

Since the closing of the above Report, many material papers have arrived from India, and have been laid before your Committee. That which they think it most immediately necessary to annex to the Appendix to this Report is the resolution of the Council-General to allow to the members of the Board of Trade resident in Calcutta a charge of five per cent on the sale in England of the investment formed upon their second plan, namely, that plan which had been communicated to Lord Macartney. The investment on this plan is stated to be raised from 800,000l. to 1,000,000l. sterling.

It is on all accounts a very memorable transaction, and tends to bring on a heavy burden, operating in the nature of a tax laid by their own authority on the goods of their masters in England. If such a compensation to the Board of Trade was necessary on account of their engagement to take no further (that is to say, no unlawful) emolument, it implies that the practice of making such unlawful emolument had formerly existed; and your Committee think it very extraordinary that the first notice the Company had received of such a practice should be in taxing them for a compensation for a partial abolition of it, secured on the parole of honor of those very persons who are supposed to have been guilty of this unjustifiable conduct. Your Committee consider this engagement, if kept, as only a partial abolition of the implied corrupt practice: because no part of the compensation is given to the members of the Board of Trade who reside at the several factories, though their means of abuse are without all comparison greater; and if the corruption was supposed so extensive as to be bought off at that price where the means were fewer, the House will judge how far the tax has purchased off the evil.


[1] See the Secret Committee's Reports on the Mahratta War.

[2] Vide Secret Committee Reports.

[3] Vide Select Committee Reports, 1781

[4] The sale, to the amount of about one hundred thousand pounds annually, of the export from Great Britain ought to be deducted from this million.

[5] Estimate of the Sale Amount and Net Proceeds in England of the Cargoes to be sent from Bengal, agreeable to the Plan received by Letter dated the 8th April, 1782.

This calculation supposes the eighty lac investments will be equal to the tonnage of five ships.

[B] 2. To custom L320,000 [A] 1. By sale amount of [C] 3. " freight 200,000 piece-goods and [D] 4. " 5 per cent duty on raw silk L1,300,000 L1,300,000 65,000 Discount 61/2 per [E] 5. " 2 do. warehouse cent allowed the room do. 26,000 buyers 84,500 7 do. commission on L604,500 42,315 L653,315 [F] 6. " Balance 562,185 L1,215,500 L1,215,500

[A] 1. The sale amount is computed on an average of the sales of the two last years' imports.

[B] 2. The custom is computed on an average of what was paid on piece-goods and raw silk of said imports, adding additional imposts.

[C] 3. The ships going out of this season, (1782,) by which the above investment is expected to be sent home, are taken up at 47l. 5s. per ton, for the homeward cargo; this charge amounts to 35,815l. each ship; the additional wages to the men, which the Company pay, and a very small charge for demurrage, will increase the freight, &c., to 40,000l. per ship, agreeable to above estimate.

[D] 4. The duty of five per cent is charged by the Company on the gross sale amount of all private trade licensed to be brought from India: the amount of this duty is the only benefit the Company are likely to receive from the subscription investment.

[E] 5. This charge is likewise made on private trade goods, and is little, if anything, more than the real expense the Company are at on account of the same; therefore no benefit will probably arise to the Company from it on the sale of the said investment.

[F] 6. This is the sum which will probably be realized in England, and is only equal to 1s. 6d. per rupee, on the eighty lacs subscribed.

[6] Vide Mr. Francis's plan in Appendix, No. 14, to the Select Committee's Sixth Report.

[7] The whole sum has not been actually raised; but the deficiency is not very considerable.

[8] Fourth Report, page 106.

[9] Par. 36. Vide Fourth Report from Com. of Secrecy in 1773, Appendix, No. 45.

[10] Vide Sel. Letter to Bengal, 17 May, 1766, Par. 36, in Fourth Report from Com. of Secrecy, in 1773, Appendix, No. 45.

[11] Ibid. Par. 37.

[12] Vide Committee's Fifth Report, page 21, and Appendix to that Report, No. 12.

[13] 1st and 5th April, 1779.







November 18, 1783.


From the SELECT COMMITTEE appointed to take into consideration the state of the administration of justice in the provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, and to report the same, as it shall appear to them, to the House, with their observations thereupon; and who were instructed to consider how the British possessions in the East Indies may be held and governed with the greatest security and advantage to this country, and by what means the happiness of the native inhabitants may be best protected.

Your Committee, in the course of their inquiry into the obedience yielded by the Company's Servants to the orders of the Court of Directors, (the authority of which orders had been strengthened by the Regulating Act of 1773,) could not overlook one of the most essential objects of that act and of those orders, namely, the taking of gifts and presents. These pretended free gifts from the natives to the Company's servants in power had never been authorized by law; they are contrary to the covenants formerly entered into by the President and Council, they are strictly forbidden by the act of Parliament, and forbidden upon grounds of the most substantial policy.

Before the Regulating Act of 1773, the allowances made by the Company to the Presidents of Bengal were abundantly sufficient to guaranty them against anything like a necessity for giving into that pernicious practice. The act of Parliament which appointed a Governor-General in the place of a President, as it was extremely particular in enforcing the prohibition of those presents, so it was equally careful in making an ample provision for supporting the dignity of the office, in order to remove all excuse for a corrupt increase of its emoluments.

Although evidence on record, as well as verbal testimony, has appeared before your Committee of presents to a large amount having been received by Mr. Hastings and others before the year 1775, they were not able to find distinct traces of that practice in him or any one else for a few years.

The inquiries set on foot in Bengal, by order of the Court of Directors, in 1775, with regard to all corrupt practices, and the vigor with which they were for some time pursued, might have given a temporary check to the receipt of presents, or might have produced a more effectual concealment of them, and afterwards the calamities which befell almost all who were concerned in the first discoveries did probably prevent any further complaint upon the subject; but towards the close of the last session your Committee have received much of new and alarming information concerning that abuse.

The first traces appeared, though faintly and obscurely, in a letter to the Court of Directors from the Governor-General, Mr. Hastings, written on the 29th of November, 1780.[14] It has been stated in a former Report of your Committee,[15] that on the 26th of June, 1780, Mr. Hastings being very earnest in the prosecution of a particular operation in the Mahratta war, in order to remove objections to that measure, which were made on account of the expense of the contingencies, he offered to exonerate the Company from that "charge." Continuing his Minute of Council, he says, "That sum" (a sum of about 23,000l.) "I have already deposited, within a small amount, in the hands of the sub-treasurer; and I beg that the board will permit it to be accepted for that service." Here he offers in his own person; he deposits, or pretends that he deposits, in his own person; and, with the zeal of a man eager to pledge his private fortune in support of his measures, he prays that his offer may be accepted. Not the least hint that he was delivering back to the Company money of their own, which he had secreted from them. Indeed, no man ever made it a request, much less earnestly entreated, "begged to be permitted," to pay to any persons, public or private, money that was their own.

It appeared to your Committee that the money offered for that service, which was to forward the operations of a detachment under Colonel Camac in an expedition against one of the Mahratta chiefs, was not accepted. And your Committee, having directed search to be made for any sums of money paid into the Treasury by Mr. Hastings for this service, found, that, notwithstanding his assertion of having deposited "two lacs of rupees, or within a trifle of that sum, in the hands of the sub-treasurer," no entry whatsoever of that or any other payment by the Governor-General was made in the Treasury accounts at or about that time.[16] This circumstance appeared very striking to your Committee, as the non-appearance in the Company's books of the article in question must be owing to one or other of these four causes:—That the assertion of Mr. Hastings, of his having paid in near two lacs of rupees at that time, was not true; or that the sub-treasurer may receive great sums in deposit without entering them in the Company's Treasury accounts; or that the Treasury books themselves are records not to be depended on; or, lastly, that faithful copies of these books of accounts are not transmitted to Europe. The defect of an entry corresponding with Mr. Hastings's declaration in Council can be attributed only to one of these four causes,—of which the want of foundation in his recorded assertion, though very blamable, is the least alarming.

