Obrázky stránek



Mr. Fox.

16th. Committee moved.

servant convicted of any misdemeanor; nor should any person be suffered to return to that country after his stay in this beyond a certain limited period.

Mr. Fox, notwithstanding the allusions which had been made, would not, at that time, enter into a justification of his own measure. He presumed three bills were to be brought in ; one for the government of India, a second for the security of the natives, and a third for the punishment of delinquents. To the last two he foresaw but little objection; but to the first he should give all possible opposition.

Mr. Pitt declaring that he intended to comprise his whole measure in one bill, Mr. Fox regretted that he should then be obliged, in opposing the principle of the bill on the second reading, to resist some regulations to which he had no objection.

On the motion that the House should resolve itself into a committee, Mr. Francis opened the debate. He

began with an observation, that duty might survive Mr. Francis. hope ; and that he feared both the House and he were

taking unnecessary pains, and endeavouring to make a law of regulation, when the object of the law was lost. The bill, as it stood, had no foundation whatever, but was a conclusion without premises. It stated itself to be remedial, and yet was silent as to the facts and persons which made such a bill necessary. On the principles of almost every clause, the Directors ought to be annihilated; whereas they were left in existence, but in a state not greatly to be envied. Poor gentlelemen! they were suffered to remain nominally, but were reduced to mere clerks; the shadow of the direction left, without the substance! There was no preamble; the bill being a conclusion without premises, a remedy without a disorder, and a punishment without a crime. In this tone and manner he reviewed

many of the clauses, interspersing his observations with censures on the principles and conduct of Mr. Hastings, and condemning all the enactments. To this trifling objection, Mr. Pitt answered that there was no reason why there should be a preamble stuffed with recitals, or



comprising a history of all the abuses that had prevailed in India for twenty years past, or a catalogue of the names of those who had committed them.

Mr. Fox, in a masterly speech, declared his dissent Mr. Fox. from the bill in all its parts, not excepting that which related to regulation and judicature, which, until it was printed, he had been inclined to admit. He could never consent to the institution of the sort of tribunal stated in the bill, without an abandonment of every principle on which he had been taught to approve of the criminal judicature of England. The present bill was as much a violation of the Company's charter as his own had been ; the Chancellor of the Exchequer had relinquished his former opinions, and produced a measure calculated to perpetuate abuses, and to put the conclusive seal to the miserable state of that country. It increased the power and gave additional temptations, with additional means of impunity to the chief governor; it childishly disjoined the patronage from the government; and, by taking the power of appointing officers from the Company, completly annihilated them. He discussed at length the superiority of his abominable bill, and that now produced ; declaring that he then was, and ever should be, ready to appeal from the public to the public, not doubting but that, however they were deluded by the nonsense of epithets for a time, they would form a true judgment at last. In many particulars he drew a comparison between the two bills, describing that before the House as calculated to perpetuate weakness by dividing power; it should be left entire with the Directors, or taken entirely away. My bill,” he said, “ was charged with “ erecting a fourth estate in the legislature. It did not “ erect any estate which did not exist at the time; the “ Court of Directors was the fourth estate, and my “ bill only changed its nature from an estate without “ efficiency to one which promised to have it ; from “.one which, by its quality, was liable to much delusion, “ to one which, being incessantly under the eye and “ inspection of Parliament, was less liable to imposi“tion or misconduct; from one not controllable, to




Mr. Dundas.

one constantly under check, and removable on an “ address from either House. He summed up his objections to the first part of the bill in these energetic terms :-“ It provides for a weak government at home “ by the division of power; and it perpetuates the “ abuses in India, by giving additional authority to the “ officers abroad. It is unstatesman-like in its princi

ples; for it absurdly gives the power of originating

measures to one Board, and the nominating officers " for the execution of them to another. It increases “influence without vesting responsibility; and it “ operates by dark intrigue, rather than by avowed “ authority.'

To the other parts of the bill, Mr. Fox expressed his objections strongly, but less in detail.

