Previous Index Next
Page 143
(previous) (Page 000143) (next)
 
WARREN HASTINGS. 43

perience and resolution, enmity itself was compelled to acknow-
ledge.

The crisis was indeed formidable. That great and victorious
empire, on the throne of which George the Third had taken his
seat eighteen years before, with brighter hopes than had attended
the accession of any of the long line of English sovereigns, had,
by the most senseless misgovernment, been brought to the verge
of ruin. In America millions of Englishmen were at war with
the country from which their blood, their language, their re-
ligion, and their institutions were derived, and to which, but a
short time before, they had been as strongly attached as the in-
habitants of Norfolk and Leicestershire. The great powers of
Europe, humbled to the dust by the vigour and genius which had
guided the councils of George the Second, now rejoiced in the
prospect of a signal revenge. The time was approaching when
our island, while struggling to keep down the United States of
America, and pressed with a still nearer danger by the too just
discontents of Ireland, was to be assailed by France, Spain, and
Holland, and to be threatened by the armed neutrality.of the
Baltic; when even our maritime supremacy was to be in jeo-
pardy; when hostile fleets were to command the Straits of Calpe
and the Mexican Sea; when the British flag was to be scarcely
able to protect the British Channel. Great as were the faults of
Hastings, it was happy for our country that at that conjuncture,
the most terrible through which she has ever passed, he was the
ruler of her Indian dominions.

An attack by sea on Bengal was little to be apprehended. The
danger was that the European enemies of England might form an
alliance with some native power, might furnish that power with
troops, arms, and ammunition, and might thus assail our posses-
sions on the side of the land. It was chiefly from the Mahrattas
that Hastings anticipated danger. The original seat of that
singular people was the wild range of hills which runs along the
western coast of India. In the reign of Aurungzebe the inha-
bitants of those regions, led by the great Sevajee, began to de-
scend on the possessions of their wealthier and less warlike neigh-
bours. The energy, ferocity, and cunning of the Mahrattas, soon
made them the most conspicuous among the new powers which
were generated by the corruption of the decaying monarchy. At
first they were only robbers. They soon rose to the dignity of

Previous Index Next