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Coleridge’s Laws

 | 
Barry Hough
, 
Howard Davis

4. Coleridge’s Proclamations and Public Notices

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4.1. Coleridge’s Role: the ”Most Illustrious Lord, the Public Secretary”1

Coleridge’s Authorship

1Whilst he was Public Secretary, a number of instruments published in Italian, were promulgated under Coleridge’s name. In some, but not all, of these, Dr. Guiseppe N. Zammit’s name was also subscribed in his capacity as ”Prosegretario” or Maltese Secretary.

  • 2 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

2The exact nature of Coleridge’s responsibility for the instruments is not clear. There are numerous references, in his letters home, to his onerous responsibilities in writing official documents. Coleridge did not refer to the Bandi and Avvisi as such; nor did, he explicitly refer to the equivalent English terms, ”Proclamations” and ”Public Notices”. The allusions in his letters reveal, however, that he was, probably, obliged to write three different types of official document during his Malta period: dispatches, Bandi and Avvisi respectively. And, it should be noted that he consistently refers to having to ”write” these, rather than to supervise others in their authorship. His descriptions of this, as an ”anxious duty”,2 are almost always intended to convey the sense of a heavy and stressful workload.

  • 3 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1160; to Daniel Stuart, ibid.; to Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1 (...)
  • 4 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169-70.

3Coleridge’s nomenclature for the different classes of document he dealt with are, on the one hand, ”public Letters” and Memorials”,3 and, on the other, ”public Memorials”.4 The question is: what did he mean by these terms? Does his idiosyncratic use of these terms mean that we can attribute the authorship of the Proclamations and Public Notices to him?

  • 5 See Chapter 2.
  • 6 Unless the requirement for signature was treated as a ”rubber-stamp” exercise, although this can h (...)

4Before we investigate this question, it is important to remember that Coleridge, as Public Secretary, was, constitutionally, required to sign the Bandi and Avvisi.5 We shall argue below that he also had a major role in drafting them, but even if he did not, he could not avoid the ultimate responsibility for ensuring their coherence and fairness.6 Thus, Coleridge had some responsibility for what emerged under his signature. It is the nature and extent of that responsibility with which we are now concerned.

5He seems to have used to term ”memorial” (sometimes capitalised) in its conventional sense to mean a report comprising a statement of facts, as well as argument and conclusions derived from those facts. For example, he wrote to Southey:

  • 7 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1164.

I could tell you how for the last nine months I have been working in memorials concerning Egypt Sicily and the Coast of Africa…7

6These memorials were not identified as ”public memorials” because, for obvious reasons, these were for government eyes only.

  • 8 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165 at 1166.
  • 9 Although he thought it might provide the foundation of a newspaper article, which is why it was se (...)

7Similarly, he later described as a ”well-reasoned Memorial”8 an essay on Lampedusa written by a third party. This was not, it seems, to be published un-amended,9 so it is unsurprising that he does not describe it as a ”public Memorial”. The latter term, (”public Memorial”), no doubt, had a different meaning.

8We cannot be certain, but if he meant official statements of fact placed before the public, it is possible to conclude that Coleridge had the Avvisi or Public Notices in mind when he used the term ”public Memorial”. These Public Notices would fulfil an important public role because they invariably give the public factual information, such as, for example, the sentence imposed upon a named convicted criminal or the presence in Malta of counterfeit coinage. These and the other examples of his Avvisi are considered below. But did Coleridge also use the term ”public Memorial” to embrace documents other than just the Avvisi?

  • 10 Sultana, 270-1.

9Sultana seems to think so. He does not suggest that the term ”public memorial” was confined only to the Avvisi. His conclusion is that, in his private correspondence, Coleridge did not distinguish between Bandi and Avvisi, (i.e. the Proclamations and Public Notices respectively) treating each alike and calling them, indifferently, ”public Memorials”.10

  • 11 Sultana, 271.

10Sultana’s point does not, necessarily, mean that Coleridge simply failed, in his nomenclature, to make significant distinctions. The ordinary meaning of the term ”memorial” can include any communication containing significant information which the addressees are required to remember and act upon. If Coleridge used the term ”public Memorial”, in this second sense, it could, as Sultana suggests, embrace all official public communications, which would include both the Bandi and the Avvisi – each of which was to be acted upon and the latter to be remembered and understood. ”Public Letters”, could then be taken to be Coleridge’s terms for government correspondence – including the dispatches – an argument that is also supported by Sultana.11

11This conclusion, which strongly points to Coleridge’s authorship of the Bandi and Avvisi , is corroborated by a complaint that Coleridge made in a letter to Daniel Stuart, written in April 1805. In referring to his workload, he complained:

  • 12 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

.. having beside the most anxious duty of writing public Letters and Memorials which belongs to my talents rather than my pro-tempore Office…12 (Emphasis added).

  • 13 By the Royal Instructions of 1801, and the dispatches succeeding them, the Public Secretary was re (...)

12Assuming that ”public” qualifies ”Letters” and not ”Memorials”, Coleridge was here disclaiming formal, ex officio, responsibility for having to write both the public Letters (dispatches) and Memorials. This does not challenge our conclusion concerning his responsibility for the Bandi and Avvisi because he refers to these, it will be recalled, as ”public Memorials”. He could not have meant that the Bandi and Avvisi fell outside his role because the Secretary of State had ordered otherwise:13 but he was complaining about the additional burden of having to write dispatches and reports.

13Given the heavy burden of the Public Secretary’s normal tasks, Coleridge was not acting unreasonably. It did not, usually, fall to the Public Secretary to write official reports, such as those Coleridge had once produced in his former role as Private Secretary to Ball (e.g., about Sicily and about Egypt). The Public Secretaries did not hold a ”political” office, in the narrow sense of being officially involved in influencing the formation of British military and foreign policy. The Public Secretary’s concern was the efficient administration of Malta. Thus, Coleridge had good cause to grumble.

