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Book V. and collectors for the Company's treasury; while large sums, it is affirmed, were privately sent to the Ameer ul Omrah.*
The known enmity of Sir Eyre Coote to Lord Macartney suggested the first stratagem for overturning the engagement with the President. A bait was offered, the attractions of which, it was supposed, the avidity of the General for power would not be able to resist. The Nabob offered to vest in his hands full authority over all the officers of his government and revenues. But the General too well knew what a frightful chaos his government was, to have any desire for the responsibility of so dangerous a trust. The Governor- As soon as it was found that the ear of the Governor-General was open to braces hu"11" representations against the Governor of Madras, it was a channel in which the '"Nabob and his instruments industriously plied. Lord Macartney was accused of wanting abilities to render the assignment of the revenues productive; of enhancing the disorders of the country; and, above all, of practising the utmost cruelty and oppression towards the Nabob and his family. Letters of this import were not only sent at various times in the Nabob's name to Bengal; but one was written and transmitted to the British King.
Sufficient encouragement having been received from the Governor-General, the Nabob ventured at last to solicit the restoration of his revenues, by the surrender of the assignment: And his former agents, Assam Khan and Mr. Richard Sullivan, were sent on a second mission to Bengal in January, 1783.
Their criminative representations against Macartney were received; and not only entered on the records, but immediately sent to England; without communication to the party accused; and of course without an opportunity afforded him of obviating their effects, however undeserved, by a single word of defence. A most singular examination of the Nabob's agents or advocates took place before the Supreme Council, on the subjects on which the Nabob prayed their interference. His agents were directed to state whatever they knew, and did state whatever they chose; matters of hearsay, as much as of perception; without a word of cross-examination, from an opposite party, to limit and correct the partial representation of interested reporters. After completing their statements, and not before, they were asked, if they would swear to the truth of what they had stated. The compulsion was almost irresistible. To have said, they would not swear, was to confess they had not spoken truth. Assam Khan, however, excused himself, on the plea that it was not honourable for a Mussulman to con
* Barrow's Life of Macartney, i. 241. firm what he said by an oath. Mr. Sullivan had no such apology, and therefore Chap. VIII. he took his oath, but with a tolerable latitude; that "to the best of his belief v •*—J
and remembrance, he had spoken the truth and nothing but the truth;" an oath which, if we have charity enough to believe to be in no degree strained, affected not any part of the truth, however material, which it might have suited and pleased him to suppress.
On the strength of this information, partial and interested as it was, a reso- Orders the lution was passed, on the 8th of January, 1783, to surrender the assignment the revenues into the hands of the Nabob: though not only had this assignment been for- ^j911TM511" merly approved and highly praised by the Governor-General and Council, as an act of equal utility and justice, but the delicacy of the Madras government, which endeavoured to accomplish the end by gentle means, was treated as too scrupulous, and the utility of a greater severity was particularly and strongly displayed.*
The interruption and disturbance, which the Nabob was able to give to the government of Madras, he was emboldened to carry to the greatest height, by the encouragement which he received from so high a quarter. And a viler display of hypocrisy is not upon record, than the language in which the author of the calamities of the whole Rohilla nation, of Cheyte Sing, and of the Begums of Oude, affected to bewail the cruelties which, he said, were practised upon the Nabobs of Carnatic and Oude, by Lord Macartney, and Mr. Bristow. "The condition," Mr. Hastings said,f "of both Princes is equally destitute and
* The reader should have before him the very words. In the letter from the Governor-General and Council to the President and Select Committee of Fort St. George, dated 5th April, 1782, they " regret," they say, "that the government of Madras should have suffered any consideration, even of delicacy towards the Nabob, or attention for those feelings which it might be natural for him to retain, to restrain them from availing themselves as effectually of the assignment as the desperate necessity which exacted such a concession inevitably demanded." They add a great compliment, and say, "Happy would it be for the national interests and reputation, if the same disinterested and forbearing spirit should invariably dictate the conduct of their affairs." They rise to the use of unlimited terms, instructing the Governor to assume every power necessary to render the assignment effective—" in a word, the whole sovereignty" (such is their expression) " if it shall be necessary to the exercise of such a charge, not admitting the interposition of any authority whatever, which may possibly impede it. If you continue the Nabob's agents; or suffer them to remain, under whatever denomination, in the actual or virtual control of the revenue, they are your servants, and you alone will be deemed responsible for all their acts. And your intercourse with the Nabob may and ought to be restricted to simple acts and expressions of kindness."
