Slike strani
PDF
ePub

or of

tion which distinguished his conduct in pay it. He should therefore leave those every other part of this proceeding, was, in points as proved and admitted, and come the present instance, more unfortunately to the other circumstances which constifor himself than for Mr. Hastings, some. tuted the remainder, and, in his opinion, what off its guard. A fourth considera the best founded parts of the charge. In tion was, admitting the right of calling for the first place he perceived himself under extraordinary aids to meet extraordinary a very disagreeable necessity of adapting emergencies, and that in which the Com- in some degree his sentiments on the subpany stood, to have been such an emer- ject of government to the principles of gency, each of which he was, for his own Indian politics. The principles were cerpart, fully persuaded of-whether in that tainly not conformable to European ideas; case the sum demanded from Cheit Sing but they were in a great measure the only was greater than he could with ease and ones on which an European could take convenience have paid? He should not upon himself to judge of the transactions take upon himself to say, whether the and conduct of an Indian governor. They governor and council had formed their were the principles of arbitrary power and calculation of the ability of the Rajah on despotism. But though the constitution proper information; but from the event it of our Eastern possessions were arbitrary

was evident, that the sum demanded from and despotic, still it was the duty of every · him was greatly within his power to have administration in that country to conduct

paid; for in the castle of Bidgigur was itself by the rules of justice and of liberty, found, besides what possibly had been as far as it was possible to reconcile them conveyed away privately, at least 23 lacks to the established government. He did

of rupees in specie, and jewels and other not care whether the laws of Tamerlane, | moveables to the value of a crore and a any

other Indian emperor, had laid half of rupees, which was a million and down such a doctrine. It was enforced a half of money. That the demand of by a higher authority, by the dictates of 1,000 or even 1,500 cavalry was not enor. nature and of common sense. And it mous, nor beyond the power of the Rajah was upon this ground that he felt it imto comply with, was evident from the cir- possible to acquit Mr. Hastings of the cumstances which took place afterwards whole of the charge brought against him; on the insurrection in Benares, from for he felt in his conscience that he had whence it plainly appeared, that Cheit pushed the exercise of that arbitrary disSing bad a force fully sufficient to enable cretion, which, from the nature of the bim to spare the numbers on behalf of his Eastern government, was intrusted to him, sovereign and benefactors. If it were to to a greater length than he was warranted be objected, that the only way in which a to do by the necessity of the service: he demand of extraordinary supplies could in was firmly persuaded, that Mr. Hastings justice be made on the Rajah, was in the had been influenced through the whole of shape of an aid in men instead of money.- his government by the warmest zeal for for that the former in every point of view the interest of his employers; but that was just and proper, no man could pretend zeal, however commendable in itself, lost to deny,-it then was a sufficient answer its merit when exerted in a manner reto the objection, that the first proposal of pugnant to principles, which ought not to council related only to a military aid, give way to any motives of interest or namely, three battalions of Sepoys; and policy whatsoever. The council of Ben. that it was on the suggestion of Cheit gal having made a demand which they had Sing's vakeel, that the demand for money a right to make, and that demand having had been substituted in the place of men. been contumaciously resisted, they were