  • 14 Coburn, 2, Appendix B.
  • 15 Sultana, 278.
  • 16 NLM LIBR/MS, Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356.
  • 17 See e.g., the Bando of 29 August 1801, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 213.
  • 18 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2.

14There is also some internal evidence, in the Bandi and Avvisi, of his authorship. Coburn14 and Sultana15 have each detected features in the drafting of the Bando of 29 January 180516 that suggest Coleridge’s early and inexperienced work. The practice of including justificatory material in the Bandi, whether signed by Coleridge or other office-holders, was not unique. A preamble explaining the factual context to new laws or administrative practices, explaining why they were needed, was sometimes adopted in instruments published before Coleridge took office.17 Coleridge, subsequently, adopted this practice in Bandi, such as that of 8 March 1805,18 (this concerned the politically sensitive excise duties), where the stated reasons for the legislation, included in the preamble, were detailed, extensive and served to make the political argument for their enactment. But Coleridge’s first Bando is quite distinct from this later approach. This is shown by the nature of the material included and its location within the text.

  • 19 Coburn, 2, Appendix B.

15Coleridge was anxious to demonstrate, scientifically, why enlightened self-interest favoured certain conduct that the government wished to promote. This reasoning, based upon scientific principles, was a last effort at persuasion. But its location within the structure of the Bando is also revealing. Rather than include it in the preamble, where the contextual and justificatory material was usually located, Coleridge inserted it into the final paragraph. Because, in later Bandi and Avvisi, Coleridge did not return to this structural technique, Coburn has, convincingly, argued that it is suggestive of the experimentation of the inexperienced draftsman.19 Thus, the nature of the sustained argument that protruding nails act to impede forward motion of a cart is at least suggestive of Coleridge’s work in the Bando of 29 January 1805.

  • 20 See Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime.
  • 21 See Chapter 1, nn.

16Some further internal evidence of Coleridge’s authorship may also be detected in measures that reveal an inexperience and lack of familiarity with Maltese conditions: the narrative in the Avviso announcing the conviction, for anti-Semitic violence, of Fortunata Tagliana, in which Coleridge underscored the evil nature of her conduct by drawing upon her motive.20 This feature of the Avviso is particularly interesting because no evidence of motive emerged from any of the extensive witness testimony. The reference to it may well have been an invented device to heighten further moral outrage and isolate other potential racists. Coleridge’s superior skill in using information, to which Ball was to testify,21 also suggests his very close involvement with the texts. This is more fully explored in Chapters 5 and 6.

  • 22 Borg to Eton, 30 May 1806, Kew, CO 158/12 (no folio reference).
  • 23 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5. LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5.

17There is also evidence of Coleridge’s lack of familiarity with the Maltese social context, especially the attitudes of the less advantaged. As we shall see, there is persuasive evidence that the criminal justice system was weakened by a reluctance, on the part of the Maltese, to inform upon their neighbours. For example, the high crime rate but low conviction rate emerged as a complaint against the government in 1806;22 many offenders ”melted away” into a supportive local community. In the early days of his office, Coleridge may not have fully understood the significance of this ”community solidarity”. In an early Avviso, dated 22 March 1805,23 Coleridge announced new punishments for offenders one of which required that those convicted of growing cotton, illegally, should hand over a proportion of the crop to an informant. Given the reluctance to inform, the prospect of the informant, personally, having to confront the offender, to demand the share of the crop, would seem to have been impracticable and unlikely to succeed in its purpose of providing an incentive for neighbours to give information to the authorities. Someone more experienced in Maltese conditions might not have entertained such unrealistic expectations.

18There is a final, indirect, argument to suggest Coleridge’s responsibility for the drafting of the Bandi and Avvisi (albeit in English). It is simply that, apart from the Bandi and Avvisi, there are no other known official documents issued to the public that could answer the description that Coleridge offered in his letters. The suggestion is, therefore, that Coleridge had a significant drafting responsibility, albeit that he most likely relied upon an official to translate his text into Italian. No doubt, he would also have sought advice from experienced civil servants, and, possibly, also from Ball himself, although no evidence has yet been found of this in the surviving archive.

  • 24 Nor, of course, for the substance of the laws enacted, since the law-making power was vested in Ba (...)
  • 25 See Coburn, 2, Appendix A where she concludes that although Coleridge could converse in Italian by (...)
  • 26 Sultana, 278.
  • 27 Zammit was required to transcribe official documents into Italian: see Caruana.

19There is no suggestion, ²²however, that Coleridge had an exclusive responsibility for the final published text of these instruments.24 He, almost certainly, had professional assistance of some kind, not least because these instruments were published in Italian. Indeed, the Italian used in the Bandi and Avvisi is of a stylised form, suggesting that Coleridge, with his limited command of the language, could not have had sole responsibility for the Italian text.25 Sultana suggests that Coleridge may have drafted the Bandi in English, but gained the assistance of a translator, such as Millar, or, indeed, other assistants.26 An alternative possibility is, of course, that the translator was none other than Dr. Zammit himself since such work also fell within his responsibilities.27 His name was also subscribed upon some of the Bandi and Avvisi, which may also suggest his involvement in them.

20As legal documents the issue arises of how effective they were, not only in achieving the substantive good, the general purpose they aimed at, but at embodying what might be called ”rule of law” principles and general principles of good governance. We shall consider these questions in Chapters 5 and 6.

”Segretario Publico dell’Isole di Malta, Gozo e delle Loro Dipendenze”28

  • 28 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1163.
  • 29 The alternative formula was ”S. T. Coleridge, Secretary to the Royal Commissioner”.Ball was formal (...)
  • 30 His adoption of this style appears elsewhere and seems to represent a general practice intended to (...)

