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Proceedings at a general court of proprietors of East-India stock, held at the India-house, on Friday, November 7, 1783, relative to the Hon. Warren Hastings, governor general of Bengal online

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Proceedings at a General
Court of Proprietors of East-
India Stock. . .Relative to the
Hon. barren Hastings















" l"o' ft i> o N :

Printed for J. D E B R E T T, pppofite BVRLINGTOlT-


M. D. C C. L X X X 1 I!.


order to elucidate the following important
debate, we wifh to bring to the recollection of
the public, the following circumftances :

On the 28th of May, 1782, the late Lord
Advocate of Scotland propofed a refolution in
V the Houfe of Commons, " That it was the du-
' ty of the Court of Directors to recal Mr. Haf-
tings from the Government of Bengal.'*
5 On the i8th of June following, the Court of
Proprietors refolved, that the Directors were
not to carry into effect any refolution they might
come to for the removal of Mr. Haftingr,
|? without laying it before a General Court.

On the 2^d of October, 1782, after violent
debates at the India Houfe, thirteen Directors
voted for the removal of Mr. Haftings ten
Directors oppofed the meafure, and feven of
thefe gentlemen protefted againft it in the ftrong-
eft manner.

On the 24th, this refolution was laid before
a General Court, wheivit was fully and ably de-
bated, and the following motion was made by
Governor Johnftone, and feconded by Samuel
Smith, jun. Efq. member for Ilchefter.

That it appears to this court, from incontef-
table evidence drawn from the records of the
r r >4- 1 ^ Com-


Company, and fupported by the unanimous
opinion of the Houfe of Commons, that the
war in which we are nqw .engaged with the
Marattas, " was evidently founded on the fenti-
ments of the Court of Directors, conveying
.demands on the Maratta adminiftration greatly
exceeding the conditions of the treaty of Poor-
under ; which fentiments of the Court of Di-
rectors opened the firft defign of fending a de-
tachment from Bengal to the Malabar coaft ;"
and that confequently it would be the height of
injuftice to lay the blame of that war, or trie
evils which have flowed from it, upon Mr.
Haftings, when it appears, " that the diflatis-
faftion of the Court of Directors expreffed at
the treaty of Poorunder, in their letters to Ben-
gal of the 5th of February, and to Bombay of
the 1 6th of April, 1777, gave the ftrongeft en-
couragement to both prelidencies, to feize the
liigbteft pretence of provocation from the mi-
nifters of the Maratta ftates, to renew their en-
gagements with Ragobah." Neither have the
meafures adopted by Mr. Haftings, in confe-
quence of fuch inftrucYions, ever received the
{lighter! cenfure from the faid Court of Direc-
tors ; in confideration whereof, it is now recom-
mended to the Court of Directors to refcind
their late refolution refpecling the removal of
Warren Haftings, Efq. Governor General of

Bengal ;


Bengal ; more efpecially as it appears to this
Court that, according to the laft f official difpat-
ches from Bengal, dated the 8th April, 1782,
the profpecl: of peace with the Marattas was then
propitious, becaufe it feemed to be wiftied for
by all the Maratta ftates ; becaufe hoftilities
with them had ceafed for many months, and
that a peace had actually been concluded with
Mahdajee Sindia, one of the principal chiefs of
that confederacy ; and farther, that the Govern-
ment General of Bengal were ufing every
means in their power to effect a general paci-
fication ; and that the conduct of the faid Go-
vernment General, tending to produce a gene-
ral pacification, or to unite and fupport, by
powerful refources, a general confederacy of the
country powers, to defeat . the combination of
Hyder Ally and the French, (fnppofing the faid
Hyder Ally mail not accept of the .reafonable
terms of accommodation which have been of-
fered to him in confequence of his propofals
for peace) merits the warmeft approbation of
this Court; and that therefore it would be evi-
dently Injurious t the interefts of the Company
and the nation to remove any of thofe princi-
pal fervants cf the Company, now difcharging
their duty with fuch uncommon exertions, abi-
lity, and unanimity, or to fhake the authority
repofed in them by the legiQature and the Com-

vffi -I N T R O D U C T I O K.

pany, at a period fo critical, when the profpe-
rity of the British interefts in India will de-
pend, in a great meafure, on the confidence
which the native princes of the country may
place in the Government General of Bengal."