On the 29th of November following, Mr. Hastings communicated to the Court of Directors some sort of notice of this transaction.[17] In his letter of that date he varies in no small degree the aspect under which the business appeared in his Minute of Consultation of the 26th of June. In his letter he says to the Directors, "The subject is now become obsolete; the fair hopes which I had built upon the prosecution of the Mahratta war have been blasted by the dreadful calamities which have befallen your Presidency of Fort St. George, and changed the object of our pursuit from the aggrandizement of your power to its preservation." After thus confessing, or rather boasting, of his motives to the Mahratta war, he proceeds: "My present reason for reverting to my own conduct on the occasion which I have mentioned" (namely, his offering a sum of money for the Company's service) "is to obviate the false conclusions or purposed misrepresentations which may be made of it, either as an artifice of ostentation or the effect of corrupt influence, by assuring you that the money, by whatever means it came into my possession, was not my own, that I had myself no right to it, nor would or could have received it but for the occasion which prompted me to avail myself of the accidental means which were at that instant afforded me of accepting and converting it to the property and use of the Company: and with this brief apology I shall dismiss the subject."

The apology is brief indeed, considering the nature of the transaction; and what is more material than its length or its shortness, it is in all points unsatisfactory. The matter becomes, if possible, more obscure by his explanation. Here was money received by Mr. Hastings, which, according to his own judgment, he had no right to receive; it was money which, "but for the occasion that prompted him, he could not have accepted"; it was money which came into his, and from his into the Company's hands, by ways and means undescribed, and from persons unnamed: yet, though apprehensive of false conclusions and purposed misrepresentations, he gives his employers no insight whatsoever into a matter which of all others stood in the greatest need of a full and clear elucidation.

Although he chooses to omit this essential point, he expresses the most anxious solicitude to clear himself of the charges that might be made against him, of the artifices of ostentation, and of corrupt influence. To discover, if possible, the ground for apprehending such imputations, your Committee adverted to the circumstances in which he stood at the time: they found that this letter was dispatched about the time that Mr. Francis took his passage for England; his fear of misrepresentation may therefore allude to something which passed in conversation between him and that gentleman at the time the offer was made.

It was not easy, on the mere face of his offer, to give an ill turn to it. The act, as it stands on the Minute, is not only disinterested, but generous and public-spirited. If Mr. Hastings apprehended misrepresentation from Mr. Francis, or from any other person, your Committee conceive that he did not employ proper means for defeating the ill designs of his adversaries. On the contrary, the course he has taken in his letter to the Court of Directors is calculated to excite doubts and suspicions in minds the most favorably disposed to him. Some degree of ostentation is not extremely blamable at a time when a man advances largely from his private fortune towards the public service. It is human infirmity at the worst, and only detracts something from the lustre of an action in itself meritorious. The kind of ostentation which is criminal, and criminal only because it is fraudulent, is where a person makes a show of giving when in reality he does not give. This imposition is criminal more or less according to the circumstances. But if the money received to furnish such a pretended gift is taken from any third person without right to take it, a new guilt, and guilt of a much worse quality and description, is incurred. The Governor-General, in order to keep clear of ostentation, on the 29th of November, 1780, declares, that the sum of money which he offered on the 26th of the preceding June as his own was not his own, and that he had no right to it. Clearing himself of vanity, he convicts himself of deceit, and of injustice.

The other object of this brief apology was to clear himself of corrupt influence. Of all ostentation he stands completely acquitted in the month of November, however he might have been faulty in that respect in the month of June; but with regard to the other part of the apprehended charge, namely, corrupt influence, he gives no satisfactory solution. A great sum of money "not his own,"—money to which "he had no right,"—money which came into his possession "by whatever means":—if this be not money obtained by corrupt influence, or by something worse, that is, by violence or terror, it will be difficult to fix upon circumstances which can furnish a presumption of unjustifiable use of power and influence in the acquisition of profit. The last part of the apology, that he had converted this money ("which he had no right to receive") to the Company's use, so far as your Committee can discover, does nowhere appear. He speaks, in the Minute of the 26th of June, as having then actually deposited it for the Company's service; in the letter of November he says that he converted it to the Company's property: but there is no trace in the Company's books of its being ever brought to their credit in the expenditure for any specific service, even if any such entry and expenditure could justify him in taking money which he had by his own confession, "no right to receive."

The Directors appear to have been deceived by this representation, and in their letter of January, 1782,[18] consider the money as actually paid into their Treasury. Even under their error concerning the application of the money, they appear rather alarmed than satisfied with the brief apology of the Governor-General. They consider the whole proceeding as extraordinary and mysterious. They, however, do not condemn it with any remarkable asperity; after admitting that he might be induced to a temporary secrecy respecting the members of the board, from a fear of their resisting the proposed application, or any application of this money to the Company's use, yet they write to the Governor-General and Council as follows:—"It does not appear to us that there could be any real necessity for delaying to communicate to us immediate information of the channel by which the money came into Mr. Hastings's possession, with a complete illustration of the cause or causes of so extraordinary an event." And again: "The means proposed of defraying the extra expenses are very extraordinary; and the money, we conceive, must have come into his hands by an unusual channel; and when more complete information comes before us, we shall give our sentiments fully on the transaction." And speaking of this and other moneys under a similar description, they say, "We shall suspend our judgment, without approving it in the least degree, or proceeding to censure our Governor-General for this transaction." The expectations entertained by the Directors of a more complete explanation were natural, and their expression tender and temperate. But the more complete information which they naturally expected they never have to this day received.

Mr. Hastings wrote two more letters to the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, in which he mentions this transaction: the first dated (as he asserts, and a Mr. Larkins swears) on the 22d of May, 1782;[19] the last, which accompanied it, so late as the 16th of December in the same year.[20] Though so long an interval lay between the transaction of the 26th of June, 1780, and the middle of December, 1782, (upwards of two years,) no further satisfaction is given. He has written, since the receipt of the above letter of the Court of Directors, (which demanded, what they had a right to demand, a clear explanation of the particulars of this sum of money which he had no right to receive,) without giving them any further satisfaction. Instead of explanation or apology, he assumes a tone of complaint and reproach, to the Directors: he lays before them a kind of an account of presents received, to the amount of upwards of 200,000l.,—some at a considerable distance of time, and which had not been hitherto communicated to the Company.

In the letter which accompanied that very extraordinary account, which then for the first time appeared, he discovers no small solicitude to clear himself from the imputation of having these discoveries drawn from him by the terrors of the Parliamentary inquiries then on foot. To remove all suspicion of such a motive for making these discoveries, Mr. Larkins swears, in an affidavit made before Mr. Justice Hyde, bearing even date with the letter which accompanies the account, that is, of the 16th of December, 1782, that this letter had been written by him on the 22d of May, several months before it was dispatched.[21] It appears that Mr. Larkins, who makes this voluntary affidavit, is neither secretary to the board, nor Mr. Hastings's private secretary, but an officer of the Treasury of Bengal.

Mr. Hastings was conscious that a question would inevitably arise, how he came to delay the sending intelligence of so very interesting a nature from May to December. He therefore thinks it necessary to account for so suspicious a circumstance. He tells the Directors, "that the dispatch of the 'Lively' having been protracted from time to time, the accompanying address, which was originally designed and prepared for that dispatch, and no other since occurring, has of course been thus long delayed."