Thus, he trusted, he had fairly made it certainly justifiable in inflicting a punishout on grounds perfectly just and reason. ment on the delinquent party ; for, to give able, that there was a right in the council the right of demanding without the power of Bengal to make a demand on Cheit of punishing the refusal, would be absurd Sing for assistance and aid towards the and nugatory in the extreme. But then defence of the Company's interests in it was their duty to apportion the punishBengal, threatened as they were with a ment to the degree of guilt. This, he most dangerous combination of enemies, was sorry to say, Mr. Hastings, in his opiand also that the aid demanded was by no nion, had not done; but the hon. gentle means extravagant when compared with man who had taken so active a part in the the well-known ability of Cheit Sing to whole of those proceedings was not bimself entirely free from blame, for he had subsequent revolution of Benares, which given his countenance to a considerable was an event that, under all the circumpart of Mr. Hastings's improper conduct- stances, could not possibly have been he had admitted the principle that, whether avoided : for Cheit Sing having reluctantly the demand had been just or not, it ought, obeyed in one instance (the payment of having been once made, to be rigorously the money) the orders of the council, enforced as far as his authority would go; after making false and contumacious exhe had, by an acquiescence, encouraged cuses—for certainly his pretence of inabiMr. Hastings to the rash steps which he lity was of that description—and having took in consequence of Cheit Sing's ob- actually disobeyed the other part of their stinacy; for he had subjoined to the reso- commands, the furnishing of a certain lution which Mr. Hastings had entered on number of troops, the governor was unthe books of consultation, to march into questionably at liberty to impose a fine the country of Benares, his signature to upon him, and to march into his country the following words: “I acquiesce, al- in order to enforce it; and the Rajah not though I hope there will be no necessity being acquainted, from any overt-act, that to put the threat into execution.". And the fine intended to be levied was exorfrom his conduct then, and that which he bitant (the only unjust instance of the pursued on the present occasion, it afforded transaction), his taking up arms in order some suspicion, that even at the time when to escape from an arrest to which he had he might have exerted himself to prevent subjected himself by his own fault, and many improper steps from having been exciting an insurrection among his men taken, he sat by, with a secret satisfaction, to massacre the British forces, and aftercontemplating the errors of Mr. Hastings, wards withdrawing himself and going into as laying the foundation of future perse- open rebellion, were actions which could cutions against him. The grounds of his not be excused by any consideration of opinion, that the conduct of Mr. Hastings, that with which he was not acquaintedsubsequent to the demand of the troops the exorbitancy of the fine. All these and money from Cheit Sing, was censura circumstances considered, his deposition ble, were, that the fine which he deter- of the Rajah was indispensably just and mined to levy was beyond all proportion necessary, and did naturally follow from exorbitant, unjust, and tyrannical; he what had preceded it. As to his encouragshould therefore, certainly, on the present ing the troops to commit ravage and decharge, agree to the motion that had been vastation, that could not have been the made, not considering himself as being consequence of the letter to which it was thereby committed to a final vote of im- imputed; for that letter was only calcupeachment, but only meaning to be un-lated for the private perusal of the council, derstood, that if, upon the whole of the and it was a well-known fact, and sufficharges, it should be his opinion, that an ciently substantiated by evidence, that he impeachment ought to be preferred against had taken every precautiou by issuing the him, that then this act of oppression was necessary orders to prevent any avoidable such as ought to be made one of the arti licentiousness of the soldiery, and that cles of that impeachment, being in his the cruelties committed were only by a judgment a very high crime and misde- party of disobedient and mutinous follow

In fining the Rajah 500,0001. ers of the camp. As to the subsequent for a mere delay to pay 50,0001. (which parts of the charge, the second and third 50,0001. he had actually paid) Mr. Hast revolutions of Benares, as well as those ings had proceeded in an arbitrary, tyran- upon which he had last touched, he should nical manner, and was not guided by any say but a few words, as they had not been principle of reason and justice. This pro- much relied upon, except as matter of ağceeding destroyed all relation and con- gravation, but not as direct charge. On nexion between the degrees of guilt and the head of the last-mentioned article, the punishment; it was grinding; it was over right hon. gentleman had attempted to bearing; and admitting the supposed point out a contrast between the different guilt of the Rajah in delaying to pay an parts of Mr. Hastings's conduct in having additional tribute demanded of hiin, the first deposed Cheit Sing for not paying å punishment was utterly disproportionate, certain sum of money, and afterwards deand shamefully exorbitant. "In all this he posing Jagher Deo Sheo for using rigormeant to confine himself expressly to the ous modes of collection in order to enable exorbitancy of the fine, and not to the himself to comply with similar demands.

