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An address to the publick on the subject of the East India dividend online

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the Sir Dl-









On the SUBJECT of the

Eaft India Dividend,

Re inania aut fubdola: quantoque majore libertatis ima-
gine tetebantur, tanto eruptura ad Infenfius Sermium.


Printed for S. BLADON, in Paternofter-Row.




W^HEN one reflects on the arbitrary
and violent acts of former times,
we are furprized that the people could
bear fuch abfurdity and oppreffion, ne-
ver confidering how the arts of defigning
men had probably difguifed the truth, on
the occafion of exerciiing fuch oppreffions,
and that the people did not fee them in
the real light in which they then flood,
and are now handed down to us. We
are apt to coniider the Parliament of
Henry the Vlllth with greater detefla-
tion than the Roman Senate under the
Emperors, and yet there are many peo-
ple living who may remember equal
contradictions from a limilar fet of
men, fuch as the miniiler has directed,
without any of that national hatred



( 6 )

attending them, which a philofopher
would expect fhould be the concomitant
of fuch actions.

Can it be imagined that the people of
RufTia really believed their Emperor
murdered by his wife, or Prince Ivan
killed by defign ? No, they, good people,
believed, as moft others do, the relation
which the minifters publifhed about the
court, That the one died of the piles,
and the other perifhed by accident.

What led me into thefe reflections, is
the affair of the Eaft India Company
now pafling under our immediate ob-
fervation. As I have been particularly
acquainted with moft of the facts, 1 can
be bold to fay, that the Englifh hiftory
does not furnifh any inflances where
greater treachery, injuflice, folly or in-
gratitude can be found, or where a more
direct attack has been made on every
thing that is dear to an independent fpi-
rit, or the credit or liberties of this coun-
try ; and yet fuch has been the effect,
by the grofleft and vileft mifreprefenta-
tions, coming from men in the higher!


( 7 )

offices, and uttered with a confident in-
difference, little fuiting the dignity of
their ftation, that it is only of late that
the alarm has been taken, and even
now, half $he metropolis remain under
the delufions which thefe honourable
Gentlemen have propagated.

Whoever will be pleafed to read, with
a due attention to principles and their
confequences, the bill now depending
in Parliament, relative to the refcind-
ing and retraining the India divi-
dend, and will read the arret of the
King of France after the peace, re-
fpedting their funds, and which ruined
the credit of that country, they will
find the difference of the remedies in
the application of the one and the other,
as a drop of water to a folution of vi-
triol. The King of France took nothing
to himfelf from the flockholders, any
more than is done by this bill, but he de-
preciated the value of the ftock, which
is all in all. If one knew where to com-
bat thofe Gentlemen, the point might
be brought to fome ifliie, but when they
efcape like ferpents by 100 wreaths, or
like Methodift women difputing about


( 8 )

religion, immediately fly from one
point to another, it is impoffible ever to
get hold of them. Sometimes they al-
ledge the Company has not fufficient ef-
fecls. Upon this we are willing to join
iffue, and to admit that, if fuch be the
cafe, the Parliament did right to inter-
fere. But if you demand immediately
to go into the proofs, and enter upon
the argument, juil as you have brought
it to fuch a certainty as the moft har-
dened fon of a cook-maid cannot deny
the conclufion, why then you are an-
fwered, It does not iignify whether you
have effects or no, by G it is all dif-
puting about riches in the moon j you
cannot bring this into cafh.

If it is demonstrated, upon the loweft
computations, that we can bring fuffi-
cient of our goods into cafli to anfwer
the dividend in February, and even to
pay off all our debts by the 5th of Au-
guft 1 7 68 ; or if it is fhown we can
negotiate our Bills on Bengal for ioo,oool.
to-morrow at 4 per cent, premium, and
' confequently that we cannot be at a lofs'
for 40,000 1. why then we are anfwered