The Governor-General's letter is dated the 22d May, and the "Resolution" was the last ship of the season dispatched for Europe. The public letters to the Directors are dated the 9th May; but it appears by the letter of the commander of the ship that he did not receive his dispatches from Mr. Lloyd, then at Kedgeree, until the 26th May, and also that the pilot was not discharged from the ship until the 11th June. Some of these presents (now for the first time acknowledged) had been received eighteen months preceding the date of this letter,—none less than four months; so that, in fact, he might have sent this account by all the ships of that season; but the Governor-General chose to write this letter thirteen days after the determination in Council for the dispatch of the last ship.

It does not appear that he has given any communication whatsoever to his colleagues in office of those extraordinary transactions. Nothing appears on the records of the Council of the receipt of the presents; nor is the transmission of this account mentioned in the general letter to the Court of Directors, but in a letter from himself to their Secret Committee, consisting generally of two persons, but at most of three. It is to be observed that the Governor-General states, "that the dispatch of the 'Lively' had been protracted from time to time; that this delay was of no public consequence; but that it produced a situation which with respect to himself he regarded as unfortunate, because it exposed him to the meanest imputations, from the occasion which the late Parliamentary inquiries have since furnished, but which were unknown when his letter was written." If the Governor-General thought his silence exposed him to the meanest imputations, he had the means in his own power of avoiding those imputations: he might have sent this letter, dated the 22d May, by the Resolution. For we find, that, in a letter from Captain Poynting, of the 26th May, he states it not possible for him to proceed to sea with the smallest degree of safety without a supply of anchors and cables, and most earnestly requests they may be supplied from Calcutta; and on the 28th May we find a minute from the Secretary of the Council, Mr. Auriol, requesting an order of Council to the master-attendant to furnish a sloop to carry down those cables; which order was accordingly issued on the 30th May. There requires no other proof to show that the Governor-General had the means of sending this letter seven days after he wrote it, instead of delaying it for near seven months, and because no conveyance had offered. Your Committee must also remark, that the conveyance by land to Madras was certain; and whilst such important operations were carrying on, both by sea and land, upon the coast, that dispatches would be sent to the Admiralty or to the Company was highly probable.

If the letter of the 22d May had been found in the list of packets sent by the Resolution, the Governor General would have established in a satisfactory manner, and far beyond the effect of any affidavit, that the letter had been written at the time of the date. It appears that the Resolution, being on her voyage to England, met with so severe a gale of wind as to be obliged to put back to Bengal, and to unload her cargo. This event makes no difference in the state of the transaction. Whatever the cause of these new discoveries might have been, at the time of sending them the fact of the Parliamentary inquiry was publicly known.

In the letter of the above date Mr. Hastings laments the mortification of being reduced to take precautions "to guard his reputation from dishonor."—"If I had," says he, "at any time possessed that degree of confidence from my immediate employers which they have never withheld from the meanest of my predecessors, I should have disdained to use these attentions."

Who the meanest of Mr. Hastings's predecessors were does not appear to your Committee; nor are they able to discern the ground of propriety or decency for his assuming to himself a right to call any of them mean persons. But if such mean persons have possessed that degree of confidence from his immediate employers which for so many years he had not possessed "at any time," inferences must be drawn from thence very unfavorable to one or the other of the parties, or perhaps to both. The attentions which he practises and disdains can in this case be of no service to himself, his employers, or the public; the only attention at all effectual towards extenuating, or in some degree atoning for, the guilt of having taken money from individuals illegally was to be full and fair in his confession of all the particulars of his offence. This might not obtain that confidence which at no time he has enjoyed, but still the Company and the nation might derive essential benefit from it; the Directors might be able to afford redress to the sufferers; and by his laying open the concealed channels of abuse, means might be furnished for the better discovery, and possibly for the prevention, or at least for the restraint, of a practice of the most dangerous nature,—a practice of which the mere prohibition, without the means of detection, must ever prove, as hitherto it had proved, altogether frivolous.

Your Committee, considering that so long a time had elapsed without any of that information which the Directors expected, and perceiving that this receipt of sums of money under color of gift seemed a growing evil, ordered the attendance of Mr. Hastings's agent, Major Scott. They had found, on former occasions, that this gentleman was furnished with much more early and more complete intelligence of the Company's affairs in India than was thought proper for the Court of Directors; they therefore examined him concerning every particular sum of money the receipt of which Mr. Hastings had confessed in his account. It was to their surprise that Mr. Scott professed himself perfectly uninstructed upon almost every part of the subject, though the express object of his mission to England was to clear up such matters as might be objected to Mr. Hastings; and for that purpose he had early qualified himself by the production to your Committee of his powers of agency. The ignorance in which Mr. Hastings had left his agent was the more striking, because he must have been morally certain, that, if his conduct in these points should have escaped animadversion from the Court of Directors, it must become an object of Parliamentary inquiry; for, in his letter of the 15th [16th?] of December, 1782, to the Court of Directors, he expressly mentions his fears that those Parliamentary inquiries might be thought to have extorted from him the confessions which he had made.

Your Committee, however, entering on a more strict examination concerning the two lacs of rupees, which Mr. Hastings declares he had no right to take, but had taken from some person then unknown, Major Scott recollected that Mr. Hastings had, in a letter of the 7th of December, 1782, (in which he refers to some former letter,) acquainted him with the name of the person from whom he had received these two lacs of rupees, mentioned in the minute of June, 1780. It turned out to be the Rajah of Benares, the unfortunate Cheyt Sing.

In the single instance in which Mr. Scott seemed to possess intelligence in this matter, he is preferred to the Court of Directors. Under their censure as Mr. Hastings was, and as he felt himself to be, for not informing them of the channel in which he received that money, he perseveres obstinately and contemptuously to conceal it from them; though he thought fit to intrust his agent with the secret.

Your Committee were extremely struck with this intelligence. They were totally unacquainted with it, when they presented to the House the Supplement to their Second Report, on the affairs of Cheyt Sing. A gift received by Mr. Hastings from the Rajah of Benares gave rise in their minds to serious reflections on the condition of the princes of India subjected to the British authority. Mr. Hastings was, at the very time of his receiving this gift, in the course of making on the Rajah of Benares a series of demands, unfounded and unjustifiable, and constantly growing in proportion as they were submitted to. To these demands the Rajah of Benares, besides his objections in point of right, constantly sat up a plea of poverty. Presents from persons who hold up poverty as a shield against extortion can scarcely in any case be considered as gratuitous, whether the plea of poverty be true or false. In this case the presents might have been bestowed; if not with an assurance, at least with a rational hope, of some mitigation in the oppressive requisitions that were made by Mr. Hastings; for to give much voluntarily, when it is known that much will be taken away forcibly, is a thing absurd and impossible. On the other [one?] hand, the acceptance of that gift by Mr. Hastings must have pledged a tacit faith for some degree of indulgence towards the donor: if it was a free gift, gratitude, if it was a bargain, justice obliged him to do it. If, on the other hand, Mr. Hastings originally destined (as he says he did) this money, given to himself secretly and for his private emolument, to the use of the Company, the Company's favor, to whom he acted as trustee, ought to have been purchased by it. In honor and justice he bound and pledged himself for that power which was to profit by the gift, and to profit, too, in the success of an expedition which Mr. Hastings thought so necessary to their aggrandizement. The unhappy man found his money accepted, but no favor acquired on the part either of the Company or of Mr. Hastings.

