§ Mr. Creevey
said, when he formerly expressed a wish that the further progress in this bill should be postponed, he did so because the necessary accounts were not then all on the table. They had since been produced, and they were by no means calculated to satisfy him, that the company had any prospect of being able to produce a revenue which should at any time greatly exceed their expenditure, or such as would enable them to provide for the payment of these Bonds. It appeared to him, that there was even on the accounts 1805–6, a deficiency of 2,000,000l. He had heard an hon. member, a director of the company, (Mr. Grant) talk of a residue of nearly 1,000,000l. He saw, indeed, on looking into the accounts, a balance in one place of 600,000l. but in this view of the case, the interest of the debts due by the company were not provided for. Calculating on this and the other expences, there was a deficiency for the year 1805–6 of nearly two millions, and for the preceding year of 1,600,000l. He was therefore more than ever confirmed in the opinion, that there was an impossibility in supposing that the company could ever have a net surplus revenue, or should ever be able to provide for their debts abroad and at home. As, however, it was admitted by the hon. director and by the chancellor of the exchequer, that no claim could lie against the 1018 public on account of the bonds now to be issued, or any other debts of the company; and as it was understood that an enquiry into the state of the company's affairs was to take place early in the next session, if the East-India company could borrow money in the way proposed, he should not object to it.
§ Mr. R. Dundas
contended, that by properly analysing the accounts on the table, the hon. member would have found that the accounts for 1805–6, instead of a deficiency, produced a surplus of 800,000l.; and by a necessary attention to the expenditure, he had no doubt it would produce such a surplus as would be sufficient for a speedy liquidation of their debts.
declared, from all the attention he had been able to pay to the subject, that the deduction drawn by his hon. friend (Mr. Creevey), not that of the right hon. gent. opposite, was correct.
§ General Tarleton
said, he had it in charge from his constituents to oppose the bill; and particularly to oppose the renewal of the company's exclusive 'charter; which, when it came before the house, he should feel it his duty to do.
§ Mr. Whitbread
thought that the weight of testimony was at present against the company. If, however, an hon. member of the board of controul (Mr. Johnstone), whom he now saw in his place, would join his testimony to that of the gentleman at the head of the board, as to the state of the company's affairs, and the probability of a favourable issue, he should be satisfied; at least it would go far to make him credit the statement of the right hon. gent.(Mr. R. Dundas.)—The bill was then read a third time. On the question that the bill do pass, Mr. W. said, that observing the hon. gent. to whom he alluded, had preserved a determined silence, he must object to the passing of the bill.
felt himself extremely flattered by the appeal made to him by the hon. gent. opposite. Gentlemen, however, would recollect that he had always been impressed with a gloomy opinion on this subject. He confessed he did not at this moment look to the future situation of the company with a sanguine eye. By prudence and economy, he thought much might be done; but the company ought not, and could not, expect a great additional revenue. As much was already drawn from their territories, as could be expected. It was therefore to economy 1019 principally they were to look for a change in their affairs. As to the support to be given to the inclination of his constituents, ten years hence, by the hon. general (Tarleton), he could only say, he hoped the hon. general would, at the expiration of that period, continue their representative. But at the same time, he had no hesitation in declaring it to be his fixed opinion, that the preservation of our empire in that quarter of the globe depended on the preservation of the company.
The following will be found a more correct report of the Speech of Mr. Grant, on the second reading of this bill, than the one given at p. 833.
in reply to Mr. Creevey, said he had often, when Indian subjects were before the house, expressed his readiness to go into a full investigation of those subjects, and of the company's affairs, provided only that the investigation were to be conducted not by party prejudice, but with fairness and impartiality. No subjects more required to be treated dispassionately and without aggravation. To consider them in any other way, must be productive of mischief, rather than of benefit, yet he was sorry to observe that the hon. gent. (Mr. Creevey) had indulged himself in statements which appeared chargeable with exaggeration, and to be in some points the result rather of ignorance than of knowledge. With respect to the desire shewn of passing this bill through the house, before the accounts of the Indian budget could come under consideration, it arose merely from an expectation that the session would be a very short one. The Indian accounts of the two last years had not been long in the possession of the court of directors, and the hon. gent. himself ought to know from experience, the difficulty of such an arrangement of those numerous documents as should put them in a fit state for the consideration of the house. The fact was, that with all the diligence that could be exerted, it was found impracticable to place them on the table in a printed state, before the time at which it was necessary to proceed with the present bill. The papers of the first year he hoped would be laid before the house today, those of the second were in a state of forwardness, and would follow in a few days; but if this bill were to wait for the discussion of them, the object proposed by it might be defeated. There were besides, documents already before the house, which sufficiently shewed the ground of the pre- 1020 sent application of the company to parliament. The prospective account of these home receipts and payments, from March 1807 to March 1808, laid before the house last session, shewed a deficit of about 2,200,000l. It was to provide for this deficit that the company applied, not for any grant of money, as might be misconceived from the hon. gentleman's mode of speaking, but for leave to issue bonds to the amount of two millions, instead of raising that sum by an increase of