Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

logy for any allusion he might have made to him on a former day, since having drawn forth so masterly and instructive a speech, he considered himself as peculiarly happy in having been able to say any thing that had the good fortune to be productive of such consequences. The only attempt that had been made to reply to the learned gentleman had been by his majesty's solicitor-general, who, as the learned gentleman had stated clearly and unanswerably that the writ carried on the face of it its object and its end, had said, that the writ had a third, as well as the former two orders to the sheriff. It not only directed him to chuse a person at such a place to serve in parliament by such a time, but to take care that the person returned had the majority of legal votes at the election. Mr. Fox ridiculed this argument, and contended that it was equally weak and absurd.

He answered some parts of the master of the rolls and of Mr. Bearcroft's arguments; and took notice of what had been said by Mr. Bastard early in the debate, who had expressed his wishes that an act had been resorted to, rather than a motion to rescind the resolutions. Mr. Fox said, the reason why he did not take that method was, his extreme difficulty what sort of bill to frame for the purpose, and the risque that must necessarily be run as to the getting such a bill through the three estates. If a declaratory bill were brought in, it would be liable to every objection to which the present motion was liable; and if he were to bring in an enacting bill, perhaps it would be said by the first law authorities in the other House, (Lord Thurlow, for instance) 6 Why do you send your useless bills here? To what end cram your statute books with acts of parliament, pronouncing that to be law, which every body knows is law already," This, he thought, as it had been said on one occasion already, might be said again; and he was sure, it could not be said on any occasion more traly, than if he were to bring in an enacting bill of the nature in question, and that House were to pass it, and send it to the lords. Mr. Fox paid Lord Thurlow great compliments on his abilities, and said, there was also in the other House a professional peer, venerable for his years, venerable for his tearning, his talents, and his integrity, he meant his majesty's chief justice of the court of king's bench, whose opinions, he believed, were the same as his own upon the subject, though he did not speak from any secret communication. He rested his belief that they were so, from the noble and learned lord, who was many years since a practical lawyer, haying at that time uniformly acted upon the same ideas. Mr. Fox concluded with an earnest recommendation to the - House, to do away the errors they had committed, and reprobated the idea of its being derogatory to their honour to confess their mistake.

On a division, the numbers were,
Tellers.

Tellers. von SLord Maitland ?

7 | Sir James Erskine 137.-Noes Mr. Eliot

OES ( Mr. R. Smith. 242. So it passed in the negative. Mr. Fox, as soon as the division was over, urged the necessity of bringing in a bill to prevent the repetition of any such business as the Westminster scrutiny. That was now, he said, the only means of preventing the bad precedent of the Sth of June last being acted upon. Mr. Pitt assured him, it was his intention early after the holidays to bring in a bill for the purpose ; but he feared it would be a bill that the right honourable gentleman would oppose, as he certainly should not be for a declaratory but an enacting bill.

NABOB OF Arcot's DEBTS.

February 28.

IN Mr. Fox's East India bill, the new commissioners were directed,

without delay, to examine into the origin and justice of the claims made upon the nabob of Arcot; and a cautionary clause was inserted to forbid in future any of the company's servants to acquire mortgages, or have any pecuniary transactions with the native princes of India. In the regulating bill of the last session, the cautionary clause was omitted by Mr. Pitt, but the examina: tion into the nature and circumstances of the debt is referred to the court of directors, “ as far as the materials they are in pos. session of shall enable them to do;" and it is enacted, “ that they shall give such orders to their presidencies and servants abroad, for completing the investigation thereof, as the nature of the case shall require, and for establishing in concert with the said nabob, such funds for the discharge of those debts which shall appear to be justly due, according to their respective rights of priority, as shall be consistent with the rights of the said united company, the security of the creditors, and the honour and dignity of the said nabob.” The court of directors, in execution of the trust reposed in them, prepared orders to be sent to their council at Madras, in which, after stating the suspicious circumstances under which many of the debts appeared to them to have been contracted, they direct them, in obedience to the postive injunctions of the act, to proceed to a more complete investigation of the nature and origin thereof. These orders being communicated to the board of control, were rejected by them, and a new letter drawn up, in which

the claims of the creditors were all, with some little limitation, established, and a fund for their discharge assigned out of the revenues of the Carnatic, and the priority of payment settled amongst the several classes of creditors. At a meeting of such of the nabob's creditors as were in England, these orders were publicly read; and, on the ground of this proceeding, a motion was made in the House of Lords by the Earl of Carlisle, on the 18th of February, “ that there be laid before the House, copies or extracts of all letters or orders issued by the court of directors, in pursuance of the injunctions contained in the 37th and 38th clauses of the regulating act of the last session.” This motion, after a long debate, was rejected by the lords without a division. On the 28th, a motion to the same effect was made by Mr. Fox in the House of Commons. Upon which occasion,

