Page images

refusing necessary papers on that ground) when he, himself, had formed his own motions for papers in 1781 and 1782, in the broadest and most general words; calling for all the papers relating to the revenue; all the papers relating to the civil government; &c. &c. At that time, and it was a time of war, nobody dreamt of a secret respecting India. How happened it then, that when the conduct of Lord Clive was under inquiry, when every other India inquiry was going on, that from the earliest periods it had never been discovered, that there might be a state secret in India till the year 1756. It was downright nonsense to talk with a grave face about secrecy, and the dangerous tendency of letting the papers moved for be seen; when it was well known, not only what were their contents, but every transaction to which they alluded.


In order more fully to convince the house that the papers would establish a most extraordinary series of duplicity in the conduct of Mr. Hastings, respecting the negociation with the Mogul, Mr. Sheridan went into a detailed investigation of every minute circumstance of the transactions of Major Browne, from the time of his leaving Calcutta, in October, 1783, to the arrival of Mr. Hastings at Lucknow, with all the relative facts of the flight of the son of the Mogul; of that prince's reception by Mr. Hastings and the Nabob of Oude; the seizure of the old Minister of the Mogul by the Vizier Aphrasead Cawn, and the putting the Mogul into the hands of Madagee Scindia; reasoning upon each particular as he proceeded, and deducing such inferences as he conceived the premises clearly warranted. All these he contended, concurred in proving, that Mr. Hastings had acted in a manner so intricate and extraordinary, that though he by no means wished it to be understood as suggesting it either as a charge, or an insinuation, that Mr. Hastings was conscious of being guilty; yet, with the purest innocence on the part of that gentleman, the

suspicion to which it gave rise (at least in his mind) was, that Mr. Hastings, from an idea, that the party he considered as his political enemies, were in power at home, might entertain a wish to provide himself a refuge at the court of Dehli. On this occasion he must take the liberty to observe, that much inconsistency had, to appearance, marked the conduct of a learned and right honorable gentleman (Mr. Dundas), who discovered an aversion from either manfully standing forward himself as the first accuser of Mr. Hastings, or being at least a warm supporter of the accusation. What could be the reason of the backwardness of the learned and right honorable gentleman, who had built his fame on his conduct as a conductor of Indian inquiries? Was it because he thought to secure that situation he had acquired by prosecuting one supposed delinquent, that he took pains to protect another? Or was it from a kind of gratitude for East India delinquency, to which he had been so much obliged, that he chose to be his friend, and would not, as it were, kick down the ladder on which he had risen? From whatsoever motives a conduct so singular had arisen, it was fair to point at the political versatility of the right honorable and learned gentleman, who could, in 1786, oppose the substantiation of resolutions, for which, in 1782, he had particularly moved.

The house divided on the motion; ayes 73; noes 140.



Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that he had a proposition to offer previous to their resolving themselves into a committee, which he hoped would not be objected to. The bill consisted of two parts: the first part related to the regulations of the government in

India, the second to the new court of judicature to be instituted at home, for the trial of persons charged with having been guilty of acts of delinquency and misdemeanor in India. As these were separate and distinct objects, he wished them to be separately considered; and, as probably administration had made it a condition with Earl Cornwallis, that he should go out to Bengal invested with certain powers, it might be their desire to pass so much of the bill as related to the system of government to be adopted in India as soon as possible. The same necessity for dispatch certainly did not apply to the judicature part of the bill; and as that part had been but little considered when the bill of 1784 passed, he could wish that the learned and right honorable gentleman opposite to him would consent to divide the bill, and separate the two subjects. In that case, administration would have it in their power to make good any promises which they might have made to Earl Cornwallis; and time might be taken for such a deliberate discussion of the judicature part of the bill, as the importance of it required. Mr. Sheridan concluded with moving, "That it be an instruction to the said committee to divide the bill in two."

The instruction passed.



Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that when he considered that scarcely many minutes had elapsed subsequently to the delivery of the report of the committee, to inquire concerning the state of the national finances into the hands of the several members of that house; he could not avoid intimating to a right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) his earnest wishes that he would consent to postpone the consideration of the report until either the ensuing

Monday or Friday. Great was the importance of the subject, and consequently it must make every gentleman desire that it should be considered and discussed in as full a house as possible; and, therefore, as the call of the house stood for the next Tuesday, he should conceive it would be right to let the subject be discussed as near the day of the call as possible. He had looked with accuracy enough in the report to observe, that it would not give the satisfaction expected from it. He was aware that another business stood for Monday, but the deferring of that for one or two days, he presumed, would make no difference; yet, if the consideration of the report was postponed only till Friday, even that slight procrastination would give gentlemen more time to examine and understand it.

To this Mr. Pitt replied that the arguments brought forward were by no means sufficient to warrant a delay in a business of such importance. He therefore moved, "That His Majesty's most gracious speech to both houses of parliament, upon the 24th of January last, might be read." The clerk accordingly read, and Mr. Pitt concluded with moving,

"That this house will, upon Wednesday morning next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to consider of so much of His Majesty's said most gracious speech to both houses of Parlia ment, as recommends to this house the establishment of a fixed plan for the reduction of the national debt."

Mr. Pitt next moved,

"That the report which, upon Tuesday last, was made from the select committee, to whom it was referred to examine and state the several accounts and other papers presented to the house in this session of parliament relating to the public income and expenditure, and to report to the house what may be expected to be the annual amount of the said income and expenditure in future, be referred to the said committee.

Mr. Sheridan begged leave to remind the right hon. gentleman of his error, for the purpose of rectifying which, he should not hesitate to assert, that he by no means stated that he had read the whole of the report; he only said, he had looked at the report with sufficient accuracy to see that it would not afford the public the satisfaction expected. However, he certainly would not press the matter; but



he hoped that the right honorable gentleman, by his eagerness for an early day, looked forward to a day of triumph, and not to a day of disappointment to the public, and of disgrace to himself. As far as he had seen, so far from the existence of a considerable surplus at present, there was not any; and therefore the report completely disproved all that the right honorable gentleman had advanced relative to the matter.

Mr. Pitt's motion passed.



It has been already shewn that on the 27th, Mr. Pitt took notice of that part of His Majesty's speech which related to the necessity of providing for the diminution of the national debt; he had at the same time given the house to understand, that such was the present flourishing condition of the revenue, that the annual national reve nue, would not only equal the annual national disbursement, but would leave a surplus of considerable magnitude. This surplus, he said, he meant to form into a permanent fund, to be constantly and invariably applied to the liquidation of the public debt. In pursuance of this information to the house, and in order to ascertain the amount of the surplus in question, Mr. Pitt, previous to his entering into the state of the finances, or ways and means, for the year, moved the third resolution mentioned in the account of the proceedings, on the 27th. The select committee having framed their report, laid it before the house, on the 21st of March; and on this day, the 29th, Mr. Pitt, together with the supplies, and ways and means, for the year, brought the consideration of the national debt, and his proposition for the diminution of it, formally before the house. After entering at large into the actual and probable resources of the country, he said, there was but little doubt but that the growing resources of the country, and the contingent receipts of the different sums he had mentioned, would be more than sufficient, without a loan, to discharge the exceedings which our establishment during the next three or four years would amount to, beyond their permanent level, as stated in the report. But if it should be otherwise, he nevertheless was of opinion, that money should rather be borrowed for the discharge of those extraordinary demands, than that the institution of the fund in question should be postponed, or infringed upon at any time after it was established. He next proceeded to explain. the mode he meant to adopt, in order to insure the due application

« PreviousContinue »