पा

[ocr errors]

meanor.

In both cases he was strictly right in his time of the committee. The right hon. principles, for one rajah deserved to be gentleman had proved, that Mr. Hastings punished for not paying what he was able had an undoubted right to require military to pay, and what he ought in duty to pay: aid from Cheit Sing, and that Cheit Sing the other was equally culpable in not was criminal in having declined to give it; making a proper collection of the revenue; but the right hon. gentleman had conbut laying it on in a partial and unfair cluded by saying, that he was not so far manner. The sole remaining subject on criminal as to justify Mr. Hastings in imwhich he had any thing to say at present, posing so large a fine as 40 or 50 lacks was the restoration of Cheit Sing to his upon him, and therefore Mr. Hastings possessions. Whatever ought to be done was culpable. Upon this subject he would in that case, could not now fall properly offer a few words. Mr. Hastings left Calunder consideration : in the one case by cutta in July 1781, at a time when the determining to restore him, it would create very existence of the British empire in an unfair prejudice against a man accused; India depended upon his exertions in Benand in the other, by determining to with gal. Sir Eyre Coote was then upon the hold his possessions, it might possibly coast of Coromandel, opposed to Hyder have a tendency the contrary way, and Ally: about 50 lacks of rupees had been carry with it an approbation of an act, sent to Madras between Oct. 1780 and which was hereafter to become a subject July 1781 ; and every grain of rice for of criminal inquiry-he should therefore, our army, and every rupee for its disfor the present, beg leave to withhold the bursements, sir Eyre had informed Mr. communication of his opinion.

Hastings, must come from Bengal. Added Mr. Dempster observed, that there was to this, we liad the Mahratta war to sup. but one point in which he differed from port; a French fleet bad appeared off Mathe right hon. gentleman, and that was in dras in Feb. 1781, and returned much rehis conclusion, that there was matter of inforced under Suffrein the next season. impeachment in the charge. He reasoned The conduct of Cheit Sing, by the right on the customs of the East compared with hon. gentleman's own account, was crithe customs of Europe ; and said, that minal, and Mr. Hastings had received ingreat allowance ought to be made for the telligence of his disaffection, which forextreme difference between the two. He merly he had treated too slightly. But urged many arguments in support of the what was the crime of Mr. Hastings in the meritorious services of Mr. Hastings, eye of the right hon. gentleman? It was terming him the saviour of our possessions merely this, stating it in the strongest in Hindoston, and declaring, that France, terms, that when our very existence as a during the course of the last war, con- nation in India depended upon his exersidered him to be of so much importance, tions, be, in 1781, formed a resolution in that they rested all their hopes of success his own mind, subject to alteration howin India on the chance of his being re- ever, that to relieve the distresses of the called. In short, if the late governor- Company, and to preserve India to Great general deserved impeachment at all, it Britain, he would exact a large fine from certainly was for that foolish disinterested- a man, whom the right hon. gentleman · ness which would not suffer him to bring allowed to be criminal, though Mr. Hasthome a larger fortune.

ings's proposed punishment exceeded what Lord Mulgrave could not agree with he conceived to be the rajah's offence; Mr. Pitt, that Mr. Hastings's having ar- and in this excess of zeal in his country's rested Cheit Sing was a matter deserving service, without a suspicion of his being of impeachment. It was the duty of a actuated by a corrupt or malicious motive, zemindar to comply with the requisition the right hon. gentleman thought there of the sovereign power for a contribution was impeachable matter in the charge, and towards the exigencies of the state ; and for this only, for he had most completely Cheit Sing appeared to be a very shuffling, exculpated him from every other part of evasive, bad man, whose conduct called it. The major said, he could not supfor punishment.

press his astonishment, that that part of Major Scott said, that after the ample Vr. Hastings's conduct, which had most justification which Mr. Pitt had entered strongly evinced his zeal for the preserinto of every part of Mr. Hastings's con- vation of the empire committed to his duct, except as to the quantum of the charge, should have been selected as define, it would be presumption to waste the serving of censure. (VOL. XXVI.)

