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MR. BU RK E’S SPEECH
MOTION MADE FOR PAPERS
RELATIVE TO THE DIRECTIONS FOR CHARGING
THE NABOB OF ARCOT'S PRIVATE DEBTS TO EUROPEANS, ON THE REVENUES OF THE CARNATICK.
FEBRUARY 28th, 1785.
WITH AN APPENDIX,
CONTAINING SEVERAL DOCUMENTS.
'Ενταύθα τι πράττειν έχρήν άνδρα των Πλάτωνος και Αριστοτέλους ζηλωτήν δογμάτων και άρα περιοράν ανθρώπους άθλίους τους κλέπταις εκδιδομένους, ή κατά δύναμιν αυτοίς αμύνειν, oίμαι, ώς ήδη το κύκνειον εξάδoυσι διά τό θεομισές εργαστήριον των τοιούτων; Εμοί μεν ούν αισχρόν είναι δοκεί τους μεν χιλιάρχους, όταν λείπωσι την τάξιν, καταδικάζειν την δε υπέρ άθλίων ανθρώπων υπολείπειν τάξιν, όταν δέη προς κλέπτας αγωνίζεσθαι τοιούτους και ταύτα του θεού συμμαχούντος ημίν, ώσπερ ούν έταξεν.
Juliani Epist. 17.
That the least informed reader of this speech The company had put him into possession of may be enabled to enter fully into the spirit of the several great cities and magnificent castles. The transaction, on occasion of which it was delivered, good order of his affairs, his sense of personal digit may be proper to acquaint him, that among the nity, his ideas of oriental splendour, and the habits princes dependent on this nation in the southern of an Asiatick life, (to which, being a native of parts of India, the most considerable at present is India, and a Mahometan, he had from his infancy commonly known by the title of the nabob of Arcot. been inured,) would naturally have led him to fix
This prince owed the establishment of his go- the seat of his government within his own domivernment, against the claims of his elder brother, nions. Instead of this, he totally sequestered himas well as those of other competitors, to the arms self from his country; and, abandoning all apand influence of the British East-India company. pearance of state, he took up his residence in an Being thus established in a considerable part of ordinary house, which he purchased in the subthe dominions he now possesses, he began, about urbs of the company's factory at Madras. In the year 1765, to form, at the instigation (as he that place he has lived, without removing one day asserts) of the servants of the East-India com- from thence, for several years past. He has there pany, a variety of designs for the further extension continued a constant cabal with the company's of his territories. Some years after, he carried his servants, from the highest to the lowest ; creviews to certain objects of interiour arrangement, ating, out of the ruins of the country, brilliant of a very pernicious nature. None of these de fortunes for those who will, and entirely destroy
a signs could be compassed without the aid of the ing those who will not, be subservient to his pur
arms; nor could those arms be em- poses. ployed consistently with an obedience to the com- An opinion prevailed, strongly confirmed by pany's orders. He was therefore advised to form several passages in his own letters, as well as by a a more secret, but an equally powerful, interest combination of circumstances forming a body of among the servants of that company, and among evidence which cannot be resisted, that very great others both at home and abroad. By engaging sums have been by him distributed, through a long them in his interests, the use of the company's course of years, to some of the company's
. power might be obtained without their ostensible Besides these presumed payments in ready money, authority; the power might even be employed (of which, from the nature of the thing, the direct in defiance of the authority; if the case should proof is very difficult,) debts have at several perequire, as in truth it often did require, a proceed-riods been acknowledged to those gentlemen, to ing of that degree of boldness.
an immense amount; that is, to some millions of
sterling money. There is strong reason to suspect, where they found those materials deficient, they that the body of these debts is wholly fictitious, should order the presidency of Fort St. George and was never created by money bona fide lent. [Madras) to complete the enquiry. But even on a supposition that this vast sum was The court of directors applied themselves to the really advanced, it was impossible that the very execution of the trust reposed in them. They reality of such an astonishing transaction should first examined into the amount of the debt, which not cause some degree of alarm, and incite to some they computed, at compound interest, to be sort of enquiry.