21The Bandi and Avvisi, are signed: ”Samuel T. Coleridge, Public Secretary to the Royal Commissioner”.29 (Emphasis added). This is an inaccurate statement in so far as Sir Alexander Ball was the Civil Commissioner rather than the ”Royal” Commissioner. Ball’s decision to use an alternative is revealing.30

  • 31 Ball to Windham, 27 August 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/153, 157.
  • 32 A possible reason for this rejection is that it coincided with rising ministerial concern about Ba (...)

22We know that Ball thought that his proper title was confusing to the Maltese. He also hinted, perhaps somewhat pompously, that he thought that it was not sufficiently commensurate with the dignity of his Office.31 The Bandi and Avvisi suggest that, for local purposes, Ball used an alternative and more regal title, substituting ”Royal” for ”Civil”. He presented a request to Lord Windham for permission to be called ”Governor”. Ministers refused to accede to this request,32 although formally a decision in this matter was merely deferred.

Coleridge’s Responsibility for Policy

  • 33 The Friend, 1, 552-3

23In what follows, it is important to recall that, in accordance with the Maltese Constitution, and the Royal Instructions from the Secretary of State to the Civil Commissioner, the law-making power was, in a constitutional sense, vested in the Civil Commissioner, not in the Public Secretary. Coleridge, in describing governmental decision-making, recorded, in The Friend, that Ball was the de facto, as well as the de jure, decision maker.33 Coleridge, it might be stated, was merely ”his master’s voice, in so far as he had, loyally, to introduce such Proclamations and Public Notices as Ball ordered. In other words, he was not responsible for (i) the decision to pass a Proclamation or issue a Public Notice; (ii) its subject matter; (iii) the policy it sought to advance.

24However, Coleridge’s primary intention, in describing in The Friend the processes of government, was to impress upon us that, before deciding any question, Ball consulted widely and, most significantly, that he consulted Coleridge. Thus, the Civil Commissioner was presented as an administrator who, according to Coleridge, enjoyed fully-reasoned and evidence-led decision making. But, Coleridge also makes clear, that the final decision as to what government did was Ball’s. Thus, when we consider Coleridge’s responsibility for the outcomes – the Bandi and Avvisi that he issued – we must bear this important caveat in mind.

  • 34 See Chapters 1 and 6.
  • 35 Thus, Coleridge could only be held to account for the initiatives discussed below if it could be d (...)

25This means that, where the substance of the law appears to the modern reader to be harsh or oppressive (as in the case of the banishment of minors for repeating false rumours), the responsibility for this action lies, predominantly, with Ball. We might hope and expect that in the extensive consultation that took place before such new measures were introduced Coleridge would have made arguments consistent with the ideas that had earlier been advocated, for example, in The Morning Post, which emphasised the need to observe the appropriate constitutional and moral standards.34 But the contemporary documentary evidence, required to establish what advice Coleridge actually gave, has been lost. It is now only possible to conclude that, if Coleridge offered such advice (and Coleridge is clear that he was consulted) he did not always succeed in persuading the Civil Commissioner to adhere to these ”constitutional” standards.35

  • 36 The Friend, I, 569.
  • 37 Ibid., 544.

26This is not to say that Coleridge can always be distanced from controversial decision-making. For example, in The Friend, Coleridge expressed support for a number of administrative and criminal justice policies that we regard as problematic. For example, he supported the appointment of (unqualified) Maltese to important government posts, which is likely to have been a major cause of administrative inefficiency and even corruption.36 Even more controversial is his ex post facto assessment that the measures taken to suppress the anti-Semitic disturbances were appropriate and even wise.37 In this conclusion he must have accepted, for example, that the public interest could, sometimes, only be safeguarded where the judiciary acted upon the instructions of the government, and that the need to protect the Jewish community overrode constitutional orthodoxy. This expression of support does, of course, implicate him in the banishment of minors for rumour-mongering. It was a sentence dictated by the government; presumably Coleridge was consulted about it; and he expressed a general approval for the actions of government in relation to the disturbances in his later writing. This invites the conclusion that his earlier opinions on, for example, the emergency powers proposed by Addison’s government in 1802, that Rule of Law values should be maintained even in times of emergency (see Chapter 6), had undergone some revision whilst he held public office.

  • 38 By extraneous, it is meant material (often explanatory or justificatory) that was not strictly nec (...)
  • 39 See also Chapter 6.
  • 40 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 2.

27Moreover, Coleridge was not merely a public functionary who lacked authority to exercise some independent professional judgement. Whilst the political, legal or administrative objectives of each instrument could be determined by Ball, Coleridge’s judgement affected how the Bandi and Avvisi were drafted and what ”extraneous” material went into them.38 Coleridge, as we shall discover below,39 experimented with various techniques, either to win public support for the laws or for the British administration more generally. These techniques included: the promotion of Ball as a wise governor; arguments that compliance with the new law was in the selfinterest of the inhabitants; or in other cases, somewhat controversial and even unpalatable experiments with propaganda. Sometimes, he even misled the population about why a particular measure had been adopted. Whether Coleridge discussed these techniques with other officials, or even with Ball himself (and if so, what advice he might have received) remains unclear. However, it must be assumed that Ball would have interested himself in the legislation that was critical to the success of his government. The Bando of 8 March 1805,40 concerning excise duties, is pre-eminently such a measure. It can be assumed that the two men would have discussed how to persuade the Maltese to accept the new tax.

4.2. The Nature of Bandi and Avvisi

28We are presently concerned with the Bandi and Avvisi, and we must now explain more fully what these instruments were.

Definition of Bandi

  • 41 Leopardi, 186.

29A Bando, which was a form of regulation known since at least the middle ages, has been described by Leopardi as a Proclamation.41 Accordingly, we use the term ”Band” and ”Proclamation” inter-changeably.

