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Arr. XII. Mr Burke's Speech, on the motion made for Papers, re
lative to the Directors, for charging the Nabob of Arcot's pria wate debts to Europeans, on the Reventies of the Carnatic, Febrúray 28, 1785. With an Appendix, containing several Docu
ments. Octavo, 33. Dudfley, 1785. THE subject of this speech, is a letter written by the
Court of Directors, and altered by the Board of India Controul, of the 15th of October 1784, directing a certain annual referve to be made from the revenues of the Nabob of Arcot, for the liquidation of his debts to private individuals, and to the English East India Company. The measure was objected to by the Court of Directors, as placing credits of a private and a public nature upon the fame footing, or rather giving the former a preference over the latter. It was afterwards made a subject of animadverfion in both houses of parliament, and papers were moved for, by Mr. Fox and the Earl of Carlisle, tending to lead to a farther inquiry into the subject. A negative was put upori the motion by the friends of adminiftration.
Various arguments were urged by Mr. Dundas, the minifter, who took the lead in this measure, and who fingly ftood up in its defence upon this occafion, to prove the rectitude and wifdom of the conduct that had been adopted. It was generally admitted in the course of the debate, that two denominations of the debt, the consolidated debt of 1767, and the cavalry loan, were not liable to any confiderable exception. The debt of 1777 was of a very questionable nature: But if administration had bestowed their patronage upon
the two former, and left the creditors of 1777 unprotected, they would naturally have thrown themselves upon the Nabob, and might possibly have been the first order of creditors that would have been paid instead of the last. This prince had often pleaded in excuse of his arrears to the company, that he was harrassed by the application of his private creditors; and this plea could no otherwise be taken away in time to come, than by giving all the creditors a prospect of satisfaction, sooner or later, in proportion to their merits. The new regulations that had been adopted in the first feffion of the present parliament, were intended to introduce a more strict and honourable order of affairs in the territories of the Eaft India Company. But it had been the practice of all wise legislators to exclude retrospection from their inftitutions, and not at once to cut off those profits, however unreasonable and disproportionate, which were sanctified by custom and made venerable by the feal of prescription. All wise systems of reform were intended to operate insensibly
and by degrees; and whatever were violent in its march, and loud in its promiles, might be expected to be neither auipicious nor permanent in the execution. With refpect to the charge of collufion between the creditors and the Board of Controul, Mr. Dundas treated it with some degree of ridieule. He said it was not the first time that his condu&t had been misreprefented. It had been said, and exactly with the same degree of truth, that he had received a large sum of money from Sir Thomas Rumbold, upon a particular oc* casion. But he had slept perfectly quiet and ferene under the former charge, and he trusted he thould preserve his temper equally uorufiled from the present accusation. In fine, witla reipect to the enquiry proposed, he cautioned the Houfe against suddenly imbibinig sentiments of diftruft against a Board they had so lately instituted. If the House thought, after all they had beard, that the Board had acted criminally, they ought not to let them continue a moment longer in their fituations; but if otherwise, he called on them for a manly and decisive support. He opposed, to the finifter defigns and interested views of men, who, provided they could thrust them from their situations, cared not by what ineans thev affected it, the characters and liake of the presene.com. miffioners, who had their reputation, their political existence, and their future prospects pledged with the public for their rectitude and integrity.
But it is easy to find plausible arguments in defence of any mode of procedure. We are not without our suspicions, that the particular favour that was extended to the creditors of 1777, originated in a kind of secret cabal of Mr. Benficld, a principal creditor, Mr. Richard Atkinson, his friend, and representative, and the present adminiftration. Mr. Benfield's claim amounted to 400,000l. yielding an income, at fix per cent. of 24,0col. onc farthing of which had probably never been advanced, and which was a mere douceur for secret services under the name of a loan. As in the bold, and interprising measure of Mr. Fox, little prospect had been left that any part of this debt would ever be recovered, Mr. Benfield would probably have been happy to come down hands somely for the affittance of ministers in the critical business of the general election, in order to secure to himself the ICmainder of his spoils.