2,945,6001. sterling. Whether their mode of It was not at all seemly, at a moment when the computation, either of the original sums, or the company itself was so distressed, as to require a amount on compound interest, was exact, that is, suspension, by act of parliament, of the payment whether they took the interest too high, or the seof bills drawn on them from India—and also a veral capitals too low, is not material. On direct tax upon every house in England, in order whatever principle any of the calculations was to facilitate the vent of their goods, and to avoid made up, none of them found the debt to differ instant insolvency–at that very moment that their from the recital of the act, which asserted, that servants should appear in so fourishing a condi- the sums claimed were very large.” The last tion, as, besides ten millions of other demands on head of these debts the directors compute at their masters, to be entitled to claim a debt of 2,465,6801. sterling. Of the existence of this three or four millions more from the territorial debt the directors heard nothing until 1776, and revenue of one of their dependent princes. they say, that," although they had repeatedly
The ostensible pecuniary transactions of the “ written to the nabob of Arcot, and to their nabob of Arcot, with very private persons, are so servants, respecting the debt, yet they had enormous, that they evidently set aside every pre- never been able to trace the origin thereof, or tence of policy, which might induce a prudent “ to obtain any satisfactory information on the government in some instances to wink at ordinary subject.” loose practice in ill-managed departments. No The court of directors, after stating the circumcaution could be too great in handling this mat- stances under which the debts appeared to them ter; no scrutiny too exact. It was evidently the to have been contracted, add as follows : “For interest, and as evidently at least in the power, of “ these reasons we should have thought it our the creditors, by admitting secret participation in “duty to enquire very minutely into those debts, this dark and undefined concern, to spread cor- if the act of parliament had been silent on ruption to the greatest and the most alarming “ the subject, before we concurred in any measure extent.
“ for their payment. But with the positive inThese facts relative to the debts were so noto- “ junctions of the act before us, to examine into rious, the opinion of their being a principal source “ their nature and origin, we are indispensably of the disorders of the British government in India “ bound to direct such an enquiry to be instiwas so undisputed and universal, that there was “tuted.” They then order the president and no party, no description of men in parliament, council of Madras to enter into a full examination, who did not think themselves bound, if not in &c. &c. honour and conscience, at least in common de- The directors, having drawn up their order to cency, to institute a vigorous enquiry into the the presidency on these principles, communicated very bottom of the business, before they admitted the draught of the general letter in which those any part of that vast and suspicious charge to be orders were contained to the board of his majeslaid upon an exhausted country. Every plan con- ty's ministers, and other servants lately constituted curred in directing such an enquiry; in order that by Mr. Pitt's East-India act. These ministers, whatever was discovered to be corrupt, fraudu- who had just carried through parliament the bill lent, or oppressive, should lead to a due animad-ordering a specifick enquiry, immediately drew up version on the offenders ; and if any thing fair and another letter, on a principle directly opposite to equitable in its origin should be found (nobody that which was prescribed by the act of parliasuspected that much, comparatively speaking, ment, and followed by the directors. In these would be so found) it might be provided for ; in second orders, all idea of an enquiry into the jusdue subordination, however, to the ease of the tice and origin of the pretended debts, particularly subject, and the service of the state.
of the last, the greatest, and the most obnoxious These were the alleged grounds for an enquiry, to suspicion, is abandoned. They are all admitted settled in all the bills brought into parliament re- and established without any investigation whatsolative to India, and there were I think no less than ever ; except some private conference with the four of them. By the bill, commonly called Mr. agents of the claimants is to pass for an investiPitt's bill, the enquiry was specially, and by express gation ; and a fund for their discharge is assigned words, committed to the court of directors, with and set apart out of the revenues of the Carnatick. out any reserve for the interference of any other —To this arrangement in favour of their servants, person or persons whatsoever. It was ordered that servants suspected of corruption, and convicted of they should make the enquiry into the origin and disobedience, the directors of the East-India comjustice of these debts, as far as the materials in pany were ordered to set their hands, asserting it their possession enabled them to proceed ; and to arise from their own conviction and opinion, in
fat contradiction to their recorded sentiments, | act, ordered an enquiry, and came to a determitheir strong remonstrance, and their declared nation to restore certain of his territories to the sense of their duty, as well under their general rajah. The ministers proceeding as in the former trust and their oath as directors, as under the ex- case, without hearing any party, rescinded the press injunctions of an act of parliament. decision of the directors, refused the restitution of
The principles upon which this summary pro- the territory, and without regard to the condition ceeding was adopted by the ministerial board, are of the country of Tanjore, which had been within stated by themselves in a number in the appendix a few years four times plundered, (twice by the to this speech.
