图书图片
PDF
ePub

prevent the fate which the certain and immediate prospect of a famine pre. sented to the miserable inhabitants of the settlement in consequence of the dreadful ravages committed by Hyder's army, the black town had, for some time before, been crowded with people, who had fled thither for refuge from all parts of the country. Their lands overrun, their habitations burnt, their cattle carried off, deprived of all means of cultivation, dreading the return of that enemy from whom they fled, they had directed their steps to the capital of the province, in the hope of protection, and the chance of subsistence. Some of these unhappy creatures had again left the town, and again reached those parts of the country which had escaped the devastation of the enemy, when positive orders were sent by government to feed and protect them ; but these bore only a small proportion to the vast multitudes which remained in the town, and of which hundreds now began daily to perish. To the horrors of a famine were super. added the dread of a pestilence, which was only prevented by the activity and vigilance of government, in causing to be collected and piled in carts such of the dead bodies of the wretched sufferers as had fallen and expired in the streets, or carried thither out of the houses, to be conveyed to the places of interment. The number thus collected and borne out of the town to be buried in large trenches made for the purpose, is said to have been not less, for several weeks, than from twelve to fifteen hundred a week. The calm resignation, approaching to apathy, with which the patient Hindoos submitted to this most dreadful of human calamities, and the firmness with which they pertinaciously refused, under every circumstance of distress, to taste of animal food, while languishing and dying for want of sustenance, rather than violate one of the leading principles of their faith, exhibited an instance of self-denial, which how much soever we may be disposed to condemn, we cannot well refuse to admire. It formed a striking contrast with the conduct of the Mahometan natives, who, clinging tenaciously to life, were frequently seen, as an intelligent officer has observed, “ digging in the entrails of a dead carrion,” to prolong for a few days, perhaps only a few hours, their miserable existence. It would be difficult to form any estimate, that could be relied on as accurate, of the depopulation of the Carnatic, in consequence of Hyder's invasion, by sickness, by famine, and by the sword. Mr. Greville, on the authority of an eye witness of the miseries of that unfortunate country, states it (in his British India analyzed) at 540,000 souls ; a number that, in all proba, bility, is not exaggerated.' Vol. I. pp. 132-134.

When this melancholy season was past, and all its victims were removed from sight, Lord M. still found his situation esceedingly harrassing. The army was with great difficulty restored to the capacity of acting; and when ii dil act, its'local successes against Hvder left his barbarians an almost unbounded liberty of Wasting the country. His lordship was thwarted and playued, first, by the humoursome and petulant character of the commander in chief, Sir Joho Egre Coote, and next, by the insolence and refractoriness of the succeeding commander, General Stuart. Under the governor's wise and resolute administration, however, the state of the Carnatic began slowly to recover. His conduct gained the confidence of the natives, and commanded the respect of the Europeans; but of the latter it also provoked the jealousy and hatred. From the very beginning he had set himself most firmly against all the corruptions which every predecessor had both tolerated and participated, and therefore most of the members and agents of the Indian governments naturally became his bitter enemies. It will not appear strange, that he had soon the mortification of experiencing a malicious and systematic counteraction from the supreme government of Bengal, at the head of which at that time was the person whose trial excited so much national interest a few years afterwards, and by its eventual futility has most unfortunately operated to the discouragement of all new inquiries into Indian delinquency, and, of course, to perpetuate and almost sanction that delinquency.

The readers of political history, and the observers of political parties, soon learn to behold the distresses of statesmen without the slightest sentiment of respect or sympathy. There will, however, be an exception in the case before us; it will be found impossible to follow Lord M. through his administration with that indifference and satire, with which we read the usual story of one corrupt mortal in power persecuted and baffled by others as corrupt as himself. For once, we accompany a person through the transactions of office with a most sincere concern for his success, with a respectful.compassion for his distresses, and with indignation against his opponents. And we may expect to wait a very long time before we shall read of any other man, who, in similar circumstances, has given at once so much cause to bad men to hate him, and so little pretext for avowing their hatred; who has combined such energy with such mildness; who, at the commencement of such an administration, has given the sovereign pledge of disinterestedness, by refusing an offered present of 80,000l. and nobly redeemed it at the conclusion, by insisting on making oath before the magistracy, that, during the whole period of his office, he has made no emolument whatever, in any form, direct or indirect, beside the fixed known salary of the office, giving also a precise statement, to a guinea, of the sum received as that salary.

Mr. Barrow has exhibited a meritorious boldness in exposing the established and enormous corruptions which Lord M. so magnanimously opposed, and in branding the names of the persons, whether living or dead, who were the chief patrons and examples of the iniquity. With respect to one notorious delinquent, perhaps it was compassion for his fallen and despised state, that induced our author to avoid directly speaking of him by name, while narrating his wicked intrigue

with one of the native princes, and his laborious efforts to defame and injure the man whose virtue had such a malignant aspect on his designs. The recital of this intrigue leads Mr. B. to make some interesting observations on the character of the native princes, and on the effects of the policy of government in making and supporting a number of pominal sovereigns, instead of taking the inhabitants at once under their own sole authority.

That a considerable number of thinking men in the British nation should suffer themselves to be so long and so repeatedly abused, with regard to the complaints of the dependent Mahomedan princes of India, can only be explained by the little trouble that is taken to inform themselves accurately on the subject. But the enormous sums of money which these intriguing men are always ready to lavish on those who may either be sufficiently ignorant, or sufficiently corrupt, to undertake their cause, will readily account for the zealous advocates who now and then stand forth as their avowed champions ; but the real fact is, that there is not perhaps a single individual among those mock princes which the Company's servants have created, who has not violated his engagements with

duct in general, that every honest man, who may have had occasion to witness them upon the spot, and whose integrity has been proof against their insidious practices of corruption, must acknowledge, that there is not perhaps, on the face of the earth, a set of creatures so depraved, so licentious, so unprincipled, and, in every respect, so worthless, as those dependent upstarts, in whose cause the powers of rhetoric have so frequently been exhausted in the British House of Commons, to rouse and abuse the generous feelings of the nation. How few on such occasions have ever believed that an English governor could be innocent when an Indian nabob was his accuser ; yet how very easy is it for a man with whom truth is not considered as a moral obligation, and intrigues and treachery the whole study of his life, to produce a series of unfounded calumnies ; how difficult, at such a distance, to disprove them before the poison has worked its intended effect.'

"Whoever will give himself the trouble of examining the records of Bengal and Madras, must unavoidably be convinced, that so long as the system is continued of setting up nizams and viziers, nabobs and rajahs, without any real claims or pretensions, as the ostensible governors of countries, provinces, and districts, but in fact mere tools of the Company, no governor-general of Bengal, or president of Madras, provided he be an honest man, can possibly escape their intrigues, their hatred, and their calumny; but if he will allow them to break their engagements with the Company, to corrupt its servants, to purchase indulgences by bribes, to oppress the inhabitant by extortion and cruelty and murder, and to plunder and encroach upon every petty power that borders on their respective countries, he will be extolled by them as the wisest and best governor that ever ruled in India. Nothing has, most assuredly, bad a stronger tendency to injure the British name, among the real and substantial powers of Hindostan, than the impolitic measure of setting up these puppets of authority; and nothing probably would have more influence in consolidating the prosperity and peace of India, than the abolishing of · those double governments, and taking the management of such countries as avowedly belong to the British empire, entirely into our own hands. As a matter of expediency, the Company seem now pretty well convinced that the meaure must be adopted, and that those nurseries of oppression, intrigue, and corruption, must be destroyed. Millions of unhappy, yet unoffending, natives, would then know to whom they are to look up for protection, which, under the present system of things, is, at least, a mater of doubt and distress.' Vol. 1. p. 252-254. i

Lord M's next appointinent was the celebrated embassy ; soon after his return from which," he was again called upon, in 1795, to undertake an important idission to Italy, of a delicate and confidential nature, the particulars of which there are many reasons for not disclosing at present.” His last public station was the government of the Cape of Good Hope. He died in March, 1806. The memoir concludes with a summary view of his lordship's character, from which we will cite a few passages.

