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recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to leave the whole Carnatic an everlasting monument of vengeance, and to put perpetual desolation as a barrier between him and those against whom the faith which holds the moral elements together was no protection. He became at length so confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no secret whatsoever of his dreadful resolution. Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their"common detestation against the creditors of the Nabob of Arcot, he drew, from every quarter, whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the art of destruction ; and, compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor, which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst, and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic.— Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants, flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered ; others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank or sacredness of function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and, amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity, in an unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities. But, escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine. The alms of the settlement, in this dreadful exigency, were certainly liberal ; and all was done by charity that private charity could do ; but it was a people in beggary; it was a nation which stretched out its hands for food. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by an hundred a day in the streets of Madras; every day seventy at least laid their bodies in the streets, or on the glacis of Tanjore, and expired of fami-kit, the granary of India. I was going to awake your justice towards this unhappy part of our fellowcitizens, by bringing before you some of the circumstances of this plague of hunger. Of all the calamities which beset and waylay the life of man, this comes the nearest to our heart, and is that wherein the proudest of us all feels himself to be nothing more than he is : but I find myself unable to manage it with decorum: these details are of a species of horror so nauseous and disgusting; they are so degrading to the sufferers and to the hearers; they are so humiliating to human nature itself; that, on better thoughts, I find it more advisable to throw a pall over this hideous object, and to leave it to your general conceptions. . For eighteen months, without intermission, this destruction raged from the gates of Madras to the gates of Tanjore ; and so completely did these masters in their art, Hyder Ali and his more ferocious son, absolve themselves of their impious vow, that, when the British armies traversed, as they did, the Carnatic for hundreds of miles in all directions, through the whole line of their march they did not see one man, not one woman, not one child, not one four-footed beast of any description whatever. One dead, uniform silence reigned over the whole region. With the inconsiderable exceptions of the narrow vicinage of some few forts, I wish to be understood as speaking literally. The Carnatic is a country not much inferior in extent to England. Figure to yourself, Mr. Speaker, the land in whose representative chair you sit ; figure to yourself the form and fashion of your sweet and cheerful country from Thames to Trent north and south, and from the Irish to the German Sea east and west, emptied and embowelled (may God avert the omen of our crimes!) by so accomplished a desolation. . [2xtend your imagination a little further, and then suppose your Ministers taking a survey of this scene of waste and desolation: what would be your thoughts, if you should be informed that they were computing how much had been the amount of the excises, how much the customs, how much the land and malt tax, in order that they might charge (take it in the most favourable light) for public service, upon the relics of the satiated vengeance of relentless enemies, the whole of what England had yielded in the most exuberant seasons of peace and abundance?" What would you call it? To call it tyranny sublimed into mad
6 Rather obscure, perhaps. The meaning seems to be, that the British Ministry took measures for exacting, or extorting, from what had been left by the glutted vengeance of enemies, as much revenue as England had yielded in the most productive seasons. William Pitt the younger was at that time Prime Minister; but the member of the Ministry at whom this great speech was chiefly aimed was the Right-Hon. Henry Dundas, afterwards Viscount Melville, and First Lord of the Admiralty, in which office his maalversation drew upon him an impeachment. He was for holding the revenues of the exhausted country as pledged or mortgaged for payment of the Nabob's debts, and also for using the imperial authority to enforce that payment, though the debts had been fraudulently contracted, or fabricated, in favour of private individuals, — individuals ness, would be too faint an image; yet this very madness is the principle upon which the Ministers at your right hand have proceeded in their estimate of the revenues of the Carnatic, when they were providing, not supply for the establishments of its protection, but rewards for the authors of its ruin. The Carnatic is not by the bounty of Nature a fertile soil. The general size of its cattle is proof enough that it is much otherwise. It is some days since I moved that a curious and interesting map, kept in the India House, should be laid before you. The India IIouse is not yet in readiness to send it; I have therefore brought down my own copy, and there it lies for the use of any gentleman who may think such a matter worthy of his attention. It is indeed a noble map, and of noble things; but it is decisive against the golden dreams and sanguine speculations of a varice run mad. In addition to what you know must be the case in every part of the world, (the necessity of a previous provision of habitation, seed, stock, capital,) that map will show you that the uses of the influences of heaven itself are in that country a work of art. The Carnatic is refreshed by few or no living brooks or running streams, and it has rain only at a season; but its product of rice exacts the use of water subject to perpetual command. This is the national bank of the Carnatic, on which it must have a perpetual credit, or it perishes irretrievably. For that reason, in the happier times of India, a number, almost incredible, of reservoirs have been made in chosen places throughout the whole country: they are formed for the greater part of mounds of earth and stones, with sluices of solid masonry; the whole constructed with admirable skill and labour, and maintained at a mighty charge. In the territory contained in that map alone, I have been at the trouble of reckoning the reservoirs, and they amount to upwards of eleven hundred, from the extent of two or three acres to five miles in circuit. From these reservoirs currents are occasionally drawn over the fields, and these water-courses again call for a considerable expense to keep them properly scoured and duly levelled. Taking the district in that map as a measure, there cannot be in the Carnatic and Tanjore fewer than ten thousand of these reservoirs of the larger and middling dimensions, to say nothing of those for domestic services and the uses of religious purification. These are not the enterprises of your power, nor in a style of magnificence suited to the taste of your Minister. These are the monuments of real kings, who were the fathers of their people; testators to a posterity which they
in the employment indeed of the East India Company, but acting without the consent or knowledge of their employers.
