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they, without any ground, charged the then House of Commons to have formed against charters in general. For this purpose they have not scrupled to assert that the exertion of his majesty's prerogative in the late precipitate change in his administration, and the dissolution of the late parliament, were measures adopted in order to rescue the people and their rights out of the hands of the House of Commons, their representatives.
“ We trust that his majesty's subjects are not yet so far deluded as to believe that the charters, or that any other of their local or general privileges, can have a solid security in any place but where that security has always been looked for, and always found, in the House of Commons. Miserable and precarious indeed would be the state of their franchises, if they were to find no defence but from that quarter from whence they have always been atttacked *.
The attempt upon charters and the privileges of the corporate bodies of the kingdom in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. was made by the crown. It was carried on by the ordinary course of law, in courts instituted for the security of the property and frauchises of the people. This attempt made by the crown was attended with complete success. The corporate rights of the city of London, and of all the companies it contains, were by solemn judgment of law declared forfeited; and all their franchises, privileges, properties, and estates, were of course seized into the hands of the crown. The injury was from the crown; the redress was by parliament. A bill was brought into the House of Commons, by which the judgment against the city of London, and against the companies, was reversed; and this bill passed the House of Lords without any complaint of trespass on their jurisdiction, although the bill was for a reversal of judgment in law. By this act, which is the ad of William and Mary, ch. 8., the question of forfeiture of that charter is for ever taken out of the power of any court of law. No cognizance can be taken of it except in parliament.
Although the act above mentioned has declared the judgment against the corporation of London to be illegal, yet Blackstone makes no scruple of asserting, that, " perhaps in strictness of law, the proceedings in most of them (the Quo Warranto causes) were sufficiently regular,” leaving it in doubt whether this regularity did not apply to the corporation of London as well as to any of the rest ; and he scems to blame the proceeding (as most blamable it was) not so much on account of But the late House of Commons, in passing that bill, made no attack upon any powers or privileges, except such
illegality, as for the crown's having einployed a legal proceeding for political purposes. He calls it “ an exertion of an act of law for the purposes of the state.”
The same security which was given to the city of London, would have been extended to all the corporations, if the House of Commons could have prevailed. But the bill for that purpose passed but by a majority of one in the lords: and it was entirely lost by a prorogation, which is the act of the crown. Small, indeed, was the security which the corporation of London enjoyed before the act of William and Mary, and which all the other corporations, secured by no statute, enjoy at this hour, if strict law was employed against them. The use of strict law has always been rendered very delicate by the same means, by which the almost unmeasured legal powers residing (and in many instances dangerously residing) in the crown are kept within due bounds; I mean, that strong superintending power in the House of Commons, which inconsiderate people have been prevailed on to condemn as trenching on prerogative. Strict law is by no means such a friend to the rights of the subject as they have been taught to believe. They who have been most conversant in this kind of learning, will be most sensible of the danger of submitting corporate rights of high political importance to these subordinate tribunals. The general heads of law on that subject are vulgar and trivial. On them there is not much question. But it is far from easy to determine what special acts, or what special neglect of action, shall subject corporations to a forfeiture. There is so much laxity in this doctrine, that great room is left for favour or prejudice, which might give to the crown an entire dominion over those corporations. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly true, that every subordinate corporate right ought to be subject to controul; to superior direction; and even forfeiture, upon just cause. In this reason and law agree. In every judgment given on a corporate right of great political importance, the policy and prudence make no sinall part of the question. To these considerations a court of law is not competent; and indeed an attempt at the least intermixture of such ideas with the matter of law, could have no other effect than wholly to cor. rupt the judicial character of the court in which such a cause should come to be tried. It is besides to be remarked, that if in virtue of a legal process a forfeiture should be adjudged, the court of law has no power to modify or mitigate. The whole franchise is annihilated, and the corporate property goes into the hands of the crown. They who bold the new doctrines concerning the power of the House of Commons, ought well to consider in such a case by what means the corporate as a House of Commons has frequently attacked, and will attack, (and they trust, in the end, with their wonted success,) that is, upon those which are corruptly and oppressively
rights could be revived, or the property could be recovered out of the - hands of the crown. But parliament can do what the courts neither can do nor ought to attempt. Parliament is competent to give due weight to all political considerations. It may modify, it may mitigate, and it may render perfectly secure, all that it does not think fit to take away. It is not likely that parliament will ever draw to itself the cognizance of questions concerning ordinary corporations, farther than to protect them in case attempts are made to induce a forfeiture of their franchises.
