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Coleridge’s Laws

 | 
Barry Hough
, 
Howard Davis

2. Coleridge’s Malta

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 For a general introduction to the geopolitical context see M. Rapport, Nineteenth-Century Europe ( (...)

1When Coleridge assumed the role of Public Secretary he was, as we have seen, acting as head of the Executive. He exercised a role that required him to implement the policies of the Civil Commissioner, Sir Alexander Ball, who had the ultimate administrative, legislative and judicial authority. Coleridge was required to understand the nature and function of the Maltese institutions, the legal system, and to assimilate the detail of the political, economic, social and legal policies that Ball was either required or authorised to implement by the British Secretary of State. As we shall describe, the British decided to continue and to exploit the constitutional arrangements of the former ruler – the Order of St John of Jerusalem. A consequence of this policy was that British provincial administrators, such as Coleridge, were required to administer a territory within a legal and political framework very different from their own.1 Chapter 3 provides an evaluation of the system, chosen by the British for Malta, based upon indirect rule, together with the Civil Commissioner’s constitutional powers, his accountability to the law, and the nature of the constitutional relationship between the Maltese administration and the Metropolitan territory.

2The purpose of this chapter is to examine the wider Maltese context. In the first section, we shall survey the Maltese social, political and economic background together with the British strategy for the government of the islands before turning, in the second section, to a brief evaluation of the important Maltese institutions, including the legal system. In the final section, we will address the public reputation and standing of Ball’s administration in order to explain why Coleridge’s laws represented a crucially important political engagement with the Maltese people that transcended mere law making. It will be also be helpful to note the political and military events surrounding the British conquest and its aftermath, not least because these events provided some of the early causes of friction between the British and the Maltese, and thus contributed to the problems that Coleridge inherited in public office.

2.1. Maltese Social Political and Economic Context

Preliminary Remarks: The Maltese Islands

  • 2 The Friend, I, 577. The population increased rapidly during the period of prosperity, 1805-1812 to (...)

3The Maltese archipelago comprising Malta, Gozo and Comino, lies at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, between the Islamic states of North Africa and Europe. The territory of the islands is small, extending little beyond one hundred and twenty square miles. At the time of Coleridge’s stay on the Island, the Maltese population numbered about 100,000. 2

4Since 1530, Malta had been in the possession of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem who had acted as a regional military power. The resistance of the knights to the westward expansion of the Turkish empire culminated in the ”Great Siege” of 1565. The Order, under the leadership of the Grandmaster la Valette, successfully resisted this epic Turkish assault mounted by some thirty thousand Ottoman troops. The attempted invasion eventually suffered defeat at the hands of a mere six thousand defenders and some six hundred knights. The halt of the Ottoman expansion in the western Mediterranean emphasised the strategic value and defensive strength of Malta, which was further improved by the subsequent construction of the city of Valletta with its massive fortifications.

  • 3 The ”Barbary States” referred to the territory between seaports of Tangiers and Tripoli. Britain a (...)

5Valletta’s two vast, natural harbours, Marsamxett Harbour and Great Harbour, were formidable natural assets. From these, the Order’s navy formally engaged the Turkish fleet, as well as the shipping of the Barbary States.3 The harbours gave Malta its strategic importance for the British after it was won from the French in 1800.

6Valletta (often called ”La Valette” by the British) became, and remains today, the capital city. The city was purpose-built as a walled fortress that held a strong defensive position on a peninsula between Marsamxett Harbour and Great Harbour. The foundation stone was laid in 1566, a year after the withdrawal of the Turkish invaders. Its design included many fine churches, a baroque cathedral and palaces as well as gardens for recreational use. These gardens were turned over to military use by the British after 1800.

  • 4 These cities were renamed after the siege. Bormla became Cospicua; Birgu was renamed Vittoriosa; a (...)

7Valletta’s suburb, Floriana, lay outside the city walls; the neighbouring ”three cities” of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua4 lay on the far (eastern) side of Grand Harbour away from Valletta. Collectively, Valletta and the three cities were administered as ”the magistracy of the four cities”.

  • 5 Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, Kew, CO 158/1/12-25. The memorandum is unsigned but has been att (...)
  • 6 Ibid.
  • 7 Treaty of 19 March 1801: see Hardman 349-50.
  • 8 The Friend, I, 570.

8The more heavily populated region of Malta comprised the eastern portion of the Island including the capital, Valletta, and the other cities. In the countryside, there were twenty-one ”casals” or villages5 each of which was administered by a Luogotenente or civil magistrate. To the north and west lay a more sparsely inhabited area which, nonetheless, included some dozen smaller ”casals”.6 The reason for the concentration of population originated in the fear of raids by Barbary corsairs, which had once made those residing in the ”uninhabited” region vulnerable to capture as slaves. Historically, this area had been under-developed, but by Coleridge’s time, the threat to increased settlement had been removed: the British had maritime supremacy and they had concluded a Treaty with the Dey of Algiers,7 guaranteeing the security of Maltese inhabitants from the predations of his corsairs. Since its climate and soil were indistinguishable from the more cultivated parts of the Island, this area represented a realisable opportunity for both habitation and agricultural development. Coleridge recorded that the gradual enclosure of the uncultivated part of the Island was under way by the time of his arrival.8

7. The Porte des Bombes, a gateway into Floriana and thus into Valletta from the countryside of Malta. Lithograph By C. de Brocktorff [1838].

The British Conquest and its Aftermath – The British Soldier and ”Unhealthy” Posts9

  • 9 Ball to Dundas, (undated 1801), Kew, CO 158/1, 3.

9The French had conquered Malta in 1798 whilst its forces, led by Napoleon, were en route to the planned campaign in Egypt. After a popular Maltese uprising, aided by the armed forces of Britain and other nations, the occupying French garrison in Valletta was forced, in September 1800, to capitulate. The successful military strategy had been characterised by a two-year siege of Valletta and a blockade of the islands by the Royal Navy. By the time that Valletta fell, the French garrison had been reduced to starvation, and little remained on the Island to feed the population.

  • 10 Bonnici. The controversy is also discussed by Staines (2008).
  • 11 ’Humble Representation of the Deputies of Malta and Gozo’ in October 1801, English translation, wi (...)

10Moreover, the events surrounding the British conquest and its aftermath are also important because they contributed to the declining confidence in Ball’s administration. Amongst the early causes of friction was the, highly controversial, negotiation of the French surrender.10 The British had agreed the capitulation with the French commanders without consulting the Maltese, who felt slighted because, in their view, the British merely aided the Maltese military struggle with troops whose bravery and commitment was open to question, even by their own commanders.11 This resentment, compounded by unsatisfactory terms, exacerbated social and economic problems for Ball’s second administration (1802-1809). But that was not all. The absence of any public acknowledgement that the Maltese had, in law, become British subjects, after 1800, helped to create a divided society in which the British were seen as a dominant and foreign ruling class. The Maltese had purported to place themselves under British rule in 1802, but the apparent unwillingness of the British to accept their request, and make an unambiguous declaration that Malta formed a part of the British Empire, sent a signal that the fulfilment of their wishes was not Britain’s dominant pre-occupation.

  • 12 Cameron to Hobart, 13 November 1801, Kew, CO 158/2/16.

11After the capture of Valletta, prize money had been promised to the Maltese who had taken part in the conflict; but the British, in an unwise volte face, angered and frustrated the Maltese who soon felt aggrieved and betrayed. Further Maltese dismay was caused by the Treaty of Amiens, under which Britain showed itself willing to sacrifice Maltese interests by restoring the islands to the unpopular and despotic Order of St John.12 The refusal to respect Maltese wishes also undermined trust and confidence in the British administration.

The Siege and Depression 1800-1805: ”The Plaintive Tones of Mendicancy’13

  • 13 The Friend, I, 567.
  • 14 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187-8.
  • 15 The Friend, I, 567.

12The lengthy blockade and siege of Valletta had profound consequences for both the economy and the administration of the Island. Battle and other damage associated with both neglect and military operations was extensive. Un-repaired highways, smashed buildings and other damaged parts of the infrastructure were problems that the new British administration, after 1800, had to address. Valletta, wrote Ball, was as if storm-swept: many houses had been damaged or destroyed; the shops had been plundered and emptied of stock, and the inhabitants ”reduced to misery”;14 indeed, they were close to starvation. Coleridge described how the economic depression was so severe that large numbers of the poor could only survive by begging on the streets. Many would congregate along a thoroughfare in Valletta called the ”Nix Mangiare Stairs”, named after the cry of the supplicants who had nothing to eat.15 The French had looted the assets of the islands, including the Università and the Monte di Pietà (below) leaving the Island short of capital for reconstruction. Raising additional revenue by levying further taxation posed Constitutional problems that Coleridge was required to address.

13Naturally, during the blockade, international trade had ceased altogether. The collapse of the cotton trade, in which many of the Maltese were, in some way, connected, further reduced the Island’s revenue and contributed to the economic problems faced by the British.

  • 16 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187.

14The maritime fleet had also been destroyed after the besieged French had broken up Maltese vessels, in the harbours, for firewood. This crippled the merchant capacity of the Island and impeded efforts to re-establish international commerce.16

  • 17 See Chapter 5.9: Passports.

15But the loss of those vessels also created a more pressing problem. The lack of grain in Valletta, at the time of the surrender, compelled Ball to rely upon foreign-owned vessels to import supplies. As we shall see, he, controversially, granted passports to the foreign owners on the grounds that these vessels would be crewed by Maltese. This caused continuing embarrassment for the British. In 1805 Coleridge would be required to issue a public notice to prevent further abuses.17 He grasped the opportunity to exculpate Ball (who had breached international law and brought Britain to the brink of war with the Dey of Algiers) by explaining that a public good can and ought to be furnished even if the government was compelled to act outside of a normative framework.

The Order of St John of Jerusalem: ”Beings of a Different Race”18

  • 18 The Friend, I, 536.

16The policy of the British ministers, and, therefore, of the administration on Malta, was to continue, so far as possible, the legal, constitutional and political structures of the ancien regime of the Knights of the Order of St John, as it had applied in 1798. The Knights and their paternalistic system of government are, therefore, of central importance to any account of Malta and, indeed, of Coleridge’s role on the Island. What follows here are some brief introductory remarks about the Order and its policies.

17Prior to their withdrawal from Malta following the French invasion, the Order had been drawn from aristocratic European families and comprised a lay and an ecclesiastical elite. The most important feature of their administration was that all legislative, executive and administrative authority was vested in the Grandmaster under an autocratic system. The Order refused to share power with the Maltese, which meant that there was no popular assembly with legislative powers. The Maltese were a subjugated people.

  • 19 As we shall see in Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime, there were frictions between the entrepren (...)

18As part of their founding charitable and military mission, the Order had pursued the expensive welfare and health care policies that Britain eventually agreed to continue. These policies may have had unintended consequences because the Maltese were inclined to look to government to provide benefits for them. This culture of reliance was later to influence British policy and create significant burdens for the Administration.19

  • 20 The Friend, I, 536.
  • 21 Hardman describes how the husbands of attractive women might find them selves banished; similarly (...)
  • 22 The Friend, I, 536; and Table Talk, I, 475, 16 April 1834. The latter records that, in Coleridge’s (...)
  • 23 The Friend, I, 536 et seq.

19The regime of the Order of St John fell into a rapid decline during and, in particular, at the close of, the eighteenth century. Coleridge clearly held them in contempt.20 According to him, the Knights had been ”useless idlers” who were ”generally illiterate”. Coleridge explained that, as a celibate order, they had laid aside any pretence of adhering to their vows of chastity by openly preying upon the Maltese population to acquire mistresses; often, it seems, this was achieved by forceful seduction.21 Each family amongst the more affluent classes of the Maltese had one of the Knights as a patron to whom a daughter or sister was, as Coleridge put it, ”sacrificed”.22 With not inconsiderable irony, given the British strategy for government, Coleridge further added that, as ”aliens”, they regarded themselves as a privileged social and governing class, who absolutely refused to share power with the Maltese. He regarded their government as a contagion, ”a perpetual influenza” – an indictment that invites the conclusion that their rule was almost without worthwhile achievement.23

8. St John’s Cathedral, Valletta. Lithograph by C. de Brocktorff [1838].

  • 24 ”Of the Maltese/ my first impression, their ingratitude to the Order to whom they owe everything, (...)

20Coleridge seems to have given the Order little credit for the creation of charitable institutions and the welfare policies of the government that clearly benefited the disadvantaged members of the Maltese population. The provision of abundant and affordable food, as well as health care and welfare payments for the destitute, were achievements that deserved recognition. He also omitted to mention publicly the significant architectural, artistic and cultural achievements (not the least of which is the magnificent Cathedral of St John in Valletta) which he recorded in his contemporary Notebooks.24 It seems that the passage of time had hardened his views.

  • 25 Cameron to Hobart, Kew, CO 158/1/335, 23 October 1801.

21From the British point of view, continuing the Constitution of the Order created unforeseen problems that exposed the difficult tensions between modernity and tradition. The consequence of the Order’s unpopularity with the Maltese seems particularly to have been overlooked. When, in 1802, the British proposed to restore the Order as governors of the Island, there was popular outrage that the despotic rulers could return.25 What the British did not appreciate was that by continuing the constitutional system created by the Order (with the Civil Commissioner exercising the powers of the former Grandmaster) they had perpetuated a system which was not universally popular. Thus, the key strategic goal of stability – and the ”attachment” of the Maltese inhabitants to British rule – was threatened by the British decision to adopt a constitutional and political system that placed it at risk.

2.2. The Maltese Economy

Finances

22The financial state of the Island was to became a pressing and intractable concern for the British administrators. The central tenet of British policy was to continue the institutions and policies of the Order, but acquiring the revenue to sustain this policy became problematic.

  • 26 See Hardman, 548. The immediate loss of revenue as a result of the actions of the French Republic (...)
  • 27 It has been estimated that the Knights spent circa £180,000 p.a. in Malta from their overseas reve (...)
  • 28 In 1796, this was £34, 249.

23During the time of the Order, the islands’ revenue had been derived from various sources, including excise duties, the profits the Order derived from commissioning privateers as well as rents from property on Malta owned by the Order. More important than any of these, were the revenues arising from each individual Knight’s European estates. However, this revenue was reduced by three quarters26 after the French confiscated the assets of the Order in France in 1792.27 From the point of view of both the inhabitants and the Order the confiscation had been calamitous because the government’s finances were plunged into a grave and irredeemable deficit.28

24During the final days of the Order, local discontent at the failure of its welfare policies threatened political instability. The Order became desperate to secure the fragile foundation of its government by negotiating to place itself under the protection of Russia. The French, who disapproved of this development, had responded by mounting an invasion in 1798.

  • 29 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

25When Britain took over, and prepared a report upon the financial state of the Island, these structural economic weaknesses were entirely omitted from it. Captain Ball, (later, Sir Alexander Ball), represented to London, in December 1800,29 that the expenses of government would be minimal. This puzzling misrepresentation was to have very serious consequences for him when he returned to office, in 1802-1809, because the Secretary of State in London ordered him, in effect, to deliver the welfare policies and a balanced budget. These were incommensurate policy goals.

Food and ”the Casualties of Ordinary Commerce”30

  • 30 The Friend, I, 570.
  • 31 Ball’s Memorandum to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5, recorded that corn production was only (...)

26One of the Island’s major strategic problems was its inability to produce sufficient food to nourish the population. Even in the most productive years, there was barely sufficient grain to meet one third of local needs. Often it was less.31 The Island was, thus, dependent upon imported food supplies, notably grain, which were traditionally imported from Sicily. Because this food source became unavailable after 1801, a primary task of the early British administration, as we shall see, was to secure alternative supplies. The system for acquiring and subsidising basic foodstuffs is considered below, suffice it to note that Coleridge became acting Public Secretary after the death of Macaulay because the latter’s appointed successor, Mr Chapman, was absent from Malta purchasing corn in the Black Sea region.

Agriculture32

  • 32 For a general account of agricultural practices in the late eighteenth century immediately prior t (...)
  • 33 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1171.

27The landscape of Malta was well-described by Coleridge himself: ”... it is a barren Rock ... the Sky, the Sea, the Bays, the Buildings are all beautiful but no Rivers, no brooks, no Hedges, no green fields, almost no Trees & the few that are unlovely”.33

  • 34 Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5.
  • 35 The Friend, I, 561. See also CN 2, 2508.

