HC Deb 26 February 1807 vol 8 cc1018-28
Sir Thomas Turton rose

and spoke as follows:—Pursuant to a notice I gave en a former day, I riser sir, to call the attention of the house to the subject of the Carnatic. The papers which I think necessary for the elucidation of that subject, and which will be specified in the motion I shall have the honour of making, and to which, I trust, there will be no objection, since they have al–ready been laid upon the table of this house, and remained there for a considera–ble time—the papers alluded to were cal–led for by an hon. gent. not now a member of this house, and they were moved for originally on reasons which I hope will ap–ply now. After a short statement of the case, I am inclined to believe there will be no objection to my motion, because the documents it calls for are necessary for the purpose of justice, as well towards the par–ty accused, as to the accuser. When the motion was formerly made on this subject, the facts were then recent in the recollec–tion of the house, from the history of the transactions which was then given. Sir, it is in the recollection of almost every man, that intelligence arrived in this country, of the death of Omdut ul Omrah, commonly called the nabob of the Carnatic, and of the circumstances of his lineal successor, as he would have been by the Mahomedan law, being dethroned, and another placed in his room. Many persons acquainted with Indian politics, perfectly well know the circumstances attending that deposition—but none could reconcile the act on any principle of justice; for every one knew, from the youth of the prince, as well as from his mode of conduct, that the act could not have arisen out of any pro–ceedings of his own. He had not had an opportunity of doing any one act of govern–ment, before the Indian presidencies had adopted a line of policy which had depri–ved him of the Musnud. Enquiries were accordingly made into the subject, and that young prince found a very able advo–cate in the right hon. gent. opposite to me, (Mr. Sheridan,) and also in an hon. gent. not now a member of this house. Upon that occasion the enquiry took up a considerable length of time, the number of pa–pers moved for swelled to a very consider–able size, and the subject was interrupted by the dissolution of the late parliament. It is unnecessary for me to enter into any discussion on the propriety of renewing the con–sideration of this important subject, much less is it necessary for me to enquire into the motives which could induce the right hon. gent. who had once brought the sub–ject before the house, to relinquish it, since it is not in my power to know the mo–tives that might influence his conduct. I am well assured, from the general tenour and habits of his political life, nothing could have induced him to decline bringing forward the subject that is inconsistent with his notions of public duty; yet it is impossible not to perceive that the right hon. gent.'s connections at present are persons who, if their wishes could operate upon his judgment, would certainly induce him to decline the further investigation of this subject: and that the right hon. gent. does decline it, we have his own declara–tion. It has, therefore, devolved to me, and I cannot help regretting that it has not fallen into abler hands. But it is a du–ty, as I feel it, to bring this question for–ward, for reasons which must be obvious to the house; and which I hinted at when I gave my notice. I said then, and I now repeat it, if any other member of the house should be inclined to take the subject out of my hands, I should most cheerfully de–liver it up to such a person, promising him most faithfully that he shall have my cordial, active, and zealous support, to the utmost of my power. But if no other gentleman chooses to take that part, I feel that I have a claim upon the justice of the house, in calling its attention to this sub–ject. I will add, that not only do I con–ceive that I have a claim upon the justice of the house in soliciting its attention; but I have a claim also to the assistance of the house in discussing it; for you know, sir, that those who have any reason to com–plain upon this subject, can have no redress any where except in this house, and it is as essential to the interests of this nation, as it is to those of the noble marquis, to have the matter completely investigated, and to remove all suspicions that can pos–sibly attach to any of the transactions in which that noble marquis is concerned. I wish to say nothing farther of that noble–man at present, than that he is a man of great abilities and comprehensive talents, of which he has given proof on many occa–sions. It has been rumoured, that the noble marquis is thought of, as a fit person to fill a high and responsible office in this country—a circumstance which can never happen, until his character shall be res–cued from the situation in which it appears to be implicated, as relating to the Carna–tic transactions. In urging the investiga–tion of the Carnatic Papers, I am consulting the only fair mode of establishing the Character of that nobleman, for which he ought to be thankful. It appears to me, from the papers which I am about to call For, and which have been already upon the table of this house, a considerable portion of criminality attaches to the court of directors here, and to the conduct of their principal officers abroad, as well as to the board of controul, by which I do not mean the present board, but a former board. The Papers which I shall call for, will shew what degree of blame, if any, is imputable to each of these descriptions of persons, and that is one of the great ob–jects for which my motion is brought forward. With regard to the new papers, which I think it my duty to move for, it is necessary that I should call the attention of the house to the manner in which I first proposed to make a motion, when you, sir, very properly prevented me from en–tering into any detail on that occasion, when I confined myself to the bare notice of a motion for printing those papers, only, which, in my judgment, had a direct beari–ng upon the question to be discussed, not wishing to embarrass it with documents which I thought had no bearing upon the question. For the same reason I intend to exclude the 2d volume of papers which were laid on the table in the month of Au–gust 1803; as they relate to stale accounts from lord Hobart and lord Macartney, which appear to me to have very little bear–ing upon the question which I am desirous to have discussed. But if any gentleman thinks they are necessary, I can have no objection to their production. It is now proper that I should state shortly the ob–ject for which I move the reprinting of the papers, and of the printing of such others, as appear to me to be requisite for the thorough understanding of the affair. It has been said, and the same sentiment seems to pervade the whole correspondence of the East-India company and the governor of Madras, that policy might have rendered it necessary that we should assume the government of the Carnatic. My motion goes to lay before the house those papers which shew whether there then really existed any ground or pretence for saying that the conduct of the nabob had rendered that assumption necessary. It is observable, with reference to the con–duct of marquis Wellesley, immediately after the surrender of Seringapatam, that he refers to an intended account which was to be rendered of the motives which induced the noble marquis to assume the govern–ment, alleging that he would send a review of those transactions to England; but it does not appear that he ever sent that pro–mised statement. There are some letters of the court of directors, too, which re–quire explanation, on which I give no opinion at present; by which it appears that some difference existed between my lord Clive and the marquis Wellesley, involving matters which are not, in any de–gree, explained. The third set of papers regard the Polygar war, in 1801. It ap–pears from the treaty of 1792, that the Company's government had a right depu–ted to them to collect the pishcash or tri–bute from the Polygars; and to enforce the payment, if necessary, on the requisi–tion of the nabob. But every act to be performed, was to be done in the nabob's name, and by his authority. Now, this war, which was a very extraordinary one, both in its alleged cause and consequences, must, at first sight, appear to have been sanctioned at least by the nabob. It will, therefore, be necessary to ascertain Whe–ther, in point of fact, it was so or not; in order to shew that the nabob's government was either the cause of the war, or to free it from the consequences and the blame which might attach to that measure. But, sir, before I submit this motion to the house, it may be asked of me whether I do not think I owe some apology to the house as to the time which will be taken up by bringing this subject forward? and I think it is perfectly correct to ask me that ques–tion. Sir, if this motion be agreed to, I take upon me to say, that within one month after the papers are printed, I shall be further prepared to move those resolu–tions on the papers, which I shall judge requisite. I am of opinion it could be done in much less time, if necessary; but the subject is important, and demands a full enquiry. I hesitate not to say, that I bring this subject forward as an independent mem–ber of parliament, anxious to rescue the country from the imputation of misconduct; and I beg leave to observe, that I have no connection whatever with those who were first concerned in bringing this subject for–ward. With regard to Mr. Paull, I have no difficulty in stating, that I think be de–serves well of his country for the part he has taken in these transactions. I never saw him in my life. My reason for promo–ting this enquiry arises from an anxiety I feel, that this country should not suffer in its character from imputations which it does not deserve. I shall conclude with moving, "that the papers which were pre–sented to this house upon the 21st and 23d days of June 1802, and upon the 10th day of August 1803, relative to the Carnatic, be reprinted for the members of the house

