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pledged, after having so far considered the resolutions, and approved of them? But finding that such doctrines shackled his favorite majority, and that it was likely to diminish, he had in a late debate changed his note; and at an advanced time of the night, in a most equivocal speech, argued that the address only pledged those who were prepared to be pledged; but that it did not pledge gentlemen who did not choose to admit they were pledged. This sort of double-edged speech ought to be fixed to some certain standard; and the resolution that his right honorable friend had moved, Mr. Sheridan said, would have that effect.
The question of the amendment was then put and carried; and afterwards the main question, so amended, was put; when the numbers were, ayes 113; noes 188.
COMMERCIAL TREATY WITH FRANCE.
Mr. Pitt moved, "That the duty of excise on brandy should be 4s. 3d. per gallon; which, with the 9d. already imposed in the customs, would make it 5s. per gallon.
Mr. SHERIDAN lamented that it was not in his power to entertain the same sanguine hopes of the right honorable gentleman's scheme which he had been himself ready to declare he entertained; and one reason why he was inclined to put the less confidence in it, was, that he recollected that the right honorable gentleman had, two years since, come down and proposed a reduction of the duty on the home distillery, stating, that he possessed the same sanguine hopes that it would tend to add considerably to the revenue; and yet the very next year he had found that his expectations failed him; and had been obliged to put the duties on again. It was much to be lamented, that the right honorable gentleman had not been able to get the accounts of the computed quantity of brandies smuggled into this country,
upon which he had rested all his arguments in support of the present measure, before the conclusion of the commercial treaty with France. By that treaty Great Britain had stipulated to lower the duty on brandy to 7s. per gallon; whereas the right honorable gentleman now thought himself warranted to lower the duty to 5s. per gallon. Had the accounts therefore of the quantity of smuggled brandy been before obtained, the right honorable gentleman would have had something in hand, as it were, to treat with; and consequently could have treated to more advantage; as France would certainly have given an equivalent for the benefit of having her brandies imported into Great Britain upon so low a duty as 5s. per gallon. The right honorable gentleman had built his expectations of regaining the 200,000l. a year defalcation of the revenue, which the scheme of lowering the duty to 5s. would, in the first instance, occasion, upon a larger quantity of brandy, which would in consequence be legally imported; and, of course, the greater quantity of duty which would be paid; but although he had talked sanguinely about this, he had declared that he would not risk the loss of the 200,000l. entirely, but would ensure a share of it, by an addition of charge upon the licenses to be taken out by the retail venders of spirits. To the right honorable gentleman's reasoning, that it would tend to preserve the morals of the lower order of the people, by putting a check upon their practice of dram-drinking, he was very ready to subscribe; as every gentleman must wish such a pernicious practice abolished, if it were possible; but he could not help observing, that the right hon. gentleman's two arguments did not run well together, viz. by lowering the duties on brandy, the quantity legally imported would considerably increase, and thence the revenue would acquire much; and that it was nevertheless at the same time right to make an addition to the charge paid for licences, in order to check and keep down the consumption.
He did not believe that the planters and merchants of the British West-India islands, would be at all satisfied with the distinction the right honorable gentleman had declared it was his intention to make, between the duties on French brandy, and on rum, the produce of the British West-India islands. The difference of 1s. was by no means enough to enable our rums to stand a competition with the French brandies; and that it was not, he believed the right hon. gentleman would hear from gentlemen, more competent to speak on the subject than he could pretend to be. There was one point, however, to which he must expect to receive some answer; and that was, whether the right honorable gentleman meant to make any reduction on the malt distillery of this country? Upon that head the right honorable gentleman had been wholly silent, though it certainly was material; as the great reduction of the duties on brandies must necessarily affect the consumption of home-made malt spirits very considerably. He did hope, therefore, that the right honorable gentleman would give him some answer upon that essential point. He alluded to the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, respecting the effect which the commutation act would, in all probability, have on the smuggling of brandy; and, after much reasoning upon it, to prove that the right honorable gentleman's expectations at that time had failed, he concluded with repeating his declaration, that so far from entertaining sanguine hopes of the success of the present measure, as the right honorable gentleman had professed to do, he thought very differently, and did not believe that it would succeed at all.