Several Gentlemen who were prefent expreded
a wifh that this motion (hould be determined by
a ballot, and the friends of Mr. Haftings being
very defirous to take the fenfe of the Lait- India
Company upon fo important a queftion, in the
fulleft and the faireft manner, very readily ac-
qniefced, and fome of them figned the requifi-
tion for the ballot. On the 31 ft of October
the ballot was taken, and the numbers ftood as
follow :

For the queftion 428

Againftit 75

Majority in favour of Mr. Haftings 353

This was the laft proceeding in 1 782, relative
to Mr. Haftings. Nothing was done in Parli-
ament ; and in confequence of the intelligence
received from Bengal by the Supriz^ Packet,
Governor Johnftone and eight Proprietors ad-
dreffed a letter to the Court of Directors on
the 29th of October, defiring that a General
Court might be called to confider the late ad-
vices from Bengal. It was fixed by the Directors

to meet on Fridav the 7th inftant.

P R O-




At a numerous and refpeElable Meeting of the
Proprietors of Eaft-Intiia Stock, held at their
Houfe In Leadenhall-Street, on Friday^ No*
vember 7, 1783; among many other diftin-
gui/Jjed Characters prefent were, his Grace the
Archbifoop of Tork, General Oglethorpe, the
Honourable Mr. Greville, &c. &c. &c.

fome private bufmefs of little importance^
Sir Henry Fletcher informed the Court of Proprie-
tors of the reafon of their being fummoned It was
to confider the late advices from Bengal, in con-
fequence of a letter from nine proprietors but
before they mould enter on the fubjedt for which
they were affembled, he begged leave to propofe thac
the petition to the Houfe of Commons, prefented
B la

laft feffion, in confequence of which they had re-
ceived certain aid, but not all they required, might
be renewed. He ftated the circumftance to which
the petition particularly alluded. They had prayed
for liberty to borrow 1,500,000!. Of this fum they
had been fuffered to borrow '500,000!. and tempo-
rary aid was given them for the i,ooo,oool. but that
aid they wifhed to be permanent and the fpecific
amount of the relief prayed for would make the only
difference between the prefent and the laft petition.

This buGnefs being finifhed, and the letter read,
Governor John/lone addrefled the Chairman


The letter which has been read for calling the Ge-
neral Court, has already informed the proprietors of
the purpoie for which they are aflembled. Thofe ad-
vices from the Eaft Indies which they are to take un-
der conlideration, have been publifhed in the newfpa-
pers, and extracts of all the material intelligence they
convey have lain open for the perufal of the proprie-
tors, as appears by the public ad'/ertifement for calling
the Court ; otherwifc in point of form, I fhould begin
by reading the advices to which I mean to refer, be-
fore I propofc the motion I intend to fubmit to the
confideration of the Court : but as the reading of
voluminous public difpatches is often difgufting to
fuch affemblies, when the matter under difcufiion is
of public notoiiery, and where all who are anxious
to undcrftand the particulars have had an opportu-

[ 3 ].

nity fo to do, 1 mall therefore adopt another mode
of proceeding, which is^ by giving the reafons for
the motion I mall propofe before I fit down ; and
then referring to the particular articles in the dif-
patches on which the motion is grounded,, that th~y
may be read by the cierk.

The taik I have impofed upon myfelf is, indeed,
attended with much difficulty, not from want of
fufficient and fuperabundant matter to vindicate the
motion, with which I mean to conclude, giving
thanks to Mr. Haftings and his council, for the exer-
tions they have, made in the public caufe ; but from
that difpofition of party and fade ion. in the ftruggles
foi power, which has diftradted this community in
every part: to which I impute our late misfortunes,
much more than to the exertions of our enemies.
Thrsfpirit has gone forth to fueh a rancorous degree
that it is hardly pofiible, in the opinion of fome, to
give praife to one man, without throwing cenfure on
others: but this cenfure is far from being my in-
tention ; it is rather my wiflv to heal the diflentions
that have prevailed, and to correct that fpirit fo de-
trimental to the community, than by any irritation
to inflame it. I am not dexterous in my choice of
words i but, once for ally I .declare this to be my
meaning. Neverthelefs, if there are men of fuch
malignity of difpofition, that they cannot view the
great actions of men with whom they have been
connected in political enmity, without confidering it
as a reproach to themfelves, I freely acknowledge I
B z would