nabob of Arcot, and twice by enemies brought By another section of the same act, the same upon it solely by the politicks of the same nabob, court of directors were ordered to take into con- the declared enemy of that people,) and, without sideration and to decide on the indeterminate discounting a shilling for their sufferings, they rights of the rajah of Tanjore and the nabob of accumulate an arrear of about 400,000 pounds of Arcot; and in this, as in the former case, no power pretended tribute to this enemy; and then they of appeal, revision, or alteration, was reserved to order the directors to put their hands to a new any other. It was a jurisdiction, in a cause be adjudication, directly contrary to a judgment in tween party and party, given to the court of di- a judicial character and trust, solemnly given by rectors specifically It was known that the terri- them, and entered on their records. tories of the former of these princes had been These proceedings naturally called for some entwice invaded and pillaged, and the prince deposed quiry. On the 28th of February, 1785, Mr. Fox and imprisoned, by the company's servants, influ- made the following motion in the house of comenced by the intrigues of the latter, and for the mons, after moving that the clauses of the act purpose of paying his pretended debts. The com- should be read—“ That the proper officer do lay pany had, in the year 1775, ordered a restoration “ before this house copies and extracts of all letof the rajah to his government, under certain con- “ters and orders of the court of directors of the ditions. The rajah complained that his territories “ united East-India company, in pursuance of the had not been completely restored to him; and injunctions contained in the 37th and 38th that no part of his goods, money, revenues, or re
“ clauses of the said act;" and the question being cords, unjustly taken and withheld from him, were put, it passed in the negative by a very great ever returned. The nabob, on the other hand, majority. never ceased to claim the country itself, and car- The last speech in the debate was the following; ried on a continued train of negociation, that it which is given to the publick, not as being more should again be given up to him, in violation of worthy of its attention than others, (some of which the company's publick faith.
were of consummate ability,) but as entering more The directors, in obedience to this part of the into the detail of the subject.
The times we live in, Mr. Speaker, have been publick trust, relative to the government of the
, distinguished by extraordinary events. Habituated, very same part of India. If he shouid undertake however, as we are, to uncommon combinations a bill of that kind, he will find no difficulty in of men and of affairs, I believe nobody recollects conducting it with a degree of skill and vigour any thing more surprising than the spectacle of fully equal to all that have been exerted against this day. The right honourable gentleman, him. whose conduct is now in question, formerly stood But the change of relation between these two forth in this house, the prosecutor of the worthy gentlemen is not so striking as the total difference baronet + who spoke after him. He charged him of their deportment under the same unhappy cirwith several grievous acts of malversation in office, cumstances. Whatever the merits of the worthy with abuses of a publick trust of a great and hei- baronet's defence might have been, he did not nous nature. In less than two years we see the shrink from the charge. He met it with manlisituation of the parties reversed': and a singular ness of spirit, and decency of behaviour. What revolution puts the worthy baronet in a fair way would have been thought of him, if he had held of returning the prosecution in a recriminatory bill the present language of his old accuser ? When of pains and penalties, grounded on a breach of articles were exhibited against him by that right • Right honourable Henry Dundas.
Sir Thomas Rumbold, late governour of Madras.
honourable gentleman, he did not think proper to forced themselves into a suspicious office, (which tell the house that we ought to institute no en- every man, delicate with regard to character, quiry, to inspect no paper, to examine no witness. would rather have sought constructions to avoid,) He did not tell us (what at that time he might were perfectly sound and perfectly legal, of this have told us with some shew of reason) that our I am certain, that they cannot be justified in deconcerns in India were matters of delicacy; that clining the inquiry which had been prescribed to to divulge any thing relative to them would be the court of directors. If the board of controul mischievous to the state. He did not tell us, that did lawfully possess the right of executing the spethose who would enquire into his proceedings were cial trust given to that court, they must take it as disposed to dismember the empire. He had not they found it, subject to the very same regulations the presumption to say, that for his part, having which bound the court of directors. It will be obtained in his Indian presidency, the ultimate allowed that the court of directors had no authoobject of his ambition, his honour was concerned rity to dispense with either the substance or the in executing with integrity the trust which had mode of enquiry prescribed by the act of parliabeen legally committed to his charge: That others, ment. If they had not, where, in the act, did the not having been so fortunate, could not be so dis- board of controul acquire that capacity? Indeed, it interested ; and therefore their accusations could was impossible they should acquire it. What must spring from no other source than faction, and we think of the fabrick and texture of an act of envy to his fortune.