[1]

Mr. Vansittart observed, that proper al- , perfectly distinct questions. The one is, lowances ought to be made for the cus- how far is the idea of applying the excise toms of the East Indies, where it was no laws to the collection of a revenue from uncommon thing for a zemindar to be ar- wine, effectually reducible to practice? rested.

The other is, admitting the practicability, Mr. Grenville defended the conduct of how far is the extension of the excise laws Mr. Hastings, declaring, that, as an honest consistent with the regard we owe to the man, he could not vote for the resolution. civil rights of the subject? The applica

The Attorney General could not agree bility of the excise system to the wine to go the length of an impeachment; and trade will be easily determined by a plain unless the present resolution was followed and obvious fact, which is, that the whole by an impeachment, he saw no use in voting system of excise regulation is founded on it. If part of the speech of a right hon. this one principle—the officer shall take gentleman (Mr. Fox) were true to the an account of the trader's stock. From extent which he had carried it, Mr. Hast- this principle it follows, that to all trades ings, instead of deserving impeachment, in which the process is such as to admit would deserve a halter ; but as he did not of an account of stock, and to those trades believe the argument in its extent, although alone, the excise law may be effectually he was free to own Mr. Hastings had gone applied. Thus, for example, in the busiå great way with his power, he could not ness of a brewer the excise system operates consent to vote the present resolution, not with entire force ; for the nature of his being at all prepared to impeach.

trade is such that no addition or diminu. Mr. Powys expressed his satisfaction at tion in his stock can easily be made withhaving heard so honourable and manly an out the knowledge of the officer. On the argument from the Chancellor of the Exo other hand, when the tax upon plate in chequer. A more fair and satisfactory the possession of private persons, was subone had scarcely ever been delivered jected, many years since, to the collection within those walls. He could not, how of the excise officers, the tax entirely , ever, but lament, that the right hon. gen. failed; for as the exciseman had no right tleman should be deserted by his friends, of surveying a private house, he had no and that two of the ministers for India possible means of knowing the stock of should have argued against the resolution. plate which any individual possessed. Mr. Powys said, the two ministers for In- Judging, then, by this principle, that the dia had virtually avowed that a political applicability of the excise laws depends expediency sanctified injustice; a maxim upon an account of stock, what shall we to which he could not accede.

say to the proposal of subjecting to those Lord Mulgrave declared, that the right laws the collection of the revenue from hon. gentleman would not be fit to be mi. wine? Can the regulations of the present nister of the country for a single day, if, Bill, or can any regulations, enable the upon a question of that nature, where the officers to keep a regular account of every House were sitting as judges, he was to increase or diminution of the trader's expect his friends were to sacrifice their stock? My answer is, to keep such an opinions.

account is difficult, but not impossible. Mr. Pitt lamented that there should be The present Bill is far from being perfect; any difference of opinion between him and but though the provisions it contains will his friends; but it was an honourable dif- not enable the officer to keep so exact an ference, not a difference about a principle, account of stock as will exclude the posbut about the application of a principle. sibility of fraud, yet it will narrow the ex

The committee divided : Yeas, 119; tent of illicit dealing, and prescribe limits Noes, 79. The resolution was therefore to the depredations which are committed carried.

on this important branch of the public re

venue of the kingdom. Debate in the Commons on the Wine The next question that arises' is, adExcise Bill.] June 7. On the order of mitting the applicability of the excise the day for taking into further considera- system to the trade in wine, how far, contion the report of the Wine Excise Bill, sistently with the regard we owe to the