would rather incur the enmity of fuch men, than
withold, as far as I am able to enforce it, that tri-
bute of applaufe which is due te thofe who have
greatly ferved their country. It has been my lot,
Sir, in the ftruggles which this country has under-
gone againft her numerous enemies, to attach my-
fclf chiefly to thofe characters who were willing
boldly to meet the danger, not tamely to fubmit to
the indignities of our enemies j nor, by croaking de-
fpondency in the hour of diftrefs, when nothing but
animated exertion could fave us, unman themiclves,
and difpirit their countrymen. It has been the for-
tune, or misfortune of other men in this commu-
nity, to employ themfelves in curious inveftigation
to diminilh the luftre of thofe characters ; but, thank
God! juft as the effects of their laborious refearches
were likely to burft on my friends, by the news of
fome great and glorious action, achieved by thofe
perfons, arriving, their reputation has been faved,
and the men who would have blafted their fame have
been obliged to join in the public applaufe. Such
was the cafe of Lord Rodney, who, when abfent in
the fervice of his country, had a committee of the
Houfe of Commons fitting in fevere fcrutiny on his
actions at St. Euftatius. The report was made by
the fame right honourable gentleman who has fa-
voured the world with the Ninth Report, and other
papers, criminating Mr. Haftings nay, the day
of his condemnation was fix^d, and his recal had al-
ready taken place, when the accounts of the glori-
pus 1 2th of April came to raife the fpirit of his


t 5 ]

friends, and to abafh the malignity of his enemies.
In like manner, after the inquifitorial proceedings of
the Seled Committee had been given to the Houfe
of Commons, and induftrioufly circulated to the
public, to prejudice the character of Mr. Haftings
after he had been repreTented in a great national af-
fembly as a public robber, and molt notorious op-
.preffor after his enemies had held out the hopes
he had given of faving our pdffeflions in the Eaft
Indies as fo many fcenes in a feries of delufions, there
comes, in a moment, as critical in his favour as the
victory of the i2th of April was in that of Lord
Pvodney an account of the Maratta treaty, fet-
tling and commanding the peace of India, the re-
treat of Tippoo Saib from the Carnatic, the taking
of the province of Bednore, and the furrender of
J/Iangalore; which leaves no longer any doubt of
the triumph of our arms, and the (lability of our
pofleflions in the Eaft. The conducl of Mr. Haft-
ings and Lord Rodney, may be compared to that of
Sylla, when profecuting the war againft Mithridates.
Being informed by one of the officers of the pro-
ceedings of Marius, he was afked how he could re-
main in Afia while fuch perfecutions were carrying
on againft him at Rome ? Sylla made anfwer, "It
is by this I am making the moft cruel war againft
Marius. I will firft conquer the enemies of the
Republic, and then return to R.ome and punifh
Marius." Upon fuch an occafion as the pre-
fent, I would recommend to thofe who have been
the profeficd enemies of Mr. Haftings, to follow
l the

the exact line they did in the cafe of my Lord Rod-
ney. They were the firft to run to the fenate, and
the firft to propofe public thanks upon fo great an
event : and the orator, upon whofe reprefentations
they had chiefly relied for their former opinion, de-
clared that he could no longer look through fuch a
blaze of glory at the faults he had difcovered, and
was ready to cover them with the enfigns which he
had taken from the enemy. In like manner, admit-
ting for the fake of obtaining unanimity in the mo-
tion I fhall make, that Mr. Haftings has had fome
faults in his conduct, yet I defire that thofe who
were formerly difpofed to view him in that light wilt
now cover thofe errors with the Maratta treaty,,
with the ftandards of Tippoo Saib, with the
enfigns of Bednore and Mangalore. In the fame
fpirit I would advife thofe who] are fo charmeo*
wkh the wic of the Ninth Report of the Select
Committee, to read, as an antidote, the hiftory of
the tranfacbions I have enumerated. During the laft
recefs of parliament, I have often heard it afked,
have you read the Ninth Report ? If ever than
qucftioa is put again, I advife the friends of Mr.
Haftbgs to make no other anfwer than this : have
you read the Maratta Treaty ? In great national af-
fairs, like thjis under our confideration, upon which
the fate of an empire depends, it is in vain to call
upon me to look at little fpecks in the conduct of
fuch men ; they may be true or falfe ; I will difdain
to confider them at fuch a moment, when my heart
fliould be- filled with the efFufions of joy and grati-

