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away the lumber which is spread over the supposed foundations of all these privileges and pre-eminences, will find the whole fabric baseless, and his assertions utterly unpropped by the documents which he has so boldly and ostentatiously produced.


It is however in Part III. after having long preluded to the fray,' that he has mustered the assertions of the patriots in regular order of battle, with the said documents marshalled in the rear. The object of this memoir, which purports to be a translation, is to establish the great antiquity of the predicated Maltese liberties, as well as of this concilio popolare. In proof of this, besides more statements, to which we have before alluded, as produced in other papers, we are presented with accounts of conces sions made in favour of these islanders, and more particularly with the precise words of an instrument of a Sicilian king, justifying them in the resistance they might make to a lord imposed upon them by the crown of Sicily. History tells us, (and with this the documents are by no means at variance,) that Malta was conquered by Roger, king of Sicily, and soon afterwards erected into a fief. After a succession of lords, the inhabitants, wearied with the change of masters, and disliking the individuals upon whom this island was conferred, did at different times purchase their redemption, and obtain the strongest assurances that they should not again be separated from the possession of the crown. But, as it will always happen, when the weak stipulate with the strong, faith was ill observed with them; they continued to be, as it suited the views of the court of Sicily, transferred from master to master, and at last willingly and joyfully acquiesced (for they testified their feelings in a most substantial manner) in the transfer of Malta by the Emperor Charles V. to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Now, supposing the flattering turn given to these transactions in Mr. Eton's book were perfectly just, we would simply ask these patriots, or their advocate, what their Magna Charta, as they phrase it, tends to establish. The permission given to them by one of their kings to resist any infraction of their purchased rights, may by them be considered as a monument of national honour, and however little value an Englishman may set on trophies obtained by gold, however little credit he may attach to their ancestors for not having used the privilege of resistance which they had purchased so dearly, we will still consider it, if they please, as an honourable achievement. But, at the best, this is all that can be said for it. The rights which the Maltese had purchased were necessarily merged in their voluntary submission to the knights of St. John; and this, though Mr. Eton has in one place declaimed on the injustice of Charles V,

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is confessed in another division of his work: in that transfer they were buried.

But from this era they begin a fresh score; and first we are told, that a general guarantee to the inhabitants of their privileges on occasion of this transfer, and the oath, equally general in its terms, taken by the grand masters to maintain them, prove the existence of these so often presumed rights; and secondly, we are desired to believe that he was only first minister of the island, with limited and responsible authority. As to the latter ridiculous assertion, we shall refer the reader to the instrument of cession by Charles V. Ciantar, lib. ii. not. xiv. With respect to the guarantee of rights, and the oath taken to observe them, we shall only remark, that we are not at all disposed to deny that the Maltese enjoyed certain privileges not necessarily vacated by the transfer, some of which are sufficiently established by the documents before us, but it does require either a most singular degree of stupidity, or of effrontery, to contend from thence that such were popular. The most despotic Sovereign in the world swears to preserve the rights of his people. Let the Maltese shew a specification of their rights, and evidence of their concilio popolare. In the mean time, they may continue to proclaim the first and to dress the latter with what authority they please; they may devote pages (see Eton, Part III.) to an account of its composition, and to a definition of its powers, but all this is as ridiculous as the pompous opening speech of an advocate who has not an evidence to call in support of the allegations of his brief. One only sentence (these documents, it is to be observed, are generally extracts) can be adduced as containing any thing like a presumption of the council ever having exercised legislative powers. (p. 116) viz. That the jurats and the captain of the city shall be obliged to execute and obey all the resolutions of the deliberations of the council.' But independently of the loose and general mode in which obedience is usually prescribed, even when it is meant to be limited, another paragraph in the same paper teaches how this ought to be interpreted, for it vests a particular power in the council, expressly subject to the approval of this very captain, who is, in the article before quoted, ordered to execute and obey all their resolutions!! We would recommend to the Maltese, the next time they present us with garbled papers, to compare with better caution the ill assorted pieces out of which they seek to make a whole. The paper, moreover, from which this article is selected, if it were not so harmless, would be singularly suspicious. It has neither description nor title. It begins thus: And the 22d of February, 1458, on the application of the noble Piero di Mazzara, royal knight, and Antonio Falzone, ambassadors, King Alphonso granted, &c. The whole series is curiously en



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titled, A note of the contents of diplomas of the sovereigns, suzerains of Malta, containing concessions and conventions relative to the rights and privileges of the people of the islands of Malta and Gozo.' Garbled as these papers are, a fact which appears upon the face of them, they are also very doubtfully authenticated, having been produced before a single notary public by three jurats, in the year 1721, a period, which did not long precede an open conspiracy against the order.

