Page images

actually put off) the report of his national-debt bill till after the holidays, he thought it better to take more time, as the greatest accuracy could not but be desirable in a matter which depended so much upon calculation and figures; and, therefore, he would either put off his intended motions till the first open day after the holidays; or till any day previous to the right honorable gentleman's opening his budget.

Mr. Chancellor Pitt said, his budget had been opened ten days before.

Mr. Sheridan's motion was then put as follows, and agreed to:

[ocr errors]

"For an account of the whole claims given by the loyalists to the commissioners appointed to examine the said claims; and an account of the sum at which the said claims are liquidated; and, also, an account of the amount of the claims not yet heard and liquidated."



On the 4th of April, Mr. Burke, in his place, had charged Mr. Hastings with sundry high crimes and misdemeanors, and delivered at the table the nine first articles of his charges,* and the rest in the

*The following are the particulars of the charges:

1. With gross injustice, cruelty, and treachery against the faith of nations, in hiring British soldiers for the purpose of extirpating the innocent and helpless people who inhabited the Rohillas.

2. With using the authority delegated to him through the East India Company, for treating the King, Shaw Allum, Emperor of Hindostan, or otherwise the Great Mogul, with the greatest cruelty, in bereaving him of considerable territory, and withholding forcibly that tribute of twenty-six lacks of rupees, which the company engaged to pay as an annual tribute or compensation for their holding in his name the Duannee of the rich and valuable provinces of Bengal, and Bahar, and Orissa.

3. With various instances of extortion, and other deeds of maladministration, against the Rajah of Benares. This article consisted of three different parts, in each of which Mr. Hastings was

course of the following week, amounting, in all, to twenty-two in number. On the 26th Mr. Hastings requested, by petition to the house, to be permitted to be heard in his defence to the several articles; and that he might be allowed a copy of the same. Mr. Burke declared his wish that every reasonable degree of indulgence should be shewn Mr. Hastings; he should, therefore, readily consent to his being heard in his defence, though he did not think it quite agreeable to the regularity of their proceeding, that he should be heard in the present stage of it. With respect to a copy of the charges he believed there was no precedent of such an indulgence being granted. It was well known that it was his original intention to have gone through the whole of the evidence before he delivered in his articles, and to let the charge grow out of the evidence; but the house, in its wisdom, had thought proper to vote a different mode of proceeding, and to direct that the charges should be first made, and that he should then proceed to substantiate them by evidence. Hence he had

charged with a series of the most wanton oppressions and cruelties. He gave in papers concerning the rights of the Rajah, his expulsion, and the sundry revolutions which have been effected by the British influence, under the control of the late Governor-General in that Zemendary.

4. The numerous and insupportable hardships to which the royal family of Oude had been reduced, in consequence of their connection with the supreme council.

5. With having, by no less than six revolutions, brought the fertile and beautiful provinces of Farruckabad to a state of the most deplorable ruin.

6. With impoverishing and depopulating the whole country of Oude, and rendering that country, which was once a garden, an uninhabited desert.

7. With a wanton, an unjust, and pernicious exercise of his powers, and the great situation of trust which he occupied in India, in overturning the ancient establishments of the country, and extending an undue influence, by conniving at extravagant contracts, and appointing inordinate salaries.

8. With receiving money against the orders of the company, the act of parliament, and his own sacred engagements; and applying that money to purposes totally improper and unauthorised.

9. With having resigned by proxy, for the obvious purpose of retaining his situation, and denying the deed in person, in direct opposition to all those powers under which he acted.

10. Accuses him of treachery to Muzuffer Jung, who had been placed under his guardianship.

11. Charges him with enormous extravagance and bribery in various contracts, with a view to enrich his dependants and favourites.

