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My Lords, we have a great hereditary peerage here; those who have their own honor, the honor of their ancestors, and of their posterity, to guard, and who will justify, as they always have justified, that provision in the Coustitution by which justice is made an hereditary office.
My Lords, we have here a new nobility, who have risen, and exalted themselves by various merits, by great civil and military services, which have extended the fame of this country from the rising to the setting sun.
My Lords, you have here, also, the lights of our religion; you have the bishops of England. My Lords, you have that true image of the primitive Church in its ancient form, in its ancient ordinances, purified from the superstitions and the vices which a long succession of ages will bring upon the best institutions.
My Lords, these are the securities which we have in all the constituent parts of the body of this House. We know them, we reckon, we rest upon them, and commit safely the interests of India and of humanity into your hands. Therefore, it is with confidence, that, ordered by the Commons,
I impeach Warren Hastings, Esquire, of high crimes and misdemeanors.
I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, whose parliamentary trust he has betrayed.
I impeach him in the name of all the Commons of Great Britain, whose national character he has dishonored.
I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights, and liberties he has subverted, whose property he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate.
I impeach him in the name, and by virtue of those eternal laws of justice which he has violated.
I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly outraged, injured and oppressed, in both sexes, in every age, rank, situation, and condition of life.
My Lords, at this awful close, in the name of the Commons, and surrounded by them, I attest the retiring. I attest the advancing, generations, between which, as a link in the great chain of eternal order, we stand. We call this nation, and call this world, to witness, that the Commons have shrunk from no labor ; that we have been guilty of no prevarication, that we have made no compromise with crime, that we have not feared any odium whatsoever in the long warfare which we have carried on with the crimes, with the vices, with the exorbitant wealth, with the enormous and overpowering influence of Eastern corruption.
My Lords, it has pleased Providence to place us in such a state that we appear every to be moment upon the verge of some great mutations. There is one thing, and one thing only, which defies all mutation ; that which existed before the world, and will survive the fabric of the world itself,I mean justice; that justice which, emanating from the Divinity, has a place in the breast of every one of us, given us for our guide with regard to ourselves and with regard to others; and which will stand, after this globe is burned to ashes, our advocate or our accuser, before the great Judge, when He comes to call upon us for the tenor of a well-spent life.
My Lords, the Commons will share in every fate with your Lordships; there is nothing sinister which can happen to you, in which we shall not be involved ; and, if it should so happen, that we shall be subjected to some of those frightful changes which we have seen ; if it should happen that your Lordships, stripped of all the decorous distinctions of human society, should, by hands at once base and cruel, be led to those scaffolds and machines of murder upon which great kings and glorious queens have shed their blood, amidst the prelates, amidst the nobles, amidst the magistrates who supported their thrones,—may you in those moments feel that consolation which I am persuaded they felt in the critical moments of their dreadful agony !
My Lords, there is a consolation, and a great consolation it is, which often happens to oppressed virtue and fallen dignity ; it often happens that the very oppressors and persecutors themselves are forced to bear testimony in its favor. The Parliament of Paris had an origin very, very similar to that of the great Court before which I stand ; the Parliament of Paris continued to have a great resemblance to it in its Constitution, even to its fall; the Parliament of Paris, my Lords,-WAS ; it is gone! It has passed away; it has vanished like a dream ! It fell pierced by the sword of the Compte de Mirabeau. And yet that man, at the time of his inflicting the death-wound of that Parliament, produced at once the shortest and the grandest funeral oration that ever was or could be made upon the departure of a great Court of magistracy. When he pronounced the death sentence upon that Parliament, and inflicted the mortal wound, he declared that his motives for doing it were merely political, and that their hands were as pure as those of justice itself, which they administered—a great and glorious exit, my Lords, of a great and glorious body !
My Lords, if you must fall, may you so fall! But if you stand, and I trust you will, together with the fortunes of this ancient monarchy, together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom, may you stand as unimpeached in honor as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a
security for virtue ; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants ; may you stand the refuge of afflicted nations ; may you stand a sacred temple, for the perpetual residence of an inviolable justice !