Your Committee have, in another Report, stated to the House that Mr. Hastings attributed the extremity of distress which the detachments under Colonel Camac had suffered, and the great desertions which ensued on that expedition, to the want of punctuality of the Rajah in making payment of one of the sums which had been extorted from him; and this want of punctual payment was afterwards assigned as a principal reason for the ruin of this prince. Your Committee have shown to the House, by a comparison of facts and dates, that this charge is wholly without foundation. But if the cause of Colonel Camac's failure had been true as to the sum which was the object of the public demand, the failure could not be attributed to the Rajah, when he had on the instant privately furnished at least 23,000l. to Mr. Hastings,—that is, furnished the identical money which he tells us (but carefully concealing the name of the giver) he had from the beginning destined, as he afterwards publicly offered, for this very expedition of Colonel Camac's. The complication of fraud and cruelty in the transaction admits of few parallels. Mr. Hastings at the Council Board of Bengal displays himself as a zealous servant of the Company, bountifully giving from his own fortune, and in his letter to the Directors (as he says himself) as going out of the ordinary roads for their advantage;[22] and all this on the credit of supplies derived from the gift of a man whom he treats with the utmost severity, and whom he accuses, in this particular, of disaffection to the Company's cause and interests.

With 23,000l. of the Rajah's money in his pocket, he persecutes him to his destruction,—assigning for a reason, that his reliance on the Rajah's faith, and his breach of it, were the principal causes that no other provision was made for the detachment on the specific expedition to which the Rajah's specific money was to be applied. The Rajah had given it to be disposed of by Mr. Hastings; and if it was not disposed of in the best manner for the accomplishing his objects, the accuser himself is the criminal.

To take money for the forbearance of a just demand would have been corrupt only; but to urge unjust public demands,—to accept private pecuniary favors in the course of those demands,—and, on the pretence of delay or refusal, without mercy to persecute a benefactor,—to refuse to hear his remonstrances,—to arrest him in his capital, in his palace, in the face of all the people,—thus to give occasion to an insurrection, and, on pretext of that insurrection, to refuse all treaty or explanation,—to drive him from his government and his country,—to proscribe him in a general amnesty,—and to send him all over India a fugitive, to publish the shame of British government in all the nations to whom he successively fled for refuge,—these are proceedings to which, for the honor of human nature, it is hoped few parallels are to be found in history, and in which the illegality and corruption of the acts form the smallest part of the mischief.

Such is the account of the first sum confessed to be taken as a present by Mr. Hastings, since the year 1775; and such are its consequences. Mr. Hastings apologizes for this action by declaring "that he would not have received the money but for the occasion, which prompted him to avail himself of the accidental means which were at that instant afforded him of accepting and converting it to the use of the Company."[23] By this account, he considers the act as excusable only by the particular occasion, by the temptation of accidental means, and by the suggestion of the instant. How far this is the case appears by the very next paragraph of this letter in which the account is given and in which the apology is made. If these were his sentiments in June, 1780, they lasted but a very short time: his accidental means appear to be growing habitual.

To point out in a clear manner the spirit of the second money transaction to which your Committee adverted, which is represented by Mr. Hastings as having some "affinity with the former anecdote,"[24] (for in this light kind of phrase he chooses to express himself to his masters,) your Committee think it necessary to state to the House, that the business, namely, this business, which was the second object of their inquiry, appears in three different papers and in three different lights: on comparing of these authorities, in every one of which Mr. Hastings is himself the voucher, if one of the three be true, the other two must necessarily be false.

These three authorities, which your Committee has accurately compared, are, first, his minutes on the Consultations;[25] secondly, his letter to the Court of Directors on the 29th of November, 1780;[26] thirdly, his account, transmitted on the 16th of December, 1782.[27]

About eight months after the first transaction relative to Cheyt Sing, and which is just reported, that is, on the 5th of January, 1781, Mr. Hastings produced a demand to the Council for money of his own expended for the Company's service.[28] Here was no occasion for secrecy. Mr. Francis was on his passage to Europe; Mr. Wheler was alone left, who no longer dissented from anything; Mr. Hastings was in effect himself the whole Council. He declared that he had disbursed three lacs of rupees, that is, thirty-four thousand five hundred pounds, in secret services,—which having, he says, "been advanced from my own private cash, I request that the same may be repaid to me in the following manner." He accordingly desires three bonds, for a lac of Sicca rupees each, to be given to him in two of the Company's subscriptions,—one to bear interest on the eight per cent loan, the other two in the four per cent: the bonds were antedated to the beginning of the preceding October. On the 9th of the same month, that is, on the 9th of January, 1781, the three bonds were accordingly ordered.[29] So far the whole transaction appears clear, and of a piece. Private money is subscribed, and a public security is taken for it. When the Company's Treasury accounts[30] are compared with the proceedings of their Council-General, a perfect correspondence also appears. The three bonds are then [there?] entered to Mr. Hastings, and he is credited for principal and interest on them, in the exact terms of the order. So far the official accounts,—which, because of their perfect harmony, are considered as clear and consistent evidence to one body of fact.

The second sort of document relative to these bonds (though the first in order of time) is Mr. Hastings's letter of the 29th of November, 1780.[31] It is written between the time of the expenditure of the money for the Company's use and the taking of the bonds. Here, for the first time, a very material difference appears; and the difference is the more striking, because Mr. Hastings claimed the whole money as his own, and took bonds for it as such, after this representation. The letter to the Company discovers that part of the money (the whole of which he had declared on record to be his own, and for which he had taken bonds) was not his, but the property of his masters, from whom he had taken the security. It is no less remarkable that the letter which represents the money as belonging to the Company was written about six weeks before the Minute of Council in which he claims that money as his own. It is this letter on which your Committee is to remark.

Mr. Hastings, after giving his reasons for the application of the three lacs of rupees, and for his having for some time concealed the fact, says, "Two thirds of that sum I have raised by my own credit, and shall charge it in my official account; the other third I have supplied from the cash in my hands belonging to the Honorable Company."[32]

The House will observe, that in November he tells the Directors that he shall charge only two thirds in his official accounts; in the following January he charges the whole.[33] For the other third, although he admitted that to belong to the Company, we have seen that he takes a bond to himself.

It is material that he tells the Company in his letter that these two lacs of rupees were raised on his credit. His letter to the Council says that they were advanced from his private cash. What he raises on his credit may, on a fair construction, be considered as his own: but in this, too, he fails; for it is certain he has never transferred these bonds to any creditor; nor has he stated any sum he has paid, or for which he stands indebted, on that account, to any specific person. Indeed, it was out of his power; for the first two thirds of the money, which he formerly stated as raised upon his credit, he now confesses to have been from the beginning the Company's property, and therefore could not have been raised on his private credit, or borrowed from any person whatsoever.

To these two accounts, thus essentially varying, he has added a third,[34] varying at least as essentially from both. In his last or third account, which is a statement of all the sums he has received in an extraordinary manner, and confessed to be the Company's property, he reverses the items of his first account, and, instead of allowing the Company but one third and claiming two thirds for himself, he enters two of the bonds, each for a lac of rupees, as belonging to the Company: of the third bond, which appears so distinctly in the Consultations and in the Treasury accounts, not one word is said; ten thousand pounds is absorbed, sinks, and disappears at once, and no explanation whatsoever concerning it is given; Mr. Hastings seems not yet to have decided to whose account it ought to be placed. In this manner his debt to the Company, or the Company's to him, is just what he thinks fit. In a single article he has varied three times. In one account he states the whole to be his own; in another he claims two thirds; in the last he gives up the claim of the two thirds, and says nothing to the remaining portion.

