Singularity 1 Book One Orange The March to Space fully revised: Social upheaval on the entry to Space
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The greatest body of your revenue, your most numerous armies, your most important commerce, the richest sources of your public credit, contrary to every idea of the known, settled policy of England, are on the point of being converted into a mystery of state. You are going to have one half of the globe hid even from the common liberal curiosity of an English gentleman.
Here a grand revolution commences. Mark the period, and mark the circumstances. In most of the capital changes that are recorded in the principles and system of any government, a public benefit of some kind or other has been pretended. The revolution commenced in something plausible, in something which carried the appearance at least of punishment of delinquency or correction of abuse.
But here, in the very moment of the conversion of a department of British government into an Indian mystery, and in the very act in which the change commences, a corrupt private interest is set up in direct opposition to the necessities of the nation. A diversion is made of millions of the public money from the public treasury to a private purse. It is not into secret negotiations for war, peace, or alliance that the House of Commons is forbidden to inquire. It is a matter of account; it is a pecuniary transaction; it is the demand of a suspected steward upon ruined tenants and an embarrassed master that the Commons of Great Britain are commanded not to inspect.
The whole tenor of the right honorable gentleman's argument is consonant to the nature of his policy. The system of concealment is fostered by a system of falsehood. False facts, false colors, false names of persons and things, are its whole support.
Sir, I mean to follow the right honorable gentleman over that field of deception, clearing what he has purposely obscured, and fairly stating what it was necessary for him to misrepresent. For this purpose, it is necessary you should know, with some degree of distinctness, a little of the locality, the nature, the circumstances, the magnitude of the pretended debts on which this marvellous donation is founded, as well as of the persons from whom and by whom it is claimed.
Madras, with its dependencies, is the second but with a long interval, the second member of the British empire in the East. The trade of that city, and of the adjacent territory, was not very long ago among the most flourishing in Asia. But since the establishment of the British power it has wasted away under an uniform gradual decline, insomuch that in the year not one merchant of eminence was to be found in the whole country. If we fix the commencement of this extraction of money from the Carnatic at a period no earlier than the year , and close it in the year , it probably will not amount to a great deal less than twenty millions of money.
During the deep, silent flow of this steady stream of wealth which set from India into Europe, it generally passed on with no adequate observation; but happening at some periods to meet rifts of rocks that checked its course, it grew more noisy and attracted more notice.
The pecuniary discussions caused by an accumulation of part of the fortunes of their servants in a debt from the Nabob of Arcot was the first thing which very particularly called for, and long engaged, the attention of the Court of Directors. This debt amounted to eight hundred and eighty thousand pounds sterling, and was claimed, for the greater part, by English gentlemen residing at Madras.
This grand capital, settled at length by order at ten per cent, afforded an annuity of eighty-eight thousand pounds. Whilst the Directors were digesting their astonish ment at this information, a memorial was presented to them from three gentlemen, informing them that their friends had lent, likewise, to merchants of Canton in China, a sum of not more than one million sterling. In this memorial they called upon the Company for their assistance and interposition with the Chinese government for the recovery of the debt.
This sum lent to Chinese merchants was at twenty-four per cent, which would yield, if paid, an annuity of two hundred and forty thousand pounds. Perplexed as the Directors were with these demands, you may conceive, Sir, that they did not find themselves very much disembarrassed by being made acquainted that they must again exert their influence for a new reserve of the happy parsimony of their servants, collected into a second debt from the Nabob of Arcot, amounting to two millions four hundred thousand pounds, settled at an interest of twelve per cent. This is known by the name of the Consolidation of , as the former of the Nabob's debts was by the title of the Consolidation of To this was added, in a separate parcel, a little reserve, called the Cavalry Debt, of one hundred and sixty thousand pounds, at the same interest.
The whole of these four capitals, amounting to four millions four hundred and forty thousand pounds, produced at their several rates, annuities amounting to six hundred and twenty-three thousand pounds a year: a good deal more than one third of the clear land-tax of England, at four shillings in the pound; a good deal more than double the whole annual dividend of the East India Company, the nominal masters to the proprietors in these funds.
Of this interest, three hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred pounds a year stood chargeable on the public revenues of the Carnatic. Sir, at this moment, it will not be necessary to consider the various operations which the capital and interest of this debt have successively undergone. I shall speak to these operations when I come particularly to answer the right honorable gentleman on each of the heads, as he has thought proper to divide them.
