Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

enforcing the personal responsibility of the act, should an Indian minister take upon himself to do what was unconstitutional, or contrary to the principles of good government, or to justice towards our allies, is dated the 18th March. The letter of the 1st March remained unnoticed for six months, the Court probably considering, in the mean time, that their arguments had prevailed; but, as Mr. Mac Donnell significantly observes, " with a haste unprecedented at the Board of Control,” scarcely had the royal assent been given to the Indian scheme (the 28th August) and Parliament been prorogued (the 29th), when the Board, on the 12th September, “ suddenly announce their adverse determination, in very few lines, without condescending to notice any one of the numerous proofs and arguments contained in that letter."

Were we now considering a transaction between agents in ordinary life, these circunstances would strongly excite suspicion ; in the case of Ministers, it is, of course, different. Still, the circumstances justify the question put to Mr. Grant by Mr. Mac Donnell, as to the meaning he attaches to the terms “ the importance and independence of the Court,” properties

he professed to be desirous of increasing; and of the indignant disclaimer conveyed in his letter of the 14th March,of course, it cannot be meant or anticipated, that the Court shall be reduced to the situation of a government-board;" a more humiliating act of dependence could not be exhibited by the most subordinate government-board than that they should be forced to “sanction, adopt, and sign, as their own act, a despatch which they had unanimously disapproved in the strongest language of condemnation,” the determination of the present Court according entirely with that of former Courts, in coneurrence with former Boards, at different periods, and upon precisely the same faets and evidence as those

upon

which the despatch of the present Board is founded.

The transactions in question bear date so long back as 1794, 1795, and 1796. Prior to that period, it is well known that there was no topic of misrule and misconduet on the part of Europeans in India more loudly and frequently urged, both in and out of Parliament, than “ the grievances inflicted upon native princes by injurious British interference, and peculations and extortions carried on under the form of loans and bonds at usurious rates, occasionally so high as thirty-six per cent., and sometimes compound interest.' These money-dealings were continued in defiance of the reiterated efforts of the home government to check them, and in many cases involved the most flagrant cases of fraud and forgery. The records of Parliamentary proceedings (of which Mr. Mac Donnell has given an epitome) are full of allusions to these dark and disgraceful transactions. In one case, of a debt alleged to be due from the Nawab of Arcot, in 1785, Mr. Burke disclosed facts which show a strong analogy between that and the present

In that case, as in the present, it appears, the origin of the alleged debt was disregarded, there was a “ private conference with the agent of the claimants," and the same orders were issued to the Directors to set their bands to an arrangement (in Mr. Burke's words),“ asserting it to arise from their own conviction and opinion, in flat contradiction to their recorded sentiments, their strong remonstrance, and their declared sense of duty.” The sole difference between the cases is, that, in the present, a Whig administration are the authors of the arrangement; whereas, in that of 1785, a Whig opposition were the indignant reprobaters of the measure.

case.

The Act of 1797 (37 Geo. III. c. 142) states that“ the practice of British subjects lending money, or being concerned in lending the same, or in transactions for the borrowing money for, or lending money to, the native princes in India, has been productive of much mischief, and is the source of much usury and extortion;" and that “the wholesome orders of the Court of Directors have not been sufficient to restrain and repress the same ;” and it proceeds to enact, not simply that this was an offence, but that it should be considered “ a misdemeanor at law,” after the 1st December 1797, and that the securities should be null and void. It is absurd to

argue

that this Act legalized all anterior transactions : it merely armed the Court with additional penal power, to prevent acts which were before illegal in India, being declared so by the orders of a competent authority, that of the EastIndia Company, with the sanction of the Board of Control.

The particulars of the present claim, although stated in our last number, it may be proper shortly to repeat. Asuf-ud-Dowlah, nawab vizier of Oude, contracted, through his extravagance and debaucheries, large debts. Amongst other creditors were Monhur Doss and Seétul Bahoo, bankers or shroffs at Lucknow, whose loans amounted, it is alleged, originally to 11,58,700 sicca rupées, for which they received bonds or notes from the nawab vizier. Subsequently, the prince's debts were made the subject of a composition ;* all the native creditors consented to receive the reduced sum, in six annual instalments, except Monhur Doss and Seetul Baboo, who demanded the higher rate of composition which certain European creditors had contrived to obtain. The Court of Directors declined to interfere in the matter; and, owing to the death of Asuf-ud-Dowlah, in September 1797, none of the native creditors have received more than one instalment, that is, one-sixth of their composition. Ghazee ud-deen Hyder, the present king of Oude, is the third in succession to Asuf-ud-Dowlah, by whom the alleged debts were contracted, and he is now to be called upon to pay a very large sum to the heirs or representatives of these Lucknow shroffs, Ram Doss and Ram Chown Loll, whose agent in England was the late Mr. Michael George Prendergast.