Mr. Beaufoy said:-Sir, I rise to pro- civil rights of the subject, can we extend pose à clause of much importance, as Ithat system to a numerous description of conceive, to the interests of the kingdom. persons not hitherto comprehended within The business before us involves in it two its limits ? To reason on this subject with

any degree of precision, it will be neces- | the penalties are his, informs the commissary to consider that the excise system is sioners that an offence has been committed, composed of two distinct parts, which have and names the supposed offender. The no necessary relation to each other. The commissioners immediately issue a sumone consists of rules for the collection of mons to the accused, commanding him to duties; the other of rules for judicial de appear before them, and to answer to the cisions. The first governs the proceedings charge. Now in this summons three cirof the officer in charging the impost; the cumstances are very remarkable: the first last governs the proceedings of the court is, that the summons does not specify the in the trial of offenders. Having stated partioulars of the charge, so that the acthis distinction, I have no hesitation in cused, especially if innocent, knows not in saying, that so far as the Bill proposes that what manner to prepare for his defence: the excise mode of levying the duty shall the second is, that, contrary to the estabe applied to wine, its provisions are not blished custom of the King's courts, the inconsistent with a due regard to our an- summons gives the accused but three days cient constitution, and to the civil rights notice of his trial, so that if he is absent of the subject; for, as the officer will have from town, the summons will never reach Do admission to any other part of the him, and the first information he will have trader's premises than that in which his of the charge will probably be that judgwines are kept, and as that part of his pre- ment has been given against him for nonmises in many instances is, and in all in appearance, which the excise law construes stances may be, separate, and even distant, as contempt; that a warrant of execution has from his own house, the repose of his pri- been issued; and that the officers of justice vate dwelling, the tranquillity of his home, are in possession of his house. The third will not be disturbed by the visits of the circumstance is, that the summons may be officer. That no inconvenience will attend left with his servant, or with bis child, or the separation of the wine cellar from the in the key-hole of his street door; for the house of the wine-merchant, in those cases law expressly declares tbat the summons in which they are not separate at present, may be served in either of these ways; so I do not pretend to say; but I assert that that if the accused should be actually in the inconvenience is not of that kind that town the summons may never reach him. trenches upon the constitution, and vio- Let us suppose, however, that fortune is lates the rights of the subject. If, then, his friend, and that he receives the sum. the present Bill was simply an application mons. What is his situation when he at. to a new object of that part of the excise tends the court ? Uninformed of the para system which directs the collection of the ticulars of the charge, he cannot be preduties, I should say that it is not incon. pared for his defence. His accuser, on sistent with the laws and constitution of the other hand, comes with a charge ma. the country: but, Sir, the Bill contains tured by reflection, and guarded by every other provisions which I own do excite art that a personal interest in the event my serious apprehension, and against the can possibly suggest. The accuser knows dangers of which I am persuaded the right that if he can establish the charge, onehon. gentleman near me, will, upon re half of the penalties incurred will be his ; fection, think it necessary to guard. The nor can it be thought surprising that urged provisions which I dread are those that by poverty on the one hand, and tempted subjeet the dealers in wine to that part of by the prospect of wealth on the other, he the excise law that relates to the trial of swears with a determined mind. In this offences.

perilous situation, to whom shall the deThis is the part of the excise system fendant turn for protection? Will the comwhich Blackstone reprobates as alien to missioners be counsel for the accused ? Sir, the constitution, and abhorrent to the law the commissioners are appoipted by the of the land. For what is the course of its Crown, are removable at the pleasure of procedure? It is so summary, and is the Crown, and are dependent for their finished with such fearful dispatch, that a salaries on the very revenue against the very few words are sufficient to describe interests of which he is supposed to have it to the House. An exciseman, for the offended; they are parties against the acmost part needy and necessitous, for his cused : how then shall he escape convicsalary is less than a maintenance; an ex. tion? and if convicted, and penalties be. ciseman, who knows that the shortest road yond his means, as may often be the case, to wealth is that of accusation, since half should be imposed upon him, imprison.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »