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Preparing for Publication,
Aer. I. Malte par un Voyageur François, 12mo.
Carlo Giacinto, &c. &c. 8vo.
By William Domeier, M.D. 8vo.
Eton, Esq. &c. 8vo.
which presents so many deviations from the common order of things, moral and physical, is surely calculated to excite curiosity and interest. In a political point of view, she has far stronger claims upon our notice. Every year, we might almost say every month, which has elapsed since the renewal of hostilities, has afforded additional proof of the advantage, or rather of the necessity of this island to Great Britain, so long as she shall wish to maintain her station, either as a belligerent or a commercial power in the Mediterranean; and we trust that by this time the tenenda est Melita, is become as favourite a political maxim with Englishmen as the delenda est Carthago, was wiih the Romans. But if time and experience have convinced us of the soundness of such a principle, those two great teachers, in shewing us the value of our prize, have also shewn us that the system upon which we have hitherto acted is not the best calculated for its preservation. We believe we speak the common opinion, in considering our policy in the government of our foreign possessions as defective; but whilst a modification of the present systein, if a radical change caunot be effected, is become necessary in all, it is no where more imperiously called for than in Malta. Postponing those considerations, which are general to our colonial acquisitions, we shall examine such points as are peculiar to that island; and after observing, that we view the spirit of cabal, which has exhibited itself there, through no exaggerated medium, and that we hold the main pretensions of the malcontents to be not less unreasonable than their power is insufficient to enforce them, we are yet of opinion that the causes of this spirit of disaffection, however remote or indirect, clearly call for inquiry. VOL. IX, NO. XVII.
We are much mistaken if there be not more of mischief than is yet visible, and if the clamour of the few do not derive confidence from a general spirit of restlessness; which, if not soothed or repressed, may, at no great distance of time, ferment into faction more deep and dangerous than the present. Some general principles of government may be laid down, but very few indeed that are abstractedly applicable to all cases, and which do not require to be modified according to the genius of the people for whose benefit they are intended. To an inquiry therefore into what has led to the appearance of discontent, to which we have alluded; to a consideration of the remedies which may be most capable of arresting its growth; in short, to any discussion of the present political state of Malta, we must bring a sufficient acquaintance with its former circumstances, and above all a knowledge of the genius and manners of its inhabitants. If therefore in the general view which we shall take of the island and things relating to it, we should enter somewhat into detail on this head, or dwell on traits which to some may appear trifling or perhaps ridiculous, we shall answer, that not only such an assemblage of features is absolutely necessary towards forming a fair picture of national character, either in a philosophical or political consideration of the subject, but that, in the latter point of view, such peculiarities are even sometimes individually of much more importance than the world might at first sight be disposed to admit.
Few, unfortunately very few and insufficient, are the sources from which we can hope to derive the information on the various heads under which Malta and its sister islands merit investigation; and we have selected the books before us, rather as a specimen of the class of works to which we would recur, than because they have fulfilled our expectations. The first, however, which is a succinct compilation from older authors, though superficial, contains some account of old Malta, and as full a description of its antiquities as will satisfy any but the professed antiquary. The second is passable as far as it goes, and though the author's place of superintendant of the Botanic garden in La Valletta is, necessarily, as nearly a sinecure as that of riding-master to the doge of Venice; he shews acquaintance with the state of cultivation, such as it is, and in proposing plans for its improvement, has interspersed his essay with some notices respecting the habits and character of the peasantry. The third, though its professions are not very large, amongst other things, (though the author seems to have forgotten his engagement,) uudertakes to treat of manners. He has however failed not more egregiously in this than all other parts of his work; some of which, we will not say his supposed education, but mere common
sense and common observation would have been competent to execute with success. Those who have passed a winter in Malra, may judge of the accuracy of his notices on climate, by his remark on the rarity of rain during that season: those who have never travelled but on maps, will duly estimate his geographical information by his assertion, that Lisbon and Naples are the two most southerly parts of Europe; and an idea of the profundity and truth of his medical observations may be formed from his dictum, that society is of benefit to the invalid from its promotion of the cutaneous perspiration. For the stile, or rather idiom, it would shock' brass-visaged barbarism' himself. But enough of the doctor!