• It has been observed, maliciously enough, that every man has his price; but if this satire on human nature were strictly true, taken in its greatest latitude, it must however be allowed that a very few public men do now and then appear on the stage, whose price, at least, has never been ascertained. One of these few was Lord M. The whole revenues of the Carnatic, which were, in fact, at his command, with the fee simple of Bengal added to them, could not have bribed him to swerve an inch from his public duty. That wealth which is able to purchase power and inAuence and honours, and without which they are rarely attainable, had no temptation for him. “I think," says he, in a letter to Lord Hillsborough, “ I am now worth about 10,0001. inore than when I arrived in India, and I do assure you that I might have been easily worth ten times the sum, if I pleased, without any reproaches but those of my conscience." In fact, the system of corruption is so well established in India, that those who are disposed to avail themselves of that source of wealth, run very little risk of detection. No blame was ever thrown by the Nabob of Arcot on any of Lord M.'s predecessors for taking his money; but torrents of abuse were poured out against his Lordship because he would not take it It was a maxim with him, that plain dealing and clean hands will always in the end be an over match for artifice and dishonesty; the truth of which he had very frequent occasion to put to the test. Nothing, indeed, could have supported him in the line of conduct he pursued in India, against the intrigues, the duplicity, and the universal corruption which surrounded him, but an unsullied integrity, and an inflexible firinness. 'So scrupulous was he in the rigid adherence to his instructions, that he paid into the treasury all the nazzars or presents that are made to the several governors on various and unavoidable occasions, together with the dressea and jewels which were sent to him from the Nizam, and from Tippoo Saheb on the ratification of the treaty of peace; and all the little compliments of fine cloths, muslins,- silks,' shawls, and other trifling articles, which cannot be refused without giving offence, he punctually delivered into the export warehouse, without reserving a single article, however insignificant, for the gratification of his dearest connections at home.'

His spirit always rose to difficulties and distresses ; and though frequently disappointed, he never appeared to be discontented. It was observed that no one ever saw him out of temper, and that no one ever wit, nessed a harsh or unguarded expression in the midst of the most trying difficulties, except in the single instance when it was forced from him by a most audacious contradiction.'

• He possessed a firmness of character which those who did not know him well, considered as bordering on obstinacy. He was slow to act when the case was not pressing; but having once taken his ground, he never deserted it. « Before I decide," says he, “ on any matter of mo. ment, I revolve the subject well on my pillow; after which I have generally found my decision to be just.” If, by his integrity and impartiality, he inspired confidence, his steady and decided conduct never left a doubt remaining on the minds of others, that his measures would not be carried into execution. This steadiness extended to his opinions of men, as well as to the prosecution of measures. “ I am of all men,” says he, “ perhaps the most cautious, but, at the same time, the most decisive.' .'.

• His manners were engaging, and his carriage easy, but dignified ; in conversation he was extremely affable, cheerful, and entertaining; at the same time he was no admirer of that confident assurance, that easy familiarity, and careless neglect of personal appearance, which are assumed by many young men of fashion in the present day. He possessed all the dignily of the old school, without its stiffness.”

It would be natural to conclude, that so much practical excellence must have been founded on those principles, which form the deepest and the firmest foundation of virtue. Such a man seems worthy to have been actuated by the noblest of all motives, a regard to the approbation of the Governor of the world. We regret therefore to have descried no trace of such a motive, but to have met, on the contrary, a few expressions, here and there, indicating something even rather beyond mere indifference to religion. These indications are infrequent, and not of a very obtrusive cast. They are chiefly discernible in several passages where the deserved. contempt of the bigotry and superstition of pagans, or of papists, 13 given with a certain latitude of expression, which appears to implicate the true religion, either by an actual insinuation, or by.carefully avoiding any mark of recognition of the total contrariety of pure religion to all the follies of all the superstitions of the world. The excellence which we have so much admired and applauded, is that of a man of honour, of the very highest order comprehended within that title, certainly, but partaking also of one of its most vulgar characteristics; for it is here recorded that he fought two duels, and this not amidst the rashness of youth, but subsequently to his government of

« 上一页继续 »