Abbildungen der Seite

tracted with the knowledge of the company; that it had not their approbation; that they received the first intelligence of it with the utmost possible surprise, indignation, and alarm.

So far from being previously apprized of the transaction from its origin, that it was two years before the court of directors obtained any official intelligence of it. “ The dealings of the servants with the nabob were concealed from the first, until they were found out” (says Mr. Sayer, the company's counsel) “ by the report of the country.” The presidency, however, at last thought proper to send an official account. On this the directors tell them, “ to your great reproach it has been concealed from us. We cannot but suspect this debt to have had its weight in your proposed aggrandizement of Mahomed Ali [the nabob of Arcot]; but whether it has or has not, certain it is, you are guilty of a high breach of duty in con. cealing it from us.

These expressions, concerning the ground of the transaction, its effect, and its clandestine nature, are in the letters, bearing date March 17, 1769. After receiving a more full account on the 23d March, 1770, they state, that “ Messrs. John Pybus, John Call, and James Bourchier, as trustees for themselves and others of the nabob's private creditors, had proved a deed of assignment upon the nabob and his son of FIFTEEN districts of the nabob's country, the revenues of which yielded, in time of peace, eight lacks of pagodas [320,0001. sterling] annually; and likewise an assignment of the yearly tribute paid the nabob from the rajah of Tanjore, amounting to four lacks of rupees [40,0001.]” The territorial revenue, at that time possessed by these gentlemen, without the knowledge or consent of their masters, amounted to three hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling annually. They were making rapid strides to the entire possession of the country, when the directors, whom the right honourable gentleman states as having authorized these proceedings, were kept in such profound ignorance of this royal acquisition of territorial revenue by their servants, that in the same letter they say,

“ this assignment was obtained by three of the members of your board, in January 1767, yet we do not find the least trace of it upon your consulta. tions, until August 1768, nor do any of your letters to us afford any information relative to such transactions, till the 1st of November 1768. By your last letters of the 8th of May, 1769, you bring the whole proceedings to light in one view."

As to the previous knowledge of the company, and its sanction to the debts, you see that this assertion of that knowledge is utterly unfounded. But did the directors approve of it, and ratify the transaction when it was known ? The very reverse. On the same third of March, the directors declare,

upon an impartial examination of the whole conduct of our late governour and council of Fort George [Madras] and on the fullest consideration, that the said governour and council have, in notorious violation of the trust reposed in them, manifestly preferred the interest of private individuals to that of the company, in permitting the assignment of the revenues of certain valuable districts, to a very large amount, from the nabob to individuals” --and then highly aggravating their crimes, they add: “We order and direct that you do examine, in the most impartial manner, all the abovementioned transactions; and that you punish by suspension, degradation, dismission, or otherwise, as to you shall seem meet, all and every such servant or servants of the company, who may by you be found guilty of any of the above offences.” i We had (say the directors) the mortification to find that the servants of the company, who had been raised supported, and owed their present opulence to the advantages gained in such service, have in this instance most unfaithfully betrayed their trust, abandoned the company's interest, and prostituted its influence to accomplish the purposes of individuals, whilst the interest of the company is almost wholly neglected, and payment to us rendered extremely precarious.” Here then is the rock of approbation of the court of diree

tors, on which the right honourable gentleman says this debt was founded. Any member, Mr. Speaker, who should come into the house, on my reading this sentence of condemnation of the court of directors against their unfaithful servants, might well imagine that he had heard a harsh, severe, unqualified invective against the present ministerial board of control. So exactly do the proceedings of the patrons of this abuse tally with those of the actors in it, that the expressions used in the condemnation of the one, may serve for the reprobation of the other, without the change of a word.

To read you all the expressions of wrath and indignation fulminated in this despatch against the meritorious creditors of the right honourable gentle. man, who, according to him, have been so fully approved by the company, would be to read the whole.

