HC Deb 30 May 1806 vol 7 cc414-9
Mr. Sullivan

said, he rose to move for the papers of which he had given notice two days ago.—That, having been prevented, by an afflicting distress in his family, from attending in his place during the last week, he had not had an opportunity of hearing the observations which an hon. member had permitted himself to make, to the disadvantage of a near and dear relation of his, a member of that house, who was absent, through infirmity. From what he had since heard and read of those observations, he did not hesitate to say that they were unfounded; and that the house would find, in the papers to which he had alluded, the most distinct and pointed contradiction to what the hon. gent. had asserted. That the transactions, to which those papers related, had reference to a proceeding in which the government of Madras, and the superior government of Bengal, were the principal parties, and in which the hon. bart. was an active and efficient instrument. The inferior government of Madras had recorded, in strong terms, their disapprobation of the conduct of the hon. bart.; and this record had been adduced to the house, as the ground and warrant for the imputation which the hon. gent. had thought proper to cast on his hon. relation. The superior government of Bengal, with this record before them, pronounced, the conduct of the hon. bart. to have been highly meritorious, and, in consequence, they gave it their strongest commendation. That it was not his intention to trespass upon the time of the house, by going into the controversy between the two governments; but that he appealed to the justice of the house, and to the honourable feelings of every man in it, whether the proceedings of the hon. member in adverting exclusively to the opinion that was expressed by one of the parties, and thereupon founding a judgment, could be justifiable in any case, but particularly in that of a member absent through illness?—That the misery and desolation that overspread the Carnatic in the years 1780 and 1781, and the reduced state of our military force and resources at that time, were historical facts, to which he only referred, as they gave rise to a proposition out of which the transaction in question arose, namely, a proposition for ceding to the Dutch company, in perpetuity, the Southern provinces of the Carnatic, upon condition that an immediate military aid, of 1000 European soldiers, should be furnished by that company.—The news of a rupture with Holland was received in India before the arrangements upon this proposition could be carried into effect. But the alarm, which it had excited in the mind of the nabob of the Carnatic, was not the less strong; nor were his doubts and apprehensions to be appeased by the interposition of the temporary authority which then prevailed at Madras, the government being held by devolution, and the gentleman so holding it not possessing the confidence of the nabob.—The exigency of the public affairs had become still more pressing, in consequence of the rupture with Rolland; and the nabob was urged, by the temporary government of Madras, to assign the collection of his revenues into their hands. The nabob resisted the proposition, and want of confidence increased the difficulties of our situation.—At this time the hon. bart. held the office of secretary to the government of Madras, and, from his knowledge of the Persian language, he was enabled to communicate directly with the nabob; that he availed himself of this advantage, not to betray the secrets of government, as the hon. gent. had thought proper to state, but to impress upon the mind of the nabob, the necessity of his making the great sacrifice that was required of him for the general safety.—The nabob, seeing the public danger on one side, and his personal risk on the other, was some time before he could bring his mind to decide; at length he signified his disposition to concur in the proposition, provided the hon. bart. would undertake to negociate the terms of the assignment with the government-general, and to obtain a formal assurance from that superior authority, that his just rights should be restored to bins upon the return of peace. The hon. bart. did not hesitate between personal responsibility, and what appeared to him an object, upon the attainment of which our political existence in the Carnatic might depend. He therefore accepted powers from the nabob, to treat with the government-general for the assignment of all his, revenues during the war, subject to certain conditions and reservations. A treaty was, in consequence, executed at Calcutta, in March 1781; and the government-general, with a view of confirming in the nabob the fullest confidence in the good faith which they intended to preserve towards him, thought proper to invest the hon. bart. with powers as their minister at the court of the nabob, to see that the terms of the treaty were observed. Before the hon. bart. arrived at Madras, in the character of a public minister from, the superior government, lord Macartney had assumed the reins of that government to, which he was regularly appointed by the company, with the approbation of the crown. The hon. bart. immediately delivered his dispatches to lord Macartney; and observed to his lordship, that, as the situation of the Madras government was so materially changed by his being placed at the head of it, he (the minister) was persuaded, that the government-general would approve of his suspending the executive duties of his commission, until his lordship could receive answers to any reference he might think proper to make to him upon the subject of his mission, and he accordingly confined himself to the act of delivering the treaty to the nabob.