The position of the Court of Directors in the affair “is this. They do not oppose the demand, whatever opinion they may entertain as to its merits ; all they ask is, not to be connected with the affair, one way or the other ; they did not approve or sanction the alleged loans,t nor were they privy to them; much less did they guarantee their repayment; and all they require is

This composition was merely the reducing the compound interest from thirty-six per cent. te eighteen!

† An attempt has been made to shew that the money was borrowed for the purpose of discharging the. arrears due to the Company. But one of the bonds of three lacs bears on the face of it that the money was borrowed for the expenses of the quadrupeds of “the exalted circar;" another of three lacs was for the cattle department.

to be permitted to observe the same neutrality, which they have hitherto observed, and which they feel they cannot abandon without a direct violation of treaties with the state of Oude.

Nothing can be more sound than the doctrine which is contained in the despatch framed by the Board, but with which its object is so strangely at variance, “that the British Government is not bound to interfere, and ought to be extremely cautious of interfering, in the recovery of loans from native states, unless such loans were contracted with its previous knowledge and concurrence, and [or?) unless the guarantee of the British resident was given in writing upon the face of the bond, or (and ?] signified by the resident in a despatch written at the time to his own government, and approved, as well by that government as by the native sovereign contracting the loan." Two conditions are here required, first, that the British Government should have been a party consenting to the original transaction; secondly, that it should have given its guarantee for payment of the obligation. It is not even alleged, as the Court observe, that either of these conditions applies to the case of the Lucknow bankers. All that the Board attempt to do is, to make this case an exception to the general rule, owing to its "peculiar circumstances.

The treaties existing between the British Government and the King of Oude leave this prince perfectly independent, except in respect to a few specified points, in matters purely of state-policy, in which he is bound to consult the British Government; and the right of interference, with advice or remonstrance, is reserved to the latter upon subjects which might injuriously affect British national interests. But these exceptions, as Lord Hastings, in his admirable letter of instructions to Col. Baillie,* observes, clearly imply that in all other respects the prince is free, and the tenor of the subsidiary treaty proves that the uninterrupted exercise of his authority was assured to him, in order to qualify the strong step we had taken : " he is, consequently,” said his lordship, “to be treated as an independent prince." The whole series of treaties and engagements (extracts from which are given by Mr. Mac Donnell), prior and subsequent to the transactions in question, distinctly recognizes the independence of the nawab vizier's authority within his reserved dominions, and the non-interference of the British Government. “His excellency the nawab's authority is to be completely established within his reserved dominions,” says the final arrangement between the Marquess of Wellesley and the nawab, in 1802, explaining the treaty of 1801, “and to be exercised through his excellency's own officers and servants, the British Government having engaged to guarantee the establishment and exercise of his excellency's authority within his reserved dominions, and the Governor-general will never depart from this engagement."

Nothing, therefore, can be clearer, than that our treaties with the ruler of Oude recognize his entire independence, except where our interference is sanctioned by those treaties, and in none of them is it provided that the

* Letter dated 15th August 1815. Oude Papers, 1826.

وو

British Government is entitled to support private pecuniary claims; on the contrary, an article inserted by Sir John Shore in a preliminary engagement with Saadut Ali, in 1798, when he placed that prince on the musnud of Oude, obliging him to liquidate the just debts of his late brother in three years (which would cover the compositions agreed to), was expunged from the definitive treaty.

Having thus shown that, neither by treaty, nor according to the rule so explicitly laid down by the Board of Control, in the very draft in question, ean our interference with the king of Oude, in respect to private pecuniary claims, be justified, let us consider what are the “ peculiar circumstances, which are to overrule these powerful objections to interference.