The right honourable gentleman, with an address peculiar to himself, every now and then slides in the presidency of Madras, as synonimous to the company. That the presidency did approve the debt, is certain. But the right honourable gentleman, as prudent in suppressing, as skilful in bringing forward his matter, has not chosen to tell you that the presidency were the very persons guilty of contracting this loan ; creditors themselves, and agents and trustees, for all the other creditors. For this, the court of directors accuse them of breach of trust; and for this, the right honourable gentleman considers them as perfectly good authority for those claims. It is pleasant to hear a gentleman of the law quote the approbation of creditors as an authority for their own debt.

How they came to contract the debt to themselves, how they came to act as agents for those whom they ought to have controlled, is for your inquiry. The policy of this debt was announced to the court of directors, by the very persons concerned in creating it. “ Till very lately,” (say the presidency) nabob placed his dependence on the company. Nov

66 the

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

he has been taught by ill advisers, that an interest out of doors may stand him in good stead. He has been made to believe that his private creditors have power and interest to overrule the court of directors.' The nabob was not misinformed. The private creditors instantly qualified a vast number of votes; and having made themselves masters of the court of proprietors, as well as extending a powerful cabal in other places as important, they so completely overturned the authority of the court of directors at home and abroad, that this poor baffled government was soon obliged to lower its tone. It was glad to be admitted into partnership with its own servants. The court of directors establishing the debt which they had reprobated as a breach of trust, and which was planned for the subversion of their authority, settled its payments on a par with those of the publick; and even so, were not able to obtain

peace or even equality in their demands. All the consequences lay in a regular and irresistible train. By employing their influence for the recovery of this debt, their orders, issued in the same breath, against creating new debts, only animated the strong desires of their servants to this prohibited prolifick sport, and it soon produced a swarm of sons and daughters, not in the least degenerated from the virtue of their parents.

From that moment, the authority of the court of directors expired in the Carnatick, and every where else. Every man,” says the presidency, “ who opposes the government and its measures, finds an immediate countenance from the nabob; even our discarded officers, however unworthy, are received into the nabob's service." It was indeed a matter of no wonderful sagacity to determine whether the court of directors, with their miserable salaries to their servants, of four or five hundred pounds a year, or the distributor of millions, was most likely to be obeyed. It was an invention beyond the imagination of all the speculatists of our speculating age, to see a government quietly settled in one and the same town, composed of two distinct members; one to pay scan

[ocr errors]

tily for obedience, and the other to bribe high for rebellion and revolt.

The next thing which recommends this particular debt to the right honourable gentleman is, it seems, the moderate interest of ten per cent. It would be lost labour to observe on this assertion. The nabob, in a long apologetick letter for the transaction between him and the body of the creditors, states the fact, as I shall state it to you. In the accumulation of this debt, the first interest paid was from thirty to thirty-six per cent. it was then brought down to twenty-five per cent. at length it was reduced to twenty; and there it found its rest. During the whole process, as often as any of these monstrous interests fell into an arrear (into which they were continually falling) the arrear, formed into a new capital, was added to the old, and the same interest of twenty per cento accrued upon both. The com. pany, having got some scent of the enormous usury which prevailed at Madras, thought it necessary to interfere, and to order all interests to be lowered to ten per cent. This order, which contained no exception, though it by no means pointed particularly to this class of debts, came like a thunderclap on the nabob. He considered his political credit as ruined; but to find a remedy to this unexpected evil, he again added to the old principal twenty per cent. interest accruing for the last year. Thus a new fund was formed, and it was on that accumulation of various principals, and interests heaped upon interests, not on the sum originally lent, as the right honourable gentleman would make you believe, that ten per cent. was settled on the whole.

When you consider the enormity of the interest at which these debts were contracted, and the several interests added to the principal, I believe you will not think me so sceptical, if I should doubt, whether for this debt of 880,000l. the nabob ever saw 100,000l. in real money. The right honourable gentleman suspecting, with all his absolute dominion over fact, that he never will be able to defend even

« ZurückWeiter »