The speech of Mr. Burke has one characteristic, which runs through all the performances of this celebrated orator. He has puihed the matter farther than any of the speakers, that went before him; he has attacked the debt of 1767 and the cavalry loan, which passed mufter with them, and while they seemed incüned to represent the measure as a mere
piece of impolicy on the part of administration, he has held it up as a mass of flagitiousness and deformity without a parallel either in ancient or modern times. In a word, every thing comes to us magnified in its outline and aggravated in its features through the telescope that is prefented to us by Mr. Burke, and we cannot but perceive through all the plausibility of his rhetoric, that many circumstances grow into crimes under his hand, that before were merely indifferent, insipid, and unmeaning.
We would not, however, lead our readers to imagine, that there is any thing unproportioned and unsupported in the speech before us. Every thing is borne out with an energy of reasoning and a vehmence of rhetoric of which, while they both rise to the highest pitch; it is difficult to decide whether it be the one or the other that carries conviction with the most irrefiftable force to our hearts. As an exams ple of this, we will lay before our readers the animadversions of Mr. Burke, upon the debt of the Nabob to the Company itself; and from this specimen they may easily infer what colours he is able to throw upon the obscure and unascertained claims of individuals.
* Those who gave this peeference to private claims, consider the Company's as a lawful demand; else, why did they pretend to provide for it? On their own principles they are condemnedos
• But I, Sir, who profess to speak to your understanding and to your conscience, and to brush away from this business all false colours, all false appellations, as well as false
facts, do positively deny that the Carnatic owes a shilling to the Company ; whatever the Company may be indebted to that undone country. It owes nothing to the Company, for this plain and simple reason - The territory charged with the debt is their own. To say that their revenues fall short, and owe them money, is to say, they are in debt to them- , selves, which is only talking nonsense. The fact is, that by the invasion of an enemy, and the ruin of the country, the Company, either in its own name or the names of the Nabob of Arcot and Rajak of Tanjore, has lost for several years what it might have looked to receive froin its own estate. If men were allowed to credit them. Telves, upon such principles any one might foon grow rich by this mode of accounting. A food comes down upon a man's estate in the Bedford Level of a thousand pounds a year, and drowns his rents for ten years. The Chancellor would put that man into the hands of a trustee, who would gravely make up his books, and for this lofs credit himself in his account for a dcbe due to him of 10,000). It is, however, on this principle the Company makes up its de: månds on the Carnatic. In peace they go the full length, and indeed more than the full length, of what the people can bear for current establishments; then they are abfurd enough to consolidate all. the calamities of war into debts ; to metamorphose the devastations of the country into demands upon its future production. What is
this but to avow a resolution utterly to doftroy their own country, and to force the people to pay for their sufferings, to a government which has proved unable to protect either the thare of the husbandman or their own? In every lease of a farm, the invasion of an enemy, inttead of forming a demand for arrear, is a release of rent ; nor for that release is it at all neceilary to show, that the invasion has left nothing to the occupier of the, toil; though in the present ca e it would be too easy to prove that melancholy fact. I therefore applauded my right honourable friend, who, when he canvassed the Company's accounts, as a preliminary to a bill that ought not to stand on falsehood of any kind, fixed his discerning eye, and his deciding hand, on these debts of the Company, from the Nabob of Areot and Rajah of Tanjore, and at one stroke expunged them all, as utterly irrecoverable ; he might have added as utterly unfounded.'
Mr. Burke contrasts the lavish donation of the Board of Controul in the example before us with the bill of Mr. Pitt of the last session, appointing Commissioners to enquire into the fees and perquisites of the clerks and commis in the public offices, and the contrast is illustrated with an imagery that is admirable and unequalled.