28Similar comments had been made by Ball who had reported, in 1801, that Malta was ”a naked rock, where the hand of Industry has not covered it with soil”.34 The majority of the Maltese population pursued subsistence agriculture on thin, barely adequate loam. Much of the cultivated part of the Island had been divided into small fields, which Coleridge noted were little larger than English cottage gardens, enclosed with robust stone walls and arranged in terraces.35 Many of these can still be seen.

  • 36 This was another implied criticism of Ball’s failed attempt to construct the ”gardens” in the casa (...)

29The 1812 Royal Commission recorded how the Maltese had created the soil upon which their livelihoods depended, by importing it, in some cases from Sicily. Their historical struggle to wring crops from this otherwise barren and largely unproductive Island was recognised by the Royal Commissioners who thought little more could be done to make the soil more productive.36

  • 37 By the time of Ball’s Memorandum of 26 December 1800, above n. 5, the potato was already under cul (...)

30Agricultural practices were highly conservative: the Maltese preferred to adhere to the customary practices of their ancestors, rather than experiment with new farming methods. This suggests that, in their role as newcomers, the British had not persuaded the Maltese that they had any superior skill or knowledge to impart. Even the potato, which the British had introduced to the Island,37 had not been widely cultivated by the time Coleridge held office.

  • 38 Hardman, 346-7.

31Ball had firm views upon agricultural improvements, including the creation of ”gardens” in each of the casals. The establishment of gardens for the Luogotenente (village magistrates) was another flagship policy designed both to promote horticulture, to diversify the economy and to supplement the food supply.38 It was Ball’s brainchild and he committed significant sums of public money to their construction. Not the least reason why much would have been expected of this project was its cost. Moreover, it also served a need, given the precarious state of the food supply. After 1800 the Island was facing increased immigration, reduced emigration and, thus, increased demand for food.

  • 39 Kew, CO 158/19.
  • 40 Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, CO 158/19.

32The benefits of the horticultural project were, however, negligible;39 indeed, it is surprising that Ball appears to have pressed on with the policy notwithstanding the uncomfortable dissonance between its cost and its benefit. The initiative resulted in little more than a waste of public funds.40 It is just one of many instances where, having introduced a project or initiated a reform, he lost interest in monitoring its implementation. This general characteristic of his government led to many problems in the administration including the squandering of resources – a particular problem in the Università and the hospitals, despite Ball’s reform of the latter (1804).

33The absence of shade and running water meant that soldiers who deserted from the army in the summer of 1805 must have been recaptured unless they had assistance. As we shall see, this is contrary to the narrative that Coleridge constructed in several instruments, and this is a further testimony to his manipulative use of government information.

Economic Policies: Employment, and Public Works

  • 41 The Friend, I, 570.

”...the multitude and low wages of the laborers in Malta”41

  • 42 See Bando, 29 January 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356; also 22 March 1805 NLM L (...)
  • 43 Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime, and note Ball to Camden, 19 April 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/123-45 (...)

34To address the hardships of the economic slump, which lasted until 1805, the British organised public works projects, some of which were intended not only to generate employment opportunities but also to create long term infrastructure or other benefits for the Maltese people. Some convicts and prisoners of war were also employed upon public works.42 Thus, large numbers of unemployed Maltese were heavily dependent upon government-funded employment schemes until the economy of the Island began to improve as a result of increased maritime trade. An unwillingness to share in the merging prosperity may have been a contributory factor in the racial tensions of 1805 that we describe below.43

  • 44 Ball reported in 1804 that the garden was finished: Ball to Penn, 4 July 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/23.
  • 45 Cost £250: Ball to Penn, ibid.
  • 46 Cost £200: ibid.
  • 47 Cost £7,000: ibid.
  • 48 See e.g. Macaulay to Ball, 10 September 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/51-2.

35Examples of the public projects undertaken included a botanical garden, which was intended to be self-financing. It would also allow local people to enjoy the shaded walks that had been lost when other open areas of Valletta were given over to military use.44 Another project for recreational, or perhaps health, purposes was the construction of bathing facilities.45 Ball also ordered the construction of a fish market;46 and he repaired the wharf – the Pietà.47 Workhouses were also built, operated and regulated by the State, to provide employment.48

  • 49 See Memorandum of 26 December 1800, above n. 5, and CO 158/13/123.
  • 50 NLM/LIBR /MS 430 1/2 Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356.

36Effort was also invested in the re-construction and repair of roads.49 Work of this kind was still continuing when Coleridge was in office. His important Bando of 29 January 180550 revealed that the government wished to reduce further wear upon the roads by regulating types of wheels. But this was not all because, in Coleridge’s Bando of 8 March 1805, Ball re-imposed certain excise duties to raise further funds in order to finance the construction of new public buildings.

  • 51 Pirotta, 49; see also Ball to Penn, 4 July 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/13 to whom Ball reported that the f (...)
  • 52 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187-8.

37Ball also devoted his attention to the maritime economy. A fishery was created off the southern coast of Sicily, not only to increase wealth but also to make fishing serve as a training ground for another generation of Maltese seafarers. These benefited from boats supplied by the a6dministration.51 This subsidy was, of course, necessary given the destruction by the French of the Maltese vessels during the siege and the very limited capital available on the Island after the surrender.52

Cotton53

  • 53 See generally Vella; Debono (1988), 1, 27-50, and the Report of the Chamber of Commerce on the Eco (...)
  • 54 The Friend, I, 577.

38Growing grain instead of cotton ”would leave half of the inhabitants without employment”.54

  • 55 Ibid.
  • 56 At different times, various Proclamations were enacted forbidding the importation of foreign cotto (...)
  • 57 Coleridge recorded with approval that Maltese women were normally not required to do hard work out (...)

39The major addition to subsistence farming was the extensive cotton industry, which served to clothe the inhabitants. According to Coleridge’s observations, Maltese cotton was ”naturally of a deep buff, or dusky orange color (sic)” capable of producing the most hard-wearing cloth.55 Cotton had also provided a lucrative source of foreign revenue during the ancien regime and foreign cotton imports were, generally, prohibited in order to protect domestic producers.56 The export of raw cotton was also forbidden in order to ensure the employment of (mainly) women in spinning,57 thus, cotton had to be spun on the Island before export.

40In 1776 the Grandmaster de Rohan had revived the Chamber of Commerce (previously abolished in 1741) as a recognition of the vital importance of this trade and the need to promote it. His initiative had two primary goals: firstly, he wished to ensure that both farmer and spinner obtained the best possible prices for the commodity; secondly, he sought to increase capacity by increasing the number of persons engaged in the production and manufacture of cotton.

41The revived Chamber pursued the expansion of the export markets with some success. Cotton exports increased from an average of 500 quintali per month in 1776 to 800 quintali per month in 1798. Whereas, exports had once been destined for Lisbon, the principal market eventually shifted to Spain because the British had encouraged the Portuguese to import cotton from the West Indies. Thus, in the years after 1743, Maltese vessels traded primarily with Barcelona, although a subsidiary market, accessed via Marseille, existed in northern Italy and South-East France. Maltese exports had, of course, been interrupted during the blockade between 1798 and 1800, and the Spanish market was lost once hostilities with Spain broke out in 1804.

  • 58 The Friend, I, 577.

42The impact of the loss of the export trade after 1804 proved to be a grave economic crisis because the cotton trade, had in one way or another, benefited most of the workers on the Island. Coleridge suggested that about half of the inhabitants were, in one way or another, employed in this industry.58 Debono, who described the state of the industry, in the eighteenth century, observed:

  • 59 The denominations of Maltese currency were ”scudi, ”tari” and ”grains”. Twenty grains made one tar (...)
  • 60 Debono (1988), 27, 32.

Capitalists, small savers who could dispose of a few scudi59 for lending, merchants who bought and sold the seed and the cotton yarn, middlemen who helped to bring farmer and merchants together, spinners who spun their cottons at home, sea captains who owned ships and transported the product overseas, all had a share in the thriving cotton industry.60

  • 61 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.
  • 62 Above, n. 58.

43Ball had reported, in December 1800, that exports of spun cotton thread had produced half a million pounds sterling per annum.61 Cotton seed was also used as cattle fodder, but, as Coleridge observed, this foodstuff altered the quality of the meat.62

  • 63 Blaquière, 275-7.

44Government employment schemes to alleviate poverty had also thrived upon the back of the cotton trade. For example, under the ancien regime, the invalids’ hostels had been constructed, in Floriana, in which the poor of both sexes could be employed as cotton spinners. In Coleridge’s time, the chief centre of production was at Città Vecchia, the operation of which had a charitable, as well as a commercial, purpose, since it provided employment for ”several hundred indigent females” as well as others.63

  • 64 By 1807 the number of looms present on the Island increased from 1945 to 2986: Ball to Windham, 28 (...)
  • 65 Avviso of 22 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5, discussed below.

45By 1805 the Maltese had begun to weave the cotton into cloth. The wartime conditions meant that they were forced to rely, only, upon sales of their products to occupying troops and others within their home market.64 Some were tempted to breach regulations governing quality and this attracted the intervention of the British authorities. In March 1805 Coleridge was compelled to issue an Avviso, or Public Notice, reminding the population that it was forbidden to make cotton which was not spun either with seeds or with wool.65

2.3. British Model of Government on Malta: the ”Continuation” Strategy66

Stability not Reform

  • 67 See Randon, 354.

46When the British military first intervened in the struggle of the Maltese to liberate themselves from the French, they did not do so with any desire to acquire the Island for themselves; they respected the sovereignty of the King of the Two Sicilies. The principal British objective was to oust the French army from an island where its forces could threaten British interests in Egypt and the Levant. At that time, neither British commanders nor policy-makers fully understood the military importance of the Island, Nelson having expressed the opinion that it was of less value than Minorca.67

  • 68 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

47Following the surrender of the French garrison, Ball unwaveringly advocated the case for the permanent retention of Malta. He had set out, as early as December 1800, to convince the Secretary of State in London of the military value of the Island, its harbours and impregnable fortifications. A central thrust of his argument was that the Island enjoyed a strategic value superior to that of Minorca.68 Nevertheless, in 1804-1805, Malta’s status within the British Empire had not been fully resolved.

  • 69 There had been little assimilation of the knights as rulers into Maltese society. As a celibate or (...)

48During the blockade, Ball learnt that the resentment and dissatisfaction of the Maltese, with the Order of St John, had been exacerbated when the Order was no longer sufficiently resourced to continue its expensive welfare policies.69 Even before the French invasion, the Maltese had begun to conspire against the Order because it could not provide for them.

49Ball understood that, from a Maltese perspective, the legitimacy of British rule would depend, in part, upon a congruence between its values and those of the wider community. The French had prompted a disastrous social legitimation crisis by plundering the churches and taxing the population. Ball had to achieve legitimacy by convincing the Maltese of a harmony between their interests and those of the British. He understood the need to avoid policies likely to provoke public animosity.

50His preferred strategy, designed to win popularity with the inhabitants, was to continue operation of all the institutions of the government of the Order of St John. He believed that it was necessary to give the Maltese a material benefit from continued British possession of the Island, which meant not only re-establishing the legal and political order of the ancien regime but also pursuing the policy of benign paternalism that characterised its administration. It was a policy of reassurance and stability.

  • 70 Ball wrote: ”It has consistently been my uniform system to abstain from every kind of change excep (...)

51He proposed, to his political superiors in London, that the constitutional, political, legal and administrative order of the ancien regime should be continued.70 In particular, the policies and institutions of the Order should be sustained with only minor changes. The rationale of this policy was to preserve the structure of Maltese political and economic life to avoid the Maltese being required to make a sudden adjustment to an unfamiliar legal, political, administrative or social structure. It was also consonant with the view that the Island’s ultimate future would only be resolved once the war had ended. Ministers would, naturally, wish to avoid fundamental change within the institutions of government in case British possession proved to be one enjoyed merely for the duration of hostilities.

  • 71 See Chapter 3.

52Ball’s plan was also consistent with the general principles of the British constitution as well as the lessons the British had learned from the somewhat difficult experiences in other colonies during the latter part of the eighteenth century.71 It appeared to be a coherent, rational and constitutionally-appropriate policy that was consonant with both domestic and international law. In embracing the constitutional and administrative architecture of the Order, the British would, apparently, be sending a reassuring public signal about the synonymity of Maltese and British values and, thereby, making a powerful claim for the legitimacy of British rule. However, the policy, whilst capable of pacifying anxieties that might have arisen when the alien British first assumed government, nonetheless also created a potential problem of ossification. To what extent could the Administration initiate reforms that would improve the lives of the inhabitants? What scope was there for a reforming mission, for ”modernity”, in this territory? And how far should a modernising project extend? ”Continuity” thus posed important questions about the meaning of justice within a colonial context. This was to pose significant problems for Coleridge when in office.

  • 72 As the Instructions of 14 May 1801 make clear: Kew, CO 158/1/ff 53 et seq; Hardman 350, 355. They (...)

53Nevertheless, British ministers in Whitehall ratified the continuity model and established it as the guiding principle of government after 1801.72

  • 73 NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 204. Cameron seems to have played a minor role in the aff (...)
  • 74 Galea.
  • 75 Hardman, 342. There is further discussion of the status of these Instructions in Chapter 3.

54Accordingly, the first proclamation of a British Civil Commissioner (Cameron) of 15 July 180173 informed the Maltese of the guiding principles of British rule. This Declaration, which has been described as ”the Magna Carta” of the Maltese people,74 undertook that the British would respect the ”dearest rights” of the Maltese. These rights were enumerated in an order which was, perhaps, not coincidental: their churches, holy religion, persons, and property.75

  • 76 Downing St to Ball, 9 June 1802, Kew, FO 49/3/51.

55When Ball was sent back to the Island, his Instructions included a further and significant obligation. This explicitly required him to ensure the ”attachment” of the Maltese to the British so as to avoid Malta falling under the influence of a rival foreign power once the Order of St John was restored to the Island.76 British government of the Island had to be popular. The restoration of the Order did not, of course, take place.

Problems with the Continuity Strategy

  • 77 There were a number of formal, public declarations to the Maltese intended to reassure them. For e (...)
  • 78 See Chapter 5.3: Taxation.

56The principal difficulty was that the British were assuming substantial financial and political burdens. Expectations amongst the Maltese were raised,77 which it would be dangerous to frustrate. Pressing questions were posed concerning how the policies were to be funded, given the loss of much of the Island’s revenue after 1792. This, eventually, forced Ball to raise funds by way of taxation – a risky strategy given the promises to uphold a Maltese system in which regular taxation was unknown. 78

57A further political risk lay within the structure of government. The absence of a popular representative assembly under the Order of St John meant that the burden of securing the compliance of the Maltese inhabitants rested entirely upon the administration. In continuing this system, the British had assumed an exclusive responsibility to deliver. There would be no possibility that the Civil Commissioner might escape blame for any failure of policy by using an inept local assembly as a convenient scapegoat.

58But this was not all because the continuity strategy also rested upon an assumption that the autocratic constitution, embracing the despotic powers of the Grandmaster (which the Civil Commissioner would assume and exercise), was politically acceptable to the Maltese population. This was not necessarily the case. Particularly irksome was the refusal of their governors (whether British or the Knights) to share power. There is little evidence that the British properly understood this problem and assessed its risks. The way in which Ball exercised these extensive governmental powers exacerbated tensions with the Maltese inhabitants and created grave political problems which, during his time in office, fell to Coleridge to address.

  • 79 E.g. the Bando of 8 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2 (above) and see generall (...)
  • 80 To Catherine Clarkson, 6 November 1806, DW Letters 1806-1811, letter 277.

59In a Memorandum of December 1800, in which Ball proposed continuity, he had also raised political expectations in London. These did not always cohere well with the need to maintain popularity with the Maltese. On the one hand, Ball had led the Secretary of State to believe that the islands would not be a continuing drain upon the British Treasury. On the other, the Maltese had been encouraged to believe that the expensive welfare policies would be maintained. This latter commitment meant that some unpalatable measures would have to be imposed to raise revenue to meet the expense of civil government. How this was done without alienating Maltese public opinion was deeply problematic. Coleridge, as acting Public Secretary, would be confronted with dilemmas of this kind when drafting of several of his Bandi and Avvisi.79 Moreover, this first-hand experience might well have prompted his deep disillusionment with what he soon condemned as ”corrupt” government.80

  • 81 Hough and Davis (2007).