To make amends, however, for the suppression of this third bond, given with the two others in January, 1781, and antedated to the beginning of October, Mr. Hastings, in the above-mentioned general account subjoined to his letter of the 22d May, 1782, has brought to the Company's credit a new bond.[35]

This bond is for 17,000l. It was taken from the Company (and so it appears on their Treasury accounts) on the 23d of November, 1780. He took no notice of this, when, in January following, he called upon his own Council for the three others. What is more extraordinary, he was equally silent with regard to it, when, only six days after its date, he wrote concerning the subject of the three other bonds to the Court of Directors; yet now it comes out, that that bond also was taken by Mr. Hastings from the Company for money which he declares he had received on the Company's account, and that he entered himself as creditor when he ought to have made himself debtor.

Your Committee examined Major Scott concerning this money, which Mr. Hastings must have obtained in some clandestine and irregular mode; but they could obtain no information of the persons from whom it was taken, nor of the occasion or pretence of taking this large sum; nor does any Minute of Council appear for its application to any service. The whole of the transaction, whatever it was, relative to this bond, is covered with the thickest obscurity.

Mr. Hastings, to palliate the blame of his conduct, declares that he has not received any interest on these bonds,—and that he has indorsed them as not belonging to himself, but to the Company.[36] As to the first part of this allegation, whether he received the interest or let it remain in arrear is a matter of indifference, as he entitled himself to it; and so far as the legal security he has taken goes, he may, whenever he pleases, dispose both of principal and interest. What he has indorsed on the bonds, or when he made the indorsement, or whether in fact he has made it at all, are matters known only to himself; for the bonds must be in his possession, and are nowhere by him stated to be given up or cancelled,—which is a thing very remarkable, when he confesses that he had no right to receive them.

These bonds make but a part of the account of private receipts of money by Mr. Hastings, formerly paid into the Treasury as his own property, and now allowed not to be so. This account brings into view other very remarkable matters of a similar nature and description.[37]

In the public records, a sum of not less than 23,871l. is set to his credit as a deposit for his private account, paid in by him into the Treasury in gold, and coined at the Company's mint.[38] This appears in the account furnished to the Directors, under the date of May, 1782, not to be lawfully his money, and he therefore transfers it to the Company's credit: it still remains as a deposit.[39]

That the House may be apprised of the nature of this article of deposit, it may not be improper to state that the Company receive into their treasury the cash of private persons, placed there as in a bank. On this no interest is paid, and the party depositing has a right to receive it upon demand. Under this head of account no public money is ever entered. Mr. Hastings, neither at making the deposit as his own, nor at the time of his disclosure of the real proprietor, (which he makes to be the Company,) has given any information of the persons from whom this money had been received. Mr. Scott was applied to by your Committee, but could not give any more satisfaction in this particular than in those relative to the bonds.

The title of the account of the 22d of May purports not only that those sums were paid into the Company's treasury by Mr. Hastings's order, but that they were applied to the Company's service. No service is specified, directly or by any reference, to which this great sum of money has been applied.

Two extraordinary articles follow this, in the May account, amounting to about 29,000l.[40] These articles are called Receipts for Durbar Charges. The general head of Durbar Charges, made by persons in office, when analyzed into the particulars, contains various expenses, including bounties and presents made by government, chiefly in the foreign department. But in the last account he confesses that this sum also is not his, but the Company's property; but as in all the rest, so in this, he carefully conceals the means by which he acquired the money, the time of his taking it, and the persons from whom it was taken. This is the more extraordinary, because, in looking over the journals and ledgers of the Treasury, the presents received and carried to the account of the Company (which were generally small and complimental) were precisely entered, with the name of the giver.

Your Committee, on turning to the account of Durbar charges in the ledger of that month, find the sum, as stated in the account of May 22d, to be indeed paid in; but there is no specific application whatsoever entered.

The account of the whole money thus clandestinely received, as stated on the 22d of May, 1782, (and for a great part of which Mr. Hastings to that time took credit for, and for the rest has accounted in an extraordinary manner as his own,) amounts in the whole to upwards of ninety-three thousand pounds sterling: a vast sum to be so obtained, and so loosely accounted for! If the money taken from the Rajah of Benares be added, (as it ought,) it will raise the sum to upwards of 116,000l.; if the 11,600l. bond in October be added, it will be upwards of 128,000l. received in a secret manner by Mr. Hastings in about one year and five months. To all these he adds another sum of one hundred thousand pounds, received as a present from the Subah of Oude. Total, upwards of 228,000l.

Your Committee find that this last is the only sum the giver of which Mr. Hastings has thought proper to declare. It is to be observed, that he did not receive this 100,000l. in money, but in bills on a great native money-dealer resident at Benares, and who has also an house at Calcutta: he is called Gopal Das. The negotiation of these bills tended to make a discovery not so difficult as it would have been in other cases.

With regard to the application of this last sum of money, which is said to be carried to the Durbar charges of April, 1782, your Committee are not enabled to make any observations on it, as the account of that period has not yet arrived.

Your Committee have, in another Report, remarked fully upon most of the circumstances of this extraordinary transaction. Here they only bring so much of these circumstances again into view as may serve to throw light upon the true nature of the sums of money taken by British subjects in power, under the name of presents, and to show how far they are entitled to that description in any sense which can fairly imply in the pretended donors either willingness or ability to give. The condition of the bountiful parties who are not yet discovered may be conjectured from the state of those who have been made known: as far as that state anywhere appears, their generosity is found in proportion, not to the opulence they possess or to the favors they receive, but to the indigence they feel and the insults they are exposed to. The House will particularly attend to the situation of the principal giver, the Subah of Oude.

"When the knife," says he, "had penetrated to the bone, and I was surrounded with such heavy distresses that I could no longer live in expectations, I wrote you an account of my difficulties.

"The answer which I have received to it is such that it has given me inexpressible grief and affliction. I never had the least idea or expectation from you and the Council that you would ever have given your orders in so afflicting a manner, in which you never before wrote, and which I could not have imagined. As I am resolved to obey your orders, and directions of the Council, without any delay, as long as I live, I have, agreeably to those orders, delivered up all my private papers to him [the Resident], that, when he shall have examined my receipts and expenses, he may take whatever remains. As I know it to be my duty to satisfy you, the Company, and Council, I have not failed to obey in any instance, but requested of him that it might be done so as not to distress me in my necessary expenses: there being no other funds but those for the expenses of my mutseddies, household expenses, and servants, &c. He demanded these in such a manner, that, being remediless, I was obliged to comply with what he required. He has accordingly stopped the pensions of my old servants for thirty years, whether sepoys, mutseddies, or household servants, and the expenses of my family and kitchen, together with the jaghires of my grandmother, mother, and aunts, and of my brothers and dependants, which were for their support. I had raised thirteen hundred horse and three battalions of sepoys to attend upon me; but as I have no resources to support them, I have been obliged to remove the people stationed in the mahals [districts] and to send his people [the Resident's people] into the mahals, so that I have not now one single servant about me. Should I mention to what further difficulties I have been reduced, it would lay me open to contempt."

In other parts of this long remonstrance, as well as in other remonstrances no less serious, he says, "that it is difficult for him to save himself alive; that in all his affairs Mr. Hastings had given full powers to the gentlemen here," (meaning the English Resident and Assistants,) "who have done whatever they chose, and still continue to do it. I never expected that you would have brought me into such apprehension, and into so weak a state, without writing to me on any one of those subjects; since I have not the smallest connection with anybody except yourself. I am in such distress, both day and night, that I see not the smallest prospect of deliverance from it, since you are so displeased with me as not to honor me with a single letter."