- ( 9 )

with another volley of oaths, by G it
does not fignify whether you can or not,
you have borrowed more than the law .
has permitted you, and a man. in high
office has faid fo. We are all willing to
admit the wonderful abilities of this
little man in high office ; only, how much
foever he looks like a Popifh Prieil. We
infift that his random decrees fhall not
be deemed infallible, much lefs his
loofe heated illiberal converfation. Let
us then reft the point on this queftion :
No, I will have no queftion with you,
you have deferved all you have fuffered,
the bill fhali pafs, the whole was irre-
gular, you have affronted Adminiftra-
tion ; how durft you take up the matter
when Parliament had your affairs under
confideration ? Now as this is the end of
all the converfations I have endeavoured
to have on this fubjecl:, and as it is the
kind of reafoning which contractors,
jobbers, and the loweft of the minifterial
tools have gathered, who never ufed to
pretend to reafon before, and by which
many well-meaning people are deceiv-
ed, I fhall therefore endeavour to an-
fwcr each of thofe points.

G And

I 10 )

And firft, That the whole was irregu-
lar, becaufe no previous notice was
given, and no papers were read, and
no ballot was taken, and many transfers
were made on the preceding day.

Anfwer. There is nothing laid down
either by the charters or bye-laws, or the
cufloms of the proceedings of general
courts, which requires any. previous no-
tice of any motion to be made. It is
neither the practice of the proceeding in
the Houfe of Lords or Commons. How-
ever, it was kept no fecret, and if the
matter turn'd on this point, it is very
certain the Directors did know of this
motion, becaufe they confulted very
eminent council on the preceding
evening, who told them thefe words:
" Why, if the 10 per cent, is not illegal,
" you'll find difficulty to prove the other
" fo, if they fhall vote it."

Whether papers mall be read or not is
always in the judgment of the court,
and therefore unlefs it can be fhewn
that the reading of papers is required
either by law or practice, no objection



can arife on that account. Some alledge
indeed, that the 29th bye-law requires
the reading of the general annual ac-
count. I am fure the conftruction of
language in that bye-law does not im-
ply it, and the conftant practice has been
againft it, nor was the general annual
account ever fhewn before this period,
though the dividend has been raifed
and lowered fo often. In Mr. Barclay's
time we find the Directors put a previous
queftion on a motion to read papers ; but
I mall anfwer this as the foregoing ob-
jection, that fuppofing it was neceffary,
why did not the Directors produce it 5
no body hindered them : but to alledge
from thence that the Proprietors knew
nothing of their affairs, is an unjuil
conclufion ; they actually did produce
accounts, and read every article, and
called on the Directors to contradict
them, which fixes the account as much
as if it had come from the Directors
themfelves ; befides, it is to be remem-
bered, that the Proprietors had em-
ployed two preceding months in reading
papers, and looking into their affairs :
The refult was to vote the Directors
C 2 pro-

(.12 )

proportions, and therefore 124 percent
was no new idea either to the Directors
or adminiilration ; and what is very re-
markable, out of 13 proportions deli-
vered in, not one perfon Hates the divi-
dend which ought to be allow'd the Pro-
prietors, at a lower rate than 124, and
all, except one, Hates it at a higher rate ;
jiay, Mr. Sullivan offer'd to give 14 per
cent, upon an enlarged capital.

We come next to the objection of no

ballot being taken : again it is anfwer'd,

there is no law, cuftom or practice

which necefTarily requires a ballot to

give validity to a refolution of a general

court : On the contrary, every queftion

which paries without fuch a proceeding,

mufl be deemed a better determination

than by ballot, becaufe it actually proves

there was not nine men in the court

who difTented from the refolution. The

prefent bill directs a ballot in future,

and if it fhould unfortunately pafs into

a law, it will be neceiFary ; but to require

it before, is both unjuil and abfurd;

more efpecially, as in looking into all

the- alterations of dividend which have


( 13 )

taken place, iince the beginning of the
Company, there is only one that was de-
termined by ballot. And here I beg leave
to remark by the bye, that the charter
(with a due regard to juftice and com-
mon fenfe) requires all queflions to be
determined by a majority of the mem-
bers prefent, and the method by ballot,
being only a bye-law, it cannot nor
ought not to alter the principles of the
charter. The .original intention of bal-
lot was only to take the vote in a fecret
manner, thereby fecuring the indepen-
dency of the voter ; and accordingly at
the commencement, we find all ballots
were taken on the fpot. It is fomewhat
remarkable to hear the fame fet of men
infill that papers muft be read on the one
hand, and yet that the queflion muft be
determined by Proprietors at a diftance on
the other, who never heard either fuch
papers read, or the merits of the caufe

