Obrázky stránek



principle and all its provisions by Lord Loughborough, and most ably and triumphantly defended by the Lord Chancellor. It passed without a division*.

Another measure for the prevention of smuggling, was the statute since known by the name of the Hover- Hovering Act. ing Act, which imposes forfeiture and severe penalties on the owners of vessels approaching within four leagues of the coast, having on board any spirituous liquors in casks of less than sixty gallons, or tea or coffee, except in certain moderate quantities, or any goods liable to forfeiture on importationt.

The East India Company, sagaciously pursuing Purchases of their own interest, while they forwarded the views of tea by the East Government, purchased all the cargoes of tea that could be obtained in any part of Europe; and thus, while they enabled themselves to meet every possible demand, they removed the present means of contraband supply, while the new laws destroyed all encouragement to fresh importation 1.

An arrear in the civil list, which had already been Arrear of the mentioned to Parliament by Mr. Pitts, was more for- civil list. mally communicated by a message from the King; and July 21st, 23rd. a supply of sixty thousand pounds was granted, after very slight debates.

The affairs of the East India Company occupied, East India as might be expected, considerable attention.

Company On the rejection of Mr. Pitt's bill by the late Parliament, Mr. Eden had obtained a resolution that the Committee.

India Company.

Affairs of the

23rd Jan.

. On this subject generally, see Sinclair's History of the Revenue, vol. ii. p. 386. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol iv. p. 49.

† For more particular details, see Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. iv. p. 49.

Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. iv. p. 51. In the following winter, Mr. Pitt was enabled to strike a severe and effectual blow against the smugglers at Deal, one of their most important stations. The severity of the weather having obliged them to draw their boats, which were of a size and description forbidden by a recent statute, high up on the beach, the minister, not without some difficulty, procured the march of a regiment of infantry to the place. Their presence was unexpected, and so little welcome, that the publicans took down their signs that they might not be quartered on them; the neighbouring people were with difficulty prevailed on to sell them provisions; and the owner of a large barn would not allow them to take shelter in it unless he were paid two years' rent. It was supposed, because some government vessels hovered off the shore, that they were to embark for foreign service ; but the day after their arrival, they were drawn out, and executed their task by burning all the boats; the inhabitants being thoroughly surprised, and not daring to offer any resistance.

30th June. See Parliamentary History, vol xxiv. p. 1020.


1784. 16th Feb.

Ilth March.

Petition of the

Ist June. Committee renewed.

22nd June.

Directors should lay before the House their opinions, with accounts and estimates respecting Parliamentary interference in the acceptance of bills.

A report, which was accordingly presented, was referred to a select committee of fifteen, of whom Mr. Eden was

appointed chairman; but their proceedings were ter26th May.

minated by the dissolution. Early in the sitting of the Company.

new House, the Company by petition represented, as the causes of their present embarrassments, their losses during the war of two millions and a half, and the expenses of their conflicts in India; but asserted their full ability to pay every demand, if a necessary respite were allowed; and presented an additional report, containing information recently obtained: both reports were referred to a select committee, composed of the persons nominated by the last Parliament, except four, three of whom were no longer members, and the other

declined acting*. Mr. Eden brought up their report; Report.

the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had previously, and without much opposition, obtained an act enabling the Company to pay a dividend, at the rate of eight

per cent. on the midsummer half-year, moved for leave 2nd July. to bring in a bill for their further relief, according to to bring in a


prayer of their petition. In the few observations bill for tempo- with which he prefaced his motion, he said that the

rise or downfal of the Company's affairs was an object intimately connected with the vigour or decline of the British constitution; and every effort to extricate them from difficulties was a step toward national independence. The relief required was, first, in their debt to the public, from the accumulation of duties; forbearance on this point would be just and not difficult. As to the bills drawn from India, some were accepted, some not; and of others, only notice had been received. On this doubtful and delicate question, he wished to act with extreme caution, governing himself by the wisdom of the House. The third point was the divi


Mr. Pitt moves

These particulars will not be found in the Parliamentary History, but in the Journals of the House of Commons, at the respective days; and in Tomline's Life of Pitt, vol. i. p. 377.



Of Colonel

dend to be paid, which might be so regulated that the Company might act on a certain basis, without making renewed applications for authority.