Mr. Sheridan

thanked the hon. baronet for his liberality and candour, and acknow–ledged the pledge which he had given to proceed with the enquiry. He had stated the reasons which induced him to give it up, when the hon. baronet was not a member of the house. He would again state them at the proper time, and then the hon. baro–net would be satisfied that he did him no more than justice, in giving him credit for the purity of his motives. The question, as he thought, was confined to the con–duct of the Madras government, but from volumes of papers afterwards moved for, it appeared that the Bengal government, the directors, and the board of controul were also implicated. This was however not the ground of his abandoning the case. He thought the hon. baronet ought to con–fine himself to the reprinting of the papers before produced. If he moved for new ones, and was retorted upon in the manner he had been, he would subject himself to be called over the coals, and the business might be delayed longer than he could at present have any idea of. When he brought forward the charge, however, he would experience every support that he could give him

Sir John Anstruther

hoped that the hon. baronet would declare what was his object, and against whom his motion was to be di–rected. Did he mean to attack lord Welles–ley, or lord Powis, or the directors, or the board of controul, or the late ministers? He wished to know what he was driving at, if he knew it himself, for he seemed to have some doubts about the matter. In the wean time he hoped that the house would not allow the characters of the executive officers to be complimented away by the praises which the right hon. gent. and the hon. baronet, had thought proper to bestow on each other. He contended that the conduct of the executive officers had been approved of by the directors and the board of controul, the cabinet, and this house. They had only executed the orders they had received, and the responsibility therefore did not rest with them, though he did not admit that they had by any means even lent themselves as instruments to any improper act. He then adverted to the in–justice done to persons accused, by allowing the charge to hang over. He also said, that from his own knowledge, he could affirm that the revival of old charges was attended with great mischief to our Indian govern–ment. It shook the confidence of the na–tives in its stability, and nourished a desire of change, which prevailed in a particular degree in these people, and was generally the case in arbitrary governments. He wished to know specifically what was the design of the hon. baronet before he gave his assent to the motion?