60Although it had superficial merit, the continuation policy was fractured by structural weaknesses both in its conception and in its implementation. Some of these difficulties derived from the rather elusive and problematic state of the Island’s finances; others from the tensions surrounding the priority to be accorded to British interests in a relationship that the British wished to present as benign and protective towards Maltese interests. But, at an operational level, there were problems. For example financial and administrative accountability seems to have been weak. Proper scrutiny was part of the expected role of the Public Secretary, yet the evidence suggests that Coleridge may have only partly fulfilled this expectation.81 This not only reveals something of Coleridge’s success as an administrator, but it also exposes an important lacuna lying within the heart of government in 1805.

2.4. Maltese Institutions

61After the capitulation of the French garrison, Ball began to re-instate the political and legal institutions that existed under the Order, and it is to these that we must now turn.

The Law and the Maltese Courts

  • 82 The Act of Settlement 1700 guaranteed judicial independence in Britain in so far as judicial salar (...)
  • 83 In contrast, the requirement that Executive action had to conform to the strictures of the positiv (...)

62The Maltese constitution did not embody any conception of the independence of the judiciary,82 the separation of powers, nor of the rule of law.83 All legislative, executive and even ultimate judicial authority was, constitutionally, concentrated in the hands of the Grandmaster. But it is a mistake to ignore the extent to which there was a fully functioning legal system enforcing the ordinary civil and criminal law. The fact that there was no effective public law able to restrain the exercise of executive power did not mean that reasonable protection for private rights did not exist.

The Code de Rohan

  • 84 Del Diritto Municipale di Malta Nuova Compilazione con diverse altre costituzioni, Malta, Stamperi (...)

63The basic law, restored by the British, was the Code of Rohan.84 The administration of law, and the status of the Code, as well as its application was to prove highly controversial because, as we shall see, the Civil Commissioner, in suppressing public disorder, chose to impose criminal punishments beyond the maximum permitted by the Code – actions that Coleridge supported.

  • 85 Code de Rohan; see also Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, CO 158/19/17 and 30. 86
  • 86 Eton, 134.

64The Code was effected in 1784 by Grandmaster Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc (1725-1797), in office 1775-1797. Matters not covered by the Code, or where the law was unclear, were resolved, in normal civilian fashion, by reference to Roman law and the collected opinions of authoritative jurists, predominantly from Italy.85 The Code was supplemented by the issue of Proclamations – the Bandi – a power also enjoyed by the Civil Commissioners under British rule in which, of course, Coleridge was closely involved.86

  • 87 Grandmaster 1722-1736.
  • 88 Eton, 144.
  • 89 Frendo, 66; cf. Mizzi, 32. The Code ”In fact, it took into consideration local customs and traditi (...)
  • 90 This general view was broadly endorsed by the Royal Commission of 1812.

65The Code de Rohan continued much that was in an earlier codification, the Code de Vilhenha,87 subject to some important differences. William Eton, the Superintendant of Quarantine, who was one of Ball’s English critics, thought that continuing the Code de Rohan rather than returning to the original Code de Vilhenha involved a political choice, made by Ball, designed to strengthen the grip of the British Civil Commissioner over the affairs of Malta. The earlier Code, he claimed, gave fuller recognition to the privileges of the Maltese people privileges which were limited or subordinated in the Code de Rohan.88 Nationalists, such as Mitrovich, are said to have ”detested” the Code on these grounds.89 This view, however, needs to be understood, first, in terms of Eton’s general support for traditional nationalism as expressed, in particular, through the argument for a restoration of the Consiglio Popolare, and, secondly, in the context of his general thesis that the laws of Malta were perfectly adequate and that the Island’s problems stemmed from the fact that the laws were not properly enforced by an autocratic Civil Commissioner.90

66The Code and its contents were described by Eton (writing between 1802 and 1807):

  • 91 Eton, 153.

The Code is divided into eight books, containing 434 pages of small folio-large and open print. The greater part of the matter regards the military and naval regulations of the Order-and bulls of the pope-and many other things, which have no relation to the present state of the island.91

67It had significant provisions regarding judicial offices (Book 1) and criminal procedure, including torture, and sentences (Book 2); Book 5 defined a range of crimes and their punishments including those relating to public order. As we shall see, the public order provisions of the Code were, from Ball’s standpoint, inadequate. When the anti-Semitic disturbances arose, in 1805, Coleridge issued Avvisi (Public Notices) which extended the criminal law. As indicated, when convictions were obtained, Ball dictated the sentences which were not always those prescribed under the Code.

  • 92 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 9. Commercial law, administered by the Commercial Court (th (...)

68Through British eyes, in 1812, the laws were, with the exception of commercial law, ”well founded on just and equitable principles”.92 The Code, subject to some additions and amendments to suit local conditions, was based upon Roman law and, thus, located the Maltese legal system within a legal tradition common to much of continental Europe. The decisions of foreign courts and tribunals which applied Roman law were accepted as precedents, as were the opinions of eminent jurists on occasions when the Code needed interpretation.

The Maltese Judges

  • 93 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 20.

69The judicial system on Malta was characterised by a lack of security of tenure of the judges and, hence, their lack of independence from the executive. The judges were appointed by the executive (the Civil Commissioner) who also had the power to dismiss them at his pleasure; that is to say, without reason and irrespective of their own behaviour or performance in the role. It must have been an anxiety for members of the judiciary, who might have been tempted to act independently, that judges held only annual appointments and were, thus, subject to annual scrutiny.93

  • 94 Ibid.

70In practice, judges seem to have been removed only infrequently. More usually, they were transferred to other courts.94 In a despatch to Hobart, Ball justified this interference as an ”ancient usage” and, thus, in line with the principle of continuity. An additional comment suggests that Ball realised the practice needed justification and that this lay in its political utility:

  • 95 Ball to Hobart, 15 November 1803, Kew, CO 158/7/437, 440.

This [usage] I have thought it necessary to conform to, since it operates as an incitement to the faithful discharge of their duty, and at the same time affords the Government a powerful check over a body of men who have the greatest influence in the Island.95

71The Civil Commissioner was not required to give reasons for any decision relating to the power of appointment or removal, nor was he formally accountable for its exercise. There was not even the appearance of judicial independence and judges wishing to stay in office, therefore, had a powerful incentive not to offend the executive by their decisions.

The Courts

  • 96 Hardman, 350-7. The Royal Instructions identified the basic principles (such as the continuation s (...)
  • 97 Eton, 131; Laferla, 53.
  • 98 Pirotta, 53.

72The law was administered through a court system that was, largely, effective though subject, as we shall see, to some severe criticisms. Grandmaster Rohan, as well as re-codifying the law, had also restructured the courts. Ball, in his first administration, reversed some of those changes. He was responding to the concerns, in the Royal Instructions,96 about the effects upon the administration of justice of the fact that the judges were paid out of court fees. This matter is discussed below. In particular, Ball reduced the number of judges. The resulting changes created the court structure that existed in Coleridge’s time.97 Ball’s reforms were part of a broader strategy to reinvigorate Maltese institutions after the French departure98 and seemed to have been successful. However, as the Royal Commission noted, from a British perspective, serious problems remained, which are outlined below.

  • 99 Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, above n.37.
  • 100 Eton, 131-2.

73The court structure during Coleridge’s time can be discerned from various sources.99 The High Court of Valletta was composed of a President or Castellano (a knight), a criminal judge, two civil judges, a procurator fiscal and deputy fiscal; advocate fiscal, a pro-advocate for the poor; a protector of prisoners (a knight), two notaries, actuaries and writers, and captains or officers of police, with their assistants.100

Criminal cases

  • 101 See further, Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 15-20.
  • 102 Laferla, 54, fn 1.
  • 103 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37.
  • 104 Book 2 Chapter 1 #19 of Eton’s translation, in Eton, 153 passim.
  • 105 The lack of a criminal jury was a matter of concern to the 1812 Commission, who viewed fairness th (...)
  • 106 This procedure was laid down in the Code de Rohan, Book 2, Chapter 3, #11 of Eton’s translation; i (...)
  • 107 ”The criminal cannot require a note of the names and Christian names of the witnesses; but after t (...)
  • 108 See Chapters 5.4: Public Order and Crime, and Chapter 6.

74Criminal cases101 were to play a significant part in Coleridge’s workload. He used Avvisi to notify the inhabitants of politically significant or noteworthy convictions, not least for its deterrent effect. The trials were usually held in the Grand Criminal Court (Sale Criminali della Gran Court della Valletta102), a part of the High Court. As well as a President, whose role was formal, there was a specialist criminal judge.103 The jurisdiction of the court included all criminal cases which were based upon the Code de Rohan. The Code differentiated the criminal law into ”public” crimes (which included not only crimes against the state, such as treason, but also murder and other offences that disturbed the public peace) and ”private” crimes. Private crimes may border closely with what, in the common law system, are torts. The former were proceeded against by the authorities upon their own motion, the latter only upon the complaint of the victim.104 Robberies, of which there were a rising number at this period, and which were part of a wider crime wave that was politically damaging to Ball, were pursued by the fiscal upon receipt of a complaint from the victim. Procedure was summary; no jury105 and the judge decided issues of fact and law. Minor cases involved an oral hearing, but more serious cases seem to have been decided mainly upon the basis of written submissions. Evidence gathering was a judicial process with witnesses being examined by the judge with the fiscal, scribes and others present to assist.106 Though the court process was non-adversarial, the law asserted the need to ”confront” the witness, to cross-examine and to test the evidence.107 Surviving testimony, in relation to the public disorder of May 1805, gives some insight into the nature of the process, and this is considered further below.108

  • 109 Book 2, Chapter 1 #19 of Eton’s translation, in Eton.
  • 110 See further below****.

75From a British perspective, the most controversial provision was the legal requirement of detaining the accused in prison if an initial investigation confirmed a ”well grounded suspicion of guilt”.109 Those suspects (described as ”criminals” in the law) could, it seems, stay in prison awaiting the pleasure of the judge and other court officials. There appears not to have been an independent judicial remedy to order release, though release could have been obtained at the discretion of the Civil Commissioner by way of a petition to the Segnatura.110

  • 111 Silence in the face of serious offences would result in convictions and a threat of an equivalent (...)
  • 112 The Code had significant provisions dealing with the methods of torture and the rights of the accu (...)
  • 113 Ibid. and Memorial and Petition of the Maltese [unsigned and undated], Kew, CO158/10/151.
  • 114 According to the Commission the maximum sentence was, by 1812, no more than 10 years in the galley (...)

76The Code referred, in general terms, to protecting the rights of the defence though, from a British perspective, the absence of a right to silence, and, thereby, a full presumption of innocence, was troubling.111 Torture was still occasionally used notwithstanding that the Code suggested its abolition in time to come. An accused person who had confessed to treason could be tortured in order to obtain the names of accomplices.112 However, one of the grievances raised by the Maltese against Ball was the use of torture in other cases.113 Formally, the maximum punishment that the Grand Criminal Court could impose was life on the Galleys, but this punishment was entirely obsolete by 1805.114

  • 115 Code de Rohan, Book 5, Chapter 4, #1.
  • 116 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 79.

77There was a range of other punishments including banishment, fines and the requirement to undertake public works. Capital punishment was allowed, in the Code, for murder.115 Capital cases could be heard by the Grand Criminal Court but only the Supreme Court of Appeal could pronounce sentence. In the British view, expressed in the Royal Commission, some penalties were over-severe. The death sentence was rarely pronounced and, in the Commission’s view (speaking, of course, from a United Kingdom which used the death penalty extensively in ways that still awaited Parliamentary reform), punishments were, sometimes, out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence.116

  • 117 Code de Rohan, Book 5, Chapter 4, #1.
  • 118 Royal Commission of 1812 above n. 37, 19.

78Appeal was to the Supreme Tribunal of Appeal (Supremo Tribunale di Appello). 117There were three judges, after Ball’s reorganisation. One of these was also one of the two judges in the civil court. This tribunal acted upon its own procedure and at its own time. The appeal judges needed to be different from the judge at first instance. There was a right of further appeal, within the Tribunal, to two new judges nominated by the Executive.118 Two confirmations of the initial sentence (i.e. three pronouncements of guilt or innocence) were generally considered final and binding with no further appeal.

Civil Cases119

  • 119 See Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 29-34.

79Apart from prize cases in the Court of Vice-Admiralty, civil suits did not feature in Coleridge’s duties and so the Maltese system is noted here only briefly.

  • 120 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 34.
  • 121 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 32.

80Civil cases were heard in the Grand Civil Court (Tribunale Civile della Gran Corte della Valletta). The jurisdiction of the Court extended to all civil matters except those pertaining to state property (heard by the Court of Administration and Public Property) and commercial cases (heard by the Commercial Court, the Consolato del Mare). There was also a small claims, summary, process for sums under fifty scudi.120 There were two judges nominated to the Tribunale Civile. Cases were heard, at first instance, by one judge sitting alone; the other judge sat in the appeal court, the Supreme Tribunal of Appeal. As with the criminal court, the civil procedure was, predominantly, based upon the papers, although the judge could examine the parties after a statement of facts and issues had been agreed. Appeal was to the Supreme Court of Appeal (Supremo Tribunale di Appello) (Supreme Tribunal). Characteristically of civilian systems, this was a process of confirmation, necessary to give the first instance decision its authority, rather than an ”appeal” based upon specific grounds. The initial confirmation, in the Supreme Tribunal, was by one of the three appeal judges nominated to the Supreme Tribunal. Further confirmation or appeal, within the Supreme Tribunal, was to different Supreme Tribunal judges including the judge who sat in the Grand Civil Court but who had not heard the case. Three confirming judgements were normally considered final. If the judgement was not confirmed (i.e. the judges were divided) there was the opportunity for a fourth or even a fifth hearing before a Supreme Tribunal judge and also two other judges nominated by the government.121 There was no formal provision for further appeal after the fifth hearing.

  • 122 This case is discussed below in Chapter 5.

81There were also civil and criminal courts in Città Vecchia and Gozo with ultimate appeals to the Gran Corte in Valletta. Fortunata Tagliana, for example, about whose case Coleridge issued an important Avviso, was tried and convicted in the criminal court, the Corte Capitanale, of Città Vecchia.122

82Disputes involving state property were heard by the Court of Administration and Public Property (which, by 1812, was conducting little business). The Commercial Court dealt with matters of trade and commerce, such as disputes over commercial contracts, bankruptcy, bills of exchange and insurance. It was the court that was likely to involve British inhabitants and it came in for considerable scrutiny and criticism (for being slow and over formal) by the 1812 Royal Commission which suggested major reforms.

  • 123 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1164.
  • 124 CN 2, 2379.

83Two other courts, neither of which was directly part of the Maltese legal system, should be noted in the context of Coleridge as a public servant in Malta. Courts of Vice-Admiralty were established under the Royal Prerogative throughout the British Empire, including in Malta early in British rule. Their jurisdiction was the settlement of maritime disputes between seamen and merchants which related to events on the high seas. Coleridge’s duties included advocacy in this court dressed in wig and gown.123 The experience may not have been a pleasant one, for he privately lamented that the Court was a forum for the ”world’s squabbles”.124

  • 125 Advice to Ball from the Corte Capitanale, 22 May 1805: NAM 92/04 1805 box 04.
  • 126 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 28.

84There were also three ecclesiastical courts in Valletta, Città Vecchia and Gozo. Their jurisdiction was over ecclesiastical matters but upon issues which also affected public order (such as immorality or blasphemy) their jurisdiction, sometimes, traded close to the state courts. Appeal from these religious courts was to the Metropolitan Court in Palermo or the Holy See. The 1812 Royal Commission suggested no change to their position. It was, however, concerned with the abuse of sanctuary, an issue that clearly existed in Coleridge’s time. Sanctuary interfered with the authority of the criminal courts and gave rise to a potential for conflicts between the Holy See (to whom a person removed from sanctuary could appeal) and the state. It was, clearly, a complicated matter and raised issues upon which petitions to the Civil Commissioner could be grounded. One such involved an alleged murderer (Grazio Fenech) who had sought sanctuary after escaping from custody but who had then been returned to prison at the request of the court. He was willing to trade his (disputed) right to sanctuary for exile, which the Civil Commissioner could order. The right to sanctuary depended upon issues such as the seriousness of the offence and the nature of the defendant (in another case sanctuary was refused, by the bishop, to deserters).125 The particular concern of the 1812 Royal Commission was that ”foreigners” (including British soldiers) were subject to attack by Maltese who then sought sanctuary. The British had little sympathy with immunity sought by perpetrators through sanctuary and the Royal Commission recommended careful steps, through consultation with Rome, to bring the practice to an end.126

Failings of the Courts

  • 127 Royal Commission, ibid.; see also an incident attempted bribery in Avviso of 14 June 1805, NLM LIB (...)
  • 128 Broadly speaking, the court fees amounted to about 90 % of the salary of one of the judges in the (...)
  • 129 Hinted at by the Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 20 and 53.
  • 130 Royal Commission of 1812, above, n. 37, 17.
  • 131 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 31.

