Page images

had acted in the manner which he hoped they would think most proper for him to adopt under the cir cumstances of the case as they then stood. He had since that had an interview with the person, with whom he had talked upon the subject; and who, indeed, he had commissioned to go to the honorable gentleman opposite to him, and he did not doubt he would do him the justice fully to explain to the house when he sat down, that he had been mistaken in his idea; having been satisfied by the gentleman in question that he was mistaken. In order to make the house more clearly understand what he meant, it would be necessary for him to state a little of some opinions, which he had ever reserved in his own mind, and did not intend to have stated, had not this business made it necessary. With regard to India affairs, he had thought there were but two lines of conduct to be pursued after those emphatic resolutions of the 28th of May, 1782, had been voted. The one was to recal Mr. Hastings, immediately, by the strong arm of parliament, and punish him exemplarily; the other, to bring in an India bill, in which, on grounds of expediency, on account of the times not bearing so strong a measure, and the difference of opinion respecting it, no retrospect should be had, but all the clauses should look to the future, So thinking, when the India bill of his right honorable friend was preparing, the latter measure appeared to him most expedient tó be followed, more especially as the time for calling home Mr. Hastings, by act of parliament, was, in his mind, gone by; and, therefore, he had sent a friend to the honorable gentleman opposite to him to know whether Mr. Hastings would come home, if recalled. In the course of the conversation which he had with his friend, the intended India bill was certainly mentioned, but merely as matter of conversation, and not as a proposition to the honorable gentleman. This, he had the happiness to say, was the true state of the case; as the gentleman in

question had assured both him and the honorable gentleman opposite to him; and that there had not been the most distant idea of bartering with Mr. Hastings for his support of the India bill.

Major Scott perfectly admitted, "that the gentleman whom he had seen originally on the business, had confirmed, since the 3d, every syllable which Mr. Sheridan had uttered; and he begged leave to thank him for so fair a statement of the transaction." The house afterwards divided on the question; ayes 34; noes 88.




Mr. Dundas moved "for leave to bring in a bill to amend and explain the India bill." Mr. Pitt seconded the motion.


Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that the excessive condescension and boundless good nature with which a right honorable gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had risen to support his right honorable and learned friend's motion, was unparalleled! What an astonishing instance of true liberality of mind, at the very moment he had heard him declare that the purport and principle of his new bill went to cutting up by the roots the right honorable gentleman's own India bill, which the learned gentleman had proved by his speech to have been a very foolish piece of business. On this occasion, Mr. Sheridan added, that he should presume to warn the right honorable and learned gentleman in time, that he ought to bring all the parts of his bill forward together, and not to imitate the conduct of his right honorable friend (the Chancellor of the



Exchequer,) whose India bill, when first introduced, proved so imperfect and so improper, that it was obliged to be completely altered in all its parts in the committee, and four and twenty new clauses were inserted. What the right honorable and learned gentleman called "an addition to the principle of Mr. Pitt's bill of 1784," was, on the contrary, a direct reversal of its principle, and the substitution of a new principle as to the particular point in question; for, by the bill of 1784, every thing in council in India was to be carried by the majority of voices; whereas, in the new bill every thing was to depend solely on the single opinion of the Governor-General. And here he must desire to bring back to the remembrance of the house, that, on the first day of the session, they had been told by a right honorable gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), that the reason why no notice of India had been taken in the speech from the throne was, because the government of India had been established on a solid and permanent footing. Surely the information just given to the house, and the motion now under their discussion, appeared to operate like absolute contradictions against the existence of establishments of solidity and permanency!


The question was put and carried.


[ocr errors]


When the order and business of the day had been gone through, the Speaker called to Mr. Fox, who rose immediately, and desired that, previously to his troubling the house on the subject, which he wished to bring under their consideration, certain resolutions of the 28th of May, 1782, might be read. They were read accordingly.


Resolved, "That the orders of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, which have conveyed to their servants abroad a prohibitory condemnation of all schemes of conquest and enlargement of dominion, by prescribing certain rules and boundaries for the ope

ration of their military force, and enjoining a strict adherence to a system of defence, upon the principle of the treaty of Illahabad, were founded no less in wisdom and policy, than in justice and moderation.

Resolved, "That every transgression of those orders, without evident necessity, by any of the several British governments in India, has been highly reprehensible, and has tended, in a chief degree, to weaken the force and influence, and to diminish the resources, of the Company in those parts.

Resolved, "That every interference, as a party, in the domestic or national quarrels of the country powers, and all new engagements with them in offensive alliance, have been wisely and providently forbidden by the Company in their commands to their administrations in India.

Resolved, "That every unnecessary or unavoidable deviation from those well-advised rules, should be followed with very severe reprehension and punishment for it, as an instance of wilful disobedience of orders; and as tending to disturb and destroy that state of tran quillity and peace with all their neighbours, the preservation of which has been recommended as the first principle of policy to the British government in India.

Resolved, "That the maintenance of an inviolable character for moderation, good faith, and scrupulous regard to treaty, ought to have been the simple grounds on which the British government should have endeavored to establish an influence superior to that of other Europeans over the minds of the native powers in India; and that the danger and discredit arising from the forfeiture of this pre-eminence, could not be compensated by the temporary success of any plan of violence or injustice.

Resolved, "That as an essential failure in the executive conduct of the Supreme Council, or Presidencies, would make them justly liable to the most serious animadversions of their superiors; so should any relaxation, without sufficient cause, in these principles of good government, on the part of the Directors themselves, bring upon them, in a heavier degree, the resentment of the legislative power of their country, which alone can interpose an effectual correction to the general misrule.

Resolved, "That it appears, that the Government-General had been previously in possession of a letter from the Duan of the Rajah of Berar, containing overtures for mediation for peace and alliance with the Peshwa; and that this material information was wholly suppressed by them in their dispatches to the Court of Directors; but a copy of it was sent, by the same conveyance, to the private agent of Mr. Hastings; and that, in thus neglecting to make immediate communication to the Court of Directors of such important intelligence, the Government-General appear to have failed in an essential part of their duty."

The resolutions being read, Mr. Fox addressed the house; and on concluding moved for the Delhi papers.

Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that in spite of the extensive talents and brilliant eloquence of the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) who spoke last, his observations were much too barren of solid argument to constitute a refutation of the reasoning of his right honorable friend (Mr. Fox), who had unanswerably contended for the production of the papers, upon the proof, which he as irrefragably established, that they contained the clearest and most incontrovertible evidence, of a negociation for an offensive alliance entered into by Mr. Hastings with the country powers. Nor had his right honorable friend maintained by less unquestionable allegations, that were these wonderfully secret papers divulged, no danger whatsoever could accrue to the state from their publicity. For his own part, he must confess, that were he to place an approving confidence in the measures of an administration, and any honorable member should move a question for papers affecting the executive government of the country; and His Majesty's Ministers who were to be responsible, should stand up and declare, that the granting the papers would prove dangerous to the state, he would desist from pressing such a motion. But was this the case now? No; the right honorable gentleman, as His Majesty's Minister, was not responsible for the administration of the executive government of India; that government was not the government of His Majesty, whose name and authority had no connection with it; it was merely the government of a trading company, conducted by their servants, and, therefore, all ideas of confidence in the King's Ministers were out of the question. What was the Board of Control? Nothing more than another Board of Directors, of a superior order indeed, and nominated by His Majesty in the first instance. But it was rather curious, that the right honorable and learned gentleman should be one of the persons (and, prehaps,the principal, in talking of India secrets, and



[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »