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the Council wished to destroy, and send to the ribbet one whom the Council wished to protect. et such was the fact. The Supreme Court was, within the sphere of its own duties, altogether independent of the government. Hastings, with his usual sagacity, had seen how much advantage he might derive from possessing himself of this stronghold, and he had acted accordingly. The judges, especially the chief justice, were hostile to the majority of the Council. The time had now come for putting this formidable machinery in action. On a sudden, Calcutta was astounded by the news that Nuncomar had been taken up on a charge of felony, committed, and thrown into the common jail. The crime imputed to him was, that six years before he had forged a bond. The ostensible prosecutor was a native. But it was then and still is the opinion of everybody—idiots and biographers excepted—that Hastings was the real mover in the business. The rage of the majority rose to the highest point. They protested against the proceedings of the Supreme Court, and sent several urgent messengers to the judges, demanding that Nuncomar should be admitted to bail. The judges returned haughty and resolute answers. All that the Council could do, was to heap honours and enoluments on the family of Nuncomar; and this they did. In the mean time the assizes commenced; a true bill was found; and Nuncomar was brought before Sir Elijah Impey and a jury, composed of Englishmen. A great quantity of contradictory swearing, and the necessity of having every word of the evidence interpreted, protracted the trial to a most unusual length. At last, a verdict of guilty was returned, and the Chief Justice pronounced sentence of death on the prisoner. Mr. Gleig is so strangely ignorant as to imagine that the judges had no further discretion in the case, and that the power of extending mercy to Nuncomar resided with the Council. He therefore throws on Francis, and Francis's party, the whole blame of what followed. We should have thought that a gentleman who has published five or six bulky volumes on Indian affairs, might have taken the trouble to inform himself as to the fundamental principles of the Indian government. The Supreme Court had, under the Regulating Act, the power to respite criminals till the pleasure of the crown should be known. The Council had, at that time, no power to interfere. That Impey ought to have respited Nuncomar, we hold to be perfectly clear. Whether the whole proceeding was not illegal, is a question. But it is certain that, whatever may have been, according to technical rules of construction, the effect of the statute under which the trial took place, it was most unjust to hang a Hindoo for forgery. The law which inade torgery capital in England, was passed without the smallest reference to the state of society in India. It was unknown to the natives of India. It had never been put in execution among them-certainly not for want of delinquents. It was in the highest degree shocking to all their notions. They were not accustomed to the distinction which many circumstances, peculiar to our own state of society, have led Vol. IV.-60
us to make between forgery and other kinds of cheating. The counterfeiting of a seal was, in their estimation, a common act of swindling; nor had it ever crossed their minds that it was to be punished as severely as gang-robbery or assassination. A just judge would, beyond all doubt, have reserved the case for the consideration of the sovereign. But Impey would not hear of mercy or delay. The excitement among all classes was great. Francis, and Francis's few English adherents, described the Governor-General and the Chief Justice as the worst of murderers. Clavering, it was said, swore that, even at the foot of the gallows, Nuncomar should be rescued. The bulk of the European society, though strongly attached to the Governor-General, could not but seei compassion for a man, who, with all his crimes, had so long filled so large a space in their sight—who had been great and powerful before the British empire in India began to exist—and to whom, in the old times, governors and members of Council, then mere commer cial factors, had paid court for protection. The feeling of the Hindoos was infinitely stronger. They were, indeed, not a people to strike one blow for their countryman. But his sentence filled them with sorrow and dismay. Tried even by their low standard of morality, he was a bad man. But, bad as he was, he was the head of their race and religion—a Brahmin of the Brahmins. He had inherited the purest and highest caste. He had practised, with the greatest punctuality, all those ceremonies to which the superstitious Bengalees ascribed far more importance than to the correct discharge of the social duties. They felt, therefore, as a devout Catholic in the dark ages would have felt, at seeing a prelate of the highest dignity sent to the gallows by a secular tribunal. According to their old national laws, a Brahmin could not be put to death for any crime whatever. And the crime for which Nuncome . was about to die was regarded by them in much the same light in which the selling of an unsound horse, for a sound price, is regarded by a Yorkshire jockey. . The Mohammedans alone appear to have seen with exultation the fate of the powerful Hindoo, who had attempted to rise by means of the ruin of