In another remonstrance he thus expresses himself. "The affairs of this world are unstable, and soon pass away: it would therefore be incumbent on the English gentlemen to show some friendship for me in my necessities,—I, who have always exerted my very life in the service of the English, assigned over to them all the resources left in my country, stopped my very household expenses, together with the jaghires of my servants and dependants, to the amount of 98,98,375 rupees. Besides this, as to the jaghires of my grandmother, mother, and uncle, which were granted to them for their support, agreeable to engagements, you are the masters,—if the Council have sent orders for the stopping their jaghires also, stop them. I have no resources left in my country, and have no friends by me, being even distressed in my daily subsistence. I have some elephants, horses, and the houses which I inhabit: if they can be of any service to my friends, they are ready. Whenever you can discover any resources, seize upon them: I shall not interfere to prevent you. In my present distress for my daily expenses, I was in hopes that they would have excused some part of my debt. Of what use is it for me to relate my situation, which is known to the whole world? This much is sufficient."

The truth of all these representations is nowhere contested by Mr. Hastings. It is, indeed, admitted in something stronger than words; for, upon account of the Nabob's condition, and the no less distressed condition of his dominions, he thought it fit to withdraw from him and them a large body of the Company's troops, together with all the English of a civil description, who were found no less burdensome than the military. This was done on the declared inability of the country any longer to support them,—a country not much inferior to England in extent and fertility, and, till lately at least, its equal in population and culture.

It was to a prince, in a state so far remote from freedom, authority, and opulence, so penetrated with the treatment he had received, and the behavior he had met with from Mr. Hastings, that Mr. Hastings has chosen to attribute a disposition so very generous and munificent as, of his own free grace and mere motion, to make him a present, at one donation, of upwards of one hundred thousand pounds sterling. This vast private donation was given at the moment of vast instant demands severely exacted on account of the Company, and accumulated on immense debts to the same body,—and all taken from a ruined prince and almost desolated territory.

Mr. Hastings has had the firmness, with all possible ease and apparent unconcern, to request permission from the Directors to legalize this forbidden present for his own use. This he has had the courage to do at a time when he had abundant reason to look for what he has since received,—their censure for many material parts of his conduct towards the people from whose wasted substance this pretended free gift was drawn. He does not pretend that he has reason to expect the smallest degree of partiality, in this or any other point, from the Court of Directors. For, besides his complaint, first stated, of having never possessed their confidence, in a late letter[41] (in which, notwithstanding the censures of Parliament, he magnifies his own conduct) he says, that, in all the long period of his service, "he has almost unremittedly wanted the support which all his predecessors had enjoyed from their constituents. From mine," says he, "I have received nothing but reproach, hard epithets, and indignities, instead of rewards and encouragement." It must therefore have been from some other source of protection than that which the law had placed over him that he looked for countenance and reward in violating an act of Parliament which forbid him from taking gifts or presents on any account whatsoever,—much less a gift of this magnitude, which, from the distress of the giver, must be supposed the effect of the most cruel extortion.

The Directors did wrong in their orders to appropriate money, which they must know could not have been acquired by the consent of the pretended donor, to their own use.[42] They acted more properly in refusing to confirm this grant to Mr. Hastings, and in choosing rather to refer him to the law which he had violated than to his own sense of what he thought he was entitled to take from the natives: putting him in mind that the Regulating Act had expressly declared "that no Governor-General, or any of the Council, shall, directly or indirectly, accept, receive, or take, of or from any person or persons, or on any account whatsoever, any present, gift, donation, gratuity, or reward, pecuniary or otherwise, or any promise or engagement for any of the aforesaid." Here is no reserve for the case of a disclosure to the Directors, and for the legalizing the breach of an act of Parliament by their subsequent consent. The illegality attached to the action at its very commencement, and it could never be afterwards legalized: the Directors had no such power reserved to them. Words cannot be devised of a stronger import or studied with more care. To these words of the act are opposed the declaration and conduct of Mr. Hastings, who, in his letter of January, 1782, thinks fit to declare, that "an offer of a very considerable sum of money was made to him, both on the part of the Nabob and his ministers, as a present, which he accepted without hesitation." The plea of his pretended necessity is of no avail. The present was not in ready money, nor, as your Committee conceive, applicable to his immediate necessities. Even his credit was not bettered by bills at long periods; he does not pretend that he raised any money upon them; nor is it conceivable that a banker at Benares would be more willing to honor the drafts of so miserable, undone, and dependent a person as the Nabob of Oude than those of the Governor-General of Bengal, which might be paid either on the receipt of the Benares revenue, or at the seat of his power, and of the Company's exchequer. Besides, it is not explicable, upon any grounds that can be avowed, why the Nabob, who could afford to give these bills as a present to Mr. Hastings, could not have equally given them in discharge of the debt which he owed to the Company. It is, indeed, very much to be feared that the people of India find it sometimes turn more to their account to give presents to the English in authority than to pay their debts to the public; and this is a matter of a very serious consideration.

No small merit is made by Mr. Hastings, and that, too, in a high and upbraiding style, of his having come to a voluntary discovery of this and other unlawful practices of the same kind. "That honorable court," says Mr. Hastings, addressing himself to his masters, in his letter of December, 1782, "ought to know whether I possess the integrity and honor which are the first requisites of such a station. If I wanted these, they have afforded me too powerful incentives to suppress the information which I now convey to them through you, and to appropriate to my own use the sums which I have already passed to their credit, by their unworthy, and pardon me if I add dangerous reflections, which they have passed upon me for the first communication of this kind"; and he immediately adds, what is singular and striking, and savors of a recriminatory insinuation, "and your own experience will suggest to you that there are persons who would profit by such a warning."[43] To what Directors in particular this imputation of experience is applied, and what other persons they are in whom experience has shown a disposition to profit of such a warning, is a matter highly proper to be inquired into. What Mr. Hastings says further on this subject is no less worthy of attention:—"that he could have concealed these transactions, if he had a wrong motive, from theirs and the public eye forever."[44] It is undoubtedly true, that, whether the observation be applicable to the particular case or not, practices of this corrupt nature are extremely difficult of detection anywhere, but especially in India; but all restraint upon that grand fundamental abuse of presents is gone forever, if the servants of the Company can derive safety from a defiance of the law, when they can no longer hope to screen themselves by an evasion of it. All hope of reformation is at an end, if, confiding in the force of a faction among Directors or proprietors to bear them out, and possibly to vote them the fruit of their crimes as a reward of their discovery, they find that their bold avowal of their offences is not only to produce indemnity, but to be rated for merit. If once a presumption is admitted, that, wherever something is divulged, nothing is hid, the discovering of one offence may become the certain means of concealing a multitude of others. The contrivance is easy and trivial, and lies open to the meanest proficient in this kind of art; it will not only become an effectual cover to such practices, but will tend infinitely to increase them. In that case, sums of money will be taken for the purpose of discovery and making merit with the Company, and other sums will be taken for the private advantage of the receiver.

It must certainly be impossible for the natives to know what presents are for one purpose, or what for the other. It is not for a Gentoo or a Mahometan landholder at the foot of the remotest mountains in India, who has no access to our records and knows nothing of our language, to distinguish what lacs of rupees, which he has given eo nomine as a present to a Company's servant, are to be authorized by his masters in Leadenhall Street as proper and legal, or carried to their public account at their pleasure, and what are laid up for his own emolument.

