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There were seated round the Queen pulled down princes. And in his high the fair-haired young daughters of the place he had so borne himself, that all house of Brunswick. There the Am- had feared him, that most had loved bassadors of great Kings and Com- him, and that hatred itself could deny monwealths gazed with admiration on him no title to glory, except virtue. a spectacle which no other country in He looked like a great man, and not the world could present. There Sid- like a bad man. A person small and dons, in the prime of her majestic emaciated, yet deriving dignity from a beauty, looked with emotion on a scene carriage which, while it indicated desurpassing all the imitations of the ference to the court, indicated also stage. There the historian of the Ro- habitual self-possession and self-respect, man Empire thought of the days when a high and intellectual forehead, a Cicero pleaded the cause of Sicily brow pensive, but not gloomy, a mouth against Verres, and when, before a of inflexible decision, a face pale and senate which still retained some show worn, but serene, on which was written, of freedom, Tacitus thundered against as legibly as under the picture in the the oppressor of Africa. There were council-chamber at Calcutta, Mens seen, side by side, the greatest painter æqua in arduis; such was the aspect and the greatest scholar of the age. with which the great Proconsul preThe spectacle had allured Reynolds sented himself to his judges. from that easel which has preserved to His counsel accompanied him, men us the thoughtful foreheads of so many all of whom were afterwards raised by writers and statesmen, and the sweet their talents and learning to the highest smiles of so many noble matrons. It posts in their profession, the bold and had induced Parr to suspend his la- strong-minded Law, afterwards Chief bours in that dark and profound mine Justice of the King's Bench; the more from which he had extracted a vast humane and eloquent Dallas, aftertreasure of erudition, a treasure too wards Chief Justice of the Common often buried in the earth, too often Pleas; and Plomer who, near twenty paraded with injudicious and inelegant years later, successfully conducted in ostentation, but still precious, massive, the same high court the defence of and splendid. There appeared the Lord Melville, and subsequently bevoluptuous charms of her to whom the came Vice-chancellor and Master of heir of the throne had in secret plighted the Rolls. . his faith. There too was she, the But neither the culprit nor his advobeautiful mother of a beautiful race, cates attracted so much notice as the the Saint Cecilia, whose delicate fea- accusers. In the midst of the blaze of tures, lighted up by love and music, red drapery, a space had been fitted up art has rescued from the common de- with green benches and tables for the cay. There were the members of that Commons. The managers, with Burke brilliant society which quoted, cri- at their head, appeared in full dress. ticized, and exchanged repartees, under The collectors of gossip did not fail to the rich peacock hangings of Mrs. remark that even Fox, generally so Montague. And there the ladies whose regardless of his appearance, had paid lips, more persuasive than those of Fox to the illustrious tribunal the complihimself, had carried the Westminster ment of wearing a bag and sword. election against palace and treasury, Pitt had refused to be one of the conshone round Georgiana Duchess of ductors of the impeachment; and his Devonshire.
commanding, copious, and sonorous The Serjeants made proclamation. eloquence was wanting to that great Hastings advanced to the bar, and bent muster of various talents. Age and his knee. The culprit was indeed not blindness had unfitted Lord North for unworthy of that great presence. He the duties of a public prosecutor ; and had ruled an extensive and populous his friends were left without the help country, had made laws and treaties, of his excellent sense, his tact and his had sent forth armies, had set up and urbanity. But in spite of the absence
of these two distinguished members of of the court, a near relation of the the Lower House, the box in which amiable poet. On the third day Burke the managers stood contained an array rose. Four sittings were occupied by of speakers such as perhaps had not his opening speech, which was intended appeared together since the great age to be a general introduction to all the of Athenian eloquence. There were charges. With an exuberance of Fox and Sheridan, the English De- thought and a splendour of diction mosthenes and the English Hyperides. which more than satisfied the highly
There was Burke, ignorant, indeed, or raised expectation of the audience, he negligent of the art of adapting his described the character and institutions reasonings and his style to the capacity of the natives of India, recounted the and taste of his hearers, but in ampli- circumstances in which the Asiatic tude of comprehension and richness of empire of Britain had originated, and imagination superior to every orator, set forth the constitution of the Comancient or modern. There, with eyes pany and of the English Presidencies. reverentially fixed on Burke, appeared Having thus attempted to communithe finest gentleman of the age, his cate to his hearers an idea of Eastern form developed by every manly exer- society, as vivid as that which existed cise, his face beaming with intelligence in his own mind, he proceeded to arand spirit, the ingenious, the chivalrous, raign the administration of Hastings the high-souled Windham. Nor, as systematically conducted in dethough surrounded by such men, did fiance of morality and public law. the youngest manager pass unnoticed. The energy and pathos of the great At an age when most of those who orator extorted expressions of unwonted distinguish themselves in life are still admiration from the stern and hostile contending for prizes and fellowships Chancellor, and, for a moment, seemed at college, he had won for himself a to pierce even the resolute heart of conspicuous place in parliament. No the defendant. The ladies in the galadvantage of fortune or connection was leries, unaccustomed to such displays wanting that could set off to the height of eloquence, excited by the solemnity his splendid talents and his unble- of the occasion, and perhaps not unmished honour. At twenty-three he willing to display their taste and sensihad been thought worthy to be ranked bility, were in a state of uncontrollable with the veteran statesmen who ap- emotion. Handkerchiefs were pulled peared as the delegates of the British out; smelling bottles were handed Commons, at the bar of the British round; hysterical sobs and screams nobility. All who stood at that bar, were heard : and Mrs. Sheridan was save him alone, are gone, culprit, ad- carried out in a fit. At length the vocates, accusers. To the generation orator concluded. Raising his voice which is now in the vigour of life, he till the old arches of Irish oak reis the sole representative of a great sounded, “ Therefore,” said he, “ hath age which has passed away. But those it with all confidence been ordered, by who, within the last ten years, have the Commons of Great Britain, that I listened with delight, till the morning impeach Warren Hastings of high sun shone on the tapestries of the crimes and misdemeanours. I imHouse of Lords, to the lofty and ani- peach bim in the name of the Commons' mated eloquence of Charles Earl Grey, House of Parliament, whose trust he are able to form some estimate of the has betrayed. I impeach him in the powers of a race of men among whom name of the English nation, whose anhe was not the foremost.
cient honour he has sullied. I impeach The charges and the answers of him in the name of the people of India, Hastings were first read. The cere- whose rights he has trodden under foot, mony occupied two whole days, and and whose country he has turned into was rendered less tedious than it would a desert. Lastly, in the name of human otherwise have been by the silver voice nature itself, in the name of both sexes, and just emphasis of Cowper, the clerk in the name of every age, in the name
of every rank, I impeach the common, gan to sit, and rose to the height when enemy and oppressor of all !”
Sheridan spoke on the charge relating When the deep murmur of various to the Begums. From that time the emotions had subsided, Mr. Fox rose excitement went down fast. The specto address the Lords respecting the tacle had lost the attraction of novelty. course of proceeding to be tollowed. The great displays of rhetoric were The wish of the accusers was that the over. What was behind was not of a Court would bring to a close the in- nature to entice men of letters from vestigation of the first charge before their books in the morning, or to tempt the second was opened. The wish of ladies who had left the masquerade at Hastings and of his counsel was that two to be out of bed before eight. the managers should open all the There remained examinations and charges, and produce all the evidence cross-examinations. There remained for the prosecution, beiore the defence statements of accounts. There rebegan. The Lords retired to their mained the reading of papers, filled own House to consider the question. with words unintelligible to English The Chancellor took the side of Has- ears, with lacs and crores, zemindars tings. Lord Loughborough, who was and aumils, sunnuds and perwannahs, now in opposition, supported the de- jaghires and nuzzurs. There remained mand of the managers. The division bickerings, not always carried on with showed which way the inclination of the best taste or with the best temper, the tribunal leaned. A majority of between the managers of the impeachnear three to one decided in favour of the ment and the counsel for the defence, course for which Hastings contended. particularly between Mr. Burke and
