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debts of the Nabob of Arcot were to be inquired into
have the power to hear and determine, and to pronounce judgment, such as by common law might be awarded in cases of conviction for extortion and other misdemeanors, and to declare the party convicted incapable of again serving the Company in any capacity; and their judgment was to be final. They had power to send for persons, papers, and records; to commit to the Fleet, persons whom they should consider guilty of prevarication, and to receive as evidence depositions transmitted from India. A person found guilty before the court, and sentenced to a fine, was to disclose, upon interrogatories in the Court of Exchequer, an account of his estate and effects, to the amount of such fine; and on his refusal to answer, to
forfeit all his estate, real and personal, to the Crown*. Observations.
It must be recollected that some act was called for, by the existing complaints against the East India Company and their government abroad, and by their avowed want of authority and pecuniary difficulties at home. They must have felt that it was necessary; for they did not exhibit a petition against it in either House of Parliament; nor did any public body, or any individual in the kingdom, raise his voice in an appeal to the legislature. Whatever, therefore, may be thought of some of its regulations in the abstract, the expediency of making them seems, at the time, to have
been conceded by all. Motions Delinquencies, supposed to have been committed against Sir Elijah Impey,
in India, also occupied the attention of Parliament. Motions were made respecting Sir Elijah Impey; and Mr. Burke moved for some papers relating to the conduct of Mr. Hastings toward Almas Ali Cawn, a na
tive, and some other papers; some were granted; but, and Mr. Hastings.
on the demand of more, the House passed to the order
of the day. Restoration of
This busy session was closed by an act of national forfeited benevolence, calculated to produce great effect in con
ciliating the affections, appeasing the feelings, and soothing the laudable national pride of the people of
* See the statute 24th Geo. IV. sess. 2, c. 25. Also Macpherson's Annals, rol. iv. p. 15.
7th and 30th July.
estates in Scotland.
Scotland. Forty years had elapsed since the sword of rebellion had been drawn in that country: the cause of quarrel existed no longer; the exasperated mind had found leisure to cool; all sentiments of ill-will, founded on rival claims to the sovereignty, had subsided, and even if opinions were, by a few persons, cherished adverse to the title of the reigning family, they evaporated in petulant expressions, while the body of the people, truly loyal and attached, supported the honour of the throne, and promoted the real interests of the nation. But, while all animosity appeared to be thus extinguished, the heads of certain noble and honourable families languished under the inconveniences, and smarted under the reproach, attendant upon the forfeiture of their patrimonial estates, to which nothing but the liberality of Parliament could restore them; for, by several acts passed in the late reign, and while the memory of recent injuries was fresh and lively, the lands of the principal rebels were taken from them, and all grants of them by the King or his successors were declared null and void*.
Mr. Dundas introduced the measure, with an apo- 2nd August. logy for bringing it forward at such an advanced Moved by period of the session. He did not impugn the principle on which forfeiture was inflicted, or the policy of the measure, but merely submitted, that the loyalty and good disposition since evinced by the people of the Highlands intitled their chiefs to a favourable consideration. He took no merit to himself for originating the plan : Lord Chatham had justly made it his boast that he had found in Scotland a hardy race of men, able to do their country service, but labouring under a proscription; he had called them to her aid, and their valour and fidelity had not disappointed his expectations. It was an auspicious omen, Mr. Dundas said, that the first blow having been given to this proscription by the Earl of Chatham, might well justify a hope that the remains of such a system would be completely annihilated under the administration of his
But the praise of liberality must not be confined
• See 20th Geo. II. c. ll and 50, and c. 51; but more particularly 25th Geo, II, c. 41.
to Mr. Pitt: he knew, from frequent conferences with Lord North, during his administration, that he had been always disposed to act, in the business, on the most generous and manly principles; and if no such measure as the present had been proposed while he was in office, it must be ascribed to the intervention of numerous untoward circumstances, for which his lordship was not answerable. The last administration, too, had they continued in power, would, he was assured, have brought forward such a measure as the present. He proposed that these estates, on being restored, should belong to those heirs, whether male or female, to whom they would have gone in a regular and legal course of descent if no act of rebellion had been committed by their ancestors; but he did not mean that they should receive their lands in better condition than they would have had them if no forfeiture had taken place; for that would be giving a premium for rebellion; he proposed, therefore, that they should have them, subject to the incumbrances with which they were loaded when they fell into the hands of government; and the money that should thus accrue to the public, should be employed in objects of great national importance. He mentioned, with approbation, the expense already incurred by the trustees who had managed the revenue derived from these estates, in providing a proper building for the records of Scotland: this work he proposed to complete. Another portion was to be expended in rewards and indemnities to the officers employed by the present trustees; but chiefly, the money should be laid out in completing the navigation or canal which was to join the Firth of Forth with the Firth of Clyde, which would run from sea to sea. He described the utility and importance of this work, and shewed that, even in a financial point of view, the country would derive benefit from this application of the public money, while he had reason to hope for great political advantages from the whole transaction*
Many publications contain descriptions and calculations on this canal. See Beauties of Scotland, vol. v. p. 275; and Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, vol. iii. p. 255, where some of its disadvantages are detailed.
The right honourable mover did no more than justice to the opposition members, in supposing they would not thwart his measure. Mr. Fox spoke of it in terms of great admiration, wishing only that it might Supported by soon be found expedient to shew the same indulgence members. to England, and alluded particularly to the case of the Earl of Derwentwater, whose claims were stronger than those of the Scotch lords, as seventy years had elapsed since the time of his family estates being confiscated. Mr. Pitt did not pledge himself to adopt the recommendation; but the bill went through the House, not only without a division, but without an adverse comment.
In the Lords it did not pass so placidly; the oppo- 16th August. sition to it was confined to one very forcible speech ; Opposed by but that appears to have been entirely unexpected. On the motion for the second reading, the Lord Chancellor complained that he had no knowledge that such a measure was intended, until the bill was brought in. It ought regularly to have been announced by a message from his Majesty, which would have disclosed the grounds on which he was willing to relax the severity of the law. His Lordship then made a very able comment on the acts of the last reign, which, by the present bill, were to be annulled. He did not deny the loyalty, attachment, and services of people of the Highlands; but these characteristics were not reasons for granting particular favours; they were common to all the King's subjects. It was too much to admit for true, merely because it was asserted, that the deprived families had rendered services to the state; the fact ought to be proved. His Lordship then animadverted on several of the clauses for restoring estates to particular families, and censured the omission of compulsory enactments for payment of the moneys which had been charged on them, and would, on restitution, be due to government. If it were proper to restore the lands forfeited by the last rebellion, it was not less so to give up those which had been in like manner lost in seventeen hundred and fifteen. It had ever been the prevailing and settled maxim of the