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Pitt the explanation desired, but they had failed; and they had subjected themselves to imputations, which he thought but a poor return for their zeal and perseverance in a very painful ossice.
After some explanations on the part of Mr. Arden, Mr. Pennington maintained the pretensions of those who supported Ministry to incorrupt motives, and said, they were certainly as much entitled to have credit for their integrity as the other side of the House.
Mr. Powys said a few words in explanation of the conduct of those who had pursued the course lately taken by the House.
Mr. Rolle and Mr. Hammet spoke to the sincerity and 'purity of the Minister's friends, and particularly to their own motives.
The bill was read without farther conversation, ant! passed the Committee.
The House, in a Committee of Supply, voted 1,100,0001. for the extraordinaries of the navy.
After a short debate the bill for the removal of convicts was re-committed. > Mr. Eden. Mr. Eden entered into a minute investigation of the Report presented to the House by. the Court of Directors, stating the Company's accounts. He began by observing, that if Mr. Pitt's bill, for the better management of the Company, was not founded on the consent of the Proprietors, it was as decidedly a breach of the chartered privileges of the Company as the bill of his right honourable friend, which had met an unfair death in the House of Lords: on the other hand, if Mr. Pitt's bill was founded on consent, it clearly appeared upon the printed proceedings of the Proprietors, that such consent was founded on an express compact to give essential relief to the distresses of the Company. He had therefore thought it his duty to require the Directors to state what in their opinion would amount to an effectual relief, that the faith of Parliament and the public interests might not be pledged and rifqued to an unknown extent. The Directors, after near twenty days debate, had accordingly produced the present Report, to which he would not
give give either an inconsiderate encomium or a rash censure; but he could not hesitate to say, that whatever might be its merits or demerits, it was of the highest importance, and ought to have the most careful examination. Both sides of the House were interested in this taste. To the one side it was surely expedient to ascertain the dreadful responsibility with which they had charged themselves, by stifling for a year all measures respecting the Company, though they had unanimously allowed that Company to be in a state which required immediate attention, and no palliative remedies. To the other side he would fay, "It is true that your plan was founded on a principle of philanthropy, and on a desire to rescue multitudes of wretched nations from extreme oppression. The feelings of your countrymen have not been equally generous: distance of space has operated like to distance of time; and the miseries of distant empires have been considered with as much indisference as a piece of old history, the campaigns of Xerxes, or of Alexander. You thought you were rescuing the rights of men; your countrymen think that a charter framed to establish monopoly and create power is paramount to all the claims of justice, humanity, and national expediency. But you rested your measure also on the supposed bankruptcy of the Company. Here, then, you may shew how far that pretext was deserving of regard; and you may rely upon it, that the sensibility of those who cannot feel for the Antipodes, will be sussiciently awake to the interests of their own siresides." To both sides of the House it was surely a most important consideration to ascertain an account, the veracity of which might decide the fate of a great establishment, the wonder of the present. age, and future history — a trading Company, possessing, at 9000 miles distance, a dominion of immense extent, a territorial revenue of sive millions sterling, the exclusive commerce of half the globe, the command of an army of 60,000 men, and the despotic disposal of thirty millions of their fellow creatures! — Mr. Eden then proceeded to open the Report; and after desiring the House to remember that the Directors closed with a supposition that the dividend on the. Company's. stock would be continued at 8 per cent. and with an assertion that the Company is " not only solvent, but possessed of an immense property," he stated the following requisitions, which, in the opinions of the Directors, would prove an esfectual relief: — First, That the duties now due to the public, and amounting to 924,8621. may be paid in the
P p a course course of the present year; and that the duties to become due hereafter shall have different postponements, as stated in the report: on this he remarked, that such great risquet and actual inconveniencies ought not to be incurred by the public without due enquiry, and, perhaps, a collateral security, in a more immediate management of the Company's affairs; nor would he in any cafe consent to the postponement without payment of interest to the revenue of the kingdom. — Secondly, That the present unaccepted bills, amounting to 1,395,1531. shall be accepted, payable in three years after they should regularly fall due: a most strange proposition to be made by a solvent Company possessing immense property! It ought not to be tolerated or even mentioned in Parliament, unless accompanied by the specific voluntary consent of every bill-holder. He had indeed heard of a menace founded on the act of 1773, that the servants in India might draw bills, but the Directors were not t obliged to pay them; but this was the menace and the conduct of a swindler. The money of the bill-holders had been borrowed in India, and expended in the purchase of goods for the Company's investments: and shall the Company be permitted to divide the produce of those goods, whilst the individuals to whom it belongs may be ruined and starving, and in all events be left subject to a total loss from the ultimate bankruptcy of the Company? Such a breach of good faith would be fatal to the Company in future