Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/58

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A COLONIAL AUTOCRACY.

Paterson's, which was of earlier date. But he and Foveaux decided that this was not the case, and the latter afterwards claimed that in continuing Bligh's arrest, he acted under the orders of his superior officer, Colonel Paterson. His first despatches, however, those which arrived in March, threw scarcely any light on the causes of his action.

In those days Secretaries of State for the Colonies had often to decide in the dark or at least the twilight, imagination filling in with more or less success the dim places in the story. The Presidency of Madras supplied a useful precedent, and so similar was the course followed on this occasion, that Lord Castlereagh probably considered that case before it was referred to by the law officers of the Crown in November, 1809.

It was the case of Lord Pigot, Governor of Madras, and four members of his Council. In 1776 a dispute arose concerning the affairs of a native prince, and each party in the Council strove by every means in its power to carry its own point. Both sides used very questionable methods, and finally the majority in the Council, who were opposed to the Governor's measures, by a high-handed and illegal action replaced the head of the forces by a partisan of their own, ordered him to arrest and imprison Lord Pigot, and took upon themselves the government of the Presidency. Corruption was at the root of the matter, and as usual in such cases the Court of Directors pursued a somewhat wavering course. They sent orders to reinstate Lord Pigot, but instructed him to embark for England within a week of such reinstatement. These orders came too late, for Lord Pigot died in prison a week before they reached Madras. They also gave directions to try the officers of the army who were concerned in the disturbance before Courts Martial in India, and recalled four members of the Council. There is nothing which shows that any officers were brought to trial, but some small officials were prosecuted. In England, after a pretence at an inquiry, the East India Company did nothing more with regard to the four members who were the real culprits. But Parliament took the matter up, and in 1779 the Attorney-General, in accordance with the terms of an address of the House of Commons, laid an information against them in the Court of King's Bench, where they were tried before