Графични страници
PDF файл

is made to complain of his lordship’s endeavouring to prevent av intercourse of politeness and sentiment between him and Mr. Benfield, und to aggravate the affront, he expressly declares Mr: Benfield's visits to be only on account of respect and of gratitude, as no pecuniary transactions subsisted between them.

Such, for a considerable space of time, was the outward form of the loan of 1777, in which Mr.. Benfield bad no sort of concern. At length, intelligence arrived at. Madras, that this debt, which had always been renounced by the court of directors, was rather like to become the subject of something more like a criminal inquiry than of any patronage or sanction from parliament. Every ship brought accounts, one stronger than the other, of the prevalence of the determined enemies of the Indian system. The public revenues became an object desperate to the hopes of Mi. Benfield; he therefore resolved to fall upon his associates, and, in violation of that faith which subsists amoug those who have abandoned all other, commences a suit in the mayor's court against Taylor, Majendie, and Call, for the bond given to him, when he agreed to disappear for his own benefit as well as that of the common concern. The assignees of his debt, who little expected the springing of this mine, even from such an engineer as Mr. Benfield, after recovering their first alarm, thought it best to take ground on the real state of the transaction. They divulged the whole mystery, and were prepared to plead, that they had never received from Mr. Benfield any other consideration for the bond, than a transfer, in trust for himself, of his demand on the nabob of Arcot. An universal indignation arose against the perfidy of Mr. Benfield's proceedings :. the event of the suit was looked upon as so certain, that Benfield was.compelled to retreat as precipitately as he had advanced boldly; he gave up his bond, and was reinstated in his original demand, to wait the fortune of other claimants. At that time, and at Madras, this hope was dull indeed; but at home another scene was preparing.

It was long before any public account of this discovery at Madras had arrived in England, that the present minister and his board of controal thought fit to determine on the debt of 1777. The recorded proceedings at this time knew nothing of any debt to Benfield. There was his own testimony; there was the testimony of the list'; there was the testimony of the nabob of Arcot against it. Yet such was the minister's feeling of the true secret of this transaction, that they thought proper, in the teeth of all these testimonies, to give him licence to return to Madras. Here the ministers were under some embarrasse ment. Confounded between their resolution of rewarding the good services of Benfield's friends and associates in England, and the shame

of sending that notorious incendiary to the court of the nabob of Arcot, to renew his intrigues against the British government, at the time they authorise his return, they forbid him, under the severest penalties, from any conversation with the nabob or his ministers ; that is, they forbid his communication with the very person on account of his dealings with whom they permit his return to that city. To overtop this contradiction, there is not a word restraining him from the freest intercourse with the nabob's second son, the real author of all that is done in the nabob's name; who, in conjunction with this very Benfield, has acquired an absolute dominion over that' unhappy man, is able to persuade him to put his signature to whatever paper they please, and often without any communication of the contents. This management was detailed to them at full length by Lord Macartney, and they cannot pretend ignorance of it.

I believe, after this exposure of facts, no man can entertain a doubt of the collusion of ministèrs with the corrupt interests of the delinquents in India. Whenever those in authority provide for the interest of any person, on the real but concealed state of his affairs, without regard to his avowed, public, and ostensible pretences, it must be presumed that they are in confederacy with him, because they act for him on the same fraudulent principles on which he acts for himself. It is plain that the ministers were fully apprised of Benfield's real sitnation, which he had used means to conceal whilst concealment answered his purposes. They were, or the person on whom they relied was, of the cabinet council of Benfield, in the very depth of all his mysteries. An honest magistrate compels men to abide by one story. An equitable judge would not hear of the claim of a man who had himself thought proper to renounce it. With such a judge his shuffling and prevarication would have damned his claims; such a judge never would have known, but in order to animadvert upon proceedings of that character.

I have thus laid before you, Mr. Speaker, I think with sufficient clearness, the connection of the ministers, with Mr. Atkinson at the general election ; I have laid open to you the connection of Atkinson with Benfield ; I have shown Benfield's employment of his wealth, in creating a parliamentary interest, to procure a ministerial protection ; I have set before your eyes his large concern in the debt, his practices to hide that concern from the public eye, and the liberal protection which he has received from the minister. If this chain of circumstances do not lead you necessarily to conclude that the minister has paid to the avarice of Benfield the services done by Benfield's connections to his ambition, I do not know anything short of the confession

of the party that can persuade you of his guilt. Clandestine and collusive practice can only be traced by combination and comparison of circumstances. To reject such combination and comparison, is to reject the ovly means of detecting fraud ; it is indeed to give it a patent and free license to cheat with impunity.

I confine myself to the connection of ministers, mediately or immediately, with only two persons concerned in this debt. How many others, who support their power and greatness within and without. doors, are concerned originally, or by transfers of these debts, must be left to general opinion. I refer to the reports of the select committee for the proceedings of some of the agents in these affairs, and their attempts, at least, to furnish ministers with the means of buying general courts, and even whole parliaments, in the gross.