The legislature, in declaring all presents to be the property of the Company, could not consider corruption, extortion, and fraud as any part of their resources. The property in such presents was declared to be theirs, not as a fund for their benefit, but in order to found a legal title to a civil suit. It was declared theirs, to facilitate the recovery out of corrupt and oppressive hands of money illegally taken; but this legal fiction of property could not nor ought by the legislature to be considered in any other light than as a trust held by them for those who suffered the injury. Upon any other construction, the Company would have a right, first, to extract money from the subjects or dependants of this kingdom committed to their care, by means of particular conventions, or by taxes, by rents, and by monopolies; and when they had exhausted every contrivance of public imposition, then they were to be at liberty to let loose upon the people all their servants, from the highest rank to the lowest, to prey upon them at pleasure, and to draw, by personal and official authority, by influence, venality, and terror, whatever was left to them,—and that all this was justified, provided the product was paid into the Company's exchequer.

This prohibition and permission of presents, with this declaration of property in the Company, would leave no property to any man in India. If, however, it should be thought that this clause in the act[45] should be capable, by construction and retrospect, of so legalizing and thus appropriating these presents, (which your Committee conceive impossible,) it is absolutely necessary that it should be very fully explained.

The provision in the act was made in favor of the natives. If such construction prevails, the provision made as their screen from oppression will become the means of increasing and aggravating it without bounds and beyond remedy. If presents, which when they are given were unlawful, can afterwards be legalized by an application of them to the Company's service, no sufferer can even resort to a remedial process at law for his own relief. The moment he attempts to sue, the money may be paid into the Company's treasury; it is then lawfully taken, and the party is non-suited.

The Company itself must suffer extremely in the whole order and regularity of their public accounts, if the idea upon which Mr. Hastings justifies the taking of these presents receives the smallest countenance. On his principles, the same sum may become private property or public, at the pleasure of the receiver; it is in his power, Mr. Hastings says, to conceal it forever.[46] He certainly has it in his power not only to keep it back and bring it forward at his own times, but even to shift and reverse the relations in the accounts (as Mr. Hastings has done) in what manner and proportion seems good to him, and to make himself alternately debtor or creditor for the same sums.

Of this irregularity Mr. Hastings himself appears in some degree sensible. He conceives it possible that his transactions of this nature may to the Court of Directors seem unsatisfactory. He, however, puts it hypothetically: "If to you," says he, "who are accustomed to view business in an official and regular light, they should appear unprecedented, if not improper."[47] He just conceives it possible that in an official money transaction the Directors may expect a proceeding official and regular. In what other lights than those which are official and regular matters of public account ought to be regarded by those who have the charge of them, either in Bengal or in England, does not appear to your Committee. Any other is certainly "unprecedented and improper," and can only serve to cover fraud both in the receipt and in the expenditure. The acquisition of 58,000 rupees, or near 6000l., which appears in the sort of unofficial and irregular account that he furnishes of his presents, in his letter of May, 1782,[48] must appear extraordinary indeed to those who expect from men in office something official and something regular. "This sum," says he, "I received while I was on my journey to Benares."[49] He tells it with the same careless indifference as if things of this kind were found by accident on the high-road.

Mr. Hastings did not, indeed he could not, doubt that this unprecedented and improper account would produce much discussion. He says, "Why these sums were taken by me, why they were (except the second) quietly transferred to the Company's account, why bonds were taken for the first and not for the rest, might, were this matter to be exposed to the view of the public, furnish a variety of conjectures."[50]

This matter has appeared, and has furnished, as it ought to do, something more serious than conjectures. It would in any other case be supposed that Mr. Hastings, expecting such inquiries, and considering that the questions are (even as they are imperfectly stated by himself) far from frivolous, would condescend to give some information upon them; but the conclusion of a sentence so importantly begun, and which leads to such expectations, is, "that to these conjectures it would be of little use to reply." This is all he says to public conjecture.

To the Court of Directors he is very little more complaisant, and not at all more satisfactory; he states merely as a supposition their inquiry concerning matters of which he positively knew that they had called for an explanation. He knew it, because he presumed to censure them for doing so. To the hypothesis of a further inquiry he gives a conjectural answer of such a kind as probably, in an account of a doubtful transaction, and to a superior, was never done before.

"Were your Honorable Court to question me upon these points, I would answer, that the sums were taken for the Company's benefit, at times in which the Company very much stood in need of them; that I either chose to conceal the first receipts from public curiosity by receiving bonds for the amount, or possibly acted without any studied design which my memory could at this distance of time verify."[51]

He here professes not to be certain of the motives by which he was himself actuated in so extraordinary a concealment, and in the use of such extraordinary means to effect it; and as if the acts in question were those of an absolute stranger, and not his own, he gives various loose conjectures concerning the motive to them. He even supposes, in taking presents contrary to law, and in taking bonds for them as his own, contrary to what he admits to be truth and fact, that he might have acted without any distinct motive at all, or at least such as his memory could reach at that distance of time. That immense distance, in the faintness of which his recollection is so completely lost as to set him guessing at his motives for his own conduct, was from the 15th of January, 1781, when the bonds at his own request were given, to the date of this letter, which is the 22d of May, 1782,—that is to say, about one year and four months.

As to the other sums, for which no bond was taken, the ground for the difference in his explanation is still more extraordinary: he says, "I did not think it worth my care to observe the same means with the rest."[52] The rest of these sums, which were not worth his care, are stated in his account to be greater than those he was so solicitous (for some reason which he cannot guess) to cover under bonds: these sums amount to near 53,000l.; whereas the others did not much exceed 40,000l. For these actions, attended with these explanations, he ventures to appeal to their (the Directors') breasts for a candid interpretation, and "he assumes the freedom to add, that he thinks himself, on such a subject, and on such an occasion, entitled to it";[53] and then, as if he had performed some laudable exploit, in the accompanying letter he glories in the integrity of his conduct; and anticipating his triumph over injustice, and the applauses which at a future time he seems confident he shall receive, says he, "The applause of my own breast is my surest reward: your applause and that of my country is my next wish in life."[54] He declares in that very letter that he had not at any time possessed the confidence with them which they never withheld from the meanest of his predecessors. With wishes so near his heart perpetually disappointed, and, instead of applauses, (as he tells us,) receiving nothing but reproaches and disgraceful epithets, his steady continuance for so many years in their service, in a place obnoxious in the highest degree to suspicion and censure, is a thing altogether singular.

It appears very necessary to your Committee to observe upon the great leading principles which Mr. Hastings assumes, to justify the irregular taking of these vast sums of money, and all the irregular means he had employed to cover the greater part of it. These principles are the more necessary to be inquired into, because, if admitted, they will serve to justify every species of improper conduct. His words are, "that the sources from which these reliefs to the public service have come would never have yielded them to the Company publicly; and that the exigencies of their service (exigencies created by the exposition of their affairs, and faction in their divided councils) required those supplies."[55]

As to the first of these extraordinary positions, your Committee cannot conceive what motive could actuate any native of India dependent on the Company, in assisting them privately, and in refusing to assist them publicly. If the transaction was fair and honest, every native must have been desirous of making merit with the great governing power. If he gave his money as a free gift, he might value himself upon very honorable and very acceptable service; if he lent it on the Company's bonds, it would still have been of service, and he might also receive eight per cent for his money. No native could, without some interested view, give to the Governor-General what he would refuse to the Company as a grant, or even as a loan. It is plain that the powers of government must, in some way or other, be understood by the natives to be at sale. The Governor-General says that he took the money with an original destination to the purposes to which he asserts he has since applied it. But this original destination was in his own mind only,—not declared, nor by him pretended to be declared, to the party who gave the presents, and who could perceive nothing in it but money paid to the supreme magistrate for his private emolument. All that the natives could possibly perceive in such a transaction must be highly dishonorable to the Company's government; for they must conceive, when they gave money to Mr. Hastings, that they bought from Mr. Hastings either what was their own right or something that was not so, or that they redeemed themselves from some acts of rigor inflicted, threatened, or apprehended. If, in the first case, Mr. Hastings gave them the object for which they bargained, his act, however proper, was corrupt,—if he did not, it was both corrupt and fraudulent; if the money was extorted by force or threats, it was oppressive and tyrannical. The very nature of such transactions has a tendency to teach the natives to pay a corrupt court to the servants of the Company; and they must thereby be rendered less willing, or less able, or perhaps both, to fulfil their engagements to the state. Mr. Scott's evidence asserts that they would rather give to Mr. Hastings than lend to the Company. It is very probable; but it is a demonstration of their opinion of his power and corruption, and of the weak and precarious state of the Company's authority.