Mohammed Reza Khan. The Mussulman historian of those times takes delight in aggravating the charge. He assures us, that in Nuncomar's house a casket was found containing counterfeits of the seals of all the richest men of the province. We have never fallen in with any other authority for this story, which, in itself, is by no means iniprobable. The day drew near, and Nuncomar prepared himself to die, with that quiet fortitude with which the Bengalee, so effeminately timid in personal conflict, often encounters calamities for which there is no remedy. The sheriff, with the humanity which is seldom wanting in an English gentleman, visited the prisoner on the eve of the execution, and assured him that no indulgence, consistent with the law, should be refused him. Nuncomar expressed his gratitude with great politeness and unaltered composure. Not a muscle of his face moved 2 R 2
Not a sigh broke from him. He put his finger to his forehead, and calmly said that fate would have its way, and that there was no resisting the pleasure of God. He sent his compliments to Francis, Clavering, and Monson, and charged them to protect Rajah Goordas, who was about to become the head of the Brahmins of Bengal. The sheriff withdrew, greatly agitated by what had passed, and Nuncomar sat composedly down to write notes and examine accounts. The next morning, before the sun was in his power, an immense concourse assembled round the place where the gallows had been set up. Grief and horror were on every face; yet, to the last, the multitude could hardly believe that the English really purposed to take the life of the great Brahmin. At length the mournful procession came through the crowd. Nuncomar sat up in his palanquin, and looked round him with unaltered serenity. He had just parted from those who were most nearly connected with him. Their cries and contortions had appalled the European ministers of justice, but had not produced the smallest effect on the iron stoicism of the prisoner. The only anxiety which he expressed was, that men of his own priestly caste might be in attendance to take charge of his corpse. He again desired to be remembered to his friends in the Council, mounted the scaffold with firmness, and gave the signal to the executioner. The moment that the drop fell, a howl of sorrow and despair rose from the innumerable spectators. Hundreds turned away their faces from the polluting sight, fled with loud wailings towards the Hoogley, and plunged into its holy waters, as if to purify themselves from the guilt of having looked on such a crime. These feeling were not confined to Calcutta. The whole province was greatly excited; and the population of Dacca, in particular, gave strong signs of grief and dismay. Of Impey's conduct, it is impossible to speak too severely. We have already said that, in our opinion, he acted unjustly in refusing to respite Nuncomar. No rational man can doubt that he took this course in order to gratify the Governor-General. If we had ever any doubts on that point, they would have been dispelled by a letter which Mr. Gleig has published. Hastings, three or four years later, described Impey as the man “to whose support he was at one time indebted for the safety of his fortune, honour, and reputation.” These strong words can refer only to the case of Nuncomar; and they must mean that Impey hanged Nuncomar in order to support Hastings. It is, therefore, our deliberate opinion, that Impey, sitting as a judge, put a man unjustly to death in order to serve a political purpose. But we look on the conduct of Hastings in a somewhat different light. He was struggling for fortune, honour, liberty—all that makes life valuable. He was beset by rancorous and unprincipled enemies. From his colleagues he
could expect no justice. He cannot be blamed
for wishing to crush his accusers. He was in leed bound to use only legitimate means for that end. But it was not strange that he should have thought any means legitimate which were pronounced legitimate by the sages of the law
—by men whose peculiar duty it was to deal justly between adversaries, and whose education might be supposed to have peculiarly quali fied them for the discharge of that duty. Nobody demands from a party the unbending equity of a judge. The reason that judges are appointed is, that even good men cannot be trusted to decide causes in which they are themselves concerned. Not a day passes on which an honest prosecutor does not ask for what none but a dishonest tribunal would grant. It is too much to expect that any man, when his dearest interests are at stake, and his strongest passions excited, will, as against himself, be more just than the sworn dispensers of justice. To take an analogous case from the history of our own island: Suppose the Lord Stafford, when in the Tower on suspicion of being concerned in the Popish plot, had been apprized that Titus Oates had done something which might, by a questionable construction, be brought under the head of felony. Should we severely blame Lord Stafford, in the supposed case, for causing a prosecution to be instituted, for furnishing funds, for using all his influence to intercept the mercy of the crown 1 We think not. If a judge, indeed, from favour to the Catholic lord, were to strain the law in order to hang Oates, such a judge would richly deserve impeachment. But it does not appear to us that the Catholic lord, by bringing the case