  • 42 See Chapter 5: Taxation.

30A Bando had the force of law. If this had ever been in doubt, from the English perspective, the matter was settled in a dispute that, as it happened, concerned Coleridge’s Proclamation of 8 March 180542 – one of the most important instruments published under his name. The dispute concerned a claim for compensation made, in 1894-1895, by the Ecclesiastical Corporations on Malta. They argued that, in this Bando, the British had assumed a responsibility to compensate them for losses sustained after the French looted their capital, which had formerly been invested in the Bank of the Università. Their case was that a legally-enforceable promise had been made, which the British had reneged upon. The outcome turned upon whether the Bando of 8 March 1805 had the force of law and, if it had, whether an unambiguous undertaking to compensate them had been made within it.

31The Maltese and British governments, who consulted the opinion of jurists and judges, were advised that a Bando was a binding legal instrument, which remained in force until repealed. However, Coleridge’s text, when properly understood, had not created an unambiguous undertaking that the Ecclesiastical bodies would receive compensation. It merely stated: ”As soon as he is able, His Excellency shall not neglect to give the necessary help to places of worship, and to religious foundations”.

32The payment of compensation was thus an aspiration, not a promise. This meant that the claim by the Ecclesiastical bodies failed upon its merits.

33In fact, there could be few doubts about the constitutional authority of the British authorities to pass laws in Malta after 1800, so it is not surprising that a Bando was found to be a legislative instrument; but for our purposes the case of the religious foundations serves to remove any serious question about the legal status of Proclamations issued by the Civil Commissioner in 1805.

Characteristics of a Maltese Bando

34There is an interesting distinction between an English statute and a Maltese Bando of this period. English statutes express the commands of the Crown in Parliament; and they are enforced by the coercive powers of the State. Most significantly, the obligations created and imposed by this legislation are regarded as outcomes of the political process. The reasons that persuaded Parliament to enact the law are not incorporated or expressed within the instrument itself. They were made known to the public by means of newspaper reports of parliamentary debates of the kind that Coleridge had himself undertaken prior to his period in Malta. The debates that these reports stimulated would be a part of a wider public-political engagement.

  • 43 This was, of course, before the introduction of universal suffrage.

35This means that the reasons for legislation will have been explored and tested in the political process leading to the enactment of the statute. Once the legislators had been persuaded that a legislative enactment was either desirable or necessary, and it was placed upon the statute book, individuals were expected to obey it.43

  • 44 The Friend, I, 169-70.
  • 45 See Chapter 5.1: Reconstruction.

36Unlike English statutes, Maltese Bandi often commence with a recital or preamble as to why the introduction of the law was either necessary or desirable. This contextual material, appealing to the reason of the inhabitants, was no doubt intended to make the obligations imposed upon them more acceptable. Merely by having to justify its intervention in their lives, the state might be seen to respect the autonomy of individuals thereby affected. As his later accounts in The Friend revealed, Coleridge placed a significant emphasis upon the importance of fully-reasoned decision-making within Ball’s cabinet. He associated this with what Coleridge described as Ball’s love of justice which served to demonstrate the moral authority of the law.44 Thus, for Coleridge, there would have been a close relationship between having sound reasons for introducing a Bando and communicating those reasons to the Maltese. As we have described, the Bando of 29 January 180545, about the regulation of cart wheels, is a pre-eminent example of his attempt to incorporate and communicate the reasons why legislation was being introduced. Other examples are considered in Chapter 5.

  • 46 Downing Street to Ball, 9 June 1802, Kew, FO 49/3/51.
  • 47 Memorial and Petition of the Maltese (unsigned and undated), 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/151.

37This is not to say that securing the consent of the inhabitants was legally or constitutionally necessary. The inhabitants lacked a legal veto over measures enacted by the Civil Commissioner. Ball was, in a constitutional sense, exclusively equipped to identify and implement policies beneficial to the wider community. There was not even the veneer of democratic legitimacy to measures introduced into law. Nevertheless, both the Civil Commissioner and Coleridge would have been aware that securing popular consent to an enactment was, politically, fundamental to Ball’s continuation strategy; indeed the Instructions from the Secretary of State required him to ensure the continued support of the Maltese for British rule.46 At the very least, unpopular laws would fan agitation for a representative, legislative assembly, such as the Consiglio Popolare. Confronted with unpopular laws that went against the grain of Maltese preferences, their leaders would demand influence, or even control, over new legislation. As we saw, in Chapter 2, this reaction occurred in 1805 and became a serious political issue for Ball after the first petition to the Crown was made by nationalists who (by-passing Ball) pressed the Secretary of State for fundamental political reform.47

  • 48 The Friend, I, 540.
  • 49 Ibid., 175.

38In The Friend, Coleridge revealed his opinion that an engagement with the reason of the Maltese had a moral as well as a practical value. ”No body of men (sic) can for any length of time be safely treated otherwise than as rational beings”.48 He intuitively understood that argument had to be ventured to persuade the inhabitants of the merits of British rule – ”If there be any difference between a Government and a band of robbers, an act of consent must be supposed on the part of the people governed”.49 The Bandi and Avvisi reveal how Coleridge practised these political values.

Definition of Avvisi

  • 50 P. Cassar and A. Ganado, ’Two more Documents of 1813 written on Wood during the Plague of Malta’, (...)

39Avvisi were also published, as official instruments, by the British administration. An Avviso has been described, by Paul Cassar and Albert Ganado,50 as an ”advertisement”, although the nomenclature ”Public Notice” would seem to be equally apposite. For present purposes the latter term, ”Public Notice” is used interchangeably with ”Avviso”.

  • 51 Avviso, 25 June 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 15.
  • 52 Avviso, 15 July 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 17.

