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the opposers of the bill, that as the Company's legal right to the appointment of all its own servants, and to the entire management and regulation of its internal affairs, had been so clearly proved as not to admit of a question, and that the rapacity, misconduct, and disobedience of the servants in the presidencies abroad, was so notorious as to be allowed on all hands, no reasonable objection could now lie to the exercise of that right, when its expediency, and even necessity, were so evident ; and that as every delay in the present circumstances, mult be ruinous in the highest degree to the Company, and proportionally prejudicial to the nation; it was to be hoped, that no farther opposition would be made to the carrying of the commillion of supervision into immediate execution, and that the present bill would be rejected, as founded upon false principles, and of an unconstitutional and dangerous tendency.
To this it was answered, that the evidence given at the bar, and the arguments opposed by the counsel against the bill, contained the strongest reasons that could possibly have been brought to stiew the urgent necessity of its being passed. That they fully demonstrated the evils in India to be of such a magnitude, that nothing less than the legislature could reform them ; that no powers could be granted to the supervision, competent to the remedy of such enormities; that the commission was besides faulty in its principles, as the governors and councils in the respective presidencies in India, were joined in power by it, with the supervisors who were intended to be sent from England;
that as the number of the formes was permanent, they must soonby death or sickness, become a majority; that by this means, the capital offenders, who were the authors of all the evils complained of, would become the judges of their own crimes, and the redressers of their own oppressions; was it then by men, who had long rioted with the most unrelenting cruelty in the distresses of their miserable fellow - creatures, that justice was to be restored to her proper course, and the mischiefs which their iniquities caused were to be removed?
That the legislature had a supreme controuling power, to which all things must, and ought to submit; that this power could never . be applied with greater propriety, or benefit, than in the present instance, when the welfare and security of many millions, and the preservation of great countries and revenues depended upon its exertion. That laws, as well as charters, must submit to a change of times and seasons, and must be altered, modelled, or repealed, as circumstances, and the nature of things require; that it could never have been intended, at the time of granting the Company's charters, to give them a power of legislation over great countries, in which it was not possibly to be supposed they ever could have any other footing, than a permission to trade as inmates and strangers. That India affairs were now under the consideration of parliament, and while matters were in this suspence, it would be absurd to allow the Company to proceed on their own bottom, and to snatch the business out of their hands; either there was, or
there was not, occasion for the interposition of parliament; if there was,1iow could the Company pretend to act independent of them, after it had applied for relief to the minister r if there was not, why did they apply i
On the other side it was observed, that parliamentary interposition had hitherto been attended with very little advantage to the Company. That the last parliament had undertaken, in the year 1767, the regulation of their affairs, and afterfpending the greater part of the session upon that business, the result was, the extortion of a vast sum of money from the Company without an equivalent, and the leaving their affairs to (hist for themselves, without the smallest regulation; that their affairs had since continued open to parliament, without any thing being done, but the making or renewing of bargains for the benefit of governaent, without the smallelt attention to that os the Company; that a select committee had been appointed in the preceding session, which had continued its sittings throughout the summer, and it was not pretended that the Company had reaped any advantages from them; and that a secret committee had newly started up, the benefits of which were yet to be discovered, as nothing but complaints had hitherto attended its proceedings. That if the Company was not armed with sufficient powers, for the punishment of its servants and the regulation of its governments in India, the fault lay wholly in administration, as a bill had been brought in for that purpose in the preceding session, which was laid by, under pretence •f waiting for the discoveries that
were to be made by the select committee.
That the evils apprehended, from the extraordinary powers of the supervision falling into the hand* of the offenders in India, were merely imaginary; the Company had well foreseen, and effectually provided against those evils, in the body of the commission; no act of the supervision can be valid, without the presence of three of the commissioners; the first of these it to have the casting voice, and they are to be assisted by the governor, commander in chief, and second in council, only as inferior assessors; and the supervisors have power, iF they fee cause, to dismiss the governor and the whole council, and have a power of controul in all cafes.