f In his Minute on the 2d of November, 1783, printed among the papers presented to the VOL. II. 4 S
Book V. equally oppressed; and the humiliation of their remonstrances shows them to be
v vCr1 equally hopeless of any redress but in the mercy of their oppressors." Orders were dispatched to Madras for the restoration of his revenues to the Nabob; of which the sixth part, which he had reserved to himself, as requisite for the maintenance of his family and dignity, had been exactly paid; and in reality yielded to him more money for his private purposes, than he had ever before enjoyed. It curiously happened, that, before the orders of the Supreme Council arrived at Madras, dispatches were received from the Court of Directors, which conveyed their approbation of the assignment, and commanded the assistance of the Bengal government to render it effectual; dispatches which, at the same time, contained, the condemnation of the transaction by which Mr. Sullivan was appointed an agent of the Supreme Council at the residence of the Nabob, and a declaration that the only organ of communication with Mahomed Ali was the Governor and Council of Madras. Upon this communication from the Court of Directors, the Governor and Council applied to the Supreme Council for the assistance which they were commanded to yield. After a hesitation of a few months, the Supreme Council resolved to disobey: And, informing the Governor and Council of Madras, that they assumed the right of judging for themselves, they repeated their orders of the 13th of January, and commanded the surrender of the assignment. Macartne^re- The consequences of obedience appeared to Lord Macartney of the most uses to c y. alarmmg description. The pay of the Madras army was at that moment seven months in arrear: from the resources of Carnatic alone was any supply to be obtained: not a single pagoda, since the death of Sir Eyre Coote, had been sent from Bengal: if the assignment was given up, the slender produce of the Circars which Mr. Hastings would have sacrificed would alone have remained: and neither the native, nor European troops, could be expected to bear any addition to the privations which they now endured. With a prospect of the actual dissolution of the government, if the revenues, on which every thing depended, were at so extraordinary a moment given up; and fully impressed with the conviction, that to surrender them to the Nabob was to render them unavailing to the defence of the country, defence which then fell upon the Company without
House of Commons on the 13th of March, 1786. For the opinion which Mr. Hastings entertained of the mischievous character of the Nabob, and of the intrigues of which he was at once the cause and the dupe, entertained as long as since the period when he was second in council at Madras; see the records of that Presidency in Rous's Appendix, p. 682*, 688*, 704, 717, 718, 729.
any resources, and oppressed them with a burden which they were unable to Chap. VIII. bear, he resolved to maintain the assignment, which, at the close of the second v "y^-^year, had yielded one million sterling from those very countries, which for eighteen months after the invasion of Hyder Ali had not contributed a pagoda toward the expenses of the war. With this disobedience, Mr. Hastings, whose administration was now so formidably assailed in England, and who was deeply concerned in the success with which he might perform the business of winding it up, found, either not leisure, or not inclination, to enter into contest.* After the unreserved exhibition, which I have accounted it my duty to make, of the evidence which came before me of the errors and vices of Mr. Hastings's administration, it is necessary, for the satisfaction of my own mind, and to save me from the fear of having given a more unfavourable conception than I intended of his character and conduct, to impress upon the reader the obligation of considering two things. The first is, that Mr. Hastings was placed in difficulties, and acted upon by temptations, such as few public men have been called upon to overcome: And of this the preceding history affords abundance of proof. The second is, that of no man, probably, who ever had a great share in the government of the world, was the public conduct so completely explored, and laid open to view. For the mode of transacting the business of the Company, almost wholly by writing; first, by written consultations in the Council; secondly, by written commands on the part of the Directors, and written statements of all that was done on the part of their servants in India; afforded a body of evidence, such as under no other government ever did or could exist: And this evidence was brought forward, with a completeness never before exemplified, first by the contentions of a powerful party in the Council in India; next by the inquiries of two searching committees of the House of Commons; in the third place by the production of almost every paper which could be supposed to throw light upon his conduct, during the discussions upon the proceedings relative to his impeachment in the House of Commons; lastly, by the production of papers upon the trial: all this elucidated and commented upon by the keenest spirits of the age; and for a long time without any interposition of power to screen his offences from detection. It will, probably, be found that evidence so complete never was brought to bear upon the public conduct of any great public actor before. And it is my firm conviction, that if we had the
• Papers presented to the House of Commons, pursuant to their orders of the 9th of February, 1803, regarding the affairs of the Carnatic, vol. ii.; Barrow's Life of Lord Macartney, i. 238 —280.
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Book V. advantage of viewing the conduct of other men, who have been as much engaged
■^~m~J in the conduct of public affairs, as completely naked, and stripped of all its dis1785*guises, as his, few of them would be found, whose character would present a higher claim to indulgence, in some respects, I think, even to applause. In point of ability, he is beyond all question the most eminent of the chief rulers whom the Company have ever employed; nor is there any one of them, who would not have succumbed, under the difficulties which, if he did not overcome, he at any rate sustained. He had no genius, any more than Clive, for schemes of policy including large views of the past, and large anticipations of the future; but he was hardly ever excelled in the skill of applying temporary expedients to temporary difficulties; in putting off the evil day; and in giving a fair complexion to the present one. He had not the forward and imposing audacity of Clive; but he had a calm firmness, which usually, by its constancy, wore out all resistance. He was the first, or among the first of the servants of the Company, who attempted to acquire any language of the natives, and who set on foot those liberal inquiries into the literature and institutions of the Hindus, which have led to the satisfactory knowledge of the present day. He had that great art of a ruler, which consists in attaching to the Governor those who are governed; for most assuredly his administration was popular, both with his countrymen and the natives, in Bengal