Malta at the turn of the 19th Century.

In 1530 under the surveillance of the Grand Master L’Isle D’Adam, the Order of St. John came to Malta and after 267 years the Order under Grand Master Hompesch left the Maltese Islands.

The knights managed to change the island from one dependant upon agriculture to one economically stable. In fact, they gave to our islands great stability, as the military order gave security and safety by means of various fortifications and the development of the marvellous Grand Harbour. During this time we had an increase in the population of the islands, which reached that of 80,000 people.One can also mention the social stability brought by the order, as various projects were carried out, including the development of new towns, new fortified city, new water supply system (Aqueducts), more jobs created such as corsair, building, cultivation of cotton and last but not least trade. During these times there were 3 authorities, which had their own prisons, law courts and jurisdiction over a number of people in Malta. These authorities were, the Order of St.

John, the Inquisition that protected the Christian Church from heresy etc. nd the Church.The last two had their own patentees, law courts and prisons, an example being the church prison in Birgu. Amongst these authorities one could note several quarrels and arguments. Those people under the authorities of the Inquisition and the Church paid no taxes and had no guard duties. However the Order was neutral and the knights came from various countries. In fact there were some conflicts especially between French and Spanish Knights, as there were numerous. During these times there was also a slow rise in the Bourgeoisie.

The education here in Malta was limited, and one could attend either the church schools or the local schools known as the Universita. Few Maltese, also went abroad to Sicily in order to further their studies. In fact a fourth minor authority did existed, but it was of a lesser importance. This was the Universita of Mdina and Valletta, which had their simple local laws and were in charge of buying corn. In the 1750s the Bourgeoisie in Malta started getting new ideas from abroad and foreigners started to come to Malta and mix with Maltese.This era of new ideas along all Europe was known as the Enlightment, were Kings and Queens started to take up new ideas, hence changing things according to reason, overcoming traditions. The effects of the French Revolution on Malta. The order of St.

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John consisted of 8 different langues, were 3 of them were of French basis, such as the Langue of Auvergne, Langue of France and the Langue of Provence. This meant that the majority of the nights here in Malta were French, and the dominance by the French affected the culture and the way of living.The knights came from noble families, which were rich and had land property. They bought from their property income that resulted from products and rents. Almost every Knight had its land, and the money of the lands went to the Order. The money came from all Europe and this meant that they had lands in all Europe.If a certain knight, had lands in France this meant that his lands were confiscated and that he no longer received the feudal dues paid by the peasants, hence the Order was economically declining due to a drastic decrease in their income from lands.

Besides, even the early years of Napoleon affected negatively the Knights, where all church lands in Italy and the Confederation of the Rhine were nationalised, leading the loss of income. As a result of this crisis we also had in Malta a group of enlightened Maltese who turned against the autocratic Order of St.John, and form clubs such as the “Gakkbini” lead by the famous Maltese Mikiel Anton Vassalli. The Maltese nobles turned against the knights because the former were snubbed by the Order. In fact we had the French knights who wanted themselves to take Malta.

Vassalli suggested the Order to make peace with Turkey in order to improve her trade, and also as a result there would be prosperity for the Maltese. Besides he suggested a Maltese langue in the Order of St John, in other words a say in the running of Malta. Through the revolution the Knights had lost their privileges and lands that meant money for French.

It was as if they were losing a type of protection in the sense that the French during the 18th century were extremely important for the Maltese, and left their influence upon everyone. Now that the Order found itself in a crucial situation, the question how was the order going to be replaced rose. France was the favourite ones however the knights were against it and two countries that definitely were candidates of taking Malta instead of the French were Russia and Britain. At that time the Order of St. John had some lands in the Polish territory that was subdivided between Prussia, Austria and Russia.

However the lands that the Order had were part of Russia hence it tries to maintain good relations with Russia and safeguard their lands, property and income from Russia. On the other hand, England tried to agree with Malta but it actually failed, as the British hoped in agreeing with Malta in recompense of money and protection. In return the Maltese got a small army and other port facilities, yet this failed as England reckoned Malta to be enemy of the French anyway.

The French seizure on Malta In 1792 France was at war with many European countries and meanwhile the Order was trying to keep away and avoid any French menace.Hence i. e. the Order was not helping France as it was seen as the enemy of the Order in Malta. In 1798 according the Napoleon and Directory’s comment, if Malta fell into Russia or British hands, France trade would be lost. In fact, on 12th April 1798, Napoleon gave the go ahead to take Malta. According to a count in 1798, the Order of St.

John in Malta amounted 332, where more than half of them supported Napoleon and were considered traitors. On 19th May 1798, the French fleet left Toulon, and Napoleon had full support of the Directory to attack and take Malta.On 9th June 1798 the French fleet was sighted from Malta, during the evening. The French had about 60,000 men and the Maltese numbered only one sixth of them, and were badly equipped and not experienced, due to lack of money.