parliament which should find it necessary to preHad he been frontless enough to hold such vain, scribe a strict inquisition; that should descend into vapouring language in the face of a grave, a de minute regulations for the conduct of that inquitailed, a specified matter of accusation, whilst hesition; that should commit this trust to a particular violently resisted every thing which could bring description of men, and in the very same brcatlı the merits of his cause to the test; had he been should enable another body, at their own pleasure, wild enough to anticipate the absurdities of this to supersede all the provisions the legislature had day; that is, had he inferred, as his late accuser made, and to defeat the whole purpose, end, and had thought proper to do, that he could not have object of the law ? This cannot be supposed even been guilty of malversation in office, for this sole of an act of parliament conceived by the ministers and curious reason, that he had been in office; themselves, and brought forth during the delirium had he argued the impossibility of his abusing his of the last session. power on this sole principle, that he had power to My honourable friend has told you in the speech abuse, he would have left but one impression on which introduced his motion, that fortunately this the mind of every man who heard him, and who question is not a great deal involved in the labybelieved him in his senses —that in the utmost ex- rinths of Indian detail. Certainly not. But if it tent he was guilty of the charge.
were, I beg leave to assure you, that there is noBut, Sir, leaving these two gentlemen to alter thing in the Indian detail which is more difficult nate, as criminal and accuser, upon what principles than in the detail of any other business. I admit, they think expedient; it is for us to consider, because I have some experience of the fact, that for whether the chancellor of the exchequer, and the the interiour regulation of India, a minute knowtreasurer of the navy, acting as a board of controul, ledge of India is requisite. But on any specifick are justified by law, or policy, in suspending the matter of delinquency in its government, you are legal arrangements made by the court of directors, as capable of judging, as if the same thing were in order to transfer the publick revenues to the done at your door. Fraud, injustice, oppression, private emolument of certain servants of the East-peculation, engendered in India, are crimes of the India company, without the enquiry into the origin same blood, family, and cast, with those that are and justice of their claims, prescribed by an act of born and bred in England. To go no farther than parliament ?
the case before us : you are just as competent to It is not contended, that the act of parliament judge whether the sum of four millions sterling did not expressly ordain an enquiry. It is not as ought, or ought not, to be passed from the publick serted that this enquiry was not, with equal pre-treasury into a private pocket, without any title cision of terms, specially committed under par except the claim of the parties, when the issue of ticular regulations to the court of directors. Ifact is laid in Madras, as when it is laid in Westconceive, therefore, the board of controul had no minster. Terms of art, indeed, are different in right whatsoever to intermeddle in that business. different places; but they are generally understood There is nothing certain in the principles of juris- in none. "The technical style of an Indian treasury prudence if this be not undeniably true, 'that, is not one jot more remote than the jargon of our when a special authority is given to any persons own exchequer from the train of our ordinary by name, to do some particular act, no others, ideas, or the idiom of our common language. by virtue of general powers, can obtain a legal The difference, therefore, in the two cases, is not in title to intrude themselves into that trust, and to the comparative difficulty or facility of the two exercise those special functions in their place. I subjects, but in our attention to the one, and our therefore consider the intermeddling of ministers total neglect of the other. Had this attention and in this affair as a downright usurpation. But if neglect been regulated by the value of the several the strained construction, by which they have objects, there would be nothing to complain of.