That if the particular interest* of the Company were considered as matters of indifference, the great revenues and immense benefits it afforded to the public were not to be wantonly sported with; that as the restraint in the bill was laid for six months, and the season of the year would of necessity continue it for six more, twelve whole months, in the present critical state of their affairs, would be totally lost to the Company, before any intended regulation, whether by parliament, or otherwise, could possibly take place; that this delay might be productive of the most mischievous effect to the Company, as the grievances and evils, which they wanted to remedy or prevent, would have the accumulation of all that time added to their present amount; and as the design of regulation would be so !< ng known before hand to the offenders, they would use such industry in t'.eir several departments, that there would
not not be roach left for redress, by the time that it could take place.
But the great force of the arguments on this side, was principally directed to the present unusual and extraordinary stretch of parliamentary authority; it was acknowledged that a supreme undefined power was ultimately lodged in the legislature; but it was insisted, that such an exertion of it could only be justified by the most urgent necestity; and that as no such necessity now existed, it was a wanton violation of public faith, law, and the constitution, without an equitable motive. That it was the invasion of a right, which parliament had not granted, but fold; a right for which the faith of the nation was pledged, and which could not be taken away without an act of forfeiture in the Company; nor even in that cafe without due compensation. That this violent and dangerous exertion of power, must not only destroy the credit of the India Company; but also affect the Bank, the South-Sea, and allother public companies, none of which could have any other securities than those which were now violated; that whenever a war took place, the effects of this unjust and pernicious measure, upon the national credit in general, would be too late and too fatally experienced; and that it was not less dangerous in its principle, nor mischievous in its precedent, to the city of London, and all the other corporate bodies in the Britilli empire.
A particular charge was also made upon administration, with regard to their motives for this suspension. It was said that they had aibitrarily and capricioufly suspended the legal course of business in the court of proprietors, and
forced this matter into parliament only to gratify a private resentment ; that the Company had been officially informed by their chairman, and deputy-chairman, (the only medium through which they could have any communication with government) that the measures relative to the supervision were approved of by administration; but that as soon as it was found that the Company did not chuse to intrust their affairs in the hands of those who were nominated for that purpose by the ministers, they immediately set their face against the whole measure, and now had the fortune to find the House so compliant as to adopt their resentments.
It was observable, that many ef those, who either in themselves or their families, were under great obligations to the Comp'any, and particularly such as had obtained vast fortunes in her service, now joined administration in this bill. The efFects of the party disputes with respect to the appointment of supervisors, were also very visible upon this occasion. Though the question was debated warmly and ably by the opposition, such was the force of the general odium in which the Company stood, and such the weakness arising from its internal dissensions, that the numbers against the bill were very trifling. Besides, many of the opposition had not then come to town. Upon a division late at night, and noc a very thin House, the bill was carried by a majority of more than five to one, the numbers being 153, to :8, only.
The restraining bill was presented the next day to the House of Lords, and it being so near the holidays, was carried through with
the rte greatest dispatch, It did not, however, pass without opposition; though, as in the other House, the .opponents were few. A noble duke, who had long been distinguished in opposition, and who of late had applied himself with uncommon industry to obtain a perfect knowledge of India affairs, traversed this bill with great vigour and almost alone, for the short time in which it was pass-ng through its several stages. As the bill was brought in on a Saturday, and a report was spread in the evening, and inserted in the news-pnpers, that it had been carried that day through its last reading, (a matter, however uncommon, which was readily believed) the India Company had not time to go through the necessary forms, for assembling in its corporate capacity, and framing and presenting a petition, before the following Wednesday, on which it was finally passed. A petition signed by 14 proprietors was, however, received, and witnesses were examined, and counsel heard at the bar against the bill.
