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power. The consequences of their conduct, which in good minds, (and many of theirs are probably such) might produce penitence or amendment, are unable to pursue the rapidity of their flight. Their prey is lodged in England ; and the cries of India are given to seas and winds, to be blown about, in every breaking up of the monsoon, over a remote and unhearing ocean. In India all the vices operate by which sudden fortune is acquired ; in Englaud are often displayed by the same persons, the virtues which dispense hereditary wealth. Arrived in England, the destroyers of the nobility and gentry of a whole kingdom will find the best company in this nation, at a board of elegance and hospitality. Here the manufacturer and husbandman will bless the just and punctual hand that in India has torn the cloth from the loom, or wrested the scanty portion of rice and salt from the peasant of Bengal, or wrung from him the very opium in' which he forgot his oppressions and his oppressor. They marry into your families; they enter into your senate ; they ease your estates by loans ; they raise their value by demands; they cherish and protect your relations which lie heavy on your patronage ; and there is scarcely an house in the kingdom that does not feel some concern and interest that makes all reform of our eastern government appear officious and disgusting; and on the whole, a most discouraging attempt. In such an attempt you hurt those who are able to return kindness, or to resent injury. If you succeed, you save those who cannot so much as give you thanks. All these things shew the difficulty of the work we have on hand : but they shew its necessity too. Our Indian government is in its best state a grievance. It is necessary that the correctives should be uncommonly vigorous ; and the work of men, sanguine, warm, and even impassioned in the cause. But it is an arduous thing to plead against abuses of a power which originates from your own country, and affects those whom we are used to consider as strangers.
I shall certainly endeavour to modulate myself to this temper ; though I am sensible that a cold style of describing actions which
appear to me in a very affecting light, is equally contrary to the justice due to the people, and to all genuine human feelings about them. I ask pardon of truth and na
ture for this compliance. But I shall be very sparing of epithets either to persons or things. It has been said (and, with regard to one of them, with truth) that Tacitus and Machiavel, by their cold way of relating enormous crimes, have in some sort appeared not to disapprove them ; that they seem a sort of professors of the art of tyranny, and that they corrupt the minds of their readers, by not expressing the detestation and horrour that naturally belong to horrible and detestable proceedings. But we are in general, Sir, so little acquainted with Indian details; the instruments of
oppression under which the people suffer are so hard to be understood; and even the
of the sufferers are so uncouth and strange to our ears, that it is very difficult for our sympathy to fix upon these objects. I am sure that some of us have come down stairs from the committee-room, with impressions on our minds, which to us were the inevitable results of our discoveries, yet if we should venture to express ourselves, in the proper language of our sentiments, to other gentlemen, not at all prepared to enter into the cause of them, nothing could appear more harsh and dissonant, more violent and unaccountable, than our language and behaviour. All these circumstances are not, I confess, very favourable to the idea of our attempting to govern India at all. But there we are; there we are placed by the Sovereign Disposer ; and we must do the best we can in our situation. The situation of man is the preceptor of his duty,
Upon the plan which I laid down, and to, which I beg leave to return, I was considering the conduct of the company to those nations which are indirectly subject to their authority. The most considerable of the dependent princes is the nabob of Oude. *My right honourable friend, to whom we owe the remedial bills on your table, has already pointed out to you, in one of the reports, the condition of that prince, and as it stood in the time he alluded to. I shall only add a few circumstances that may tend to awaken some sense of the manner in which the condition of the people is affected by that of the prince, and involved in it; and to shew you, that when we talk of the sufferings of princes, we do not la
• Mr. For.
ment the oppression of individuals; and that in these cases the high and the low suffer together.
In the year 1779, the nabob of Oude represented, through the British resident at his court, that the number of company's troops stationed in his dominions was a main cause of his distress; and that all those which he was not bound by treaty to maintain should be withdrawn, as they had greatly diminished his revenue, and impoverished his country. I will read you, if you please, a few extracts from these representations.
He states, “ that the country and cultivation are abandoned; and this year in particular, from the excessive drought of the season, deductions of many lacks having been allowed to the farmers, who are still left unsatisfied ;” and then he proceeds with a long detail of his own distress, and that of his family, and all his dependants; and adds, “ that the newraised brigade is not only quite useless to my government, but is moreover the cause of much loss, both in revenues and customs. The detached body of troops under European officers bring nothing but confusion to the affairs of my government, and are entirely their own masters.” Mr. Middleton, Mr. Hastings's confidential resident, vouches for the truth of this representation in its fullest extent. “ I am concerned to confess, that there is too good ground for this plea. The misfortune has been general throughout the whole of the vizier's [the nabob of Oude] dominions, obvious to every body ; and so fatal have been its consequences, that no person of either credit or character, would enter into engagements with gorernment for farming the country.” He then proceeds to give strong instances of the general calamity, and its effects.
