Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Lord Mulgrave's motion was then, upon a second division, carried, * That the High Bailiff of the city of Westminster do proceed in the scrutiny for the said city with all practicable dispatch."

July 6. 1784. Mr. Pitt rose to open his new system for the government of India. —

No one, he said, could be more deeply impressed than he was with the importance of the subject on which he was then going to enter: in whatever point of view he considered it, he felt that no subject could possibly be more interesting. In it were involved the prosperity and strength of this country; the happiness of the natives of those ,valuable territories in India, which belonged to England ; and finally the constitution of England itself. India had at all times been of great consequence to this country, from the resources of opulence and strength it afforded; and that consequence had, of course, increased in proportion to the losses sustained by the dismemberment of other great possessions; by which losses, the limits of the empire being more contracted, the remaining territories became more valuable. - He was aware that nothing could be more difficult than to digest a plan, which should at once confirm and enlarge the advantages derived to this country from its connections with India ; to render that connection a blessing to the native Indians, and at the same time preserve inviolate the essence and spirit of our own constitution from the injuries to which this connection might eventually expose it. Gentlemen would recollect with a degree of horror, to what dangers that happy constitution was exposed last year, when a bill was introduced into parliament, which would have established a system dangerous to every thing that Englishmen held dear; they would recollect, that the liberties of this country had nearly suffered shipwreck; the danger, how. ever, was happily over; and the legislature had now an opportunity to consult about the means the most likely to reconcile and secure the interests of the people of this country, of the people of India, and of the British constitution, as far as it might be effected by the connection with India. To his lot fell the arduous task of proposing to the House a plan which should answer all these great purposes. He was aware that no plan could be devised, to which some objections would not lie; he was aware that it was not possible to devise a plan that should be free from imperfections; he should therefore console himself if he should be able to suggest the means of doing the most good to India, and to the East-India company, with the least injury to our constitution. In the arrangements that he should propose, it would be impossible to proceed, without giving to some body of men an accession of power ; but it was his duty to vest it where he should have reason to think it would be least liable to abuse, at the same time that it should be sufficient, and not more than sufficient, for all the purposes for which it should be given; sufficient to secure to this country the wealth arising from the commerce of the company; to the inhabitants of Hindostan, peace and tranquillity; and to enforce obedience on the part of the servants of the company, to the orders that should be sent to them from home. In framing such a system, he thought it his duty never to lose sight of this principle-- that though no charter could or ought to supersede state necessity, still nothing but absolute necessity could justify a departure from charters. He admitted that charters ought not to stand in the way of the general good and safety of the country; he admitted that no charter ought to be suffered to stand in the way of a reform, on which the being or welfare of the country depended; but at the same time he contended, that a charter ought never to be invaded, except when the public safety called for its alteration : charters were sacred things; on them depended the property, franchises, and every thing that was dear to Englishmen; and wantonly to invade them, would be to unhinge the constitution, and throw the state into anarchy and confusion.

With respect to the India company, its affairs were not in a state that called for a revocation of the charter ; the necessity which would justify a revocation did not exist in this case; and he felt no small degree of satisfaction in the assurance, that, at the moment when he had to propose such measures for the government of India, and the conduct of the affairs of the EastIndia company, as to his judgment appeared most applicable, there no longer existed any danger of the best and most sacred rights of Englishmen being made a sacrifice to the ambitious projects of those, who, under the necessity that actually existed, had taken the desperate resolution, that nothing short of measures of the most decisive and extreme nature, and measures far exceeding the necessity of the case, could be effectual. He thanked God, so great a sacrifice had been escaped; and he trusted that the sense plainly and incontrovertibly declared to be entertained upon the subject by the majority of the people of England, would prove to be the sense of the majority of that House; and that they would join with him in opinion, that although it must on all hands be admitted, that there did exist a great and urgent necessity for the interference of the legislature with regard to the East-India company, and the future government of India, yet, that neither state policy nor common prudence called for the legislature's proceeding beyond the limit of the existing necessity, much less of going the length either of destroying the rights of any individuals or bodies of men, established upon the most sacred of all foundations, the express words of solemn charters, recognized and confirmed by repeated acts of parliament, or of directly changing the constitution of the country, and departing from those known principles of government, which the wisdom of our ancestors had provided, and which had proved for ages the uninterrupted source of security to the liberties of Englishmen. It was, he said, to be acknowledged on all hands, that no rights of any body of men, however confessed to be rights of the most sacred sort, could supersede state necessity. To that, and that alone, they must give way; but then it ought ever to be a rule of conduct with those, to whose lot it fell to act under such a necessity, to take care that they did not exceed it. Nothing but such a necessity could warrant any government in proceeding to do, what must be an unwelcome task for all who had any con.

