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charge the company with the expense of the troops in question. But it was contended by the Board of Controul, established in the act of 1784, that the commissioners of that board were invested with the power of directing in case of a refusal of the Company, such expense to be defrayed out of the revenues ari. sing from their territorial possessions. Upon this case the court of directors had taken the advice of several eminent lawyers, who were of opinion that the Board of Controul was not in vested by the act of 1784, with the power contended for, and the directors had accordingly refused to take troops on board the ships that were about that time to sail for India. Upon this ground Mr. Pitt moved the house on the 25th of February for leave to bring in a bill for removing the doubts in question by declaring the intention of the legislature in the act of 1784, to have been agreeable to the construction put upon it by the Board of Controul. After a long debate this motion was carried without a division ; and on its second reading, upon the 3rd of March, the East India Company were heard by their counsel against the bill at the bar of the house.On the motion " that the speaker now leave the chair,” Sir Grey Cooper rose and op. posed it.This brought on a long debate.
Mr. SHERIDAN observed, that no man was more disposed to listen to the honorable baronet's (Sir James Johnstone) pleasantry than he was; and, though he wished that he had treated the present question with a little more gravity, he was convinced he was actuated by a serious principle at bottom. The honorable baronet had whimsically enough compared the difference between the Board of Control and the Court of Directors to a matrimonial wrangle. He had always been taught that it was not safe to interfere between man and wife-though he, for once, would hazard the experiment; trusting that it was a marriage according to the laws of Scotland, where the misconduct of either party was held to be a sufficient ground for divorce. .
With respect to the question before the house it was one of the most important that could come under their deliberation. It not only affected the charters of individuals, and of parties, but it went to affect the character of parliament, in violating the faith of its statutes, by a system as corrupt as it was dangerous to the most sacred and dearest interests
of the constitution of a free people. He admitted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated the object of the declaratory bill fully and fairly; but it was a bill, the principle of which he denied to be founded on the bill of the year 1784; and if it was not proved to be clearly so, it was impossible that the house could agree to adopt it as a law explanatory of the powers of that bill. If the Board of Control wished to grasp at new powers and new patronage, why did they not come forward with a new bill ? But they did not dare to meet the ques. tion openly and fairly; well knowing that it would have exposed them to all the calumny which they themselves had so liberally bestowed on the violators of chartered rights! The board had wisely adopted a mercantile idea in suffering the company to deliver up their rights and privileges by instalment.
But the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had, with his usual plausibility, declared, that they wished to be armed with no powers that were not subject to the control of parliament: What did this declaration amount to? They only wished to have the military patronage of India in their hands, under the control of parliament !-Control was, indeed, a word not in very good repute at present;
but to talk of the control of parliament over an army which was not paid by parliament, was too ridiculous to need any comment;—and yet such was the controlling power which the right honorable gentleman had desired might be set over him. Un. doubtedly, if he had spoken of the army on the British establishment, he would have been warranted in saying that it was subject to the control of parliament, because the king had no other means of paying that army but by coming to parliament for the money. Here the case was widely different, for the regiments now proposed to be sent to India were to be paid, not by parliament, but by the territorial revenues of the East India Company, But what was still more extraordinary (and he desired the house to attend to it) by the last clause of the act it was declared to be in the power of the commissioners for managing the affairs of India, to send as many troops as they might think necessary for the security of our possessions in that quarter of the globe. The clause was worded in the most unqualified terms; they might even send to India an army of ten thousand Hanoverians, or any number of mercenaries collected, as the Earl of Chatham emphatically said, from the shambles of Germany, thus giving to the executive govern. ment the monstrous and unheard-of patronage of a foreign army not paid by parliament. He desired gentlemen to pause before they came to a vote on a question pregnant with such danger to the state.
He confessed that he was not a little surprised to find a renewal of invectives against the bill brought forward by his right honorable friend (Mr. Fox.). Considering the strong measures which the present bill goes to embrace, he rather expected to have found the severity of some gentlemen softened into phrases more conciliatory. He remembered that an honorable gentleman had once compared the India board constituted by that bill, to seven doctors and eight apothecaries administering to the health of one poor patient—but their prescriptions were more palatable than the dose now mixing by the learned doctor of control, who, in the true spirit of quackery, desires his patient to take it; that he has no occasion to confine himself at home, but that he may safely go about his business as usual. This sovereign remedy, he said, would no doubt soon be adventured under the popular name of “ Scots pills for all sorts of oriental disorders.” Mr. Sheridan then took a comparative view of the merits of the two India bills, in which he paid a compliment to the manly and decided conduct of Mr. Fox, in opposition to the crooked policy which had led to the discussion of the question then before the house. It was very remarkable that when the right honorable gentleman introduced his bill, he prefaced it with a speech, declaring that it had been fully explained to the directors, and that they approved of it. This he now was inclined to doubt, otherwise it would be difficult to account for the declaratory bill. But perfection was not the lot of humanity. This was the seventh perfect system which had been introduced for the good government of India, and still there was much to do. .
Mr. Sheridan here read the titles of the various acts which have from time to time been introduced by Mr. Dundas, and as often repealed, altered, or amended; one of which was “an act to obviate all doubts which have arisen, or may in future arise, respecting the government of India.”
He then proceeded to animadvert on the interference of the Board of Control with the patronage of the company, not only in the civil and military, but in their commercial concerns; and read extracts from their correspondence in support of his assertion. He compared the Board of Control, the Court of Directors, and the body of proprietors, to the Dramatis Persone of Swift's Tale of a Tub, and concluded with an appeal to the feelings of the house on the situation of the officers of the EastIndia Company, who, if the present bill should pass into a law, would suffer degradation and disgrace, not only in their own opinion, but in the eyes of those whom they had often led on to victory.
The house divided; ayes (that the speaker leave the chair) 182 ; noes 125. The house then went into a committee, and Mr. Steele was ordered to bring up the report on the following day.
DECLARATORY EAST INDIA BILL,
Mr. Steele having intimated from the bar that he held in his hand the report of the committee of the whole house to whom the declararatory bill had been referred. The speaker put the question “ That the report be now brought up."
Mr. SHERIDAN declared that considering the ground of objection upon which he and his honorable friends had argued the bill, it was impossible for them to suffer the report to be brought up without a violation of all consistency whatever.
Mr. Pitt then rose and addressed the house at great length in support of the bill. In the course of his speech he observed that Mr. Sheridan, “ in most of whose speeches their was much fancy, in many shining wit, in others very ingenious argument, in all great eloquence, and in some few truths and justice, had on Wednesday remarked that it was extraordinary that he who had stood up the strenuous assertor of the prerogative of the crown, should profess himself an advocate for the bill of rights and the defender of the liberties of the people. That he had stood up the strenuous assertor of the just and legal prerogative of the crown when a most daring attempt had been made to invade that prerogative and trample on the constitutional rights of His Majesty, would ever be his pride and his boast ; and he could not help thinking that his having done so by no means disqualified him from standing forward as an advocate for the . rights and liberties of the subject when they appeared to be at all in danger.”
Mr. Sheridan observed that the right honorable gentleman who spoke last, had been pleased to compliment his fancy, his abilities, and his eloquence, but had added, that he seldom employed them either with reason or truth. He rejected such compliments with scorn; assuring the house, that whenever he troubled them, he endeavoured to do it consistently, with a most rigid regard to truth and justice. He conceived, he might with truth retort the accusation on that right honorable gentleman, because, if ever there was a person who deserved such compliments, that right honorable gentleman might advance the most unquestionable claims. No