85The 1812 Royal Commission identified a number of serious failings of the Maltese courts and legal system which would have been prevalent in 1805 and are, to some extent, confirmed in a few of the Avvisi.127 The most important flowed from the low wages paid to judges and their consequent reliance upon court fees and a proportion of criminal fines for their personal remuneration.128 This may have caused corruption;129 it certainly compromised the range of case management decisions, that judges needed to take, over issues such as the length of pre-trial detention, the timing of trials, of sentencing and confirmation hearings. Judges would tend to concentrate upon the higher fee cases (e.g. high value property cases), a consequence of which could be that criminal defendants might have stayed in pre-trial detention for much longer than they otherwise would130 and poor litigants might have suffered longer delays. Some civil cases were heard in a judge’s home creating at least the suspicion of corruption and private arrangements rather than the open administration of the law.131 Delay in both civil and criminal justice became a major problem and a characteristic of the Maltese system.

  • 132 Manning, 115-19; also 153-4. Generally, the issue was exacerbated if the judges were not judiciall (...)
  • 133 Cobbett’s Parliamentary Debates, vol 20, 1811, 464-70.

86It was not unusual, in a colonial context, for local judges to rely upon fees and for corruption and unfairness to be alleged.132 Similarly, concerns about the administration of justice on Malta were not confined to the Maltese courts and the Maltese judiciary. In particular, allegations of corruption and other difficulties flowing from a fee-based remuneration system were also made, including in the House of Commons, in respect of the British Court of Vice-Admiralty in Malta.133

  • 134 Large pay rises were put into effect by Maitland after he came to office as Governor: Maitland to (...)
  • 135 See below and Chapter 5.

87The problems with the Maltese judicial system, identified from the British perspective, were recognised early. The Royal Instructions of 1801 instructed Cameron (the first Civil Commissioner) to continue with the system of payment of fees but to regularise their application by producing and publishing a table of those fees. Furthermore, the Civil Commissioner was required to examine whether the system undermined the ”pure and impartial administration of justice” and, if it did so, to take appropriate, regulatory, steps to remedy the problem and report these to London. Ball’s reforms in 1803 (mentioned above) involved a reduction in the number of judges in order to reduce the burden of fees. This seems not to have been successful. Problems emanating from low judicial salaries were a major concern of the 1812 Royal Commission one of whose principal recommendations was for major increases aimed at a salaried remuneration equal to what was obtained under the fees approach.134 None of these issues, however, seemed to trouble the Maltese during Coleridge’s time in office. Their major grievance was the manner in which Ball used his constitutional powers to interfere in the judicial process in order to impose harsher sentences than the law otherwise allowed.135 This highlighted problems with the scope of the powers vested in the Civil Commissioner

Interventions in the Judicial Process

  • 136 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated), Kew, CO 158/10/151. Considered below, (...)

88After Coleridge left office, the role of the Civil Commissioner in the legal and judicial process was recognised as problematic. After all, it had been one of the central reasons why the Nationalist’s complained that the Civil Commissioner held despotic powers.136 These damaging complaints contributed, along with other causes of friction, to troubling public dissatisfaction with Ball, in 1805, and sparked the ”propaganda offensive” in which Coleridge became engaged in the Bandi and Avvisi. The substance of the Nationalists’ complaints about the role of the Civil Commissioner was, eventually, accepted by the 1812 Royal Commission, although without explicit criticism of the late Sir Alexander Ball. This marked a closing of ranks to maintain British prestige.

  • 137 For further discussion of the powers of the Grandmaster, see Chapter 3.
  • 138 Eton, 132: ”this Grandmaster [Pinto] ordered by his sign-manual, which constitutes a law, certain (...)
  • 139 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated) Kew, CO158/10/151; see also Chapter 5: (...)
  • 140 See the discussion of Mostyn v Fabrigas (1774), 1 Cowp. 160, below.

89The problem was that the Grandmaster (and hence the British Civil Commissioner) could intervene directly in a criminal trial after the judicial process of confirmation or appeal had been completed.137 He could confirm, revise or annul the sentence of the court. The sentence could be varied even if there had been two confirmations of the original sentence.138 The Civil Commissioner could also increase the sentence, or require the judge to refer up his proposed sentence for confirmation. Ball’s exercise of these powers aroused strong dissent during Coleridge’s period in office.139 The Grandmaster (and Civil Commissioner) had, in effect, a dispensing power rather like, in English eyes, the power pretended by the Crown over domestic affairs. These had been made unlawful, domestically, by the Bill of Rights 1688 and it was this power that Lord Mansfield may have had in mind when he sought to limit the legislative power of the Crown in conquered and ceded colonies by reference to ”fundamental principles”.140 For critics, such as Eton, this dispensing power was an important part of the argument that the country was ruled tyrannically. The formal complaints by the Maltese themselves were embarrassing and damaging for Ball and his senior advisers (including Coleridge).

  • 141 Eton, 143.
  • 142 Although the prerogative of mercy would be retained as a prerogative of the executive authority, a (...)

90According to the 1812 Royal Commission, the content of the laws was unobjectionable, but the power to dispense with them was obnoxious.141 In fact, the dispensing power was not necessarily objectionable in practice in Malta since, as mentioned above, there were significant reasons to doubt the fairness of some of the judicial processes. They recommended the removal of the most important legislative and judicial powers.142 But, during Coleridge’s time, Sir Alexander Ball could and did, act in conformity with the Maltese constitution and the continuity principle, by exercising the arbitrary or, at least, despotic powers of the Grandmaster. Similarly, with respect to civil cases, after the (potentially extensive) process of confirmation and appeal had been completed, petitions were often made to the Civil Commissioner who could revise the order given or cause a re-hearing.

  • 143 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 47.

The ultimate decisions of this Supreme Court ought to be final, but there are frequent instances upon record of case sent back and revised, and some even of a total and summary reversal of its decrees by the sole authority of the Grandmaster.143

Segnatura (Council of the Civil Commissioner)

  • 144 See e.g. Harding, 66-7.

91The Civil Commissioner exercised significant powers through the Segnatura.144 In his Public Notice of 1 March 1805, Coleridge reminded the population that they were at liberty to petition the Civil Commissioner with their grievances. Any person, whose interests were adversely affected by an administrative decision, had a further avenue of redress.

  • 145 A date selected at random: NAM LIBR 43/12 vol N- 10 May-11 September 1805. 146
  • 146 Ibid.
  • 147 Eton, 143; see also Registro dei Memoriale e Decreti da Sua Excellenza il sig Cavalier Alessandro (...)
  • 148 The Friend, I, 561.
  • 149 The petitions for 1805 can be examined in NAM 92/04 1805. These petitions have been handwritten an (...)

92At the weekly meetings, the caseload was huge. On 17 May 1805, for example,145 the Segnatura had to process seventy-five petitions.146 Eton thought there was ”scarcely” a limit upon the kinds of request that could come before this Council, and the surviving records substantiate this.147 Coleridge, observing Ball’s operation of the system, noted, rather unflatteringly, that the Maltese inhabitants consulted Ball’s opinion with almost ”child-like helplessness”148 even upon matters that were, essentially, private matters. Claims concerning administrative decisions, injustice, delays, a pardon or a reduction in a fine or term of imprisonment, the rescission of banishment, or requests for political preferment or even charity are examples.149

  • 150 Eton, 136.

93The possibility of petitioning the Civil Commissioner meant that there was always the opportunity to persuade him to change or modify the outcomes of judicial or administrative processes. This had two consequences. First, it signified that the Civil Commissioner was the highest court of appeal. Secondly, it meant that legal and administrative problems needed not to be resolved according to published, impersonal legal norms but by the ethical responses, the political necessities, the self-interest or other expressions of the will of the Civil Commissioner. This resulted in uncertainty, if not in arbitrary rule. In summary, the Segnatura was the embodiment of the despotic power of the state because it combined executive, judicial and legislative functions in the unaccountable, unchallengeable and subjective discretions of the Civil Commissioner/Grandmaster. It embodied, in English eyes, a system without constitutional and legal guarantees of liberty and property.150

  • 151 Above n. 144.
  • 152 At the time of Ball’s second administration, (1803-1809) there would appear to have been at least (...)
  • 153 See Ball to Dundas, ibid.
  • 154 Ball had combined the offices: see Sullivan to Ball 31 December 1803- Libr 531, 18.
  • 155 Eton described the Uditori in Eton, 145 et seq.
  • 156 The Grandmaster could consult with them, but under the normal procedure (certainly that followed i (...)

94No reasons were given for the Segnatura’s decision,151 and neither, of course, was the Civil Commissioner accountable to the courts for those decisions. The Civil Commissioner was assisted by four Uditori who were salaried lawyers or ecclesiastics152 serving as advisors.153 They had an important role in receiving the petitions and subjecting them to an initial evaluation, highlighting the essence of each and summarising it for Ball’s benefit. His Public Secretary and Treasurer was also present, thus Coleridge must have participated in the Segnatura.154 The Uditori held office at the appointment and during the pleasure of the Civil Commissioner and, it seems, were often replaced.155 There was no legal or constitutional principle that they should be broadly representative of society. In practice, they were thought to be the Civil Commissioner’s creatures.156

  • 157 Eton, 146.
  • 158 See the undated Memorial and Petition of the Maltese, Kew, CO 158/10/151 (1805).

95Ball’s conduct in the Segnatura seemed to embody the despotism of the Grandmaster. According to Eton, petitioners who used ”least freedom in remonstrating” were liable to punishment. Ball, it seems, continued this policy as a discouragement to critics of government policy.157 There is evidence that in 1805 a petition had been made to the Segnatura for the ”re-establishment” of the Consiglio Popolare (the allegedly traditional legislative assembly that the Maltese critics of British rule wanted restored). Ball punished the petitioner by summary banishment, a severe punishment pour encourager les autres who, by seeking an assembly, were challenging the Civil Commissioner’s autocratic powers. This harsh response confirmed Ball’s ”despotic” reputation amongst the Maltese. His willingness to punish severely those who advocated reform also featured as one of the most serious complaints against his government made in the Petition to the Crown of 1805. 158

96The Segnatura could be used to moderate criminal sentences where the political context and British interests allowed for it. As we shall see, some of those convicted and exiled for anti-Semitic conduct, in May 1805, successfully petitioned for their sentences to be commuted. Some of them were restored to their families on Malta soon after the disturbances subsided. From the British point of view, this possibility was advantageous. The harsh crackdown had signalled that anti-Semitic conduct would not be permitted, but when that message had been conveyed and stability had returned, the unpopularity of the sentences was quietly addressed and moderated.

  • 159 Ibid.
  • 160 Royal Commission of 1812, above, n. 37.
  • 161 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 82-3.

97In the view of the Royal Commission, the right of petition to the Segnatura and its exercise in practice was wrong in principle, as setting the Executive above the law, which they saw as a dangerous doctrine amounting to a ”despotism” with the ”potential to cause injustice”.159 They also concluded that suspending the power to reverse or modify judicial decisions would be ”very objectionable”160 and repugnant to British ideas of the rule of law and constitutional government. Despite this, it concluded that the system was generally acceptable to the Maltese people.161

  • 162 Ibid.

98It is particularly revealing that the Royal Commission also concluded that, notwithstanding the unlimited scope of their powers, the Civil Commissioners’ (including Ball’s) behaviour was ”exemplary”.162 Their, somewhat surprising, position was that Civil Commissioners were uncertain of their powers and, therefore, tended to exercise their considerable discretion with caution. Ball’s arbitrary use of his powers to suppress possible political dissent and to deter threats to public order, suggest that this part of the Royal Commission’s judgment was either not fully informed or perhaps reflects a desire to bolster British authority rather than uncover the truth about the exercise of governmental power during Coleridge’s Malta period

The Catholic Church and the ”Catholic Superstition’163

  • 163 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.
  • 164 Proclamation of 15 July 1801, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 204.

99From the very commencement of their administration the British were at pains to emphasise that they would respect the liberties of the Maltese in their religious beliefs.164 The Maltese were devout Catholics, and many remain so to this day; their church plays an important part in their daily lives. Village society in Coleridge’s time focused around the family, home and church.

100British religious toleration was, of course, designedly central to the ”attachment” of the Maltese to British rule. The new administration was fully aware that the casus belli of the insurrection against the French had been its treatment of the Catholic Church, especially its plundering of church property. The outbreak seems to have begun in Rabat where officials, responsible to the French, had been sent to seize property of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Ball was determined that the British would do nothing to arouse similar hostility.

  • 165 See e.g. the Easter celebrations 1805, CN 2, 2547.
  • 166 CN 2, 2547. He noted the noise accompanied most forms of catholic ritual practised on the Island: (...)
  • 167 The Friend, I, 566.
  • 168 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.

101An overt demonstration of Ball’s toleration policy was the recognition of the traditional religious festivities. He gave these his full support, subject only to regulations to preserve good order. Coleridge noted, during his period of office, how noisy public celebrations were.165 Fireworks were tolerated and children seemed to let them off ”every three yards”.166 Coleridge subsequently suggested that, in contrast to Sicilian festivals, the Maltese ones were subdued.167 Even so, he had little time for the Catholic religion. After an early official visit, to the Maltese hospital, he also lamented the presence of religious iconography and complained of the ”indefatigable ubiquitarian intrusia of the Catholic superstition”.168

  • 169 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2.
  • 170 See Chapter 5: taxation theme.

102Ball may have tolerated religious expression but he drew the line at compensating the religious institutions for property looted during the French occupation. Private individuals fared better, as was made clear in one of Coleridge’s most important Bandi dated 8 March 1805.169 The religious institutions never succeeded in recovering their stolen property or its equivalent monetary value. This was a lingering controversy, which we will discuss below.170

  • 171 He had reported that it was necessary to treat the religious ”prejudices” of the Maltese with ”gre (...)

103Whilst Ball appreciated the valuable role the church played, he also recognised its potential threat. In 1800 he had thought it desirable ”to keep a watchful eye” on the priests who had a substantial influence over the population.171 There was always the possibility that disaffected priests could provide leadership and organise popular dissent, as some had done during the insurrection against the French. This implies that Ball’s refusal to underwrite the Church’s investments must have carried certain political risks. As we shall see, however, by 1805 any policy that aggravated the Island’s financial deficit was even less appetising than the risk of political agitation from its priests.

The Maltese Administrative System

  • 172 Water was scarce; drought often threatened: Pirotta, 21.
  • 173 Ibid., 10.

104A complex administration had been developed under the Order, which had often been pre-occupied with funding the defence of the Island. Despite this priority, the Order had maintained a system of courts for the redress of disputes. It had minted coinage, enforced laws, run hospitals, and established and maintained an effective water supply.172 It also operated the bulk purchase and supply of grain and other foodstuffs via the Università.173 We shall now consider some of its principal institutions.

Hospitals

  • 174 CN 2, 2420.

In [the Maltese] Hospital among the Venereal Convalescents I saw (in the same bed) a child of 12 years old, and an old man at least 70!174

  • 175 Pirotta, 31.

105The care of the sick had been one of the main charitable objects for which the Order of St John was originally founded, and it had continued this limb of its mission on Malta. The British policy, inaugurated by Sir Alexander Ball, was to continue the health provision of the Order. At around £10,000 per annum175 the required expenditure was a significant part of the Island’s budget.

  • 176 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.

106Ball fought for and won back, from the military authorities, the use of the civil hospital (which Coleridge called the Maltese Hospital176) which, during the French administration, had been appropriated for military use. This was a key policy, for it was tangible evidence of the administration’s desire to win the favour of the local inhabitants by giving them the assurances of funded public health provision.

  • 177 See e.g. Macaulay to Ball, 10 September 1804, Kew CO 158/9/51-2. Ball admit ted that the salary of (...)

107Ball undertook a major re-organisation of the hospitals, in 1804, which, notwithstanding the financial pressures upon his administration, included salary incentives for senior management.177 His aim was to ensure the efficient and effective running of the hospitals and it augured well that he was able to report that the costs of health provision declined sharply in 1805 as the reforms took hold. Thereafter, the hospitals apparently ceased to claim much of Ball’s attention. This was another example of the failure to supervise and monitor the implementation of his important policies.

  • 178 Maitland to Permanent Committee of Management of the Charitable Institutions, 14 January 1816, Kew (...)
  • 179 Maitland to Permanent Committee, etc, ibid.

