Previous Index Next
Page 149
(previous) (Page 000149) (next)

vile alguazils of Impey. The harems of noble Mahommedans,
sanctuaries respected in the East by governments which respected
nothing else, were burst open by gangs of bailiffs. The Mussul-
mans, braver and less accustomed to submission than the Hindoos,
sometimes stood on their defence; and there were instances in
which they shed their blood in the doorway, while defending, sword
in hand, the sacred apartments of their women. Nay, it seemed
as if even the faint-hearted Bengalee, who had crouched at the feet
of Suraj ah Dowlah, who had been mute during the administration
of Vansittart, would at length find courage in despair. No Mah-
ratta invasion had ever spread through the province such dismay
as this inroad of English lawyers. All the injustice of former op-
pressors, Asiatic and European, appeared as a blessing when com-
pared with the justice of the Supreme Court.

Every class of the population, English and native, with the ex-
ception of the ravenous pettifoggers who fattened on the misery
and terror of an immense community, cried out loudly against this
fearful oppression. But the judges were immovable. If a bailiff
was resisted, they ordered the soldiers to be called out. If a servant
of the Company, in conformity with the orders of the government,
withstood the miserable catchpoles who, with Impey’s writs in their
hands, exceeded the insolence and rapacity of gang-robbers, he
was flung into prison for a contempt. The lapse of sixty years,
the virtue and wisdom of many eminent magistrates who have
during that time administered justice in the Supreme Court, have
not effaced from the minds of the people of Bengal the recollection
of those evil days.

The members of the government were, on this subject, united
as one man. Hastings had courted the judges; he had found
them useful instruments; but he was not disposed to make them
his own masters, or the masters of India. His mind was large:
his knowledge of the native character most accurate. He saw that
the system pursued by the Supreme Court was degrading to the
government and ruinous to the people; and be resolved to oppose
it manfully. The consequence was, that the friendship, if that be
the proper word for such a connexion, which had existed between
him and Impey, was for a time completely dissolved. The govern-
ment placed itself firmly between the tyrannical tribunal and the
people. The Chief Justice proceeded to the wildest excesses.
The Governor-General and all the members of Council were


Previous Index Next