40Ball ordered Coleridge to publish Avvisi to ensure public awareness of government action. The administration of the law provided one of their major subjects. For example, he used them to publicise the punishment meted out to offenders. Deterrence required the widest publicity, for which notification of the conviction and punishment would be a pre-requisite. These Avvisi also ensured the denunciation of the convicted criminal in order to effect a public shaming. But this is not all because Coleridge’s Avvisi, in fact, served diverse bureaucratic purposes, such as, for example, announcing the revocation of passports51 or ensuring that the population was made aware that armed deserters were roaming the countryside.52

  • 53 See Sultana, 13.

41One question concerns why public information notices were used, to convey this government information, rather than newspapers. This is of particular interest because the only printing press on Malta was under government control. The Malta Gazette was the government’s propaganda organ which, by the time of Coleridge’s sojourn on Malta, was edited by Vittorio Barzoni under the title of Il Cartaginese. This was used as a tool to counteract the effects of French propaganda.53 Information about the sentences imposed upon miscreants might easily have been published in the Gazette rather than in a Public Notice.

  • 54 The widespread illiteracy amongst the Maltese prompted Coleridge to remark in his private Notebook (...)

42The likely reason why Il Cartaginese was not used was that the poor literacy levels,54 as well as the expense, probably limited its circulation. Moreover, the Avvisi could be deployed as a means by which the administration ”connected” – which could not occur so effectively if the Maltese thought they received information through the prism of the editorial function – even if the paper was controlled by government. Addressing the Maltese directly, in a governmental capacity, contributed to the sense that their government was speaking to them, notwithstanding that the instruments were in Italian – a language with which most Maltese were unfamiliar. A Public Notice, which would be read aloud to a fanfare of drums in the villages and towns would be more likely to be effective in disseminating the information to a wider audience, especially where some educated person, most likely the local priest, was on hand to translate the instruments for the assembled crowd.

43During the earliest days of their administration, the British had experimented by publishing new laws and public notices with a parallel English and Italian text. Presumably, the English text was of little interest to the Maltese since few spoke the language, and the practice was quickly abandoned.

44Coleridge knew how to give this information the heightened impact necessary in an effective public instrument of this kind. As we shall see, nowhere is this more clearly revealed than in some of the Avvisi relating to crime and punishment. Where widespread disorder occurred, Coleridge sought to maximise popular revulsion to reinforce the deterrent effect of the conviction. Instead of a dull record that a named individual had been convicted and sentenced for a serious offence, we sometimes discover a richly-informative narrative style to give an account of the horrifying events constituting the offences. It is in instruments such as these, rather than the legally rigorous Bandi, that Coleridge can be said to excel.

45Avvisi were, therefore, more than mere advertisements or notices; and they were more useful to government than a controlled press. An Avviso allowed the government to directly control the tone and content of the message – to exploit its propaganda value, and to choose what information to reveal to, and what to conceal from, public consumption. They allowed Coleridge and Ball to speak directly to the Maltese people, creating a stronger relationship than would have been possible if they had used the medium of the press. Thus the Avvisi were, clearly, valuable tools of communication, especially in Coleridge’s hands.

Avvisi as Legal Instruments

46Some Avvisi also reveal a legal complexity that remains perplexing. There are two senses in which this was so: in the first, the Avviso indicated how existing legal power would be exercised in future; in the second the Avviso purported to change the law itself. In this second sense, their constitutional status was controversial.

  • 55 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 6.

47An example of an Avviso indicating how power would, in future, be exercised is that of 22 March 1805.55 It suggested that existing, but not specified, powers over health and consumer protection would be used to inspect wine shops and confiscate any wine of insufficient quality. It does not, however, state any legal authority for such a drastic sanction. The suggestion is that the Notice itself purported to create that authority.

  • 56 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 10. These coins resembled silver coins having a face value (...)

48A similar example concerns the Avviso of 12 June 1805 which brought to the attention of the Maltese the circulation of false currency. The text included a duty upon those receiving the coins to deliver them to the authorities.56 It is unclear whether this merely expressed an existing obligation recognised by law or purported to impose a new one. If the latter, it would be constitutionally controversial whether a Notice could achieve this. It is to this issue in several of the Avvisi that we now turn.

Bando or Avviso: Choice of Instrument

  • 57 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 15; also Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187.

49A rigid distinction between a Bando and an Avviso was not always practised, which meant that an Avviso could, sometimes, be used where the Administration sought to amend the law or the punishment available to the courts for particular offences and where a Bando was more constitutionally appropriate. In an interesting dispatch, Ball reported to Lord Castlereagh that he had complied with instructions by issuing a ”Proclamation”. It is most revealing that he was actually referring to Coleridge’s Avviso (Public Notice) relating to passports, dated 23 June 1805.57 If Ball’s report was not a mere lapse, this language may suggest that officials sometimes regarded Bandi and Avvisi alike as ”Proclamations”, each capable of altering Maltese law.

50The problem, in Malta, was that executive and legislative power was fused in the office of the Civil Commissioner. Law reform depended, ultimately, upon Ball’s discretion because, under the Maltese Constitution, he exercised unlimited powers. The difference between a Bando and an Avviso might have seemed to some officials – perhaps even to Coleridge himself – to be a trifling, bureaucratic formality especially when there appears to have been no substantive differences concerning the process of their promulgation.

  • 58 Avviso, 15th July 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814 17.
  • 59 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 17.
  • 60 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5.