108Such scrutiny as there was must have been ineffective. Large numbers of the destitute were unnecessarily sheltered within the hospitals even though they had no need of medical care.178 This was another major cost to government that was allowed to go unchecked. But that was not all. Suspiciously, there were unexplained rises in costs, which drew the criticism of the 1812 Royal Commission. Governor Maitland, who discovered that the hospitals were still overstaffed and inefficient, reformed the system in 1816.179

  • 180 CN 2, 2420.
  • 181 Maitland later found that the standard of care was characterised by a ”filth and misery” which was (...)
  • 182 CN 2, 2856.

109Coleridge’s official responsibilities embraced the inspection and supervision of the civilian hospitals. His Notebooks record that, when he visited them, he discovered care arrangements that provoked his severe criticism.180 Despite this, he seems to have been unable to effect appropriate changes, for the problems remained in Maitland’s time.181 This is intriguing because Coleridge, when later travelling in Italy, professed a greater interest in the Pisan hospitals than he did in the leaning Tower, which he viewed in moonlight. The two Pisan hospitals, he discovered, were notable for the size of the rooms, the light and their ”perfect cleanliness & good order”.182 If this inspired him to reflect upon what might have been achieved in Malta, it came too late.

Alms

  • 183 See, for example, the Bando of 8 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814 2.
  • 184 Cameron to Hobart, 24 February 1802, Kew, CO 158/3/16.
  • 185 Avviso of 14 June 1805: NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 11.

110The monthly distribution of alms also provided welfare support to those in need.183 It was a function performed by the office of the Grand Almoner – an office that also came under the scrutiny of the Public Secretary. During the administration of the first British Civil Commissioner, we know that alms derived from the profits of the sale of wheat.184 And the substance of this policy continued under Sir Alexander Ball. One of Coleridge’s Public Notices, for example, reveals that judicially confiscated property could be sold and the proceeds distributed amongst the poor.185 Coleridge lost no opportunity to emphasise this in order to enhance Ball’s intended image as a kindly protector of the vulnerable.

Monte di Pietà e Redenzione

111The Order had also created a pawn brokerage, known as the Monte di Pietà e Redenzione. This institution was to enable those who needed short-term finance to obtain it without having to sell their possessions to raise funds. It charged an interest rate of 6 % per annum, which was below that demanded by private sector lenders.

  • 186 Ibid.

112The Monte di Pietà was a semi-autonomous facility which, it seems, was used by all classes of the population. According to Ball, three hundred pounds a year accrued to the revenues of the Island as a result of its lending activities during the time of the Order.186

  • 187 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.
  • 188 Instructions of 14 May 1801, Kew, CO 158/1/ff 53 et seq; Hardman, 350.

113Unfortunately, it had also fallen victim to French rapacity when all pledged assets were plundered. Ball considered that it required a capital investment of five thousand pounds to re-establish it.187 In his Instructions to Cameron, Lord Hobart allowed the Civil Commissioner to determine who should manage it, but he explicitly required that the management be supervised so as to avoid fraud or abuse. 188

Administrators of Public Property

114The British Imperial government learned from Ball’s Report, of December 1800, that various classes of property had formerly been vested in either the Order or the Grandmaster. After the French surrender, these properties became vested in the Crown. They included gardens, houses, warehouses; and Hobart ordered the Board of Administrators of Public Property, which fell under the scrutiny of the Public Secretary, should continue to manage them. Ball was, later, to use his power to appoint its members in order to promote broader political purposes. For example, the Marchese di Testaferrata was ”demoted” from the office of a ”Jurat” of the Università to the Board of Public Property once his nationalist sympathies had become known. He is likely to have been one of the anonymous authors of the 1805 Petition to the Crown, which made a series of damaging allegations against Ball’s administration. We will consider this in Chapters 5 and 6.

The Università

  • 189 The Friend, I, 570.

”..a strange, yet valid, anomaly in the operations of political economy”.189

  • 190 More formally, of Valletta, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.

115The Università of Valletta190 was a centrally important Maltese institution, which handled far greater sums of money than even the Island’s Treasury. It was to become a main bulwark in Ball’s policy of continuity. As we shall see, Ball’s policy in relation to the Università, leading to the distribution of bad bread, dealt a major blow to public confidence in his administration. Much of the resentment and ridicule was eventually targeted at Ball himself, which was a major crisis in confidence that Coleridge had to address.

  • 191 Funds derived from the importation and selling grain, whether as surplus on sales or on taxes deri (...)

116Ball required the Università to succeed in two ways each of which was central to his continuation strategy. Firstly, he expected it to generate a financial surplus upon its activities. This was needed to replace the lost revenue of the Order. Without that revenue, Ball could not afford the welfare policies and subsidised food necessary to ”attach” the Maltese to British rule. Secondly, the Università was pivotal in ensuring a regular and, above all, affordable food supply to an island that was largely dependent upon imported foodstuffs. Without cheap bread the poor would be especially vulnerable to starvation, especially in the years 1800-1806 when there as an international grain shortage. The success of the Università system was a sine qua non of the success of his administration.191 Ball’s difficulties in both acquiring cheap grain and balancing the budget were the central anxieties of the Administration whilst Coleridge held office. It is, thus, important to examine the Università in some detail.

The Role of the Università

  • 192 Bartolo, ibid, citing Muscat, 98. See also Thornton (1836).
  • 193 After 1800, the Università began to trade in cattle to meet the demand from the increasing numbers (...)
  • 194 Ball’s to Dundas, above, n. 5.
  • 195 In 1822, British policy makers in the Colonial Office were finally persuaded by local commercial i (...)
  • 196 Thornton (1816).

117The Università of Valletta was a municipal corporation, with local government functions, that formerly operated under the control of the Grandmasters who received monthly accounts of its transactions.192 One of its primary functions, and the one with which we are presently concerned, was to control a monopoly upon the purchase and supply of grain, as well as other staple food items, including meat,193 and oils. Traditionally, after the annual harvest, the Università would despatch buyers to neighbouring countries, principally Sicily, to purchase grain, which was placed in public granaries and sold at a fixed price. The grain was retailed to the Maltese population via designated shopkeepers. This system had come into existence because it was recognised that international mercantile trade would ensure that the grain needed to feed the Maltese would be sold in countries where better returns could be obtained. This would leave the Maltese population vulnerable to famine, unless they were able to pay the higher prices. As Ball reported, in 1800, this was a particular risk to the ”labouring poor”;194 and in the words of the 1812 Royal Commission a ”permanent abundance” of grain was absolutely necessary.195 The government-controlled monopoly enabled the State to buy the required quantity, on the international market, and then control the retail price to ensure that the abundant supply of grain was marketed at an affordable price, in the domestic market.196

  • 197 Ibid.
  • 198 Eton to Sullivan, 29 July 1801, Kew, CO 158/2/308.
  • 199 See especially, the taxation theme in Chapter 5.

118The Order had once been able to achieve a long-term balanced budget by retailing the grain at a higher price than the purchase price when this could be afforded. In other words, the cost of subsidy in some years was off-set by the surpluses in other years. However, there was a structural flaw in the way the system was organised. The Jurats fixed the prices at which grain could be bought whilst the government fixed the sale price.197 This system meant that the government could not require a surplus to be achieved unless it gave clear directions as to the maximum purchase price to be paid. This division of responsibility was a fundamental weakness in the management of the Università. The Università had also operated as a public bank, receiving deposits in return for which it paid interest of three per cent per annum from the surpluses it made upon the grain monopoly. The deposits were used as capital with which to acquire the grain. But the private capital of the Island had other uses, too. For example, it was used by the Order for public works and defence. The problem for the British, after 1800, was that these deposits, belonging to perhaps one thousand depositors, had been plundered by the French during the occupation. The victims included many private individuals whose livelihoods depended upon the interest payments and whose impoverished circumstances was causing political embarrassment. Convents and other religious bodies also gained the majority of their revenue from accrued interest, and they, too, were now in difficulty.198 Confidence in the Bank had collapsed and so British funds had to be used to underwrite the Bank as well as to fund the purchase of grain. As we shall discover, the confiscation and its consequences were to create significant problems for British administrators, including Coleridge.199

  • 200 See generally the account of the Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, and Thornton (1816, 1836).
  • 201 Grain was bought for 60 scudi and sold for 15 scudi: Royal Commission, above n. 37, or 16 scudi, p (...)
  • 202 The value of loans made by the Università to the Exchequer exceeded £65,000: Bonnici, 128.

119The difficulty facing the British administration (of which it does not appears to have been fully aware) was that, in the eighteenth century, the Università system had sunk into perpetual decline, incapable of achieving a long-term balanced budget. The Grandmasters of the Order had subsidised grain so heavily, since about 1740, that the Università was insolvent even before the French invasion.200 In some years, the sale price of the grain had been only one quarter of the cost price.201 The Order had also raided the capital deposited by the inhabitants rather than draw upon the Maltese Treasury, and this accelerated the Università’s decline. For example, the Knights relied upon the deposits to shore up the funding of other institutions, and the welfare system.202 Notwithstanding these fatal, structural problems, the Università system continued until the French invasion.

  • 203 Thornton (1816), and further Bartolo, who comments on the reliability of Thornton’s data. The asse (...)
  • 204 By 1801 Hobart had somehow come to believe that the Università ”produces considerable revenue”. Ha (...)

120Thornton, the careful and authoritative official who became Auditor-General in Malta charged with the arrear-audit of every Maltese public institution, reported, in 1816, that the deficit was in excess of one million scudi (£100,000) by the time of the French invasion.203 It is difficult to believe that Ball was not aware of these critical difficulties when he decided to revive the Università in 1800. But if he was, indeed, aware of the problems, his insistence, in despatches, that the Università had delivered an annual surplus, even in the later years of the Order, seems inexplicable.204 It placed his financial strategy for the Island upon the most precarious of footings because he committed himself to spending on popular projects without having the resources to fund them. This placed his administration in a straitjacket which he hoped to escape by speculation on the grain market. The project involved using British Treasury funds to purchase a year’s worth of cheap grain from Russia and then selling it at a profit within Malta and elsewhere. The surplus would, he hoped, substantially remove the Island’s deficit.

121In the end, Ball miscalculated; the mission inflicted severe damage upon the Island’s finances, and he fell back upon unpopular taxation and economies – the latter of which seem to have been only intermittently pursued. In this respect the guiding policies that his administration followed seem to have been ill-considered or, at least, poorly implemented.

The grain mission of 1804-5

  • 205 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 12 December 1804, CL 2,1158.

”up the Black Sea to the mouth of the Dnieper”205

  • 206 Camden to Ball, 24 February 1804, Kew, CO 159/3/121-2.

122Ball’s predictions, of a financial surplus to be realised from grain speculation, had hardened into a firm political expectation for which, as the Secretary of State made clear, Ball would be accountable. No further funds to support the Università would be forthcoming from the British Treasury. Politically, the venture was required to succeed in the manner that Ball had, unwisely, predicted that it would.206 He now had to remove the Island’s deficit and deliver upon the Report he had made to Dundas in 1800.

  • 207 According to Borg, the dismissals took place on 23 July 1806: Borg to Eton 23 July 1806, CO 158/12 (...)
  • 208 See Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/78, also Livingstone to Ball, 25 February 18 (...)
  • 209 Ball had impressed upon Camden that this was the amount required, and the Secretary of State signa (...)
  • 210 See Eton to Windham 11 October 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ (no folio reference).
  • 211 E.g. Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 no folio reference. Borg lists a number of causes o (...)
  • 212 Ball seems to have tried to cover up the disaster. At first, he reported to London that Chapman’s (...)

123As it turned out, the grain mission was poorly executed, and the débacle was one for which the Jurats were made scapegoats and dismissed.207 The wheat purchased by Chapman had been of a ”soft” or ”tender” variety that was liable to decompose when shipped and which, in any event, could not be stored longer than five or six months.208 It was quite unsuitable given that the wheat was to safeguard the Island’s needs for one year.209 Ball ignored the Jurats’ advice, that the newly arrived grain was only fit for animal fodder. They were ordered to release the wheat into the market.210 The oversupply of decomposing grain meant that the market prices that it fetched were much lower than anticipated. The poor quality of bread, made from the bad wheat, caused political disquiet.211 Most importantly, the evident failure of the mission damaged the administration’s reputation and added to the financial problems of the Università and, thus, of the Island.212

  • 213 Allegations about the quality of bread and the diminution in the weight of a loaf referred to the (...)
  • 214 Ball to Camden, Kew, CO 158/10/1, 30 January 1805, in which Ball informed Camden of Mr Macaulay’s (...)

124Moreover, it is possible that Coleridge might have been partly responsible for what happened, since the Public Secretary’s role included giving directions to the Jurats. Although Coleridge seems to have left the Island by the time the grain arrived,213 he might have been expected to have begun planning for its arrival during 1805. This is so because, as early as February 1805, both he and Ball expected Chapman’s imminent return.214 Since the storage capacity of the Island could not be increased without significant advanced planning (especially given the occupation of the granaries by the troops destined for the planned expeditionary operation under Lieutenant-General Sir James Craig) it, perhaps, says something of Coleridge’s period in office that nothing appears to have been done either by him or the pro-Seggretario, Giuseppe Zammit, to ensure that the imminently expected grain could be properly stored when it reached Valletta.

The Civil Service: Ball’s Staffing Policies

  • 215 The Friend, I, 568.

The ”wide-branching tree of patronage”.215

  • 216 Hardman, Chapter 1.

125Ball’s staffing strategy altered, in a number of ways, the established principles of the Order. Appointments to government offices under the ancien regime had been a reward to the Knights for military valour but, as operations against the Turks declined, the system under the Order degenerated into one based upon intrigue and patronage.216 Notoriously, their administration had excluded the Maltese from power.

  • 217 The system of reward extended to any public office in Ball’s grant. For example, upon its revival (...)
  • 218 The Friend, I, 569; see also Table Talk I, 475, 16 April 1834.

126Ball continued the principles of patronage, but, in contrast to the Order, he favoured appointing Maltese to public office. In particular, he wanted to use his patronage to reward loyalists217 and to demonstrate to any influential citizens, tempted to agitate against British rule, that loyalty carried notable benefits. Coleridge gave his support to this policy.218

  • 219 See Coleridge’s discussion in The Friend, I, 568-9. Hobart to Ball, 2 December 1803, Kew, CO 158/7 (...)
  • 220 The Friend, I, 568.

127Ball’s insistence upon his right to make appointments produced tension with Whitehall, because British officials did not wish to relinquish their own powers of patronage.219 Nevertheless, Ball pressed on; in fact, there is evidence that he must have moved quite rapidly to achieve his goals: Coleridge recorded, with approval, that by 1804-1805 each civil appointment, apart from the Public Secretary and the Civil Commissioner (both appointed by ministers in Whitehall), was held by a Maltese.220 Subject to the exceptions mentioned, he inferred that both senior and junior posts had native Maltese office-holders by that date. However, he appears to have overlooked the fact that that there were a number of Englishmen who staffed Ball’s private office.

128Amongst a number of consequences, the already large Civil Service now grew further as Ball increased the staffing compliment by the appointment of local Maltese. This further increased the costs of government and with it the need to generate more revenue.

129The new appointments also posed a number of questions about competence and effectiveness. One such question related to the depth of technical expertise and administrative experience in the new administration. The Heads of Department under the ancien regime had, largely, been recruited from the Knights. Most of these experienced administrators had left the Island in 1798, and those that remained were no longer in post. Ball’s policy, in effect, replaced these experienced experts using criteria other than their lack of fitness for office. It was a policy that would reap sour rewards because, given new office-holders’ lack of professionalism, the need for effective systems of scrutiny and systematic financial reporting was all the greater. The weakness in such systems was a cardinal failure of Ball’s administration generally, and it was a problem which Coleridge seemed unable to resolve.

  • 221 See the consumer protection theme in Chapter 5.

130Ball’s willingness to delegate important matters to the Maltese officials was not unqualified. One example of this emerges in Coleridge’s important Proclamation of 22 March 1805221 which, as we shall see, was concerned with the regulation of spirits. It was, no doubt, intended to prevent disorder and drunkenness amongst the large number of British troops who had arrived on the Island in readiness for an impending attack upon Sicily. Whilst certain wholesalers were licensed by the President of the Grand Court of Valletta, the shopkeepers, pub owners and manufacturers all fell under the direct control of the Civil Commissioner. Clearly, trust in Maltese officials only went so far. Ball was under pressure from the military and needed to maintain a close supervision of the premises where soldiers could consume alcohol. He was right to be concerned because, as we shall see, alcohol-related violence between soldiers and civilians was to lead to at least one fatal stabbing in 1805.

