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The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. 12 (of 12)

The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. 12 (of 12)
Author: Burke Edmund
Title: The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. 12 (of 12)
Release Date: 2006-05-05
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
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June, 1794.




My Lords,—We will now resume the considerationof the remaining part of our charge, andof the prisoner's attempts to defend himself against it.

Mr. Hastings, well knowing (what your Lordshipsmust also by this time be perfectly satisfied was thecase) that this unfortunate Nabob had no will of hisown, draws down his poor victim to Chunar by anorder to attend the Governor-General. If the Nabobever wrote to Mr. Hastings, expressing a request ordesire for this meeting, his letter was unquestionablydictated to him by the prisoner. We have laida ground of direct proof before you, that the Nabob'sbeing at Chunar, that his proceedings there, and thatall his acts were so dictated, and consequently mustbe so construed.

I shall now proceed to lay before your Lordshipsthe acts of oppression committed by Mr. Hastingsthrough his two miserable instruments: the one, hispassive instrument, the Nabob; the other, Mr. Middleton,his active instrument, in his subsequent plansfor the entire destruction of that country. In page513 of the printed Minutes you have Mr. Middleton'sdeclaration of his promptitude to represent everythingagreeably to Mr. Hastings's wishes.


"My dear Sir,—I have this day answered yourpublic letter in the form you seemed to expect. Ihope there is nothing in it that may to you appear toopointed. If you wish the matter to be otherwise understoodthan I have taken up and stated it, I neednot say I shall be ready to conform to whatever youmay prescribe, and to take upon myself any share ofthe blame of the hitherto non-performance of the stipulationsmade on behalf of the Nabob; though I doassure you I myself represented to his Excellency andthe ministers, conceiving it to be your desire, that theapparent assumption of the reins of his government,(for in that light he undoubtedly considered it atthe first view,) as specified in the agreement executedby him, was not meant to be fully and literallyenforced, but that it was necessary you should havesomething to show on your side, as the Companywere deprived of a benefit without a requital; andupon the faith of this assurance alone, I believe Imay safely affirm, his Excellency's objections to signingthe treaty were given up. If I have understoodthe matter wrong, or misconceived your design, I amtruly sorry for it. However, it is not too late to correctthe error; and I am ready to undertake, and,God willing, to carry through, whatever you may, onthe receipt of my public letter, tell me is your finalresolve.

"If you determine, at all events, that the measuresof reducing the Nabob's army, &c., shall be immediatelyundertaken, I shall take it as a particular favor,if you will indulge me with a line at Fyzabad, that Imay make the necessary previous arrangements withrespect to the disposal of my family, which I wouldnot wish to retain here, in the event either of a rupturewith the Nabob, or the necessity of employing{5}our forces on the reduction of his aumils and troops.This done, I can begin the work in three days aftermy return from Fyzabad."

Besides this letter, which I think is sufficientlyclear upon the subject, there is also another muchmore clear upon your Lordships' minutes, muchmore distinct and much more pointed, expressive ofhis being resolved to make such representations ofevery matter as the Governor-General may wish.Now a man who is master of the manner in whichfacts are represented, and whose subsequent conductis to be justified by such representations, is not simplyaccountable for his conduct; he is accountablefor culpably attempting to form, on false premises,the judgment of others upon that conduct. Thisspecies of delinquency must therefore be added tothe rest; and I wish your Lordships to carry generallyin your minds, that there is not one single syllableof representation made by any of those parties,except where truth may happen to break out in spiteof all the means of concealment, which is not to beconsidered as the representation of Mr. Hastings himselfin justification of his own conduct.

The letter which I have just now read was writtenpreparatory to the transaction which I am now goingto state, called the treaty of Chunar. Having broughthis miserable victim thither, he forced him to sign apaper called a treaty: but such was the fraud inevery part of this treaty, that Mr. Middleton himself,who was the instrument and the chief agent init, acknowledges that the Nabob was persuaded tosign it by the assurance given to him that it neverwas to be executed. Here, then, your Lordships{6}have a prince first compelled to enter into a negotiation,and then induced to accede to a treaty by falseassurances that it should not be executed, whichhe declares nothing but force should otherwise havecompelled him to accede to.

