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Scott) that he could not have a better opportunity of arguing the merits of Mr. Hastings, by way of set off, than the present. If the merits of Mr. Hastings, were to be measured against his criminality, the fairest, and indeed, the only mode to enable the house to do so, at the proper stage of the proceeding, would be for the honorable gentleman then to go into a statement of those arguments on the merits, which he meant to use. In that case, it might be found necessary for the gentleman on the side of the house where he sat, and all those who had voted for the charges, to call for papers, in order to repel the weight of those arguments which the honorable gentleman might urge; or to do away the impression which they, or the evidence of any witnesses whom the honorable gentleman should think proper to call, might make upon the minds of the house. This could only be done, by the honorable gentleman's entering into argument at the present moment; because, if he did so at any subsequent period, it would have an unfair effect on the charges; and the house would not be able to give the mass of criminality, already established, its due weight. In order to exemplify this, Mr. Sheridan put a variety of hypothetical cases, to shew the manner in which not stating the argument on the merits of Mr. Hastings, as a set off then, might possibly operate as a disadvantage against the supporters, of the charge, who were to measure the merits against the guilt. Different gentlemen had settled in their own minds different scales of the criminality of Mr. Hastings; by which each individual would naturally measure guilt and its merits; and balancing the one against the other, decide accordingly. Suppose, therefore the committee by whom the charges were to be put into proper shape and form, as articles of impeachment, to be sent up to the house of lords, should reduce the charges to two; was it to be imagined
that they would admit an unproved and alleged quantum of merit, against a proved and a substantiated guilt contained in two charges? Mr. Sheridan said, that he was surprised also, to find the right honorable gentleman opposite to him, did not urge the arguments, which he had declared he meant to bring forward, in support of those differences and distinctions, concerning which he had talked, as being entertained by himself, respecting some of the charges, and in particular, that relative to the contracts. He was at a loss to imagine, how the right honorable gentleman could possibly sit and hear the questions put upon the resolution relative to those charges; the motion upon which, specified distinctly and by name, among other grounds of criminality, Mr. Auriol's and Mr. Belli's contracts; to both of which, the right honorable gentleman had expressly objected. With regard to the charge relative to Benares, the right honorable gentleman had, in the course of his argument, stated some objections, though he had made no motion. This, therefore, appeared to him the fit opportunity for discussing those objections.
Mr. Pitt having remarked, that no person was better entitled than Mr. Sheridan to adhere strongly and pertinaciously to his own opinions, because no man was capable of forming them more judiciously, when he gave himself time to consider them; added, that it was the first time he ever recollected to have heard any member attempt to dictate to those from whom he expected opposition, to what stage of the proceeding that opposition should be applied.
Mr. Sheridan begged leave to assure the right honorable gentleman, that he by no means designed to arrogate to himself a prerogative which did not belong to him; much less to assume the right of dictating to any of the members, when they should urge such objections as they might mean to offer. He had, in fairness, risen to apprise the honorable gentleman (Major Scott) opposite to him, that if he, or any other friend of Mr. Hastings, meant to argue
the merits of Mr. Hastings by way of set off against his criminality, they could not take a more favorable opportunity than the present. He had assigned his reasons for entertaining that opinion; and that opinion he still continued most firmly to embrace. The remark, that he had tacitly conceded to the propositions of the right honorable gentleman the preceding evening, was certainly well founded; but he had not either recalled or violated that concession; for what is it, but an acquiescence, instead of insisting on putting the question, "That Mr. Hastings be impeached," as soon as the committee had agreed to the resolutions contained in the report, that the resolutions should be referred to a committee, to be by them put into proper shape as articles of impeachment. Had he, in the smallest degree, resisted that in his former argument? He certainly had not, but had merely argued upon the resolutions then about to be read a second time; and so far from that being contrary to any agreement or general understanding of the house, the reverse was the fact; for it had been generally understood, that the debate of that day was to have been put upon the resolutions; and a quarter of an hour before he rose, he had heard the honorable gentleman himself (Major Scott) observe, that he meant that day to have gone into much argument upon the subject. The right honorable gentleman had thought proper to make his complaints against being dictated to, as to the time most proper for him make his objections; but he (Mr. Sheridan) must still persist in saying, that after the right honorable gentleman's having moved an amendment to the resolution originally moved upon the charge relative to contracts, he knew not how the right honorable gentleman could sit in his place, and say, Yes, when the question was put upon it, thereby affirming, that Mr. Belli's and Mr. Auriol's contracts contained matter of high crimes and misdemeanors against Warren Hastings, Esq.