Mr. Fox said the House was well acquainted with the motion which he was now about to propose. The public were also apprised, in some measure, of its intent and consequences. Whether the papers he meant to call for would be granted or not, he would not determine; but it was pretty obvious how the denial would be relished by the people in general. It seemed to be a maxim with his majesty's ministers to grant no species of information which the House had any right or reason for urging. An honourable friend of his had moved for a letter, in which it was roundly asserted, or rather avowed, that a conduct had been lately preferred by the company's servants abroad, which was in direct defiance of all the acts of parliament which had been enacted on the subject. Here was not only a gross violation of the order of the legislature, but an unequivocal avowal of that violation. When, therefore, a paper of such an extraordinary tendency was thus formally demanded, his majesty's servants would not grant it for this simple rea„son, that the substance of that letter was still under the consideration of the board of control. Whatever weight this might have with the House in that instance, it could have none in the present. For the object of his motion was specifically different, as it regarded papers, which recorded not any thing under contemplation, but that which was finished and complete. He augured ill of the board of control, from the moment they appeared thus peculiarly shy of their communications; and every ill omen which had presented itself to his mind, their conduct had literally justified. Why this aversion to submit their actions to the inspection of their countrymen ? Why thus treat the House, who had treated them with so much distinction, as to place the whole of this trust unconditionally in them? Did such a proceeding tend to conciliate attachment, or promote confidence? Or, was it not natural to all honest men, from the aspect which marked the whole of their conduct, that something was wrong, or at least doubtful? That no intelligence of any kind whatever, relating to the state of a country so remote, and so momentous to the British empire, had transpired in the speech from the throne, had a very suspicious appearance, and marked strongly the tenor of conduct adopted by the board of control, and the servants of the crown. How such a mode of secreting from the nation an object thus important, would suit the humour of the House, he would not pretend to say; but he saw it would produce infinite trouble to individuals, as well as much general speculation. Within these few years the public attention had naturally been much turned to the affairs of India, which were so involved with those of Great Britain, that whoever felt an interest in the former, could not regard the latter with indifference; in consequence therefore of this general curiosity and interest, three different plans had been proposed for better regulating the affairs of India. These plans he specified as having Mr. Dundas, Mr. Pitt, and himself, for their respective authors. The one proposed by the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer had alone received the sanction of the legislature. But he mentioned them only, to remark this circumstance to the House, that materially as all of them differed in most of the topics, and chiefly in the principle to which they were directed, yet on the subject of the nabob of Arcot's debts, they so far coincided as to express almost the same language, the same ideas. The bill brought in by the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer provided, that whatever debts were due to the servants of the company by any of the Indian princes, should be investigated, and made an object of special inquiry, prior to any step whatever being taken to effect payment. The whole provision to this purpose was highly deserving the attention of the House.

He then said, that the motion he was now about to urge, went to a direct crimination of the new board of commissioners, as acting in flat opposition to the late act of parliament, which, in this instance, at least, whatever otherwise he might think of the bill, was wise and unexceptionable. It was calculated to put a check where it was most wanted, and where it would certainly operate to most advantage. He did not think it necessary to state for the information of those who knew the history of India, what however would surprise those who did not. Nothing was more common, than for many persons who left this country, when neither in a condition to borrow great sums nor lend them, on their arrival in India, to become all at once creditors to the first princes in

The be exchequer the company de an

view, by his to them which the conte

separate paymenirit of the to. And

that country, and that to a very considerable amount. This well-known fact would naturally lead to many conjectures.

Thus much, at least, was obvious and indisputable; that such pecuniary obligations could not take place, but on the supposition, that some services were thus hired, which it was not the fashion, or convenient, to own.

He next went into a statement of the nabob of Arcot's debt, with a view, by illustrating the several articles of which it consisted, separately to shew which of these were most intitled to immediate payment. This, he contended, was in perfect conformity to the spirit of the late act, which instituted that inquiry should precede payment. And whatever should be the fate of the present motion, or the complaisance of the minister to the requisition, and the necessity of the House with respect to the information required, he was happy, as he trusted every member who wished well to the public would be, that a copy of the identical papers which he called for was before the public, and that Mr. Debrett had done that for the public which the board of control, as well as his majesty's ministers, had refused, though urged with great propriety and from motives of necessity, to do either for the company or parliament. To this publication he referred, as containing an accurate and systematic view of the subject. It was an inquiry, he said, to which every well-principled mind would unavoidably press to discover the origin, occasion and justice of those debts which were due to individuals from the nabob of Arcot. The board of directors, as they had often done, had ordered a strict inquisition to be made; and from the facts which should be brought forward, in consequence of that inquisition, some plan of arrangement might take place. But this new board of control had over-ruled the resolution of the directors; and in flat defiance of what the directors had thus formally enacted, had resolved forthwith to admit that the claims, which were at best suspicious, or unknown, should supersede those which were known and valid. This was the great question to which he begged the attention of the House, as also to the various papers which he should read on this subject. It was a circumstance which could hardly escape the attention of the House, that many of these debts bore date from the time when the presidency of Madras entered the Carnatic by an army, and attacked the kingdom of Tanjore, as it was well known, and at the express instance of the nabob of Arcot. He desired this fact might be seriously considered; he desired that it might be coupled with a variety of things which had since taken place, and especially with the order of the new board of commissioners, which his motion was intended to bring under the cognizance of the public and of the House.

« ZurückWeiter »