—That it would be an unnecessary intrusion on the patience of the house, if he were to go further into this subject. That he only begged it might not be inferred, from what he had said, that he considered the treaty of March 1781 as a perfect arrangement. All he meant to say upon that point was, that it was better than any thing that had preceded it; and that it was the object which the temporary government of Madras endeavoured, but without effect, to obtain; that it was obtained through the representations of the hon. bart.; that the government-general considered it as an object of, great importance; and marked their approbation of the hon. bart. in the most distinguished manner, by vesting him with the character of their minister. That lord Macartney, in a letter to the chairman, of the 15th of December, 1782, calls it a "considerable step towards remedying the defects of past transactions." That in a letter of 1st December, 1781, to the secret, committee, adverting to it under the Modifications he had introduced into it, he calls it "that rock of strength upon which you stand in the Carnatic;" and that the treaty of 1792, made by lord Cornwallis, was formed upon the basis of this assignment. —He begged again, that it ,might not be inferred, from what he had said, that he considered any of those measures as free from objection. He had long since published the opinion he entertained on this subject. That opinion had not varied; and he had no difficulty in now stating, that he thought the zeal of my lord Wellesley, for the public service, had carried him too far, in the arrangement which was made under his authority in the Carnatic. Had his lordship made his arrangement in the Carnatic, upon the principle upon which his arrangement in Oude was formed, it would have had his hearty concurrence, as that measure had, upon the fullest consideration he had been able to give it. He explained, that he now adverted to the cession of the frontier provinces, as a full compensation for the military protection of the dominions of Oude.—That the hon. member was represented to have implicated, in his censure, another hon. friend of his (Mr. Laurence Sullivan), who, after a long life, thirty years of which were passed in the chief management of the affairs of the India company, had reposed in his grave full twenty years. —That there are still living many persons, some perhaps now in that house, who must remember the plenitude of power with which Mr. Sullivan directed the affairs of India, with little intermission, from the year 1757 to 1786. The hon. member might, himself, possibly recollect the contest for supremacy, in 1768, between lord Clive and Mr. Sullivan: that contest was sustained with warmth, and an exertion of interest that seldom had been equalled in the party-struggles of this country. The law which had since rendered it necessary that India stock should be held a year before a proprietor could be qualified to vote, did not then exist. Mr. Sullivan, and Mr. Vansittart, who had united with him (he alluded to the father of a right hon. gent., now an ornament to the house) extended their interest, by entrusting stock amongst persons who were attached to them respectively: that in the number of persons of this description, were Mr. William Burke and Mr. Lauchlin Macleane, who had, each, been under-secretaries of state; that those gentlemen became, in consequence, largely indebted to Mr. Sullivan; that they both went out of the world without having discharged this debt. That each of these gentlemen had become agents to native princes in India. Mr. Macleane was lost on his return from that country, in 1782 or 1783, being at that time in the service of the nabob of the Carnatic. That the executor of Mr. Macleane, Mr. Stuart, who was secretary to the mission, had a knowledge of this long-standing debt to Mr. Sullivan; and, in urging the claims of Mr. Macleane upon the nabob, he represented it to him, and recommended that provision might be made for the payment of it, as Mr. Sullivan, in his old age, was in embarrassed circumstances. The bond to Mr. Stuart, in trust for Mr. Sullivan, was the consequence of this representation. It is dated February 5, 1785. Mr. Sullivan was informed of this transaction in the summer of that year. He immediately wrote to him (Mr. John Sullivan), desiring that he would take measures to have the bond cancelled; for though the transaction was fair and honourable, yet, as he was a public man, it was open to misconstruction. That letter was on its way to India, when he was on his passage to England; had he received it there, entering fully into the honourable and high feelings of his friend, he would have acted upon it. That Mr Sullivan died a short time after his arrival in England. Upon his death, his son called on Mr. J. Sullivan to assist in the arrangement of his father's affairs. They found them to be involved beyond the extent of all the property he left. Under these circumstances, they could not consider themselves at liberty to act as the high spirit of that distinguished man had directed. The bond was, in fact, the property of his creditors, and they could not, in justice, deprive them of any benefit that might arise out of it.—They had also considered, that the man whose influence had rewarded the services of colonel Clive, by appointing him to the government of Bengal, had placed Mr. Vansittart in that high office; had put the British interests in India under the care and guardianship of Mr. Hastings; the man who had been the friend and patron of Lawrence and Callaird; through whose influence lord Macartney had been appointed to the government of Madras (and here he availed himself of the opportunity to express the strong sense he entertained of the talents and probity that distinguished that noble lord): that they had considered, that the man who had selected such characters, as the objects of his patronage, could not be in danger of having his good name lightly brought into question.— That he had now described the origin of the bond that had been alluded to; let it be investigated, but let not the breath of calumny be employed to taint the well-earned fame of his revered friend. He observed, that the characters of public men were the property of his country, and, after their decease, that house should be their sanctuary. He would not trespass further on the patience of the house; but moved, "That there be laid before this house an extract of a letter, from the governor-general and council of Bengal to the court of directors, dated October 20, 1783." Also, "That there be laid before this house a copy of a letter, from the governor-general to the court of directors, .dated November 28, 1783."

Mr. W. Keene

said, on looking over the list of the debts of the nabob of the Carnatic, he referred merely to what was inserted in the papers, which had an effect on his mind, and on which his former observations were grounded. He was concerned if he gave pain to any gentleman.

Mr. Sullivan

said, after what he had Stated to the hon. gent., he trusted he would have done justice to his brother; instead of which, he aggravated his former remarks.

Mr. Ellison

contended, that when an individual was criminated, he had a right to bring forward the best evidence he had, and agreed thoroughly with what had been stated by the hon. gent. who made the motion.—The motion was then put and agreed to.

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