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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 11

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But Hastings had scarcely terminated these iniquitous proceedings, when the new members of council, appointed under the Regulations Acts, arrived. On the 19th of October, 1774, landed the three councillors, Clavering, Mon- son, and Francis; Barwell had been some time in India. The presence of the three just arrived was eminently unwelcome to Hastings. He knew that they came with no friendly disposition towards him, and that Philip Francis, in particular, was most hostile. Francis was the one who possessed by far the most able mind and the most determined will. All circumstances have ever pointed to him as the author of the " Letters of Junius." From the moment that government gave him an appointment in the War Office, George HI. announced to his friends that Junius would be heard of no more, and he never was. Assuming, therefore, that Francis was the author of Junius, you would imagine him not only a man of high ability, but of equal assumption of consequence and vindictive temperament. Such, indeed, Francis showed himself.

The letter of the court of directors recommended unanimity of councils, but nothing was further from the views of the new members from Europe. As they were three, and Hastings and Barwell only two, they constituted a majority, and from the first moment commenced to undo almost everything that he had done, and carried their object. They denounced, and with too much justice, the Rohilla war; they demanded that the whole correspondence of Middleton, the agent sent to the court of Oude by Hastings, should be laid before them. Hastings refused to produce much of it, as entirely of a private and personal nature; and they asserted that this was because these letters would not bear the light, and that the whole of Hastings' connection with Sujah Dowlah was the result of mercenary motives. In this they did the governor-general injustice, for, though he drew money sternly and by all means from the India chiefs and people, it was rather for the company than for himself. They ordered the recall of Middleton from Oude, deaf to the protests of Hastings, that this was stamping his conduct with public odium, and weakening the hands of government in the eyes of the natives. Still, Middleton was recalled, and Mr. Bristow sent in his place. Hastings wrote home in the utmost alarm both to the directors and to lord North, prognosticating the greatest confusion and calamity from this state of anarchy; and Sujah Dowlah, regarding the proceedings of the new members of council as directed against himself, and seeing in astonishment the authority of Hastings apparently at an end, was so greatly terrified, that he sickened and died.

The council now recalled the English troops from Rohilcund; and Bristow demanded, in the name of the council, from Asoff-ul-Dowlah, the young nabob, a full payment of all arrears; and announced that, Sujah Dowlah being dead, the treaty with him was at an end. Under pressure of these demands, Bristow, by instructions from the new regnant members of the council, compelled the young nabob to enter into a fresh treaty with them; and in this treaty they introduced a clause to the full as infamous as anything which Hastings had done. In return for renewing the possession of the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, they compelled him to cede to them the territory of Cheyte Sing, the rajah of Benares, though this did not at all belong to the nabob of Oude, and was, moreover, guaranteed to Cheyte Sing by Hastings, in solemn treaty. The revenue of Cheyte Sing, thus lawlessly taken possession of, amounted to twenty-two million of rupees; and the nabob of Oude was also, on his own account, bound to discharge all his father's debts and engagements to the company, and to raise greatly the pay to the company's brigade. Hastings utterly refused to sanction these proceedings; but the directors at home, who cared not how or whence money came, warmly approved of the proceedings.