before the judge for decision, would materially overstep the limits of a just self-defence. While, therefore, we have not the least doubt that this memorable execution is to be attributed to Hastings, we doubt whether it can with justice be reckoned among his crimes. That his conduct was dictated by a profound policy, is evident. He was in a minority in Council. It was possible that he might long be in a minority. He knew the native character well. He knew in what abundance accusations are certain to flow in against the most innocent inhabitant of India who is under the frown of power. There was not in the whole black population of Bengal, a placeholder, a place-hunter, a government tenant, who did not think that he might better himsels by sending up a deposition against the Governor-General. Under these circumstances, the persecuted statesman resolved to teach the whole crew of accusers and witnesses, that, though in a minority at the Council-board, he was still to be feared. The lesson which he gave them was indeed one not to be forgotten. The head of the combination which had been formed against him, the richest, the most powerful, the most artful of the Hindoos, distinguished by the favour of those who then held the government, fenced round by the superstitious reverence of millions, was hanged in broad day before many thousand people. Every thing that could make the warning impressive—dignity in the sufferer, solemnity in the proceeding—was found in this case. The helpless rage and vain struggles of the Council made the triumph more signal. From that moment the conviction of every native was, that it was safer to take the part of Hastings in a minority, than that of Francis in a majority
and that he who was so venturous as to join in running down the Governor-General, might chance, in the phrase of the Eastern poet, to find a tiger, while beating the jungle for a deer. The voices of a thousand informers were silenced in an instant. From that time, whatever difficulties Hastings might have to encounter, he was never molested by accusations from natives of India. It is a remarkable circumstance, that one of the letters of Hastings to Dr. Johnson, bears date a very few hours after the death of Nuncomar. While the whole settlement was in commotion, — while a mighty and ancient priesthood were weeping over the remains of their chief—the conqueror in that deadly grapple sat down, with characteristic self-possession, to write about the Tour to the Hebrides, Jones's Persian Grammar, and the history, traditions, arts, and natural productions of India! In the mean time, intelligence of the Rohilla war, and of the first disputes between Hastings and his colleagues, had reached London. The Directors took part with the majority, and sent out a letter filled with severe reflections on the conduct of Hastings. They condemned, in strong but just terms, the iniquity of undertaking offensive wars merely for the sake of pecuniary advantages. But they utterly forgot that, if Hastings had by illicit means obtained pecuniary advantages, he had done so, not for his own benefit, but in order to meet their demands. To enjoin honesty, and to insist in having what could not be honestly got, was then the constant practice of the Company. As I,ady Macbeth says of her husband, they “would not play false, and yet would wrongly win." The Regulating Act, by which Hastings had been appointed Governor-General for five years, empowered the Crown to remove him on an address from the Company. Lord North was desirous to procure such an address. The three members of Council who had been sent out from England, were men of his own choice. General Clavering, in particular, was supported by a large parliamentary connection, such as no cabinet could be inclined to disoblige. The wish of the minister was to displace Hastings, and to put Clavering at the head of the government. In the Court of Directors parties were very nearly balanced; eleven voted against Hastings—ten for him. The Court of Proprietors was then convened. The great sale-room presented a singular appearance. Letters had been sent by the Secretary of the Treasury, exhorting all the supporters of government who held India stock to be in attendance, Lord Sandwich marshalled the friends of the administration with his usual dexterity and alertness. Fifty peers and privycouncillors, seldom seen so far eastward, were counted in the crowd. The debate lasted till midnight. The opponents of Hastings had a small superiority on the division; but a ballot was demanded, and the result was, that the Governor-General triumphed by a majority of above a hundred over the combined efforts of the Directors and the cabinet. The ministers were greatly exasperated by this defeat. Even Lord North lost his temper—no ordinary occurrence with him—and threatened to convoke
