Page images
[ocr errors]

ruled and coerced. Thus their malversations in office are supported instead of being checked by the Company. The whole of the affairs of that body are reduced to a most perilous situation; and many millions of innocent and deserving men, who are under the protection of this nation, and who ought to be protected by it, are oppressed by a most despotic and rapacious tyranny. The Company and their servants have strengthened themselves by this confederacy, have set at defiance the authority and admonitions of this House employed to reform them; and when this House had selected certain principal delinquents, whom they declared it the duty of the Company to recal, the Company held out its legal privileges against all reformation, positively refused to recal them, and supported those who had fallen under the just censure of this House, with new and stronger marks of countenance and appobation.

“ The late House discovering the reversed situation of the Company, by which the nominal servants are really the masters, and the offenders are become their own judges, thought fit to examine into the state of their commerce; and they have also discovered that their commercial affairs are in the greatest disorder, that their debts have accumulated beyond any present or obvious future means of payment, at least under the actual administration of their affairs; that this condition of the East India Company has begun to affect the sinking fund itself, on which the public credit of the kingdom rests, a million and upwards being due to the customs, which that House of Commons, whose intentions towards the Company have been so grossly misrepresented, were indulgent enough to respite. And thus, instead of confiscating their property, the Company received without interest (which in such a case had been before charged) the use of a very large sum of the public money. The revenues are under the peculiar care of this House, not only as the revenues originate from us, but as, on every failure of the funds set apart for support of the national credit, or to provide for the national strength and safety,

the task of supplying every deficiency falls upon his majesty's faithful Commons, this House must, in effect, tax the people. The House, therefore, at every moment, incurs the hazard of becoming obnoxious to its constituents.

“ The enemies of the late House of Commons resolved, if possible, to bring on that event. They therefore endeavoured to misrepresent the provident means adopted by the House of Commons for keeping off this invidious necessity, as an attack on the rights of the East India Company; for they well knew that on the one hand if, for want of proper regulation and relief, the Company should become insolvent, or even stop payment, the national credit and commerce would sustain an heavy blow; and that calamity would be justly imputed to parliament, which after such long inquiries, and such frequent admonitions from his majesty, had neglected so essential and so urgent an article of their duty: on the other hand they knew, that, wholly corrupted as the Company is, nothing effectual could be done to preserve that interest from ruin, without taking for a time the national objects of their trusts out of their hands; and then a cry would be industriously raised against the House of Commons, as depriving British subjects of their legal privileges. The restraint, being plain and simple, must be easily understood by those who would be brought with great difficulty to comprehend the intricate detail of matters of fact, which render this suspension of the administration of India absolutely necessary on motives of justice, of policy, of public honour, and public safety.

“ The House of Commons had not been able to devise a method, by which the redress of grievances could be effected through the authors of those grievances; nor could they imagine how corruptions could be purified by the corruptors and the corrupted; nor do we conceive how any reformation can proceed from the known abettors and supporters of the persons who have been guilty of the misdemeanors which parliament has reprobated, and who for their own ill purposes have given countenance to a false

and delusive state of the Company's affairs, fabricated to mislead parliament, and to impose upon the nation.

“ Your Commons feel, with a just resentment, the inadequate estimate which your ministers have formed of the importance of this great concern. They call on us to act upon the principles of those who have not inquired into the subject; and to condemn those who, with the most laudable diligence, have examined and scrutinized every part of it. The deliberations of parliament have been broken ; the season of the year is unfavourable: many of us are new members, who must be wholly unacquainted with the subject, which lies remote from the ordinary course of general information.

“ We are cautioned against an infringement of the constitution; and it is impossible to know what the secret advisers of the crown, who have driven out the late ministers for their conduct in parliament, and have dissolved the late parliament for a pretended attack upon prerogative, will consider as such an infringement. We are not furnished with a rule, the observance of which can make us safe from the resentment of the crown, even by an implicit obedience to the dictates of the ministers who have advised that speech; we know not how soon those ministers may be disavowed, and how soon the members of this House, for our very agreement with them, may be considered as objects of his majesty's displeasure. Until by his majesty's goodness and wisdom the late example is completely done away, we are not free.