MARIE ANTOINETTE [Burke had seen the Queen of France in 1772, while still Dauphiness, and a vision of youth and beauty. After her cruel fate, he gave the following memorable description of the unhappy victim, in tones of the deepest emotional earnestness.]
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles ; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy. O, what a sudden revolution ! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall ! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom ; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers ! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.
But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.
CHARLES JAMES FOX (1749–1806) )
THE FAMOUS PARLIAMENTARY DEBATER
MONG the British statesmen who were on the side of the Ame
rican colonists in their Revolutionary War, Fox ranks high,
being still more radical in his views than the great Lord Chatham. Chatham urged conciliation of the rebellious colonists, but Fox favored complete separation, and foresaw and foretold its advantages. Throughout the war he was the most vigorous advocate of the claims of the colonists. At a later date the Warren Hasting's trial, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars gave him an abundant field for the exercise of his rare talents, and he played a very active part in Parliament. The leader of the opposition to Pitt, he strenuously opposed the war with France, and advocated non-intervention views. He was on the point of introducing a bill for the abolition of the slave-trade when he died in 1806. Fox, despite the vicious irregularity of his life, was a man of genial and kindly instincts, generous and devoid of malignant feelings towards his opponents. As regards his powers as an orator he had a phenomenal fluency of extemporaneous speech, and we may quote Burke's opinion that he was “the greatest debater the world ever saw," and that of Mackintosh, who called him “the most Demosthenian speaker since Demosthenes."
THE TYRANNY OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY [On the ist of December, 1783, Fox arraigned in a vigorous speech the reprehensible conduct of the irresponsible East India Company. It was a preliminary step towards the subsequent trial of Warren Hastings for his cruel and rapacious acts.]
The honorable gentleman charges me with abandoning that cause, which, he says, in terms of flattery, I had once so successfully asserted.
CHARLES JAMES FOX
I tell him in reply, that if he were to search the history of my life, he would find that the period of it, in which I struggled most for the real, substantial cause of liberty is this very moment I am addressing you. Freedom, according to my conception of it, consists in the safe and sacred possession of a man's property, governed by laws defined and certain ; with many personal privileges, natural, civil, and religious, which he cannot surrender without ruin to himself; and of which to be deprived by any other power is despotism. This bill, instead of subverting, is destined to give stability to these principles ; instead of narrowing the basis of freedom, it tends to enlarge it; instead of suppressing, its object is to infuse and circulate the spirit of liberty.
What is the most odious species of tyranny? Precisely that which this bill is meant to annihilate. That a handful of men, free themselves, should execute the most base and abominable despotism over millions of their fellow-creatures; that innocence should be the victim of oppression; that industry should toil for rapine; that the harmless laborer should sweat, not for his own benefit, but for the luxury and rapacity of tyrannic depredation; in a word, that thirty millions of men, gifted by Providence with the ordinary endowments of humanity, should groan under a system of despotism unmatched in all the histories of the world.
What is the end of all government ? Certainly the happiness of the governed. Others may hold other opinions, but this is mine, and I proclaim it. What are we to think of a government whose good fortune is supposed to spring from the calamities of its subjects, whose aggrandizement grows out of the miseries of mankind ? This is the kind of government exercised under the East India Company upon the natives of Hindostan ; and the subversion of that infamous government is the main object of the bill in question. But in the progress of accomplishing this end, it is objected that the charter of the company should not be violated; and upon this point, sir, I shall deliver my opinion without disguise. A charter is a trust to one or more persons for some given benefit. If this trust be abused, if the benefit be not obtained, and its failure arise from palpable guilt, or (what in this case is fully as bad) from palpable ignorance or mismanagement, will any man gravely say that that trust should not be resumed and delivered to other hands; more especially in the case of the East India Company, whose manner of executing this trust, whose laxity and languor have produced, and tend to produce consequences diametrically opposite to the ends of confiding that trust, and of the institution for which it was granted ?
I beg of gentlemen to be aware of the lengths to which their arguments upon the intangibility of this charter may be carried. Every syllable