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of Commons has frequently attacked, and will attack, (and they trust, in the end, with their wonted success,) that is, upon those which are corruptly and oppressively adminis. tered ; and this House do faithfully assure his Majesty, that we will correct, and, if necessary for the purpose, as far as in us lies, will wholly destroy, every species of power and authority exercised by British subjects to the oppression, wrong, and detriment, of the people, and to the impoverishment and desolation of the countries subject to it.
The propagators of the calumnies against that House of Parliament have been indefatigable, in exaggerating the supposed injury done to the East-India Company by the suspension of the authorities which they have, in every instance, abused; as if power had been wrested, by wrong and violence, from just and prudent hands : but they have, with equal care, concealed the weighty grounds and reasons on which that House had adopted the most moderate of all pos
The case of the East-India Company is different even from that of the greatest of these corporations. No monopoly of trade, beyond their own limits, is vested in the corporate body of any town or city in the kingdom. Even within these limits the monopoly is not general. The Company has the monopoly of the trade of half the world. The first corporation of the kingdom has for the object of its jurisdiction only a few matters of subordinate police. The East-India Company governs an empire through all its concerns, and all its departments, from the lowest office of economy to the highest councils of state-an empire to which Great Britain is in comparison but a respectable province. To leave these concerns without superior cognizance would be madness; to leave them to be judged in the courts below, on the principles of a confined jurisprudence, would be folly. It is well if the whole legislative power is competent to the correction of abuses, which are commensurate to the immensity of the object they affect. The idea of an absolute power has indeed its terrors; but that objection lies to every parliamentary proceeding; and as no other can regulate the abuses of such a charter, it is fittest that sovereign authority should be ex. ercised, where it is most likely to be attended with the most effectual correctives. These correctives are furnished by the nature and course of parliamentary proceedings, and by the infinitely diversified characters who compose the two Houses. In effect and virtually they form a vast number, variety, and succession of judges and jurors. The fulness, the freedom, and publicity, of discussion, leaves it easy to distinguish what are acts of power, and what the determinations of equity and reason. There prejudice corrects prejudice, and the different asperities of party zeal mitigate and neutralize each other. So far from violence being the general characteristic of the proceedings of parliament, whatever the beginnings of any parliamentary process may be, its general fault in the end is, that it is found incomplete and ineffectual.
sible expedients for rescuing the natives of India from oppression, and for saving the interest of the real and honest proprietors of their stock, as well as that great national commercial concern, from imminent ruin.
The ministers aforesaid have also caused it to be reported, that the House of Commons have confiscated the property of the East-India Company. It is the reverse of truth. The whole management was a trust for the proprietors, under their own inspection, (and it was so provided for in the bill,) and under the inspection of parliament. That bill, so far from confiscating the Company's property, was the only one which, for several years past, did not, in some shape or other, affect their property, or restrain them in the disposition of it.
It is proper that his Majesty and all his people should be informed, that the House of Commons have proceeded, with regard to the East-India Company, with a degree of care, circumspection, and deliberation, which has not been equalled in the history of parliamentary proceedings. For sixteen years the state and condition of that body has never been wholly out of their view : in the year 1767 the House took those objects into consideration, in a committee of the whole House : the business was pursued in the following year: in the year 1772, two committees were appointed for the same purpose, which examined into their affairs with much diligence, and made very ample reports : in the year 1773, the proceedings were carried to an act of parliament, which proved ineffectual to its purpose: the oppressions and abuses in India have since rather increased than diminished, on account of the greatness of the temptations, and convenience of the opportunities, which got the better of the legislative provisions calculated against ill practices, then in their beginnings; insomuch that, in 1781, two committees were again instituted, who have made seventeen Reports. It was upon the most minute, exact, and laborious collection and discussion of facts, that the late House of Commons proceeded in the reform which they attempted in the administration of India, but which bas been frustrated by ways and means the most dishonourable to his Majesty's government, and the most pernicious to the constitution of this kingdom. His Majesty was so sensible of the disorders in the Company's administration, that the consideration of that subject was no less than six times recommended to this House in speeches from the throne.
