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the foundation on which they placed the necessity for the establishment of the Chap. VII. Committee. The picture which they drew of these corruptions exhibited, it is ^""""^ *
true, the most hideous and the most disgusting features. But the impartial judge will probably find, that the interest of the Committee to make out the appearance of a strong necessity for investing themselves with extraordinary powers, after the original cause for them had ceased to exist, had some influence on their delineations. In the letter, addressed to the Committee, with which Lord Clive opened their proceedings, on the 7th of May, "A very few days," he says, "are elapsed since our arrival; and yet, if we consider what has already come to our knowledge, we cannot hesitate a moment upon the necessity of assuming the power that is in us of conducting, as a Select Committee, the affairs both civil and military of this settlement. What do we hear of, what do we see, but anarchy, confusion, and, what is worse, an almost general corruption.— Happy, I am sure, you would have been, as well as myself, had the late conduct of affairs been so irreproachable as to have permitted them still to continue in the hands of the Governor and Council." Yet one would imagine that four days afforded not a very ample space for collecting a satisfactory body of evidence on so extensive a field, especially if we must believe the noble declarer, that the determination to which it led was a disagreeable one.
"Three paths," observed his Lordship, when afterwards defending himself, Views of Clive. "were before me. 1. One was strewed with abundance of fair advantages. I might have put myself at the head of the government as I found it. I might have encouraged the resolution which the gentlemen had taken not to execute the new covenants which prohibited the receipt of presents: and although I had executed the covenants myself, I might have contrived to return to England with an immense fortune, infamously added to the one before honourably obtained.—2. Finding my powers disputed, I might in despair have given up the commonwealth, and have left Bengal without making an effort to save it. Such a conduct would have been deemed the effect of folly and cowardice.-*3. The third path was intricate. Dangers and difficulties were on every side. But I resolved to pursue it. In short, I was determined to do my duty to the public, although I should incur the odium of the whole settlement. The welfare of the Company required a vigorous exertion, and I took the resolution of cleansing the Augean Stable." * Another circumstance deserves to be mentioned, of which Lord Clive takes * Speech, ut supra, p. 4.
Book IV. no notice in his speech, though on other occasions it is not forgotten; that 'without the formation of the Select Committee, he would, as Governor, have 1765. enjoyed only a shadow, or at best a small fragment of power. In his letter to the Directors, dated the 30th of February, in which he describes the transactions of the first five months of his new administration, he says, " The gentlemen in Council of late years, at Bengal, seem to have been actuated, in every consultation, by a very obstinate and mischievous spirit. The office of Governor has been in a manner hunted down, stripped of its dignity, and then divided into sixteen shares,"—the number of persons of whom the board consisted.— "Two paths," he observes, in nearly the same language as was afterwards used in his speech, "were evidently open to me: The one smooth, and strewed with abundance of rich advantages that might easily be picked up; the other untrodden, and every step opposed with obstacles. I might have taken charge of the government upon the same footing on which I found it; that is, I might have enjoyed the name of Governor, and have suffered the honour, importance, and dignity of the post to continue in their state of annihilation. I might have contented myself, as others had before me, with being a cypher, or, what is little better, the first among sixteen equals: And I might have allowed this passive conduct to be attended with the usual douceur of sharing largely with the rest of the gentlemen in all donations, perquisites, &c. arising from the absolute government and disposal of all places in the revenues of this opulent kingdom; by which means I might soon have acquired an immense addition to my fortune, notwithstanding the obligations in the new covenants; for the man who can so easily get over the bar of conscience as to receive presents after the execution of them, will not scruple to make use of any evasions that may protect him from the consequence. The settlement, in general, would thus have been my friends, and only the natives of the country my enemies." It deserves to be remarked, as twice declared by this celebrated Governor, that the covenants against the receipt of presents afforded no effectual security, and might be violated, by the connivance and participation of the presiding individuals, to any amount. It follows, as a pretty necessary consequence, that independent of that connivance they might in many instances be violated to a considerable amount. His descrip- The language, in which Clive describes the corruption of the Company's state of the government and the conduct of their servants, at this era, ought to be received affair3''S ^th caution; and, doubtless, with considerable deductions: though it is an historical document, or rather a matter of fact, singularly curious and important. *' Upon my arrival," he tells the Directors, "I am sorry to say, I found your Chap. affairs in a condition so nearly desperate, as would have alarmed any set of men, v whose sense of honour and duty to their employers had not been estranged by the too eager pursuit of their own immediate advantages. The sudden, and among many, the unwarrantable acquisition of riches, had introduced luxury in every shape, and in its most pernicious excess. These two enormous evils went hand in hand together through the whole presidency, infecting almost every member of each department. Every inferior seemed to have grasped at wealth, that he might be enabled to assume that spirit of profusion, which was now the only distinction between him and his superior. Thus all distinction ceased; and every rank became, in a manner, upon an equality. Nor was this the end of the mischief; for a contest of such a nature among our servants necessarily destroyed all proportion between their wants and the honest means of satisfying them. In a country where money is plenty, where fear is the principle of government, and where your arms are ever victorious, it is no wonder that the lust of riches should readily embrace the proffered means of its gratification, or that the instruments of your power should avail themselves of their authority, and proceed even to extortion in those cases where simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity. Examples of this sort, set by superiors, could not fail of being followed in a proportionable degree by inferiors. The evil was contagious, and spread among the civil and military, down to the writer, the ensign, and the free merchant." * The language of the Directors held pace with that of the Governor. In their answer to the letter from which this extract is taken, they say, "We have the strongest sense of the deplorable state to which our affairs were on the point of being reduced, from the corruption and rapacity of our servants, and the universal depravity of manners throughout the settlement. The general relaxation of all discipline and obedience, both military and civil, was hastily tending to a dissolution of all government. Our letter to the Select
* Letter, dated Calcutta, 30th September, 1765, from Lord Clive to the Court of Directors, Third Report of Committee, 1772, Appendix, No. 73. In the letter of the same date from the Select Committee, which was merely another letter from Clive, by whose nod the other Members of the Committee were governed, they express themselves bound "to lay open to the view of the Directors a series of transactions too notoriously known to be suppressed, and too affecting to their interest, to the national character, and to the existence of the Company in Bengal, to escape unnoticed and uncensured;—transactions which seem to demonstrate that every spring of this government was smeared with corruption; that principles of rapacity and oppression universally prevailed, and that every spark of sentiment and public spirit was lost and extinguished in the unbounded lust of unmerited wealth." Ib. App. No. 86. • - .