But this was the exact view in which these debts first appeared to the Court of Directors, and to the world. It varied afterwards. But it never appeared in any other than a most questionable shape. When this gigantic phantom of debt first appeared before a young minister, it naturally would have justified some degree of doubt and apprehension. Such a prodigy would have filled any common man with superstitious fears. He would exorcise that shapeless, nameless form, and by everything sacred would have adjured it to tell by what means a small number of slight individuals, of no consequence or situation, possessed of no lucrative offices, without the command of armies or the known administration of revenues, without profession of any kind, without any sort of trade sufficient to employ a peddler, could have, in a few years, as to some, even in a few months, amassed treasures equal to the revenues of a respectable kingdom?
Was it not enough to put these gentlemen, in the novitiate of their administration, on their guard, and to call upon them for a strict inquiry, if not to justify them in a reprobation of those demands without any inquiry at all, that, when all England, Scotland, and Ireland had for years been witness to the immense sums laid out by the servants of the Company in stocks of all denominations, in the purchase of lands, in the buying and building of houses, in the securing quiet seats in Parliament or in the tumultuous riot of contested elections, in wandering throughout the whole range of those variegated modes of inventive prodigality which sometimes have excited our wonder, sometimes roused our indignation, that, after all, India was four millions still in debt to them?
India in debt to them! For what? Every debt, for which an equivalent of some kind or other is not given, is, on the face of it, a fraud. What is the equivalent they have given? What equivalent had they to give? What are the articles of commerce, or the branches of manufacture, which those gentlemen have carried hence to enrich India? What are the sciences they beamed out to enlighten it? What are the arts they introduced to cheer and to adorn it? What are the religious, what the moral institutions they have taught among that people, as a guide to life, or as a consolation when life is to be no more, that there is an eternal debt, a debt "still paying, still to owe," which must be bound on the present generation in India, and entailed on their mortgaged posterity forever?
A debt of millions, in favor of a set of men whose names, with few exceptions, are either buried in the obscurity of their origin and talents or dragged into light by the enormity of their crimes! In my opinion the courage of the minister was the most wonderful part of the transaction, especially as he must have read, or rather the right honorable gentleman says he has read for him, whole volumes upon the subject.
The volumes, by the way, are not by one tenth part so numerous as the right honorable gentleman has thought proper to pretend, in order to frighten you from inquiry; but in these volumes, such as they are, the minister must have found a full authority for a suspicion at the very least of everything relative to the great fortunes made at Madras. What is that authority?
Why, no other than the standing authority for all the claims which the ministry has thought fit to provide for,—the grand debtor,—the Nabob of Arcot himself. Hear that prince, in the letter written to the Court of Directors, at the precise period whilst the main body of these debts were contracting. In his letter he states himself to be, what undoubtedly he is, a most competent witness to this point.
After speaking of the war with Hyder Ali in and , and of other measures which he censures, whether right or wrong it signifies nothing, and into which he says he had been led by the Company's servants, he proceeds in this manner:—"If all these things were against the real interests of the Company, they are ten thousand times more against mine, and against the prosperity of my country and the happiness of my people; for your interests and mine are the same. What were they owing to, then?
How can you or I account for such immense fortunes acquired in so short a time, without any visible means of getting them? When he asked this question, which involves its answer, it is extraordinary that curiosity did not prompt the Chancellor of the Exchequer to that inquiry which might come in vain recommended to him by his own act of Parliament. Does not the Nabob of Arcot tell us, in so many words, that there was no fair way of making the enormous sums sent by the Company's servants to England? And do you imagine that there was or could be more honesty and good faith in the demands for what remained behind in India?
Of what nature were the transactions with himself?
If you follow the train of his information, you must see, that, if these great sums were at all lent, it was not property, but spoil, that was lent; if not lent, the transaction was not a contract, but a fraud. Either way, if light enough could not be furnished to authorize a full condemnation of these demands, they ought to have been left to the parties, who best knew and understood each other's proceedings.
It was not necessary that the authority of government should interpose in favor of claims whose very foundation was a defiance of that authority, and whose object and end was its entire subversion. It may be said that this letter was written by the Nabob of Arcot in a moody humor, under the influence of some chagrin.