Mr. Francis insisted that, by passing the proposed Observations bill, the public would be bound, in honour at least, if of Mr. Francis, not legally, to pay the amount of the acceptances, if the Company should be unable to discharge them. Reviewing, in detail, the acts and circumstances of the Company, he drew from them very unfavourable presages. As he had said many things disadvantageous to Mr. Hastings, he thought it necessary to declare that he retained not a spark of animosity against him; they were both of temper too warm to be capable of lasting resentments. Mr. Hastings, although personally absent, was present by his representatives, men of ability and distinguished activity, whom it would not be an act of consummate prudence to provoke. These observations drew forth an able and

argumentative answer from Colonel Cathcart, who, while he disclaimed the honour of being Mr. Hastings's representative, pronounced an animated eulogy on his administration, and on those superior and uncommon abilities which he had exerted with so much zeal and rigid integrity in the service of his country. He also took an exact view of the military powers of India, predicting the highest benefits from the measures of Mr. Hastings.

Major Scott, equally disclaiming the character of Major Scott. Mr. Hastings's representative, denied many of the propositions advanced by Mr. Francis.

Lord North, Mr. Fox, and many other members, Other memspoke in the debate; Mr. Pitt expressed his obligation bers. to Colonel Cathcart for information by which he should profit; and, at length, Mr. Dundas, reverting to the Mr. Dundas. original grounds of the question, shewed the propriety of affording relief to the Company. He also reviewed the conduct of Mr. Hastings, not vindicating it in every particular, but, upon the whole, ascribing the preservation of India to his prompt and energetic resolutions, while the other members of the Supreme Council shrunk back in despair; and giving him the



1784. Progress of the bill.

4th August.

Mr. Pitt's
India bill.

credit of having, on many critical occasions, supported all the presidencies by a ready and liberal relief.

The motion was unanimously adopted; the Company were allowed a longer time to pay their arrears of duties, and to make a dividend of eight per cent.; and the bill passed, unimpeded by any vigorous exertion to obstruct it. In the upper House, there was neither division nor protest.

In moving to bring in a new bill for the better government of our possessions in India, Mr. Pitt expatiated on the importance of the measure, which involved the prosperity and strength of this country, the happiness of the natives of our territories in India, and, finally, the constitution of England itself. He spoke with horror of the bill which had passed the House last year, and descanted on its pernicious effects. In the arrangements he should propose, power must be confided to some body of men ; but it would be vested where it would best produce its intended effects, and be least liable to abuse. Although no charter could, or ought to, supersede state necessity, still nothing but absolute necessity could justify a departure from charters. The affairs of the Company were not in a state that called for a present revocation of theirs; nor did there any longer exist a danger of the best and most sacred rights of Englishmen being made a sacrifice to ambitious projects. Under any possible form of government, great inconvenience must arise from the distance of the dependency, which must prevent the government at home, and those who filled the executive offices in India, from acting with equal views. To encourage commerce and secure the happiness of India, the government there must have a certain degree of power, subject only to the control of a Board at home. This control should remain in the executive government; the management of commerce, with the Company: the patronage should be in India ; it would be free from corruption, and, under due restrictions and limitations, attended with no bad consequences. He should propose the appointment of a separate department, of a Board of Control, to whom



all dispatches should be transmitted, and who should be responsible for what they did, or omitted. The Board was not to be irremoveably filled ; nor would the Company's Directors be excluded from seeing the papers of the Commissioners; but their decision must be final and binding: they might revise, correct, alter, or control the measures of the Company; but those originated by them the Company were only to carry into execution.

The supreme government abroad was to be seated in Bengal; to have an effectual control over every other presidency, with executive power, and the disposal of offices, subject however, in all things, to the Board of Control. The Directors were to nominate the officers of the supreme government at Bengal, and of the subordinate governments, subject to the negative of the King; but the Commander-in-chief must be appointed solely by the Crown.

In India, the first and principal objects would be, to exclude the views of ambition and conquest; a pacific system should be departed from only on grounds of self-defence. To guard against the continuance of rapacity, plunder, and extortion, he proposed to subject the Company's servants to a strict responsibility, and to declare it illegal to accept, on any pretence, money or other valuables, from the natives. For such offences adequate punishments would be provided; delinquents should be tried by a summary proceeding, which he did not define, but gave an idea that it would be an exception to the general regulations of the law. Judges were to be constituted under special commission, not bound by strict rules of evidence, but to give judgments conscientiously, such as the common law would warrant, if sustained by admissible evidence. This tribunal should be elected by ballot from among the judges, and from both Houses of Parliament, and decide on questions both of law and fact. They should be empowered to examine the amount of any man's property on his arrival in England; and the Company should not again employ any

[blocks in formation]
« PředchozíPokračovat »