We come now to the 115 transfers the /
day before the vote was pafs'd. If gen-
tlemen will look to the day of fhutting
before the election, they will find 206


( '4 )

transfers, and yet no fuperior judge has
ever thought of vacating the election on
that account. The fact is, that in the
one cafe as in the other, both fides ex-
erted themfelves j but furely this proves
nothing againft a vote that was unani-
mous, where the numbers were 456,
where the moft refpectable Proprietors
wefe prefent, and where, in fpite of the
lies (for they deferve no milder name)
which have been utter'd, and the malice
which has prevailed, the utmoil good
fenfe and decency was apparent in the
court. If this objection was to have
been made, it fhould have been applied
againft the vote of 400,000!. which ad-
miniftration received without the fmalleft
objection, from the very men they have
fmce perfecuted, in a manner unparal-
leled before in this country, and after
breaking through the moil folemn afTu-
ranees in that tranfaction.

Yet fuch are the characters who in
the jumble of politicks are brought to
rule this iminenfc empire at a time
when the greateil talents and integrity
are required.

I come

I come now to the laft accufation:
you have affronted Adminiflration ; how
durft you take up this matter when Par-
liament had your affairs under confider-

ation ?

I fliould have been very happy, if in
the courfe of my converfation I could
ever have been able to have fixed the
particular affront which Adminiflration
is faid to have received on this occafion :
if it was in acting after the Proprietors
had received an interdictory meflage in
their name, why Adminiflration has
denied that ever they fent fuch a mef-
fage, or that they ever wifhed to inter-
meddle with the dividend ; and there-
fore there can be no offence on that ac-
count, if any credit is to be given to
this their mofl folemn denial. I fhall
endeavour to confider this point in two
lights. Firft, I will confider it, fuppofmg
the denial true, and fecondly, fuppofmg
the denial falfe, and the meffage to be

If Adminiilration never fent any fuch
meffage, how then can we excufe them
for the adulation and flattery, and fup-
4 pore

( 16 )

port which they have lavifhed on the
dulleft clods of clay that ever were ani-
mated with human breath, after they
had thus falfely ufed their names to
fuch wicked purpofes ?

And again, if the menage never was
lent, the 12! per cent, will Hand part of
the propofitions, as agreed to by Ad-
miniflration, and therefore the Pro-
prietors (according as the matter ftands
upon the very account of Admi-
niftration themfelves) were vindica-
ted, nay invited to do what they did;
for it mull ever be remembered, that
fuppoiing 12.1 or any other dividend, is
to take place at a certain period, the
fooner it is declared the fairer the tranf-
action muft appear refpedting the pub-
lick ; and that the anfwer of adminiftra-
tion was thus underftood by the Direc-
tors themfelves, appears from their own
words, viz. But having laft night re-
ceived a meiFage from Adminiftration,
which materially altered the whole of the
propofitions, they had therefore defer-
red printing, fac. How then could the
meflage refpedting the ten per cent, ma-

( I* )

terially alter, if it was not before under-
flood that 124. was to take place ? So that
whether the mefTage was fent, or was
not fent, it is clear the idea of 124 p&r
cent, was fixed in every man's mind, as
far as publick faith or publick tranfac-
tions could fix it, until eighteen hours
before it was voted : and what renders
this undubitable, is the proportions of
the court of Diredlors themfelves, where
are thofe words : And out of the profits
there mall be firfl deducted the fum of
400,000 /. to be applied and difpofed of
in dividends to the Proprietors, or in
fuch manner as fliall be agreed by them.
And upon the whole, they are of opinion,
that a certain fum referved in England
to the Proprietors, equal to a dividend
6fi,2*.ft6rcenf. with the profpecl: of 3,
future increafe and advantages, will be
more eligible to the Proprietors than a
dividend of 14 psr cent, paid in India.
And alfo, the proportions number, 11.
from whence the proportions of the
court of Directors were taken, where
are the fame words. Now it is certain
that thefe proportions., number 1 1. were
D rcyifed

