OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 9

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11

Fox, however, insisted that direct personal evidence, taken and accepted by the supreme council in India, was good and sufficient evidence in that court; but the lords again retired to take the opinion of the judges on this point; and, on returning, replied that the judges did not consider that evidence could be received there which had not been given originally on oath. On this, Burke appeared to lose all patience. He declared that the ends of justice were thwarted by forms of law; that the criminal was thus effectually screened. When the most distinguished men in India had investigated, proved, and received these charges in evidence; and when the accused now stood before the house of peers impeached by the commons, instead of standing forward as a man conscious of his innocence, and glad of the opportunity to clear his name from such foul taint, every technical obstacle which the ingenuity of his counsel could devise was thrown in the way of evidence. When the testimony of Nuncomar, as taken by the supreme council of Calcutta, was tendered, it was rejected because it was not given upon oath, this being notoriously contrary to their religion; it being known, an oath was never required from natives. Yet this very evidence had been received by the council as legal; and, what was more, Hastings himself had always contended, during his own government, that such evidence was legal, and had uniformly acted upon it.

This decision, Burke properly said, " held out to future governors of Bengal the most certain and unbounded impunity. Peculation in India would no longer be practised as it used to be, with caution and secrecy - it would in future stalk abroad in noon-day, and act without disguise; because, after such a decision as had been given by their lordships, there was no possibility of bringing into court the proofs of peculation." The managers then desired that Philip Francis should be called in to prove the corruption of Hastings in the transactions with the munny Begum. Francis was no native; he could be examined on oath, and he was perfectly familiar with many of these transactions. But here, again, the counsel of Hastings most clamorously interfered, and the lords decided against the calling of Francis. Defeated again, neither native evidence taken before the Calcutta council, nor the evidence of one of the council itself being admitted, the managers brought forward a letter from the munny Begum, proving the reception of the bribe by Hastings. This was objected to, as being merely a copy, though an attested one. After some delay the original itself was produced, and persons high in office in India at the time came forward to swear to the hand and seal of the Begum. This, it might have been supposed, would be decisive. By no means. The counsel of Hastings had still a resource. They submitted to the lords that the letter could not be admitted as evidence, because it made part of the evidence before the council which had been rejected on other grounds; and the lords, again adjourning to their own chamber to consult, on their return announced to the court that the said letter could not be read!

Such was the manner in which these and the other charges against this great delinquent were met. Every piece of decisive evidence against him was resisted by every possible means; so that had he been the most innocent man alive, the only conviction which could remain in the mind of those who witnessed these things must have been that of his guilt. He had neither acted like an innocent, high-minded man to whom the imputation of guilt is intolerable, while in India, nor were his counsel now instructed to do so. Evidence on every charge gone into, of the most conclusive nature, was offered and rejected, and, spite of all the endeavours to clear the memory of Warren Hastings of cruelty and oppression, the very conduct of himself and his counsel on his trial must stamp the accusing verdict indelibly on his name.

Well might Burke exclaim that all attempt to prove the guilt of the accused on such a system was vain; that they were destroying all the endeavours of the managers by naked technicalities. But it was now clear that both the ministry and the lords were determined to prevent the full exposure of the case. Burke demanded to know on what opinions their lordships' decision was grounded; but he only received the most unscrupulous insult and abuse from Law afterwards lord Ellenborough, who affirmed that, to produce accusations against any man incapable of proof, was to be guilty of a slander and a calumny; and this in the face of the most decisive evidence being refused. Law threw in the face of the managers the recent resolutions of the commons. At this, Fox, in great indignation, said, it was indecent and highly irregular in an advocate to allude to what had taken place within the walls of the house of commons; but the learned counsel had done worse - he had misrepresented that to which he pretended to allude. He had charged the whole body of the commons with sending up slanders in the shape of charges, and had pronounced the deputies of the commons calumniators, merely because they offered in evidence those very documents on the authority of which the commons had pronounced the charges to be well founded, and sent them, as articles of impeachment, to the lords. On this head, Fox insisted that the counsel ought not to pass without due censure, and the lords were, in this instance, compelled to notice the indecency, and to reprimand Law by the mouth of Thurlow.

