Burke’s Speech on East India Bill concerns India particularly British rule in India. In the speech, Burke has presented India in graphic detail including its history, geography, territorial vastness, culture, ethnicity etc.
Burke believed that Eighteenth-century India had declined sadly from the height of Mughal power. But still, in the Speech on East India Bill, he compared the rulers of the successor states of the empire to the kings, electors, princes, dukes, and other ruling nobility of contemporary Germany. Burke compares India with contemporary Europe to present the territorial vastness of India and at the same time, its importance as a nation. He at the end of the comparison shows what an abject land the company rule has turned India into: “Thorough all that vast extent of the country there is not a man who eats a mouthful of rice but by permission of the East India Company.”
Burke has presented India as a nation that was declining from its past glory and dignity. India was “eminently, peopled and eminently productive.” But they declined from their “ancient prosperity.” India at that time, according to Burke, was inhabited by almost thirty million people. Burke points out in his speech that the populace of India during his time was no abject and detestable creatures. India is a nation that once was culturally, economically, commercially, ethnically rich, and affluent.
Burke nourished a very high notion about India, it’s past, culture, and its diversified population. But under the despotic and tyrannical rule of East India Company, this nation rich in all aspects was turning into a “grand waste.” Corruption, avarice, lawlessness, fraud, evasion, and arbitrariness characterized the British rule in India and the British rule turned this “once opulent and flourishing country” into “waste with fire and sword.” The agents of the East India Company were rendering the whole territory into barren land.
In the Speech on East India Bill, Burke left no stone unturned to show that India once famous for its riches and wealth was heavily declining under the despotic and atrocious British rule. Burke’s skillful narrative convinced his audience that India, in reality, was bleeding under the East India Company’s sway. This led Burke to advocate for the East India Bill. He believed that this bill would save “thirty million of my fellow-creatures and fellow subjects” from utter ruin. The primary objective of Burke was to achieve political success. But in depicting India in the speech, Burke did not exaggerate. He assimilated emotion and rhetoric with reality and factual details. As an orator, Burke was highly skillful in presenting India and its people with all their sufferings and grievances.