Nor did the new councillors confine their overbearing conduct to the presidency of Bengal. The new act gave them authority over the other presidencies, and they proceeded to exercise it without any regard to their own ignorance of the affairs of those other distant presidencies, or the real acquaintance with them of the respective councils. The council of Bombay was just then engaged in a transaction which, had the new members at Calcutta contemplated it justly, would have done them honour. The council of Bombay had long coveted the rich island of Salsette, lying near Bombay. A great confusion had arisen amongst the Mahrattas, in Consequence of the assassination of Narrain Row, the peishwa, and the contending claims of different competitors for his throne, and the council of Bombay took advantage of the opportunity to send out a force, which seized the fort and island of Salsette. Once in possession of it, and desirous of obtaining other possessions in Surat, the council entered into treaty with Ragoba, the competitor whom, for the time, they chose to consider the rightful peishwa, who yielded Salsette, Bassein, and other places, on condition that the English should support him against the claimants. Accordingly, colonel Keating was sent with a force to assist Ragoba; and at this point the affair had arrived when the new councillors at Calcutta interfered. They first sharply reprimanded the council of Bombay, and then dispatched colonel Upton thither to decide the matter. Instead of ordering him, however, to see that justice was done, he was instructed to take part with the stronger of the Mahratta factions, and, finding that Salsette, Bassein, and the rest of the territory, had been obtained by treaty from Ragoba, he decided for Ragoba. Ragoba was to be supported by all the power of the English in India; but, unfortunately for him, his opponents, seeing that the English would side with those whom they gained most by, consented to confirm the transfer of these territories, and colonel Upton immediately discovered that not Ragoba but his rivals were the legitimate parties, and a treaty was made with them; and Ragoba, trembling for his life in the Mahratta territory, prayed for an asylum in Bombay, but was refused by the council of Calcutta, lest it should give umbrage to their new allies, his opponents 1 > Whilst Hastings was contending against his trio of hostile colleagues, and they were making alliance with the Mahrattas in the west, another branch of that great and martial race were forming combinations to revenge themselves on the English, and divide amongst them the territories of the young nabob of Oude. The late nabob had indulged his ambition in grasping at the domains of his neighbours through English help. By that help, he had been able to draw away the mogul into Rohilcund, and then deceive him. But now the English had appeared disposed to oppress rather than support the nabob; and they were themselves torn by divisions at Calcutta. Encouraged by these circumstances, the Mahrattas poured down the valley of the Ganges, from Agra and Delhi, and invaded the northern parts of the young nabob's country. They proposed, moreover, a great coalition of Malirattas, Rohillas, Seiks, and other mountain tribes, to conquer the whole of Oude. The young nabob, in turn, appealed to the English for aid; but such was the condition of wrangling and anarchy at Calcutta, that Oude must have been overrun had it depended on them. Fortunately for the nabob, the proposed allies fell to quarrelling amongst themselves, and the mogul, who was the instigator of the enterprise, was utterly incapable of such an undertaking himself.

At Calcutta, Francis, Clavering, and Monson, were deeply engaged in what appeared to them a certain plan for the ruin of Hastings. The maharajah Nuncomar, who styled himself the head of the Brahmins, and was, as we have shown, the most intriguing and accomplished native rogue in India, was delighted to find Hastings, who had set* him aside for Mohammed Rheza Khan in the management of Oude, now opposed, and, as it were, overborne by his colleagues. He came forward and laid before them papers containing the most awful charges against Hastings. These were, that Hastings had encouraged him, at the command of the secret committee, to produce charges against Mohammed Rheza Khan and Shitab Roy, when they were imprisoned, in order to extort money from them. Next, that Hastings i had accepted a heavy bribe to allow Mohammed to escape j without punishment. Further, he brought forward the complaint of the ranee, or princess of Burdwan, and her adopted son, that Hastings had extorted from her one million and a half of rupees: that his banyan, or native secretary, in Burdwan, had extorted a great deal more; in fact, altogether nine millions of rupees. This ranee had been troublesome to Hastings; but, instead of listening to her, and appeasing her, he banished her from Calcutta as an intriguing woman. The ranee was allowed to produce witnesses at the council, and, if they might be credited, they certainly proved many of the charges. This case was so acceptable to Francis and his two coadjutors, that they proceeded to vote honours and distinctions to the ranee. At this Hastings broke up the council, declaring that he would not sit to be judged by his own council. If they had charges to prefer against him, they might form themselves into a committee, and transmit such evidence as they received to the supreme court of justice at Calcutta, or to the directors at home. But the three declared themselves a majority, voted their own competence to sit and try their own chief, and preferred another huge charge introduced by Nuncomar - namely, that Hastings had appropriated to himself two-thirds of the salary of the phousdar, or governor of Hooghly, a post formerly held by Nuncomar himself. They determined to introduce Nuncomar to confront Hastings at his own council-board. Hastings declared the council not sitting; the three declared it sitting and valid, and called in Nuncomar, who proceeded to detail his charges, and ended by producing a letter from the Munny Begum, expressing the gratitude which she felt to the governor-general for her appointment as guardian of the nabob, and that in token of this gratitude she had presented him with two lacs of rupees. Immediately on hearing that, Hastings declared the letter a forgery, and that he would prove it so; and he was not long in procuring an absolute denial of the letter from the begum. This, however, brought down the vengeance of the trio on the begum, and they determined to deprive her of the guardianship of the young nabob, and to reduce or altogether withdraw the sixteen annual lacs of rupees for his support.