But this did not remove the resolute resistance to evidence. The same objections were raised by the counsel on every item of it brought forward. The lords again consulted, and the trial was delayed seven days. No sooner did they give their opinion on that point, than another was raised, and this occasioned a further delay of six days; and, on this plea of perpetual delay, Hastings now complained, through his counsel, that, if the trial went on at this rate, his remaining life would not be long enough to end it; that, could he have foreseen the length to which this interminable process would run, he would rather have pleaded guilty at once than have encountered it; that, as little more could be done this session, he prayed that some specific time might be named for concluding this charge, which he understood was to be the last, and that he would rather waive all defence than have it postponed for another year. When it has been seen that the delays of which he complained had been most diligently and pertinaciously evoked by his own counsel, this impudent plea shows that his counsel trusted to defeat the whole process by these acts. But the court could not thus rid itself of the question, and it adjourned to the first Tuesday in the next session of parliament. Nothing, however, was more evident than that the inquiry had now become distasteful to the government; the public had long lost its interest in it, and the managers must have seen too plainly that they would not be allowed to convict a man who, with all his crimes, had so greatly extended the empire, and opened up vast fields for similar adventurers.

On the 11th of August the king prorogued parliament by commission, having himself gone to Weymouth for the benefit of his health. The lord chancellor, in the closing speech, congratulated the country on the continuance and prospect of peace; the prospect, however, being anything but peaceful, as we shall see. But, before taking a review of European affairs, we may note one or two incidents which had taken place during the present session, though not strictly connected with the narrative of it. The king had not, on recovering his sanity, perused, or been informed of, the conduct of the prince of Wales and his friends, during his malady, without great resentment. Pitt, in fact, had made political capital out of the affairs of the regency, by seeming to defend the rights of the unhappy monarch in his state of incapacity, while he really was only endeavouring to prevent his opponents profiting by it. The nation, ever ready to sympathise with the suffering party, were soon taught to regard Pitt as the champion of royalty in distress; and he gained much strength in public opinion from this. The prince and his friends were naturally represented in no favourable light by the ministerial party to the king, and while at Weymouth he wrote a letter to the duke of Clarence, commenting severely on the prince of Wales and the duke of York. The prince employed Sheridan to write for him a very able and judicious letter, which the prince copied and dispatched; and this had the good effect of leading to a reconciliation some months afterwards, at least in appearance.

During the heat of the controversy regarding the regency the duke of York had a very narrow escape for his life. Having charged lieutenant-colonel Lennox, the nephew and heir of the duke of Richmond, with submitting tamely to an insult at a military club, Lennox challenged him, and was so near shooting him in the duel at Wimbledon that he cut off a lock of his hair with the bullet!

A few months before George III. suffered his melancholy loss of reason, died at Rome Charles Edward the second, commonly called the Young Pretender. He was, however, no longer young, but sixty-eight years of age, bloated and diseased with excessive drinking; in fact, he had lost all title to that admiration which he had excited in his youth. With the fall of his fortunes fell his self-respect, and he became drunken and brutal. When he was fifty-two ho had married a beautiful, amiable, and accomplished young German lady, Louisa Stolberg, of a noble but not royal Family. His conduct to her was disgraceful. She obtained a legal separation from him, and formed an attachment to Alfieri, the celebrated Italian poet. Though the life of Alfieri had been wild and dissipated, he was deeply attached to the countess of Albany, as the lady was called. They are &aid to have been privately married. The union had the happiest effect on the character and genius of the poet, whom she survived - living at Florence till the peace of 1815. The pretender was buried with great state, and the title and arms of the king of England were carved on his tomb. His brother Henry Benedict, the cardinal York, succeeded to the empty title by the style of Henry IX. of England. He died in 1807, and with him ended the direct male line of the deposed Stuarts.

Whilst the war of parties had been raging in England, matters abroad had been rapidly assuming a shape which threatened the tranquillity of all Europe. In France the elements of revolution had been fermenting, and had already buret into open fury, and with a character which, to observant eyes, appeared to bode inevitably their spread into every surrounding country. At the same time, the sovereigns of these countries, instead of discerning the signs of the times, and taking measures to guard their people from the contagious influence, were some of them acting so as certainly to invite the specious anarchy. In others, they were wasting their strength on schemes of conquest which only too much enfeebled them for opposition to the dangers thus preparing. Some of these warlike movements appear, at first sight, to have little connection with the history of England, but, more or less, they all are necessary to our comprehension of our own position in the time of those marvellous subversions which were at hand.

