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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2


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Accordingly, Sheridan declared boldly, that he had his royal highness's authority to say, that he shrank from no inquiry into any part of his conduct. This produced a wonderful change in the manner of Pitt. He procured an interview with the prince at Carlton House, and obtaining a schedule of his debts, and a statement of his demands, submitted them to the king. Though trying to make harder conditions than the prince would concede, George was compelled, on the very day before alderman Newnham's motion was to come on, to consent to the prince's terms. On the 4th of May, therefore, the alderman announced that he was happy to say that there was no occasion for the motion. There was an evident disappointment on the part of a large party, who hoped for curious disclosures; but the prince's friends expressed great satisfaction at the result. Accordingly, on the 23rd of May, Pitt laid before the house a schedule of the prince's debts, amounting to one hundred and ninety-four thousand three hundred and forty- eight pounds, and the house, without looking at the particulars, voted that sum, and also twenty thousand pounds towards completing Carlton House.

The prince then resumed his establishment, continued to live as before with Mrs. Fitzherbert, and it was well understood that it would not be long before he came again with fresh demands. The lady was mortally offended with Fox, who had asserted most positively that there had been no marriage of any kind, though he knew very well that there had, and that the lady would not consent to live with the prince without this ceremony, totally worthless as it was, except as serving as a salvo for her own conscience. Mrs. Fitzherbert, whose private character was most respectable, had been married twice previously, and was a strict catholic.

On the 24th of April, Fox moved for the repeal of the house-tax, but without effect. On the 26th, Pitt brought in a bill to enable the commissioners to augment the duties on post-horses, which he carried; and great discussion took place on the laws. regarding debtors, in consequence of a petition from the debtors in Newgate. It was stated that no less than three thousand persons lay in prisons, of the most loathsome description, for debt, with no hope of liberation but from particular acts passed occasionally for their relief. The prisoners in Newgate prayed to be removed to New South Wales, which had, by an order in council of the 7th of December, 1786, been made the convict settlement, since America, our old convict ground, was now lost to us. Such was the origin of the colonisation of Australia, now already become so great and populous. The prayer of the prisoners in Newgate was conceded by the commons, but thrown out in the lords, through the exertions of lord chancellor Thurlow. Lord Rawdon, who had distinguished himself in the American war, on the contrary, urged ably and humanely the amelioration of the laws of debtor and creditor, and the benefit of sending our convicts out to useful labour, from the dens of vice and filth, where their detention, so far from a use, was a burthensome nuisance. We may here remark, that the coalition ministry had abolished the practice of drawing condemned felons two miles through the most crowded thoroughfares of London, from Newgate to Tyburn. They were now executed in the front of Newgate, and Tyburn, as a hanging-place, ceased to exist.

On the 28th of May lord Grey unveiled a strange career of abuses in the post-office. His relative, lord Tankerville, had been joint postmaster-general with lord Carteret. On discovering and pointing out these abuses to the minister, Pitt had dismissed him instead of lord Carteret, and took the opportunity of putting lord Hawkes- bury (Jenkinson), afterwards lord Liverpool, in his place Grey called for a committee of inquiry, which was granted, and the committee brought to light extraordinary transactions. Places had been sold, with the knowledge of lord Carteret, to men who never took any part in the business of the post-office. Pitt was severely handled by Fox, Sheridan, and Grey for his vaunted promises of reform, and the continuance of corruptions like these; and he was very abusive in return. The abuses were boldly defended by lord Maitland, whose father-in-law, Anthony Todd, was chief manager of the post-office, and redress was refused. The effect out of doors was very damaging to Pitt and his party.

