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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Summoned Nand Kumar before them


The

story of Nand Kumar comes into the history as the result of an organic change in the composition and administration of the East India Company. North's {260} Regulating Act of 1773 made many changes in the administration of English India. The changes that most directly concerned Hastings converted the Governor of Bengal into a Governor-General, and reduced his Council to four members. The Governments of Madras and Bombay were placed under the joint control of Governor-General and Council. Hastings was appointed, naturally enough, to be the new Governor-General. His four councillors were Richard Barwell, General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Philip Francis. Barwell was the only one who was a member of Hastings's old Council. The three others were in England; they had been chosen expressly to guide Indian policy in accordance with the views of the home Government. Clavering and Monson had already earned some distinction of a soldierly kind; Francis was by far the ablest of the three. The author of the "Letters of Junius" was much of a scholar and something of a statesman, but he was a man of a fierce and unbending temper, prompt to quarrel, hotly arrogant in argument, unrelenting in his hatred of those who crossed his purposes.

These were not the kind of men with whom Hastings was likely to get on, and from the moment of their landing in India, where they complained that they were not received with sufficient ceremony, they and Hastings

were furiously hostile. The meetings of the Governor-General and his Council became so many pitched battles, in which Hastings, aided only by Barwell, fought with tenacity and patience against men whose determination appeared to be in every possible instance to undo what he had done, and to oppose what he proposed to do. They treated him as if he were little better than a clerk in the Company's service; they acted as if their one purpose was to drive him out of public life.

[Sidenote: 1775--Charges against Hastings]

As soon as it was plain that the new men of the new Council were hostile to Hastings, Hastings's enemies were eager enough to come forward and help in the work. One of Hastings's oldest and bitterest enemies was the Brahmin Nand Kumar. Nand Kumar had always been hostile to Hastings. Now, when Hastings was in danger, was {261} threatened with defeat and with disgrace, Nand Kumar came forward with a whole string of accusations against him, accusations to which Francis, Clavering, and Monson listened eagerly. Nand Kumar accused Hastings of many acts of shameless bribery, declared that he himself had bribed him in large sums, and produced a letter from a native princess in which she avowed that she had bribed Hastings in large sums. The three councillors appear to have accepted every word uttered by Nand Kumar as gospel truth. Hastings, on his side, refused to be arraigned at his own Council-board by a man whom he alleged to be of notoriously infamous character, though he and Barwell were perfectly willing that the whole matter should be referred to the Supreme Court. At last Hastings withdrew from the Council, followed by Barwell. The others immediately voted Clavering into the chair, summoned Nand Kumar before them, listened to all that he had to say, and on that evidence, in the absence of the accused man, the self-constituted tribunal found Hastings guilty of taking bribes from the princess, and ordered him to repay the sum of thirty-five thousand pounds to the public treasury.


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