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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 9

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Whilst the bill was in progress, the members of the new council were named. Warren Hastings was appointed the first governor-general; and in his council were Richard Bar well, who was already out there, general Clavering, the honourable colonel Monson, and Philip Francis. Another clause of lord North's bill remitted the drawback on the company's teas for export to America, an act little thought of at the time, but pregnant with the loss of the transatlantic colonies. By these "regulating acts," too, as they were called, the governor-general, members of council, and judges, were prohibited trading, and no person in the service of the king or company was to be allowed to receive any presents from the native princes, nabobs, or their ministers or agents. Violent and rude, even, was the opposition to these two bills raised by the India House and, all its partisans. They put all their energies in operation, and poured in petitions and remonstrances from all sides; and such were the pleas of invasion of the rights of the subject, the privileges of election, of constitutional liberty, &c., which were put forward, that you would have thought that, instead of endeavouring to protect the unfortunate natives of India from the pitiless rapacity of mere traders, who bought and sold kingdoms in 'Change Alley, government was annihilating every safeguard of popular freedom. The raising the qualification of the voters, the prolongation of the terms of office to the directors, were denounced as setting up an oligarchy.

The passing of these acts did not put an end to the attacks on lord Clive. Burgoyne brought up a strong report from his committee, and, on the 17th of May, moved a resolution charging Clive with having, when in command of the army in Bengal, received as presents two hundred and thirty-four thousand pounds. This was carried; but he then followed it by another, " That lord Clive did, in so doing, abuse the power with which he was entrusted, to the evil example of the servants of the public." As it was well understood that Burgoyne's resolutions altogether went to strip Clive of the whole of his property, a great stand was here made. Clive was not friendless. He had his vast wealth to win over to him some, as it inflamed the envy of others. He had bought the estate of Claremont from the duchess dowager of Newcastle, and was erecting a palace upon it. Yet so diligently,' even in that neighbourhood, had his enemies blackened his character, that the peasantry of the neighbourhood fancied they could hear the sighings of murdered and plundered princes of India in the wind amongst his trees, and verily believed that some day the evil one would carry him off bodily. On the other hand, he had taken care to spend a large sum in purchasing small boroughs, and had six or seven of his friends and kinsmen sitting for these places in parliament. He had need of all his friends. Throughout the whole of this inquiry, the most continued and envenomed attacks were made upon him. The whole of the affairs of Omichund, of the forgery of admiral Watson's signature to the fraudulent agreement, the setting up and pulling down of Meer Jaffier, and everything of that kind, was again dragged to light, and more of it laid on Clive's shoulders than belonged to him. He was repeatedly questioned and cross-questioned, till he exclaimed, I'll your humble servant, the baron of Plassey, have been examined by the select committee more like a sheep-stealer than a member of parliament." He justly complained, that, had he done his splendid deeds for the country in the royal service, instead in that of a mercenary company, he should have been honoured and rewarded, instead of persecuted and pursued to his ruin. He had it in his power to speak strong things regarding the company, and he turned at bay, and did not spare it. At length, tired out, he exclaimed, " Take my fortune, but spare my honour! " and left the house.

Then the house thought he had suffered enough, for nothing was clearer than that justice required the country which was in possession of the splendid empire he had won to acknowledge his services, whilst it noted the means of this acquisition. Burgoyne's second resolution was rejected, and another proposed by Wedderburn, the solicitor-general, adopted, " That Robert, lord Olive, did, at the same time, render great and meritorious services to this country."

This terminated the attack on this great though faulty- man. Olive, like most men who took the lead in the extraordinary circumstances of the early acquisition of India, committed serious faults; but he also displayed, at the same time, wonderful talents for conquest and government, and, what is more, great and eminent virtues. He was naturally frank, generous, and just. In private life, he was most kindly unassuming and benevolent. He made many wise regulations during his administration in India, and gave both the company and the government here wise advice. The circumstances which led to his sudden aggrandisement were enough to overcome the virtue of most men, and prompted him, on one occasion, when reviewing, in the select committee, the elevation of Meer Jaffier, the bankers offering enormous sums for his favour, the vaults of the vizier piled with heaps of gold, and crowned with diamonds and rubies, all of which he might have seized, to exclaim, " By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation!"

