« PreviousContinue »
however, in a kind of language which he could not avoid taking notice of, disavowed any party feeling or connection with the party in question. With respect to himself, he was happy that the business had worn so little the appearance of party as it had; and although he had moved for and obtained the report, which had been so much discussed, and upon which so much had turned, he had proved himself ready and anxious (as the persons alluded to well knew) to resign the business into the hands of the respectable gentleman who had upon that day so ably brought it forward. He could never, for one, submit to the imputation, that the party with whom he had the honour to act were supporting or opposing any measure upon the motives less just, less fair or less honorable than those which influenced any other description of gentlemen in that house. The present question could not even be pretended to be pursued with party policy, as there was not a person in the house who could avoid confessing that party purposes would be better gratified by entangling the right honorable gentleman in the pursuit of this obnoxious and unpopular scheme. But the gentleman who had upon that day led the opposition to it, had been desired to take such a lead, because it appeared among the most effectual means of warding off an injury from the country; otherwise to be enlisting under leaders for the day, or courting the temporary assistance of any description of gentlemen, would, in his opinion, prove a conduct as impolitic as undignified. On the other hand, to recede from any important contest, because gentlemen unconnected with them were likely to have the credit of the event, would deservedly cast on them the reproach of being a faction and not a party. But this was not their conduct; they could defend their situation upon system and principle; however reduced their ranks, they were more desirous to prove they were in the right than to in
crease their numbers. He was confident, however, that the gentlemen to whom he might be supposed to allude, were too liberal to set a less value upon their support that day because it was unaccompanied by adulation, or any endeavour to canvass for their future connection. Let us (added Mr. Sheridan) this night be firmly embodied in a cause we equally approve. Let us do this great service to the country; then separate, and seek opposing camps. Let them return with double triumph, if they will, of having conferred an important benefit on their constituents and the nation, and a real obligation on the government. Let them have the credit with the country of having defeated the minister's measure; and the merit with his friends, of having rescued him from a perilous dilemma. Leave us only the silent satisfaction that, without envying the reputation of those whom we were content to follow, without being piqued by insinuations against our motives, and without debating whether the minister might not be served by our success, we gave an earnest and zealous assistance in defeating a measure, which, under the specious pretence of securing our coasts, strikes at the root of our great national defence, and at the heart of the constitution itself.
The gallery being cleared the house divided on the motion “that the words proposed to be left out, stand as part of the question." ayes 169; noes 169.
The numbers being equal, the Speaker remarked that, under his inability to say any thing new upon a subject which had been already so thoroughly debated; and being too much exhausted by fatigue to enter largely into it then, even if he possessed talent enough to do it in a manner which would tend to throw any new light upon it, he would content himself with merely giving his vote againt the original motion, and declaring that the noes had carried the ques tion."
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MR. HASTINGS.
Major Scott on the first day of this session, 24th of January, 1786, reminded the house that Mr. Hastings had arrived in England some months; and he therefore called upon Mr. Burke to produce the charges which he had pledged himself in the preceding sessions to bring forward against Mr. Hastings; and to fix the earliest day possible for the discussion of them. Mr. Burke replied to the major, by relating an anecdote of the great Duke of Parma, who being challenged by Henry the Fourth of France" to bring his forces into the open field, and instantly decide their disputes," answered with a smile," that he knew very well, what he had to do, and was not come so far to be directed by "an enemy."
On the 17th Mr. Burke brought this subject before the house. After desiring the clerk to read the 44th and 45th resolutions of censure and recal of Mr. Hastings, moved by Mr. Dundas on the 29th of May, 1782, he said that he entirely agreed in opinion with the friends of that gentleman, that the resolutions which had been read should not be suffered to remain a mere calumny on the page of their journals; at the same time he lamented that the solemn business of the day should have devolved upon him by the natural death of some, by the political death of others, and in some instances by a death to principle and to duty. Having endeavoured to remove the odium of appearing a forward prosecutor of public delinquency, Mr. Burke called back the recollection of the house to the several proceedings which had been had in parliament respecting the mal-administration of the company's officers in India, from the period of Lord Clive's government down to the reports of the secret and select committees, the resolutions moved thereupon, and the approbation repeatedly given to these proceedings by His Majesty from the throne. It was upon the authority, the sanction, and the encouragement thus afforded him, that he rested this accusation of Mr. Hastings as a delinquent of the first magnitude. After going through an infinite variety of topics relative to this part of his subject; he proceeded to explain the process which he should recommend to the house to pursue. There were he observed, three several modes of proceeding against state delinquents, which according to the exigencies of particular cases had each at different times been adopted. The first was to direct the Attorney-General to prosecute; from this mode he acknowledged himself totally averse, not only because he had just discovered in the gentleman who filled that situation, that zeal for pub lic justice in the present instance, which was a necessary qualification in a public prosecutor; but more especially, because he thought a trial in the Court of King's Bench, amidst a cloud of causes of meum and tuum, of trespass, assault, battery, assumpsit and trover, &c. not at all suited to the size and enormity of the offender, or to