Mr. Grant

said, though he did not flatter himself that much benefit would result from this discussion, yet, as a friend to discus–sion in general, and considering the house of commons as the only security which the inhabitants of British India had for protec–tion and redress, and the only place in which an investigation into the affairs of India could be instituted, it was necessary that he should take notice of some assertions which had been made in the course of this debate. It was asserted, that they had recommended, if not ordered, On revolution which took place in India, by the assumption of the territories of the Carnatic, to which it must first be answered that they disclaimed all interference in the nature of compulsion, and he read an extract from their minutes, by which such an interference was expressly disclaimed, and then asked how such a proceeding should be tortured into an approbation, much less an authority, for the revolution which took place? He could state, that the court of directors never did approve of that mea–sure; for the sake, therefore, of having the conduct of the court of directors investi–gated, he was friendly to the present motion. He was very glad that the friends of lord Wellesley were so desirous of entering into this investigation. He declined, however, to enter into the merits of the revolution in 1801, and he could speak with the greater freedom, as he had not at that period any share in the direction. It was to be obser–ved, however, that the board of controul took that affair into their own hands, and superseded altogether the court of direc–tors. And the right hon. baronet (Sir J. Anstruther) opposite to him, was completely mistaken in considering the secret commit–tee, and the court of directors, as being connected; it was, in point of fact, a com–plete mistake, in form as well as in sub–stance. The secret committee was the express, direct, and immediate organ of the board of controul. Their proceedings were utterly unknown to the court of directors. The secret committee was subject in no way or respect whatsoever to the court of direc–tors, who were indeed entirely ignorant of the proceedings of the secret committee. This act, therefore, of the secret committee, which the right hon baronet treated as the act of the court of directors, was an act in which they had no share, of which they had no knowledge,—an act with which they had not the slightest concern; and it was an act on which the board of con–troul had exercised its authority; and as that board was superior in India concerns, it became extremely difficult for the court of directors even to express an opinion, much less exercise a judgment on a deci–sion of the board of controul, without incurring the imputation of resisting superior authority. It was liable to the objection of leading to great derangement in their affairs. Another reason which prevented the inter–ference was, the subject of the asumption of the Carnatic had become the subject of parliamentary enquiry, which superseded both the board of controul and the court of directors

Sir John Anstruther

denied that he wished to oppose enquiry. He only said that it ought not to be allowed to drag on for years. The court of directors had instruct–ed their officers to pay the same deference to the orders of the secret committee as to those of the directors themselves, and as the secret committee had approved of the conduct of lord Wellesley, he was fully warranted in saying that the directors through them had expressed their approbation of it

Mr. Grant

denied that the court of directors submitted themselves entirely to the guidance of the secret committee

Sir Arthur Wellesley

said, he was disposed to pursue the same line he had adopted last session, and was, therefore, willing to accede to every motion for papers that could enable the house to decide upon the whole case. Neither would any friend of his noble relation give any opposition to the production of such information. But it was his opinion, that all the paper should be reprinted, and with that view he should feel it his duty to move, as well for those omitted by the hon. baronet, as for any others that might be necessary of the elucidation of the transaction. He wished the house to consider the situation of his noble relation with this charge hanging six years over him. It appeared by the papers, that the court of directors had sent out instructions to take possession of the Carnatic, at the commencement of the war with Tippoo Sultan, and not to restore it to the nabob. It was rather extraordinary, therefore, that a charge should be brought for a transaction commanded and approved by the court of directors, and sanctioned by his majesty and by act of parliament

Mr. R. Thornton

complained of the accusations thrown out against the directors without documents on the table to warrant them. He regretted the delay which had taken place, but maintained that no blame rested with the directors. The reasons given by the right hon. gent. over the way (Mr. Sheridan), for his abandoning the case, did not appear to him satisfactory. When he had brought forward the question, he thought he was going hand in hand with him, but he soon found that he himself was to be accused. There were some points with respect to the government in India that required the interference of that house, which was the dernier resort in such cases. But the court of directors were not the proper persons to become accusers. If they put themselves forward in this way, they might do a great deal of mischief to our interests in India. From the nature of their situation, it was not expedient in any view that they should come prominent–ly forwards, unless assured of effectual support. The hon. baronet (sir J. Anstruther) had himself before gone a considerable way back in an enquiry into Indian trans–actions. It was but reasonable that he should allow the same privilege to others. He was glad that the subject had come un–der investigation, and was not much alarm–ed as to the result. He denied that the directors had given any instructions to sanc–tion the revolution in the Carnatic. The court of directors were quite distinct from the secret committee, which was not re–sponsible even for such papers as had its own signature