“ We are well aware, in providing for the affairs of the East, with what an adult strength of abuse, and of wealth

* The purpose of the misrepresentation being now completely answered, there is no doubt but the committee in this parliament, appointed by the ministers themselves, will justify the grounds upon wbich the last parliament proceeded; and will lay open to the world the dreadful state of the Company's affairs, and the grossness of their own calumnies upon this head. By delay the new assembly is come into the disgraceful situation of allowing a dividend of eight per cent, by act of parliament, without the least matter before them to justify the granting of any dividend at all.

and influence growing out of that abuse, his majesty's Commons had, in the last parliament, and we still have to struggle. We are sensible that the influence of that wealth, in a much larger degree and measure than at any former period, may have penetrated into the very quarter from whence alone any real information can be expected.*

“ If, therefore, in the arduous affairs recommended to us, our proceedings should be ill adapted, feeble, and ineffectual; if no delinquency should be prevented, and no delinquent should be called to account: if every person should be caressed, promoted, and raised in power, in proportion to the enormity of his offences; if no relief should be given to any of the natives unjustly dispossessed of their rights, jurisdictions, and properties; if no cruel and unjust exactions shall be forborne; if the source of no peculation or oppressive gain should be cut off; if, by the omission of the opportunities that were in our hands, our Indian empire should fall into ruin irretrievable, and

This will be evident to those who consider the number and description of directors and servants of the East India Company, chosen into the present parliament. The light in which the present ministers hold the labours of the House of Commons, in searching into the disorders in the Indian administration, and all its endeavours for the reformation of the government there, without any distinction of times, or of the persons concerned, will appear from the following extract from a speech of the present Lord Chancellor (Thurlow). After making a high-flown panegyric on those whom the House of Commons had condemned by their resolutions, he said — “ Let us not be misled by reports from committees of another House, to which, I again repeat, I pay as much attention as I would do to the history of Robinson Crusoe. Let the conduct of the East India Company be fairly and fully inquired into; let it be acquitted or condemned by evidence brought to the bar of the House. Without entering very deep into the subject, let me reply in a few words to an observation which fell from a noble and learned lord, that the Company's finances are distressed, and that they owe at this moment a million sterling to the nation. When such a charge is brought, will parliament in its justice forget that the Company is restricted from employing that credit which its great and flourishing situation gives to it?" See New Parliamentary History, vol. xxiv, p. 124.

in its fall crush the credit, and overwhelm the revenues of this country, we stand acquitted to our honour, and to our conscience, who have reluctantly seen the weightiest interests of our country, at times the most critical to its dignity and safety, rendered the sport of the inconsiderate and unmeasured ambition of individuals, and by that means the wisdom of his majesty's government degraded in the public estimation, and the policy and character of this renowned nation rendered contemptible in the eyes of all Europe."

Mr. William Windham seconded the motion; which was negatived without a division.



June 16.

HIS day Mr. Alderman Sawbridge moved, “ That a com

mittee be appointed to take into consideration the present state of the representation of the Commons of Great Britain in parliament." The motion was supported by Mr. Alderman Newnham, the Earl of Surrey, Sir E. Astley, Mr. Beaufoy, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Mr. Burgoyne, Mr. Sheridan, and others; and opposed by Lord North, Mr. Dundas, Mr. Burke, Mr. W.W. Grenville, and Lord Mulgrave. As soon as Mr. Fox sat down, there was a violent clamour for the question, and the gallery was cleared of strangers. Mr. Burke with a great deal of difficulty obtained a hearing. The following imperfect report of what he said upon this occasion, was found among his

MS. papers :

Mr. BURKE rose and said :

Mr. Speaker; we have now discovered, at the close of the eighteenth century, that the constitution of England, which for a series of ages had been the proud distinction

« PreviousContinue »