Observations on the Humble Petition


In 1773 the British government established the Supreme Court of Judicature for Bengal. Controversially, the court limited the use of juries to criminal cases, while at the same time it effectively extended English law to Indians in the region by admitting their lawsuits. The Court met with great indignation from many of the British residents in Bengal. Opposition to the Court reached its peak during the trial of James Creassy, the Superintendent of Public Works in Calcutta, who was denied the right to trial by jury for the assault, battery and false imprisonment of two Indian carpenters.

This commentary on the case was published to accompany a petition to the House of Commons in 1779 remonstrating against his trial. Ignoring Creassy’s crime, the authors of the commentary criticised the Supreme Court of Judicature for denying trial by jury to British subjects. In support of Creassy’s request for a jury, the commentary argued that the ‘indubitable and unalienable Privilege’ of British law extended to Britons living in India; this privilege, it claimed, had been rejected by Sir Elijah Impey (1732-1809), the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who argued that ‘the Bill of Rights and Magna Charta’ had ‘merely a local Influence’ confined to Britain, and that Creassy ‘was running his Head against a Wall, and would dash his Brains out’ if he persisted in the appeal. The petition and its accompanying commentary eventually forced Parliament to reform the Bengal Supreme Court in 1781.

Full title:
Observations on the Foregoing Petition of the British Subjects residing in Bengal, &c. to the Parliament of Great Britain; and on the Situation of the Inhabitants of the Country at large
probably London
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
ORB 30/655

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