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N the name of the Commons of England, I charge
all this villainy upon Warren Hastings, in this last moment of my application to you.
My Lords, what is it that we want here to a great act of national justice? Do we want a cause, my Lords? You have the cause of oppressed princes, of undone women of the first rank, of desolated provinces, and of wasted kingdoms. Do you want a criminal, my Lords?
When was there so much iniquity ever laid to the charge of any one? No, my Lords, you must not look to punish any other such delinquent from India. Warren Hastings has not left substance enough in India to nourish such another delinquent.
My Lords, is it a prosecutor you want? You have before you the Commons of Great Britain as prosecutors; and I believe, my Lords, that the sun, in his beneficent progress round the world, does not behold a more glorious sight than that of men, separated from a remote people by the material bounds and barriers of nature, united by the bond of a social and moral community--all the Commons of England resenting, as their own, the indignities and cruelties, that are offered to all the people of India.
Do we want a tribunal? My Lords, no example of antiquity, nothing in the modern world, nothing in the range of human imagination, can supply us with a tribunal like this. My Lords, here we see virtually, in the mind's eye, that sacred majesty of the Crown, under whose authority you sit and whose power you exercise.
We have here all the branches of the royal family, in a situation between majesty and subjection, between the sovereign and the subject-offering a pledge, in that situation, for the support of the rights of the Crown and the liberties of the people, both of which extremities they touch.
My Lords, we have a great hereditary peerage here; those who have their own honor, the honor of their ancestors, and of their posterity, to guard, and who will justify, as they always have justified, that provision in the Constitution by which justice is made an hereditary office.
My Lords, we have here a new nobility, who have risen, and exalted themselves by various merits, by great civil and military services, which have extended the fame of this country from the rising to the setting sun.
My Lords, you have here, also, the lights of our religion; you have the bishops of England. My Lords, you have that true image of the primitive Church in its ancient form, in its ancient ordinances, purified from the superstitions and the vices which a long succession of ages will bring upon the best institutions.
My Lords, these are the securities which we have in all the constituent parts of the body of this House. We know them, we reckon, we rest upon them, and commit safely the interests of India and of humanity into your hands. Therefore, it is with confidence, that, ordered by the Commons,
I impeach Warren Hastings, Esquire, of high crimes and misdemeanors.
I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, whose parliamentary trust he has betrayed.
I impeach him in the name of all the Commons of Great Britain, whose national character he has dishonored.
I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose laws, rights, and liberties he has subverted, whose property he has destroyed, whose country he has laid waste and desolate.
I impeach him in the name, and by virtue of those eternal laws of justice which he has violated.
I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly outraged, injured and oppressed, in both sexes, in every age, rank, situation, and condition of life.
My Lords, the Commons will share in every fate with your Lordships; there is nothing sinister which can happen to you, in which we shall not be involved; and, if it should so happen, that we shall be subjected to some of those frightful changes which we have seen; if it should happen that your Lordships, stripped of all the decorous distinctions of human society, should, by hands at once base and cruel, be led to those scaffolds and machines of murder upon which great kings and glorious queens have shed their blood, amidst the prelates, amidst the nobles, amidst the magistrates, who supported their thrones,-may you in those moments feel that consolation which I am persuaded they felt in the critical moments of their dreadful agony!
My Lords, there is a consolation, and a great consolation it is, which often happens to oppressed virtue and fallen dignity; it often happens that the very oppressors and persecutors themselves are forced to
bear testimony in its favor. The Parliament of Paris had an origin very, very similar to that of the great court before which I stand; the Parliament of Paris continued to have a great resemblance to it in its Constitution, even to its fall; the Parliament of Paris, my Lords,-WAS; it is gone! It has passed away; it has vanished like a dream! It fell pierced by the sword of the Compte de Mirabeau. And yet that man, at the time of his inflicting the death-wound of that Parliament, produced at once the shortest and the grandest funeral oration that ever was or could be made upon the departure of a great court of magistracy. When he pronounced the death sentence upon that Parliament, and inflicted the mortal wound, he declared that his motives for doing it were merely political, and that their hands were as pure as those of justice itself, which they administered—a great and glorious exit, my Lords, of a great and glorious body!
My Lords, if you must fall, may you so fall! But, if you stand, and stand I trust you will, together with the fortunes of this ancient monarchy-together with the ancient laws and liberties of this great and illustrious kingdom, may you stand as unimpeached in honor as in power; may you stand, not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a security for virtue; may you stand long, and long stand the terror of tyrants; may you stand the refuge of afflicted Nations; may you stand a sacred temple, for the perpetual residence of an inviolable justice!
RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.
TRUST your Lordships will not believe that,
because something is necessary to retrieve the British character, we call for an example to be made, without due and solid proof of the guilt of the person whom we pursue:-no, my Lords, we know well that it is the glory of this Constitution, that not the general fame or character of any man-not the weight or power of any prosecutor—no plea of moral or political expediency-not even the secret consciousness of guilt, which may live in the bosom of the Judge, can justify any British Court in passing any sentence, to touch a hair of the head, or an atom, in any respect, of the property, of the fame, of the liberty of the poorest or meanest subject that breathes the air of this just and free land. We know, my Lords, that there can be no legal guilt without legal proof, and that the rule which defines the evidence is as much the law of the land as that which creates the crime. It is upon that ground we mean to stand.
Major Scott comes to your bar-describes the shortness of time-represents Mr. Hastings as it were contracting for a character-putting his memory into commission-making departments for his conscience. A number of friends meet together, and he, knowing (no doubt) that the accusation of the Commons had been drawn up by a Committee, thought it necessary, as a point of punctilio, to answer it by a Committee also. One furnishes the raw material of fact, the second spins the argument, and the third twines up the conclusion, while Mr. Hastings, with a master's eye, is cheering and looking over this loom. He says to