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And will the benedictions of the people thus saved dissipate in empty air? No. They will not. If I may dare to use the figure, they will constitute heaven itself their proxy, to receive for them the blessings of their pious thanksgiving, and the
gratitude will dictate.
It is with confidence, therefore, sir, that I move you on this Charge, That Warren Hastings be im. peached.
MR. SHERIDAN S SPEECH,
ON SUMMING UP THE EVIDENCE ON THE SECOND, OR BEGUM
CHARGE AGAINST WARREN HASTINGS, ESQ. DELIVERED
BEFORE THE HIGH COURT OF PARLIAMENT, JUNE 1788. THE two speeches of Mr. Sheridan on the trial of Warren Hastings, are undoubtedly more celebrated than any other productions of modern eloquence. But the “ high and diffused renown” which they have acquired, must in a great degree be imputed to the impression excited by them in their delivery, For it is certain, no report of the speeches has hitherto been given to the publick which, as a whole, can aspire either to fidelity or unusual elegance,
The second speech, or the one pronounced in the house of lords, in reviewing the evidence on the Begum charge, is here presented in a far more perfect state than it has hitherto appeared. But even now, it is manifestly an abridgment, shorn of half the grace, and order, and beauty of the original. It still retains, however, many passages of the most sublime and exquisitely wrought eloquence.
As it is probable that these speeches were written compositions, copies of them may still be in Mr. Sheridan's possession, and we trust, if this be the case, he will be ultimately induced to gratify that desire which has been so often, so strongly, and so generally expressed by the lovers of eloquence to have them published. To withhold them altogether from the publick, he should recollect will be permitting his negligence to do criminal injustice to his own fame, to that of his country, and to the age which is entitled to boast of the glory of having given birth to these extraordinary productions,
I SHALL not waste your lordships' time nor my own, by any preliminary observations on the im, portance of the subject before you, or on the pro. priety of our bringing it in this solemn manner to a final decision. My honourable friend, the principal mover of the impeachment, has already executed the task in a way the most masterly and impressive. He, whose indignant and enterprising genius roused by the calls of publick justice, has with unprecedented labour, perseverance and eloquence excited one branch of the legislature to the vindication of our national character, and through whose means the house of commons now makes this embodied stand in favour of man against man's iniquity, need hardly be followed on the general grounds of the prosecution.
Confiding in the dignity, the liberality, and intelligence of the tribunal before which I now have the honour to appear in my delegated capacity of a manager, I do not, indeed, conceive it necessary to engage your lordships' attention for a single moment with any introductory animadversions. But there is one point which here presents itself, that it becomes me not to overlook. Insinuations have been thrown out, that my honourable colleagues and myself are actuated by motives of malignity against the unfortunate prisoner. at the bar. An imputation of so serious a nature cannot be permitted to pass altogether without comment, though it comes in so loose a shape, in such whispers and oblique hints as to prove to a certainty that it was made in the consciousness, and, therefore, with the circumspection of falsehood. I can, my lords, most confidently aver,
that a prosecution more disinterested in all its motives and ends ; more free from personal malice, or personal interest; more perfectly publick, and more purely animated by the simple and unmixed spirit of justice
never was brought in any country, at any time, by any body of men against any individual. What possible resentment can we entertain against the unfortunate prisoner? What possible interest can we have in his conviction? What possible object of a personal nature can we accomplish by his ruin? For myself, my lords, I make this solemn asseveration, that I discharge my breast of all malice, hatred, and ill will against the prisoner, if at any time indignation at his crimes has planted in it these passions, and I believe, my lords, that I may with equal truth answer for every one of my colleagues.
We are, my lords, anxious, in stating the crimes with which he is charged, to keep out of recollection the person of the unfortunate prisoner. In prosecuting him to conviction, we are impelled only by a sincere abhorrence of his guilt, and a sanguine hope of remedying future delinquency. We can have no private incentive to the part we have taken. We are actuated singly by the zeal we feel for the publick welfare, and by an honest solicitude for the honour of our country, and the happiness of those who are under its dominion and protection.
With such views, we really, my lords, lose sight of Mr. Hastings, who, however great in some other respects, is too insignificant to be blended with these important circumstances. The unfortunate prisoner is, at best, to my mind, no mighty object. Amidst the series of mischiefs and enormities to my sense seeming to surround him, what is he but a petty nucleus, involved in its laming, scarcely seen or heard of.
This prosecution, my lords, was not, as is alle. ged," begot in prejudice, and nursed in errour.” It originated in the clearest conviction of the wrongs which the natives of Hindostan have endured by the maladministration of those in whose hands this country had placed extensive powers, which ought to have been exercised for the benefit of the governed, but which, was used by the prisoner for the shameful purpose of oppression. I repeat with emphasis,