The measure was ably vindicated by Mr. Dundas, who said that the principles and ultimate ends of the two bills were very opposite. The one boasted that it took no power from the Crown, nor gave any to the legislative branch of government; while it was at that very moment annihilating every particle of power which properly belonged to the Crown, or to the executive branch of the legislature, and also robbing a great and respectable body of men of invaluable rights. The other was intended to lodge a principal share of the executive power on the territorial laws of India in that department of government in which it ought by right to be vested; and it shewed every degree of tenderness to the chartered rights and privileges of the Company; it was, in fine, one which he doubted not would produce that happy and desirable mixed government, which every friend to the immunities of a wealthy people would cheerfully welcome and maintain. Although the present bill gave new powers to government, yet they were so circumscribed that they could not, in the hands of even the most abandoned prince, be converted into instruments of mischief or oppression; but, by Mr. Fox's bill, there was to have been no distribution of patronage: his Board of Commissioners were to possess all, fully and indisputably; every appointment was to proceed from them; every



individual dependent on the Company was compelled to stoop to them : they were to be princes at home, and sovereign umpires abroad. At the same time he confessed that the bill under discussion did not exhibit a complete and unexceptionable view of what it would be proper to do with regard to India. It contained the great leading features only of a system which might be susceptible of much improvement.

The division, on the question that the Speaker do leave the chair, gave the minister a majority exceeding four to one*.

In one part of this debate, Mr. Francis imputed to Expression imLord Thurlow the expression, in the House of Lords, puted to Lord of a wish “ that General Clavering, Colonel Monson, 6 and himself, had been drowned in their passage to “ India.” Mr. Fox reprobated the use of this language, and said that the noble Lord had added that he made the wish “ because he could spare them out of the “ world.” Lord North, with characteristic urbanity

Lord North and good feeling, apologized for the use of a harsh expression in the heat of debate : the Lord Chancellor was free from the suspicion of any inhuman intention, and such words ought not to be considered seriously. Lord North followed this course in justice to his own sentiments, without affronting his party by a direct contradiction ; but Mr. Pitt took upon himself to as- Mr. Pitt. sert that the expressions referred to were not correctly attributed to the learned Lord*. In the committee, several amendments were made; In the

committee. some clauses withdrawn, some substituted, and some modified. The debates were conducted with great spirit and vigour; but no division took place.

In the House of Lords, the bill was passed without House of any amendment. It was discussed with no less zeal 29th July to than in the lower House; but there was no division ; 9th August.

• 271 to 60.

† The debates, as reported, do not contain any such expression. The words nearest to it fell from Lord Thurlow, on the 12th of December: he then said, " when the government of this country sent three men to thwart and oppose all "Mr. Hastings's measures, he desired either to be recalled or confirmed. Would “ to God these men had never arrived there.” See Parliamentary History, vol. xxiv. p. 129.



Substance of the act.

and a protest, in which the principle of the Bill was censured, as false, unjust, and unconstitutional, received the signature of five peers only.

By this important statute, it was enacted that his Majesty should appoint one of the secretaries of state, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and four other members of the Privy Council, to be commissioners, during pleasure, for the affairs of India, and that they should have the superintendence and control over the civil and military government, and the revenues of the territorial possessions, and over the affairs of the Company, who, as subjected to their government and direction, should be obliged to submit to their consideration all their minutes and accounts, and, also, all their letters and dispatches, which the commissioners were to return in fourteen days, with their approbation, or, in case of disapprobation, with the reasons, under their hands; and the Directors were to forward them, if amended. Should the Directors neglect to lay their dispatches before them, the Commissioners were empowered to prepare orders or instructions, which the Directors must put in force; but, if aggrieved, the Directors might appeal to the King in council, whose decision should be final. The commissioners were not to appoint any servants of the Company. The Supreme Council at Calcutta, on the death or resignation of the present members, was fixed at three, among whom the Commander-in-chief of the forces was to rank next to the Governor-general. Madras and Bombay were to have each a Governor or President, with a Council, similarly constituted, and all persons holding civil or military employment were removable by the King or the Directors. Minute regulations were enacted for filling up offices civil and military. The Court of Proprietors could no longer reverse the orders or resolutions of the Directors; and the Governorgeneral and his Council had power to control the other presidencies in matters of war or peace. All were restrained from commencing hostilities, or entering into warlike treaties, unless attacked or endangered. The

« PředchozíPokračovat »