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

As Clive and Hastings undoubtedly were great men


The

pith of all Burke's Indian policy, the text upon which all his splendid sermons of Indian administration were preached, is to be found in one single sentence of the famous speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts. In that single sentence the whole of Burke's theory of government is summed up with the directness of an epigram and with the authority of a law. "Fraud, injustice, oppression, peculation, engendered in India, are crimes of the same blood, family, and caste, with those that are born and bred in England." Outside the noble simplicity of that ethical doctrine Burke could not and would not budge. That sentence represents the whole difference between him and the man whom he afterwards accused, between him and the men of whom that man came to be the representative. Burke's morality was direct, uncompromising, unalterable by climatic conditions or by the supple moralities of other races. The morality of Warren Hastings and of those who thought with and acted for Warren Hastings was the morality of Clive beforehand, was the morality that had been professed and practised time and again since the days of Clive and Hastings by the inheritors of their policy in India. The ingenious theory was set up that in {274} dealing with Oriental races it was essential for the Englishman to employ Oriental means of carrying his point. If an Oriental would lie and cheat and forge and, if needs were, murder, why then the Englishman dealing with him must lie and cheat and forge and murder
too, in order to gain the day. Things that he would not dare to do, things that, to do him justice, he would not dream of doing in England, were not merely permissible but justifiable, not merely justifiable but essential in his intercourse with Asiatic princes and peoples, with dexterous Mohammedan and dexterous Hindoo. The policy was inevitably new in Burke's time; it has been upheld again and again since Burke's time. The theory which allowed Clive to forge and Warren Hastings to plunder was the same principle which led English soldiers three generations later to make Brahmins wipe up blood before being killed, which prompted them to blow their prisoners from the cannon's mouth in the hope that their victims should believe that their souls as well as their bodies were about to perish, which instigated gallant men to suggest in all seriousness the advisability of flaying alive their captured mutineers. The influence of the East is not always a wholesome influence upon the wanderer from the West. It is displayed at its worst when it leads great men, as Clive and Hastings undoubtedly were great men, into the perpetration of evil actions, and the justification of them on the principle that in dealing with an Oriental the Englishman's morality undergoes a change, and becomes for the time and the hour an Oriental morality.

[Sidenote: 1785-87--The defender of Hastings]

Against such an adversary, Hastings, ignorant of the conditions of English political life, could bring forward no better champion than Major Scott. Hastings opposed to the greatest orator and most widely informed man of his age, a man of meagre parts, who only succeeded in wearying profoundly the House of Commons and every other audience to which he appealed. Such a proconsul as Warren Hastings standing his trial upon such momentous charges needed all the ability, all the art that an advocate can possess to be employed in his behalf. Had Hastings {275} been so lucky as to find a defender endowed, not indeed with the genius or the knowledge of Burke, for there was no such man to be found, but with something of the genius, something of the knowledge of Burke, his case might have appeared very different then and in the eyes of posterity. If Scott could have pleaded for Hastings eloquently, brilliantly, with something of the rich coloring, something of the fervid enthusiasm that was characteristic of the utterances of his great antagonist, he might have done much to stem, if not to turn the stream of public thought. But Warren Hastings was not graced so far. His sins had indeed found him out when he was cursed with such an enemy and cursed with such a friend.


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