Certainly it was; but it is in such humors that truth comes out. And when he tells you, from his own knowledge, what every one must presume, from the extreme probability of the thing, whether he told it or not, one such testimony is worth a thousand that contradict that probability, when the parties have a better understanding with each other, and when they have a point to carry that may unite them in a common deceit.
If this body of private claims of debt, real or devised, were a question, as it is falsely pretended, between the Nabob of Arcot, as debtor, and Paul Benfield and his associates, as creditors, I am sure I should give myself but little trouble about it.
If the hoards of oppression were the fund for satisfying the claims of bribery and peculation, who would wish to interfere between such litigants? If the demands were confined to what might be drawn from the treasures which the Company's records uniformly assert that the Nabob is in possession of, or if he had mines of gold or silver or diamonds, as we know that he has none, these gentlemen might break open his hoards or dig in his mines without any disturbance from me.
But the gentlemen on the other side of the House know as well as I do, and they dare not contradict me, that the Nabob of Arcot and his creditors are not adversaries, but collusive parties, and that the whole transaction is under a false color and false names. The litigation is not, nor ever has been, between their rapacity and his hoarded riches.
No: it is between him and them combining and confederating, on one side, and the public revenues, and the miserable inhabitants of a ruined country, on the other. These are the real plaintiffs and the real defendants in the suit. Refusing a shilling from his hoards for the satisfaction of any demand, the Nabob of Arcot is always ready, nay, he earnestly, and with eagerness and passion, contends for delivering up to these pretended creditors his territory and his subjects.
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It is, therefore, not from treasuries and mines, but from the food of your unpaid armies, from the blood withheld from the veins and whipped out of the backs of the most miserable of men, that we are to pamper extortion, usury, and peculation, under the false names of debtors and creditors of state. The great patron of these creditors, to whose honor they ought to erect statues, the right honorable gentleman,  in stating the merits which recommended them to his favor, has ranked them under three grand divisions.
The first, the creditors of ; then the creditors of the cavalry loan; and lastly, the creditors of the loan in Let us examine them, one by one, as they pass in review before us. The first of these loans, that of , he insists, has an indisputable claim upon the public justice. The creditors, he affirms, lent their money publicly; they advanced it with the express knowledge and approbation of the Company; and it was contracted at the moderate interest of ten per cent.
In this loan, the demand is, according to him, not only just, but meritorious in a very high degree: and one would be inclined to believe he thought so, because he has put it last in the provision he has made for these claims. I readily admit this debt to stand the fairest of the whole; for, whatever may be my suspicions concerning a part of it, I can convict it of nothing worse than the most enormous usury.
But I can convict, upon the spot, the right honorable gentleman of the most daring misrepresentation in every one fact, without any exception, that he has alleged in defence of this loan, and of his own conduct with regard to it. I will show you that this debt was never contracted with the knowledge of the Company; that it had not their approbation; that they received the first intelligence of it with the utmost possible surprise, indignation, and alarm.
So for from being previously apprised of the transaction from its origin, it was two years before the Court of Directors obtained any official intelligence of it. Sayer, the Company's counsel "by the report of the country. On this the Directors tell them, "To your great reproach, it has been concealed from us. We cannot but suspect this debt to have had its weight in your proposed aggrandizement of Mahomed Ali [the Nabob of Arcot]; but whether it has or has not, certain it is you are guilty of an high breach of duty in concealing it from us. These expressions, concerning the ground of the transaction, its effect, and its clandestine nature, are in the letters bearing date March 17, After receiving a more full account, on the 23d March, , they state, that "Messrs.
John Pybus, John Call, and James Bourchier, as trustees for themselves and others of the Nabob's private creditors, had proved a deed of assignment upon the Nabob and his son of FIFTEEN districts of the Nabob's country, the revenues of which yielded, in time of peace, eight lacs of pagodas [, l. They were making rapid strides to the entire possession of the country, when the Directors, whom the right honorable gentleman states as having authorized these proceedings, were kept in such profound ignorance of this royal acquisition of territorial revenue by their servants, that in the same letter they say, "This assignment was obtained by three of the members of your board in January, ; yet we do not find the least trace of it upon your Consultations until August, , nor do any of your letters to us afford any information relative to such transactions till the 1st of November, By your last letters of the 8th of May, , you bring the whole proceedings to light in one view.
As to the previous knowledge of the Company, and its sanction to the debts, you see that this assertion of that knowledge is utterly unfounded.