On the 10th of June 1798, Napoleon started coming ashore; in fact 5 general came ashore Malta. The defence system of Malta consisted only of fortified city such as Valletta, Birgu, Senglea and Mdina, fortification walls such as the Floriana Walls, Margherita Lines and the Cottonera Lines. Then in Malta we also had the 7 major towers such as the St. Lucian tower, St.Tumas tower, it-Torri l-Ahmar etc. tow days later Malta and Gozo was invaded by the French troops and Napoleon. Some resistance was put-up by the Maltese but thwarted by pro-French generals.

On the other hand Gozo quickly surrendered agreeing to terms with the French. At Mdina a council met and it was guaranteed by Vabois that the French would respect the rights of the Maltese. As a result on the 13th of June 1798 the knights were sent out. The day before this one we had the capitulation of the Order of St. John were this honoured and favoured more the Knights and to a certain extent pro-French knights.

The Maltese nearly gained nothing and the rights of the Maltese remained as they were before, including the freedom towards property and the freedom of worship. Centuries before the arrival of the French, it was agreed in 1530, i. e. when Charles V gave Malta to the Order that if the Order left the Islands, Malta had to go back to Sicily or Spain.

During their stay in Malta, the Order brought tax-free corn from Sicily but from 12th June 1798 this stopped. Napoleon remained in Malta only for 6 days, were he live in Valletta in Palazzo Pariso.In these days he re-organised the whole administration of Malta.

The first thing he did was that he established the Commission in order to run the country. Some famous names were Baron Dorell, Canon F. Saver Caruana, and Dr. Grungo etc. The Commission had a chief commissioner who issued the laws and gave orders. The people of the commission, who were Maltese, were limited and restricted to say their opinions, as they had to please the chief Commissioner who was the French Reynaud St. Jean d’Angely.

Hence one can say that it wasn’t a democratic institution.Napoleon left the military section of Malta in the hands of the General Vabois. One can also mention the various changes taken by Napoleon in administration. He divided the Maltese islands in 12 municipalities, 10 in Malta and 2 in Gozo lead by a council that consisted of the President and 4 members. The west municipality had in its hands the Massa Frumentaria that was a bank that controlled the money spent in wheat importation. The order’s property went to the French. The Maltese had by force to wear the cockade, a sign of the French revolution, symbol of liberty, a fact that wasn’t permitted to the Maltese.The best law made by Napoleon was the Equality of people, as in front the law and during everyday life each person on the island was considered equal having the same rights.

Another important factor was the abolition of the inquisition and slavery. Even though slavery had given Malta big incomes, it was abolished and all the slaves were sent back home. With the abolition of slavery the church had lost an essential part of her power in Malta, as now, only one authority had the power to rule over the Maltese.To take-off any evidence of other rules in our country, any coat of arms were destroyed and this was considered to be too harsh and eventually lead to political vandalism. Most changes were only promises as there was no time to be carried out and even upset the Maltese people.

Since the Maltese deficit was high, when the knights were sent-off the French raised the taxes and besides they also turned to the church things and sold them on auction. Some of these precious things were taken on Napoleon’s ship. Before leaving from Malta, to the Egyptian campaign, he recruited some sailors, especially from Birgu.On 13th June 1798 Napoleon met the clergy in Malta and decided that the foreign clergy had to leave Malta. The people interested in taking the religious vows had to be over 30 years as they could have changed their mind. Besides, Napoleon wanted a society that depended upon the government and not upon the church. Each religious order in Malta had to have only one convent were all monks had to live.

No novices or citizen could wear the religious clothing before taking the religious vows. All extra money from the church had to be given to the poor or devoted to the teaching.The cathedral of Malta was decided to be the church of St.

John in Valletta. The freedom of worship was allowed and the Jews were protected and allowed to have their own synagogue. Napoleon also issued important reforms regarding education. According to Napoleon, during his stay in Malta, he found out that the educational system in Malta was poor and few Maltese were very well educated.

These issues were published and confirmed the opening of 15 new primary schools for the Maltese children. Each year sixty students were chosen to further their study in the Paris University but on their family expenses.Napoleon wanted the Maltese to get pro-French education. The university was closed and instead we have the polytechnic lead by 8 teachers, were the teachers were paid from the income and benefices of the previous university. During his stay in Malta Napoleon made other laws.

He introduced new taxes on wine, salt etc, hence increasing the income. The expenses of cleaning and lighting the public streets were paid by the inhabitants of the streets. The salaries of the health department were paid from the money of ship and their passengers.Hospital could improve their facilities from the closed hospitals. The income from the stamps was used to improve the Postal service. Bonaparte decreased the authority of the church by various means.

The bishop from then on, had only under is hand the priests, clergy. All other activities were taken place in the civil court and not in the church court. No donations had to be given to the church and no one could protest to the church. The French was made the official language and the streets of Valletta were given new names. A newspaper known as the “Journal de Malte” was published.The Maltese Uprising against the French.

In August 1798, Malta received news that the French had lost at Aboukir Bay. Many Maltese sailors had died there, in this battle, against the successful British fleet. The Maltese were very unhappy to this defeat.