We shall take notice of some cf the arguments that were used upon itiii occasion, so far as they were peculiar to the place, or may seem io throw new light upon the subject. As the House of Lords is close (hut, we are obliged for the arguments of the minority in that house to their protests; those of the ministry we must suppose nearly the same with those used in the House of Commons. It was urged against the bill, that the arbitrary taking away of legal franchises and .capacities, without any legal cause of forfeiture, establishes a precedent, which leaves no fort of security to the subject for his liberties; 'yoL. XVi.
since his exercising them in the; strictest conformity to all the rules of law, general equity, and rnoraj; conduct, is not sufficient to prevent parliament from interesting its sovereign powers to divest him of those lights; by means of which insecurity, the honourable distinction between the British, and other forms of government, is in a great measure lost; that this misfortune is greatly growing upon us, through temporary, occasional, and parjial acts of parliament, which, without consideration of their conformity to the general principles of our law and constitution, are adopted rashly and hastily upon every petty occasion; that though it may be difficult to fix any legal limit to the extent of legiflative powers it is to be supposed, that parliament is as much bound as any individual to the observance of its own compacts ; or otherwise it is impossible to understand what public faith means, or how public credit can, subsist.
That the India Company might have been legally called in quest tion, and even its charter endangered, for a neglect of exercising; those necessary powers with whicl^ it is entrusted, and the use of which it is now proposed to suspend ^ ani that it must be a government composed of deceit and violence, where men are liable to be punished if they decline, or to be restrained if they endeavour, to exercise they lawful powers. That it appears by evidence, upon oath at tlip bar, that the Company had .been authoritatively informed, that the commiflion for regulating their affairs would have been approved of by administration; aud that their situation was peculiarly un/ortu
\ nate, when driven from all confidence in public faith, and the laws of their country, they should find no security for their charter* privileges even in those very ministers, under whose sanction they had every possible reason to believe they were acting.
It was much objected to, that the bill was brought in at a season, ivhen the House is always ill attended, and hurried through with a violent,' and, it was said, indecent precipitation. That a reason os fact was alledged in the preamble, stating the expence of the commission to be very considerable: and they had not before them any account or estimate of the expences actual or probable, nor were supplied with any accounts tending to thew the present ability or inability of the Company to bear it; so that the Lords were to assert facts, and on those facts to ground a law, altering the condition, and suspending the charter-rights of the company, without a possibility of knowing whether the facts were true or false; and that with a de. termination to continue uninformed, it had been refused to call for the evidence of the directors concerning the expence; or in a matter of such importance, both in itself, and its example, to follow the ancient settled parliamentary course of desiring a conference with the Commons, in order to be acquainted with the evidence which they received as the grounds of their proceedings.
It was said, that it must be a matter of allonilhment to the public, who had fora long time, earnestly and anxioufly looked to the Company, or to parliament, for redress of ths grievances in India,
to find at length, that the latter is only employed in preventing the former from doing its duty; that instead of correcting the abuse, they oppose themselves to the reformation; that when it was expected, that those who had wronged the Company should have been brought to exemplary punishment, the suffering Company itself is deprived of its rights ; and, instead of calling delinquents to account, the persons legally empowered to correct or restrain them, are by parliament suspended from their office.
On the other side, besides many of those arguments which we have before seen stated in support of the bill, it is laid, that the charge upon administration, of having at one time given a sanction to the commission for superintending the Company's affairs, was positively denied with respect to such os its members as belonged to that House; and reasons were brought to shew, why it could not be well founded with respect toothers. As to the dangers that were apprehended from this measure with respect to the national credit, they were represented as merely imaginary; and, it was said, that it would have a totally contrary effect, as the Dutch, wh-> had much more money in our public funds, than any other foreigners, would think, themselves much safer, when they found that the India Company was under the care and protection of parliament, than if they had bern, abandoned to their own wild schemes of regulation and manager ment.
That they had no evidence that this bill was contrary to the Company's inclinations, any more than, to their iuiereils; that the petition