페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ness, which displayed itself in boldly conceiving a bad measure, and undauntedly pursuing it to its accomplishment. But had Mr. Hastings the merit of exhibiting either of these descriptions of greatness, even of the latter? He saw nothing great, nothing magnanimous, nothing open, nothing direct in his measures, or in his mind. On the contrary, he had too often pursued the worst objects by the worst means. His course was an eternal deviation from rectitude. He either tyrannized or deceived, and was by turns a Dionysius and a Scapin. As well might the writhing obliquity of the serpent be compared to the swift directness of the arrow, as the duplicity of Mr. Hastings' ambition to the simple steadiness of true magnanimity. In his mind all was shuffling, ambiguous, dark, insidious and little; nothing simple, nothing unmixed; all affected plainness, and actual dissimulation. A heterogeneous mass of contradictory qualities; with nothing great but his crimes; and even those contrasted by the littleness of his motives, which at once denoted both his baseness and his meanness, and marked him for a traitor and a trickster: nay, in his style and writing, there was the same mixture of vicious contrarieties. The most grovelling ideas he conveyed in the most inflated language, giving mock consequence to low cavils, and uttering quibbles in heroics; so that his compositions disgusted the mind's taste as much as his actions excited the

souls abhorrence. Indeed, this mixture of character seemed by some unaccountable, but inherent quality, to be appropriated, though in inferior degrees, to everything that concerned his employers. He remembered to have heard an honorable gentleman (Mr. Dundas) remark, that there was something in the first frame and constitution of the Company, which extended the sordid principles of their origin over all their successive operations, connecting with their civil policy, and even with their boldest achievements, the meanness of a pedlar and the profligacy of pirates. Alike in the political and military line could be observed auctioneering ambassadors and trading generals: and thus we saw a revolution brought about by affidavits ! an army employed in executing an arrest! a town besieged on a note of hand! a prince dethroned for the balance of an account! Thus it was they exhibited a government, which united the mock majesty of a bloody sceptre and the little traffic of a merchant's counting-house-wielding a truncheon with one hand, and picking a pocket with the other.

Having painted the loose quality of the affidavits, which had been offered to excuse Mr. Hastings, on the ground of the treachery and

cruelty of the Begums, Sheridan said that he must pause moment, and particularly address himself to description of

of gentlemer — those of the

a

one

learned profession — within those walls. They saw that that House was the path to fortune in their profession--that they might soon expect that some of them were to be called to a dignified situation, where the great and important trust would be reposed in them of protecting the lives and fortunes of their fellow subjects. One learned gentleman in particular (Sir Lloyd Kenyon), if rumor spoke right, might suddenly be called to succeed that great and venerable character who long had shone the brightest luminary of his profession, whose pure and steady light was clear even to its latest moment, but whose last beam must now too soon be extingụished. He would ask the supposed successor of Lord Mansfield calmly to reflect on these extraordinary depositions, and solemnly to declare whether the mass of affidavits taken at Lucknow would be received by him as evidence to convict the lowest subject in this country. If he said it would, he declared to God he would sit down, and not add a syllable more to the too long trespass he had made on the patience of the committee.

Sheridan went further into the exposure of the evidence, into the comparison of dates, and the subsequent circumstances, in order to prove that ail the

enormous consequences which followed from the resumption, in the captivity of the women, and the imprisonment and cruelties practised on their people, were solely to be imputed to Mr. Hastings.

Sheridan said he trusted that the House would vindicate the insulted character of justice; that they would demonstrate its true quality, essence, and purposes—that they would prove it to be, in the case of Mr. Hastings, active, inquisitive and avenging.

Sheridan remarked that he had heard of factions and parties in that House, and knew they existed. There was scarcely a subject upon which they were not broken and divided into sects. The prerogative of the Crown found its advocates among the representatives of the people. The privileges of the people found opponents even in the House of Commons itself. Habits, connections, parties, all led to diversity of opinion. But when inhumanity presented itself to their observation, it found no division among them; they attacked it as their common enemy, and, as if the character of this land was involved in their zeal for its ruin, they left it not till it was completely overthrown. It was not given to that House to behold the objects of their compassion and benevolence in the present extensive consideration, as it was to the officers who relieved and who so feelingly describe the ecstatic emotions of gratitude in the instant of deliverance; they could not behold the workings of the hearts, the quivering lips, the trickling tears, the loud and yet tremulous joy of the millions whom their vote of this night would for ever save from the cruelty of corrupted power; but, though they could not directly see the effect, was not the true enjoyment of their benevolence increased by the blessing being conferred unseen? Would not the omnipotence of Britain be demonstrated to the wonder of nations, by stretching its mighty arm across the deep, and saving by its fiat distant millions from destruction ? And would the blessings of the people thus saved dissipate in empty air? “No! If I may dare” (said Sheridan) “to use the figure, we shall constitute Heaven itself our proxy, to receive for us the blessings of their pious gratitude and the prayers of their thanksgiving. It is with confidence, therefore, sir, that I move you on this charge --that Warren Hastings, Esq., be impeached."

« 이전계속 »