Besides this fact, the Maltese were also disappointed and angry because the church was loosing its power and the precious things in churches were being stolen by the French and auctioned at Mdina in order to recover from the economic instability that Malta was in. On the 2nd September 1798, we had the Maltese uprising against the French.In fact this entire rebel started at Mdina, with the murdering of a French auctioneer. Than the French were confronted at harassment by people from Zebbug and Attard, that went to Mdina passing through Siggiewi.

Seeing this, General Vabois ordered to close down the fortified cities of Valletta and Birgu. Hence the Maltese, who were being led by Manuel Vitale, were out in the countryside. On 4th September 1798 the Maltese established the National Assembly, with representatives from each town lead by Vitale, Manduca and Canon Caruana. The forces at Mdina surrendered to Vabois and the latter immediately closed the city.The French was occupying the cities while the Maltese dominated the countryside, with their own battalions and being well organised.

Meanwhile as time was passing by Vabois permitted the Maltese to leave the cities. On 5th September 1798, the Maltese asked help from the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, asking them for food and ammunition, as the Maltese were now in the countryside, lacking any type of ammunition and wheat. The Maltese asked the British to blockade the Maltese harbour. In fact the British sent the Portuguese, as the English were busy on their Egyptian campaign.However mistrusting the Portuguese, Captain Ball arrived in Malta with his fleet. In Gozo, the same thing happened as the Gozitans rose against the French. The Gozo were extremely well organised and had some contacts to whom they could ask help.

By the arrival of Ball and Nelson, the latter being in charge of the blockade, helped to bring to an end the trouble in Gozo, by threatening that he would attack the French in the closed city. Dun Salvatore Cassar, carried out the negotiations and in fact the French diplomatically surrendered.After this event Dun Salvatore Cassar raised the flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Gozo. Cassar was supporting the Kingdom of Two Sicilies either to like the King and hence becomes nominated as bishop or he wanted to keep Gozo free from the British and the National Congress. In October 1798 after the arrival of Nelson, the French surrendered Gozo and concentrated on Malta.

In Malta the last months of 1798 were radical, as the Maltese were not only short of ammunition and weapons, but also even short of food supply, as wheat was found in the silos of the city.At times when famine was definitely dominating, Malta in December 1798 did receive some sort of supply from Sicily, maybe thanks to the contacts that the Gozitan Dun Salvatore had with the Kingdom. A new year had started for the French rule in Malta, however the first month of 1799 was bloody and many brave and courageous patriots were shot and guillotined. The scheme lead by Lorenzi and Dun Mikiel Xerri was to attack the magisterial palace, the place were Vabois lived. Meanwhile rebels in the city started to form, taking into consideration that they would take St.

James Cavalier and open the doors of the city, thus those outside the city would enter and attack the French. Meanwhile news had reached Malta that the French had won against Naples, and meant that a ship full of supply for the Maltese, coming from the Kingdom was blockaded. Due to this victory Vabois ordered to be organised a feast, and during the night when two commanders where returning back from Manuel Islands, the Maltese rebellions at Marsamxett, that had to attack at sunrise, were spotted by the French.The Maltese realised and tried to escape; yet the majority of them were caught and sentenced to death.

The French discovered the involvement of Lorenzi and Dun Mikiel Xerri who was considered to be the mastermind of the scheme. At the end of January 1799 these patriots were all killed. By the 11th February 1799, Captain Ball suggested that the National Assembly had to change its name to National the national Congress, a congress elected by the heads of the families.

The congress consisted of a judge, a representative of the church and a representative of each village, elected by the villagers.The reason of the change was that the Britain wanted to show to the Maltese that the British had liberal ideas, hence being responsible leaders, becoming more popular among the Maltese. Definitely, Ball wanted to impress Malta with these liberal reforms. The Maltese reacted positively as for the first time that had a sort of say in the country. After all his achievements, Nelson made Ball the Governor of the Island, chief of all forces.

He was awarded a promotion and now had to preside the National Congress.During these months help arrived from the Kingdom of two Sicilies and Britain, thus the two powers were considered crucial for the Maltese. In December 1799, the British and Russians did their best to keep the Russians away from Malta, as the Tsar also wanted the Islands. Even though Russian offered all type of help, she failed to win Malta, as her troops were delayed. Yet the two forces of Britain and the Kingdom of two Sicilies were aware of this situation, i. e. they wanted to keep Russia as a friend in the Anti-French coalition. Seeing this Russian was disappointed and joined the neutral countries of Sweden and Denmark.

In July 1800 Pigot arrived in Malta with more than 1800 soldiers. He took the command of all forces in Malta, while Ball remained the Governor. The fights between France and Britain began to diminish and by 4th September 1800 after the agreement between Pigot, Ball and Vabois, the French surrendered.

The real French capitulation was signed a day later, on 5th September 1800. With this capitulation the Maltese gained nothing, however the French had to pay the damage caused by them, pay the wives of Maltese soldiers and pay the money owed to some merchants.