Mr. Dempster moved, "that copies of all orders sent out by the Directors of the East-India Company, since the year 1784, forbidding the servants in India to correspond with their friends at home relative to the affairs of the East India Company; together with copies of all notifications of the said orders in India," be laid before the house. Mr. Dundas having oppossed the motion,
Mr. Sheridan answered, that the contents of the paper proved, that under the idea of enforcing at particular order, particularly confined to the confidential servants, and those in places of special trust; an advantage had been taken by the board of control; and an order had been sent out, under the sanction of which, all the company's servants of every description had been generally interdicted from writing to their private friends at home, any account of, or opinion upon, the affairs of the company transacting in India. [Mr. Dundas desired the honorable gentleman to recollect the words of the paper.] Mr. Sheridan said, if he had the paper to refer to, he was satisfied he could convince the house that the true construction of it was very different from that put upon it by the right honorable and learned gentleman. The paper being upon this handed across the table to Mr. Sheridan, he began to read the contents, and to comment, as he proceeded, with a view to fix its meaning to his argument. He contended, that the preamble of the order stated, that it was necessary to enjoin the confidential servants of the company in India to secrecy; and that after it had been so stated, the order in itself was general, and equally binding upon all the servants of the company, of whatever description.
Mr, Pitt having also opposed the motion,
Mr. Sheridan remarked, that the right honorable gentleman had assigned a very singular reason for objecting to the motion; and this was, not that he had any wish that the papers should not be put upon the table; but because he would not, by suffering the motion to pass, give a sanction to the arguments advanced by that side of the house, in proof that the order ought not to have been sent to India.
The question was put, and the house divided, ayes 20; noes 94.
PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MR. HASTINGS.*
On the 19th of February Mr. Burke observed, that the house having now solemnly declared upon two charges of high and atrocious delinquency, that they contained fit grounds of impeachment; the sooner they resorted to the antient mode of proceeding, by a vote of impeachment, the better. The proper steps might then be taken for preventing the party impeached from quitting the kingdom, removing his property, alienating any sums of money, or adopting any other means to evade the ends of justice. There was one circumstance he should mention that pointed out this, or some other proceeding of the sort, as absolutely necessary, viz. That it was confidently reported that another gentleman from India, strongly implicated in the transactions of Mr. Hastings, and against whom proceedings of a serious nature would soon be instituted, had, within a short time, sold out of the public funds property to the amount of 50,000l. Major Scott misapprehending that it was intended to insinuate that this property belonged to Mr. Hastings, got up to assure the house that he had no concern in it; and to declare upon his honor, that from the information he possessed relative to the affairs of Mr. Hastings, he could not take upon him to assert that his whole fortune did not exceed 50,000l. Mr. Pitt defended the mode of proceeding adopted by the house, and did not conceive they could with any propriety resort to any other. The day following the house being in a committee on the charges, Mr. Dundas said, that as notice had been given that a charge of a serious nature would be brought forward against Sir Elijah Impey, he would suggest to those concerned in the prosecution, that it would be inconsistent with the justice, the candor, and the benevolence of that house, to call and examine a gentleman as a witness at the bar, and then to make his evidence the ground of future crimination against himself. Mr. Burke observed it was impossible for those who had brought forward the prosecution of Mr. Hastings, to think of losing the advantage of that person's testimonies who had been the intimate confidant of the principal culprit. Sir Elijah knew, undoubtedly, too much of law, to answer any questions which might tend to criminate himself; and those who were to examine him would never insist on his answering questions of such a tendency. Mr. Pitt agreed in this opinion, but thought that the witness should have such notice of the intended charge as might tend to put him on his guard. Mr. Burke assented to this proposition, and therefore moved," That Sir Elijah Impey be called in, and that the chairman be instructed to inform him, that it was possible that a criminal enquiry may be instituted against himself, on the ground of extra-official intelligence, and his general conduct in India; and that
*Abstract of proceedings continued from that under the head of February 8.