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MR. BURKE'S SPEECH
MOTION MADE FOR PAPEILS
RELATIVE TO THΣ
DIRECTIONS FOR CHARGING
TAE NABOB OF ARCOT'S PRIVATE DEBTS TO EUROPEANS, ON THE REVE
NUES OF THE CARNATIC.
February 28th, 1785.
CONTAINING SEVERAL DOCUMENTS.
Ενταύθα τι πραττειν εχρην ανδρα των Πλατωνος και Αριοτυτελους ζηλωτην δογματων και αρα περιοραν ανθρωπους αθλιους τους κλεπταις εκδιδομενους, η κατα δυναμιν αυτους αμυνειν οιμαι, ως ηδη το κυκνειον εξαδoυσι δια το θεομισες εργαστηριον των τοιουτων; Εμοι μεν ουν αισχρον ειναι δοκει τους μεν χιλιαρχους, οταν λειπωσι την ταξιν, καταδικαζειν την δε υπερ αθλιων ανθρωπων υπολειπειν ταξιν, οταν δεη προς κλεττας αγωνιζεσθαι τοιουτους και ταυτα του θεου συμμαχουντος Ομιν, ώσπερ ουν έταξεν.
JULIANI Epist. 17
Txat the least informed reader of this He has there continued a constant cabal with speech may be enabled to enter fully into the the company's servants, from the highest to spirit of the transaction on occasion of which the lowest ; creating, out of the ruins of the it was delivered, it may be proper to acquaint country, brilliant fortunes for those who will, him, that among the princes dependent on this and entirely destroying those who will not, be nation in the southern part of India, the most subservient to his purposes. considerable at present is commonly known by An opinion prevailed, strongly confirmed by the title of the Nabob of Arcot.
several passages in his own letters, as well as This prince owed the establishment of his by a combination of circumstances forming a government, against the claims of his elder body of evidence which cannot be resisted, brother, as well as those of other competitors, that very great sums have been by him distrito the arms and influence of the British East buted, through a long course of years, to some India company. Being thus established in a of the company's servants. Besides these considerable part of the dominions he now presumed payments in ready money (of which, possesses, he began, about the year 1765, to from the nature of the thing, the direct proof form, at the instigation (as he asserts) of the is very difficult) debts have at several periods servants of the East India company, a variety been acknowledged to those gentlemen, to an of designs for the further extension of his terri- immense amount ; that is, to some millions of tories. Some years after, he carried his views sterling money. There is strong reason to to certain objects of interiour arrangement, of suspect, that the body of these debts is wholly a very pernicious nature. None of these fictitious, and was never created by money designs could be compassed without the aid of bona fide lent. But even on a supposition that the company's arms; nor could those arms be this vast sum was really advanced, it was imemployed consistently with an obedience to the possible that the very reality of such an aston company's orders. He was therefore advised nishing transaction should not cause some to form a more secret, but an equally powerful degree of alarm, and incite to some sort of interest among the servants of that company, inquiry. and among others both at home and abroad. It was not at all seemly, at the moment when By engaging them in his interests, the use of the company itself was so distressed, as to the company's power might be obtained with require a suspension, by act of parliament, of out their ostensible authority; the power might the payment of bills drawn on them from India even be employed in defiance of the authority; and also a direct tax upon every house in if the case should require, as in truth it often England, in order to facilitate the vent of their did require, a proceeding of that degree of goods, and to avoid instant insolvency—at that boldness.