Mr. Tierney

would not object to the re–printing of the papers which had been be–fore produced, and agreed that that house was the dernier resort in such cases. But he lamented that the subject had been now brought forward, as he could see no good that could result from it. It had before been properly brought forward, and he lamented that it had not then been proceeded in. He begged of the house to con–sider the consequences. The subject was one of the deepest importance, particular–ly with a view to the transfer of property, which had taken place since the transac–tion which had been adverted to. But, at the same time, he admitted that even the inconvenience that might result from the disturbance of property, ought not to deter the house, if it was called upon, from investigating the case, and applying its censures where censure was due. He was sorry that the hon. baronet had not men–tioned more distinctly whom he intended to accuse. He admitted that the board of controul was responsible for the secret committee, but he denied that this committee was such a nullity as some might suppose from the description of it which had that, night been given, and he cautioned gentlemen against speaking of it in these terms, as they might, by these means, propagate an opinion that it was useless. He gave no opinion respecting the merits of the transactions. He agreed to the motion of re–printing the former papers; but it was doubt–ful whether the others could be granted, till the hon. baronet should state what they were, and till he had an opportunity of examining whether they could be produced without detriment to the public service

Lord Folkestone

contended, that with respect to the assumption of the govern–ment of the Carnatic, blame lay some–where, and that it was a matter of serious investigation to ascertain where all the censure of that most extraordinary revolu–tion should devolve. The hon. baronet had been pressed to state distinctly his ob–ject in calling for those papers; he did not think this fair; it might be impossible for the hon. baronet distinctly to state his object, until he had been previously fur–nished with the necessary evidence by those papers; but before that evidence should be furnished, he thought it a subject of too great magnitude to warrant any member in distinctly pledging himself to a specific charge

Mr. Hiley Addington

begged gentlemen to recollect, that there had been more pa–pers relative to India called for, and pro–duced in the last session of the late parlia–ment, than for six sessions before; he was entirely of opinion, that in calling for pa–pers upon any subject, the object should be distinctly stated; he acquitted the hon. baronet of being actuated by any sinister motives of party or vanity in bringing forward his present motion, and praised the manly and ingenuous conduct of the gallant general (Wellesley) in every ques–tion relating to Indian enquiry

Mr. S. Stanhope

thought it a most extra–ordinary mode of opposing the hon. baro–net's motion, by refusing to assent to the production of the papers called for, until the object had been distinctly stated, which object the papers in question were alone to ascertain. He complained of a radical defect in the present state of the go–vernment in India, and knew not whether more governments had been subverted by it in the East or by Bonaparte in the West

Sir T. Turton,

in reply, said that when it appeared from the arguments upon both sides, that it was a question whether the court of directors approved or disapproved of the conduct of their servants in In–dia, he did not think a stronger argument than this very doubt could possibly be advanced in favour of the motion he had submitted to the house: his object was substantial justice, and in the pursuit of that, however deficient in other respects, he should not be found defective in zeal diligence, and perseverance. As to the voluminous papers with which he had been threatened from the other side, if such paper contributed in the least degree to the defence of the accused, he himself should gladly second the motion for their production. He had been urged to state distinctly the object of his motion; it was impossible to state in a case of such magnitude, on whom the evidence found in these papers might especially bear; and it was, there- fore, in the present stage of the business, im–possible for him distinctly to pledge him–self, further than avowing it as his inten–tion to submit a motion committing the house to a censure of the East-India com–pany, or its servants, in the assumption of the government of the Carnatic. The hon. baronet concluded with an appeal to the feelings of the house, in which he alluded to the melancholy fate of the deposed prince, who, he could prove, had perished in a dungeon

Sir A. Wellesley

explicitly denied that the prince, as stated by the hon. baronet, was imprisoned in a dungeon, or died by any other than natural causes. He thought it became a gentleman of the hon. baronet's profession, to be more cautious in ma–king such charges

Sir T. Turton

maintained that the papers fully bore him out in his assertion, though he did not in the least implicate lord Wel–lesley in that dark transaction

Mr. Fuller

thought the enquiry should be fully gone into

Mr. Sheridan,

while he acquitted in the ful–lest manner the noble lord (Wellesley), had not a doubt upon his mind, that the young prince came to his death by foul and ex–traordinary means.—The motion was then put and carried