But the reverse of that supposition is true. The profitable credit for their exertion? It is nothing scene of the Indian abuse is distant indeed; but to him, whether the object on which he works we must not infer, that the value of our interest | under our eye be promising or not. If he does not in it is decreased in proportion as it recedes from obtain any publick benefit
, he may make regulaour view. In our politicks, as in our common tions without end. Those are sure to pay in preconduct, we shall be worse than infants, if we do sent expectation, whilst the effect is at a distance, not put our senses under the tuition of our judge and may be the concern of other times, and other ment, and effectually cure ourselves of that op- Ön these principles he chooses to suppose tical illusion which makes a briar at our nose of (for he does not pretend more than to suppose) a greater magnitude, than an oak at five hundred naked possibility, that he shall draw some resource yards distance.
out of crumbs dropped from the trenchers of peI think I can trace all the calamities of this coun- nury; that something shall be laid in store from try to the single source of our not having had the short allowance of revenue officers, overladen steadily before our eyes a general, comprehensive, with duty, and famished for want of bread; by a well-connected, and well-proportioned view of the reduction from officers who are at this very hour whole of our dominions, and a just sense of their ready to batter the treasury with what breaks true bearings and relations. After all its reduc-through stone walls, for an encrease of their aptions, the British empire is still vast and various pointments. From the marrowless bones of these After all the reductions of the house of commons, skeleton establishments, by the use of every sort (stripped as we are of our brightest ornaments, of cutting, and of every sort of fretting tool, he and of our most important privileges,) enough are flatters himself that he may chip and rasp an emyet left to furnish us, if we please, with means of pirical alimentary powder, to diet into some sishewing to the world, that we deserve the super- militude of health and substance the languishing intendence of as large an empire as this kingdom chimeras of fraudulent reformation. ever held, and the continuance of as ample privi- Whilst he is thus employed according to his leges as the house of commons, in the plenitude of policy and to his taste, he has not leisure to enquire its power,
had been habituated to assert. But if into those abuses in India that are drawing off we make ourselves too little for the sphere of our money by millions from the treasures of this country, duty; if, on the contrary, we do not stretch and which are exhausting the vital juices from memexpand our minds to the compass of their object; bers of the state, where the publick inanition is far be well assured, that every thing about us will more sorely felt, than in the local exchequer of dwindle by degrees, until at length our concerns England. Not content with winking at these are shrunk to the dimensions of our minds. It is abuses, whilst he attempts to squeeze the laborious, not a predilection to mean, sordid, home-bred ill-paid drudges of English revenue, he lavishes in cares, that will avert the consequences of a false one act of corrupt prodigality, upon those who estimation of our interest, or prevent the shameful never served the publick in any honest occupation dilapidation, into which a great empire must fall, at all, an annual income equal to two thirds of the by mean reparations upon mighty ruins.
whole collection of the revenues of this kingdom. I confess I feel a degree of disgust, almost lead- Actuated by the same principle of choice, he ing to despair, at the manner in which we are has now on the anvil another scheme, full of difacting in the great exigencies of our country. ficulty and desperate hazard, which totally alters There is now a bill in this house, appointing a the commercial relation of two kingdoms; and rigid inquisition into the minutest detail of our what end soever it shall have, may bequeath a leoffices at home. The collection of sixteen millions gacy of heart-burning and discontent to one of the annually; a collection on which the publick great countries, perhaps to both, to be perpetuated to ness, safety, and credit have their reliance; the the latest posterity. This project is also undertaken whole order of criminal jurisprudence, which on the hope of profit. It is provided, that out holds together society itself, has at no time obliged of some (i know not what) remains of the Irish us to call forth such powers; no, nor any thing hereditary revenue, a fund at some time, and of like them. There is not a principle of the law some sort, should be applied to the protection of and constitution of this country that is not sub- the Irish trade. Here we are commanded again verted to favour the execution of that project.* to task our faith, and to persuade ourselves, that And for what is all this apparatus of bustle and out of the surplus of deficiency, out of the savings terrour? Is it because any thing substantial is ex- of habitual and systematick prodigality, the mipected from it? No. Tlie stir and bustle itself is nister of wonders will provide support for this nathe end proposed.
The eye-servants of a short-tion, sinking under the mountainous load of two sighted master will employ themselves, not on hundred and thirty millions of debt. But whilst what is most essential to his affairs, but on what is we look with pain at his desperate and laborious nearest to his ken. Great difficulties have given trifling; whilst we are apprehensive that he will a just value to economy; and our minister of the break his back in stopping to pick up chaff and day must be an economist, whatever it may cost straws, he recovers himself at an elastick bound,
But where is he to exert his talents? At and with a broad-cast swing of his arm, he squanhome to be sure; for where else can he obtain a ders over his Indian field a sum far greater than
• Appendix, No. 1.