Poets of John Company/The Letters of Simpkin



"The Letters of Simpkin the Second, upon the Trial of Warren Hastings."

You have ask'd me, dear Simon, a number of times,
To send you some more of my ludicrous rhimes;
Want of matter has hitherto check'd my endeavour.
But a subject occurs which may last me for ever,
You must know, Mr. Burke, who was quondam a teacher,
An usher, I think, is become an IMPEACHER;
In the House he had rail'd against Hastings so long.
That the Commons believ'd he had done something wrong;
So they articles voted, not less than a score,
Tho' Edmund says, he cou'd have fram'd many more.
As my hero asserted, and Hastings denied,
A day was appointed for him to be tried:
But now for a time I must make a digression,
To give an account of the court in procession.

The Procession.

The Lord Chancellor's family first came in view,
And the order observed, was to walk two and two;
Then the Clerks and the Masters in Chancery came.
Then the Judges of England in duo's the same.
With Adair the King's Serjeant, and then the Black Rod;
Then Heralds, and Barons, and Fathers in God.
After them were the Viscounts, Earls, Marquisses seen.
Then the Dukes, the Archbishops, and Cryer came in.
Next follows the Chancellor, and last of all
Dukes—Cumberland, Gloster, and York, and Cornwall.

All after the Heralds walk singly, alone,
And each as he passes, bows low to the Throne;
So much for the Nobles, and now I'll describe
The procession of Burke and his eloquent tribe.
First Edmund walks in at the head of the group.
The powerful chief of a powerful troop;
What awful solemnity's seen in his gait,
While the nod of his head, beats the time to his feet.
Charles Fox is the second, and close to his right.
Whose waddle declares he will never go straight.
The ruby fac'd Sheridan follows the third,
The opposer of Pitt and the Treasury Board;
His attention, 'tis said, has so long been directed
To the National Debts, that his own are neglected.
And on public affairs, where such management's shewn,
No wonder a man cannot think of his own.
Then Francis comes sneaking with grief in his heart,
At not being indulg'd with a Manager's part;
Tho' he now and then steals to the Manager's box.
To suggest a shrewd question to Edmund or Fox.
The Commons, all those who from riding have leisure.
Without order come in, and go out at their pleasure.
When the Lords and the Judges had taken their stations,
The Serjeant at Arms utter'd three proclamations;
Then the charges and answers were read by the clerk,
And some were got through by the time it was dark.
The second day also was wasted in reading.
But the third produced something of Edmund's proceeding:

He rose and began—"You will find in the sequel,
"My Lords, to this task I am very unequal:
"But, the Commons, who hold me in high estimation,
"Believe I am qualify'd well for the station."
The lawyer appear'd in whatever he spoke,
Than Blackstone more learn'd, more ingenious than Coke.
Rules of evidence they had the merit of stating,
But Edmund lays claim to the praise of creating:

Yet even this deed by himself was excell'd
In describing the countries he never beheld;
To be sure, his descriptions were vastly admir'd,
The whole was his own, for his tongue was inspir'd
With knowledge divine he expos'd to our view
The religion of Hindoos, and Mussalmans too.
And he said Junghez Khan only seized their dominions,
But that Hastings wag'd war with the people's opinions.
Here the orator blustered, at least for an hour,
About Warren Hastings, and absolute power,
Who, according to Burke, has been forming a plan
To map geographical morals for man.
Who to shew us his great geometrical art,
Fit climates for virtues has drawn on a chart;
That virtues and vices, that duties and crimes.
May change with the latitudes, countries, and climes.
Here Edmund committed his honour and word
To prove moral geography vastly absurd;
And by way of a secret, their Lordships were told
That truth's not affected by heat or by cold;
"Far better," says he, "when the English went thither,
"Had they call'd the inhabitant natives together;
"And instead of subduing, or them over-reaching,
"Had busy'd themselves with evangelic preaching.
"No converts made they to the Christian religion,
"But pluck'd the rich blacks like the wing of a pigeon.
"For there was the Company's government built
"Upon plunder, and rapine, and all kinds of guilt;
"In a system like this, 'tis no matter of wonder,
"If all were inspired by the spirit of plunder.
"There was not a captain, nor scarce a seapoy,
"But a Prince would depose, or a Bramin destroy;"

Here the Hero digressed, and related some tales
Of a prince to be slain, as he thought, by three seals.
How Nabobs, and Ministers had been opprest.
And the innocent natives with famine distrest.

Now Edmund returns to his well-belov'd theme;
To prove Hastings' power should not be supreme;
The Government rule 'twas his duty to draw
From Coke upon Littleton, writers on law:
And whenever their Lordships shall come to decide,
Burke hoped they would take British laws for their guide;
'Tis contended, says he, by the party accus'd,
We should govern by laws to which subjects are used.
But, my Lords, I maintain, 'tis expedient and fitting,
To govern the world by the laws of Great Britain;
Nor do I conceive that it matters a jot.
With respect to the laws, if they knew them or not.
And the prisoner, I trust, will be try'd and attainted
By those laws alone, with which I am acquainted.
Here this letter ends, but expect, my dear Brother,
When Edmund resumes I will send you another.