t 7 3

tude. It was left for the Examiner and his afiociates,
to find out that the Duke of Marlborough had
given a contract to this or that man improperly, but
who, on receiving the account of the battle of Blen
heim or Ramillies, would have flopped the tribute
of his praife and admiration, upon fo trifling a tale.
The Court of Directors fhould be particularly cautious,
not to admit any prejudice in their minds from the re-
ports of the Select Committee. It is well known, that
as ftrong reports as could be framed, were brought
down by that refpectable Committee againft two
of your own body , * but when the accufation came
to be fifted, it appeared fo frivolous and ill founded,
that the framers of the report were afhamed to bring
the iflue to a public difcuffion and decifion. If this
has happened refpecting men on the fpot, how much
more may we fufpect the labours of that difintereftcd
body, refpecting a man at the diftance of four thou-
fand leagues ? But, I mould be forry to be under-
ftood, as meaning to infmuate that actions, however
great in themfelves mould cover any injuftice to indi-
viduals. Thefe are fubjects of proper difcuffion
for the courts of juftice ; or if Mr. Haftings, in the
prefllng exigency of his fituation, has exacted more
men or money from any perfon, than equity or found
policy will warrant in the defence of the State ;
let the Court of Directors order compenfation when
the peace is eftablifhed. All I contend for at prefent
is, that the fituation was critical, the affiftance requi-
fite-, and if there appears fame fault in the mode of
enforcing the payments, it was an excefs of zeal in
* Mr. Sulivan and Sir William Jumes.


[ 8 ]

your fervice, and not for his own emolument -, there-
fore it fhould not (top the current of your approba-
tion on this day.

But, Sir, the General Court of Proprietors are
more particularly called upon to exprefs their fenti-
ments, upon the late advices from the Eaft Indies ;
they have been vilified, traduced, and abufed ; nay,
all their privileges, fecured by facred charters,
threatened to be taken away by that afiembly, which
ought to be the guardians and protectors of public
rights, becaufe they had offered to interfere againft
a torrent of intemperate proceedings, and fupport
this very man in his fituation, who has now fulfilled
their expectations, and fo completely vindicated their
character and his own. Though I can by no means
recommend the fpirit of exultation, where I wifli to
heal the wounds of difcord, yet I cannot, on the
other hand, afiume that modefty, which would
deny bringing thofe tranfactions to the recollection
of the public. If this court had not interpofed, firft
by the refolution in June, and afterwards by that in
October, 1782, I believe there is none acquainted
with the affairs of the Eaft, who will not allow,
that inftead of rejoicing for public events, we fliould
have had caufe to mourn over misfortunes, worfe
than the lofs of America : even you, Sir, who was
:hen of opinion, that the Maratta treaty was a de-
lufion, and that the afpect of our affairs, as we had
painted them, in the motion for refcinding that re-
folution of the Court of Directors, which had dif-


[ 9 ]

miffed Mr. Haflings, will now acknowledge it has
been attended with the belt effects. Since, then,
all our prognoftics have proved true, fmce the courfe
of events has exceeded the expectations of the moft
fanguine, it would be unworthy our characters not
to claim the merit of our conduct under fuch cir-

That the fubfequent part of my difcourfe may be
better underftood, I mall here read the motion with
which I intend to conclude, and when the three refolu-
tions are taken together, I mall not confider them as
that part of my conduct in life, which gives me the
lead fatisfa&ion, in having had the honour to pro-
pofe them. *

As far as I have been able to catch the pulfe
of the public, I underftand there will be little
oppofition to any part of the motion I have read.,
except the conclufion. Government are very apt,
when they chufe, to interfere io an extraordinary
manner in the affairs of the Eaft-India Compa-
ny, to hold a language in which I do not en-
tirely difagree with them -, that the affairs of the
Eaft are now of fuch magnitude and confequence
to the ftate a that every man in high flation in
that country may be confidered as the immediate
fervant of the public ; but I obferve this language
is more frequently affume4 when they are pleafed to
throw cenfure, than to communicate praife. The
thanks of the Houfe of Commons have been given
* Here the motion iufeited at the end of the fpe;ch was read.

C to

C ]

to Sir Eyre Coote, in my opinion moil defervedly,
The thanks of that Houfe have likewife been given
to Sir Edward Hughes, with equal juftiee; but
great and illuftrious as thefe characters are, noble as
their exertions muft ever appear, will any one, who
underftands the tranfactions of the Eafl Indies, fay
they have performed greater public fervices than
Mr. Haftings. ? Sir Eyre Coote will not fay fo ; for,
on the contrary, he has told you, the fav ; ng of the
Carnatic has been ovying to the extraordinary exer-
tions of the Governor General. Sir Edward Hughes
will not fay fo, who, with a peculiar modefty, for-
getting his own merit, has dvveit with pleafure and
admiration on that of his friend, Governor Haftings.
If thofe officers, acting on the fpot, afford us this
teftimony of approbation, and the conclufion of the
fcene vindicates their opinion, mall we believe them,
or the judgment of a Committee who have not been
farther than the avenues of Sr. James's ? Neither do I
fee how it is pcffible with juft reafoning to aflent to
the firft part, and deny the conclufion. It may be
faid, however, what motives have this Committee to
miflead the public ? It does not become me to enter
into the motives of men ; the ftroggles for power
are often productive of the worft mifchiefs to the
public, and the moft cruel injuftice to indviduals.
It is potTible alfo that thofe gentlemen feel none of
the refcntments they would endeavour to raife in
our minds. Men, moving in the higher orbits, fel-
dom enter the circle of inveteracy ; that is left to
the inferior orders of rren, if they are weak enough
to be drawn into the eddy ; but what we have lately


