« PředchozíPokračovat »
the whole system was, on one side, absolute despotism ; on the other, gross corruption : he wished this bill not to pass without a call of the House.
After some conversation, a call of the House was ordered.
In two days afterwards, the first bill was read, and Motion for the a second reading moved for that day se'nnight.
ing. Mr. Grenville objected to so early a day. In a business so momentous, the Christmas recess should in- Speech of Mr. tervene. The importance of the matter, the novelty Grenville. of the system, its alarming tendency, the injustice it was fraught with, the aim being no less than to erect a despotic system which might crush the free constitution of England, afforded every reason for throwing it entirely out of the House. It made an attack on the most solemn charters, confirmed by the sacred faith of Parliament; broke through all ties which should bind man to man, and was inimical to national honour and the integrity of English legislation. A great commercial body, respected by all the powers of Europe, was to be annihilated; a portion of the public, who, under the faith of Parliament and a chartered constitution, had vested their money, were to see the nature of their property changed; for what? to increase the influence of the Crown in the House of Commons! The same reasoning which was used respecting the East India Company's charter would equally apply to that of the Bank and to every other. Having urged the indecency, as well as impropriety, of hurrying on a measure so important, when Parliament had assembled at an unusually early period, and members had not yet returned from the country, he read and commented on some protests signed on a former discussion, respecting the affairs of the Company, by the Marquis of Rockingham and other peers*, complaining of haste and precipitancy; and observed, that its obvious and undeniable effects would be to transfer the boundless patronage of India to the Crown; or, rather, to vest it, for five years, in the person of the minister and his adher
December 28th, 1772; June 10th, 1773; June 17th, 1773.
ents, whether in or out of power. What was this but to lift a right honourable gentleman into a situation wholly unknown to our constitution ? a situation from which he could not be driven or moved till he chose voluntarily to abdicate the dictatorship. He had indeed talked of a term of years at the expiration of which the commission was to cease; but he had too good an opinion of his talents, too high a sense of his spirit and daring ambition, to suppose that, having possessed himself of such inordinate power, he would ever consent to lay it down, and become an humble individual. To talk of Parliament nominating the commissioners, was to mock the understanding; they would to all purposes be the nominees of ministers; and their bold scheme for the increase of their own power by the increase of that of the Crown, was planned by the man whose voice had been loudest in the cry, that the influence of the Crown was excessive, big with danger, and ruinous to liberty.
Mr. Fox did not enter into a detailed vindication of his measure, but turned against his opponents several expressions used by themselves in former debates. On the reference to the protests, he said that as the honourable gentleman and his relation in the other House* were both able to speak for themselves, it would be quite as proper if they catered less for one another, and delivered, in their different situations, what better belonged to each respectively. He could see no good in deferring the consideration of the bill ; it must be submitted to the other House; and, as they did not know how long their lordships might chuse to detain it, no time should be lost. He considered the desire of delay only as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of the bill; and the motion for a call of the House was an effort of the same kind: the mover required it because he knew the members were not come.
Mr. Pitt, after ironically exposing some of these arguments, avowed his sincere wish that a bill, so big with ruin to the nation, might be checked in its pro
* Lord Temple.
He had in vain endeavoured to define the reasons, or even the motives, that led to so new, so insolent, and so precipitate an attack on the rights and liberties of mankind. He could discover only one,that, by introducing the bill early, and hurrying it through the House, the mover might obtain the noble end of settling the ministers in unbounded and absolute power.
He would not take the sense of the House on the question, but leave the infamy of the intrigue on the head of its conductors.
Mr. Arden enlivened the debate by a sarcastic allusion to the ministry and their intended commissioners. He regarded Lord North as a king, and Mr. Fox as an emperor, the emperor of the east! The seven commissioners also might be considered as seven emperors, seven holy Roman emperors, tributary and subordinate to the emperor of the east.
Mr. Burke, comparing himself to a physician, who, Mr. Burke. having sat by the bed-side for several years, knew the patient's habits and constitution, the force and tendency of the disorder, and the fit recipe, - while opposition, perfectly ignorant of each, exclaimed against the violence of the medicine,-gave Mr. Wilberforce an oppor- Mr. Wilbertunity of comparing the commissioners to seven physicians and eight apothecaries, come to put the patient to death secundum artem. The motion was carried without a division, and the bill ordered to be printed*.
