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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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talents both for disquisition and declamation which assiduous
culture might have improved into the highest excellence. He
confined his defence on this occasion to the measures of his last
administration, and succeeded so far that his enemies thenceforth
thought it expedient to direct their attacks chiefly against the
earlier part of his life.

The earlier part of his life unfortunately presented some
assailable points to their hostility. A committee was chosen by
ballot to inquire into the affairs of India; and by this
committee the whole history of that great revolution which threw
down Surajah Dowlah and raised Meer Jaffier was sifted with
malignant care. Clive was subjected to the most unsparing
examination and cross-examination, and afterwards bitterly
complained that he, the Baron of Plassey, had been treated like a
sheep-stealer. The boldness and ingenuousness of his replies
would alone suffice to show how alien from his nature were the
frauds to which, in the course of his Eastern negotiations, he
had sometimes descended. He avowed the arts which he had employed
to deceive Omichund, and resolutely said that he was not ashamed
of them, and that, in the same circumstances, he would again act
in the same manner. He admitted that he had received immense sums
from Meer Jaffier; but he denied that, in doing so, he had
violated any obligation of morality or honour. He laid claim, on
the contrary, and not without some reason, to the praise of
eminent disinterestedness. He described in vivid language the
situation in which his victory had placed him: great princes
dependent on his pleasure; an opulent city afraid of being given
up to plunder; wealthy bankers bidding against each other for his
smiles; vaults piled with gold and jewels thrown open to him
alone. "By God, Mr. Chairman," he exclaimed, "at this moment I
stand astonished at my own moderation."

The inquiry was so extensive that the Houses rose before it had
been completed. It was continued in the following session. When
at length the committee had concluded its labours, enlightened
and impartial men had little difficulty in making up their minds
as to the result. It was clear that Clive had been guilty of some
acts which it is impossible to vindicate without attacking the
authority of all the most sacred laws which regulate the
intercourse of individuals and of states. But it was equally
clear that he had displayed great talents, and even great
virtues; that he had rendered eminent services both to his
country and to the people of India; and that it was in truth not
for his dealings with Meer Jaffier, nor for the fraud which he
had practised on Omichund, but for his determined resistance to
avarice and tyranny, that he was now called in question.

Ordinary criminal justice knows nothing of set-off. The greatest
desert cannot be pleaded in answer to a charge of the slightest
transgression. If a man has sold beer on a Sunday morning, it is
no defence that he has saved the life of a fellow-creature at the
risk of his own. If he has harnessed a Newfoundland dog to his
little child's carriage, it is no defence that he was wounded at
Waterloo. But it is not in this way that we ought to deal with
men who, raised far above ordinary restraints, and tried by far
more than ordinary temptations, are entitled to a more than
ordinary measure of indulgence. Such men should be judged by
their contemporaries as they will be judged by posterity. Their
bad actions ought not indeed to be called good; but their good
and bad actions ought to be fairly weighed; and if on the whole
the good preponderate, the sentence ought to be one, not merely
of acquittal, but of approbation. Not a single great ruler in
history can be absolved by a judge who fixes his eye inexorably
on one or two unjustifiable acts. Bruce the deliverer of
Scotland, Maurice the deliverer of Germany, William the deliverer
of Holland, his great descendant the deliverer of England, Murray
the good regent, Cosmo the father of his country, Henry the
Fourth of France, Peter the Great of Russia, how would the best
of them pass such a scrutiny? History takes wider views; and the
best tribunal for great political cases is the tribunal which
anticipates the verdict of history.

Reasonable and moderate men of all parties felt this in Clive's
case. They could not pronounce him blameless; but they were not
disposed to abandon him to that low-minded and rancorous pack who
had run him down and were eager to worry him to death. Lord
North, though not very friendly to him, was not disposed to go to
extremities against him. While the inquiry was still in progress,
Clive, who had some years before been created a Knight of the
Bath, was installed with great pomp in Henry the Seventh's
Chapel. He was soon after appointed Lord Lieutenant of
Shropshire. When he kissed hands, George the Third, who had
always been partial to him, admitted him to a private audience,
talked to him half an hour on Indian politics, and was visibly
affected when the persecuted general spoke of his services and of
the way in which they had been requited.

At length the charges came in a definite form before the House of
Commons. Burgoyne, chairman of the committee, a man of wit,
fashion, and honour, an agreeable dramatic writer, an officer
whose courage was never questioned, and whose skill was at that
time highly esteemed, appeared as the accuser. The members of the
administration took different sides; for in that age all
questions were open questions, except such as were brought
forward by the Government, or such as implied censure on the
Government. Thurlow, the Attorney-General, was among the
assailants. Wedderburne, the Solicitor-General, strongly attached
to Clive, defended his friend with extraordinary force of
argument and language. It is a curious circumstance that, some
years later, Thurlow was the most conspicuous champion of Warren
Hastings, while Wedderburne was among the most unrelenting
persecutors of that great though not faultless statesman. Clive
spoke in his own defence at less length and with less art than in
the preceding year, but with much energy and pathos. He recounted
his great actions and his wrongs; and, after bidding his hearers
remember, that they were about to decide not only on his honour
but on their own, he retired from the House.

The Commons resolved that acquisitions made by the arms of the
State belong to the State alone, and that it is illegal in the
servants of the State to appropriate such acquisitions to
themselves. They resolved that this wholesome rule appeared to
have been systematically violated by the English functionaries in
Bengal. On a subsequent day they went a step further, and
resolved that Clive had, by means of the power which he possessed
as commander of the British forces in India, obtained large sums
from Meer Jaffier. Here the Commons stopped. They had voted the
major and minor of Burgoyne's syllogism; but they shrank from
drawing the logical conclusion. When it was moved that Lord Clive
had abused his powers, and set an evil example to the servants of
the public, the previous question was put and carried. At length,
long after the sun had risen on an animated debate, Wedderburne
moved that Lord Clive had at the same time rendered great and
meritorious services to his country; and this motion passed
without a division.

The result of this memorable inquiry appears to us, on the whole,
honourable to the justice, moderation, and discernment of the
Commons. They had indeed no great temptation to do wrong. They
would have been very bad judges of an accusation brought against
Jenkinson or against Wilkes. But the question respecting Clive
was not a party question; and the House accordingly acted with
the good sense and good feeling which may always be expected from
an assembly of English gentlemen, not blinded by faction.

The equitable and temperate proceedings of the British Parliament
were set off to the greatest advantage by a foil. The wretched
government of Lewis the Fifteenth had murdered, directly or
indirectly, almost every Frenchman who had served his country
with distinction in the East. Labourdonnais was flung into the
Bastile, and, after years of suffering, left it only to die.
Dupleix, stripped of his immense fortune, and broken-hearted by
humiliating attendance in ante-chambers, sank into an obscure
grave. Lally was dragged to the common place of execution with a
gag between his lips. The Commons of England, on the other hand,
treated their living captain with that discriminating justice
which is seldom shown except to the dead. They laid down sound
general principles; they delicately pointed out where he had
deviated from those principles; and they tempered the gentle
censure with liberal eulogy. The contrast struck Voltaire, always
partial to England, and always eager to expose the abuses of the
Parliaments of France. Indeed he seems, at this time, to have
meditated a history of the conquest of Bengal. He mentioned his
design to Dr. Moore, when that amusing writer visited him at
Ferney. Wedderburne took great interest in the matter, and
pressed Clive to furnish materials. Had the plan been carried
into execution, we have no doubt that Voltaire would have
produced a book containing much lively and picturesque narrative,
many just and humane sentiments poignantly expressed, many
grotesque blunders, many sneers at the Mosaic chronology, much
scandal about the Catholic missionaries, and much sublime theo-
philanthropy, stolen from the New Testament, and put into the
mouths of virtuous and philosophical Brahmins.

Clive was now secure in the enjoyment of his fortune and his
honours. He was surrounded by attached friends and relations; and
he had not yet passed the season of vigorous bodily and mental
exertion. But clouds had long been gathering over his mind, and
now settled on it in thick darkness. From early youth he had been
subject to fits of that strange melancholy "which rejoiceth
exceedingly and is glad when it can find the grave." While still
a writer at Madras, he had twice attempted to destroy himself.
Business and prosperity had produced a salutary effect on his
spirits. In India, while he was occupied by great affairs, in
England, while wealth and rank had still the charm of novelty, he
had borne up against his constitutional misery. But he had now
nothing to do, and nothing to wish for. His active spirit in an
inactive situation drooped and withered like a plant in an
uncongenial air. The malignity with which his enemies had pursued
him, the indignity with which he had been treated by the
committee, the censure, lenient as it was, which the House of
Commons had pronounced, the knowledge that he was regarded by a
large portion of his countrymen as a cruel and perfidious tyrant,
all concurred to irritate and depress him. In the meantime, his
temper was tried by acute physical suffering. During his long
residence in tropical climates, he had contracted several painful
distempers. In order to obtain ease he called in the help of
opium; and he was gradually enslaved by this treacherous ally. To
the last, however, his genius occasionally flashed through the
gloom. It was said that he would sometimes, after sitting silent
and torpid for hours, rouse himself to the discussion of some
great question, would display in full vigour all the talents of
the soldier and the statesman, and would then sink back into his
melancholy repose.

The disputes with America had now become so serious that an
appeal to the sword seemed inevitable; and the Ministers were
desirous to avail themselves of the services of Clive. Had he
still been what he was when he raised the siege of Patna and
annihilated the Dutch army and navy at the mouth of the Ganges,
it is not improbable that the resistance of the colonists would
have been put down, and that the inevitable separation would have
been deferred for a few years. But it was too late. His strong
mind was fast sinking under many kinds of suffering. On the
twenty-second of November, 1774, he died by his own hand. He had
just completed his forty-ninth year.

In the awful close of so much prosperity and glory, the vulgar
saw only a confirmation of all their prejudices; and some men of
real piety and genius so far forgot the maxims both of religion
and of philosophy as confidently to ascribe the mournful event to
the just vengeance of God, and to the horrors of an evil
conscience. It is with very different feelings that we
contemplate the spectacle of a great mind ruined by the weariness
of satiety, by the pangs of wounded honour, by fatal diseases,
and more fatal remedies.

Clive committed great faults; and we have not attempted to
disguise them. But his faults, when weighed against his merits,
and viewed in connection with his temptations, do not appear to
us to deprive him of his right to an honourable place in the
estimation of posterity.

From his first visit to India dates the renown of the English
arms in the East. Till he appeared, his countrymen were despised
as mere pedlars, while the French were revered as a people formed
for victory and command. His courage and capacity dissolved the
charm. With the defence of Arcot commences that long series of
Oriental triumphs which closes with the fall of Ghizni. Nor must
we forget that he was only twenty-five years old when he approved
himself ripe for military command. This is a rare if not a
singular distinction. It is true that Alexander, Conde, and
Charles the Twelfth, won great battles at a still earlier age--
but those princes were surrounded by veteran generals of
distinguished skill, to whose suggestions must be attributed the
victories of the Granicus, of Rocroi and of Narva. Clive, an
inexperienced youth, had yet more experience than any of those
who served under him. He had to form himself, to form his
officers, and to form his army. The only man, as far as we
recollect, who at an equally early age ever gave equal proof of
talents for war, was Napoleon Bonaparte.

From Clive's second visit to India dates the political ascendency
of the English in that country. His dexterity and resolution
realised, in the course of a few months, more than an the
gorgeous visions which had floated before the imagination of
Dupleix. Such an extent of cultivated territory, such an amount
of revenue, such a multitude of subjects, was never added to the
dominion of Rome by the most successful proconsul. Nor were such
wealthy spoils ever borne under arches of triumph, down the
Sacred Way, and through the crowded Forum, to the threshold of
Tarpeian Jove. The fame of those who subdued Antiochus and
Tigranes grows dim when compared with the splendour of the
exploits which the young English adventurer achieved at the head
of an army not equal in numbers to one half of a Roman legion.

From Clive's third visit to India dates the purity of the
administration of our Eastern empire. When he landed in Calcutta
in 1765, Bengal was regarded as a place to which Englishmen were
sent only to get rich, by any means, in the shortest possible
time. He first made dauntless and unsparing war on that gigantic
system of oppression, extortion, and corruption. In that war he
manfully put to hazard his ease, his fame, and his splendid
fortune. The same sense of justice which forbids us to conceal or
extenuate the faults of his earlier days compels us to admit that
those faults were nobly repaired. If the reproach of the Company
and of its servants has been taken away, if in India the yoke of
foreign masters, elsewhere the heaviest of all yokes, has been
found lighter than that of any native dynasty, if to that gang of
public robbers, which formerly spread terror through the whole
plain of Bengal, has succeeded a body of functionaries not more
highly distinguished by ability and diligence than by integrity,
disinterestedness, and public spirit, if we now see such men as
Munro, Elphinstone, and Metcalfe, after leading victorious
armies, after making and deposing kings, return, proud of their
honourable poverty, from a land which once held out to every
greedy factor the hope of boundless wealth, the praise is in no
small measure due to Clive. His name stands high on the roll of
conquerors. But it is found in a better list, in the list of
those who have done and suffered much for the happiness of
mankind. To the warrior, history will assign a place in the same
rank with Lucullus and Trajan. Nor will she deny to the reformer
a share of that veneration with which France cherishes the memory
of Turgot, and with which the latest generations of Hindoos will
contemplate the statue of Lord William Bentinck.


(October 1841)

Memoirs of the Life of Warren Hastings, first Governor-General of
Bengal. Compiled from Original Papers, by the Rev. G.R. GLEIG
M.A. 3 vols. 8vo. London: 1841.

We are inclined to think that we shall best meet the wishes of
our readers, if, instead of minutely examining this book, we
attempt to give, in a way necessarily hasty and imperfect, our
own view of the life and character of Mr. Hastings. Our feeling
towards him is not exactly that of the House of Commons which
impeached him in 1787; neither is it that of the House of Commons
which uncovered and stood up to receive him in 1813. He had great
qualities, and he rendered great services to the State. But to
represent him as a man of stainless virtue is to make him
ridiculous; and from regard for his memory, if from no other
feeling, his friends would have done well to lend no countenance
to such adulation. We believe that, if he were now living, he
would have sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind
to wish to be shown as he was. He must have known that there were
dark spots on his fame. He might also have felt with pride that
the splendour of his fame would bear many spots. He would have
wished posterity to have a likeness of him, though an
unfavourable likeness, rather than a daub at once insipid and
unnatural, resembling neither him nor anybody else. "Paint me as
I am," said Oliver Cromwell, while sitting to young Lely. "If you
leave out the scars and wrinkles, I will not pay you a shilling."
Even in such a trifle, the great Protector showed both his good
sense and his magnanimity. He did not wish all that was
characteristic in his countenance to be lost, in the vain attempt
to give him the regular features and smooth blooming cheeks of
the curl-pated minions of James the First. He was content that
his face should go forth marked with all the blemishes which had
been put on it by time, by war, by sleepless nights, by anxiety,
perhaps by remorse; but with valour, policy, authority, and
public care written in all its princely lines. If men truly great
knew their own interest, it is thus that they would wish their
minds to be portrayed.

Warren Hastings sprang from an ancient and illustrious race. It
has been affirmed that his pedigree can be traced back to the
great Danish sea-king, whose sails were long the terror of both
coasts of the British Channel, and who, after many fierce and
doubtful struggles, yielded at last to the valour and genius of
Alfred. But the undoubted splendour of the line of Hastings needs
no illustration from fable. One branch of that line wore, in the
fourteenth century, the coronet of Pembroke. From another branch
sprang the renowned Chamberlain, the faithful adherent of the
White Rose, whose fate has furnished so striking a theme both to
poets and to historians. His family received from the Tudors the
earldom of Huntingdon, which, after long dispossession, was
regained in our time by a series of events scarcely paralleled in

The lords of the manor of Daylesford, in Worcestershire, claimed
to be considered as the heads of this distinguished family. The
main stock, indeed, prospered less than some of the younger
shoots. But the Daylesford family, though not ennobled, was
wealthy and highly considered, till, about two hundred years ago,
it was overwhelmed by the great ruin of the civil wax. The
Hastings of that time was a zealous cavalier. He raised money on
his lands, sent his plate to the mint at Oxford, joined the royal
army, and, after spending half his property in the cause of King
Charles, was glad to ransom himself by making over most of the
remaining half to Speaker Lenthal. The old seat at Daylesford
still remained in the family; but it could no longer be kept up:
and in the following generation it was sold to a merchant of

Before this transfer took place, the last Hastings of Daylesford
had presented his second son to the rectory of the parish in
which the ancient residence of the family stood. The living was
of little value; and the situation of the poor clergyman, after
the sale of the estate, was deplorable. He was constantly engaged
in lawsuits about his tithes with the new lord of the manor, and
was at length utterly ruined. His eldest son, Howard, a well-
conducted young man, obtained a place in the Customs. The second
son, Pynaston, an idle worthless boy, married before he was
sixteen, lost his wife in two years, and died in the West Indies,
leaving to the care of his unfortunate father a little orphan,
destined to strange and memorable vicissitudes of fortune.

Warren, the son of Pynaston, was born on the sixth of December,
1731. His mother died a few days later, and he was left dependent
on his distressed grandfather. The child was early sent to the
village school, where he learned his letters on the same bench
with the sons of the peasantry; nor did anything in his garb or
face indicate that his life was to take a widely different course
from that of the young rustics with whom he studied and played.
But no cloud could overcast the dawn of so much genius and so
much ambition. The very ploughmen observed, and long remembered,
how kindly little Warren took to his book. The daily sight of the
lands which his ancestors had possessed, and which had passed
into the hands of strangers, filled his young brain with wild
fancies and projects. He loved to hear stories of the wealth and
greatness of his progenitors, of their splendid housekeeping,
their loyalty, and their valour. On one bright summer day, the
boy, then just seven years old, lay on the bank of the rivulet
which flows through the old domain of his house to join the Isis.
There, as threescore and ten years later he told the tale, rose
in his mind a scheme which, through all the turns of his eventful
career, was never abandoned. He would recover the estate which
had belonged to his fathers. He would be Hastings of Daylesford.
This purpose, formed in infancy and poverty, grew stronger as his
intellect expanded and as his fortune rose. He pursued his plan
with that calm but indomitable force of will which was the most
striking peculiarity of his character. When, under a tropical
sun, he ruled fifty millions of Asiatics, his hopes, amidst all
the cares of war, finance, and legislation, still pointed to
Daylesford. And when his long public life, so singularly
chequered with good and evil, with glory and obloquy, had at
length closed for ever, it was to Daylesford that he retired to

When he was eight years old, his uncle Howard determined to take
charge of him, and to give him a liberal education. The boy went
up to London, and was sent to a school at Newington, where he was
well taught but ill fed. He always attributed the smallness of
his stature to the hard and scanty fare of this seminary. At ten
he was removed to Westminster school, then flourishing under the
care of Dr. Nichols. Vinny Bourne, as his pupils affectionately
called him, was one of the masters. Churchill, Colman, Lloyd,
Cumberland, Cowper, were among the students. With Cowper,
Hastings formed a friendship which neither the lapse of time, nor
a wide dissimilarity of opinions and pursuits, could wholly
dissolve. It does not appear that they ever met after they had
grown to manhood. But forty years later, when the voices of many
great orators were crying for vengeance on the oppressor of
India, the shy and secluded poet could image to himself Hastings
the Governor-General only as the Hastings with whom he had rowed
on the Thames and played in the cloister, and refused to believe
that so good-tempered a fellow could have done anything very
wrong. His own life had been spent in praying, musing, and
rhyming among the waterlilies of the Ouse. He had preserved in no
common measure the innocence of childhood. His spirit had indeed
been severely tried, but not by temptations which impelled him to
any gross violation of the rules of social morality. He had never
been attacked by combinations of powerful and deadly enemies. He
had never been compelled to make a choice between innocence and
greatness, between crime and ruin. Firmly as he held in theory
the doctrine of human depravity, his habits were such that he was
unable to conceive how far from the path of right even kind and
noble natures may be hurried by the rage of conflict and the lust
of dominion.

Hastings had another associate at Westminster of whom we shall
have occasion to make frequent mention, Elijah Impey. We know
little about their school days. But, we think, we may safely
venture to guess that, whenever Hastings wished to play any trick
more than usually naughty, he hired Impey with a tart or a ball
to act as fag in the worst part of the prank.

Warren was distinguished among his comrades as an excellent
swimmer, boatman, and scholar. At fourteen he was first in the
examination for the foundation. His name in gilded letters on the
walls of the dormitory still attests his victory over many older
competitors. He stayed two years longer at the school, and was
looking forward to a studentship at Christ Church, when an event
happened which changed the whole course of his life. Howard
Hastings died, bequeathing his nephew to the care of a friend and
distant relation, named Chiswick. This gentleman, though he did
not absolutely refuse the charge, was desirous to rid himself of
it as soon as possible. Dr. Nichols made strong remonstrances
against the cruelty of interrupting the studies of a youth who
seemed likely to be one of the first scholars of the age. He even
offered to bear the expense of sending his favourite pupil to
Oxford. But Mr. Chiswick was inflexible. He thought the years
which had already been wasted on hexameters and pentameters quite
sufficient. He had it in his power to obtain for the lad a
writership in the service of the East India Company. Whether the
young adventurer, when once shipped off, made a fortune, or died
of a liver complaint, he equally ceased to be a burden to anybody.
Warren was accordingly removed from Westminster school, and
placed for a few months at a commercial academy, to study
arithmetic and book-keeping. In January 1750, a few days after
he had completed his seventeenth year, he sailed for Bengal, and
arrived at his destination in the October following.

He was immediately placed at a desk in the Secretary's office at
Calcutta, and laboured there during two years. Fort William was
then purely a commercial settlement. In the south of India the
encroaching policy of Dupleix had transformed the servants of the
English Company, against their will, into diplomatists and
Generals. The war of the succession was raging in the Carnatic;
and the tide had been suddenly turned against the French by the
genius of young Robert Clive. But in Bengal the European
settlers, at peace with the natives and with each other, were
wholly occupied with ledgers and bills of lading.

After two years passed in keeping accounts at Calcutta, Hastings
was sent up the country to Cossimbazar, a town which lies on the
Hoogley, about a mile from Moorshedabad, and which then bore to
Moorshedabad a relation, if we may compare small things with
great, such as the city of London bears to Westminster.
Moorshedabad was the abode of the prince who, by an authority
ostensibly derived from the Mogul, but really independent, ruled
the three great provinces of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. At
Moorshedabad were the court, the harem, and the public offices.
Cossimbazar was a port and a place of trade, renowned for the
quantity and excellence of the silks which were sold in its
marts, and constantly receiving and sending forth fleets of
richly laden barges. At this important point, the Company had
established a small factory subordinate to that of Fort William.
Here, during several years, Hastings was employed in making
bargains for stuffs with native brokers. While he was thus
engaged, Surajah Dowlah succeeded to the government, and declared
war against the English. The defenceless settlement of
Cossimbazar, lying close to the tyrant's capital, was instantly
seized. Hastings was sent a prisoner to Moorshedabad, but, in
consequence of the humane intervention of the servants of the
Dutch Company, was treated with indulgence. Meanwhile the Nabob
marched on Calcutta; the governor and the commandant fled; the
town and citadel were taken, and most of the English prisoners
perished in the Black Hole.

In these events originated the greatness of Warren Hastings. The
fugitive governor and his companions had taken refuge on the
dreary islet of Fulda, near the mouth of the Hoogley. They were
naturally desirous to obtain full information respecting the
proceedings of the Nabob; and no person seemed so likely to
furnish it as Hastings, who was a prisoner at large in the
immediate neighbourhood of the court. He thus became a diplomatic
agent, and soon established a high character for ability and
resolution. The treason which at a later period was fatal to
Surajah Dowlah was already in progress; and Hastings was admitted
to the deliberations of the conspirators. But the time for
striking had not arrived. It was necessary to postpone the
execution of the design; and Hastings, who was now in extreme
peril, fled to Fulda.

Soon after his arrival at Fulda, the expedition from Madras,
commanded by Clive, appeared in the Hoogley. Warren, young,
intrepid, and excited probably by the example of the Commander of
the Forces, who, having like himself been a mercantile agent of
the Company, had been turned by public calamities into a soldier,
determined to serve in the ranks. During the early operations of
the war he carried a musket. But the quick eye of Clive soon
perceived that the head of the young volunteer would be more
useful than his arm. When, after the battle of Plassey, Meer
Jaffier was proclaimed Nabob of Bengal, Hastings was appointed to
reside at the court of the new prince as agent for the Company.

He remained at Moorshedabad till the year 1761, when he became a
Member of Council, and was consequently forced to reside at
Calcutta. This was during the interval between Clive's first and
second administration, an interval which has left on the fame of
the East India Company a stain not wholly effaced by many years
of just and humane government. Mr. Vansittart, the Governor, was
at the head of a new and anomalous empire. On one side was a band
of English functionaries, daring, intelligent, eager to be rich.
On the other side was a great native population, helpless, timid,
accustomed to crouch under oppression. To keep the stronger race
from preying on the weaker, was an undertaking which tasked to
the utmost the talents and energy of Clive. Vansittart, with fair
intentions, was a feeble and inefficient ruler. The master caste,
as was natural, broke loose from all restraint; and then was seen
what we believe to be the most frightful of all spectacles, the
strength of civilisation without its mercy. To all other
despotism there is a check, imperfect indeed, and liable to gross
abuse, but still sufficient to preserve society from the last
extreme of misery. A time comes when the evils of submission are
obviously greater than those of resistance, when fear itself
begets a sort of courage, when a convulsive burst of popular rage
and despair warns tyrants not to presume too far on the patience
of mankind. But against misgovernment such as then afflicted
Bengal it was impossible to struggle. The superior intelligence
and energy of the dominant class made their power irresistible. A
war of Bengalees against Englishmen was like a war of sheep
against wolves, of men against daemons. The only protection which
the conquered could find was in the moderation, the clemency, the
enlarged policy of the conquerors. That protection, at a later
period, they found. But at first English power came among them
unaccompanied by English morality. There was an interval between
the time at which they became our subjects, and the time at which
we began to reflect that we were bound to discharge towards them
the duties of rulers. During that interval the business of a
servant of the Company was simply to wring out of the natives a
hundred or two hundred thousand pounds as speedily as possible,
that he might return home before his constitution had suffered
from the heat, to marry a peer's daughter, to buy rotten boroughs
in Cornwall, and to give balls in St. James's Square. Of the
conduct of Hastings at this time little is known; but the little
that is known, and the circumstance that little is known, must be
considered as honourable to him. He could not protect the
natives: all that he could do was to abstain from plundering and
oppressing them; and this he appears to have done. It is certain
that at this time he continued poor; and it is equally certain
that by cruelty and dishonesty he might easily have become rich.
It is certain that he was never charged with having borne a share
in the worst abuses which then prevailed; and it is almost
equally certain that, if he had borne a share in those abuses,
the able and bitter enemies who afterwards persecuted him would
not have failed to discover and to proclaim his guilt. The keen,
severe, and even malevolent scrutiny to which his whole public
life was subjected, a scrutiny unparalleled, as we believe, in
the history of mankind, is in one respect advantageous to his
reputation. It brought many lamentable blemishes to light; but
it entitles him to be considered pure from every blemish which
has not been brought to light.

The truth is that the temptations to which so many English
functionaries yielded in the time of Mr. Vansittart were not
temptations addressed to the ruling passions of Warren Hastings.
He was not squeamish in pecuniary transactions; but he was
neither sordid nor rapacious. He was far too enlightened a man to
look on a great empire merely as a buccaneer would look on a
galleon. Had his heart been much worse than it was, his
understanding would have preserved him from that extremity of
baseness. He was an unscrupulous, perhaps an unprincipled
statesman; but still he was a statesman, and not a freebooter.

In 1764 Hastings returned to England. He had realised only a very
moderate fortune; and that moderate fortune was soon reduced to
nothing, partly by his praiseworthy liberality, and partly by his
mismanagement. Towards his relations he appears to have acted
very generously. The greater part of his savings he left in
Bengal, hoping probably to obtain the high usury of India. But
high usury and bad security generally go together; and Hastings
lost both interest and principal.

He remained four years in England. Of his life at this time very
little is known. But it has been asserted, and is highly
probable, that liberal studies and the society of men of letters
occupied a great part of his time. It is to be remembered to his
honour that, in days when the languages of the East were regarded
by other servants of the Company merely as the means of
communicating with weavers and moneychangers, his enlarged and
accomplished mind sought in Asiatic learning for new forms of
intellectual enjoyment, and for new views of government and
society. Perhaps, like most persons who have paid much attention
to departments of knowledge which lie out of the common track, he
was inclined to overrate the value of his favourite studies. He
conceived that the cultivation of Persian literature might with
advantage be made a part of the liberal education of an English
gentleman; and he drew up a plan with that view. It is said that
the University of Oxford, in which Oriental learning had never,
since the revival of letters, been wholly neglected, was to be
the seat of the institution which he contemplated. An endowment
was expected from the munificence of the Company: and professors
thoroughly competent to interpret Hafiz and Ferdusi were to be
engaged in the East. Hastings called on Johnson, with the hope,
as it should seem, of interesting in this project a man who
enjoyed the highest literary reputation, and who was particularly
connected with Oxford. The interview appears to have left on
Johnson's mind a most favourable impression of the talents and
attainments of his visitor. Long after, when Hastings was ruling
the immense population of British India, the old
philosopher wrote to him, and referred in the most courtly terms,
though with great dignity, to their short but agreeable

Hastings soon began to look again towards India. He had little to
attach him to England; and his pecuniary embarrassments were
great. He solicited his old masters the Directors for employment,
They acceded to his request, with high compliments both to his
abilities and to his integrity, and appointed him a Member of
Council at Madras. It would be unjust not to mention that, though
forced to borrow money for his outfit, he did not withdraw any
portion of the sum which he had appropriated to the relief of his
distressed relations. In the spring of 1769 he embarked on board
of the Duke of Grafton, and commenced a voyage distinguished by
incidents which might furnish matter for a novel.

Among the passengers in the Duke of Grafton was a German of the
name of Imhoff. He called himself a Baron; but he was in
distressed circumstances, and was going out to Madras as a
portrait-painter, in the hope of picking up some of the pagodas
which were then lightly got and as lightly spent by the English
in India. The Baron was accompanied by his wife, a native, we
have somewhere read, of Archangel. This young woman, who, born
under the Arctic circle, was destined to play the part of a Queen
under the tropic of Cancer, had an agreeable person, a cultivated
mind, and manners in the highest degree engaging. She despised
her husband heartily, and, as the story which we have to tell
sufficiently proves, not without reason. She was interested by
the conversation and flattered by the attentions of Hastings. The
situation was indeed perilous. No place is so propitious to the
formation either of close friendships or of deadly enmities as an
Indiaman. There are very few people who do not find a voyage
which lasts several months insupportably dull. Anything is
welcome which may break that long monotony, a sail, a shark, an
albatross, a man overboard. Most passengers find some resource in
eating twice as many meals as on land. But the great devices for
killing the time are quarrelling and flirting. The facilities for
both these exciting pursuits are great. The inmates of the ship
are thrown together far more than in any country-seat or
boarding-house. None can escape from the rest except by
imprisoning himself in a cell in which he can hardly turn. All
food, all exercise, is taken in company. Ceremony is to a great
extent banished. It is every day in the power of a mischievous
person to inflict innumerable annoyances. It is every day in the
power of an amiable person to confer little services. It not
seldom happens that serious distress and danger call forth, in
genuine beauty and deformity, heroic virtues and abject vices
which, in the ordinary intercourse of good society, might remain
during many years unknown even to intimate associates. Under such
circumstances met Warren Hastings and the Baroness Imhoff, two
persons whose accomplishments would have attracted notice in any
court of Europe. The gentleman had no domestic ties. The lady was
tied to a husband for whom she had no regard, and who had no
regard for his own honour. An attachment sprang up, which was
soon strengthened by events such as could hardly have occurred on
land. Hastings fell ill. The Baroness nursed him with womanly
tenderness, gave him his medicines with her own hand, and even
sat up in his cabin while he slept. Long before the Duke of
Grafton reached Madras, Hastings was in love. But his love was of
a most characteristic description. Like his hatred, like his
ambition, like all his passions, it was strong, but not
impetuous. It was calm, deep, earnest, patient of delay,
unconquerable by time. Imhoff was called into council by his wife
and his wife's lover. It was arranged that the Baroness should
institute a suit for a divorce in the courts of Franconia, that
the Baron should afford every facility to the proceeding, and
that, during the years which might elapse before the sentence
should be pronounced, they should continue to live together. It
was also agreed that Hastings should bestow some very substantial
marks of gratitude on the complaisant husband, and should, when
the marriage was dissolved, make the lady his wife, and adopt the
children whom she had already borne to Imhoff.

At Madras, Hastings found the trade of the Company in a very
disorganised state. His own tastes would have led him rather to
political than to commercial pursuits: but he knew that the
favour of his employers depended chiefly on their dividends, and
that their dividends depended chiefly on the investment. He,
therefore, with great judgment, determined to apply his vigorous
mind for a time to this department of business, which had been
much neglected, since the servants of the Company had ceased to
be clerks, and had become warriors and negotiators.

In a very few months he effected an important reform. The
Directors notified to him their high approbation, and were so
much pleased with his conduct that they determined to place him
at the head of the government at Bengal. Early in 1772
he quitted Fort St. George for his new post. The Imhoffs, who
were still man and wife, accompanied him, and lived at Calcutta
on the same plan which they had already followed during more than
two years.

When Hastings took his seat at the head of the council-board,
Bengal was still governed according to the system which Clive had
devised, a system which was, perhaps, skilfully contrived for the
purpose of facilitating and concealing a great revolution, but
which, when that revolution was complete and irrevocable, could
produce nothing but inconvenience. There were two governments,
the real and the ostensible. The supreme power belonged to the
Company, and was in truth the most despotic power that can be
conceived. The only restraint on the English masters of the
country was that which their own justice and humanity imposed on
them. There was no constitutional check on their will, and
resistance to them was utterly hopeless.

But though thus absolute in reality the English had not yet
assumed the style of sovereignty. They held their territories as
vassals of the throne of Delhi; they raised their revenues as
collectors appointed by the imperial commission; their public
seal was inscribed with the imperial titles; and their mint
struck only the imperial coin.

There was still a nabob of Bengal, who stood to the English
rulers of his country in the same relation in which Augustulus
stood to Odoacer, or the last Merovingians to Charles Martel and
Pepin. He lived at Moorshedabad, surrounded by princely
magnificence. He was approached with outward marks of reverence,
and his name was used in public instruments. But in the
government of the country he had less real share than the
youngest writer or cadet in the Company's service.

The English council which represented the Company at Calcutta was
constituted on a very different plan from that which has since
been adopted. At present the Governor is, as to all executive
measures, absolute. He can declare war, conclude peace, appoint
public functionaries or remove them, in opposition to the
unanimous sense of those who sit with him in council. They are,
indeed, entitled to know all that is done, to discuss all that is
done, to advise, to remonstrate, to send protests to England. But
it is with the Governor that the supreme power resides, and on
him that the whole responsibility rests. This system, which was
introduced by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas in spite of the strenuous
opposition of Mr. Burke, we conceive to be on the whole the best
that was ever devised for the government of a country where no
materials can be found for a representative constitution. In the
time of Hastings the Governor had only one vote in council, and,
in case of an equal division, a casting vote. It therefore
happened not unfrequently that he was overruled on the gravest
questions and it was possible that he might be wholly excluded,
for years together, from the real direction of public affairs.

The English functionaries at Fort William had as yet paid little
or no attention to the internal government of Bengal. The only
branch of politics about which they much busied themselves was
negotiation with the native princes. The police, the
administration of justice, the details of the collection of
revenue, were almost entirely neglected. We may remark that the
phraseology of the Company's servants still bears the traces of
this state of things. To this day they always use the word
"political," as synonymous with "diplomatic." We could name a
gentleman still living, who was described by the highest
authority as an invaluable public servant, eminently fit to be at
the head of the internal administration of a whole presidency,
but unfortunately quite ignorant of all political business.

The internal government of Bengal the English rulers delegated to
a great native minister, who was stationed at Moorshedabad. All
military affairs, and, with the exception of what pertains to
mere ceremonial, all foreign affairs, were withdrawn from his
control; but the other departments of the administration were
entirely confided to him. His own stipend amounted to near a
hundred thousand pounds sterling a year. The personal allowance
of the nabob, amounting to more than three hundred thousand
pounds a year, passed through the minister's hands, and was, to a
great extent, at his disposal. The collection of the revenue, the
administration of justice, the maintenance of order, were left to
this high functionary; and for the exercise of his immense power
he was responsible to none but the British masters of the

A situation so important, lucrative, and splendid, was naturally
an object of ambition to the ablest and most powerful natives.
Clive had found it difficult to decide between conflicting
pretensions. Two candidates stood out prominently from the crowd,
each of them the representative of a race and of a religion.

One of these was Mahommed Reza Khan, a Mussulman of Persian
extraction, able, active, religious after the fashion of his
people, and highly esteemed by them. In England he might perhaps
have been regarded as a corrupt and greedy politician. But,
tried by the lower standard of Indian morality, he might be
considered as a man of integrity and honour.

His competitor was a Hindoo Brahmin whose name has by a terrible
and melancholy event, been inseparably associated with that of
Warren Hastings, the Maharajah Nuncomar. This man had played an
important part in all the revolutions which, since the time of
Surajah Dowlah, had taken place in Bengal. To the consideration
which in that country belongs to high and pure caste, he added
the weight which is derived from wealth, talents, and experience.
Of his moral character it is difficult to give a notion to those
who are acquainted with human nature only as it appears in our
island. What the Italian is to the Englishman, what the Hindoo is
to the Italian, what the Bengalee is to other Hindoos, that was
Nuncomar to other Bengalees. The physical organisation of the
Bengalee is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a constant
vapour bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his
movements languid. During many ages he has been trampled upon by
men of bolder and more hardy breeds. Courage, independence,
veracity, are qualities to which his constitution and his
situation are equally unfavourable. His mind bears a singular
analogy to his body. It is weak even to helplessness for purposes
of manly resistance; but its suppleness and its tact move the
children of sterner climates to admiration not unmingled with
contempt. All those arts which are the natural defence of the
weak are more familiar to this subtle race than to the Ionian of
the time of Juvenal, or to the Jew of the dark ages. What the
horns are to the buffalo, what the paw is to the tiger, what the
sting is to the bee, what beauty, according to the old Greek
song, is to woman, deceit is to the Bengalee. Large promises,
smooth excuses, elaborate tissues of circumstantial falsehood,
chicanery, perjury, forgery, are the weapons, offensive and
defensive, of the people of the Lower Ganges. All those millions
do not furnish one sepoy to the armies of the Company. But as
userers, as money-changers, as sharp legal practitioners, no
class of human beings can bear a comparison with them. With all
his softness, the Bengalee is by no means placable in his
enmities or prone to pity. The pertinacity with which he adheres
to his purposes yields only to the immediate pressure of fear.
Nor does he lack a certain kind of courage which is often wanting
to his masters. To inevitable evils he is sometimes found to
oppose a passive fortitude, such as the Stoics attributed to
their ideal sage. An European warrior who rushes on a battery of
cannon with a loud hurrah, will sometimes shriek under the
surgeon's knife, and fall in an agony of despair at the sentence
of death. But the Bengalee, who would see his country overrun,
his house laid in ashes, his children murdered or dishonoured,
without having the spirit to strike one blow, has yet been known
to endure torture with the firmness of Mucius, and to mount the
scaffold with the steady step and even pulse of Algernon Sydney.

In Nuncomar, the national character was strongly and with
exaggeration personified. The Company's servants had repeatedly
detected him in the most criminal intrigues. On one occasion he
brought a false charge against another Hindoo, and tried to
substantiate it by producing forged documents. On another
occasion it was discovered that, while professing the strongest
attachment to the English, he was engaged in several conspiracies
against them, and in particular that he was the medium of a
correspondence between the court of Delhi and the French
authorities in the Carnatic. For these and similar practices he
had been long detained in confinement. But his talents and
influence had not only procured his liberation, but had obtained
for him a certain degree of consideration even among the British
rulers of his country.

Clive was extremely unwilling to place a Mussulman at the head of
the administration of Bengal. On the other hand, he could not
bring himself to confer immense power on a man to whom every sort
of villainy had repeatedly been brought home. Therefore, though
the nabob, over whom Nuncomar had by intrigue acquired great
influence, begged that the artful Hindoo might be intrusted with
the government, Clive, after some hesitation, decided honestly
and wisely in favour of Mahommed Reza Khan. When Hastings became
Governor, Mahommed Reza Khan had held power seven years. An
infant son of Meer Jaffier was now nabob; and the guardianship of
the young prince's person had been confided to the minister.

Nuncomar, stimulated at once by cupidity and malice, had been
constantly attempting to hurt the reputation of his successful
rival. This was not difficult. The revenues of Bengal, under the
administration established by Clive, did not yield such a surplus
as had been anticipated by the Company; for, at that time, the
most absurd notions were entertained in England respecting the
wealth of India. Palaces of porphyry, hung with the richest
brocade, heaps of pearls and diamonds, vaults from which pagodas
and gold mohurs were measured out by the bushel, filled the
imagination even of men of business. Nobody seemed to be aware of
what nevertheless was most undoubtedly the truth, that India was
a poorer country than countries which in Europe are reckoned
poor, than Ireland, for example, or than Portugal. It was
confidently believed by Lords of the Treasury and members for the
city that Bengal would not only defray its own charges, but would
afford an increased dividend to the proprietors of India stock,
and large relief to the English finances. These absurd
expectations were disappointed; and the Directors, naturally
enough, chose to attribute the disappointment rather to the
mismanagement of Mahommed Reza Khan than to their own ignorance
of the country intrusted to their care. They were confirmed in
their error by the agents of Nuncomar; for Nuncomar had agents
even in Leadenhall Street. Soon after Hastings reached Calcutta,
he received a letter addressed by the Court of Directors, not to
the Council generally, but to himself in particular. He was
directed to remove Mahommed Reza Khan, to arrest him together
with all his family and all his partisans, and to institute a
strict inquiry into the whole administration of the province. It
was added that the Governor would do well to avail himself of the
assistance of Nuncomar in the investigation. The vices of
Nuncomar were acknowledged. But even from his vices, it was said,
much advantage might at such a conjuncture be derived; and,
though he could not safely be trusted, it might still be proper
to encourage him by hopes of reward.

The Governor bore no goodwill to Nuncomar. Many years before,
they had known each other at Moorshedabad; and then a quarrel
had arisen between them which all the authority of their
superiors could hardly compose. Widely as they differed in most
points, they resembled each other in this, that both were men of
unforgiving natures. To Mahommed Reza Khan, on the other hand,
Hastings had no feelings of hostility. Nevertheless he proceeded
to execute the instructions of the Company with an alacrity which
be never showed, except when instructions were in perfect
conformity with his own views. He had, wisely as we think,
determined to get rid of the system of double government in
Bengal. The orders of the Directors furnished him with the means
of effecting his purpose, and dispensed him from the necessity of
discussing the matter with his Council. He took his measures with
his usual vigour and dexterity. At midnight, the palace of
Mahommed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad was surrounded by a battalion
of sepoys. The Minister was roused from his slumbers and informed
that he was a prisoner. With the Mussulman gravity, he bent his
head and submitted himself to the will of God. He fell not alone.
A chief named Schitab Roy had been intrusted with the government
of Bahar. His valour and his attachment to the English had more
than once been signally proved. On that memorable day on which
the people of Patna saw from their walls the whole army of the
Mogul scattered by the little band of Captain Knox, the voice of
the British conquerors assigned the palm of gallantry to the
brave Asiatic. "I never," said Knox, when he introduced Schitab
Roy, covered with blood and dust, to the English functionaries
assembled in the factory, "I never saw a native fight so before."
Schitab Roy was involved in the ruin of Mahommed Reza Khan, was
removed from office, and was placed under arrest. The members of
the Council received no intimation of these measures till the
prisoners were on their road to Calcutta.

The inquiry into the conduct of the minister was postponed on
different pretences. He was detained in an easy confinement
during many months. In the meantime, the great revolution which
Hastings had planned was carried into effect. The office of
minister was abolished. The internal administration was
transferred to the servants of the Company. A system, a very
imperfect system, it is true, of civil and criminal justice,
under English superintendence, was established. The nabob was no
longer to have even an ostensible share in the government; but he
was still to receive a considerable annual allowance, and to be
surrounded with the state of sovereignty. As he was an infant, it
was necessary to provide guardians for his person and property.
His person was intrusted to a lady of his father's harem, known
by the name of the Munny Begum. The office of treasurer of the
household was bestowed on a son of Nuncomar, named Goordas.
Nuncomar's services were wanted; yet he could not safely be
trusted with power; and Hastings thought it a masterstroke of
policy to reward the able and unprincipled parent by promoting
the inoffensive child.

The revolution completed, the double government dissolved, the
Company installed in the full sovereignty of Bengal, Hastings had
no motive to treat the late ministers with rigour. Their trial
had been put off on various pleas till the new organization was
complete. They were then brought before a committee, over which
the Governor presided. Schitab Roy was speedily acquitted with
honour. A formal apology was made to him for the restraint to
which he had been subjected. All the Eastern marks of respect
were bestowed on him. He was clothed in a robe of state, presented
with jewels and with a richly harnessed elephant, and sent back
to his government at Patna. But his health had suffered from
confinement; his high spirit had been cruelly wounded; and soon
after his liberation he died of a broken heart.

The innocence of Mahommed Reza Khan was not so clearly
established. But the Governor was not disposed to deal harshly.
After a long hearing, in which Nuncomar appeared as the accuser,
and displayed both the art and the inveterate rancour which
distinguished him, Hastings pronounced that the charge had not
been made out, and ordered the fallen minister to be set at

Nuncomar had purposed to destroy the Mussulman administration,
and to rise on its ruin. Both his malevolence and his cupidity
had been disappointed. Hastings had made him a tool, had used him
for the purpose of accomplishing the transfer of the government
from Moorshedabad to Calcutta, from native to European hands. The
rival, the enemy, so long envied, so implacably persecuted, had
been dismissed unhurt. The situation so long and ardently desired
had been abolished. It was natural that the Governor should be
from that time an object of the most intense hatred to the
vindictive Brahmin. As yet, however, it was necessary to suppress
such feelings. The time was coming when that long animosity was
to end in a desperate and deadly struggle.

In the meantime, Hastings was compelled to turn his attention to
foreign affairs. The object of his diplomacy was at this time
simply to get money. The finances of his government were in an
embarrassed state, and this embarrassment he was determined to
relieve by some means, fair or foul. The principle which directed
all his dealings with his neighbours is fully expressed by the
old motto of one of the great predatory families of Teviotdale,
"Thou shalt want ere I want." He seems to have laid it down, as a
fundamental proposition which could not be disputed, that, when
he had not as many lacs of rupees as the public service required,
he was to take them from anybody who had. One thing, indeed, is
to be said in excuse for him. The pressure applied to him by his
employers at home, was such as only the highest virtue could have
withstood, such as left him no choice except to commit great
wrongs, or to resign his high post, and with that post all his
hopes of fortune and distinction. The Directors, it is true,
never enjoined or applauded any crime. Far from it. Whoever
examines their letters written at that time, will find there many
just and humane sentiments, many excellent precepts, in short, an
admirable code of political ethics. But every exhortation is
modified or nullified by a demand for money. "Govern leniently,
and send more money; practise strict justice and moderation
towards neighbouring powers, and send more money"--this is, in
truth, the sum of almost all the instructions that Hastings ever
received from home. Now these instructions, being interpreted,
mean simply, "Be the father and the oppressor of the people; be
just and unjust, moderate and rapacious." The Directors dealt
with India, as the Church, in the good old times, dealt with a
heretic. They delivered the victim over to the executioners, with
an earnest request that all possible tenderness might be shown.
We by no means accuse or suspect those who framed these
despatches of hypocrisy. It is probable that, writing fifteen
thousand miles from the place where their orders were to be
carried into effect, they never perceived the gross inconsistency
of which they were guilty. But the inconsistency was at once
manifest to their vicegerent at Calcutta, who, with an empty
treasury, with an unpaid army, with his own salary often in
arrear, with deficient crops, with government tenants daily
running away, was called upon to remit home another half million
without fail. Hastings saw that it was absolutely necessary for
him to disregard either the moral discourses or the pecuniary
requisitions of his employers. Being forced to disobey them in
something, he had to consider what kind of disobedience they
would most readily pardon; and he correctly judged that the
safest course would be to neglect the sermons and to find the

A mind so fertile as his, and so little restrained by
conscientious scruples, speedily discovered several modes of
relieving the financial embarrassments of the Government. The
allowance of the Nabob of Bengal was reduced at a stroke from
three hundred and twenty thousand pounds a year to half that sum.
The Company had bound itself to pay near three hundred thousand
pounds a year to the Great Mogul, as a mark of homage for the
provinces which he had intrusted to their care; and they had
ceded to him the districts of Corah and Allahabad. On the plea
that the Mogul was not really independent, but merely a tool in
the hands of others, Hastings determined to retract these
concessions. He accordingly declared that the English would pay
no more tribute, and sent troops to occupy Allahabad and Corah.
The situation of these places was such, that there would be
little advantage and great expense in retaining them.
Hastings, who wanted money and not territory, determined to
sell them. A purchaser was not wanting. The rich province of Oude
had, in the general dissolution of the Mogul Empire, fallen to the
share of the great Mussulman house by which it is still governed.
About twenty years ago, this house, by the permission of the
British Government, assumed the royal title; but in the time
of Warren Hastings such an assumption would have been considered
by the Mahommedans of India as a monstrous impiety. The Prince
of Oude, though he held the power, did not venture to use the
style of sovereignty. To the appellation of Nabob or Viceroy,
he added that of Vizier of the monarchy of Hindostan, just as
in the last century the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg,
though independent of the Emperor, and often in arms against
him, were proud to style themselves his Grand Chamberlain
and Grand Marshal. Sujah Dowlah, then Nabob Vizier, was on
excellent terms with the English. He had a large treasure.
Allahabad and Corah were so situated that they might be of
use to him and could be of none to the Company. The buyer and
seller soon came to an understanding; and the provinces which had
been torn from the Mogul were made over to the Government of Oude
for about half a million sterling.

But there was another matter still more important to be settled
by the Vizier and the Governor. The fate of a brave people was to
be decided. It was decided in a manner which has left a lasting
stain on the fame of Hastings and of England.

The people of Central Asia had always been to the inhabitants of
India what the warriors of the German forests were to the
subjects of the decaying monarchy of Rome. The dark, slender, and
timid Hindoo shrank from a conflict with the strong muscle and
resolute spirit of the fair race which dwelt beyond the passes.
There is reason to believe that, at a period anterior to the dawn
of regular history, the people who spoke the rich and flexible
Sanskrit came from regions lying far beyond the Hyphasis and the
Hystaspes, and imposed their yoke on the children of the soil. It
is certain that, during the last ten centuries, a succession of
invaders descended from the west on Hindostan; nor was the course
of conquest ever turned back towards the setting sun, till that
memorable campaign m which the cross of Saint George was planted
on the walls of Ghizni.

The Emperors of Hindostan themselves came from the other side of
the great mountain ridge; and it had always been their practice
to recruit their army from the hardy and valiant race from which
their own illustrious house sprang. Among the military
adventurers who were allured to the Mogul standards from the
neighbourhood of Cabul and Candahar, were conspicuous several
gallant bands, known by the name of the Rohillas. Their services
had been rewarded with large tracts of land, fiefs of the spear,
if we may use an expression drawn from an analogous state of
things, in that fertile plain through which the Ramgunga flows
from the snowy heights of Kumaon to join the Ganges. In the
general confusion which followed the death of Aurungzebe, the
warlike colony became virtually independent. The Rohillas were
distinguished from the other inhabitants of India by a peculiarly
fair complexion. They were more honourably distinguished by
courage in war, and by skill in the arts of peace. While anarchy
raged from Lahore to Cape Comorin, their little territory enjoyed
the blessings of repose under the guardianship of valour.
Agriculture and commerce flourished among them; nor were they
negligent of rhetoric and poetry. Many persons now living have
heard aged men talk with regret of the golden days when the
Afghan princes ruled in the vale of Rohilcund.

Sujah Dowlah had set his heart on adding this rich district to
his own principality. Right, or show of right, he had absolutely
none. His claim was in no respect better founded than that of
Catherine to Poland, or that of the Bonaparte family to Spain.
The Rohillas held their country by exactly the same title by
which he held his, and had governed their country far better than
his had ever been governed. Nor were they a people whom it was
perfectly safe to attack. Their land was indeed an open plain
destitute of natural defences; but their veins were full of the
high blood of Afghanistan. As soldiers, they had not the
steadiness which is seldom found except in company with strict
discipline; but their impetuous valour had been proved on many
fields of battle. It was said that their chiefs, when united by
common peril, could bring eighty thousand men into the field.
Sujah Dowlah had himself seen them fight, and wisely shrank from
a conflict with them. There was in India one army, and only one,
against which even those proud Caucasian tribes could not stand.
It had been abundantly proved that neither tenfold odds, nor the
martial ardour of the boldest Asiatic nations, could avail ought
against English science and resolution. Was it possible to induce
the Governor of Bengal to let out to hire the irresistible
energies of the imperial people, the skill against which the
ablest chiefs of Hindostan were helpless as infants, the
discipline which had so often triumphed over the frantic
struggles of fanaticism and despair, the unconquerable British
courage which is never so sedate and stubborn as towards the
close of a doubtful and murderous day?

This was what the Nabob Vizier asked, and what Hastings granted.
A bargain was soon struck. Each of the negotiators had what the
other wanted. Hastings was in need of funds to carry on the
government of Bengal, and to send remittances to London; and
Sujah Dowlah had an ample revenue. Sujah Dowlah was bent on
subjugating the Rohillas; and Hastings had at his disposal the
only force by which the Rohillas could be subjugated. It was
agreed that an English army should be lent to the Nabob Vizier,
and that, for the loan, he should pay four hundred thousand
pounds sterling, besides defraying all the charge of the troops
while employed in his service.

"I really cannot see," says Mr. Gleig, "upon what grounds, either
of political or moral justice, this proposition deserves to be
stigmatised as infamous." If we understand the meaning of words,
it is infamous to commit a wicked action for hire, and it is
wicked to engage in war without provocation. In this particular
war, scarcely one aggravating circumstance was wanting. The
object of the Rohilla war was this, to deprive a large
population, who had never done us the least harm, of a good
government, and to place them, against their will, under an
execrably bad one. Nay, even this is not all. England now
descended far below the level even of those petty German princes
who, about the same time, sold us troops to fight the Americans.
The hussar-mongers of Hesse and Anspach had at least the
assurance that the expeditions on which their soldiers were to he
employed would be conducted in conformity with the humane rules
of civilised warfare. Was the Rohilla war likely to be so
conducted? Did the Governor stipulate that it should be so
conducted? He well knew what Indian warfare was. He well knew
that the power which he covenanted to put into Sujah Dowlah's
hands would, in all probability, be atrociously abused; and he
required no guarantee, no promise, that it should not be so
abused. He did not even reserve to himself the right of
withdrawing his aid in case of abuse, however gross. We are
almost ashamed to notice Major Scott's plea, that Hastings was
justified in letting out English troops to slaughter the
Rohillas, because the Rohillas were not of Indian race, but a
colony from a distant country. What were the English themselves?
Was it for them to proclaim a crusade for the expulsion of all
intruders from the countries watered by the Ganges? Did it lie in
their mouths to contend that a foreign settler who establishes an
empire in India is a caput lupinum? What would they have said if
any other power had, on such a ground, attacked Madras or
Calcutta, without the slightest provocation? Such a defence was
wanting to make the infamy of the transaction complete. The
atrocity of the crime, and the hypocrisy of the apology, are
worthy of each other.

One of the three brigades of which the Bengal army consisted was
sent under Colonel Champion to join Sujah Dowlah's forces. The
Rohillas expostulated, entreated, offered a large ransom, but in
Vain. They then resolved to defend themselves to the last. A
bloody battle was fought. "The enemy," says Colonel Champion,
"gave proof of a good share of military knowledge; and it is
impossible to describe a more obstinate firmness of resolution
than they displayed." The dastardly sovereign of Oude fled from
the field. The English were left unsupported; but their fire and
their charge were irresistible. It was not, however, till the
most distinguished chiefs had fallen, fighting bravely at the
head of their troops, that the Rohilla ranks gave way. Then the
Nabob Vizier and his rabble made their appearance, and hastened
to plunder the camp of the valiant enemies whom they had never
dared to look in the face. The soldiers of the Company, trained
in an exact discipline, kept unbroken order, while the tents were
pillaged by these worthless allies. But many voices were heard to
exclaim, "We have had all the fighting, and those rogues are to
have all the profit."