Parliament before Christmas, and to bring in a bill for depriving the Company of all political power, and for restricting it to its old business of trading in silks and teas. Colonel Macleane, who through all this conflict, had zealously supported the cause of Hastings, now thought that his employer was in imminent danger of being turned out, branded with parliamentary censure, perhaps prosecuted. The opinion of the crown lawyers had already been taken, respecting some parts of the Governor-General's conduct. It seemed to be high time to think of a secure and honourable retreat. Under these circumstances, Macleane thought himself justified in producing the resignation with which he had been intrusted. The instrument was not in very accurate form; but the Directors were too eager to be scrupulous. They accepted the resignation, fixed on Mr. Wheler, one of their own body, to succeed Hastings, and sent out orders that General Clavering, as senior member of Council, should exercise the functions of Governor-General till Mr. Wheler should arrive. But while these things were passing in England, a great change had taken place in Bengal. Monson was no more. Only four members of the government were left. Clavering and Francis were on the one side, Barwell and the Governor-General on the other; and the Governor-General had the casting vote. Hastings, who had been during two years destitute of all power and patronage, became at once absolute. He instantly proceeded to retaliate on his adversaries. Their measures were reversed; their creatures were displaced. A new valuation of the lands of Bengal, for the purposes of taxation, was ordered; and it was provided that the whole inquiry should be conducted by the Governor-General, and that all the letters relating to it should run in his name. He began, at the same time, to revolve vast plans of conquest and dominion; plans which he lived to see realized, though not by himself. His project was to form subordinary alliances with the native princes, particularly with those of Oude and Berar; and thus to make Britain the paramount power in India. While he was meditating these great designs, arrived the intelligence that he had ceased to be GovernorGeneral, that his resignation had been accepted, that Mr. Wheler was coming out immediately, and that, till Mr. Wheler arrived, the chair was to be filled by Clavering. Had Monson been still alive, Hastings would probably have retired without a struggle; but he has now the real master of British India, and he was not disposed to quit his high place. He asserted that he had never given any instructions which could warrant the steps which had been taken. What his instructions had been, he owned he had forgotten. If he had kept a copy of them, he had mislaid it. But he was certain that he had repeatedly declared to the Directors that he would not resign. He could not see how the court, possessed of that declaration from himsehf, could receive his resignation from the doubtful hands of an agent. If the resignation were invalid, all the proceedings which were founded on that resignation were
null, and Hastings was still Governor-General
structions, he would nevertheless have held himself bound by their acts, if Clavering had not attempted to seize the supreme power by violence. Whether this assertion were or were not true, it cannot be doubted that the imprudence of Clavering gave Hastings an advan
willing to part with a Governor, whose talents,
tage. The General sent for the keys of the experience, and resolution, enmity itself was fort and the treasury, took possession of the re- compelled to acknowledge.
cords, and held a Council at which Francis
attended. Hastings took the chair in another apartment, and Barwell sat with him. Each of the two parties had a plausible show of right. There was no authority entitled to their obedience within fifteen thousand miles. It seemed that there remained no way of settling the dispute except an appeal to arms; and from such an appeal Hastings, confident of his influence over his countrymen in India, was not inclined to shrink. He directed the officers of the garrison of Fort William, and of all the neighbouring stations, to obey no orders but his. At the same time, with admirable judgment, he offered to submit the case to the Supreme Court, and to abide by its decision. By making this proposition he risked nothing; yet it was a proposition which his opponents could hardly reject. Nobody could be treated as a criminal, for obeying what the judges had solemnly pronounced to be the lawful government. The boldest man would shrink from taking arms in defence of what the judges should pronounce to be usurpation. Clavering and Francis, after some delay, unwillingly consented to abide by the award of the court. The court pronounced that the resignation was invalid, and that therefore Hastings was still GovernorGeneral under the Regulating Act, and the deseated members of the Council, finding that the sense of the whole settlement was against them, acquiesced in the decision. About this time arrived the news that, after a suit which had lasted several years, the Franconian courts had decreed a divorce between Imhoff and his wise. The Baron left Calcutta, carrying with him the means of buying an estate in Saxony. The lady became Mrs. Hastings. The event was celebrated by great festivities, and all the most conspicuous persons at Calcutta, without distinction of parties, were invited to the Government-house. Clavering, as the Mohammedan chronicler telis the story, was sick in mind and body, and excused himself from joining the splendid assembly. But Hastings, whom, as it should seem, success in ambition and in love had put unto high humour, would take no denial. He went himself to the General's house, and at length brought his vanquished rival in triumph to the gay circle which surrounded the bride. The exertion was too much for a frame broken by mortification as well as by disease—Clavering died a few days later.