Things being driven to this pass, Hastings commenced an. action against Nuncomar, Mr. Fowke, one of the most active agents of the trio, and others, as guilty of a conspiracy against him. This was supported by native witnesses, and the supreme court of justice, after a long and careful examination of the case, held Nuncomar and Fowke to bail, and bound the governor-general to prosecute. As Sir Elijah Impey - an old school-fellow and great friend of Hastings- was at the head of the court, it was immediately given out by Francis and his party that there was an attempt to crush Nuncomar, and Francis, Clavering, and Monson immediately paid a public visit to Nuncomar in state - a compliment which had never been paid to him either by Hastings or themselves before. The object was to give him character and importance, but any honest reputation it was impossible, by any act, to confer upon him.

But, on the 6th of May, a blow fell on Nuncomar from a quarter unexpected. He was arrested and thrown into prison at the suit of a merchant named Mohun Persaud. The charge was, that he had forged a bond five years before. He had been brought to trial for this before the mayor's court at Calcutta - the supreme court not then being in existence. On this occasion, being in favour with Hastings, he had procured his release; but now, either the merchant seeing that Hastings' favour was withdrawn, and that, therefore, he might have a better chance against him, or being moved to it privately by Hastings himself, as was believed, and was most probably the fact, the charge was renewed. Hastings, on the trial, solemnly declared before the supreme court that he neither directly nor indirectly promoted the prosecution, but the public remained unconvinced.

The three opposition members were highly incensed at this proceeding, They, three days after Nuncomar's committal, realised their threat of dismissing the Munny Begum, and they appointed Goordas, the son of Nuncomar, to her office. They sent encouraging messages to Nuncomar in his prison, and made the most violent protests to the judges against the prosecution. Their efforts were useless. The trial came on in due course. One of the judges, Sir Robert Chambers, had endeavoured to have Nuncomar tried on an earlier statute, which included no capital punishment, for forgery was no capital crime by the native laws. But Impey and the others replied that the new act compelled them to try him on the capital plea, and he had been, on this ground, refused bail. Nuncomar knew nothing of our estimate of forgery, and he could not comprehend how a man of his rank, and a Brahmin of high dignity, should be tried for his life on such a charge. But he was found guilty, and condemned to be hanged. Strong efforts were then made to have him respited till the judgment of the court of directors could be taken on the question, but Impey and the other judges declared that it could not be done unless they could assign some sufficient reasons, and they contended that there were no such reasons. Yet the new acts expressly gave them this power, and, what made it more desirable, was that no native of any rank had been tried by the supreme court and the English law, and only one native had ever been capitally convicted for forgery in any of our Indian courts. Moreover, the indignity of hanging a high-caste Brahmin was so outraging to the native feeling that it was deemed most impolitic to perpetrate such an act. All was pleaded in vain; on the 5th of August, 1775, Nuncomar was brought out and publicly hanged, amid the terrified shrieks and yells of the native population, who fled at the sight, and many of them rushed into the sacred Ganges to purify them from the pollution of even witnessing such a sight.

The whole of these proceedings have ever been regarded as casting the most ineffaceable odium upon Hastings. The coming in of the native merchant with the charge of forgery at the particular moment when Hastings had commenced his prosecution against him; the palpable motives for his enmity towards Nuncomar, and for getting him, the grand instrument of his inveterate enemies, out of the way; the chief judge being his particular friend, and the merciless haste, and the refusal of all respite or appeal to a higher court, are circumstances of the gravest weight against him, and which were dwelt on with distinctive force by Burke on his trial.

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