[ I' ]

may teach us to avoid this fituation. Perhaps
if Mr. Haftings had quitted his office of Governor-
General of Bengal, we fhould have heard no more
complaints againil him ; he might have remained as
quiet as any other difplaced minifter, nay, I fhould
not be furprized if his greateft enemy, fucceeding
to his office, fhould, in a ihort time, pronounce his
eulogium, and that all our fquabbles at this end of
the town ihould end in as pleafmg a coalition, as
that which has appeared at St. Stephen's. If I am
prefled dill farther to explain the motives of the
Committee, I mould fay, that I confider the whole
as the labours of the principal member of that
Committee, and that I apprehend the enmity he has
taken up againft Mr. Haftings, arifes, as I have
faid in another place, from the tendernefs of his
mind, and his extreme humanity, which does not
permit him to view, with his ufual judgement,
thofe fcenes of horror which are incident to war.
There is hardly a campaign under the mildeft officer
that does not exhibit fcenes, which when painted
by a lively imagination, are not fufficient to make us
fick of exiftence ; but when ^thoic fcenes are ex-
amined, with the caufes that produced them, and the
effects that followed, and the neceffity which im-
prefled, as the belt means to attain the end, the ha-
tred againft the perfon who directed the execution is
removed. When the King of Prufiia burnt the
beautiful fuburbs of Drefden, when Sylla ordered
his troops to fet fire to Rome to drive Marius from
the Capitol ; in confidering only the horrors and def
vaftation which enfued, our minds are apt to re vole
C 2 againft

r l

againft the man who cculd ifiue fiich orders ; and,
accordingly, there are many philofophic writings
which have condemned thofe acts, while other
writers on the art of war have praifed the magnanimi-
ty and promptitude of fpirit which directed them.
In the fame way I apprehend the ftory of Chcyt Sing
has been mifunder flood, by not confidering the whole
of the tranfadtion, as neceflary to the ftatc of the
war, and the preiervation of our pofleffions in the
Eaft ; and when we come to refleft that this is the
only quarter of the globe in which the Rritifli arms
have fuftained their luftre without lofmg territory, we
ihould be more cautious in imputing blame to the Go-
vernor General, who has preferved them ; or in with-
holding our praife for his having fo done j if I look
to North America, the profpect is too melancholy ; if
I cad my eye to the Weft Indies, a number of iflands
appear under the Mags of our enemies ; if I go to the
Mediterranean, I fee Minorca loft : it is in the Eaft
alone we have fuftained the Ihock with credit; it will
hardly be faid we have refifted the power of our ene-
mies by the wifdom of our councils at home : fup-
pofing they had fhewn fufficient fagacity in that re-
fpect near their immediate contronl, the diftance of
our poflfefiions in the Eaft Indies renders the direction
of the refources of that country impofllble. It is
therefore owing to the government exifting on the
fpot. Under fuch circumftances, if it were only to
prevent the invidious parallel, I fhould hope his
Majefty's Minifters would not with-hold their tribute
of thanks upon fuch an occafion. Whoever will
trace the progrefs of the negociation with the Ma-


[ '3 ]

rattas from the beginning to the conclufion, the
means applied to bring about that event, will find
fufficient caufe to excite his admiration, and to ex-
tinguim any malevolence he may entertain againft
Mr. Haftings. There is a degree of fpirit and per-
fpicuity through the whole of that bufmefs, that
makes me, while I rejoice it was under the manage-
ment of fuch able hands, wifh for a moment the
fame judicious, active councils could have been com-
municated to other parts that flood in equal need
of them. To trouble the Court with a long citation is
always diftgKeeable to popular afiemblies; neverthe-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryEast India CompanyProceedings at a general court of proprietors of East-India stock, held at the India-house, on Friday, November 7, 1783, relative to the Hon. Warren Hastings, governor general of Bengal → online text (page 1 of 8)