Major Scott observed, that much discussion having taken place relative to "setting off" the merits of Mr. Hastings against his supposed delinquencies, he begged leave to inform the house, that neither Mr. Hastings or his friends had the most distant idea of having recourse to such a mode of defence. The sentiments of Mr. Hastings upon that subject, he was authorized to submit to the house; and begged permission to read, as part of his speech, the following paper, which had been put into his hands for that purpose.
Though it might be deemed presumption in me to declare any wish or expectation concerning the mode in which the house of commons may, in its wisdom or justice, determine to proceed in the prosecution of the inquiry into my conduct, now depending before them; yet, as it has been reported, that many gentlemen, members of that assembly, who have not chosen to give their constant attendance on the committee holden on this business, have expressed their determination of opposing the general question of impeachment, when it shall be brought before the collective body of this house; I hope I may, without irregularity, or the imputation of disrespect, intimate my sense of such a determination, both as it may respect that question, and the claim which I conceive I possess to attendance on the question upon the report, which in the due order of business will precede it.
"I presume, that in the present examination of my public conduct, there are two leading, and, as it appears to me, exclusive objects, of equal and reciprocal obligation; namely, that justice may be done to the nation in the redress or punishment of wrongs, which it may be eventually proved it has sustained by my acts; and that jus tice may be done to an individual, who may be eventually proved to have been wronged by unfounded accusations; and who even thinks that he has a claim to the applause of his country, for those very acts which have bren drawn into crimination against him.
If it shall be resolved by the honorable house of commons to agree to the report of the committee, that is to say, if it shall be resolved that there is ground for impeaching me for high crimes and misdemeanors, on the charges on which the committee have already passed that decision; I presume, that the resolution for the impeachment ought to follow of course, as the only means which can satisfy the justice of the nation in the supposition of my guilt, or clear my character in the supposition of my innocence. With regard to the first of these conclusions I have no claim: but for the last, I may, in common with the meanest of the subjects of this realm, assert my right to the benefit and protection of its laws; and, I trust, that the honorable house of commons, which has ever been considered as the guardian and protector of the laws, will not suffer my name to be branded with the foulest and blackest imputations upon their records, without allowing me at the same time the only legal means of effacing them, by transferring them for trial to the house of peers in the form of an impeachment.
"To this opinion I humbly beg leave to add my request, and it is the only request or application which I have hitherto permitted myself to make to any of the individual members of the house on the process
of this business, that if it shall be resolved on the report, that there is ground to charge me with high crimes and misdemeanors, they will afford me the benefit of their votes, though united with those of my prosecutors, that I may be brought to legal trial for the same.
The resolutions were afterwards read, and agreed to; and Mr. Burke moved, that they should be referred to a committee, to prepare articles of impeachment upon the same; and that the committee consist of the following gentlemen :—
EDMUND BURKE, Esq.
WELBORE ELLIS, Esq.
It was moved in the usual forms, that the committee be invested with the customary powers of calling for papers and witnesses, sitting where they pleased, &c. &c.; and it was agreed, on all hands, that it must necessarily be a secret committee. A division took place upon the nomination of Mr. Francis, against whom it was objected, that in India he had been personally at variance with Mr. Hastings; and he was rejected by a majority of 96 to 44.
CONSOLIDATION DUTY BILL.
The order of the day for the third reading of this bill having been moved and read, the bill was read a third time. Mr. Pitt brought up two clauses; and on the question being put “that the bill do now pass," a debate ensued, in which
Mr. SHERIDAN contended, that the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had not yet answered his right honorable friend's (Mr. Fox) argument relative to the situation of this country and Spain. How awkwardly, he observed, would ministers be circumstanced, should a Spanish vessel offer herself at any of our ports, and be refused the same rates of duty at which French goods were admitted. In this case the court of Madrid would understand the