Abbildungen der Seite

papers, and documents: vesting the entire management, the appointment of all officers and servants, the rights of peace and the disposal of the whole revenue, in the hands of certain Commissioners, to be appointed, in the first instance, by the whole Legislature, and afterwards by the Crown. It was proposed they should hold their offices by the same tenure as the judges of England, and thus not be dependent on the Minister of the time. The proposed Commissioners were eight of the particular friends of Mr. Fox. venting oppressive and despotical proceedings in the administration of the territorial possessions; a second bill was added, ascertaining precisely the powers of the Governur-General, supreme council, and other officers which the Commissioners might appoint; and also the privileges of the Zemindars (landholders) and other natives. *

and war,

For pre

This bill was approved of by many who reprobated ihe principal bill. In forming the second plan, the communications of Mr. Francis had been peculiarly useful and is portant.

Mr. Pitt took a vigorous and decided part in opposing this bill. From him indeed and Dundas did it meet with almost the -sole opposition it experienced in its passage through the House of Commons. Pitt attacked it in the first place as an infringement, or rather annihilation of the Company's charter ; insisting that the charter was as clear and strong, and the right founded on it as well ascertained, as that of any chartered body in the kingdom ; that the violation of the India Company's rights, glaringly unjust in itself, militated against the security of all chartered rights. He argued, that besides its injustice respecting the Company, it would be dangerous to the constitution, by establishing an influence independent of the Legislature ; an influence that, from its nature, would be under the controul of its creator, Mr. Fox. He did not hesitate to impute so unjust and so unconstitutional a plan to an ambitious desire of being perpetual dictator. Dundas coinciding with Pitt's idea, that the system was unjust and unconstitutional, and concurring in his assignation of motives, entered into a detailed discussion of Fox's statement of the finances of the Company; insisting that their affairs were by no means in that desperate state which Fox alledged. The Proprietors and Directors of the East India Company petitioned the house not to pass a bill, operating as the confiscation of their property and annihilation of their charters, without proving specific delinquency that might merit the forfeiture of their privileges and property; asserting, that proved delinquency alone could justify such a bill, and desiring the charges and proofs might be brought forward. The people, in general, were strongly impressed by the arguments of the opposers of the bill, and the representation of those whose rights and property it appeared to affect. Burke made, at the second reading, a speech equal for eloquence to any he had ever produced; whether, however, in the accuracy of his information, in the justness of his conclusions, in the truth of what he advanced, and the wisdom of what he proposed, he


equalled his own efforts on other occasions, was not then so evident.

Burke admitted, to the fullest extent, that the charter of the East India Company had been sanctioned by the King and Parliament; that the Company had bought it, and honestly paid for it; and that they had every right to it, which such a sanction and such a purchase could convey. Having granted this to the opponents of the bill, he maint.ined, that, notwithstanding that sanction and purchase, the proposed change ought to take place. He proceeded on the great and broad grounds of ethics, arguing that no special covenant, however sanctioned, can authorize a violation of the laws of morality; that if a covenant operates to the misery of mankind, to oppression and injustice, the general obligation to prevent wickedness is antecedent and superior to any special obligation to perform a covenant ; that Parliament had sold all they had a right to sell ; they had sold an exclusive privilege to trade, but not a privilege to rob and oppress; and that if what they sold for the purposes of commerce was made the instr:iment of

oppression and pillage, it was their duty, as the guardians of the conduct and happiness of all within the sphere of their influence and controul, to prevent so pernicious an operation. After laying down this as a fundamental principle, he proceeded to argue that there had been, and were, the most flagrant acts of oppression in India by the servants of the Company; that the whole system was oppressive from the beginning of the acquisition of territorial possession. He entered into a detail of the principal instances of pillage, rapine, violence, and despotism, attributed to the English, and dwelt with great energy and pathos on those acts of which he alledged Mr. Hastings to be guilty.

On this subject he brought forward the principal heads of what afterwards occupied so much of his attention in the prosecution of the Governor-General. His imagination, warming as he went along, figured to him,

« ZurückWeiter »