51However, the differences were fundamental and ought to have been recognised as such. The Maltese would have understood that a Bando altered the legal relationship between citizen and state. Thus, the adoption of an instrument officially entitled ”Bando” communicated to the Maltese that their legal rights and entitlements were being altered. This was not obviously the case with an Avviso. Where the administration purported to reform the law by means of the latter, it risked confusing the Maltese and failed to meet the requirement, of the Rule of Law, that rules should be comprehensible. For example, the decision to criminalise those who repeated false rumours as well as those who were present when false rumours were spread, but who did nothing to ”undeceive” other listeners, represented a clear extension of the Code de Rohan, which ought to have been achieved by a Bando rather than an Avviso.58 Similarly, with the ”severe” punishments for assisting deserters that the Administration purported to impose by the Avviso dated 15 July 1805.59 And, in the Avviso of 22 March 1805,60 regulating the cotton trade, the Civil Commissioner ”ordered” new (and presumably more severe) punishments to be imposed upon those who used illegal means to produce inferior cotton.

52The announcement of new punishments was also a breach of the principle of nulle poena sine lege, which requires that legitimate punishment can only be imposed in accordance with existing, publicly disclosed laws. A person should know, in advance, what is proscribed, and he or she should be able to alter their behaviour accordingly. Thus, the prior existence of a valid law that prescribes a penalty for the condemned behaviour is a requirement of the Rule of Law. This principle is, perhaps, the most important guarantee of civil liberty, for without it any conduct of which the administration disapproved could be subjected to punishment.

  • 61 See n. 58 above.
  • 62 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 21.
  • 63 Ibid., 17.

53There is a suggestion that the authorities became aware of this problem (and thus understood that a Bando and not an Avviso ought to have been the legitimate means of altering Maltese law) because the ”offences” that were supposed to have been created, by an Avviso of 15 July 1805,61 were placed into a Bando, dated 2 September 1805.62 This Bando would not have been required if the Notice of 15 July 180563 had been understood to be legally effective.

Bandi, Avvisi and Coleridge’s Health: ”Some Intrusions of Sickness’64

  • 64 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

54The Bandi and Avvisi were issued at irregular intervals. A flurry of activity, which might sometimes involve the issue of several instruments on a single day, could be followed by a significant lull. One interesting question is whether these irregular ”pulses” of administrative and legislative action coincide with Coleridge’s bouts of ill-health and remission, or whether the explanation was merely bureaucratic convenience – a requirement to focus upon other tasks? A further question is whether Coleridge’s low morale, albeit originating in his addiction, also suffered because of the moral ambiguities of the work he was required to undertake. For example, did his relapses occur after the most controversial Bandi and Avvisi and were these collapses attributable to his responses to the work upon which he was engaged?

  • 65 CN, 2, 2453, 15-16 February 1805.

55In the state of present knowledge, the task of establishing any detailed correlation between Coleridge’s reports of his health and the dates upon which the Bandi and Avvisi were promulgated is problematical. A further problem is that Coleridge did not, explicitly, express a connection between the Bandi and Avvisi and his emotional or physical state whilst in office. If he felt distaste for some of his more controversial work, it may only have formed a part of an intricate array of causes for his physical and psychiatric suffering. Coleridge seems to have been acutely aware of this: ”…did I not groan at my unworthiness, & be miserable at my state of Health, its effects, and effect-trebling causes?”65

  • 66 See e.g. To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169; also to Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August (...)
  • 67 ”...my gloom has encreased (sic) at each disappointment”. To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL(...)
  • 68 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1163.

56If his own accounts of his condition are reliable, Coleridge suffered from the physical and psychiatric symptoms of his addiction throughout his period of office. Homesickness, the failure of communications with family and friends, and the unrelenting pressure of work associated with his public duties each affected him.66 Sir Alexander Ball’s insistence that he remain in post, against his will, was also likely to have been damaging to his morale and resilience.67 Moreover, Coleridge had assumed the role of acting Public Secretary on the understanding that it would not last for more than a few weeks. The disappointment that Mr Chapman (his permanent replacement) was inexplicably delayed must have been particularly wearying when Coleridge’s hopes of release were repeatedly frustrated.68

  • 69 CN 2, 2453, 15-16 February 1805; CN 2, 2457, 18 February 1805 discloses remorse and self-disgust, (...)

57It is known that Coleridge reported a decline in his health from mid February 1805, barely a month into his tenure. The demands upon Coleridge were considerable even though he did not act as Treasurer and some of the Public Secretary’s work (such as directing the departments of State) was, apparently, delegated to Giuseppe Zammit. Despite these limits upon his workload, Coleridge’s already-weakened health suffered an early deterioration. Almost as soon as the volume and complexity of his public role became apparent to him, he seemed to struggle, not least because of the volume and unfamiliarity of the work involved. In his correspondence to friends and family at this time, the onerous nature of his work and his sense of fatigue were described alongside various symptoms of ill-health. Privately, in his Notebooks, he added further information, most particularly his responses to his suffering and the depressing side-effects of his addiction.69

  • 70 To Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1805, CL 2, 1166.
  • 71 To Daniel Stuart, 22 August 1806, CL 2, 1178.

58However, there was no hint, in his correspondence, that the moral complexities of his work affected his mood. In a revealing letter to Daniel Stuart, after having complained of his excessive workload, Coleridge proceeded to describe a recent illness followed by an inexhaustive list of its perceived causes, none of which referred to the political manipulation of governmental information.70 However, his participation in what he later confessed was the ”awkward & wicked machinery” of colonial government makes it difficult to dismiss the possibility that his experience of morallycomplex policy-making did not have some influence upon his depression whilst in office.71

59The period between late February and early March was, unquestionably, a stressful time because he was required to produce a critically-important Bando (the excise duties upon wine and spirits) and three Avvisi. As we have seen, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that Ball’s financial and political strategy for the islands depended upon persuading the Maltese to accept the new duties notwithstanding a constitutional provision that precluded it. The political situation was all the more dangerous because the British had formally promised the Maltese to maintain the constitutional rights of the Maltese people. As we have seen, in Chapter 2, the risks presented by breaching these undertakings, and frustrating the very expectations that the British had encouraged, should not be underestimated. The burden of deflecting Maltese hostility, and even winning Maltese support for the highly controversial measure – tasks that might have seemed all but impossible – fell upon an ailing Coleridge.