Least of all did the ambitious designs of the czarina Catherine against Turkey seem menacing to us; yet these designs speedily drew into their current the whole power of Austria, and endangered our relations in the countries on the Baltic, and attracted the revolutionary torrent over the fertile plains of the Netherlands, directly opposite to our own shores, and menacing the stability of our allies, the Dutch. Catherine had found the Turks, feeble but tottering as she considered their empire, not so easily to be overcome as she imagined. The absorption of the Ottoman kingdom and the establishment of the Muscovite throne at Constantinople had been her confident dream - as it was that of the czar Nicholas in our day. But the Turks, though in a condition of decline and disorganisation which promised an easy subjugation of them, had still their spirit of fanatic fatalism, which could raise them to deeds of impetuous valour. The whole organisation and regulations of their army were in the worst condition. The janissaries, which had been amongst the finest infantry in the world, were now thoroughly demoralised and in insolent insubordination towards their own government. Their cavalry was numerous, but wretchedly disciplined. The commissariat was in the worst state conceivable, and their artillery, though it had received the energetic attentions of the French baron De Toff, was contemptible. It might have appeared that nothing was necessary but to enter Turkey and drive the whole army, as a disorganised rabble, before them. But Catherine had not found it so. Her favourite.

Potemkin, had been repeatedly defeated in his attempts to advance into Turkey from the Crimea, and Catherine had, as we have already related, been glad to engage Joseph II. of Austria in the enterprise by a promise of an ample ▀hare of the spoil. In their meeting at Cherson in 1787, Joseph had engaged to send one hundred thousand men to the campaign against Turkey. He had no quarrel with the sultan, and though a zealous advocate for national reforms, he paid very little regard to national or international justice. In all his reforms, Joseph, with true Austrian spirit, showed the despot still. He did not attempt to carry such reforms as his subjects desired, but such as he thought proper for them; and he was always ready to force what he deemed liberalism and improvement upon them at the point of the bayonet. In attacking Turkey, he did not wait to proclaim war, much less to have a pretence for it, but he suddenly made a rush upon the neighbouring city and frontier fortress of Belgrade. The Turks, though taken by surprise, defended the place victoriously; and Joseph's subsequent assault on the fortress of Gradiska was equally unsuccessful and equally disgraceful.

In prosecution, however, of his unrighteous engagement to Catherine, he mustered the large army he had engaged to bring against Turkey, and in February, 1788, he made a formal proclamation of war, having no cause of hostility to assign of his own, but merely that his alliance with Russia demanded that he should support that power in its equally lawless invasion of Turkey. The prince of Saxe-Coburg, who commanded one division of Joseph's army, entered Moldavia, and spent the whole campaign nearly in the siege and reduction of the fortress of Choczim. The emperor himself accompanied another division, the destination of which was the renewal of the siege of Belgrade. He had been led by Catherine to hope, as his reward for the cooperation, the recovery of Bosnia and Servia, the acquisition of Moldavia and Wallachia, and the extension of his boundaries to the Dnieper. But, having waited some time for the junction of the Russians - for the Russians were themselves more warmly occupied than they had anticipated, and they pursued the policy which they have constantly acted upon, of securing their ground as they advanced, and so gradually but surely pushing their progress from the head of the Black Sea onwards, slowly but certainly extending their operations eastward - Joseph's army assembled on the banks of the Danube in February, and occupied itself in securing the banks of that river and of the Save. Joseph himself joined it in April, accompanied by his favourite marshal and counsellor, Lacy, and having also with him, but paying little attention to him or his advice, the brave and able Laudohn, who had so successfully coped with Frederick of Prussia in Silesia. On the 24th, he took the little fortress of Szabatch, whilst another part of his army suffered a defeat from the Turks at Dobitza. He then sate down before Belgrade, but carried on the siege with such slackness as to disgust his own troops and astonish all Europe. He was at length roused by the advance of the vizier, Yussuff who was coming rapidly down upon him. At his approach, Joseph precipitately retreated behind the Save, while Yussuff threw bridges over the Danube at Cladova, broke Austrian cordon by the defeat of a portion of the forces of general Wartesleben on the heights of Meadia, and swept through the banat of Temeswar, Joseph's own territory, which he held, and threatened to invade Hungary. Joseph hastened with forty thousand men to support Wartesleben, leaving general Laudohn to conduct the war in Croatia. The army was delighted to have Laudohn at their head instead of the emperor. He led it on the very day of his arrival against the fortress of Dobitza, which he took; he then passed the Save, drove the Turks before him, defeated seven thousand of the enemy before Novi, and took that place, where his operations were suspended by the winter. Joseph gained little credit by his junction with Wartesleben. The Turks attacked him, and, though they were for the moment repulsed, the emperor retreated in a dark night, and the Turks and Austrians resumed their former positions. After taking Verplanka, the campaign terminated with a three months' truce. But the Austrian army had suffered more severely from the miasmata of the marshes of the Danube and Save than from the Turks. Joseph had been persuaded by his physicians that vinegar would be a much more efficacious resistant of the marsh fever than their usual rations of wine. He had stopped the wine and ordered the vinegar, and the consequence was that the soldiers died off as by a pestilence.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 9

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About