It was now to be seen what steps the governor-general and council took for the relief of this distressed country, long labouring under the vexations of men, and now stricken by the hand of God. The case of a general famine is known to relax the severity even of the most rigorous government.Mr. Hastings does not deny, or shew the least doubt of the fact. The representation is humble, and almost abject. On this representation from a great prince of the distress of his subjects, Mr. Hastings falls into a violent passion ; such as it seems) would be unjustifiable in any one who speaks of any
part of his conduct. He declares, “ that the demands, the tone in which they were asserted, and the season in which they were made, are all equally alarming, and appear to him to require an adequate degree of firmness in this board, in opposition to them.” He proceeds to deal out very unreserved language, on the person and character of the nabob and his ministers. He declares, that in a division between him and the nabob, “ the strongest must decide.” With regard to the urgent and instant necessity, from the failure of the crops, he says,
“ that perhaps expedients may be found for affording a gradual relief from the burthen of which he so heavily complains, and it shall be my endeavour to seek them out;” and lest he should be suspected of too much haste to alleviate sufferings, and to remove violence, he says, “that these must be gradually applied, and their complete effect may be distant ; and this I conceive is all he can claim of right.”
This complete effect of his lenity is distant indeed. Rejecting this demand, (as he calls the nabob's abject supplication he attributes it, as he usually does all things of the kind, to the division in their government; and says, “this is a powerful motive with me (however inclined I might be, upon any other occasion, to yield to some part of his demand) to give them an absolute and unconditional refusal upon the present ; and even to bring to punishment, if my influence can produce that effect, those incendiaries who have endeavoured to make themselves the instruments of division between us.”
Here, Sir, is much heat and passion; but no more consideration of the distress of the country, from a failure of the means of subsistence, and (if possible) the worse evil of an useless and licentious soldiery, than if they were the most contemptible of all trifles. A letter is written in consequence, in such a style of lofty despotism, as I believe has hitherto been unexampled and unheard-of in the records of the East. The troops were continued. The gradual relief, whose effect was to be so distant, has never been substantially and beneficially applied—and the country is ruined.
Mr. Hastings, two years after, when it was too late, saw the absolute necessity of a removal of the intolerable grievance of this licentious soldiery, which, under pretence of defending it, held the country under military execution. A new VOL. II.
treaty and arrangement, according to the pleasure of Mr. Hastings, took place ; and this new treaty was broken in the old manner, in every essential article. The soldiery were again sent, and again set loose. The effect of all his manoeuvres, from which it seems he was sanguine enough to entertain hopes, upon the state of the country, he himself informs us, “the event has proved the reverse of his hopes, and accumulation of distress, debasement, and dissatisfaction to the nabob, and disappointment and disgrace to me.—Every measure (which he had himself proposed] has been so conducted as to give him cause of displeasure ; there are no officers established by which his affairs could be regularly conducted; mean, incapable, and indigent men have been appointed. A number of the districts without authority, and without the means of personal protection; some of them have been murdered by the zemindars, and those zemindars, instead of punishment, have been permitted to retain their zemindaries, with independent authority; all the other zemindars suffered to rise up in rebellion, and to insult the authority of the sircar, without any attempt made to suppress them; and the company's debt, instead of being discharged by the assignments and extraordinary sources of money provided for that purpose, is likely to exceed even the amount at which it stood at the time in which the arrangement with his excellency was concluded.” The house will smile at the resource on which the directors take credit as such a certainty in their curious account.
This is Mr. Hastings's own narrative of the effects of his own settlement. This is the state of the country which we have been told is in perfect peace and order ; and, what is curious, he informs us, that every part of this was foretold to him in the order and manner in which it happened, at the very time he made his arrangement of men and measures.
The invariable course of the company's policy is this: Either they set up some prince too odious to maintain himself without the necessity of their assistance ; or they soon render him odious, by making him the instrument of their government. In that case troops are bountifully sent to him to maintain his authority. That he should have no want of assistance, a civil gentleman, called a resident, is