  • 222 The Friend, I, 569.
  • 223 Maitland to Bathurst, 24 October 1814, Kew, CO 158/ 25/210.
  • 224 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 no folio reference.
  • 225 Mark, At Sea with Nelson, 125 quoted in Laferla, vol I, 48 and Pirotta, 65.
  • 226 See Thornton (1816) at 9 who discovered that the only accounting record of the Jurats were the led (...)

131A further problem was cultural. Coleridge informs us that the Maltese appointees of high social standing, most of whom seem to have been rewarded for loyalty, accepted public office as ”honourable distinctions”.222 Certainly. the early British administrations brought into the civil service a number of individuals who were, subsequently, judged to be ”too old, infirm or from other causes incompetent in their duties”.223 One Maltese complained that ”(p)laces are given not to the honest or meritori us but through favour to the worst people”.224 Record-keeping and correspondence was neglected as letters not requiring an immediate response were thrown on the floor.225 These criticisms suggest that some, perhaps many, of the appointees were either not interested in becoming active professional administrators or were ineffective for other reasons. Their lax approach to government business may furnish some explanation for both the lamentable state of the accounts,226 and the poor record of financial accountability uncovered by the 1812 Royal Commission.

English Officials

  • 227 The key figures have been noted in Chapter 1.
  • 228 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 58/12/ no folio reference.

132The establishment, in 1803, of the Court of Vice-Admiralty, staffed by English lawyers, added to the small number of British office-holders who provided close assistance to Ball.227 This group established a small, but influential, society of English expatriates which did not, it seems, mix socially with the Maltese. Curiously, there is some evidence that Ball may actually have been unenthusiastic about English officials forging social relationships with the inhabitants.228 Borg reported to Eton that Ball ”laboured to prevent friendships and acquaintance between Maltese and English”. Certainly, Sultana has noted that Coleridge did not appear to have made a single friend amongst the Maltese during his year and a half stay on the Island. If Borg’s somewhat surprising assertion is correct, the explanation may be that fraternisation was officially discouraged.

  • 229 The Friend, I, 555-7. Whether Coleridge acted on this can be questioned, especially in his vitriol (...)
  • 230 Talker, 158-60, quoted in Holmes (1998), 247.
  • 231 Blaquière.

133It would be surprising if Coleridge agreed with any such policy. He had noted, and strongly disapproved of, the habits of the English to reach hasty, irrational, judgements about the local population. He condemned the tendency to overlook the virtues in vices, and to show intolerance for different customs and lifestyle.229 However, he lamented in The Friend that, in general, the British behaved with hauteur showing insolence to and contempt for the local population – views that he also expressed in conversation with John Coleridge.230 Blaquière also noted a ”marked and mutual coldness” between natives and the British.231 Mistrust of the British on the part of the Maltese may, of course, have had its origins in the Treaty of Amiens in which, according to Maltese opinion, Britain had revealed its willingness to sacrifice its wartime ally in order to further its own selfish interests. The marked coldness is also consistent with the rising unpopularity of the Administration in 1805. It is to that issue that we now return.

2.5. The Public Reputation of the British Administration 1802-1806

  • 232 The Friend, I, 566.

”... the very clamors of the market-place were hushed at [Ball’s] entrance”.232

134As we shall discover, Coleridge’s Bandi and Avvisi served a number of political purposes which went far beyond law-making or drawing the attention of the public to some particular issue of public importance. Coleridge used these instruments as propaganda tools that were intended both to influence Maltese opinion and to change behaviour and attitudes. These instruments reveal a systematic political agenda to enhance the public reputation of the Civil Commissioner and to persuade the Maltese to accept otherwise unpalatable measures. How Coleridge achieved this is discussed in Chapters 5 and 6, but for present purposes it is important to outline why Ball’s administration in 1805 was losing public confidence.

  • 233 See Hardman and most recently Staines.
  • 234 See n. 73 above.

135The orthodox account of this period in Maltese history is dominated by a narrative strongly influenced by the British establishment.233 According to this account, complaints about Ball’s government in 1805 were orchestrated by known agitators, organised and assisted by William Eton, the Superintendant of Quarantine.234 Many of these individuals had grievances against Ball.

136Although, at first, the complaints were taken seriously and investigated, (inflicting temporary damage to Ball’s reputation) Ball’s superiors in London eventually exonerated the Civil Commissioner. They satisfied themselves that Ball had presided over an effective and popular government. The substance of the complaints was thus dismissed as scurrilous and seditious.

  • 235 Eton was eventually dismissed from his office as Superintendant of the Quarantine in Malta: Liverp (...)
  • 236 Oakes to Bunbury, 30 July 1811, Kew, CO 158/17.
  • 237 Liverpool to Oakes, 18 September 1811, Hardman, 503.

137First, it will be argued that this account is not supported by the wider historical record and secondly that, in any event, the conclusions reached, in 1808, contained a non-sequitur. It is true that many of the complaints were, as the British concluded, maliciously motivated, but it did not follow that they were, ipso facto, false. A more thorough investigation would have revealed that many of them could have been independently corroborated. Thus, it will be suggested that the William Eton’s235 known personal agenda, in discrediting Ball, allowed Ball’s superiors to marginalise the damaging allegations in order to re-establish the reputation of its government in Malta. In that way damage to Britain’s standing as a colonial power was conveniently avoided. Thus, it was Eton, now regarded as ”a most dangerous man”,236 who was eventually dismissed from public office, and not Ball.237

  • 238 Maltese officials sent numerous expressions of gratitude to Ball on his quitting office: see Hardm (...)
  • 239 The Friend, I, 566.
  • 240 Ibid.
  • 241 Ibid.

138Coleridge’s period in office took place during Ball’s second administration. As a Royal Navy Captain, Ball, acting in the name of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, had administered the islands during the siege and blockade between 1799 and 1800. There is little doubt that in doing so, Ball won public support.238 After having shared the privations of the long siege of Valletta the inhabitants had composed the Maltese national song in his honour.239 In The Friend Coleridge went to some lengths to recount how fond a regard the Maltese had for ”father Ball”. In the poorest houses, he recorded that two pictures were inevitably found: the Virgin and Child together with a portrait of Ball.240 According to Coleridge, the market place in Valletta fell into a reverential hush at Ball’s passing. 241

139And the affection was not merely a personal admiration of one administrator. When Ball was replaced by Cameron in 1801 we learn that the latter was greeted by the inhabitants as a ”Messiah”. The British were at first warmly received as liberators from the tyranny of the Order of St John and the French.

  • 242 Ibid.

140Coleridge was convinced that during his second administration, following his recall to the islands in 1802, Ball had public confidence. He recorded that Ball had unlocked the fetters of political oppression which, of course, implied that the inhabitants, under Ball’s regime, enjoyed a new political freedom.242 As we shall discover, it is doubtful whether the Maltese shared this assessment.

  • 243 Ibid., 571.

141A more convincing account is that, after the Treaty of Amiens, 1802, (which even Coleridge regarded as a ”betrayal” of the Maltese243) the political context became more challenging and called for a broader range of political skills than those previously required. Friction between the inhabitants and the Administration had increased.

  • 244 Cameron to Hobart, 23 October 1801, Kew, CO 158/1/335.
  • 245 Hardman, 410-15.

142The effect of the Treaty of Amiens upon the relationship between the governors and the governed cannot be over-stated. From the British point of view, the French offer to discontinue hostilities if Malta was returned to the Order of St John under the protection of Russia seemed attractive. However, this settlement was acutely unpopular in Malta. Cameron, the first British Civil Commissioner, reported to Lord Hobart that a mere rumour of the agreement ”has occasioned most violent fermentation” locally.244 The Maltese remonstrated that, as France had confiscated the French property of the Knights in 1792, in effect, France would have an indirect control of Malta.245 They were also concerned about possible reprisals against their people.

  • 246 Widely reproduced; see, for example, Cm 9657 Appendix F; Frendo.

143These objections were swept aside because the benefit to Britain was thought to outweigh the concerns of the Maltese. In an attempt to force the British into a volte face the Maltese, on 15 June 1802, issued a Declaration of Rights246 declaring that the ”King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is our Sovereign Lord, and his lawful successors shall, in all times to come, be acknowledged as our lawful sovereign”. The purpose of this was to try to prevent Britain renouncing possession of the islands.

  • 247 Lord Hobart replied to the Maltese Deputies to London in a letter dated 20 April 1802 that the aba (...)
  • 248 See Chapter 5.2: Distributions of the Prize.
  • 249 See Appendix 2
  • 250 Corrupt practices were later identified: Maitland to Bathurst, 24 October 1814, CO 158/25/209, et (...)

144As matters turned out, the Treaty was never implemented; Britain retained possession and, in response to the British refusal to evacuate, France resumed hostilities in May 1803. But the damage to Maltese public opinion had been done. The inhabitants had seen that Britain was capable of ”sacrificing” Malta when its own interests demanded it.247 To make matters worse, the British were dragging their heels over prize money that had been promised to the Maltese following the capture of Valletta, and were thought to have breached faith with the inhabitants who had served in the Maltese military. This was, eventually, to provide another administrative burden for Coleridge.248 Complaints about the terms of the French surrender, under which it was alleged that Britain had not taken up an offer by the French commander to compensate those whose property had been looted, also formed a part of the context at this period.249 A mutually cynical relationship seems to have evolved in which the Maltese took what they could from Britain until their conquerors should once again abandon them. 250

  • 251 Hardman, 498-9.

145The immediate consequence of the Treaty of Amiens was to stimulate an invigorated Nationalist campaign for political pluralism to gain some measure of self-determination. After 1802 the calls for the ”restoration” by the British of the Consiglio Popolare – a popular council which the Maltese alleged had deliberative and legislative powers – became more evident. This campaign also included an assertion that the British had reneged upon their promise to restore the traditional constitution (which included, they argued, the Consiglio). The British emphatically rejected both arguments and steadfastly refused to share power with the Maltese.251 These and other frustrations were undoubtedly coming to a head in the spring of 1805.

  • 252 Borg to Eton, Kew, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ no folio reference.
  • 253 The Friend, I, 544.

146Crime remained high, most notably highway robbery and burglary in the countryside. The murder rate was also a concern, combined with low levels of detection and prosecution.252 Moreover, the British had reversed a centuries old policy of prohibiting Jews from settling on Malta. Jewish immigrants had begun to arrive in late 1804 and, by 1805, many had set up in business as rivals to the Maltese. This was causing resentment amongst the small traders of Valletta who were afraid that competition might return them to poverty just as the economy lifted from depression. Underlying trade anxieties boiled over into violent public disorder in May 1805. As we shall discover, suspected Jews were stoned, and two thousand demonstrators poured down the main street in Valletta. The demonstration was, of course, heading to the seat of government, which signalled that the Maltese held the British responsible. The situation was, as Coleridge later admitted, a ”difficult emergency”.253 We shall return to this in relation to public order and crime.

147To restore order Ball directed the judiciary to impose more severe sentences than the Code de Rohan permitted – a controversial political intervention in the judicial process that caused consternation amongst the Islanders. The sentence of life-long exile that was imposed upon a twelve year old boy, who had been implicated in the disturbances, must have added to the accusations (albeit accusations from well-known political opponents) that Ball’s government exercised ”thundering vengeance” and despotic powers.

148Moreover, serious problems in feeding the population were also emerging. As we have seen, Ball had staked much of the financial strategy upon the success of the grain mission. Following the decay of the imported wheat, the Maltese now grumbled about unfit bread.

  • 254 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated): Kew, CO 158/10/151 et seq. No record (...)
  • 255 Ibid. The petition sought ”some channel thro’ which the Maltese might state (either in a body or i (...)
  • 256 Petition of the Maltese, ibid.

149There had also been a breach of faith when the British re-imposed the excise duty on wine and to initiate a further duty on liquor in March 1805. The potentially inflammatory volte face emanated directly from Ball’s failure to grasp the financial condition of the islands in 1800. The repercussions were damaging. At about this time (March 1805) it appears that one of the Nationalists decided to petition the Civil Commissioner. Most likely, this sought political reform – a power-sharing between British and Maltese by means of a representative assembly – the Consiglio Popolare. Notwithstanding that the Maltese constitution allowed individual citizens to petition on any subject, a report reached London that Ball had summarily exiled the petitioner.254 This uncompromising denial of structured political pluralism meant that the Maltese had no lawful avenue to pursue their political grievances; indeed, it was this ruthless crushing of political expression taken with the politically-motivated interventions in criminal trials held after the anti-Semitic uprising that eventually featured strongly in the flurry of complaints to the Secretary of State in London. Frustrated and angry Nationalists petitioned Lord Windham arguing that they should be able to by-pass Ball and send their grievances directly to the King.255 Revealingly, the petition stated that, if this direct channel were permitted, those who sought to re-establish the Consiglio Popolare could make their argument for it without the risk of banishment to the coast of Barbary.256 Moreover, the complainants argued for laws to be reformed so that no person could be punished without trial and that sentences should only be pronounced by the judge in open court, without the prior approval of the Civil Commissioner.

  • 257 See Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime. The recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1812 that t (...)
  • 258 Ball denied the quality of the bread was poor, but the denial is unconvincing given that the wheat (...)
  • 259 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12. It is interesting to note the complaint that the Maltes (...)

150These and others complaints were legitimate grievances and not the fanciful inventions of disappointed individuals. Ball did interfere in the sentences of the criminal courts;257 the corn mission had failed and, (according to the Jurats), the bread was bad;258 crime rates were high and detection rates low (because of reluctant witnesses and community solidarity); the government was nervous about friction and resentments arising from the new tax burden. Moreover, disgruntled citizens flooded the Segnatura with a significant number of petitions complaining that they had been unjustly denied their share of the promised prize money. This volume of litigation disclosed grave policy misjudgements in encouraging and then frustrating Maltese expectations. Dissatisfaction also simmered over the collapse of the cotton markets; there were tensions over military enlistments, the hunting down of deserters from the Royal Regiment of Malta, the wasted expenditure, Ball’s civil service staffing policy, and the diminution in the weight of bread.259

  • 260 Eton to Windham, 13 March 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/245.

151To make matters worse, Eton had (with some justification) written in the strongest possible terms to Windham (the Secretary of State) condemning Ball’s ”shameful speculation” on the grain market and, in effect, accusing him of abusing the unfettered powers of his Office. He called for Ball’s immediate recall on grounds of incompetence and financial mismanagement.260 By mid 1806 graffiti lampooning Ball and his administration appeared all over Valletta and one complainant, albeit a member of Eton’s cabal, wrote:

  • 261 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ no folio reference.

”Country people have no faith in Ball. His bad conduct has produced this effect. No one shews (sic) him any respect in the streets, neither in town nor country…[t]hey tremble at his despotic scourge”.261

152If this allegation is true then it is unsurprising, given the inevitable frictional effects of the policy failings described above. The suggestion that Ball’s administration was competent and effective in the years 1805-1806 lacks credibility.

153Thus, notwithstanding the eulogistic narrative of Ball’s administration that Coleridge promoted in The Friend, the wider historical record bears witness to the mounting problems of unpopularity that Ball and Coleridge faced. Confidence in the British administration at this time was in a rapid and steep decline.

154In fact, evidence of a damaging loss of public confidence in the administration is corroborated in Coleridge’s official work. The emerging popular resentment and unpopularity of the Civil Commissioner explains why Coleridge, in the Bandi and Avvisi, undertook, as we shall see, an effective and systematic public relations offensive to boost Ball’s image and to restore Ball’s reputation and public standing. This is explored in Chapters 5 and 6.

155Coleridge’s later accounts suggest that this project continued after he left Malta. It seems that he still experienced a loyalty both to the Maltese colonial project and to his late colleague, the Civil Commissioner.

  • 262 The Friend, I, 566.

156There is little doubt that Ball had once enjoyed, as Coleridge claimed, an excess of gratitude from the Maltese,262 but this was likely to have been a legacy of days when he administered the Island during the struggle against the French (1799-1800). The British betrayal of Malta, in the Treaty of Amiens, had marked a change and the popular mood gradually became one of disillusionment and disappointment. Coleridge’s period of office occurred at a time of crisis. As Public Secretary, it fell to him to frame the government’s political message and to win back popular support whilst loyally implementing measures (such as re-imposed taxation) that were widely disliked. If Malta were to be retained as a British possession, the consent of the Maltese had to be maintained, so Coleridge’s role was of strategic significance. Hitherto, this onerous burden of responsibility has not been fully understood. Nevertheless, it goes some way to explaining Coleridge’s exhaustion whilst in office. Much was expected of him and he had to deliver.

