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EAST INDIA BILL.
The report of the committee on the East India Bill having been brought up, the amendments were read a first time; and on the question that these amendments be agreed to,
Mr. SHERIDAN observed, that after the confident manner in which the right honorable and learned gentleman opposite him had declared he would satisfy the house, that the objections taken to the bill were ill-founded, and the doubts enter→ tained of the truth and correctness of the report of the East India Directors, of the state of their affairs, groundless; he did not expect that the learned and right honorable gentleman would have waited for his rising, instead of rising himself, and giving the house the necessary information; without obliging him to restate those objections, and re-assert those doubts he had expressed on a former day. Having made this exordium, Mr. Sheridan proceeded to argue upon the report, and upon the papers, for which he had moved, and which had been printed. The more he examined the subject the more reason he had to complain of its having been delayed to so late a period of the session ;-a delay which he had no manner of doubt was contrived on purpose to prevent discussion, and elude the detection of those fallacies on which the bill was grounded. In order to shew that the delay had been altogether unnecessary, he read extracts from the accounts in his hands, particularly from the Bengal letter to the directors; whence it appeared that no additional information on the leading and essential points had been received from Bengal since the first of January; and consequently that most of the statements in the directors' report, though roundly given, were mere assumptions and speculations, founded on no authentic accounts whatsoever. He next entered into an investigation of the two great questions
in dispute between him and Mr. Dundas, viz. the quantity or amount of the remittance to China, furnished from Bengal, and the amount of the surplus revenues of Bengal. He referred to an infinite variety of statements in different accounts before the house as evidence, that although it had in former debate been contended that India furnished a remittance to China to the amount of two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds, that not more than six or seven thousand pounds appeared to have been furnished. Having discussed this head of his argument much at large, he took up the other; and endeavored to prove that fourteen hundred thousand pounds was the full amount of the surplus of the revenue which could be expected from Bengal to go towards the investment, and towards the relief of the other presidencies. He quoted a pamphlet, which he stated to be of authority, as it came from the pen of a person rather a favorite authority with the right honorable and learned gentleman opposite him; and upon whose argument he was himself inclined to rely in the particulars to which it referred, although he did not agree with him in many others, not then under consideration. The pamphlet in question was written by Mr. Hastings, and suppressed by him upon better recollection. The extract stated, that the drains of Bengal ought always to be allowed for, and that the utmost surplus revenue that could be expected from Bengal was a crore of rupees, or one million of money. Mr. Sheridan dwelt for a considerable time on this point; and opposed the authority of Mr. Hastings respecting it to the arguments used by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas upon the subject in former debates. He also said, that he expected to hear no more from the former of these gentlemen respecting the two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds sent from India to China, unless he meant positively to contradict the papers which had been printed, and which had been presented from the India House, in
conformity to his motion. In the course of his speech, Mr. Sheridan argued upon the immense quantity of bills drawn from India upon the company at home; declaring, that in ten years time bills to the amount of twelve millions would be due. He asked whether the Lords of the Treasury, in permitting bills to so large an amount, and which were to be outstanding till so distant a period, did not pledge that house to renew the company's charter, when it should next expire? He reasoned upon the probable effect of such a load of debt; and contended that it must prove ruinous to the company. After a great deal of calculation, reasoning, and remarks, on the two principal heads above stated, Mr. Sheridan took notice of the declaration made by Mr. Dundas in a late debate, that the public were not pledged as a security for the money borrowed by the East-India Company; and said, that if the fact were so, it could not be too well understood. He should therefore move the insertion of a clause, expressly declaring, that neither the present bill, nor any preceding bill, relative to the company, which had passed the house, pledged the public in any way whatsoever. Before he concluded, he said, he felt himself authorised by the papers which he held in his hand, to declare, that the report of the directors of the state of the company's affairs, was equally fallacious with the state of their affairs presented to that house in 1784, the errors of which the directors themselves had now confessed. Thus, in fact, so far from the company's affairs in India wearing a promisng aspect, they wore a most alarming one. They appeared to be rapidly verging to a state of bankruptcy; and were already so deeply involved, that the relief now proposed was merely tampering with their disorder, and by no means an adequate and effectual cure. Mr. Sheridan now moved his clause.
Mr. Dundas replied at great length to these arguments.
Mr. Sheridan concluded by stating, that from the vigour and length of the defence, he drew the inference that the right honorable and learned gentleman was convinced of the weakness of the side of the argument which he was under the necessity of maintaining; and the more particularly was induced to draw this inference, from the frequent aids which he saw administered, while the right honorable and learned gentleman was upon his legs. He had received a hint from one friend in a whisper, and a viva voce instruction from a second, and he had been furnished with a written calculation and argument from a third; so that it was evident the principal of his friends were conscious he had a difficult task to sustain. Mr. Sheridan concluded with observing that as not one word had fallen from the right honorable and learned gentleman against the clause he had moved, he trusted it would meet with the concurrence of a majority.
The question was put on Mr. Sheridan's clause, and negatived without a division.
JANUARY 24, 1787.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MR. HASTINGS.
On the 23d of January His Majesty having opened the fourth session of the present parliament, no time was lost in bringing forward with all possible expedition the proceedings against Mr. Hastings. Mr. Burke on that day gave notice he should renew the proceedings on the 1st day of February following; and on the 24th of January, Mr. Sheridan made a motion on the subject.
Mr. SHERIDAN having prefaced, his observations, by intimating to the house that he had heard, that, on the preceding Tuesday, when the necessity of attending to some business in the country had obliged him to delay his appearance in the execution of his parliamentary duty; notice had been given by a right honorable friend, that the charge relative to the Princesses of Oude would be brought forward on the ensuing Thursday; remarked, that he rose to
say, that having himself conceived, Monday se'nnight was the intended day, and having informed several members who were yet in the country, that the business would not be brought on before Monday se'nnight, he desired not to change the day, but to let the house understand, that on Tuesday next he wished to call Mr. Middleton to the bar, to explain a few points in his evidence, respecting which, as they stood at present, great doubts might arise ;and which doubts nothing but a few questions put to Mr. Middleton could clear up. His right honorable friend did not mean himself to interrogate Mr. Middleton, but the whole would rest on the few questions which he (Mr. Sheridan) thought it absolutely necessary to put to Mr. Middleton, which would not detain that gentleman at the bar above half an hour; and he should, on Monday se'nnight, be prepared to bring forward the business of the charge; but that no time would actually be lost by this mode of proceeding, as his right honorable friend would be ready to come forward with another charge on Thursday in the same week. Mr. Sheridan added, that if there was any serious objection to calling Mr. Middleton again to the bar, he would wave his motion for his attendance on Thursday; but as the questions which he wished to put to that gentleman were really important, and would take up but very little time, he hoped there would not be any obstacle. Under this idea, he should therefore beg leave to move, "That Nathaniel Middleton, Esquire
do attend the committee of the whole house on India affairs on Thursday next."
The question was put, and agreed to.
The 1st and 2d of February were spent in examining Mr. Middleton and Sir Elijah Impey. Mr. Pitt having expressed his apprehensions that it would be impossible for the evidence to be printed soon enough for the copies to be distributed on Monday, for the members to have them, so as to enable them to become masters of its tendency, and apply it to the charge, if the charge was that day debated; Mr. Sheridan agreed to postpone bringing forward the charge against the Begums till Wednesday.