When the Court sat again, Mr. Fox, Mr. Law. There remained the endless assisted by Mr. Grey, opened the marches and countermarches of the charge respecting Cheyte Sing, and Peers between their House and the several days were spent in reading Hall: for as often as a point of law papers and hearing witnesses. The was to be discussed, their Lordships next article was that relating to the retired to discuss it apart; and the Princesses of Oude. The conduct of consequence was, as a Peer wittily said, this part of the case was intrusted to that the judges walked and the trial Sheridan. The curiosity of the public stood still. to hear him was unbounded. His It is to be added that, in the spring sparkling and highly finished decla- of 1788, when the trial commenced, no mation lasted two days; but the Hall important question, either of domestic was crowded to suffocation during the or foreign policy, occupied the public whole time. It was said that fifty mind. The proceeding in Westminster guineas had been paid for a single Hall, therefore, naturally attracted ticket. Sheridan, when he concluded, most of the attention of Parliament contrived, with a knowledge of stage and of the country. It was the one effect which his father might have great event of that season. But in the envied, to sink back, as if exhausted, following year the King's illness, the into the arms of Burke, who hugged him debates on the Regency, the expectwith the energy of generous admiration. ation of a change of ministry, com
June was now far advanced. The pletely diverted public attention from session could not last much longer; Indian affairs ; and within a fortnight and the progress which had been made after George the Third had returned in the impeachment was not very satis- thanks in St. Paul's for his recovery, factory. There were twenty charges. the States-General of France met at On two only of these had even the case | Versailles. In the midst of the agifor the prosecution been heard ; and it tation produced by these events, the was now a year since Hastings had impeachment was for a time almost been admitted to bail.
forgotten. The interest taken by the public in The trial in the Hall went on lanthe trial was great when the Court be- guidly. In the session of 1788, when the proceedings had the interest of trial of Hastings to a close in less than novelty, and when the Peers had little three months. The Lords had not other business before them, only thirty- finished their work in seven years. five days were given to the impeach- The result ceased to be matter of ment. In 1789, the Regency Bill oc- doubt, from the time when the Lords cupied the Upper House till the session resolved that they would be guided by was far advanced. When the King the rules of evidence which are rerecovered the circuits were beginning. ceived in the inferior courts of the The judges left town; the Lords realm. Those rules, it is well known, waited for the return of the oracles of exclude much information which would jurisprudence ; and the consequence be quite sufficient to determine the was that during the whole year only conduct of any reasonable man, in the seventeen days were given to the case most important transactions of private of Hastings. It was clear that the life. These rules, at every assizes, save matter would be protracted to a length scores of culprits whom judges, jury, unprecedented in the annals of crimi- and spectators, firmly believe to be nal law.
guilty. But when those rules were In truth, it is impossible to deny rigidly applied to offences committed that impeachment, though it is a fine many years before, at the distance of ceremony, and though it may have many thousands of miles, conviction been useful in the seventeenth century, was, of course, out of the question. is not a proceeding from which much We do not blame the accused and his good can now be expected. Whatever counsel for availing themselves of every confidence may be placed in the de- legal advantage in order to obtain an cision of the Peers on an appeal arising acquittal. But it is clear that an acout of ordinary litigation, it is certain quittal so obtained cannot be pleaded that no man has the least confidence in bar of the judgment of history in their impartiality, when a great Several attempts were made by the public functionary, charged with a friends of Hastings to put a stop to the great state crime, is brought to their trial. In 1789 they proposed a vote of bar. They are all politicians. There censure upon Burke, for some violent is hardly one among them whose vote language which he had used respecting on an impeachment may not be con- the death of Nuncomar and the confidently predicted before a witness has nection between Hastings and Impey. been examined ; and, even if it were Burke was then unpopular in the last possible to rely on their justice, they degree both with the House and with would still be quite unfit to try such a the country. The asperity and incause as that of Hastings. They sit decency of some expressions which only during half the year. They have he had used during the debates on the to transact much legislative and much Regency had annoyed even his warmest judicial business. The law-lords, whose friends. The vote of censure was caradvice is required to guide the un- ried; and those who had moved it learned majority, are employed daily hoped that the managers would resign in administering justice elsewhere. It in disgust. Burke was deeply hurt. is impossible, therefore, that during a But his zeal for what he considered as busy session, the Upper House should the cause of justice and mercy triumgive more than a few days to an im- phed over his personal feelings. He peachment. To expect that their Lord- received the censure of the House with ships would give up partridge-shooting, dignity and meekness, and declared in order to bring the greatest delin- that no personal mortification or huquent to speedy justice, or to relieve miliation should induce him to flinch accused innocence by speedy acquittal, from the sacred duty which he had would be unreasonable indeed. A well undertaken. constituted tribunal, sitting regularly in the following year the Parliament six days in the week, and nine hours was dissolved ; and the friends of Hastin the day, would have brought the ings entertained a hope that the new
House of Commons might not be dis- vaults. Still more affecting must have posed to go on with the impeachment. been the sight of the managers' box.