The result of the parliamentary inquiries has been, that the East-India Company was found totally corrupted, and totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, whether political or commercial; that the powers of war and peace given by the charter had been abused, by kindling hostilities in every quarter for the purposes of rapine; that almost all the treaties of peace they have made, have only given cause to so many breaches of public faith; that countries once the most flourishing are reduced to a state of indigence, decay, and depopulation, to the diminution of our strength, and to the infinite dishonour of our national character; that the laws of this kingdom are notoriously, and almost in every instance, despised; that the servants of the Company, by the purchase of qualifications to vote in the general court, and, at length, by getting the Company itself deeply in their debt, have obtained the entire and absolute mastery in the body, by which they ought to have been ruled and coerced. Thus their malversations in office are supported instead of being checked by the Company. The whole of the affairs of that body are reduced to a most perilous situation; and many millions of innocent and deserving men, who are under the protection of this nation, and who ought to be protected by it, are oppressed by a most despotic and rapacious tyranny. The Company and their servants, having strengthened themselves by this confederacy, have set at defiance the authority and admonitions of this House employed to reform them; and when this House had selected certain principal delinquents, whom they declared it the duty of the Company to recall, the Company held out its legal privileges against all reformation; positively refused to recall them; and supported those who had fallen under the just censure of this House, with new and stronger marks of countenance and approbation.
The late House discovering the reversed situation of the Company, by which the nominal servants are really the masters, and the offenders are become their own judges, thought fit to examine into the state of their commerce : and they have also discovered that their commercial affairs are in the greatest disorder, that their debts have accumulated beyond any present or obvious future means of payment, at least under the actual administration of their affairs ; that this condition of the East-India Company has begun to affect the sinking fund itself, on which the public credit of the kingdom rests, a million and upwards being due to the customs, which that House of Commons, whose intentions towards the Company have been so grossly misrepresented, were indulgent enough to respite. And thus, instead of confiscating their property, the Company received without interest (which in such a case had been before charged) the use of a very large sum of the public money. The revenues are under the peculiar care of this House, not only as the revenues originate from us, but as, on every failure of the funds set apart for support of the national credit, or to provide for the national strength and safety, the task of supplying every deficiency falls upon his Majesty's faithful Commons, this House must, in effect, tax the people. The House therefore, at every moment, incurs the hazard of becoming obnoxious to its constituents.
The enemies of the late House of Commons resolved, if possible, to bring on that event. They therefore endeavoured to misrepresent the provident means adopted by the House of Commons for keeping off this invidious necessity, as an attack on the rights of the East-India Company; for they well knew, that on the one hand, if, for want of proper regulation and relief, the Company should become insolvent, or even stop payment, the national credit and commerce would sustain a heavy blow : and that calamity would be justly imputed to parliament, which, after such long inquiries, and such frequent admonitions from his Majesty, had neg. lected so essential and so urgent an article of their duty: on the other hand they knew, that, wholly corrupted as the Company is, nothing effectual could be done to preserve that interest from ruin, without taking for a time the national objects of their trusts out of their hands; and then a cry would be industriously raised against the House of Commons, as depriving British subjects of their legal privileges. The restraint, being plain and simple, must be easily understood by those who would be brought with great difficulty to comprehend the intricate detail of matters of fact, which render this suspension of the administration of India absolutely
necessary on motives of justice, of policy, of public honour, and public safety.
The House of Commons had not been able to devise a method, by which the redress of grievances could be effected through the authors of those grievances; nor could they imagine how corruptions could be purified by the corrupters and the corrupted ; nor do we now conceive, how any reformation can proceed from the known abettors and supporters of the persons who have been guilty of the misdemeanors which parliament has reprobated, and who for their own ill purposes have given countenance to a false and delusive state of the Company's affairs, fabricated to mislead parliament, and to impose upon the nation.
Your Commons feel, with a just resentment, the inadequate estimate which your ministers have formed of the importance of this great concern. They call on us to act upon the principles of those who have not inquired into the subject; and to condemn those, who, with the most laudable diligence, have examined and scrutinized every part of it. The deliberations of parliament have been broken; the season of the year is unfavourable ; many of us are new members, who must be wholly unacquainted with the subject, which lies remote from the ordinary course of general information.
We are cautioned against an infringement of the constitution; and it is impossible to know, what the secret ad. visers of the crown, who have driven out the late ministers for their conduct in parliament, and have dissolved the late parliament for a pretended attack upon prerogative, will consider as such an infringement. We are not furnished with a rule, the observance of which can make us safe from the resentment of the crown, even by an implicit obedience to the dictates of the ministers who have advised that speech: we know not how soon those ministers may be disavowed;
1 The purpose of the misrepresentation being now completely answered, there is no doubt but the committee in this parliament, appointed by the ministers themselves, will justify the grounds upon which the last parliament proceeded ; and will lay open to the world the dreadful state of the Company's affairs, and the grossness of their own calumnies upon this head. By delay the new assembly is come into the disgraceful situation of allowing a dividend of eight per cent. by act of parliament, without the least matter before them to justify the granting of any dividend at all.