Then the horrors of Indian war were let loose on the fair valleys
and cities of Rohilcund. The whole country was in a blaze. More
than a hundred thousand people fled from their homes to
pestilential jungles, preferring famine, and fever, and the
haunts of tigers, to the tyranny of him, to whom an English and a
Christian government had, for shameful lucre, sold their
substance, and their blood, and the honour of their wives and
daughters. Colonel Champion remonstrated with the Nabob Vizier,
and sent strong representations to Fort William; but the Governor
had made no conditions as to the mode in which the war was to be
carried on. He had troubled himself about nothing, but his forty
lacs; and, though he might disapprove of Sujah Dowlah's wanton
barbarity, he did not think himself entitled to interfere, except
by offering advice. This delicacy excites the admiration of the
biographer. "Mr. Hastings," he says, "could not himself dictate
to the Nabob, nor permit the commander of the Company's troops to
dictate how the, war was to be carried on." No, to be sure. Mr.
Hastings had only to put down by main force the brave struggles
of innocent men fighting for their liberty. Their military
resistance crushed his duties ended; and he had then only to fold
his arms and look on, while their villages were burned, their
children butchered, and their women violated. Will Mr. Gleig
seriously maintain this opinion? Is any rule more plain than
this, that whoever voluntarily gives to another irresistible
power over human beings is bound to take order that such power
shall not be barbarously abused? But we beg pardon of our readers
for arguing a point so clear.

We hasten to the end of this sad and disgraceful story. The war
ceased. The finest population in India was subjected to a greedy,
cowardly, cruel tyrant. Commerce and agriculture languished. The
rich province which had tempted the cupidity of Sujah Dowlah
became the most miserable part even of his miserable dominions.
Yet is the injured nation not extinct. At long intervals gleams
of its ancient spirit have flashed forth; and even at this day,
valour, and self-respect, and a chivalrous feeling rare among
Asiatics, and a bitter remembrance of the great crime of England,
distinguish that noble Afghan race. To this day they are regarded
as the best of all sepoys at the cold steel; and it was very
recently remarked, by one who had enjoyed great opportunities of
observation, that the only natives of India to whom the word
"gentleman" can with perfect propriety he applied, are to be
found among the Rohillas.

Whatever we may think of the morality of Hastings, it cannot be
denied that the financial results of his policy did honour to his
talents. In less than two years after he assumed the government,
he had without imposing any additional burdens on the people
subject to his authority, added about four hundred and fifty
thousand pounds to the annual income of the Company, besides
procuring about a million in ready money. He had also relieved
the finances of Bengal from military expenditure, amounting to
near a quarter of a million a year, and had thrown that charge on
the Nabob of Oude. There can be no doubt that this was a result
which, if it had been obtained by honest means, would have
entitled him to the warmest gratitude of his country, and which,
by whatever means obtained, proved that he possessed great
talents for administration.

In the meantime, Parliament had been engaged in long and grave
discussions on Asiatic affairs. The ministry of Lord North, in
the session of 1773, introduced a measure which mode a
considerable change in the constitution of the Indian Government.
This law, known by the name of the Regulating Act, provided that
the presidency of Bengal should exercise a control over the other
possessions of the Company; that the chief of that presidency
should be styled Governor-General; that he should be assisted by
four Councillors; and that a supreme court of judicature,
consisting of a chief justice and three inferior judges, should
be established at Calcutta. This court was made independent of
the Governor-General and Council, and was intrusted with a civil
and criminal jurisdiction of immense and, at the same time, of
undefined extent.

The Governor-General and Councillors were named in the Act, and
were to hold their situations for five years. Hastings was to be
the first Governor-General. One of the four new Councillors, Mr.
Barwell, an experienced servant of the Company, was then in
India. The other three, General Clavering, Mr. Monson, and Mr.
Francis, were sent out from England.

The ablest of the new Councillors was, beyond all doubt, Philip
Francis. His acknowledged compositions prove that he possessed
considerable eloquence and information. Several years passed in
the public offices had formed him to habits of business. His
enemies have never denied that he had a fearless and manly
spirit; and his friends, we are afraid, must acknowledge that his
estimate of himself was extravagantly high, that his temper was
irritable, that his deportment was often rude and petulant, and
that his hatred was of intense bitterness and long duration.

It is scarcely possible to mention this eminent man without
adverting for a moment to the question which his name at once
suggests to every mind. Was he the author of the Letters Of
Junius? Our own firm belief is that he was. The evidence is, we
think, such as would support a verdict in a civil, nay, in a
criminal proceeding. The handwriting of Junius is the very
peculiar handwriting of Francis, slightly disguised. As to the
position, pursuits, and connections of Junius, the following are
the most important facts which can be considered as clearly
proved: first, that he was acquainted with the technical forms of
the Secretary of State's office; secondly, that he was intimately
acquainted with the business of the War Office; thirdly, that he,
during the year 1770, attended debates in the House of Lords, and
took notes of speeches, particularly of the speeches of Lord
Chatham; fourthly, that he bitterly resented the appointment of
Mr. Chamier to the place of Deputy Secretary-at-War; fifthly,
that he was bound by some strong tie to the first Lord Holland.
Now, Francis passed some years in the Secretary of State's
office. He was subsequently Chief Clerk of the War Office. He
repeatedly mentioned that he had himself, in 1770, heard speeches
of Lord Chatham; and some of these speeches were actually printed
from his notes. He resigned his clerkship at the War Office from
resentment at the appointment of Mr. Chamier. It was by Lord
Holland that he was first introduced into the public service.
Now, here are five marks, all of which ought to be found in
Junius. They are all five found in Francis. We do not believe
that more than two of them can be found in any other person
whatever. If this argument does not settle the question, there is
an end of all reasoning on circumstantial evidence.

The internal evidence seems to us to point the same way. The
style of Francis bears a strong resemblance to that of Junius;
nor are we disposed to admit, what is generally taken for
granted, that the acknowledged compositions of Francis are very
decidedly inferior to the anonymous letters. The argument from
inferiority, at all events, is one which may be urged with at
least equal force against every claimant that has ever been
mentioned, with the single exception of Burke; and it would be a
waste of time to prove that Burke was not Junius. And what
conclusion, after all, can be drawn from mere inferiority? Every
writer must produce his best work; and the interval between his
best work and his second best work may be very wide indeed.
Nobody will say that the best letters of Junius are more
decidedly superior to the acknowledged works of Francis than
three or four of Corneille's tragedies to the rest, than three or
four of Ben Jonson's comedies to the rest, than the Pilgrim's
Progress to the other works of Bunyan, than Don Quixote to the
other works of Cervantes. Nay, it is certain that Junius, whoever
he may have been, was a most unequal writer. To go no further
than the letters which bear the signature of Junius; the letter
to the king, and the letters to Horne Tooke, have little in
common, except the asperity; and asperity was an ingredient
seldom wanting either in the writings or in the speeches of

Indeed one of the strongest reasons for believing that Francis
was Junius is the moral resemblance between the two men. It is
not difficult, from the letters which, under various signatures,
are known to have been written by Junius, and from his dealings
with Woodfall and others, to form a tolerably correct notion of
his character. He was clearly a man not destitute of real
patriotism and magnanimity, a man whose vices were not of a
sordid kind. But he must also have been a man in the highest
degree arrogant and insolent, a man prone to malevolence, and
prone to the error of mistaking his malevolence for public
virtue. "Doest thou well to be angry?" was the question asked in
old time of the Hebrew prophet. And he answered, "I do well."
This was evidently the temper of Junius; and to this cause we
attribute the savage cruelty which disgraces several of his
letters. No man is so merciless as he who, under a strong self-
delusion, confounds his antipathies with his duties. It may be
added that Junius, though allied with the democratic party by
common enmities, was the very opposite of a democratic
politician. While attacking individuals with a ferocity which
perpetually violated all the laws of literary warfare, he
regarded the most defective parts of old institutions with a
respect amounting to pedantry, pleaded the cause of Old Sarum
with fervour, and contemptuously told the capitalists of
Manchester and Leeds that, if they wanted votes, they might buy
land and become freeholders of Lancashire and Yorkshire. All
this, we believe, might stand, with scarcely any change, for a
character of Philip Francis.

It is not strange that the great anonymous writer should have
been willing at that time to leave the country which had been so
powerfully stirred by his eloquence. Everything had gone against
him. That party which he clearly preferred to every other, the
party of George Grenville, had been scattered by the death of its
chief; and Lord Suffolk had led the greater part of it over to
the ministerial benches. The ferment produced by the Middlesex
election had gone down. Every faction must have been alike an
object of aversion to Junius. His opinions on domestic affairs
separated him from the Ministry; his opinions on colonial affairs
from the Opposition. Under such circumstances, he had thrown down
his pen in misanthropical despair. His farewell letter to
Woodfall bears date the nineteenth of January, 1773. In that
letter, he declared that he must be an idiot to write again; that
he had meant well by the cause and the public; that both were
given up; that there were not ten men who would act steadily
together on any question. "But it is all alike," he added, "vile
and contemptible. You have never flinched that I know of; and I
shall always rejoice to hear of your prosperity." These were the
last words of Junius. In a year from that time, Philip Francis
was on his voyage to Bengal.

With the three new Councillors came out the judges of the Supreme
Court. The chief justice was Sir Elijah Impey. He was an old
acquaintance of Hastings; and it is probable that the Governor-
General, if he had searched through all the inns of court, could
not have found an equally serviceable tool. But the members of
Council were by no means in an obsequious mood. Hastings greatly
disliked the new form of government, and had no very high opinion
of his coadjutors. They had heard of this, and were disposed to
be suspicious and punctilious. When men are in such a frame of
mind, any trifle is sufficient to give occasion for dispute. The
members of Council expected a salute of twenty-one guns from the
batteries of Fort William. Hastings allowed them only seventeen.
They landed in ill-humour. The first civilities were exchanged
with cold reserve. On the morrow commenced that long quarrel
which, after distracting British India, was renewed in England,
and in which all the most eminent statesmen and orators of the
age took active part on one or the other side.