His enemies made him pay the full penalty of his wealth. They had struck him to the heart with their poisoned javelins. From a boy he had been subject to fits of hypochondriacal depression; as a boy, he had attempted his own life in one of these paroxysms. They now came upon him with tenfold force, and in a few months he died by his own hand.

From Olive, events cause us to pass at once to one accused of much greater misdemeanours, and one whose administration terminated in a more formal and extraordinary trial than that of Olive; a trial made for ever famous by the great abilities and eloquence of Burke and Sheridan, and the awful mysteries of iniquity, as practised by our authorities in India, which were brought to the public knowledge by them on this great occasion. Warren Hastings was of an old, decayed family, a branch of that of the earls of Huntingdon. The ancient seat of his ancestors, Daylesford, in Worcestershire, was sold, and he received his education at Westminster school. There Cowper, the poet, and Elijah Impey, the latter destined to figure in his Indian concerns, were his schoolfellows. He went to India as a cadet at the age of seventeen. He attracted the notice of Olive, and was much employed by Vansittart. Steadily advancing, he was appointed chief of the council of Bengal in 1772, and, in the following year, the first governor-general of India.

It is singular that the tender-hearted Cowper, and, in fact, all who knew Hastings as a youth, were astonished at the accounts of his oppressions and cruelties charged against him on his trial, and many, spite of all the evidence, would never believe them. All who knew him when young regarded him as particularly humane and gentle. Clive, who saw him in India, and beheld only a man of spare form, shrunken features, of particularly gentle manners and mild voice, thought him in danger from a too easy disposition, which might lead him to be governed by others. No doubt, had Hastings had his future career suddenly displayed to him by an Indian prophet, as Jehu had his by a Hebrew one, he would have replied, in horror, " Is thy servant a dog, that he should do these things? " No man can be judged of, perhaps no man can estimate himself, so as to predicate what he will do under wholly new and extraordinary circumstances. But under the mild and gentle outside of Warren Hastings lay a most dogged and determined will, and a disposition to rule, which, when called into action, and opposed by obstacles, converted him into the astonishing tyrant.

Hastings commenced his rule in Bengal under circumstances which demanded rather a man of pre-eminent humanity than of the character yet lying undeveloped in him. In 1770, under the management of Mr. Cartier, a famine broke out in Bengal, so terrible that it is said to have swept away one-third of the population of the state, and to have been attended by indescribable horrors. The most revolting circumstance was, that the English were charged with being the authors of it, by buying up all the rice in the country, and refusing to sell it, except at the most exorbitant prices. There have not been wanting zealous defenders of our countrymen from this awful charge, and we should have rejoiced if so dread an opprobrium could have been removed from our national character. It has been contended that famines are, or have been, of frequent occurrence in India; that the natives had no providence; and that to charge the English with the miserable consequences of this famine, is unreasonable, because it was what they could neither foresee nor prevent. Of the drought in the previous autumn, there is no doubt; but there is, unhappily, as little, that the regular rapacity of the English, as we have described it, had reduced the natives to that condition of poverty, apathy, and despair, in which the slightest derangement of season must superinduce famine; that they were grown callous to the sufferings of their victims, and were as alive to their gain by the rising price through the scarcity, as they were in all other cases. Their object was sudden wealth, and they cared not, in fact, whether the natives lived or died, so that that object was effected.