emergencies; it tended also to create a new pressure on the foreign bonds of the Company, and on the paper circulation of this kingdom. It might deserve remark too, that there was no provision rnade for the annual payment of interest on the bills, after it should regularly fall due, nor for the compound interest if it should be postponed; nor was any reason assigned for postponing the bills at present in England to those which may hereafter arrive. — Thirdly, The Report presumed, that some effectual remedy would be provided against smuggling. Mr. Eden admitted, that if this could be done in the single article of tea, the Company would be enabled to sell thirteen millions of pounds annually instead of six: and that such' a measure would not only save and restore the revenue of this kingdom, but would annihilate the foreign companies, which are at present the channels of remittance of private fortunes, collected in India by the Company's servants. But he added, that present appearances in this country were not very auspicious to great and vigorous measures, which
can only be attempted by strong and efficient governments. —*- Fourthly, That the Company should be able to sell the bonds lately paid in, and that this will greatly depend upon the discharge of the unfunded debt of the public, which at present weighs down every other circulation. Mr. Eden remarked on this, that the unfunded debt, including the army extraordinaries, now amounts to twenty-two millions, and that many arrears of the war still remain to be brought to account. He hoped and trusted that the Minister would very speedily bring this great consideration into discussion, as it affects not only the East-India Company, but the whole trading and landed interest. He recommended the serious perusal of the Eleventh Report of the Commissioners of -Accounts, and suggested, that at a proper time it might be expedient to refer the whole of those Reports to the consideration of a Select Committee. — Fifthly, That the loan of 30d,OOol. should be continued: he would only observe on this, th^t it was an additional risque proposed to the public, and a farther pressure on circulation. — Sixthly, That the lOO,oool. remaining unpaid of »the last renewal of the exclusive trade should not be demanded: he said, that there was no pretence for this, if founded on the exploded claims of the Manilla affair and the French prisoners; and if it was asked as a gift, it was absurd to expect such gifts from an indigent public to "a solvent Company possessing immense property." — In the conclusion it was modestly supposed, that the dividend would be continued at 8 per cent. To this he trusted the House would not consent in the present circumstances of the Company: six per cent, was the most that could be expected, and that from a regard to families of real Proprietors, rather than to another class, who came under the description of political Proprietors. Mr. Eden next stated the whole detail of the accounts, on which the Directors had founded their estimate; it is unnecessary to follow it, as the House consented to the appointment of a Select Committee for the investigation, We shall only observe, that he objected to the assertion, that the Company is not bound to discharge the bond debt in any limited time, which, he said, was the reverse of truth. He objected also to the statement of the foreign debt at four millions and a half only, and said, that it would be found to be at least seven millions, for the whole of which an interest must be paid of 8 or 9 per cent. He said it was absurd to suppose that the general bills from India, in the next six years,
would would amount only to i88,oool. and it was equally absurd to suppose, that the prosit on salt in Bengal, which the Directors had improperly considered as a commercial fund, would amount to 400,0001. a year, or even a fourth part of 'that sum. That no allowance was made for sea risque, which, on the cargoes amounting to eleven millions, could not be computed at less than 5 per cent. That the military charges were stated upon a visionary supposition of an immediate return of œconomy at the close of a most extensive war. That the balance due for victualling the King's (hips, pursuant to act of Parliament, was not brought to account. That credit was taken for near a million sterling, due from the Nabob of Arcot, which debt was known to be quite desperate. That these accounts varied in some points from others lately signed by the fame accountants. In the result, there could be no doubt that the whole matter was proper for the examination of a Select Committee, which he hoped would be appointed by the different parts of the House, on <e terms of fairness and equality," and conducted without any other view than to ascertain the truth, in a consideration of the highest importance.. He concluded with moving for a Select Committee. General Smith seconded the motion. The Chan- The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would not objeft eeilor ot the to the motion. He thought the House should receive all Exchequer. poffible information pn a subject of so much importance.
His motive for rising was, to explain that part of his speech on the introduction of his India bill, which seemed to have been misconceived by several honourable members. He had never mentioned the concurrence of the Company as the ground-work of his bill; for in fact they had given no express concurrence to any particular measure, unless in the considence which they reposed in the wisdom of the House, to make such arrangements, short of an annihilation of their charter, as might give satisfaction to Government, and secure prosperity to their trade, and to their territorial possessions in India. With regard to the solvency of the Company, he considered a Company to be solvent, when, from its possessions and various resources, it could pay twenty shillings in the pound on all the demands forthcoming against them. No good reason could, in his opinion, be given for the second motion of the honourable gentleman. He thought Proprietors of India stock by no means improper persons to 1 sit