their capital stock, to which stock they had already a power from parliament to add two millions, equivalent to nearly four millions sterling. But though they possessed this power since the year 1797, they had declined, and still wished to decline using it, because during war stock must be funded to a disadvantage and therefore money procured in this way would cost them a higher rate of interest than they would pay on their bonds, besides entailing on their affairs an additional amount of capital, of which they could not hereafter divest themselves, whereas they could pay off their bonds whenever it suited their affairs. And this also furnished an argument against the hon. gent.'s reasoning, because bonds could only obtain a loan during the pleasure of the holders, who might claim payment whenever they thought fit. This was therefore a case different from any of the former applications of the company, alluded to by the hon. gent.,—for the company here asked for no extension of credit, they asked merely to be allowed to raise by bond part of that sum which they already possessed a power to raise by stock, and which they could now raise by stock, if they thought fit. The hon. gent. had endeavoured to shew that this power to raise more stock had been given to the to company as a commutation for raising more money by bonds, which according to him they were unable to do, even when the issue of bonds was under two millions; but here he was entirely mistaken, for the application of the company for that power to increase the stock, appeared from the journals to have been made on this general ground, "that the affairs of the petitioners required a permanent advance of a considerable sum of money beyond what they could raise under the powers then vested in them by law, and the petitioners conceived that the money so wanted by them should be raised by an increase of the capital stock." The company, moreover, 1021 as would be seen by their annual accounts, were empowered and able to raise 3 millions by bonds. The hon. gentlemen had stated that the estimate for 1807–8, shewed a loss by their commerce of above two millions. This was a very gross error. There was no loss on their commerce, but a gain. The account was not a statement of profit and loss, but a prospective estimate of expenditure, and of ways and means for the ensuing year. The deficit it exhibited determined nothing as to the general result of the company's affairs; only the expected receipts and expected payments in one year. And the deficit arose not from their commerce, but from the remittance of large supplies of goods and bullion in three successive years, 1803, 4, and 5, to India, for the purposes of investment and liquidation of debt, which remittances had been applied in a great degree to defray the expences of the wars in which the company had come to be involved in India, without their orders, and contrary to their wishes. On account of these wars too, the returns of investment from India were less than usual, and from the state of the continent of Europe, had come to a worse market than usual, the company's warehouses being now stocked with goods, for which if there had been a ready sale, time enough to meet their exigencies, the present application for power to raise money by bonds, might not have been necessary. With respect to that part of the Indian debt which the hon. gent. called a floating debt, and by which it appeared he meant the part claimable in England, or the decennial and optional loans, though it was undoubtedly a very serious consideration, it could not come suddenly and all at once upon the company. The first of the decennial loans was two millions, and not due till 1810. The optional loans bearing the large interest of India and not being transferable to England at a high rate of exchange, were not likely to be transferred thither in a mass, and before there was a provision made for their payment. At the same time, nobody contended that it was not of the greatest importance to the company, that some plan should be adopted for the liquidation of the Indian debt, though it was not then the moment to enter into that subject. The debt was enormous, and the great difficulty with which the company had to struggle.—But it had not attained its present alarming height by measures for which the directors were 1022 responsible. As to the failure of expectations, formerly held out by a noble lord at the head of the Indian department, it was fair to the company to say that those expectations were stated to be on the supposition of a permanent peace, and were defeated by the long European war which followed the French revolution, and by successive wars in India, all which had entailed prodigious expences on the company both at home and abroad. The return of peace in India however, certainly afforded hope that the present embarrassments of the company would be but temporary; for considerable retrenchments in the expenditure were now going on in India under the administration of sir George Barlow (whose conduct in adopting the pacific system of lord Cornwallis, after having before acquiesced in the foreign policy of lord Wellesley, Mr. Grant defended against the observations of Mr. Creevey) and the advices from thence held out the expectation of a surplus of revenue after defraying all charges and the interest of the debt. That the peace of India would be permanent, Mr. Grant said he had not taken upon him to assert. He had spoken of what might be hoped for if peace continued; and as to its continuance, though undoubtedly the native powers must have been greatly alienated from us by the course of policy and war which the British government had recently pursued there, and they might then be far more ready, under new and encouraging circumstances, to act against us, yet at present they shewed no disposition to break with us, and were indeed reduced in means. We also had professedly resumed a pacific system, and our manifesting a determination to persevere in it might have a tendency to conciliate them.—Dr. Laurence having in his speech insinuated that Mr. Grant had inconsistently departed from the language held in the third report of the directors, and the opinions he had given in that house respecting the measures of lord Wellesley, Mr. Grant replied that he was no party to the third report, not having concurred in it nor having been a member of the court when it was brought forward; and as to the late measures in India, when they came to be discussed, it would be found he had not uttered his sentiments regarding them.