embraced as their own. These are the grand sepulchres built by ambition; but by the ambition of an insatiable benevolence, which, not contented with reigning in the dispensation of happiness during the contracted term of human life, had strained, with all the reachings and graspings of a vivacious mind, to extend the dominion of their bounty beyond the limits of nature, and to perpetuate themselves through generations of generations, the guardians, the protectors, the nourishers of mankind. Long before the late invasion, the persons who are objects of the grant of public money now before you had so diverted the supply of the pious funds of culture and population, that everywhere the reservoirs were fallen into a miserable decay. But after those domestic enemies had provoked the entry of a cruel foreign foe into the country, he did not leave it, until his revenge had completed the destruction begun by their avarice. Few, very few indeed, of these magazines of water that are not either totally destroyed, or cut through with such gaps as to require a serious attention and much cost to reëstablish them, as the means of present subsistence to the people, and of future revenue to the State. What, Sir, would a virtuous and enlightened Ministry do on the view of the ruins of such works before them,-on the view of such a chasm of desolation as that which yawned in the midst of those countries to the north and south which still bore some vestiges of cultivation ? They would have reduced all their most necessary establishments; they would have suspended the justest payments; they would have employed every shilling derived from the producing, to reanimate the powers of the unproductive, parts. While they were performing this fundamental duty, whilst they were celebrating these mysteries of justice and humanity, they would have told the corps of fictitious creditors, whose crimes were their claims, that they must keep an awful distance ; that they must silence their inauspicious tongues; that they must hold off their profane, unhallowed paws from this holy work: they would have proclaimed, with a voice that should make itself heard, that on every country the first creditor is the plough ; that this original, indefeasible claim Supersedes every other demand. This is what a wise and virtuous Ministry would have done and said. This, therefore, is what our Minister could never think of saying or doing. A Ministry of another kind would have first improved the country, and have thus laid a solid foundation for future opulence and future force. But, on this grand point of the restoration of the country, there is not one syllable to be found in the correspondence of our Ministers, from the first to the last : they felt nothing for a land desolated
by fire, sword, and famine; their sympathies took another direction : they were touched with pity for bribery, so long tormented with a fruitless itching of its palms; their bowels yearned for usury, that had long missed the harvest of its returning months; 7 they felt for peculation, which had been for So many years raking in the dust of an empty treasury; they were melted into compassion for rapine and oppression, licking their dry, parched, unbloody jaws. These were the objects of their solicitude. These were the necessities for which they were studious to provide.—Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts, 1785.
DNLAWFULNESS OF ARBITRARY POWER.8
MY LORDs, you have now heard the principles on which Mr. Hastings governs the part of Asia subjected to the British empire. You have heard his opinion of the mean and depraved state of those who are subject to it. You have heard his lecture upon arbitrary power, which he states to be the Constitution of Asia. You hear the application he makes of it; and you hear the practices which he employs to justify it, and who the persons were on whose authority he relies, and whose example he professes to follow. In the first place your Lordships will be astonished at the audacity with which he speaks of his own administration, as if he was reading a speculative lecture on the evils attendant upon some vicious system of foreign government in which he had no sort of concern whatsoever. And then, when in this speculative way he has established, or thinks
7 Interest in India was rated by the month. It appears, from other parts of the speech, that the interest on these alleged loans to the Nabob was sometimes at the rate of two or three per cent a-month. Perhaps I ought to state that at the time in question these loans had reached the sum of several millions sterling; and that, to pay this enormous, unauthorized, fraudulent, and probably, to a great extent, fictitious indebtedness, or at least the exorbitant interest on it, Dundas had set himself to the work of providing funds at the public expense: as Burke puts it, “A debt of millions, in favour of a set of men whose names, with a few exceptions, are either buried in the obscurity of their origin and talents, or dragged to light by the enormity of their crimes.”
8 This and the pieces which follow it are from Burke's great speeches in the arraignment and trial of Warren Hastings. IIis opening speech occupied four days in the delivery; and this passage on arbitrary power is from his speech on the second day. — I suppose the reader will of course understand that the House of Lords was the court for trying the impeachment, just as the National Senate is in like cases with us. Iłurke was chief Manager for the IIouse of Commons in conducting the trial. — The opening speech was begun on Friday the 15th and finished on Tuesday the 19th of February, 1788.