Amongst the foremost defenders of the English has been lord Macaulay, in the famous Edinburgh Review article already mentioned. He says, " These charges we believe to have been utterly unfounded. That servants of the company had ventured, since Olive's departure, to deal in rice, is probable. That, if they dealt in rice, they must have gained by the scarcity, is certain. But there is no reason for thinking that they either produced or aggravated the evil which physical causes sufficiently explain." But, unfortunately, there is every reason for thinking that they assisted these physical causes, and, if we take into consideration that since the experience of these horrors, though droughts have been frequent in India, famines have been rare, this conclusion acquires much force. Let us see what men, well acquainted with India at that time, have to say. The author of the u Short History of the English Transactions in the East Indies" thus boldly states the facts. Speaking of the monopoly just alluded to, of salt, betel- nut, and tobacco, he says: -

" Money, in this current, came but by drops. It could not quench the thirst of those who waited in India to receive it. An expedient, such as it was, remained to quicken it. The natives could live with little salt, but could not want food. Some of the agents saw themselves well situated for collecting the rice into stores. They did so. They knew that the Gentoos would rather die than violate the principles of their religion by eating flesh. The alternative would, therefore, be between giving what they had, or dying! The inhabitants sunk. They that cultivated the land and saw the harvest at the disposal of others, planted in doubt: scarcity ensued. Then the monopoly was easier managed; sickness ensued. In some districts, the living left the bodies of their numerous dead unburied."

Let us next see what says the celebrated Abbe Raynal, a foreign historian, and the light in which this event is regarded by foreigners: - "It was by a drought in 1769, at the season when the rains are expected, that there was a failure of the great harvest of 1769, and the less harvest of 1770. It is true that the rice on the higher grounds did not suffer greatly by this disturbance of the seasons, but there was far from a sufficient quantity for the nourishment of all the inhabitants of the country; add to which, the English, who were engaged beforehand to take proper care of their subsistence, as well as of the sepoys belonging to them, did not fail to keep locked up in their magazines a part of the grain, though the harvest was insufficient... This scourge did not fail to make itself felt throughout Bengal. Rice, which commonly sold for one sol (½d.) for three pounds, was gradually raised so high as four and even six sols (3d.) for one pound; neither, indeed, was there any to be found, except where the English had taken care to collect it for their own use.

"The unhappy Indians were perishing every day by thousands under this want of sustenance, without any means of help, and without any revenue. They were to be seen in their villages, along the public ways, in the midst of our European colonies, pale, meagre, emaciated, fainting, consumed by famine - some stretched on the ground in expectation of dying; others scarcely able to drag themselves on to seek any nourishment, and throwing themselves at the feet of the Europeans, entreating them to take them in as their slaves.

"To this description, which makes humanity, shudder, let us add other objects, equally shocking. Let imagination enlarge upon them, if possible. Let U3 represent to ourselves infants deserted, some expiring on the breasts of their mothers; everywhere the dying and the dead mingled together; on all sides the groans and the tears of despair, and we shall then have some faint idea of the horrible spectacle which Bengal presented for the space of six weeks.

" During this whole time the Ganges was covered with carcases. The fields and highways were choked up with them; infectious vapours filled the air, and diseases multiplied; and, one evil succeeding another, it appeared not improbable that the plague would carry oft' the total population of the unfortunate kingdom. It appears, by calculations pretty generally acknowledged, that the famine carried off a fourth part, that is to say, about three millions! What is still more remarkable is, that such a multitude of human creatures, amidst this terrible distress, remained in absolute inactivity. All the Europeans, especially all the English, were possessed of magazines. These were untouched, as were also private houses. No revolt, no massacre, not the least violence prevailed. The unhappy Indians, resigned to despair, confined themselves to the request of succpurs they did not obtain, and peacefully awaited the relief of death.

" Let us now represent to ourselves any part of Europe afflicted with such a calamity. What disorder! what fury! what atrocious acts! Europeans would have contended for food dagger in hand; some flying, some pursuing, and, without remorse, massacreing one another! In the blindness of despair, they would trample under foot all authority.

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