I know that the ministers will think it little less than acquittal, that they are not charged with having taken to themselves some part of the money of which they have made so liberal a donation to their partizans, though the charge may be indisputably fixed upon the corruption of their politics. For my part I follow their crimes to that point to which legal presumptions and natural indications lead me, without considering what species of evil motive tends most to aggravate or to extendate the guilt of their conduct. But if I am to speak my private sentiments, I think that in a thousand cases for one it would be far less mischievous to the public, and full as little dishonourable to themselves, to be polluted with direct bribery, than thus to become a standing auxiliary to the oppression, usury, and peculation of multitudes, in order to obtain a corrupt support to their power. It is by bribing, not so often by being bribed, that wicked politicians bring ruin on mankind. Avarice is a rival to the pursuits of many. It finds a multitude of checks, and many opposers, in every walk of life. But the objects of ambition are for the few; and every person who aims at indirect profit, and therefore wants other protection than innocence and law, instead of its rival becomes its instrument. There is a natural allegiance and fealty due to this domineering paramount evil, from all the rassal vices, which acknowledge its superiority, and readily militate under its banners; and it is under that discipline alone that avarice is able to spread to any considerable extent, or to render itself a general public mischief. It is therefore no apology for ministers that they have not been bought by the East India delinquents, but that they bave only formed an alliance with them for screening each other from justice, according to the exigency of their several necessities. That they have done so is evident; and the junction of the power of office in England, with the abuse of authority in the east,

has not only prevented even the appearance of redress to the gricvances of India, but I wish it may not be found to have dulled, if not extinguished, the honour, the candour, the generosity, the good nature, which used formerly to characterize the people of England. I confess, I wish that some more feeling than I have yet observed for the sufferings of our fellow-creatures and fellow-subjects in that oppressed part of the world, had manifested itself in any one quarter of the kingdom, or in any one large description of men.

That these oppressions exist, is a fact no more denied, than it is resented as it ought to be. Much evil has been done in India under the British authority. What has been done to redress it? We are no longer surprised at anything. We are above the unlearned and vulgar passion of admiration. But it will astonish posterity, when they read our opinions in our actions, that after years of inquiry we have found out that the sole grievance of India consisted in this, that the servants of the company there had not profited enough of their opportunities, nor drained it sufficiently of its treasures; when they shall hear that the very first and only important act of a commission specially named by act of parliament, is to charge upon an undone country, in favour of a handful of men in the humblest ranks of the public service, the enormous sum of perhaps four millions of sterling money.

It is difficult for the most wise and upright government to correct the abuses of remote delegated power, productive of unmeasured wealth, and protected by the boldness and strength of the same ill-gotten riches. These abuses, full of their own wild natire vigour, will grow and flourish under mere neglect. But where the supreme authority, not content with winking at the rapacity of its inferior instruments, is so shameless and corrupt as openly to give bounties and premiums for disobedience to its laws; when it will not trust to the activity of avarice in the pursuit of its own gains; when it secures public robbery by all the careful jealousy and attention with which it ought to protect property from such violence; the commonwealth then is become totally perverted from its purposes; neither God nor man will long endure it; nor will it long endure itself. In that case, there is an unnatural infection, a pestilential taint fermenting in the constitution of society, which fever and convulsions of some kind or other must throw off; or in which the vital powers, worsted in an unequal struggle, are pushed back upon themselves, and by a reversal of their whole functions, fester to gangrene, to death; and instead of what was but just now the delight and boast of the creation, there will be cast out in the face of the sun, a bloated, putrid, noisome carcass,

full of stench and poison, an offence, a horror, a lesson to the workil.

In ay opinion, we ought not to wait for the fruitless instruction of calamity to inquire into the abuses which bring upon us ruin in the worst of forms, in the loss of our fame and virtue. But the right honourable gentleman [Mr. Dundas,] says, in answer to all the powerful arguments of my honourable friend~" that this inquiry is of a delicate nature, and that the state will suffer detriment by the exposure of this transaction.” But it is esposed; it is perfectly known in every member, in every particle, and in every way, except that which may lead to a remedy. He knows that the papers of correspondence are printed, and that they are in every hand.

He and delicacy are a rare and singular coalition. He thinks that to divulge our Indian politics, may be highly dangerous. He! the mover! the chairman! the reporter of the committee of secrecy! he that brought forth in the utmost detail, in several vast, printed folios, the most recondite parts of the politics, the military, the revenues of the British empire in India. With six great chopping bastards, each as lusty as an infant Hercules, this delicate creature blushes at the sight of his new bridegroom, assumes a virgin delicacy; or, to use a more fit, as well as a more poetic comparison, the person so squeamish, so timid, so trembling lest the winds of heaven should visit too roughly, is expanded to broad sunshine, exposed like the sow of imperial augury, lying in the mud with all the prodigies of her fertility about her, as evidence of her delicate amours—Triginta capitum foetus enixa jacebat, alba solo recubans albi circum ubera nati.

Whilst discovery of the misgovernment of others led to his own power, it was wise to inquire ; it was safe to publish : there was then no delicacy; there was then no danger. But when his object is obtained, and in his imitation he has outdone the crimes that he had reprobated in volumes of reports, and in sheets of bills of pains and penalties ; then concealment becomes prudence; and it concerns the safety of the state, that we should not know, in a mode of parliamentary cognizance, what all the world knows but too well, that is, in wiiat manner he chooses to dispose of the public revenues to the creatures of his politics.

The debate has been long, and as much so on my part, at least as on the part of those who have spoken before me. But long as it is, the more material half of the subject has hardly been touched on; that is, the corrupt and destructive system to which this debt has been rendered subservient, and which seems to be pursued with at least as much vigour and regularity as ever. If I considered your

« ПредишнаНапред »