the complicated nature and extent of his offences. Another mode of proceeding occasionally adopted by the house was by bill of pains and penalties; this mode he also greatly disapproved of. The only process that remained, was by the ancient and constitutional mode of impeachment; and even in adopting this process he should advise the house to proceed with all possible caution and prudence. It had been usual, he observed, in the first instance, to resolve that the party accused should be impeached, and then a committee to examine the evidence, and find the articles on which the impeachment was to be founded. This mode of proceeding, had, from the heat and pas sion with which the minds of men were sometimes apt to be inflamed, led the house on more than one occasion, into the disgraceful dilemma, of either abandoning the impeachment they had voted, or of preferring articles which they had not evidence to support. In order to steer clear of this disgrace, he should move that such papers as were necessary for substantiating the guilt of Mr. Hastings, if guilt there was, should be laid before the house, and that these papers together with the charges extracted from them, should be referred to a committee of the whole house, and evidence examined thereon. If the charges should then appear, what he believed they would be found to be, charges of the blackest and foulest nature, and supported by competent and sufficient evidence, the house would then proceed with confidence and dignity to the bar of the house of lords. After a speech of considerable length Mr. Burke moved, "That copies of all correspondence, since the month of January, 1782, between Warren Hastings, Esquire, governor general of Bengal, and the Court of Directors, as well before as since the return of the said governor general relative to presents and other money, particularly received by the said governor general, be laid before this house."
This question being carried, Mr. Burke proceeded to move for a great variety of other papers, which he alleged were necessary for the prosecution of the cause he had undertaken. These motions produced much conversation; and, towards the close of the day, there appeared some hesitation in the ministers of the crown, whether it would be proper to produce whatever papers might be called for on the mere suggestion of the mover, without insisting upon his stating the connection they had with the matters contained in the reports of the committees, beyond which they did not think he ought to go in the matter of his intended accusation. At this stage of the business, the house adjourned at one o'clock, on account of the illness of the Speaker; and the day following the conversation was renewed upon a motion for papers relative to the affairs of Oude. Major Scott followed Mr. Burke, and agreed in opinion with him, that the papers were necessary to be produced; and Mr. Pitt, after manyTM professions of the most unbiassed impartiality, concurred with them ;3 remarking, at the same time, that it would be but fair and candid in Mr. Burke, to give the house some specific information of the subject matter of his charges, and to state the grounds and reasons
for the production of such papers as he might think it necessary to call for in support of them. In compliance with this request, Mr. Burke read to the house a short abstract of the several charges which he designed to bring forward; and pointed out the matters which the several papers he afterwards moved for were intended to explain and substantiate. The rest of Mr. Burke's motions met with little opposition; till on the 3d of March, he moved for copies of letters and other papers, relative to the treaty of peace with the Mahrattas. This motion was opposed by Mr. Dundas and Mr. Pitt, on two grounds; first, that the treaty in question was a wise and salutary treaty, and had saved the British empire in Asia; and, secondly, that the production of the papers moved for would discover transactions relative to that peace, which ought to be kept a secret from the country powers in India; inasmuch as it would disclose thes means by which the several states that were confederate against England were made jealous of each other, and the intrigues by which they were induced to dissolve that confederacy. After a long debate the house divided, and the motion was rejected by a majority of 87 to 44.
The conduct of administration, in refusing the papers, and the reason upon which that refusal was grounded, appeared to the members in opposition of so serious and alarming a nature, that the same motion was twice renewed, on the 6th and 17th of March, by Mr. Fox, but restricted to the correspondence of a Major Brown, an agent of Mr. Hastings, at the court of Delhi. Copies of many parts of this correspondence were in the hands of some private indi viduals in England; and they were used, in the course of the des bate, both to prove the criminal conduct of Mr. Hastings, and the futility of the pretension of secrecy.
In the course of the debate on the 3d of March, Major Scott ob served, that when Mr. Fox brought in his India bill, an intimation was given, in a private conversation which he had with a person of authority, commissioned by Mr. Sheridan, that matters might be accommodated; and he made no doubt, had Mr. Hastings then come home, he would have heard nothing of this calumny, and alb these serious accusations." Mr. Sheridan, who was absent on this day, the 3d, answered the attack on the 6th.
Mr. Sheridan complained of the manner of re fusing material papers, without stating any par ticular specific reason for such refusal; but what he principally rose for, he said, had been in order to give the house an explanation of that charge, or rather insinuation, respecting him, which an honorable gentleman (Major Scott) opposite to him had advanced. The committee would recollect, that when he heard of the matter on Friday evening, hes