The crisis was indeed formidable. That great and victorious empire, on the throne of which George the Third had taken his seat eighteen years before, with brighter hopes than had attended the accession of any of the long line of English sovereigns, had, by the most senseless misgovernment, been brought to the verge of ruin. In America millions of Englishmen were at war with the country from which their blood, their language, their religion, and their institutions were derived; and to which, but a short time before, they had been as strongly attached as the inhabitants of Norfolk and Leicestershire. The great powers of Europe, humbled to the dust by the vigour and genius which had guided the councils of George the Second, now rejoiced in the prospect of a signal revenge. The time was approaching when our island, while struggling to keep down the United States of America, and pressed with a still nearer danger by the too just discontents of Ireland, was to be assailed by France, Spain, and Holland, and to be threatened by the armed neutrality of the Baltic; when even our maritime supremacy was to be in jeopardy; when hostile fleets were to command the Straits of Calpe and the Mexican Sea; when the British flag was to be scarcely able to protect the British Channel. Great as were the faults of Hastings, it was happy for our country that at that conjuncture, the most terrible through which she has ever passed, he was the ruler of her Indian dominions.
An attack by sea on Bengal was little to be apprehended. The danger was, that the European enemies of England might form an alliance with some native power—might furnish that power with troops, arms, and ammunition—and might thus assail our possessions on the side of the land. It was chiefly from the Mahrattas that Hastings anticipated danger. The original seat of that singular people was the wild range of hills which run along the western coast of India. In the reign of Aurungzebe the inhabitants of those regions, led by the great Sevajee, began to descend on the possessions of their wealthier and less warlike neighbours. The energy, ferocity, and cunning of the Mahrattas, soon made them the most conspicuous among the new powers which were generated by the corruption of the decaying monarchy. At first they were only robbers. They soon rose to the dignity of conquerors. Half the provinces of the empire which still reigns in Guzerat. The houses of Scindia and Holkar waxed great in Malwa. One adventurous captain made his nest on the impregnable rock of Gooti. Another became the lord of the thousand villages which are scattered among the green rice-fields of TanJore. That was the time, throughout India, of double government. The form and the power where everywhere separated. The Mussulman Nabobs, who had become sovereign princes— the Vizier in Oude, and the Nizam at Hydrabad—still called themselves the viceroys of the house of Tamerlane. In the same manner the Mahratta states, though really independent, pretended to be members of one empire; and acknowledged, by words and ceremonies, the supremacy of the heir of Sevajee—a roi fainéant who chewed bang, and toyed with dancing girls, in a state-prison at Sattara—and of his Peshwa or mayor of the palace, a great hereditary magistrate, who kept a court with kingly state at Poonah, and whose authority was obeyed in the spacious provinces of Aurungabad and Bejapoor. Some months before war was declared in Europe, the government of Bengal was alarmed by the news that a French adventurer, who passed for a man of quality, had arrived at Poonah. It was said that he had been received there with great distinction—that he had delivered to the Peshwa letters and presents from Louis the Sixteenth, and that a treaty, hostile to England, had been concluded between France and the Mahrattas. Hastings immediately resolved to strike the first blow. The title of the Peshwa was not undisputed. A portion of the Mahrattanation was favourable to a pretender. The GovernorGeneral determined to espouse this pretender's interest, to move an army across the peninsula of India, and to form a close alliance with the chief of the house of Bonsla, who ruled Berar, and who, in power and dignity, was inferior to none of the Mahratta princes. The army had marched, and the negotiations with Berar were in progress, when a letter from the English consul at Cairo, brought the news that war had been proclaimed both in London and Paris. All the measures which the crisis required were adopted by Hastings without a moment of delay. The French faclories in Bengal were seized. Orders were sent to Madras that Pondicherry should instantly be occupied. Near Calcutta, works were thrown up, which were thought to render the approach of a hostile force impossible. A maritime establishment was formed for the defence of the river. Nine new battalions of sepoys were raised, and a corps of native artillery was formed out of the hardy Lascars of the Bay of Bengal. Having made these arrangements, the Governor-General with calm confidence pronounced his presidency secure from all attack, unless the Mahrattas should march against it in conjunction with the French. The expedition which Hastings had sent westward was not so speedily or completely successful as most of his undertakings.