Hastings was supported by Barwell. They had not always been
friends. But the arrival of the new members of Council from
England naturally had the effect of uniting the old servants of
the Company. Clavering, Monson, and Francis formed the majority.
They instantly wrested the government out of the hands of
Hastings, condemned, certainly not without justice, his late
dealings with the Nabob Vizier, recalled the English agent from
Oude, and sent thither a creature of their own, ordered the
brigade which had conquered the unhappy Rohillas to return to the
Company's territories, and instituted a severe inquiry into the
conduct of the war. Next, in spite of the Governor-General's
remonstrances, they proceeded to exercise, in the most indiscreet
manner, their new authority over the subordinate presidencies;
threw all the affairs of Bombay into confusion; and interfered,
with an incredible union of rashness and feebleness, in the
intestine disputes of the Mahratta Government. At the same time,
they fell on the internal administration of Bengal, and attacked
the whole fiscal and judicial system, a system which was
undoubtedly defective, but which it was very improbable that
gentlemen fresh from England would be competent to amend. The
effect of their reforms was that all protection to life and
property was withdrawn, and that gangs of robbers plundered and
slaughtered with impunity in the very suburbs of Calcutta.
Hastings continued to live in the Government-house, and to draw
the salary of Governor-General. He continued even to take the
lead at the council-board in the transaction of ordinary
business; for his opponents could not but feel that he knew much
of which they were ignorant, and that he decided, both surely
and speedily, many questions which to them would have been
hopelessly puzzling. But the higher powers of government and the
most valuable patronage had been taken from him.

The natives soon found this out. They considered him as a fallen
man; and they acted after their kind. Some of our readers may
have seen, in India, a cloud of crows pecking a sick vulture to
death, no bad type of what happens in that country, as often as
fortune deserts one who has been great and dreaded. In an
instant, all the sycophants who had lately been ready to lie for
him, to forge for him, to pandar for him, to poison for him,
hasten to purchase the favour of his victorious enemies by
accusing him. An Indian government has only to let it be
understood that it wishes a particular man to be ruined; and, in
twenty-four hours, it will be furnished with grave charges,
supported by depositions so full and circumstantial that any
person unaccustomed to Asiatic mendacity would regard them as
decisive. It is well if the signature of the destined victim is
not counterfeited at the foot of some illegal compact, and if
some treasonable paper is not slipped into a hiding-place in his
house. Hastings was now regarded as helpless. The power to make
or mar the fortune of every man in Bengal had passed, as it
seemed, into the hands of the new Councillors. Immediately
charges against the Governor-General began to pour in. They were
eagerly welcomed by the majority, who, to do them justice, were
men of too much honour knowingly to countenance false
accusations, but who were not sufficiently acquainted with the
East to be aware that, in that part of the world, a very little
encouragement from power will call forth, in a week, more
Oateses, and Bedloes, and Dangerfields, than Westminster Hall
sees in a century.

It would have been strange indeed if, at such a juncture,
Nuncomar had remained quiet. That bad man was stimulated at once
by malignity, by avarice, and by ambition. Now was the time to be
avenged on his old enemy, to wreak a grudge of seventeen years,
to establish himself in the favour of the majority of the
Council, to become the greatest native in Bengal. From the time
of the arrival of the new Councillors he had paid the most marked
court to them, and had in consequence been excluded, with all
indignity, from the Government-house. He now put into the hands
of Francis with great ceremony, a paper, containing several
charges of the most serious description. By this document
Hastings was accused of putting offices up to sale, and of
receiving bribes for suffering offenders to escape. In
particular, it was alleged that Mahommed Reza Khan had been
dismissed with impunity, in consideration of a great sum paid to
the Governor-General.

Francis read the paper in Council. A violent altercation
followed. Hastings complained in bitter terms of the way in which
he was treated, spoke with contempt of Nuncomar and of Nuncomar's
accusation, and denied the right of the Council to sit in
judgment on the Governor. At the next meeting of the Board,
another communication from Nuncomar was produced. He requested
that he might be permitted to attend the Council, and that he
might be heard in support of his assertions. Another tempestuous
debate took place. The Governor-General maintained that the
council-room was not a proper place for such an investigation;
that from persons who were heated by daily conflict with him he
could not expect the fairness of judges; and that he could not,
without betraying the dignity of his post, submit to be
confronted with such a man as Nuncomar. The majority, however,
resolved to go into the charges. Hastings rose, declared the
sitting at an end, and left the room, followed by Barwell. The
other members kept their seats, voted themselves a council, put
Clavering in the chair, and ordered Nuncomar to be called in.
Nuncomar not only adhered to the original charges, but, after the
fashion of the East, produced a large supplement. He stated that
Hastings had received a great sum for appointing Rajah Goordas
treasurer of the Nabob's household, and for committing the care
of his Highness's person to the Munny Begum. He put in a letter
purporting to bear the seal of the Munny Begum, for the purpose
of establishing the truth of his story. The seal, whether forged,
as Hastings affirmed, or genuine, as we are rather inclined to
believe, proved nothing. Nuncomar, as everybody knows who knows
India, had only to tell the Munny Begum that such a letter would
give pleasure to the majority of the Council, in order to procure
her attestation. The majority, however, voted that the charge was
made out; that Hastings had corruptly received between thirty and
forty thousand pounds; and that he ought to be compelled to

The general feeling among the English in Bengal was strongly in
favour of the Governor-General. In talents for business, in
knowledge of the country, in general courtesy of demeanour, he
was decidedly superior to his persecutors. The servants of the
Company were naturally disposed to side with the most
distinguished member of their own body against a clerk from the
War Office, who, profoundly ignorant of the native language, and
of the native character, took on himself to regulate every
department of the administration. Hastings, however, in spite of
the general sympathy of his countrymen, was in a most painful
situation. There was still an appeal to higher authority in
England. If that authority took part with his enemies, nothing
was left to him but to throw up his office. He accordingly placed
his resignation in the hands of his agent in London, Colonel
Macleane. But Macleane was instructed not to produce the
resignation, unless it should be fully ascertained that the
feeling at the India House was adverse to the Governor-General.

The triumph of Nuncomar seemed to be complete. He held a daily
levee, to which his countrymen resorted in crowds, and to which
on one occasion, the majority of the Council condescended to
repair. His house was an office for the purpose of receiving
charges against the Governor-General. It was said that, partly by
threats, and partly by wheedling, the villainous Brahmin had
induced many of the wealthiest men of the province to send in
complaints. But he was playing a perilous game. It was not safe
to drive to despair a man of such resources and of such
determination as Hastings. Nuncomar, with all his acuteness, did
not understand the nature of the institutions under which he
lived. He saw that he had with him the majority of the body which
made treaties, gave places, raised taxes. The separation between
political and judicial functions was a thing of which he had no
conception. It bad probably never occurred to him that there was
in Bengal an authority perfectly independent of the Council, an
authority which could protect one whom the Council wished to
destroy and send to the gibbet one whom the Council wished to
protect. Yet 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 into

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 gaol. 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 messages 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 emoluments on the family of Nuncomar; and this they
did. In the meantime 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.

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 made forgery 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 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 feel 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 commercial
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 ascribe 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 Nuncomar 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 Mussulmans alone appear to have seen with exultation the fate
of the powerful Hindoo, who had attempted to rise by means of the
ruin of Mahommed Reza Khan. The Mahommedan 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 improbable.

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 to him. Nuncomar expressed his
gratitude with great politeness and unaltered composure. Not a
muscle of his face moved. No 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 feelings 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 had 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 indeed
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 qualified
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 a good man cannot be trusted to decide a
cause in which he is himself 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 that Lord Stafford, when in the Tower
on suspicion of being concerned in the Popish plot, had been
apprised 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? We
think not. If a judge, indeed, from favour to the Catholic lords,
were 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-

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 himself 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 then was
indeed a lesson 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 thousands of people. Everything 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 meantime, 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
advantage. 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 on having what could not be
honestly got, was then the constant practice of the Company. As
Lady 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 privy councillors, seldom seen so far eastward, we
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 votes 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
securing an 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 Genera
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 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 realised, though not by
himself. His project was to form subsidiary 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 Governor-General, that his resignation had been
accepted, that Wheler was coming out immediately, and that, till
Wheler arrived, the chair was to be filled by Clavering.

Had Hastings still been in a minority, he would probably have
retired without a struggle; but he was 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 taken at home. 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 himself, 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-

He afterwards affirmed that, though his agents had not acted in
conformity with his instructions, 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 he doubted that the imprudence of
Clavering gave Hastings an advantage. The General sent for the
keys of the fort and of the treasury, took possession of the
records, 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 at 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 should solemnly pronounce 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
Governor-General under the Regulating Act; and the defeated
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 wife. 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 Mahommedan chronicler tells 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 into high good-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

Wheler, who came out expecting to be Governor-General, and was
forced to content himself with a seat at the council-board,
generally voted with Francis. But the Governor-General, with
Barwell's help and his own casting vote, was still the master.
Some change took place at this time in the feeling both of the
Court of Directors and of the Ministers of the Crown. All designs
against Hastings were dropped; and, when his original term of
five years expired, he was quietly reappointed. The truth is,
that the fearful dangers to which the public interests in every
quarter were now exposed, made both Lord North and the Company
unwilling to part with a Governor whose talents, experience, and
resolution, enmity itself was compelled to acknowledge.

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.

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