• I confefs I feel a degree of disgust, almost leading to despair, at the manner in which we are acting in the great exigencies of our country. There is now a bill in this House, appointing a rigid inquilition into the minuteit detail of our offices at home. The col. lection of fixteen millions annually; a collection on which the public greatness, safety, and credit have their reliance : the whole order of criminal jurisprudence, which holds together fociety itself, have at no time obliged us to call forth such powers ; no, nor any thing like thein. There is not a principle of the law and constitution of this country that is not subverted to favour the execution of that project. And for what is all this apparatus of bustle and terror? Is it because any thing substantial is expected from it? No. The stir
fighted telf to his affairs, but on what is neareit to his ken. Great difficulties have given a just value to æconomy, whatever it inay cost us. where is he to exert his talents? At hoine to be sure : for where elle can he obtain a profitable credit for their exertion? It is nothing to him, whether the object on which he works under our eye be promiting or not. If he does not obtain any public benefit, he may make regulations without end. Thoie are sure to pay in present <sprectarion, whilst the effect is at a dittance, and may be the concern of other times, and other men. On there, principles he chooles to Tupport (tor he does not pretend more than to suppose) a naked pubility, that he shall draw fome resource out of crumbs dropped from the frencher's of penury ; that fomerhing thall be laid in itore froin the short allowance of revenue officers, overloaded with duty, ond' faniind for want of bread; by a reduction from officers who are lit this very hour ready to batter the treasury with what breaks through fone walls, for an inereage of their appointments. From the ENS. REV. SEPT. 1785.1
marrowless bones of these skeleton establishments, by the use of every fort of cutting, and of every fort of fretting tool, he flatters himself that he may chip and rasp an empirical alimentary powder, to diet into fome fimilitude of health and fubftance the languishing chimeras of fraudulent reformation.
• Whilft he is thus employed according to his policy and to his taste, he has not leisure to enquire into those abuses in India that are drawing off money by millions from the treasures of this country, which are exhausting the vital juices from inembers of the stare, where the public inanition is far more sorely felt than in the local exchequer of England. Not content with winking at these abuses, whilst he attempts to squeeze the laborious ill-paid drudges of Eng fish revenue, he lavishes in one act of corrupt prodigality, upon those who never served the public in any honest occupation at all, an annual income equal to two thirds of the whole collection of the revenues of this kingdom.
• Actuated by the same principle of choice, he has now on the anvil another scheme, full of difficulty and desperate hazard, which totally alters the commercial relation of two kingdoms ; and what end loever it shall have, may bequeath a legacy of heart-burning and discontent to one of the countries, perhaps to both, to be perpetuated to the latest posterity; This project is also undertaken on the hope of profit. It is provided, that out of fome (I know not what) icinains of the Irish hereditary revenue, a fund at some time, and of some fort, should be applied to the protection of the Irith trade. Here we are commanded again to task our faith, and to persuade ourselves, that out of the surplus of deficiency, out of the favings of habitual and fyftematic prodigality, the minister of wonders will provide support for this nation, tinking under the mountainous load of two hundred and thirty millions of debt. But whilst we look with pain at his desperate and laborious trifting; whilst we are apprehensive that he will break his back in stooping to pick up chaff and Itraws, he recovers hinself at an elastic bound, and with a broad-cast swing of his arm, he squanders over his Indian field á sum far greater than the clear produce of the whole hereditary revenac of the kingdom of Ireland.'
We will only add to these extracts a short passage or two in which the power of refined and inimitable latire is carried perhaps to a greater length than by any of those poets who have risen highest in this species of composition.
• Our wonderful minister, as you all know, formed a new plan, a plan infigne recens alio indietum ore, a plan for supporting the freedoin of our constitution by court intrigues, and for removing its corruptions by Indian delinquency. To carry that bold paradoxial de. fign into execution, sufficient funds and apt instruments became necellary. You are perfectly sensible that a Parliamentary Reform occupies his thoughts day and night, as an essential member in this extraordinary project. In his anxious researches upon this fubject, natural instinct, as well as found policy, would direct his eyes, and settle his choice on Paul Benfield, as the grand parliamentary reformer to whom the whole choir of reformers bow, and to whom