The second principle assumed by Mr. Hastings for his justification, namely, that factious opposition and a divided government might create exigencies requiring such supplies, is full as dangerous as the first; for, if, in the divisions which must arise in all councils, one member of government, when he thinks others factiously disposed, shall be entitled to take money privately from the subject for the purposes of his politics, and thereby to dispense with an act of Parliament, pretences for that end cannot be wanting. A dispute may always be raised in council in order to cover oppression and peculation elsewhere. But these principles of Mr. Hastings tend entirely to destroy the character and functions of a council, and to vest them in one of the dissentient members. The law has placed the sense of the whole in the majority; and it is not a thing to be suffered, that any of the members should privately raise money for the avowed purpose of defeating that sense, or for promoting designs that are contrary to it: a more alarming assumption of power in an individual member of any deliberative or executive body cannot be imagined. Mr. Hastings had no right, in order to clear himself of peculation, to criminate the majority with faction. No member of any body, outvoted on a question, has, or can have, a right to direct any part of his public conduct by that principle. The members of the Council had a common superior, to whom they might appeal in their mutual charges of faction: they did so frequently; and the imputation of faction has almost always been laid on Mr. Hastings himself.

But there were periods, very distinguished periods too, in the records of the Company, in which the clandestine taking of money could not be supported even by this pretence. Mr. Hastings has been charged with various acts of peculation, perpetrated at a time he could not excuse himself by the plea of any public purpose to be carried on, or of any faction in council by which it was traversed. It may be necessary here to recall to the recollection of the House, that, on the cry which prevailed of the ill practices of the Company's servants in India, (which general cry in a great measure produced the Regulating Act of 1773,) the Court of Directors, in their instructions of the 29th of March, 1774, gave it as an injunction to the Council-General, that "they immediately cause the strictest inquiry to be made into all oppressions which may have been committed either against natives or Europeans, and into all abuses which may have prevailed in the collection of the revenues or any part of the civil government of the Presidency; and that you communicate to us all information which you may be able to obtain relative thereto, or any embezzlement or dissipation of the Company's money."

In this inquiry, by far the most important abuse which appeared on any of the above heads was that which was charged relative to the sale in gross by Mr. Hastings of nothing less than the whole authority of the country government in the disposal of the guardianship of the Nabob of Bengal.

The present Nabob, Mobarek ul Dowlah, was a minor when he succeeded to the title and office of Subahdar of the three provinces in 1770. Although in a state approaching to subjection, still his rank and character were important. Much was necessarily to depend upon a person who was to preserve the moderation of a sovereign not supported by intrinsic power, and yet to maintain the dignity necessary to carry on the representation of political government, as well as the substance of the whole criminal justice of a great country. A good education, conformably to the maxims of his religion and the manners of his people, was necessary to enable him to fill that delicate place with reputation either to the Mahometan government or to ours. He had still to manage a revenue not inconsiderable, which remained as the sole resource for the languishing dignity of persons any way distinguished in rank among Mussulmen, who were all attached and clung to him. These considerations rendered it necessary to put his person and affairs into proper hands. They ought to have been men who were able by the gravity of their rank and character to preserve his morals from the contagion of low and vicious company,—men who by their integrity and firmness might be enabled to resist in some degree the rapacity of Europeans, as well as to secure the remaining fragments of his property from the attempts of the natives themselves, who must lie under strong temptation of taking their share in the last pillage of a decaying house.

The Directors were fully impressed with the necessity of such an arrangement. Your Committee find, that, on the 26th of August, 1771, they gave instructions to the President and Council to appoint "a minister to transact the political affairs of the circar [government],—and to select for that purpose some person well qualified for the affairs of government to be the minister of the government, and guardian of the Nabob's minority."

The order was so distinct as not to admit of a mistake; it was (for its matter) provident and well considered; and the trust which devolved on Mr. Hastings was of such a nature as might well stimulate a man sensible to reputation to fulfil it in a manner agreeably to the directions he had received, and not only above just cause of exception, but out of the reach of suspicion and malice. In that situation it was natural to suppose he would cast his eyes upon men of the first repute and consideration among the Mussulmen of high rank.

Mr. Hastings, instead of directing his eyes to the durbar, employed his researches in the seraglio. In the inmost recesses of that place he discovered a woman secluded from the intercourse and shut up from the eyes of men, whom he found to correspond with the orders he had received from the Directors, as a person well "qualified for the affairs of government, fit to be a minister of government and the guardian of the Nabob's minority." This woman he solemnly invests with these functions. He appoints Rajah Gourdas, whom some time after he himself qualified with a description of a young man of mean abilities, to be her duan, or steward of the household. The rest of the arrangement was correspondent to this disposition of the principal offices.

It seems not to have been lawful or warrantable in Mr. Hastings to set aside the arrangement positively prescribed by the Court of Directors, which evidently pointed to a man, not to any woman whatever. As a woman confined in the female apartment, the lady he appointed could not be competent to hold or qualified to exercise any active employment: she stood in need of guardians for herself, and had not the ability for the guardianship of a person circumstanced as the Subah was. General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis declare in their minute, "that they believe there never was an instance in India of such a trust so disposed of." Mr. Hastings has produced no precedent in answer to this objection.

It will be proper to state to the House the situation and circumstances of the women principally concerned, who were in the seraglio of Jaffier Ali Khan at his death. The first of these was called Munny Begum, a person originally born of poor and obscure parents, who delivered her over to the conductress of a company of dancing girls; in which profession being called to exhibit at a festival, the late Nabob took a liking to her, and, after some cohabitation, she obtained such influence over him that he took her for one of his wives and (she seems to have been the favorite) put her at the head of his harem; and having a son by her, this son succeeded to his authority and estate,—Munny Begum, the mother, being by his will a devisee of considerable sums of money, and other effects, on which he left a charge, which has since been applied to the service of the East India Company. The son of this lady dying, and a son by another wife succeeding, and dying also, the present Nabob, Mobarek ul Dowlah, son by a third wife, succeeded. This woman was then alive, and in the seraglio.

It was Munny Begum that Mr. Hastings chose, and not the natural mother of the Nabob. Whether, having chosen a woman in defiance of the Company's orders, and in passing by the natural parent of the minor prince, he was influenced by respect for the disposition made by the deceased Nabob during his life, or by other motives, the House will determine upon a view of the facts which follow. It will be matter of inquiry, when the question is stated upon the appointment of a stepmother in exclusion of the parent, whether the usage of the East constantly authorizes the continuance of that same distribution of rank and power which was settled in the seraglio during the life of a deceased prince, and which was found so settled at his death, and afterwards, to the exclusion of the mother of the successor. In case of female guardianship, her claim seems to be a right of Nature, and which nothing but a very clear positive law will (if that can) authorize the departure from. The history of Munny Begum is stated on the records of the Council-General, and no attempt made by Mr. Hastings to controvert the truth of it.

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