These are the principal of the twenty-two charges, on most of which Mr. Hastings was voted by the house deserving of impeachment; the others are dependant on the foregoing.

been under the necessity of new arranging his plan, and of making his charges as comprehensive as possible, taking in and stating every thing with which private information could furnish him. In their present form they were to be considered merely as a gencral collection of accusatory facts, intermixed with a variety of collateral matter, both of fact and reasoning, necessary for their elucidation; and the committee to which they were to be referred would necessarily find occusion to alter them materially. For this reason, also, he thought it would be highly improper to give a copy of them in the present stage of the business to Mr. Hastings. These reasons, however, being overruled by the majority, and a copy ordered to be granted to Mr. Hastings, Mr. Burke moved, that the house should resolve itself into a committee to examine the witnesses that had been ordered to attend. This was also objected to by the other side of the house, the ground, that as they had agreed to hear the defence of Mr. Hastings, they ought to wait till that had been gone through, since he might possibly be able to offer such matter in exculpation of himself as would induce the house to stop all further proceedings. The house divided on Mr. Burke's proposition, ayes 80; noes 140; majority against it 60.


Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that the house had committed a sort of a blunder in their proceedings, in deciding that Mr. Hastings should be heard immediately; and the right honorable gentleman had said, the charges must not stand in the present form. Was it then wise or proper to hear Mr. Hastings on what the other side of the house termed vague, confused, irrelevant, and unintelligible charges? Or would it not have been better, more regular, and more sensible, first to have reduced the charges to the form in which they were to stand, and then have heard Mr. Hastings on them.



Mr. SHERIDAN justified the motion and said, he wished for something like an answer to two or three questions from the right honorable gentleman, on which would depend whether it would be necessary

for him to trouble the house with a motion or not. By the gazette he saw that Sir Guy Carleton was appointed captain-general and governor in chief of the provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Was it meant that there were to be lieutenant-governors of the two latter provinces? and if it were, was it intended that appeals from the latter should be to the king in council at home, or to Sir Guy Carleton as governor and captain-general? Would not the appointment of Sir Guy Carleton as captain-general and commander-in-chief over the three provinces, disturb the present government of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and narrow their privileges and liberties? If these questions were answered, Mr. Sheridan said, it would be unnecessary for him to make any motion; if not, he should move for a copy of the appointment, powers, and instructions given to Sir Guy Carleton as captain-general and governor-in-chief of the provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

The Attorney-General, in reply, stated, that there were to be Lieutenant-Governors but for a short time, and that these were to be the very persons now governors of the two subordinate provinces ; ut least he knew that, with respect to one, such a measure was in agitation.

MAY 4.


The order of the day having been read for going into a committee for the consideration of the report on the national debt bill, the question was put, "That the Speaker do now leave the chair,”

Mr. SHERIDAN rising, signified his determined resolution of moving to postpone the question till that day se'nnight; and if he should be so successful as to prevail on the house to agree to that proposition, he should then move certain resolutions grounded on facts, statements, and calculations to be found in the report of the committee appointed to inquire into the receipt and expenditure of the

public revenue, which resolutions he should read as part of his speech. A plan for paying off the public debt had been published by a noble earl (Stanhope) no longer a member of that house, and whose absence he had to lament upon that day. The noble earl's plan appeared to him by far the most preferable of the two compared with that of the right honorable gentleman's opposite to him, which was founded altogether on the report to which he had alluded. It was not, however, his purpose, at that time, to enter into any argument respecting the principles of the right honorable gentleman's bill, or to discuss the propriety of applying the surplus supposed to exist in the manner provided by that bill. What he meant to go to was, the examination of the great and important question, whether there actually existed any surplus at all or not? To that point he wished to draw their attention; and although he was well aware, that however interesting the subject was to the nation, it was not one of those in which that house took much delight, or to the discussion of which they were very fond of attending; yet the critical situation of the country, and the magnitude of the object in view considered, he hoped it would be thought entitled to their especial notice. The diminution of the public debt, and the gradual alleviation of the public burdens, were matters well worthy their deliberate attention. It was a duty they owed to their constituents, a duty they owed to themselves, to set about the business with zeal, with earnestness, and with a sincere desire to attain their aim with certainty and effect. In setting about such a business, however, plain dealing was first of all indispensably necessary; above all things, it behoved that house not to deceive themselves; to gloss over nothing; to avoid nothing that told against the desired purpose, but to convince the world not only of the strength and vigor of the national resources, but that the parliament had spirit and stoutness of mind enough, to dare to look



« PreviousContinue »