We pass to the work of Mr. Eton, formerly superintendantgeneral of the quarantine department in Malta ; and if we could daw an omen from the title of the book, or the name and station of the author, this would be a happy ascent in the scale of publications, which we have chosen as subjects of review: but a strange fatality (may we escape its influence !) hangs over this subject; and Mr. Eton has disappointed us equally with the rest. His title is a mere cloak; as his book is a masked battery against the present form of government established in Malta, mounted with a old, rusty, unserviceable, and ill-directed artillery which, if it has not been shaken to pieces by its own fire, may be dismounted by a single hostile discharge. If the first works on which we have commented, were other than what they are, and if there was any thing like a redemption of the promise of his title-page, or candour or consistency in the publication of Mr. Eton, our task would be more simple than it unfortunately is; but insufficient or vicious in various respects as are these different volumes, we see no means of disentangling, or of eking out the perplexed and broken web which lies before us. We are therefore reduced to the necessity of spinning one of our own, making use of such of their matezials as we think applicable to our purpose, or giving our reasons for rejecting them where the case appears to require it.
In no country in Europe did the yoke of authority press so grievously as in Malta: a domineering system of policy was the only principle of government with the order of St. John, nor was the systematic rigor to which they were subjected the principal evil which her inhabitants had to endure; they had to bear with the more offensive profligacy and insolence of the individuals who composed it. Next in rank to these were the marquisses, counts, and barons, who for the greater part, we believe, derived, and often purchased, their honours from the grand master. Their nobility was in truth little more than titular, they were treated with no consideration by the knights, and consequently were little respected by the people. There was little commerce, and almost every path A 2
leading to wealth and honour was closed against the natives; in short, to apply to Malta the strong and comprehensive words of a modern writer, tout y étoit instrument ou poussière. Menaced by France, and unable, from the failure and bad administration of their revenues, to maintain an adequate force for their defence, the order feared to accept the voluntary offers of the inhabitants, which might, at least, have presented a barrier to the danger of the moment. When these, who had only submitted from necessity, rose upon their oppressors, the knights were out of the question, and the nobles and, speaking by comparison, the rich, either observed a timid neutrality or, in some few instances, adhered to the enemy. A new race started into consideration, men, in whom native sense and courage, in a great degree, supplied the place of wealth, rank, or education, and who found their proper level in the disturbed circumstances of the times. Some of these leaders were doubtless not influenced by the purest motives, and some had first courted the favour of the French, who afterwards lined the ranks, or directed the hostility of the insurgents.
After the triumph of the Maltese and the establishment of a British government in the island, all, if we except one short interruption of tranquillity, for a while went well. Then came the peace of Amiens, in which England pledged herself to the restoration of the knights of St. John, and in remodelling this order, the vital principle of which was purity of descent, the paramount duties of which were the exercise of charity, and christian devotion unto death, the first exemplified by service in
the receptacles of the poor and sick, the second by sea and land I against the unbelievers,-in recasting a body, the members of
which were sworn to defend their posts under every extremity of suffering and danger-projected to reconstruct it with the remnants of a perjured chivalry, to piece it by the insertion of purchased nobility, to prop it by the conclusion of a peace with the infidels, and to maintain it by the robbery of hospitals and almshouses. If the Maltese did not see the folly, they at least saw the injustice of this stipulation; they execrated the memory of the knights, who had oppressed and who had betrayed them: if they were in a great degree indebted to England for their former deliverance, they were obliged to her only as an ally, who, in blockading their enemies by sea, and furnishing them with a few auxiliary troops, furthered her proper interests,
and they conceived themselves principally indebted to their own arms for their deliverance. They had willingly bestowed their island upon the king of England, but in so doing they had given him no power to convey it to another; if he declined it, the sovereignty justly reverted to themselves. Such points they pressed upon our government, backed