When submitted to perusal, the bill caused an in- Substance of creased alarm. It recited that, by the disorders which the bill. prevailed in the management of our territorial possessions, revenues, and commerce, in the East Indies, the prosperity of the natives had been diminished, and our own valuable interests so materially impaired, that they would probably fall into utter ruin, if an immediate and fitting remedy were not provided; and proceeded to enact that the existing government, and all the powers and authorities of the Directors and Proprietors, or
In this debate, Mr. Anstruther, Mr. John Scott, and Mr. Erskine, made their first, or maiden, speeches. Mr. Anstruther attained a high station, and the other two gentlemen the very highest honours in the profession of the law.
2nd Debate, 24, p. 62.
of any special, general, or other court, in the ordering and managing the said possessions, revenues, and commerce, and all elections of Directors, should be discontinued. Commissioners, who of course were not named in the first draft of the bill, were to enter upon and possess themselves of all lands, tenements, houses, warehouses, and buildings, and to take into their possession all books, records, documents, charters, acts, instruments, letters, and other papers; and also all ships and vessels, goods, money, securities for money, and other effects belonging to the Company, in trust and for the benefit of the proprietors. They were empowered to remove, suspend, confirm, or restore, all persons from or to any office or station, civil or military, either in Great Britain or in India, whether appointed by act of Parliament or in any other manner.
Against this bill petitions were presented from the general Court of Proprietors, complaining of the attempt to seize and dispose of their property without any charge of delinquency; and from the Court of Directors, reiterating the same complaints, and requesting that, if there were any charge against them, it might be specifically preferred, and they heard in their defence. Mr. Fox took this opportunity of explaining that, when, on a former day, he said the Company owed eight millions, he did not mean that they were bankrupts for, or owed that sum beyond what they were
Mr. Pitt declared that he, and he believed many others, had so understood; and cautioned the House against receiving such insinuations, as he understood the Company were ready to prove that the right honourable gentleman had made gross and palpable omissions, in his statement of their affairs, to an enormous amount.
On the following day, Mr. Fox brought in his second bill, which corresponded exactly with the outline he had given, and enacted, in detail, the regulations proposed for the government of the Indian territory
Previously to the second reading of the India bill, a
able to pay
26th. Second bill.
Debate on the
mit the bill.
petition was presented from the Corporation of London, expressing their alarm at the powers intended to be given, and praying that the bill might not pass.
Mr. Rous and Mr. Dallas were heard as counsel for the Proprietors, and Mr. Hardinge and Mr. Plumer for the Directors. The speeches of the first two, and the evidence they called, went to prove the solvency of the Company; Mr. Hardinge and Mr. Plumer applied themselves more to the general principle of the measure.
When the learned gentlemen had retired, Mr. Fox moved that the bill should be committed. He ex- motion to compected, he said, that violation of charters, despotism and oppression, would be the topics relied on, but was Mr. Fox. surprised to find himself attacked on the side where he felt most strong, the embarrassed state of the Company's affairs.
He attempted, by a laborious investigation of their own accounts, to prove that they were insolvent; and referred even to the last Gazettes to shew that, in India, peace was not effectually restored, while the army had foregone all subordination, and the government had lost all proper authority. Could an effectual reform be made in the Company's affairs without touching their charter? He denied that the influence of the Crown would be increased, and inferred, from a letter written by Mr. Hastings himself, that, not war, or casual calamity, but a total want of efficient government caused the disasters which the bill was intended to remove.
Mr. Pitt considered that the bill was pressed on Mr. Pitt. with a violent and indecent precipitancy. The examination of accounts required some time. Mr. Fox had confessed several omissions in his former statement : omissions there were, omissions gross, palpable, and prodigious. The right honourable gentleman had undertaken to falsify the accounts rendered by the Company to the enormous amount of twelve millions, and had run through them with a volubility that rendered comprehension difficult, and detection almost impossible. Mr. Pitt then entered into a revision of the credit side of the Company's statement, and observed that