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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 11


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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.

The death of Nuncomar put an end to all hope of procuring any further native evidence against Hastings. The natives were so terrified at this new kind of execution, that nothing could convince them but that, spite of the opposition of his colleagues, Hastings was all powerful. On the other hand, Francis and his two friends had failed to secure the good-will of the English in Bengal. Hastings, they knew, was willing to wink at their endeavours to aggrandise themselves; the new councillors, on the contrary, appeared rather disposed to call everybody and everything in question. Francis, in particular, was intolerable in his arrogance. His consciousness of being the author of " The Letters of Junius," before whose pen the highest personages in England had trembled, probably inflamed that arrogance.

His notorious profligacy also brought him into disgrace, and into fresh conflicts with Impey, the chief judge. He had been secured, as he descended a rope ladder, at night, from the chamber of Mrs. Grant, the wife of a barrister, and Impey had fined him in court, according to Indian usage, without the intervention of a jury, fifty thousand rupees as damages. Mrä. Grant became Francis's mistress, and, after some other " protections," finally the wife of prince Talleyrand. Francis and Impey became mortal enemies.

When the news of this distractedly hopeless condition of the council in Calcutta reached London, lord North called upon the court of directors to send up to the crown an address for the recall of Hastings, without which, according to the late Indian bills, he could not be removed till the end of his five years. The directors put the matter to the vote, and the address was negatived by a single vote. The minority then appealed to the court of proprietors at the general election, in the spring of 1776, but there it was negatived by ballot by a majority of one hundred, notwithstanding that all the court party and parliamentary ministerialists who had votes attended to overthrow him. This defeat so enraged lord North that he resolved to pass a special bill for the removal of the governor-general. This alarmed colonel Maclean, a friend of Hastings, to whom he had written, on the 27th of March, 1775, desiring him, in his disgust with the conduct of Francis, Clavering, and Monson, and the support of them by the directors, to tender his resignation. Thinking better of it, however, he had, on the 18th of the following May, written to him, recalling the proposal of resignation. But Maclean, to save his friend from a parliamentary dismissal, which he apprehended, now handed the letter containing the resignation to the directors. Delighted to be thus liberated from their embarrassment, the directors accepted the resignation at once, and elected Mr. Edward Wheler to the vacant place in the council.

But matters had greatly changed at Calcutta before this. Maclean did not present the letter of resignation till October, 1776; but, in September of that year, colonel Monson had died, and, the members in the council being now equal, the governor-general's casting vote restored to him his lost majority. Hastings was not the man to defer for a moment the exercise of his authority. He began instantly to overturn, spite of their most violent efforts, the measures of Francis and friends. He dismissed Goordas from the chief authority in Oude, and reinstated his dear friend, Nat Middleton, as he familiarly termed him. He revived his land-revenue system, and was planning new and powerful alliances with native princes, especially with the nabob of Oude and the nizam of the Deccan, not omitting to cast a glance at the power of the Seiks, whose dangerous ascendancy he already foresaw. In the midst of these and other grand plans for the augmentation of British power in India - plans afterwards carried out by others - he was suddenly astounded by the arrival of a packet in June, 1777, containing the news of his resignation, and of its acceptance by the directors. He at once protested that it was invalid, as he had countermanded the resignation before its presentation; but general Clavering, as next in succession, at once claimed the office of governor-general, and Francis, in council, administered the oath to him. Clavering immediately demanded the keys of the fort and the treasury from Hastings; but that gentleman refused to admit his own resignation, much less Clavering's election to his post. Here, then, were two soi-disant governor-generals, as Europe had formerly seen two conflicting popes. To end the difficulty, Hastings proposed that the decision of the question should be referred to the supreme court. It is wonderful that Clavering and Francis should have consented to this, seeing that Impey, Hastings' friend, and the judge of Nuncomar, was at the head of that court; but it was done, and the court decided in Hastings' favour. No sooner was Hastings thus secured than he charged Clavering with having forfeited both Iiis place in the council, and his post as commander-in-chief of the forces, by attempting to seize on the govern or-generalship. Clavering and Francis were compelled to appeal once more to the supreme court, and this time, to his honour, Impey decided in favour of Clavering.

Hastings professed to feel no further enmity against Clavering, and strongly solicited his presence at his wedding, which took place soon after. The wedding of the governor-general was to a Marian Imhoff, the wife of a baron Imhoff, with whom Hastings had been living by consent of the baron. A divorce having now been obtained in the courts of Germany, her native country, the governor- general married her, the baron meantime having returned to that country with an equivalent in money, after, in plain terms, selling his wife to the rich English governor of India. Mrs. Hastings, on the return of Hastings to England, was well received by her countrywoman, queen Charlotte, to the great scandal of the public.

Clavering, who, notwithstanding his consenting to appear at Hastings' wedding-feast, had been deeply mortified by his defeat, died a few days after this occurred, in August, 1777. By this event the authority of Hastings in the government was sufficiently restored, notwithstanding that Wheler generally sided with Francis, for him to carry his own aims.

It was at this crisis, when Hastings was just recovering his authority in the council, that the riews arrived in India, and spread amongst the native chiefs, that in Yenghi Dunia, or the New World, the Coompany Sahib - for the East Indians could never separate the ideas of the East India Company and England itself - there had been a great revolution, and the English driven out. This, as might be expected, wonderfully elated the native chiefs, and especially those in the south. There the French of Pondicherry and Chandernagore boasted of the destruction of the English power, and that it was by their own hands. Hastings, who was as able and far-seeing as he was unprincipled in carrying out his plans for the maintenance of the British dominion in India, immediately set himself to counteract the mischievous effects of these diligently-disseminated rumours, and of the cabals which the French excited. These were most to be feared amongst the vast and martial family of the Mahrattas. The Mahrattas had risen on the ruins of the great Mogul empire. They now extended their tribes over a vast space of India from Mysore to the Ganges. The peishwa, as head of these nations, held his residence at Poonah. Besides his, there were the great houses of Holkar and Scindiali; the Guicowar, who ruled in Guzerat; the Bonslah, or rajah of Berar, a descendant of Sivajee. These Mahratta chiefs were all Brahmins, as the naboo of Oude and the nizam of the Deccan were Mohammedans. The Mahrattas were, for the most part, a rude, warlike race, rapacious and ambitious, and living in the most primitive style. To destroy the confidence of these fierce warriors in the French, Hastings gave immediate orders, on receiving the news of the proclamation of war in Europe, for the seizure of the French settlements. This was on the 7th of July, 1778; on the 10th he had taken Chandernagore, and ordered Sir Henry Munro to invest Pondicherry. That was soon accomplished, and the only remaining possession of France, the small one of Mahe, on the coast of Malabar, was taken the next spring.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 11

Dunbrody Abbey
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Church of Dungannon
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Calcutta
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Fort of Allahabad
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Great Mogul
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Banks of the Ganges
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Tippoo Saib
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View near Agra
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Warden Hasting
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Taje Mahal
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Rohilla Chief
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French and English cruisers off Ceylon
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Defeat of Hyder Ali
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Bundelcund
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Cheyte
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Brahmin
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