Book IV. Committee expresses our sentiments of what has been obtained by way of donations; and to that we must add, that we think the vast fortunes acquired in the inland trade have been obtained by a scene of the most tyrannic and oppressive conduct that ever was known in any age or country." * The orders of The letters from the Court of Directors, commanding the immediate and Directors for total abandonment of the inland trade and the execution of the new covenants fnland1trade!16 against the receipt of presents, had arrived on the 24th of January, 1765, preand executing vious to the formation of the treaty with Nujeem ad Dowla. Yet so far was
covenants for » °
the rejection the inland trade from being abandoned, that the unlimited exercise of it, free
of presents, «««•«• Phad been dis- from all duties except two and a half per cent. upon the article of salt; and along regarded. unmilite(i exercise, the prohibition, or what amounted to the prohibi
tion, of all other traders; the exaction of oppressive duties, from which the English were exempt; had been inserted, as leading articles, in the treaty. Again, as to what regarded the covenants; not only had presents upon the accession of Nujeem ad Dowla been received, with unabated alacrity, in defiance of them; but they remained unexecuted to that very hour. The Committee of the House of Commons could not discover from the records that the Governor had so much as brought them under the consultation of the Council Board; and it is certain that no notice whatsoever had been communicated to the other servants of the Company, that any such engagements were required.
The execution of the covenants, as a very easy and simple transaction, was one of the earliest of the measures of the Committee. They were signed, first by the Members of the Council, and the servants on the spot; and afterwards transmitted to the armies and factories, where they were immediately executed by every body; with one remarkable exception. General Carnac, when they arrived, distributed them to his officers, among whom the signature met with no evasion. But General Carnac himself, on the pretence that they were dated several months previous to the time at which intimation of them was conveyed to him, forbore privately to execute his own. A few weeks afterwards, upon his return to Calcutta, he signed it, indeed, without any scruple; but, in the interval, he had received a present of two lacs of rupees from the reduced and impoverished Emperor.
Presents re- The Nabob, Nujeem ad Dowla, hastened to Calcutta, upon the arrival of Mahomed11 Clive; and being exceedingly displeased with the restraints imposed upon him, Reza Khan. presented a letter of complaints. Mahomed Reza Khan, whose appointment to
• Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. 7*.
the office of Naib Subah was the most offensive to the Nabob of all the hard Chap. VII. conditions to which he had been compelled to submit, had given presents on ~v'
account of his elevation to the amount of nearly twenty lacs of rupees. There was nothing in this unusual or surprising; but the Nabob, who was eager to obtain the ground of an accusation against a man whose person and office were alike odious to him, complained of it as a dilapidation of his treasury. The servants of the Company, among whom the principal part of the money was distributed, were those who had the most strongly contested the authority of Clive's Committee; and they seem to have excited, by that opposition, a very warm resentment. The accusation was treated as a matter of great and serious importance. Some of the native officers engaged in the negotiation of the presents, though required only for the purpose of evidence, were put under arrest. A formal investigation was instituted. It was alleged that threats had been used to extort the gifts: And the Committee pronounced certain facts to be proved; but in their great forbearance reserved the decision to the Court of Directors. The servants, whose conduct was arraigned, solemnly denied the charge of using terror or force; and it is true that their declaration was opposed by only the testimony of a few natives, whose veracity is always questionable when they have the smallest interest to depart from the truth: who in the present case were not examined upon oath; were deeply interested in finding an apology for their own conduct, and had an exquisite feeling of the sentiments which prevailed towards the persons whom they accused in the breasts of those who now wielded the sceptre. There seems not, in reality, to have been any difference in the applications for presents on this and on former occasions, except perhaps in some little ceremoniousness of manner. A significant expression escapes from Verelst, who was an actor in the scene; "Mahomed Reza Khan," he says, "affirms that these sums were not voluntarily given. This the English gentlemen deny. Perhaps the reader, who considers the increased power of the English, may regard this as a verbal dispute."*
On the 25th of June Lord Clive departed from Calcutta, on a progress up clive's prothe country, for the purpose of forming a new arrangement with the Nabob for ^£try. ^ the government of the provinces, and of concluding a treaty of peace with Suja Dowla the Vizir.
* Verelst's View of the English Government in Bengal, p. 50. For the sums received, and the rate they bore to the sums received by the managers of the preceding revolutions, see the preceding table, p. 218.