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clared, that he never would consent to suffer the first principles of the constitution to be violated, to answer any expediency whatever. But probably the reason of instituting a new court of judicature was to give employment to the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Dundas) and some others; whose places, by their own accounts, were sinecures ;— therefore it was on the principle that mothers gave playthings to their children, merely to keep them out of mischief. If so, he had no objection; and made not the least doubt but strict justice would be done, as their integrity had been tried on other occasions. He particularly pointed out the absurdity of a clause relative to the secret council; and remarked, that the whole bill evidently appeared as if the two contending parties, the crown and company, had endeavoured to over-reach each other. The company remonstrated against the first bill, because orders were to be transmitted to India without their consent; and insisted on the right of some of their directors being acquainted with all matters before they were dispatched. To please them, the right honorable gentleman had suffered them to have a secret committee of three directors; but the company were not a bit nearer;-for those three directors were sworn not to divulge any thing done in council;-of course they must cut a ridiculous figure; for they might be present at a court of directors, and see and hear measures carrying on, and regulations making, diametrically opposite to what they knew had been determined on in council; and by their oaths were debarred from giving any other information than a nod or a wink across the table, or a grave shake of the head, to intimate they knew something which they dare not divulge. He then pointed out the clause which obliges the company to transmit all papers to the Secretary of State and Council for their approbation, previous to their being sent to India; and remarked on the difficulty that would accrue from the alterations
made by each party. But what was curious was the wording of the next clause to it; which began, "For the better dispatch of business, &c. be it enacted, that in case of any alteration being made, the company might be at liberty to send it back again to be reconsidered; and in case of their not meeting with redress, then they might be at liberty to refer to the King in council;" who, in fact, was the same tribunal they had appealed to twice before. Surely that was a curious method of dispatch, to keep sending backwards and forwards a paper alternately; and which might never be approved.
He dwelt much on the rapacity, and other improper conduct of Mr. Hastings, being all forgiven in the present bill. But that, he said, was a matter which Mr. Hastings's India parliamentary interest, no doubt, insisted upon; and which a minister, depending on such men, did not dare to refuse. He adverted to the new court of judicature; which took away from British subjects the trial by jury; and in so doing overturned the principle of the constitution. Here he was remarkably severe on the minister; who, under colour of saving the charters of a company of men that all the world allowed to have acted dishonestly, subverted the very foundation stone on which the great Magna Charta of their country was built; and did a deed which paved the direct road to the establishment of arbitrary power in all the dominions of Great Britain. This, he said, was modern popularity. He attacked the minister for daring to say that this bill was acceptable in India. This he argued on two points: if it was agreeable to the delinquents, it certainly must be a bad bill; and on that point the minister could gain no credit. The fact, however, was not so; and he was happy to inform the house, that the minister mis-stated the matter, when he said, the bill was acceptable in the East. In arguments of this kind there was nothing so strong as evidence; and therefore against Mr. Pitt's ipse dixit,
that this bill was universally liked all over India, where it seems its original principles and clauses were fabricated; he only referred the house to a truth not to be contradicted, which lay upon the table-a petition from six hundred and forty-eight of the principal persons residing in Bengal ; beseeching the house, by all that they held most dear, not to violate the constitution, by so dreadful an act of parliament, as one for taking away from British subjects the right of being tried by their peers. This pure spirit of rectifying the ancient chartered rights of the people, would, no doubt, extend itself in time to every part of the English dominions; and trial by jury be taken away from all His Majesty's subjects in every part of the globe. Here the honorable gentleman called for the attention of the house. He said, the India phalanx, those Swiss guards of Eastern peculation, had openly declared, that they would overthrow the last administration; and by doing so, teach another how to value and respect their friendship; nay, these Eastern Lords went so far as to declare, that the depravity of this country was now arrived to such a pitch, that they could carry any point by money. After a variety of other arguments, he concluded with a reliance on the candor of the minister, that he would recommit the bill, that it might be divested of its slovenly dress, and made conformable to common sense-even if the principles were to be divested of common justice.
The amendment being carried without a division,
Mr. Sheridan then said, that as the house had determined not to send the bill back to the committee, he could not now proceed to those alterations which he would have thought it his duty to have offered, if it had been re-committed: he declared his object was not to gain time; but in reality to move such amendments as to him appeared absolutely necessary. The right honorable gentleman had said,
that the East-India Company had assigned good reasons for the alterations that they had required: he made no doubt but they must have assigned very convincing reasons indeed to make the right honorable gentleman give up almost the entire principle of his bill, and bring it out of the committee as different from what it was when it was committed, as an effectual differed from an ineffectual control; indeed the right honorable member was in the right for saying, that he had had good reasons for the alterations. He had only to look about him, and he might see himself surrounded with reasons strong enough in all conscience to make him stand well with persons who had overturned the administration, and were powerful enough to make their successors feel they were mere creatures of their own hands, which, as they set them up, might pull them down again. It was, therefore, very prudent and politic in the right honorable member to call the bill brought in by his right honorable friend a bill for establishing a system of plunder and despotism; such hard words would please the committee beyond description; and secure to the right honorable member their support, and consequently his present situation.
REPORT FROM THE COMMITTEE OF THE
An Amendment was moved that the East India Company should pay five per cent. on their debt.
Mr. SHERIDAN said, he trusted the minister would not be followed so implicitly upon the question that night, as he had been two days before. Gentlemen saw more clearly its quality, and he believed, they would not chuse to countenance a proceeding so unbecoming. That in private life, a man
might upon occasion find it convenient or necessary to conceal his embarrassments, by the gaiety, or even the splendor of his appearance; that he might dart into some expenses for the sake of maintaining a declining credit, he admitted. A private man, if he had future prospects of retrieving himself, might, perhaps, without much imputation, do this. But was the same conduct to be permitted to a state; or was a nation like ours, which stood on the purity and clearness of her credit, to give her countenance and sanction to such a manoeuvre? What might not be the conclusions drawn from such conduct? Take the question in another view. At a time when we were, through the most urgent state of necessity, laying heavy burdens on the poor people of this country-when even the poor seemed to be selected for the burdens-was it decent to rob them of £75,000 a year, in order to free a company which boasted of its opulence, and which, whatever might be its real ability, had found the means of planting a phalanx in that house, for the purpose of shifting their distresses from themselves on the heads of the people of England. Save this £75,000 a year to the nation, and you may relieve the unhappy poor from your new duty on candles; save this sum, and several of your new taxes distressing the valuable manufacturer, and the industrious artisan-taxes which crush ingenuity, and take from œconomy its fruits, will be unnecessary.
On a division there appeared, ayes (for the amendment) 27 ;
PETITION FROM NAVY BILL HOLDERS.
In the course of the debate it was observed by Lord Mahon "that if it was a breach of public credit to permit navy bills to run above years, then the last administration had been guilty of that breach of public credit, by having neglected last year to pay off the bills of 1781; and Lord John Cavendish and Mr. Fox now stand before