The first circumstance in this transaction that Ishall lay before your Lordships is that the treaty isdeclared to have for its objects two modes of relievingthe Nabob from his distresses,—from distresseswhich we have stated, and which Mr. Hastingshas not only fully admitted, but has himself provedin the clearest manner to your Lordships. Thefirst was by taking away that wicked rabble, the Britishtroops, represented by Mr. Hastings as totallyruinous to the Nabob's affairs, and particularly byremoving that part of them which was called thenew brigade. Another remedial part of the treatyregarded the British pensioners. It is in proof beforeyour Lordships that Mr. Hastings agreed to recallfrom Oude that body of pensioners, whose conductthere is described in such strong terms as beingruinous to the Vizier and to all his affairs. Thesepensioners Mr. Hastings engaged to recall; but henever did recall them. We refer your Lordships tothe evidence before you, in proof that these odiouspensioners, so distressing to the Nabob, so ruinousto his affairs, and so disgraceful to our government,were not only not recalled by Mr. Hastings, but that,both afterwards, and upon the very day of signingthe treaty, (as Mr. Middleton himself tells you,) uponthat very day, I say, he recommended to the Nabobthat these pensioners might remain upon thatvery establishment which, by a solemn treaty of hisown making and his own dictating, he had agreed{7}to relieve from this intolerable burden.

Mr. Hastings, your Lordships will remember, haddeparted from Benares, frustrated in his designsof extorting 500,000l. from the Rajah for the Company'suse. He had ravaged the country, withoutobtaining any benefit for his masters: the Britishsoldiers having divided the only spoil, and nothingremaining for the share of his employers but disgrace.He was therefore afraid to return withouthaving something of a lucrative pecuniary natureto exhibit to the Company. Having this object inview, Oude appears to have first presented itself tohis notice, as a country from which some advantageof a pecuniary kind might be derived; and accordinglyhe turned in his head a vast variety ofstratagems for effecting his purpose.

The first article that occurs in the treaty of Chunaris a power given to the Nabob to resume allthe jaghires not guarantied by the Company, and togive pensions to all those persons who should beremoved from their jaghires.

Now the first thing which would naturally occurto a man, who was going to raise a revenue throughthe intervention of the prince of the country, wouldbe to recommend to that prince a better economyin his affairs, and a rational and equal assessmentupon his subjects, in order to furnish the amountof the demand which he was about to make uponhim. I need not tell your Lordships, trained andformed as your minds are to the rules and ordersof good government, that there is no way by whicha prince can justly assess his subjects but by assessingthem all in proportion to their respective abilities,and that, if a prince should make such a body{8}as the House of Lords in this kingdom (which comesnear the case I am going to state) separately thesubject of assessment, such a thing would be contraryto all the principles of regular and just taxationin any country in the universe. Some men maypossibly, by locality or privileges, be excepted fromcertain taxes, but no taxation ever can be just thatis thrown upon some particular class only; and ifthat class happen to be small and the demand great,the injustice done is directly proportionable to thegreatness of the exaction, and inversely to the numberof the persons who are the objects of it: theseare clear, irrefragable, and eternal principles. Butif, instead of exacting a part by a proportionable rate,the prince should go further and attempt to shakethe whole mass of property itself, a mass perhaps notmuch less than that which is possessed by the wholepeers of Great Britain, by confiscating the whole ofthe estates at once, as a government resource, withoutthe charge or pretence of any crime, I say thatsuch an act would be oppressive, cruel, and wickedin the highest degree. Yet this is what Mr. Hastingsprojected, and actually did accomplish.

My Lords, at the treaty of Chunar, as it is called,Mr. Hastings (for he always artfully feels his wayas he proceeds) first says, that the Nabob shall bepermitted to do this act, if he pleases. He does notassume the government. He does not compel theNabob to do anything. He does not force upon himthis abandoned and wicked confiscation of the propertyof the whole nobility of a great country. All thathe says is this,—"The Nabob may be permitted toresume these jaghires." Why permitted? If the acthad been legal, proper, and justifiable, he did n{9}otwant our permission; he was a sovereign in his owndominions. But Mr. Hastings recollected that someof these jaghires (as they are called, and on whichI shall say a very few words to your Lordships) wereguarantied by the Company. The jaghires of hisown house,

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