157During his time as Public Secretary Coleridge struggled to work within, and make popular, ill-judged, counter-productive and contradictory politics: to maintain the welfare system, whilst avoiding taxation; to ”attach” the Maltese to British rule whilst crushing political expression; to continue the Constitution whilst, in fact, breaching it; to pursue popularity whilst punishing opposition, even amongst children; and, in the face of these actions, to surround Ball with a propaganda myth of wise, benign and prelatic authority.

158At this time the intractable conflict between liberty and empire that had been exposed in the American Revolution was far from resolved. The experience of the early British administrations on the Island revealed that the ”continuity” model of government, both in conception and implementation, posed significant challenges to the provincial administration.

159Coleridge’s talent, as we shall see, was not in the skilful drafting of legal norms, but in sensitive, but crucial, political engagement with the Maltese people. In the Bandi and Avvisi the Administration spoke directly to them, and in this work Coleridge (from the British point of view) stood out as particularly talented.

  • 263 Even Ball thought that he would be removed from office: Ball to Graham, 14 September 1806, NLM 441
  • 264 Windham to Ball, 6 January 1807, Kew, CO 159/3/220 at 223. For Ball’s sustained rebuttal to the al (...)
  • 265 Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/9 et seq.
  • 266 Cooke to Ball, 4 May 1807, above n. 264.
  • 267 Cooke to Ball, 5 April 1808, Kew, CO 159/3.
  • 268 See comments of the Royal Commissioners of 1812, Kew, above n. 37.
  • 269 Letter of the so called ”Deputies of the Nation” to the acting Public Secretary, Chapman, 22 Decem (...)

160Eventually, the damaging complaints,263 from Eton and his fellow agitators forced Windham to demand Ball’s formal response to the ”serious charges” they alleged.264 After Ball had, in 1807, provided his answer to the allegations,265 the Secretary of State delayed forming an early opinion about the standard of public administration; Ball had to be content with a holding reply.266 It seems that, in official eyes, Ball had been tarnished and his superiors were uncertain how to respond. However, no thorough investigation was stimulated by these complaints until after Ball’s death. However, once it emerged that Eton was a vindictive troublemaker, his and the other complaints lost credibility. This presented a useful exit strategy for Ball’s superiors. In 1808, almost a year after the holding reply, Ball was formally exonerated.267 The Establishment had finally decided to close ranks.Ball’s reputation in Malta was also to recover. Improved economic prosperity, political stability and improving government finances were, perhaps, Ball’s legacy after his early demise in October 1809.268 Even concerns over Ball’s intervention in the criminal process eventually faded, for the Maltese Deputies summarised Ball’s achievement in government as ”substituting a just and paternal Government in the place of a revolutionary regency (i.e. France)”.269 (Emphasis added). But this cannot disguise how difficult the years 1805-1806 had been; and this period coincided, very closely, with Coleridge’s term of office, which meant that the burden of dealing with it fell upon his shoulders as well as upon Ball’s. If this period of difficulty eventually proved to be a temporary crisis, it was, nonetheless, a grave one. There’s no doubt that Coleridge is due some credit for the administration’s success in the field of government communication, which must not only have played some part in re-building popular trust in the Civil Commissioner, but also in achieving stable government in Malta.

Notes

1 For a general introduction to the geopolitical context see M. Rapport, Nineteenth-Century Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

2 The Friend, I, 577. The population increased rapidly during the period of prosperity, 1805-1812 to reach about 120,000 by the latter date. This population growth caused the many frictional and macro-economic effects outlined by the Royal Commission in 1812: Kew, CO 158/19.

3 The ”Barbary States” referred to the territory between seaports of Tangiers and Tripoli. Britain and other nations trading in the Mediterranean, including France, paid the Dey of Algiers a tribute of money and other goods in order to ensure the safe passage of their vessels. The corsairs of the Dey raided the ships of other nations, including those of the recently independent United States. This resulted in the Tripolitan War, 1801-1805, although this conflict did not finally resolve the problem of piracy and tribute.

4 These cities were renamed after the siege. Bormla became Cospicua; Birgu was renamed Vittoriosa; and L’Isla became Senglea. The cities are still occasionally referred to by their former names. The ”Cottonera” is a reference to the Cottonera defensive lines – landward fortifications enclosing the three cities. These were constructed under the auspices of the Grandmaster Nicolas Cottonera in the 1670’s.

5 Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, Kew, CO 158/1/12-25. The memorandum is unsigned but has been attributed to Ball: see Royal Instructions from Hobart to Cameron, Hardman 350 et. seq.

6 Ibid.

7 Treaty of 19 March 1801: see Hardman 349-50.

8 The Friend, I, 570.

9 Ball to Dundas, (undated 1801), Kew, CO 158/1, 3.

10 Bonnici. The controversy is also discussed by Staines (2008).

11 ’Humble Representation of the Deputies of Malta and Gozo’ in October 1801, English translation, with annotated alterations: Kew, CO158/2; see also Hardman, 410-15 and See Ball to Sir Henry Dundas, (undated,1801), Kew, CO 158/1, 3.

12 Cameron to Hobart, 13 November 1801, Kew, CO 158/2/16.

13 The Friend, I, 567.

14 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187-8.

15 The Friend, I, 567.

16 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187.

17 See Chapter 5.9: Passports.

18 The Friend, I, 536.

19 As we shall see in Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime, there were frictions between the entrepreneurially effective Jewish community and the inhabitants.

20 The Friend, I, 536.

21 Hardman describes how the husbands of attractive women might find them selves banished; similarly fathers of daughters who caught the eye of the Knights. Their predations seem to have fallen in particular upon urban families; and in Valletta there may not have been a single family unaffected by it. See Hardman, Chapter 1.

22 The Friend, I, 536; and Table Talk, I, 475, 16 April 1834. The latter records that, in Coleridge’s opinion, moral corruption was not confined to the Knights of the Order at the time of the capitulation in 1800. Ball’s task in addressing it was a considerable one.

23 The Friend, I, 536 et seq.

24 ”Of the Maltese/ my first impression, their ingratitude to the Order to whom they owe everything, those splendid Towers of Balsan”: CN 2. 2567.

25 Cameron to Hobart, Kew, CO 158/1/335, 23 October 1801.

26 See Hardman, 548. The immediate loss of revenue as a result of the actions of the French Republic was about £50,000 per annum. In 1788 the Island’s revenue was £136,417, but by 1798 this was reported to have declined to a mere £34,663 14s 2d. See also Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5.

27 It has been estimated that the Knights spent circa £180,000 p.a. in Malta from their overseas revenues: see Bartolo.

28 In 1796, this was £34, 249.

29 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

30 The Friend, I, 570.

31 Ball’s Memorandum to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5, recorded that corn production was only sufficient for three months’ supply in any one year. Coleridge was aware of this: The Friend, I, 577. The annual consumption was about 50,000 quarters: Ball to Cooke, 3rd February 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/ 19.

32 For a general account of agricultural practices in the late eighteenth century immediately prior to the British conquest see, Debono (1988).

33 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1171.

34 Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5.

35 The Friend, I, 561. See also CN 2, 2508.

36 This was another implied criticism of Ball’s failed attempt to construct the ”gardens” in the casals.

37 By the time of Ball’s Memorandum of 26 December 1800, above n. 5, the potato was already under cultivation. His confident expectation that this ”will prove of great advantage to the inhabitants” had not been realised by 1812: see Report of the Royal Commission, Kew, CO 158/19.

38 Hardman, 346-7.

39 Kew, CO 158/19.

40 Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, CO 158/19.

41 The Friend, I, 570.

42 See Bando, 29 January 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356; also 22 March 1805 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 4.

43 Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime, and note Ball to Camden, 19 April 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/123-45 at 134.

44 Ball reported in 1804 that the garden was finished: Ball to Penn, 4 July 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/23.

45 Cost £250: Ball to Penn, ibid.

46 Cost £200: ibid.

47 Cost £7,000: ibid.

48 See e.g. Macaulay to Ball, 10 September 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/51-2.

49 See Memorandum of 26 December 1800, above n. 5, and CO 158/13/123.

50 NLM/LIBR /MS 430 1/2 Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356.

51 Pirotta, 49; see also Ball to Penn, 4 July 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/13 to whom Ball reported that the fishery was still in the process of being established.

52 Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187-8.

53 See generally Vella; Debono (1988), 1, 27-50, and the Report of the Chamber of Commerce on the Economic Condition of the Island 1776: NLM, Lib. 1020, item 20, no folio reference. The text of this document (in Italian) is incorporated in Debono (1988).

54 The Friend, I, 577.

55 Ibid.

56 At different times, various Proclamations were enacted forbidding the importation of foreign cotton: see, e.g., the Bando of 7 May 1757: NLM, Libr. 429, Bandi 1756-1765, 7. Some importation seems to have been permitted under Proclamations of 1796 and 1797: see Debono above n. 53.

57 Coleridge recorded with approval that Maltese women were normally not required to do hard work out of doors. ”...[T]hey were almost exclusively employed in spinning and management of the House”. CN 2, 2650.

58 The Friend, I, 577.

59 The denominations of Maltese currency were ”scudi, ”tari” and ”grains”. Twenty grains made one tari; twelve tari one scudo. The exchange rate in late 1800 was ten scudi to one pound: Ball to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5.

60 Debono (1988), 27, 32.

61 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

62 Above, n. 58.

63 Blaquière, 275-7.

64 By 1807 the number of looms present on the Island increased from 1945 to 2986: Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/51.

65 Avviso of 22 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5, discussed below.

66 See Pirotta, 45-6.

67 See Randon, 354.

68 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

69 There had been little assimilation of the knights as rulers into Maltese society. As a celibate order, assimilation by marriage was obviously precluded. The Order refused to share power with the Maltese and was thus perceived as despotic, arrogant and elitist. In this sense Malta was a divided society: see Hardman; also Pirotta.

70 Ball wrote: ”It has consistently been my uniform system to abstain from every kind of change except in case of absolute necessity”. Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/45.

71 See Chapter 3.

72 As the Instructions of 14 May 1801 make clear: Kew, CO 158/1/ff 53 et seq; Hardman 350, 355. They are a vindication of Ball’s position. However, the political support for this plan rested somewhat shakily on the information that Ball supplied to London. Continuity was also a requirement of the Law of Nations, see de Vattel, 389, section 201 – relating to the conqueror of a hostile sovereign. Where, as in Malta, the population was not hostile, the sovereign had a duty to maintain the existing laws-for how long is not made clear.

73 NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 204. Cameron seems to have played a minor role in the affairs of government, preferring instead to leave many of his responsibilities to a William Eton in whose abilities he had complete confidence. William Eton (later knighted) was a private citizen with, it seems, considerable experience of effecting quarantine regulations. The British government appointed him Superintendent of the Lazaretto and Quarantine Department in 1801. Cameron seems to have left many of his responsibilities to William Eton in whose abilities he had complete confidence. Eton seems to have been the de facto civil commissioner. Eton may have expected to have succeeded Cameron (see e.g., Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew CO 158/13/20) and disappointment may explain why he became such an implacable opponent of Cameron’s successor, Sir Alexander Ball. As we shall see, Eton stimulated dissent and agitated for Ball’s downfall.

74 Galea.

75 Hardman, 342. There is further discussion of the status of these Instructions in Chapter 3.

76 Downing St to Ball, 9 June 1802, Kew, FO 49/3/51.

77 There were a number of formal, public declarations to the Maltese intended to reassure them. For example a Proclamation issued by Pigot on 19 February 1801 which included the following: ”...every possible means shall be used to make you contented and happy”. He referred to the restoration of peace and liberty following the armed resistance of the Maltese people and their allies before adding, ”It shall be my constant care to ensure the continuance of this well-being”. Hardman, 341-42.

78 See Chapter 5.3: Taxation.

79 E.g. the Bando of 8 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2 (above) and see generally the introduction to the Bandi and Avvisi in Chapter 4.

80 To Catherine Clarkson, 6 November 1806, DW Letters 1806-1811, letter 277.

81 Hough and Davis (2007).

82 The Act of Settlement 1700 guaranteed judicial independence in Britain in so far as judicial salaries were thereafter protected by law. For the modern statutory guarantee against ministerial interference in the judicial process in the United Kingdom, see the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, s.3.

83 In contrast, the requirement that Executive action had to conform to the strictures of the positive law had been laid down in England in Entick v Carrington (1765), 19, Howell’s State Trials, 1029.

84 Del Diritto Municipale di Malta Nuova Compilazione con diverse altre costituzioni, Malta, Stamperia di Palazzo, 1784.

85 Code de Rohan; see also Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, CO 158/19/17 and 30. 86

86 Eton, 134.

87 Grandmaster 1722-1736.

88 Eton, 144.

89 Frendo, 66; cf. Mizzi, 32. The Code ”In fact, it took into consideration local customs and traditions and included improvements made in Italy and Franc in legal enactments and procedures”.

90 This general view was broadly endorsed by the Royal Commission of 1812.

91 Eton, 153.

92 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 9. Commercial law, administered by the Commercial Court (the Consolato del Mare) and based on traditional civilian principles, needed, according to the Civil Commissioners, root and branch reform if it was to meet the needs of Malta as a hub of imperial trade.

93 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 20.

94 Ibid.

95 Ball to Hobart, 15 November 1803, Kew, CO 158/7/437, 440.

96 Hardman, 350-7. The Royal Instructions identified the basic principles (such as the continuation strategy discussed above) and some particular policies (such as the possible reforms of the courts mentioned here) which the British administration was to promote. They are discussed further in Chapter 3.

97 Eton, 131; Laferla, 53.

98 Pirotta, 53.

99 Royal Commission of 1812, Kew, above n.37.

100 Eton, 131-2.

101 See further, Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 15-20.

102 Laferla, 54, fn 1.

103 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37.

104 Book 2 Chapter 1 #19 of Eton’s translation, in Eton, 153 passim.

105 The lack of a criminal jury was a matter of concern to the 1812 Commission, who viewed fairness through British common law eyes. However, they did not recommend its introduction because, at that time, it was likely to be unpopular. The first juries were found in the new Court of Piracy (1815) but it was not until 1829 that a more extensive scheme was introduced, see Cremona (1964). Similarly, Major General Pigot, as part of his objection to allowing British soldiers to be tried by Maltese courts, cited the lack of the jury system: Pigot to Cameron, Kew, 16 August 1801, CO 158/2/81, the matter is discussed below.

106 This procedure was laid down in the Code de Rohan, Book 2, Chapter 3, #11 of Eton’s translation; in Eton, 141.

107 ”The criminal cannot require a note of the names and Christian names of the witnesses; but after the examination, in every case, the criminal and witnesses are to be confronted”. Code de Rohan, Chapter 11, ibid.

108 See Chapters 5.4: Public Order and Crime, and Chapter 6.

109 Book 2, Chapter 1 #19 of Eton’s translation, in Eton.

110 See further below****.

111 Silence in the face of serious offences would result in convictions and a threat of an equivalent punishment for the less serious offences, ibid., #33 and # 34.

112 The Code had significant provisions dealing with the methods of torture and the rights of the accused, ibid #27.The main method suggested is ”the corda” by which the suspect is suspended by ropes and then dropped. Eton alleged that a market inspector, Sateriano, had been tortured by being imprisoned with live rats and thereby forced to confess. His conviction resulted in banishment to Tripoli: Eton to Windham, 11 October 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ no folio reference.

113 Ibid. and Memorial and Petition of the Maltese [unsigned and undated], Kew, CO158/10/151.

114 According to the Commission the maximum sentence was, by 1812, no more than 10 years in the galleys. The Code clearly allows for a life sentence in the galleys such as for abusing and injuring parents or ”senior relatives”, Code de Rohan, unpublished translation by Dr Lydia Davis (Code de Rohan), Book 5, Chapter 3, #4.

115 Code de Rohan, Book 5, Chapter 4, #1.

116 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 79.

117 Code de Rohan, Book 5, Chapter 4, #1.

118 Royal Commission of 1812 above n. 37, 19.

119 See Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 29-34.

120 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 34.

121 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 32.

122 This case is discussed below in Chapter 5.

123 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1164.

124 CN 2, 2379.

125 Advice to Ball from the Corte Capitanale, 22 May 1805: NAM 92/04 1805 box 04.

126 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 28.