  • 72 CN 2, 2489, 21 February 1805.
  • 73 CN, 2, 2468, 5 March 1805. See also to T. Wedgewood, 16 September 1803, CL 2, 991.

60Perhaps unsurprisingly, these burdens took their toll upon him. His coping strategy meant that he resorted to opium. By 21 February 1805 he was reflecting on possible ways of deterring his resort to the drug. He, stoically, considered writing and displaying warning memoranda wherever he might see them to stiffen his resolve to stay away from narcotics. This idea was gloomily put aside because the notes displayed would only remind him of his frailties.72 He struggled on with symptoms that were already very familiar to him: bad bowels and nightmares.73

  • 74 CN 2, 2482.
  • 75 CN 2, 2483.

61As soon as the Bando and the three Avvisi had been issued, Coleridge seems to have fallen back into despair and a further period of ill-health. On 8 March 1805 – the very day the Bando about the excise duties had been issued – Coleridge recalled lines from his poem The Pains of Sleep and then concluded, ”Help Lord! Or I perish”.74 In an entry a few hours later, he verged upon ”utter Despair”.75 There is no doubt that this was an expression of his wretched realisation that, after almost a year in Malta, he had not succeeded in liberating himself from dependency upon opiates. The web of propaganda that he had just created might well have had a further depressing influence upon him.

  • 76 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 4.
  • 77 Ibid., 6.

62He was to issue three further instruments, on 22 March 1805, which meant that the immediately-preceding period must also have been busy. Sunday 17 March 1805 found him at a particularly low ebb. It was, he wrote, ”A Day of Evil/wretch….O a groan deep and almost of moral despair!” His work at this time was suffering. The Bando about the regulation of spirits76 lacked clarity in drafting. Even identifying which was the responsible licensing authority was far from clear. Moreover, there were indications of a lack of attention to detail. Similarly, Coleridge may have overlooked the fact that the Avviso governing wine inspections77 (also dated 22 March 1805) should have been a Bando rather than an Avviso because it appears to have introduced a new penalty. These lapses suggest that his ability to comprehend and execute his complex new role may have been affected by his physical and mental condition.

  • 78 To Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1805, CL 2, 1166.
  • 79 CN 2, 2560.
  • 80 Ibid.
  • 81 CN 2, 2557, 21 April 1805 and CN 2, 2560.
  • 82 E.g. CN 2, 2499, 2519, 2538 and 2565.

63A letter written to Daniel Stuart, on 1 May 1805, recorded that, from mid April, he had been very ill, much worse, indeed, than at any other period during his time on Malta.78 After 22 March 1805, no further Bandi or Avvisi were promulgated for two months. Not until the emergency caused by the anti-Semitic uprising was Coleridge compelled to return to producing Avvisi. This substantial interval suggests either that there was no requirement to issue further instruments or that Coleridge was prevented from attending to that business. Although he seems to have been active in other ways during this interval, he could judge for himself that his effectiveness was in doubt. An undated Notebook entry of April 1805 is revealing: ”So hard have I worked lately, & to so little effect in consequence of my Health…”79 Despite his most industrious efforts, he seems to have understood that he was unproductive. This failure was, he claimed, causing him ”agitation and anxiety”.80 Perhaps this is unsurprising when he was forced to confront his own decline, and most particularly, difficulties in work in which he should have excelled. Moreover, his description of an ”anxiety” state is an under-statement. He had, very recently, contemplated suicide and feared that he would not survive to see his family.81 Even so, there were still occasional moments of joy. The emerging spring blossoms and flowers were a particular delight.82

  • 83 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169.
  • 84 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1170.
  • 85 E.g. CN 2, 2638, 14 August 1805.
  • 86 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 19.

64Six instruments were promulgated in the second half of June and a further (Avviso) on 15 July 1805. The effort this required also appears to have taken its toll upon him, for he reported in a letter to his wife, dated 21 July 1805,83 that his health had recently been ”very, very bad”. The final quartet of official instruments emerged in August and early September by which time he reported that he was too busy to exercise.84 He had once more sunk into a despondent frame of mind and seems to have found sleep difficult.85 At the same time, there are signs of an impaired ability to produce coherent and fully considered law reform. The bizarrely drafted Bando of 5 August 1805, concerning unripened fruit, is an example of this.86 Even more significant was that, on the very same day, he issued an Avviso containing the erroneous statement that a Proclamation of 1801 had criminalised sales of goods to soldiers (rather than purchases from soldiers). Was this a careless error or a reckless intention to deceive – a decision, in other words, to gamble with the reputation of Ball’s administration? Taken together, these instruments might well mark a further stage in the progressive disintegration in his effectiveness in public office.

  • 87 CN 2, 2614.

65The summer heat caused a boil on his arm and he became ever more irascible at the intrusive sounds of dogs, pigs, parade drums and reveille.87 To make matters worse, on 24 August 1805, he sustained an injury to his left eye, which troubled him for several days. This occurred just after he had issued a second Avviso concerning the distribution of prize money. The injury, as well as his general condition, may have delayed the production of his final measure – the Bando criminalising the provision of support for the deserters from the Royal Regiment of Malta. The civil administration was under pressure from the military to assist in the apprehension of these men. The previously-unsuccessful intervention had been issued, on 15 July 1805. Given the urgent emphasis that the military authorities had placed upon locating and capturing these soldiers, it is, perhaps, surprising that the necessary Bando was delayed until 2 September 1805. The explanation for the likely postponement may lie in Coleridge’s reduced capacity for work during the latter part of August 1805.

Notes

1 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1172.

2 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

3 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1160; to Daniel Stuart, ibid.; to Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1805, CL 2, 1166; to Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169; to Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1170.