( 1* )

revifed and appro ved by Adm migration,
and even handed about as their propo

I fhall now fuppofe the denial falfe,
and the meflage to be true. Can the Pro-
prietors of India Stock be blamed for re-
garding with a proper contempt fuch an
infolent and unconilitutional a meflage,
that even the parties who fent it dare not
now avow it ? Was it not the bufmefs of
every good fubject to bring the dividend
to fome fixt point, to prevent flock-job-
bing, agreeable to the flourifhingfituation
and the future promts of the company,
and according to a jufl regard to the
Company's Creditors on the one hand,
and the Proprietors on the other ? Had
nqt the Directors themfelves, by their
proportions, acknowledge^ 124. percent,
fo be this medium, and do they not
there confefs that the half of the profits
of the furplus was a fufficient fund for
discharging even 500,000!. more of debt
than is now owing ? Had not the admi-
niflration acquiefced to thefe truths till
1 8 hours before, had not the flock rofe


in confequence ? Would it not have been
the vileft deception on foreigners and the
public, if a majority of the Proprietors
could have changed their opinions thus
publicly pledged, without any alteration
of circumftances, merely at the unhal-
lowed found of changeling miniilers ?

I come laftly to confider the affront of-
fered to parliament. Every one muft ac-
knowledge the deference and refpect
which is due to either of the branches
of the legislation ; but how an exercife
of juft and legal powers, in a decent?
proper, and constitutional manner, in
order to prevent ftock-jokbmg, fraud,
and injuilice, can be conftrued an affront
on the guardians of our rights and pri-
vileges, is more than I can conceive.

I have heard of Maflbniella, a fifher-
man, getting poffeffion of the city of
Naples by a public heat of his own fo-
menting ; but the people perceived the
abfurdity in live or fix days. I remem-
ber our army at Carthagena being
thrown into the utmoft panic, when
many were drowned, and numbers kil~
D 2 led,


led, by the approach of two negroes and
a white horfe in the night j yet aflbon as
day-light returned, the people recovered
their fenfes.

But of all the delations by which
mankind have been affected, and for fo
long a time, this of the affront offered
to parliament is the moil extraordinary*
becaufe, by the utmoft ftretch of imagi-
nation, I defy the world to point out
from whence it can be deduced.

Before I conclude, I will fay fome-
thing on the allufions which have been
made to the tranfadlions of the South-Sea
company, in the year 1720. What com-
parifons can be drawn between a com-
pany railing their dividend to 60 per
cent, without any vilible means of an-
fwering fuch declarations, and a com-
pany acknowledged to be the richeft in
the whole world, and in pofleflion of
kingdoms bigger and more opulent than
Britain, and whofe trade alone yields a
profit of 600, ooo 1. a-year, taking to
themfelves, upon their former fmall ca-

pital, a dividend of 124 per cent, and this
at a time when even the Dutch and Swe-
difh Eaft-India companies are dividing
upwards of 20 per cent, on their capitals.
I leave this to every impartial man to

Some gentlemen may imagine by this
Unufual interpofition of parliament to
correct what they may call the deficiency
of the law, that they are doing good fer-
vice to their country ; this indeed would
be carrying the doctrine of the difpeniing
power to every branch of the legiflature.
To fuch men I lhall only apply what
Tacitus fays of Tiberius, after telling us
of the popularity he had acquired by
frequently fitting in judgment and cor-
recting the rigour of the law :

Ceterum dum veritati confulitur
Libertas conmpebatur.



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Online LibraryEast India CompanyAn address to the publick on the subject of the East India dividend → online text (page 1 of 1)