The first and principal circumstance, and it is, indeed, a very peculiar feature in the case, is that a private letter was addressed by the Marquess of Wellesley to the Marquess of Hastings, in May 1814, nearly twenty years after the transaction, wherein the writer assures the then Governorgeneral, that, “after full consideration of the whole matter, my decided opinion was, that the memorialists were entitled, in justice and equity, to the full amount of their claiins, and that it was the duty of the supreme government to urge the demand on the nabob of Oude with all the force which the delicacy of such a question might admit." The first considera- . tion which arises upon this "irregular and uncalled-for offer of advice,” not on an affair of state, but in favour of the claims of a private creditor on an independent sovereign,—“one debt," as the Court remarks, “out of many, peculiarly distinguished by nothing but the refusal to accept a composition which had been accepted by others,”—is that it is at direct variance with the noble lord's public acts. Not a word appears to have been said upon the subject in all the public transactions between the marquess and the nawab, although the resident at Lucknow (Colonel Scott), in May 1801, several months prior to the “ final arrangement” of November 1801, appears to have called the marquess's attention to the nawal's debts, in a private letter.

“Here then," Mr. Mac Donnell observes, after quoting the private letter of Col. Scott,“ we find the noble marquess's attention expressly and officially directed to this subject by the person most competent to do so, and in terms best calculated to obtain his lordship’s interference, if he felt that he would be justified in exercising it. Nevertheless, with the knowledge of all the circumstances fresh upon his mind, concluding two treaties with the vizier, the latter of which he designates a final arrangement,' both executed within nine months after he had received the letter of the resident inculcating attention to those claims, we find that, so far from making, or seeking to make, any provision in either of these treaties, on behalf of the claimants, he provides most distinctly in each case against any British interference in the internal affairs of the state of Oude; and expressly pledges the British faith, that the Governor-general will never depart from this engagement.'” These considerations, we imagine, most completely nullify the authority of this“ irregular and uncalled-for” interference on behalf of a single creditor, so far as it concerns the private letter itself, which, as the Court clearly shews, is “ evidence of nothing."

But “the receipt of this letter," the draft despatch states, “induced Lord Hastings,”—who, it will be recollected, explicitly recognized the independence of the prince of Oude, and who censured the urgency of the resident in pressing a system of reform, as “obviously inconsistent with the existence of the authority which, by the treaty of 1801, we had solemnly guaranteed,”—to investigate the claim of the bankers, and the result, as stated by his lordship in a minute, "of which, although not entered on your proceedings, a copy has been furnished to us by Mr. Prendergast," was, that Lord Hastings considered this claim distinguished from the rest.

Let us consider, seriatim, the grounds of this distinction, as set forth in the draft despatch, and the comments of the Court thereupon; premising that the alleged minute of Lord Hastings is not recorded, nor is there any evidence that such a document (thus made a basis for this arbitrary proceeding) ever existed; and, with respect to the “ investigation,” that (in the words of the Court) “there is nothing to show that Lord Hastings made any investigation, but much to prove that he neither knew nor had inquired.”

The first alleged distinction is, that these shroffs, “though not Europeans, were British subjects.” But whether British subjects or not, “the transactions of the vizier were with an establishment in his own capital, subject to the laws of his state, and entitled to protection with no other." There can be no distinction on this head.

2d. The debt they claimed was admitted to be just, both as to the purity of origin and amount, by the vizier and the British Government. But nothing was acknowledged by the vizier but that bonds had been granted by his servants, and nothing beyond this fact was known or inquired after by the British Government. Even supposing the contrary, all the creditors were in the same predicament. Where then is the distinction here ?

3d. The bankers could not vitiate the quality of their demand by declining a composition. It is not alleged that they could, but this does not take their claim out of the general category.

4th. “There was a fair implication of equitable reliance on the good offices of government, inasmuch as the money borrowed from the bankers was known to have been taken up for the purpose of discharging the arrears due to the Company.” This is an important assertion, and in fact the only ground upon which this claim could be considered as distinct; but the assertion appears, from the facts stated by the Court, to be completely unfounded. The writings, called bonds, are themselves evidence against the allegation; one of them (as already remarked), an obligation for 3,85,000 rupees, states that the money was borrowed for the expenses of the quadrupeds of the “exalted circar;" another sum of 3,12,000 was for the cattle-department: these sums make up nearly three-fourths of the claim : « The nonetistence of the alleged fact, from which this string of consequences is

« EdellinenJatka »