4 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169-70.

5 See Chapter 2.

6 Unless the requirement for signature was treated as a ”rubber-stamp” exercise, although this can hardly have been intended by British ministers when they imposed it.

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

8 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165 at 1166.

9 Although he thought it might provide the foundation of a newspaper article, which is why it was sent to Daniel Stuart.

10 Sultana, 270-1.

11 Sultana, 271.

12 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

13 By the Royal Instructions of 1801, and the dispatches succeeding them, the Public Secretary was required to sign all such measures: see Chapter 3. The case we are making here is that he also had a major role in drafting them.

14 Coburn, 2, Appendix B.

15 Sultana, 278.

16 NLM LIBR/MS, Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 356.

17 See e.g., the Bando of 29 August 1801, NLM LIBR/MS 430 1/2; Bandi 1790 AL 1805, 213.

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

19 Coburn, 2, Appendix B.

20 See Chapter 5.4: Public Order and Crime.

21 See Chapter 1, nn.

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

23 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5. LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5.

24 Nor, of course, for the substance of the laws enacted, since the law-making power was vested in Ball as Civil Commissioner, not Coleridge as acting Public Secretary. See further below, Chapter 3.

25 See Coburn, 2, Appendix A where she concludes that although Coleridge could converse in Italian by early 1805, his understanding was far from perfect.

26 Sultana, 278.

27 Zammit was required to transcribe official documents into Italian: see Caruana.

28 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1163.

29 The alternative formula was ”S. T. Coleridge, Secretary to the Royal Commissioner”.Ball was formally entitled ”His Majesty’s Civil Commissioner for the Island of Malta and its Dependencies and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Order of St John”.

30 His adoption of this style appears elsewhere and seems to represent a general practice intended to association his office more closely with Royal dignity: see e.g., Registro di memoriali decretati da sua Excellenza il Sig. Cavalier Alessandro Ball, Regio Commissionario Civile di Sua Maestà Britannica Incominciato li 14.9.05 sino li 24.12.1805. NAM LIBR 43/13, volume ”0”.

31 Ball to Windham, 27 August 1806, Kew, CO 158/12/153, 157.

32 A possible reason for this rejection is that it coincided with rising ministerial concern about Ball’s administration. Windham was about to demand of Ball that he respond immediately to the serious allegations made against him by Eton and others: see Windham to Ball, 6 January 1807, Kew, CO 159/3/220, 223. Ball’s request for a change in his title was under consideration at the very time his reputation was impugned: see Windham to Ball, 19 December 1806, Kew, CO 169/3/ 218, 219.

33 The Friend, 1, 552-3

34 See Chapters 1 and 6.

35 Thus, Coleridge could only be held to account for the initiatives discussed below if it could be demonstrated that he had acted without instructions from Ball. Unsurprisingly, there is no surviving evidence that this ever happened.

36 The Friend, I, 569.

37 Ibid., 544.

38 By extraneous, it is meant material (often explanatory or justificatory) that was not strictly necessary to achieve the purposes of the measure.

39 See also Chapter 6.

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

41 Leopardi, 186.

42 See Chapter 5: Taxation.

43 This was, of course, before the introduction of universal suffrage.

44 The Friend, I, 169-70.

45 See Chapter 5.1: Reconstruction.

46 Downing Street to Ball, 9 June 1802, Kew, FO 49/3/51.

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

48 The Friend, I, 540.

49 Ibid., 175.

50 P. Cassar and A. Ganado, ’Two more Documents of 1813 written on Wood during the Plague of Malta’, Melita Historica (1979), VII/4: 356-62.

51 Avviso, 25 June 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 15.

52 Avviso, 15 July 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 17.

53 See Sultana, 13.

54 The widespread illiteracy amongst the Maltese prompted Coleridge to remark in his private Notebook that the time spent by the priests in religious observance might have been better spent in teaching the poor to read. His further despairing comment was that ignorance served the interests of the Church: CN 2, 2484.

55 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 6.

56 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 10. These coins resembled silver coins having a face value of one scudo bearing the mark of Grandmaster De Rohan.

57 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 15; also Ball to Cooke, 21 July 1805, Kew, CO 158/10/187.

58 Avviso, 15th July 1805, NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814 17.

59 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 17.

60 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 5.

61 See n. 58 above.

62 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 21.

63 Ibid., 17.

64 To Daniel Stuart, 30 April 1805, CL 2, 1165.

65 CN, 2, 2453, 15-16 February 1805.

66 See e.g. To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169; also to Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1170.

67 ”...my gloom has encreased (sic) at each disappointment”. To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169.

68 To Robert Southey, 2 February 1805, CL 2, 1163.

69 CN 2, 2453, 15-16 February 1805; CN 2, 2457, 18 February 1805 discloses remorse and self-disgust, which implies a relapse.

70 To Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1805, CL 2, 1166.

71 To Daniel Stuart, 22 August 1806, CL 2, 1178.

72 CN 2, 2489, 21 February 1805.

73 CN, 2, 2468, 5 March 1805. See also to T. Wedgewood, 16 September 1803, CL 2, 991.

74 CN 2, 2482.

75 CN 2, 2483.

76 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 4.

77 Ibid., 6.

78 To Daniel Stuart, 1 May 1805, CL 2, 1166.

79 CN 2, 2560.

80 Ibid.

81 CN 2, 2557, 21 April 1805 and CN 2, 2560.

82 E.g. CN 2, 2499, 2519, 2538 and 2565.

83 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 July 1805, CL 2, 1169.

84 To Mrs S. T. Coleridge, 21 August 1805, CL 2, 1170.

85 E.g. CN 2, 2638, 14 August 1805.

86 NLM LIBR/MS 430 2/2 Bandi 1805 AL 1814, 19.

87 CN 2, 2614.

Acheter