Wheler, who came out expecting to be Go- were turned into Mahratta principalities. Free
vernor-General, and was forced to content him- booters, sprung from low castes, and accustomself with a seat at the Council-board, generally led to menial employments, became mighty voted with F-ancis. But the Governor-General, Rajahs. The Bonslas, at the head of a band with Barwell's help and his own casting vote, of plunderers, occupied the vast, region of was still the master. Some change took place Berar. The Guicowar, which is, being interat this time in the feeling both of the Court of preted, the Herdsman, sounded that dynasty commanding-officer procrastinated. The au- neither Hastings nor Francis was destitute
thorities at Bombay blundered. But the Governor-General persevered. A new command er repaired the errors of his predecessor Several brilliant actions spread the military renown of the English through regions where no European flag had ever been seen. It is probable that, if a new and more formidable danger had not compelled Hastings to change his whole policy, his plans respecting the Mahratta empire would have been carried into complete effect. The authorities in England had wisely sent out to Bengal, as commander of the forces, and member of the Council, one of the most distinguished soldiers of that time. Sir Eyre Coote had, many years before, been conspicuous among the founders of the British Empire in the East. At the council of war which preceded the battle of Plassey, he earnestly recommended, in opposition to the majority, that daring course which, after some hesitation, was adopted, and which was crowned with such splendid success. He subsequently commanded in the south of India against the brave and unfortunate Lally, gained the decisive battle of Wandewash over the French and their native allies, took Pondicherry, and made the English power supreme in the Carnatic. Since those great exploits near twenty years had elapsed. Coote had no longer the bodily activity which he had shown in earlier days; nor was the vigour of his mind altogether unimpaired. He wifs capricious and fretful, and required much coaxing to keep him in goodIt must, we fear, be added, that the love of money had grown upon him, and that he thought more about his allowances, and less about his duties, than might have been expected from so eminent a member of so noble a profession. Still he was perhaps the a t officer that was then to be found in the Br army. Among the native soldiers his ni. was great and his influence unrivalled. N r is he yet forgotten by them. Now and then a white-bearded old sepoy may still be found, who loves to talk of Porto Novo and Pollilore. It is but a short time since one of those aged men came to present a memorial to an English officer, who holds one of the highest employments in India; a print of Coote hung in the room ; the veteran recognised at once that face and figure which he had not seen for more than half a century, and, forgetting his salam to the living, halted, drew himself up, lifted his hand, and with solemn reverence paid his military obeisance to the dead. Coote did not, like Barwell, vote constantly with the Governor-General; but he was by no means inclined to join in systematic opposition; and on most questions concurred with Hastings, who did his best, by assiduous courtship, and by readily granting the most exorbitant allowances, to gratify the strongest passions of the old soldier. It seemed likely at this time that a generai reconciliation would put an end to the quarre's which had, during some years, weakened and disgraced the government of Bengal. The dangers of the empire might well induce men of patriotic feeling—and of patriotic feeling,