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The East India chairman and deputy are desired to be at my house to-morrow at seven o'clock, where Lord Chancellor and the two secretaries are to dine. I mean also to invite Charles Townshend. I have enclosed the words which Lord Shelburne had from your Lordship. After having repeated the substance of them, I mean to deliver it in writing to them, as a fuller justification of the King's servants, if you approve of it. Though I look upon it as a certainty that this matter must have a parliamentary enquiry, would your Lordship have the word certainly or those in all likelihood inserted in the place of the other? (')
(1) When the news reached England of the re-establishment of the East India Company's affairs, and of the immense acquisitions that had been gained for them by the various treaties concluded by Lord Clive, the price of stock rose, and there was a clamorous demand for an increase in the dividends; which, during the war, had been reduced from eight to six per cent. This was opposed by the directors, on the ground that though many advantages had been acquired, great debts had been incurred, and that the payment of debts ought to precede the division of profits. Not convinced by this reasoning, at the next general quarterly court of the proprietors it was carried by a majority of 340 against 231, that the yearly dividend should be increased to ten per cent. It was at this time that the government sent the message to the directors hinted at in the above letter, importing, "that as the affairs of the East India Company had been mentioned in parliament last session, it was very probable they might be taken into consideration again; and therefore, from the regard they had for the welfare of the Company, and in order that they might have time to prepare their papers for that occasion, they informed them that the parliament would meet in November."
I shall be happy to hear that your Lordship is better; and beg leave to assure you that I am always, with the most profound respect,
THE KING TO THE EARL OF CHATHAM.
Richmond Lodge, August 29, 1766. 5 m. past 4, p. m.
I WAS much pleased at learning this day from Lord Bristol that your gout is diminishing. When it is quite removed, a journey to Bath will, I make no doubt, secure you from any fresh attack during the winter.
The enclosed letter from Sir Andrew Mitchell (1) has given me great pleasure, as he seems very thoroughly to enter into what is proposed, in the very light it is viewed here.
(1) Sir Andrew Mitchell's letter to Mr. Conway, of the 21st of August; an extract of which is given at p. 46.
THE HONOURABLE THOMAS WALPOLE TO THE EARL OF CHATHAM.
London, September 9, 1766.
THERE is good reason to believe the treaties concluded in Bengal by Lord Clive, will be productive of a clear yearly revenue of two millions sterling. An object of this importance would, in a few years, ease this country of the burden it labours under; and therefore our whole wills should be set to make this revenue as durable as possible.
All other speculations should give way to this consideration of permanency; even the existence of the India Company, the benefit of whose trade, from the beginning of their charter, is not to be compared to a few years' preservation of the present object.
Such a balance in favour of this country, whether managed by a particular body of men or by the public treasury, may be matter of pure speculation, in comparison to securing it, one way or the other; but if the East India Company is unequal to the task, their legal rights can be only considered as they combine with the good of the whole; and government would be blamed for trusting so great an acquisition in hands too weak to hold it.
The annual choice of directors may very well serve the temporary purposes of trade, which is
always fluctuating, and the circumstances of which they must rather follow than direct; but such a floating and uncertain authority can never be equivalent to a steady system of government over distant countries, where those trusted with the executive parts are doubtful how long their authority may last, and only intent on the speediest methods of enriching themselves. Their riches are afterwards successfully employed here to prevent any scrutiny into their conduct, either by intimidating the directors, or choosing in their stead a sufficient number of their friends to prevent all enquiry. Hence have arisen all the wicked policy, mischiefs, and dissensions, which have annually brought the East India Company to the brink of ruin.
The present constitution, therefore, of the Company seems very inadequate to their situation and whether it can be so framed as to give it proper energy is beyond my conception. If not, it is absolutely necessary government should take the charge of that which is too unwieldy for a subordinate body of merchants; allowing them such a compensation as may be equitable, all things considered. (1)
(1) By a reference to Vol. I. p. 389., it will be seen, that Lord Clive, so early as the year 1759, had drawn the attention of Mr. Pitt to this important question, and had expressed his conviction, that so large a sovereignty was an object too extensive for a mercantile company. In a letter from Mr. Walsh to Lord Clive, written in May 1766, shortly after the news had arrived of his lordship's negotiation with the vizier, and of the
What this ought to be will gradually open itself, in the progress of examination into the Company's affairs; and probably in that discussion many circumstances will contribute to favour whatsoever plan government shall think wisest to adopt. In the meanwhile, it seems necessary to induce Lord Clive to continue in Bengal till this important business is settled here, and some person appointed to succeed his Lordship, with sufficient means to preserve what his Lordship's astonishing influence in that part of the world has so happily acquired.
The wise step already taken by your Lordship's advice is gratefully felt by every honest and disinterested person in the city. It has given a new bias to the minds of men; cooled the inflamed hopes of some, relieved the fears of others; and added weight to those who have no further views than the just security of their property, and to see the India trade preserved in the degree of credit it
subsequent peace, that gentleman says, "I am very sorry you did not write a few lines to Mr. Pitt, to conciliate him to your negotiations. He has left us for Pynsent, where he is doing great things. I spoke a few words to him, just as he left the House of Commons, telling him you had, in great measure, carried into execution what I had once the honour of laying before him; to which he answered, that he had heard of the great things you had done; that you had acquired great honour; but that they were too vast: for some time he had been dissatisfied with our proceedings there; however, he was very glad to hear that Lord Clive was well, and that he had not gone up to Delhi. This was all that passed between us, whilst he was getting on his great coat. One word from him would go far in making or unmaking the Company." See Malcolm's Life of Lord
Clive, vol. iii. p. 189.