Malta History – the 17th Century

By | December 26, 2021

The victory of the Maltese and of the Order stopped the expansion movement of the Turks: and Malta was, at the time, truly “antemural” of Italy. The Turkish threat still aroused alarm several times, as there were constant provocations by the Order’s galleys and Maltese corsairs. In 1614, a Turkish squad commanded by Khalīl Pascià, landed armed on the island, but immediately abandoned the company; in 1644, the capture of a Turkish galleon, which provided the pretext for the long war of Candia, caused fear of the sultan’s revenge; again in 1722, a small Turkish squad stopped in front of the port, ordered the surrender of the Muslim slaves and left without causing excessive terror. The thousands of Muslim slaves concentrated in Malta were used for military and agricultural work and for the service of private individuals. In 1749, the famous rebellion of a group of them, led by Muṣṭafà Pasha of Rhodes, put the fate of the knightly principality at risk. Large numbers of Maltese, on the other hand, were slaves of privateers from Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers; they were often redeemed by exchange for Muslim slaves or with money from families or institutions for the redemption of the slaves, which had sprung up on the island. For Malta history, please check ehistorylib.com.

The Maltese were admitted to belong to the Order, mostly in the category of chaplains, that is, the clergy proper to the Order, removed from the jurisdiction of the local bishop; and thus they could reach the coveted position of prior of the conventual church. Some Maltese obtained the post of vice-chancellor and distinguished themselves in the functions of secretary (auditor) as well as in the free professions.

The relations of Malta with Sicily during the knighthood were always close and cordial. From it, Malta obtained the principal supplies of food, especially wheat, cattle, wines and oil; the ships of the Order frequented the ports of Messina, Syracuse, Augusta, Licata. The Maltese, since the Middle Ages, used to hold their own consuls for the islanders residing outside, especially in the commercial ports of the Mediterranean. And they were numerous in Sicily, and the custom of mentioning them remained even during the dominion of the Order: with the difference that the licenses, instead of the University, were issued by the Grand Masters. When in Sicily the appointment of consuls was subject to the approval of the king, that is, after 1675, the Maltese had the privilege of being exempt from such approval. The king, in 1697, he motivated this privilege with the consideration that Malta was “united, annexed and dependent on the kingdom of Sicily and not included in foreign nations” (A. Mifsud). Malta’s dependence on Sicily was formally reaffirmed, as has been said, every year, with the presentation of a falcon to the king of Sicily or whoever took his place. Sometimes, conflicts also arose between the kings of Sicily and the Order: the most serious, in 1754, then composed with the intervention of the pontiff, for the question of the ecclesiastical visitor, which the Order did not want to accept. With the ports of Sicily closed to Maltese ships, they had to look for supplies of food in Sardinia and in Barberia. Sometimes, conflicts also arose between the kings of Sicily and the Order: the most serious, in 1754, then composed with the intervention of the pontiff, for the question of the ecclesiastical visitor, which the Order did not want to accept. With the ports of Sicily closed to Maltese ships, they had to look for supplies of food in Sardinia and in Barberia. Sometimes, conflicts also arose between the kings of Sicily and the Order: the most serious, in 1754, then composed with the intervention of the pontiff, for the question of the ecclesiastical visitor, which the Order did not want to accept. With the ports of Sicily closed to Maltese ships, they had to look for supplies of food in Sardinia and in Barberia.

In relations with the Maltese population, the Order was rather rigid and authoritarian; the privileges of the community were gradually undermined by the statutes and ordinations of successive Grand Masters. De l’Isle Adam began to take possession of the customs rights already due to the University of the Notable (a new university was established in the Borgo and then in Valletta, and in the seventeenth century it absorbed that of the Notabile); his successors gradually took over from the Grand Master and the Council of the Order the powers already possessed by the Maltese municipality; finally, the popular council was convened more and more rarely and was no longer reunited under the Grand Master E. de Rohan (1775-1797). This state of affairs provoked grievances from the Maltese; sometimes, the dispositions were tempered, but the progressive annulment of popular liberties still continued. In times of strength of the Order, especially in the century. XVI and until the magisterium of Gregorio Carafa (1680-1690) the Maltese did not think about rebelling; but later, as the prestige of the chivalric institution diminished due to the diminished danger of the Barbary pirates and the weakening of the Turks, new ideas of equality and freedom infiltrating Malta as well, parties of discontent against the Order were formed.

Malta History - the 17th Century