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enced the preceding session) that had lately been showering on his head.” On the first day of the session he moved an amendment to the Address, but did not press it, on account of the speech being silent on the affairs of India, subsequently supporting motions by other members on the same fruitful subject.
But his great effort, February 28th, was on the debts of the Nabob of Arcot, one of those remarkable outpourings of a most fertile and vigorous intellect, which, on an unpromising there, and under the disadvantage of rising last in the debate, seemed to combine all that could instruct, dazzle, and even overpower the hearer. It has been said to be in some parts florid. But in energy, in rhetorical address, in a minute knowledge of India, and especially the intricacies of the question itself, in the boldness of his attacks upon those of the Company's servants who were considered by their intrigues to have laid the foundation of these debts, in the clearness of his narrative and detail, it was rated equal to any thing ever delivered in Parliament. The oppressions exercised upon a neighbouring state, Tanjore, by the Nabob and his agents, had already produced much animadversion, and Mr. Burke being well informed of the circumstances from private information, as well as public documents, characterized the chief agent and counsellor of his Highness on these occasions, Mr. Paul B-d, as “the old betrayer, insulter, oppressor, and scourge, of a country which has for
been an object of an unremitted, but unhappily an unequal struggle, between the bounties of Providence to renovate and the wickedness of mankind to destroy." --Some of the spirit of the speech is said to have evaporated in the printed report.
Shortly after this period he suffered great agony of mind for some time, in consequence of a newspaper account of the loss, in a violent storm off the coast of Holland, of a Harwich packet, in which his son had embarked for the Continent. Fortunately the report proved untrue; he arrived in safety, and after visiting Holland, Flanders, and some of the adjoining states, was received with some distinction in the Court and capital of France. During his father's tenure of power, he had been appointed Joint-receiver with Dr. King of the revenues of the Crown Lands, held for life; and after the death of the Marquis of Rockingham, Earl Fitzwilliam had made him auditor of his accounts.
It was at the opening of the next session, January 24th, 1786, that Mr. Burke entered on one of the most tempestuous scenes of his life-nearly the whole of which was a political storm in the prosecution of Mr. Hastings, late Governor General of India, who had recently arrived in England.
Much consideration is necessary adequately to appreciate the degree of moral courage requisite for this undertaking, nothing so arduous or laborious having ever fallen to the lot of a member of the English legislature; for though the work was divided, much the greater part unavoidably fell to his share. It demanded not only uncommon ca
pacity of mind, but the most effective and popular and Parlimentary working talents; an utter disregard of difficulty; a vast fund of local knowledge; a perseverance in mental and bodily labour not to be conquered ; a contempt for obloquy and reproach of every kind; an acquaintance with the powers, interests, habits, actual condition, intrigues, and even villanies of nearly all India, such as no man, and scarcely any body of men out of the country, could be expected to possess.
The accused, besides, was no inconsiderable man. He was supposed to possess the personal good opinion of the King. * He had acquired the favour of the Board of Controul. He enjoyed the support of the India Company, which had profited by his sway
He had aggrandized the nation itself, which, satisfied with its acquisitions, felt little curiosity to inquire into the means; and in fact the subject, for two or three years before, would scarcely be listened to in Parliament. He had governed a vast empire for a series of years, and was of course enabled to profit by the weight, in all cases great, which authority bestows. He had not only amassed a competent fortune himself, but, what was of more consequence to his political interest, had enriched more men than any half dozen Prime Ministers of England put together. He had nécessarily many friends and a vast number of apologists, several in Parliament, others in different situations of influence, who, from the oblique mos rality with which all India questions were treated, scarcely considered as improprieties there, what in England they would have stigmatized as unquestionable crimes. In addition to all these, the evidence had to come from a vast distance; qualified by some who thought the blame ought rather to fall on the agents than on the principal; by some who hesitated to condemn proceedings which had been the source of their own gain; by some who shrunk from the odium of coming forward, or being considered as public accusers; all which circumstances were observed to operate powerfully in the subsequent evidence given upon the trial of the Governor General.
* During the trial a caricature was exhibited of Mr. Hastings trundling His Majesty in a wheelbarrow, with the label, “What a man buys he may
sell.” “ Well," said the King good-humouredly on seeing it, “I have been represented in many extraordinary situations, but in a wheelbarrow is really something new."
Against all these considerations, against the opinion of some of his own party, and in some degree against his own personal interests, Mr. Burke obstinately persevered, winning the nation over to his opinion before the end of the session, and what was of no less consequence, constraining the Minister, from marked hostility to the inquiry at first, to the observance of rigid impartiality. If he eventually failed in convicting the accused on account of legal technicalities, it is less matter for wonder; than that under so many obstacles, and in the teeth of so many powerful interests, he could carry the cause to a decision. But the sentence of the House of Lords was a matter of minor im
portance in his opinion, for the moment the impeachment was voted by the Commons, he felt that the great end for which he undertook it-public justice, was answered, s,
To those who knew little of his character, the motive for this gratuitous labour remained a puzzle, or was solved by the silly idea unworthy of notice, that it arose from a slight shown by the Governor General to Mr. William Bourke." It is possible, remembering how the inquiry was approved by Mr. Fox, that some latent feeling existed of indirectly justifying the India bill, by exposing more fully to general indignation the enormities that measure was meant to correct. But the great and direct inducement, beyond all question, was a detestation of any thing like
oppression or injustice inherent in the man; not simply as a moral principle, but an ingrafted feeling; ardent, and perhaps too unrestrained for the imposing station he occupied in the country, but which had been shown in all the chief actions of his life, public and private ; in upholding against oppression the Commons of America at one time and the King, Nobility, and Clergy of France, at another; in resenting the tyranny attempted to be exercised over him by Mr. Hamilton in the early part of his life, and what he considered the harshness, reproach, and injury shown him by Mr. Fox, and others of the party, towards its decline; in whose breast,” as he subsequently said of himself,
no anger, durable or vehement, has ever been kindled but by what he considered as tyranny.'