Malta Under British Rule

By | December 26, 2021

The best known episode is that of the so-called “uprising of the priests”, led by the priest Gaetano Mannarino in 1775. The conspirators were surprised and severely punished. Another liberal conspiracy (led by Michele Vassalli), in which some French dignitary of the Order was involved, was discovered in 1797.¬†For Malta 1997, please check aristmarketing.com.

The weakness of the Order and the disintegration brought about within it by the rise of national rivalries and new social theories were accompanied by the growing interest of the great powers in dominating the Mediterranean: France had been looking to Malta for some time; Napoleon in 1797 had proposed the transfer of rights to the island to the government of Naples; Russia, from the time of Peter the Great, and, moreover, with Catherine II, had striven to create a party in Malta, as the basis for its growing hoped-for action in the Mediterranean; England, already intruded in the affairs of Malta since the century. XVI, at the time of Elizabeth, had disputes with the Order in 1744 for the maneuvers of one of his consul, too zealous defender of British prestige. On May 12, 1798, Napoleon, sailing towards Egypt, conquered Malta; the Order, demoralized and divided, offered little resistance. The Grand Master Ferdinando von Hompesch left the island, renouncing the rights of sovereignty in favor of France; but the bailiff Frisari, one of the Grand Master’s delegates, by signing the agreement, made a reservation for the sovereign rights of his sovereign king of Naples. The Bourbon government in fact considered the French violation as the spy is clear and, putting himself on the side of the English against the French, he made every effort to recover the dominion of Malta. Having rebelled the Maltese, led by canon Caruana, for the abuses of the French who garrisoned the island and forced them to close themselves in the stronghold of Valletta and its suburbs, they turned on September 5, 1798 to the king of Naples, their sovereign, and obtained the dispatch of rescues that were sent with Portuguese ships found in the port of Naples. These were then joined by English ships commanded by Nelson; the French garrison, commanded by C.-H. de Vaubois, got stuck. The Maltese with their own forces, and the support of the allies, supported the long campaign of siege in 1798-1800. The French capitulated on 4 September 1800 by the English general Pigot, and Commodore Alessandro Ball entered Valletta as governor on behalf of the king of Naples. Except that the forts were garrisoned by English troops. The Maltese, who had lost 20,000 men in the uprising and siege, did not participate in taking possession of their land and regaining it. The government of Naples since 1798 tried to have the English recognize its rights over Malta; but the English, while declaring that they did not aspire to possess the island, behaved as if they were its masters. In 1801, General Pigot, with a proclamation to the Maltese, assured, in the name of SM Britannica, the maintenance of their religion, their property and their freedom. And in the treaty of Amiens (March 27, 1802) it was agreed that Malta, neutral and independent, would return to Order under the protection of the great powers, temporarily manned by Neapolitan troops. These clauses were not enforced; reignited the war between France and England, the fate of Malta was decided with art. 7 of the Treaty of Paris of 1814 for which it passed in “full ownership and sovereignty to SM Britannica”. Although there was a strong party in favor of the return of the Order, it had no way of asserting its will in those situations. The cession was not recognized by the king of Sicily, excluded from the Treaty of Paris. The Bourbons tried again to intervene in the affairs of Malta in 1829, on the occasion of the appointment of the bishop, but they met with a clear refusal on the part of the English. It has been discussed and controversy for a long time in the Malta press whether those islands spontaneously placed themselves under the protection of Great Britain or belong to it for the right of conquest. The first thesis has always been validly supported by the Maltese, in the repeated requests for national autonomy.

The political history of Malta under British rule is summed up in the struggle for constitutional freedoms. In 1835 Malta had a Governing Council appointed by the government and in 1849 it obtained a constitution with a new Governing Council of 18 members, of which only eight were elected by popular representation. In 1887, a new constitution brought the number of elected members of the Governing Council to 14 out of 20; and three of them joined the Executive Council, participating in the government of public affairs. This arrangement lasted until 1903, in a twenty-five year period of lively political turmoil, which saw the development of the linguistic question and the affirmation of the Maltese national movement. Since it would take a long time to analyze these events, suffice it to say that, in the first fifty years of domination in Malta, the English left the Maltese the freedom to develop teaching in schools according to local custom; two English commissioners in charge of an investigation in Malta in 1836 found that Italian was and should continue to be the cultural language of the island; but another commissioner (Sir P. Keenan) in 1879 issued opposing opinions and suggestions and advised the London government to encourage the use of English to the detriment of Italian. From the very words of the Commissioner and from the set of directives followed from then on by Great Britain, there appears the concern of severing the strongest bond that unites Malta to Italy with Italian. The commissioner’s suggestions began to be implemented from 1880, despite the strong opposition of the national party, led by Fortunato Mizzi (1844-1905). In 1884, the project of the famous one was presented for the first time pari passu, for which the teaching of Italian and English should have proceeded in the same way, invalidating in any case the privilege of Italian as a fundamental language of instruction. The political struggle then engaged on the question of language and continued even after the granting of the constitution of 1887. Geraldo Strickland, son of an Irishman and an Italian, presented himself in the elections of 1888 with a nationalist program alongside F. Mizzi, immediately changed his mind and, becoming the first secretary of the government the following year, he was the main inspirer of the denationalizing policy which culminated in 1899 with an Order in Council which introduced the use of English in the Courts of Justice for British subjects and with the announcement, on March 15, 1899, of the British government’s intention to replace English into Italian in all legal practices within 15 years.

Malta Under British Rule