very moment that their servants should appear The company had put him into possossion in so flourishing a condition, as, besides ten of several great cities and magnificent castles. millions of other demands on their masters, to The good order of his affairs, his sense of per- be entitled to claim a debt of three or four milsonal dignity, his ideas of oriental splendour, lions more from the territorial revenue of one and the habits of an Asiatic life (to which of their dependent princes. being a native of India, and a Mahometan, The ostensible pecuniary transactions of the he had from his infancy been inured) would nabob of Arcot, with very private persons, naturally have led him to fix the seat of his are so enormous, that they evidently set aside government within his own dominions. In- every pretence of policy, which might induce stead of this, he totally sequestered himself a prudent government in some instances to from his country; and, abandoning all appea- wink at ordinary loose practice in ill-mariaged rance of state, he took up his residence in an departments. No caution could be too great ordinary house, which he purchased in the in handling this matter; no scrutiny too exact. suburbs of the company's factory at Madras. It was evidently the interest, and as evidently In that place he has lived, without remov at least in the power, of the creditors, by adone day from thence, for several years past. mitting secret participation in this dark and undefined concern, to spread corruption to the peatedly written to the nabob of Arcot, and to greatest and the most alarming extent. their servants, respecting the debt, yet they
These facts relative to the debts were so had never been able to trace the origin thereof, notorious, the opinion of their being a princi- or to obtain any satisfactory information on the pal source of the disorders of the British go- subject." vernment in India was so undisputed and uni- The court of directors, after stating the versal, that there was no party, no description circumstances under which the debts appeared of men in parliament, who did not think them to them to have been contracted, add as folselves bound, if rot in honour and conscience, lows: "For these reasons we should have at least in common decency, to institute a thought it our duty to enquire very minutely vigorous inquiry into the very bottom of the into those debts, even if the act of parliament business, before they admitted any part of that had been silent on the subject, before we convast and suspicious charge to be laid upon an curred in any measure for their payment. But exhausted country. Every plan concurred in with the positive injunctions of the act before directing such an inquiry; in order that what- us, to examine into their nature and origin, we ever was discovered to be corrupt, fraudulent, are indispensably bound to direct such an inor oppressive, should lead to a due animad- quiry to be instituted." They then order the version on the offenders; and if any thing fair president and council of Madras to enter into and equitable in its origin should be found a full examination, &c. &c. (nobody suspected that much, comparatively The directors having drawn up their order speaking, would be so found) it might be pro to the presidency on these principles, commuvided for ; in due subordination, however, to nicated the draught of the general letter in the ease of the subject, and the service of the which those orders were contained, to the state.
board of his majesty's ministers, and other serThese were the alleged grounds for an in- vants lately constituted by Mr. Pitt's East quiry, settled in all the bills brought into par- India act. These ministers, who had just liament relative to India, and there were I carried through parliament the bill ordering a think no less than four of them. By the bill, specific inquiry, immediately drew up another commonly called Mr. Pitt's bill, the inquiry letter, on a principle directly opposite to that, was specially, and by express words, commit- which was prescribed by the act of parliament, tod to the court of directors, without any and followed by the directors. In these second reserve for the interference of any other person orders, all idea of an inquiry into the justice or persons whatsoever. It was ordered that and origin of the pretended debts, particularly they should make the inquiry into the origin of the last, the greatest, and the most obnorand justice of these debts, as far as the mate ious to suspicion, is abandoned. They are rials in their possession enabled them to pro- all admitted and established without any inceed; and where they found those materials vestigation whatsoever; except some private deficient, they should order the presidency of conference with the agents of the claimants Fort St. George (Madras] to complete the is to pass for an investigation ; and a fund for inquiry.
their discharge is assigned and set apart out The court of directors applied themselves to of the revenues of the Carnatic.- To this the execution of the trust reposed in them. arrangement in favour of their servants, serThey first examined into the amount of the vants suspected of corruption, and convicted of debt, which they computed, at compound inte disobedience, the directors of the East India rest, to be £ 2,945,600 sterling. Whether their company were ordered to set their hands, mode of computation, either of the original asserting it to arise from their own conviction sums, or the amount on compound interest, and opinion, in fat contradiction to their rewas exact; that is, whether they took the corded sentiments, their strong remonstrance, interost too high, or the several capitals too and their declared sense of their duty, as well low, is not material. On whatever principle under their general trust and their oath as any of the calculations were made up, none of directors, as under the express injunctions of them found the debt to differ from the recital an act of parliament. of the act, which asserted, that the sums The principles upon which this summary claimed were “very large T'he last head proceeding was adopted by the ministerial of these debts the directors compute at board, are stated by themselves in a number £ 2,465,680 sterling. Of the existence of this in the appendix to this speech. debt the directors heard nothing until 1776, By another section of the same act, the and they say, that, ' although they had re- same court of directors were ordered to take