On the 1st of February Burke renewed the inquiry into the crimes of Warren Hastings. The examination of Nathaniel Middleton, the resident at Lucknow at the time of Hastings' strange proceedings there, and of Sir Elijah Impey, took place first. The third charge of the impeachment, the treatment of the begums, was undertaken by Sheridan, as the first was by Burke, and the second by Fox. We have stated the atrocious facts of that great oppression, and they were brought out in a most powerful and dramatic light by Sheridan in a speech of five hours. Sheridan had little knowledge of India; but he was well supplied with the facts from the records of the India House and the promptings of Francis, who was familiar with the country and the events. The effect of Sheridan's charge far exceeded all that had gone before it. When he sate down almost the whole house burst forth in a storm of clappings and hurrahs. It has been endeavoured to weaken the reputation of that speech by asserting that Sheridan paid more regard to effect than to accuracy of facts; but we have given the facts, and it is impossible to exaggerate them. Fox declared it the most astounding speech that he had ever heard. The wit and pathos of it were equally amazing. In reply to the old argument, that we are not to judge of Hastings by the mode in which he procured the money, but by the end for which it was procured, Sheridan most forcibly observed, " To estimate the solidity of such a defence, it will be sufficient merely to consider in what true greatness of mind consists. Is it not solely to be traced in great actions directed to great ends? In them, and them alone, we are to search for true estimable magnanimity; to them only can we justly affix the splendid title and honour of real greatness."

Not less true were his remarks on the nature and origin of the company, and its necessary results. "He remembered to have heard an honourable and learned gentleman (Dundas) remark that there was something in the first frame and constitution of the company which extended the sordid principles of their origin over all their successive operations, connecting with their civil policy, and even with their boldest achievements, the meanness of a pedlar and the profligacy of pirates. Alike in the political and the military line could be observed auctioneering ambassadors and trading generals; and thus we saw a revolution brought about by affidavits; an army employed in executing an arrest; a town besieged on a note of hand; a prince dethroned for the balance of an account. Thus it was they exhibited a government which united the mock majesty of a bloody sceptre and the little traffic of a merchant's counting-house - wielding a truncheon with one hand, and picking a pocket with the other."

The debate was adjourned to the next day, for the house could not be brought to listen to any other person after this most intoxicating speech. On the morrow Pitt and major Scott were the chief speakers; but their arguments were only a reiteration of that which Sheridan had so completely exploded, namely, that Hastings had done the deeds of an arch-fiend - to save India. The motion was carried by one hundred and seventy-five votes against sixty-eight.

On the 19th of February Burke recommended going at once to the vote for impeachment. He thought sufficient charges had now been verified to warrant them in proceeding to trial; and he pointed out the necessity of taking sufficient guarantees for preventing the party impeached quitting the kingdom, removing his property, alienating sums of money, or taking any steps to evade the ends of justice. He said that he had learned that another gentleman from India, against whom serious charges might he brought, had already sold out of the funds fifty thousand pounds. This was Sir Elijah Impey, and Impey was immediately called for, and informed that a criminal charge would probably be brought against him, and underwent a long examination regarding the affairs of the nabob of Furruckabad. On the 2nd of March Mr. T. Pelham preferred the fourth charge, for Pitt resisted the immediate proceedure to trial. This charge turned on the conduct of Hastings towards the nabob of Furruckabad. The charge and replies in this case were very tedious, and the most interest was excited by the venerable admiral, lord Hood. He was not accustomed to address parliament, but he urged the house to consider how much severe inquiries of this kind might discourage commanders in difficult and distant situations. He appealed to his own experience in the West Indies in the late war. But Pitt replied to him on the true ground. He said he was perfectly convinced of the justice of the admiral's remarks to a certain extent, but he must ever prefer what was right to what was expedient. God forbid that if a servant of the public - civil or military - should carry his exactions beyond the line of strict right, and even of necessity, that he or any man should deny his due merit, or say that the abundance of his zeal ought not to be allowed as an atonement for the irregularity of his actions and the error of his judgment. But he asked whether that part of the conduct of Mr. Hastings now before the house corresponded to any such principle? He contended that it was not enough to say certain steps were necessary, that must be proved, and, in his opinion, it was not so done in this instance. The noble lord, besides the topic of necessity, had dwelt upon the general merits of Mr. Hastings, with their importance to the country. This was a ground which he expected and hoped would have been abandoned. The motion was carried by one hundred and twelve against fifty.