127 Royal Commission, ibid.; see also an incident attempted bribery in Avviso of 14 June 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 11.

128 Broadly speaking, the court fees amounted to about 90 % of the salary of one of the judges in the High Court in Valletta who earned (in 1812) £20 p.a. salary and shared court fees to increase their incomes by about £300 p.a.: Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 21.

129 Hinted at by the Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 20 and 53.

130 Royal Commission of 1812, above, n. 37, 17.

131 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 31.

132 Manning, 115-19; also 153-4. Generally, the issue was exacerbated if the judges were not judicially trained; this was not a problem in Malta.

133 Cobbett’s Parliamentary Debates, vol 20, 1811, 464-70.

134 Large pay rises were put into effect by Maitland after he came to office as Governor: Maitland to Bathurst, 24 October 1814, Kew, CO 158/25/215; see enclosure 13, Kew, CO 158/25/284-5 for a table of wage increases.

135 See below and Chapter 5.

136 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated), Kew, CO 158/10/151. Considered below, and especially in Chapter 5.

137 For further discussion of the powers of the Grandmaster, see Chapter 3.

138 Eton, 132: ”this Grandmaster [Pinto] ordered by his sign-manual, which constitutes a law, certain thieves to be hanged, who had been by three concurring sentences condemned to be banished to Sicily, and they were executed”.

139 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated) Kew, CO158/10/151; see also Chapter 5: Public Order and Crime.

140 See the discussion of Mostyn v Fabrigas (1774), 1 Cowp. 160, below.

141 Eton, 143.

142 Although the prerogative of mercy would be retained as a prerogative of the executive authority, as it is under the English constitution. The power to prevent cases coming to court was also to be preserved but only in so far as it related to disputes over state property. The Royal Commission was concerned that there would otherwise be a flood of possible claims against the administration on this ground. Under the Royal Commission’s proposal, the Civil Commissioner would have a duty to report any exercise of this power to Whitehall.

143 Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, 47.

144 See e.g. Harding, 66-7.

145 A date selected at random: NAM LIBR 43/12 vol N- 10 May-11 September 1805. 146

146 Ibid.

147 Eton, 143; see also Registro dei Memoriale e Decreti da Sua Excellenza il sig Cavalier Alessandro Ball Regio Commissionario Civile di Sua Maesta’ Britannica, NAM LIBR 43/11.

148 The Friend, I, 561.

149 The petitions for 1805 can be examined in NAM 92/04 1805. These petitions have been handwritten and various relevant parts have been underlined for emphasis (presumably by the responsible auditor). They relate to a wide variety of administrative and judicial matters. For example, some deal with ”clemenza” of sentence; others licence applications; others are appeals relating to the award of prize money. They are addressed ”Eccelenza”.

150 Eton, 136.

151 Above n. 144.

152 At the time of Ball’s second administration, (1803-1809) there would appear to have been at least one lawyer present. He had reported to Dundas, 26 December 1800, above n. 5 (also Hardman 344-6), that only some of the appointees had to be legally qualified.

153 See Ball to Dundas, ibid.

154 Ball had combined the offices: see Sullivan to Ball 31 December 1803- Libr 531, 18.

155 Eton described the Uditori in Eton, 145 et seq.

156 The Grandmaster could consult with them, but under the normal procedure (certainly that followed in Ball’s time) they would not venture an opinion on a matter unless asked to do so.

157 Eton, 146.

158 See the undated Memorial and Petition of the Maltese, Kew, CO 158/10/151 (1805).

159 Ibid.

160 Royal Commission of 1812, above, n. 37.

161 Royal Commission of 1812, ibid., 82-3.

162 Ibid.

163 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.

164 Proclamation of 15 July 1801, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 204.

165 See e.g. the Easter celebrations 1805, CN 2, 2547.

166 CN 2, 2547. He noted the noise accompanied most forms of catholic ritual practised on the Island: CN 2, 2561.

167 The Friend, I, 566.

168 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.

169 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2.

170 See Chapter 5: taxation theme.

171 He had reported that it was necessary to treat the religious ”prejudices” of the Maltese with ”great indulgence”: Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

172 Water was scarce; drought often threatened: Pirotta, 21.

173 Ibid., 10.

174 CN 2, 2420.

175 Pirotta, 31.

176 CN 2, 2420, 28 January 1805.

177 See e.g. Macaulay to Ball, 10 September 1804, Kew CO 158/9/51-2. Ball admit ted that the salary of the President had been increased, to ensure his leadership in providing good management. He drew attention to ”considerable reforms” including the merger of the Invalids and Foundlings Hospital. Costs were predicted to fall in 1805: Ball to Camden, 19 April 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/147-9.

178 Maitland to Permanent Committee of Management of the Charitable Institutions, 14 January 1816, Kew, CO 158/27/ no folio reference, where he referred to a ”mass” of individuals in the hospitals who were not entitled to be there. He wrote that he had discovered ”a place of resort for the idle”.

179 Maitland to Permanent Committee, etc, ibid.

180 CN 2, 2420.

181 Maitland later found that the standard of care was characterised by a ”filth and misery” which was ”degrading to the government” and ”disgraceful” to the inhabitants: Maitland above n. 178.

182 CN 2, 2856.

183 See, for example, the Bando of 8 March 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814 2.

184 Cameron to Hobart, 24 February 1802, Kew, CO 158/3/16.

185 Avviso of 14 June 1805: NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 11.

186 Ibid.

187 Ball to Dundas, above n. 5.

188 Instructions of 14 May 1801, Kew, CO 158/1/ff 53 et seq; Hardman, 350.

189 The Friend, I, 570.

190 More formally, of Valletta, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.

191 Funds derived from the importation and selling grain, whether as surplus on sales or on taxes derived on grain imports, provided a major source of government revenue until 1939: See Bartolo.

192 Bartolo, ibid, citing Muscat, 98. See also Thornton (1836).

193 After 1800, the Università began to trade in cattle to meet the demand from the increasing numbers of British military and other personnel on the Island: Thornton, ibid., 39-41.

194 Ball’s to Dundas, above, n. 5.

195 In 1822, British policy makers in the Colonial Office were finally persuaded by local commercial interests to abolish the monopoly. This was surprising if only because the Università had, by this time, become profitable and provided revenue to support the welfare schemes which the government that were implemented through the charitable institutions. Notwithstanding the consequences of the loss of revenue, the monopoly was dissolved, whereupon the supply of grain fell into the hands of a private cartel, which was highly damaging to the public interest. Eventually the monopoly had to be restored: see Pirotta, Chapter 5.

196 Thornton (1816).

197 Ibid.

198 Eton to Sullivan, 29 July 1801, Kew, CO 158/2/308.

199 See especially, the taxation theme in Chapter 5.

200 See generally the account of the Royal Commission of 1812, above n. 37, and Thornton (1816, 1836).

201 Grain was bought for 60 scudi and sold for 15 scudi: Royal Commission, above n. 37, or 16 scudi, per Thornton (1816). These losses, according to the Commission, went on increasing.

202 The value of loans made by the Università to the Exchequer exceeded £65,000: Bonnici, 128.

203 Thornton (1816), and further Bartolo, who comments on the reliability of Thornton’s data. The assessment of the Royal Commissioners was that the deficit was about a million and a half scudi or about £150,000. Thornton thought that the deficit was about one million scudi by the date of the French invasion (June 1798). By September 1800, the Bank had debts ”upwards of three and a half million scudi” (£350,000): Thornton, (1816), 5-7.

204 By 1801 Hobart had somehow come to believe that the Università ”produces considerable revenue”. Hardman, 354. The erroneous impression that the Order had made a surplus on the grain monopoly still influenced the actions of the Secretary of State in 1805: see Cooke to Ball, 27 March 1805, Kew, CO 159/3/162.

205 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 12 December 1804, CL 2,1158.

206 Camden to Ball, 24 February 1804, Kew, CO 159/3/121-2.

207 According to Borg, the dismissals took place on 23 July 1806: Borg to Eton 23 July 1806, CO 158/12 (no folio reference). This is corroborated by NAM LIBR PS02/02, 138-9, 23 July 1806. On that date, Charles Livingstone was also appointed as a replacement Jurat. Ball regarded Borg as a ”subversive” not least because Borg had openly advocated the establishment of a congress to make laws for the Island”. He had been deprived of his public office (as a Luogotenente) in 1804. Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/25; also Ball to Penn, July 1804, Kew, CO 158/9/7.

208 See Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/78, also Livingstone to Ball, 25 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/203.

209 Ball had impressed upon Camden that this was the amount required, and the Secretary of State signalled his acquiescence: See E. Cooke to Ball 27 March 1805, Kew, CO 159/3/162.

210 See Eton to Windham 11 October 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ (no folio reference).

211 E.g. Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 no folio reference. Borg lists a number of causes of popular displeasure with Ball, including ”the bad quality of the bread”. In his response to the Secretary of State, Ball flatly denied that there was dissatisfaction. He stated that the inhabitants were ”extremely well satisfied” to purchase a staple food at low prices: Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/58-9.

212 Ball seems to have tried to cover up the disaster. At first, he reported to London that Chapman’s consignment had generated a ”saving to government” of £21,957: Ball to Cooke, 1 February 1806, Kew, CO 158/11/9. By 1807, Ball’s language had subtly altered. He then reported that the profit stated to have been made by the Università in 1805-1806 was £12,033: Ball to Shee, 12 May 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/315. The true picture was very different. Thornton described it as a costly failure being ”by far the greatest loss that [the Università] had then, or since, sustained”. Thornton (1816). His investigation revealed a loss in excess of 805,000 scudi (about £80,500) for the financial year 1805-1806. Thus, almost all of the British taxpayer’s capital investment in the scheme was wasted. Ball’s obfuscations may have succeeded and delayed the moment when Ministers became convinced of the truth. This is so because Chapman (conveniently sent home on sick leave in June 1806) was rewarded by the Secretary of State with a £1000 payment for his services. Had his negligence been understood such a generous reward would have been unlikely: Castlereagh to Ball, 8 May 1807, Kew, CO 159/3/227. Within Malta, the Jurats were publicly made scapegoats and Ball dismissed them en bloc: see Borg to Eton 23 July 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 (no folio reference): and further, n. 207 above. Coleridge’s role in the affair remains somewhat unclear.

213 Allegations about the quality of bread and the diminution in the weight of a loaf referred to the entire period Coleridge held office: Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12.

214 Ball to Camden, Kew, CO 158/10/1, 30 January 1805, in which Ball informed Camden of Mr Macaulay’s death. He continued, ”I expect Mr Chapman daily from Constantinople, whom I shall put into the office of Public Secretary and Treasurer in conformity to the Orders sent me by the Earl of Buckinghamshire”. Coleridge wrote in similar terms to Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1163.

215 The Friend, I, 568.

216 Hardman, Chapter 1.

217 The system of reward extended to any public office in Ball’s grant. For example, upon its revival in October 1800, he appointed one of the leading insurrectionists, Canon Saverio Caruana, as Rector of the University. The dominant motive in this appointment seems to have been to reward a loyal individual rather than a desire to promote education. This is so because the University could not thrive without a system of popular education to underpin it and from which it could derive its students. Instead, private education was available for the few who could afford it. Ball took no steps to introduce a public system. See for Coleridge’s views on the importance of mass education: The Friend, I, 540; also Debono (1996), 47-74. Caruana’s appointment is a revealing one that speaks volumes of Ball’s real concerns. As we shall see, his policy implanted deep structural flaws into the Maltese administration.

218 The Friend, I, 569; see also Table Talk I, 475, 16 April 1834.

219 See Coleridge’s discussion in The Friend, I, 568-9. Hobart to Ball, 2 December 1803, Kew, CO 158/7/443-7 reveals that Ball was ordered to find a suitable post for one M. Viale.

220 The Friend, I, 568.

221 See the consumer protection theme in Chapter 5.

222 The Friend, I, 569.

223 Maitland to Bathurst, 24 October 1814, Kew, CO 158/ 25/210.

224 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 no folio reference.

225 Mark, At Sea with Nelson, 125 quoted in Laferla, vol I, 48 and Pirotta, 65.

226 See Thornton (1816) at 9 who discovered that the only accounting record of the Jurats were the ledgers ”supported by a journal and other auxiliary books”. The ledger operated a double entry system, but when the book failed to balance the accountant failed to close the account or, alternatively, made fictitious entries to make the books appear to balance.

227 The key figures have been noted in Chapter 1.

228 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 58/12/ no folio reference.

229 The Friend, I, 555-7. Whether Coleridge acted on this can be questioned, especially in his vitriolic reaction to the Catholic Church and its rituals.

230 Talker, 158-60, quoted in Holmes (1998), 247.

231 Blaquière.

232 The Friend, I, 566.

233 See Hardman and most recently Staines.

234 See n. 73 above.

235 Eton was eventually dismissed from his office as Superintendant of the Quarantine in Malta: Liverpool to Oakes, 18 September 1811, Hardman, 503. His allegations against the Ball’s administration were then seen as ”calumnies”: Oakes to Liverpool, 1 August 1811, Kew CO 158/17. See generally, Staines, Essay 06.

236 Oakes to Bunbury, 30 July 1811, Kew, CO 158/17.

237 Liverpool to Oakes, 18 September 1811, Hardman, 503.

238 Maltese officials sent numerous expressions of gratitude to Ball on his quitting office: see Hardman, 343-4.

239 The Friend, I, 566.

240 Ibid.

241 Ibid.

242 Ibid.

243 Ibid., 571.

244 Cameron to Hobart, 23 October 1801, Kew, CO 158/1/335.

245 Hardman, 410-15.

246 Widely reproduced; see, for example, Cm 9657 Appendix F; Frendo.

247 Lord Hobart replied to the Maltese Deputies to London in a letter dated 20 April 1802 that the abandonment of Malta was ”an indispensable sacrifice”: Hard-man, 412.

248 See Chapter 5.2: Distributions of the Prize.

249 See Appendix 2

250 Corrupt practices were later identified: Maitland to Bathurst, 24 October 1814, CO 158/25/209, et seq.

251 Hardman, 498-9.

252 Borg to Eton, Kew, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ no folio reference.

253 The Friend, I, 544.

254 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated): Kew, CO 158/10/151 et seq. No record of it appears in the Memoriali e Decreti of the Segnatura. So the petition must have been made directly to the Civil Commissioner.

255 Ibid. The petition sought ”some channel thro’ which the Maltese might state (either in a body or individually) grievances without the risk of being banished to the Coast of Barbary, or otherwise punished if their petitions are intercepted”. Other grievances included: (i) failure to establish the Consiglio Popolare; (ii) freedom from torture; (iii) that no-one should be punished without trial; (iv) the trial judge should be under no control other than the law-i.e. not subject to the direction of the Civil Commissioner; (v) that sentences should be mitigated, but not augmented by the Commissioner (pronounced in open court) and not first submitted to the Civil Commissioner.

256 Petition of the Maltese, ibid.

257 See Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime. The recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1812 that the Civil Commissioner should lose the power to interfere in the judicial process vindicates the complaints made in this respect: Kew, CO 158/19.

258 Ball denied the quality of the bread was poor, but the denial is unconvincing given that the wheat had deteriorated: Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13.

259 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12. It is interesting to note the complaint that the Maltese had suffered bad bread for the previous thirty months.

260 Eton to Windham, 13 March 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/245.

261 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/ no folio reference.

262 The Friend, I, 566.

263 Even Ball thought that he would be removed from office: Ball to Graham, 14 September 1806, NLM 441.

264 Windham to Ball, 6 January 1807, Kew, CO 159/3/220 at 223. For Ball’s sustained rebuttal to the allegations made against him see Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, CO 158/13/9 et seq. Investigations continued and Windham delayed offer-ing a formal response: see Cooke to Ball, 4 May 1807, Kew, CO 159/3/226.

265 Ball to Windham, 28 February 1807, Kew, CO 158/13/9 et seq.

266 Cooke to Ball, 4 May 1807, above n. 264.

267 Cooke to Ball, 5 April 1808, Kew, CO 159/3.

268 See comments of the Royal Commissioners of 1812, Kew, above n. 37.

269 Letter of the so called ”Deputies of the Nation” to the acting Public Secretary, Chapman, 22 December 1809, Hardman, 508.

Table des illustrations

Légende 7. The Porte des Bombes, a gateway into Floriana and thus into Valletta from the countryside of Malta. Lithograph By C. de Brocktorff [1838].
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/385/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 394k
Légende 8. St John’s Cathedral, Valletta. Lithograph by C. de Brocktorff [1838].
URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/385/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 478k

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