The case of the East India Company is different even from that of the greatest of these corporations. No monopoly of trade beyond their own limits is vested in the corporate body of any town or city in the kingdom. Even within these limits the monopoly is not general. The Company has the monopoly of the trade of half the world. The first corporation of the kingdom has for the object of its jurisdiction only a few matters of subordinate police. The East India Company governs an empire through all its concerns, and all its departments, from the lowest office of economy to the highest councils of state, -- an empire to which Great Britain is in comparison but a respectable province. To leave these concerns without superior cognizance would be madness; to leave them to be judged in the courts below on the principles of a confined jurisprudence, would be folly. It is well if the whole legislative power is competent to the correction of abuses, which are commensurate to the immensity of the object they affect. The idea of an absolute power has indeed its terrors; but that objection lies to every parliamentary proceeding; and as no other can regulate the abuses of such a charter, it is fittest that sovereign authority should be exercised where it is most likely to be attended with the most effectual correctives. These correctives are furnished by the nature and course of parliamentary proceedings, and by the infinitely diversified characters who compose the two Houses. In effect and virtually they form a vast number, variety, and succession of judges and jurors. The fulness, the freedom, and publicity of discussion, leave it easy to distinguish what are acts of power, and what the determinations of equity and reason. There prejudice corrects prejudice, and the different asperities of party zeal mitigate and neutralise each other. So far from violence being the general characteristic of the proceedings of parliament, whatever the beginnings of any parliamentary process may be, its general fault in the end is, that it is found incomplete and ineffectual.
administered; and this House do faithfully assure his majesty, that we will correct, and, if necessary for the purpose, as far as in us lies, will wholly destroy every species of power and authority exercised by British subjects to the oppression, wrong, and detriment of the people, and to the impoverishment and desolation of the countries subject to it.
“ The propagators of the calumnies against that House of parliament have been indefatigable in exaggerating the supposed injury done to the East India Company by the suspension of the authorities which they have, in every instance, abused; as if power had been wrested, by wrong and violence, from just and prudent hands : but they have, with equal care, concealed the weighty grounds and reasons on which that House had adopted the most moderate of all possible expedients for rescuing the natives of India from oppression, and for saving the interest of the real and honest proprietors of their stock, as well as that great national, commercial concern, from imminent ruin.
66 The ministers aforesaid have also caused it to be reported, that the House of Commons have confiscated the property of the East India Company. It is the reverse of truth. The whole management was a trust for the proprietors, under their own inspection, and it was so provided for in the bill,) and under the inspection of parliament. That bill, so far from confiscating the Company's property, was the only one which, for several years past, did not, in some shape or other, affect their property, or restrain them in the disposition of it.
“ It is proper that his majesty and all his people should be informed, that the House of Commons have proceeded, with regard to the East India Company, with a degree of care, circumspection, and deliberation, which has not been equalled in the history of parliamentary proceedings. For sixteen years the state and condition of that body has never been wholly out of their view : in the year 1767, the House took those objects into consideration, in a committee of the whole House: the business was pursued in the following year: in the year 1772, two committees were appointed for the same purpose, which examined into their affairs with much diligence, and made very ample reports: in the year 1773, the proceedings were carried to an act of parliament, which proved ineffectual to its purpose: the oppressions and abuses in India have since rather increased than diminished, on account of the greatness of the temptations and convenience of the opportunities, which got the better of the legislative provisions calculated against ill practices, then in their beginnings; insomuch that, in 1781, two committees were again instituted, who have made seventeen reports. It was upon the most minute, exact, and laborious collection and discussion of facts, that the late House of Commons proceeded in the reform which they attempted in the administration of India, but which has been frustrated by ways and means the most dishonourable to his majesty's government, and the most pernicious to the constitution of this kingdom. His majesty was so sensible of the disorders in the Company's administration, that the consideration of that subject was no less than six times recommended to this House in specches from the throne.
“ The result of the parliamentary inquiries has been, that the East India Company was found totally corrupted, and totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, whether political or commercial; that the powers of war and peace given by the charter had been abused, by kindling hostilities in every quarter for the purposes of rapine; that almost all the treaties of peace they have made, have only given cause to so many breaches of public faith ; that countries once the most flourishing are reduced to a state of indigence, decay, and depopulation, to the diminution of our strength, and to the infinite dishonour of our national character; that the laws of this kingdom are notoriously, and almost in every instance, despised ; that the servants of the Company, by the purchase of qualifications to vote in the general court, and at length, by getting the Company itself deeply in their debt, have obtained the entire and absolute mastery in the body by which they ought to have been