They began by maintaining that the What had become of that fair fellowwhole proceeding was terminated by ship, so closely bound together by the dissolution. Defeated on this point, public and private ties, so resplendent they made a direct motion that the with every talent and accomplishment? impeachment should be dropped; but It had been scattered by calamities they were defeated by the combined more bitter than the bitterness of death. forces of the Government and the Op- The great chiefs were still living, and position. It was, however, resolved still in the full vigour of their genius. that, for the sake of expedition, many But their friendship was at an end. of the articles should be withdrawn. In | It had been violently and publicly distruth, had not some such measure been solved, with tears and stormy reproaches. adopted, the trial would have lasted If those men, once so dear to each till the defendant was in his grave other, were now compelled to meet for
At length, in the spring of 1795, the the purpose of managing the impeachdecision was pronounced, near eight ment, they met as strangers whom years after Hastings had been brought public business had brought together, by the Serjeant-at-Arms of the Com- and behaved to each other with cold mons to the bar of the Lords. On the and distant civility. Burke had in last day of this great procedure the his vortex whirled away Windham. public curiosity, long suspended, seemed (Fox had been followed by Sheridan to be revived. Anxiety about the judg- and Grey. ment there could be none; for it had Only twenty-nine Peers voted. Of been fully ascertained that there was these only six found Hastings guilty a great majority for the defendant. on the charges relating to Cheyte Sing Nevertheless many wished to see the and to the Begums. On other charges, pageant, and the Hall was as much the majority in his favour was still crowded as on the first day. But those greater. On some he was unanimously who, having been present on the first absolved. He was then called to the day, now bore a part in the proceed- bar, was informed from the woolsack ings of the last, were few; and most of that the Lords had acquitted him, and those few were altered men.
was solemnly discharged. He bowed As Hastings himself said, the arraign- | respectfully and retired. ment had taken place before one gene-! We have said that the decision had ration, and the judgment was pro- been fully expected. It was also genenounced by another. The spectator could rally approved. At the commencenot look at the woolsack, or at the red ment of the trial there had been a benches of the Peers, or at the green strong and indeed unreasonable feeling benches of the Commons, without see- against Hastings. At the close of ing something that reminded him of the trial there was a feeling equally the instability of all human thing's, of strong and equally unreasonable in the instability of power and fame and his favour. One cause of the change life, of the more lamentable instability was, no doubt, what is commonly of friendship. The great seal was called the fickleness of the multiborne before Lord Loughborough, who, tude, but what seems to us to be merely when the trial commenced, was a fierce the general law of human nature. Both opponent of Mr. Pitt's government, and in individuals and in masses violent who was now a member of that govern- excitement is always followed by rement, while Thurlow, who presided in mission, and often by reaction. We the court when it first sat, estranged are all inclined to depreciate whatever from all his old allies, sat scowling we have overpraised, and, on the other among the junior barons. Of about a hand, to show undue indulgence where hundred and sixty nobles who walked we have shown undue rigour. It was in the procession on the first day, thus in the case of Hastings. The sixty had been laid in their family length of his trial, moreover, made