cern in its execution; but when they found themselves obliged to discharge a duty of that irksome nature, they ought to proceed warily, and with all possible tenderness and regard for those with whose rights they felt themselves obliged to interfere, and to be assured, that, in endeavouring to do all that their duty required, they did not unnecessarily tear up by the roots and annihilate those rights that were of essential consideration, and ought not to have been touched, because the exigency of the case did not actually require it. And though on a former occasion he had been derided, when he comforted himself with the idea, that, in every departure he should propose from the charter, he should have the consent and concurrence of the company, he still continued to find great consolation in the reflection, that he did no violence to the company; for no violence could be said to be done by regulations, to every one of which the company most cheerfully consented.

He did not find it necessary to create any system absolutely new for the government of our territories in India; he should rather endeavour to improve on the system by which those territories were governed at present. The great considerations to be looked to in the regulation of the government of India were threefold - the commerce of this country with that, and consequently the resources we derived from it; the interests of the inhabitants there; and the connection that the management of both had with our own constitution. Great inconvenience must, under the best possible devised form of government, necessarily arise from the circumstance of any country deriving a considerable part of her resources from a dependency at so great a distance; and this must also add to the extreme difficulty of governing India from home, because that distance must necessarily prevent the government at home, and those who filled the executive offices in India, from acting with equal views. For this reason he must repeat what he had before taken the liberty to state, when the subject had been under the consideration of the last parliament, that as no plan of government for India that human wisdom could suggest, was capable of perfection, so he was far from presuming to think, that the plan he should propose would not occasion much difference of opinion, and be liable to a variety of objections. He could only with great humility submit that plan to the judgment of parliament, which, from the maturèst consideration, he had been able to select as the most practicable and the most consonant to the present constitution ; conscious, at the same time, that it was impossible for him with so many different subjects to attend to, to have found leisure to do justice to a matter of sufficient importance to engross the attention of any man whose mind had been vacant and unoccupied by other objects. To proceed, however, to the business to be stated, he observed, that it could not be denied, that in every project of government of India, there must be an accession of influence somewhere, which it became that House and the people in general always to regard with extreme jealousy. That influence, for obvious reasons, should not be left at home, but might, with greater safety, be trusted abroad in India, where the executive power must be lodged; as every man must see the necessity of having a government active on the spot, yet not independent of this country, but so constituted as to secure obedience to the system of measures dictated from home, while, at the same time, it was capable of preventing extortion in India, and frustrating the improper views of ambition and despotism. The channel of commerce, he said, must be our guide, as to our future expectations from our connection with India, since we ought to look to the management of our manufactures there, which must chiefly depend on the establishment of the happiness of the inhabitants, and their being secured in a state of peace and tranquillity. In order to effect this, he declared it would be necessary to give the government abroad a certain degree of power, subject only to the control of a board, to be appointed at home, of the nature that he had mentioned, when he had proposed a bill upon the same subject to the last parliament. He observed, that in the present consideration there were mixed interests to be regarded as well as mixed objects. Government and commerce were the two great objects to be looked to, while the interest of

« AnteriorContinuar »