The next charge was in regard to selfish purposes in contracts and salaries. This was preferred by Sir James Erskine, on the 15th of March. Pitt moved to leave out all the charges but those which related to contracts for bullocks in 1779, opium contracts in 1781, and to the enormous emoluments allowed to Sir Eyre Coote, and laid on Cheyte Sing. But Burke objected to these omissions, and the motion was carried. On the 22nd of March, Mr. Wyndham preferred the sixth charge, respecting Hastings' conduct to Fyzoola Khan, the Rohilla chief, whom Hastings had endeavoured to deprive of his territory. Wyndham made a vary eloquent, but, in some respects, inaccurate speech; and major Scott, in reply, declared that the natives had erected temples in honour of Hastings, to which Burke wittily answered, " Then it must be to him as a malignant divinity, whom they wished to deprecate." That motion was also carried; and so also the 7th charge, which Sheridan again made. This was relating to the receipt of bribes and presents, which was carried by one hundred and sixty-five against fifty-four.

Immediately after this the report of the committee of inquiry was brought up, and then a paper from Hastings was read by major Scott, praying that, if the commons decided that there was cause for impeachment, the trial should be transferred to the house of peers. Major Scott also stated that much had been said about Mr. Hastings' merits as set offs to Mr. Hastings' offences; but he begged to state, from Mr. Hastings himself, that he would not admit any such plea. He declared his innocence of the charges, and desired nothing but an impartial hearing. The report was then consigned to another committee, which was to select the main points of accusation from the charges, and prepare the impeachment. The committee consisted principally of those who had taken the lead in the prosecution; but when the name of Francis was mentioned, there arose a loud clamour of disapprobation, the implacable enmity of Francis being so notorious. He was, notwithstanding, included; and rising, on the 19th of April, to prefer the eighth charge, Francis endeavoured to excuse himself for his bitter hostility to Hastings. He declared that it was by no means personal, but on public grounds; that it v was true that in India he did most energetically and perseveringly oppose his policy; but that his opposition was most necessary was, he thought, fully demonstrated by the present proceedings, and by the facts brought to the day. The charge which Francis presented was concerning the management of the revenues by Hastings, with which he was intimately familiar; and it was carried in an exceedingly thin house, by ninety-six to forty-four. Mr. Barwell, who had always supported Hastings in India, in reply, asked why they did not impeach him too, for he fully approved all that had been done. Burke replied jestingly, that if the honourable gentleman particularly desired an impeachment, he might possibly be indulged, for he believed there were quite sufficient materials for it.

On the 25th of April, when Burke brought up the articles of impeachment, there was a long debate, in which Wilkes, who had completely changed his politics, and had cultivated a friendship with Warren Hastings and his wife, made a very effective speech in his defence. He tried to shift the blame from Hastings to the company. He declared that Hastings had obtained for the company nine millions and a half sterling, and that, if Mr. Hastings was to be punished for this, not a day ought to be lost in compelling the company to make restitution; that to punish him for this as an enormous crime, and to leave the company in possession of the fruits of this crime, would cover parliament and this country with eternal infamy. Islay Campbell, the lord-advocate, declared that these remarks of Wilkes embodied the substantial truth, and he added, that Epaminondas, the Theban general, when his conquests were charged against him as crimes, said, " Let me have the merit of the deeds, and you may put me to death, if you please." That on such a defence Epaminondas was at once acquitted, and on the same plea Warren Hastings should be acquitted. Courtenay, the member for Tamworth, created much laughter, by his broad jokes on Wilkes, lord Hood, and other defenders of Hastings. He expressed his great admiration of the valour of Hood, who chanced to see Rodney's victory over De Grasse. He thought that Wilkes had looked obliquely at the case of the begums, in allusion to Wilkes's extreme squint; and said that, at one time of his life, no one had diffused a greater spirit of liberty than he had, except it might be Jack Cade or Wat Tyler.

Pitt restored the seriousness of the house by again pointing out the fact that honourable members had not been showing the innocence of Hastings, but raising all manner of set-offs for his crimes - a course which he had before said he had hoped would have been abandoned; that for his part, without going to the length of all the charges brought forward, he saw sufficient grounds for an impeachment. He could conceive a state compelled by sudden invasion and an unprovided army, to lay violent hands on the property of its subjects, but then such a state must be infamous if it did not, on the first opportunity, make ample satisfaction. But was this the principle on which Mr. Hastings had acted? No; he neither avowed the necessity nor the exaction. He made criminal charges, and, under colour of them, levied immoderate penalties, which, if he had a right to take them at all, he would be highly criminal in taking in such a shape; but which, having no right to take, the mode of taking rendered it much more heinous and culpable.

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