Such are the foundations on which rests the supposed authority of the concilio popolare. Nothing, like what the Maltese have asserted, is to be discovered, neither totidem verbis, totidem syllabis, nor totidem literis. But forsooth, there are yet other important documents in the possession of certain families of the island, copies of which are preserved in the archives of Palermo. Need we here cite the old conclusion, passed into an adage, respecting things non-existent and non-apparent? We might, however, go farther: we understand that a Sicilian advocate of high character, for probity and talents, was employed to rummage for these supposed palladia of Maltese freedom, and we have been assured, that the result of his laborious researches was, that there existed no evidence whatever of the council having exercised the functions which the patriots had attributed to it, and that its duty appeared to have been limited to the regulation of the supply of grain. What seems to confirm this, is an article amongst the documents produced in Part III. of Mr. Eton, which we have before referred to, as requiring the sanction of the captain of the city, and, we might have added, his judges. This article empowers the council, conjointly with the jurats, and with the sanction of the before named officers, as representing the suzerain, to oblige the rich to lend money for the purchase of corn in cases of necessity. This, however, is totally unnecessary to our argument; the onus probandi lies with the malcontents, and we have seen what precious lights they have struck out from the hopeless mass upon which they have so long been hammering. Yet such was the ignis fatuus hailed by the patriots as the day-star of liberty to Malta,

Others there were, however, who, agreeing with them in opinion as to the supposed evils existing in the constitution of these islands, looked to a different remedy; though we know not that their opinions, thrown out generally indeed in the memoir on the peace, have ever been embodied and embattled like those of the persons whom we have just dismissed from the scene. These ran wild upon another project, about liberty of the press, trial by jury, &c.

It is obvious that some of the evils which we have mentioned as the certain or probable causes of the spirit of disaffection,

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which we have described, are to be cured by time alone; there are others which, not containing the vis medicatrix naturæ in themselves, require the healing hand of authority. We have the satisfaction of knowing that this has already, in one instance, been applied, that the present governor has begun to make the island contribute to its own support, and that he is proportionably augmenting the salaries of the public functionaries. Will it be believed, (we know not if it has lately been increased,) that the income of a Maltese judge, in a country where every thing is dear as in England, only a few months ago did not exceed the annual sum of two hundred and fifty pounds, and that during the government of Sir Alexander Ball the yearly revenue of the islands of Malta and Gozo did not amount to more than forty thousand? We sincerely hope that General Oakes will not desist from his purpose till he has made the revenue meet every expense of the establishment. We are well aware that the imposition of duties which ought to have been levied at first will come with an ill grace after so long an exemption from all fiscal regulation; but if we hope to retain our colonies, we must make them contribute to their own support and defence, a consideration, which, if any argument can in such a case have weight, cannot be utterly unavailing with the Maltese. The population at large pay scarcely any thing to the state, and very little to the church; unless their piety should prompt them to voluntary contribution. They will be only remotely and indirectly affected by the levy of duties upon trade, and men so little instructed are not likely, with the exception of the merchants, to clamour against, or even to foresce the consequential effects of such a measure. As to its justice there cannot be a doubt; we think there is as little question as to its policy, and certainly there is nobody better qualified to bring it to a conclusion than he who has begun it. Attention to the duties of his charge, firmness, tempered with great suavity of manners; that regularity of life, which conciliates respect amongst all nations, and a splendid hospitality, to which it is impossible that his very limited official appointments can be adequate, have all united to secure that authority and influence to the present governor, which mere rank and station can of themselves never obtain. He has moreover, in assistance of his own judgment, certainly fully sufficient to his situation, an able assistant in Mr. Fyers, and a safe counsellor in the Reverend Mr. Laing, the secretary and friend of Sir Alexander-Ball. We trust we are not mistaken in believing that his views are directed farther than they have hitherto reached.

We do also entertain the fervent hope that he is equally convinced of the absolute necessity of reform in the administration of

civil and criminal justice. The Maltese law is contained in the code of Rohan, which derives its title from the grand master by whose order it was compiled; cases not provided for by this digest, or after-additions to it, (for Mr. Eton informs us some have been made since these islands came into our possession,) are determined upon the principles of the Roman law, upon which it is itself founded. It would be very unnecessary to enlarge upon the evils of this system in a country, the only one in Europe, which in very early times rejected it with indignation, and which every day witnesses its inconveniences in a kindred part of its dominions. Yet some remarks are necessary upon its effects as visible in the Maltese islands. In no country is its meddling spirit more deeply felt. There is no disposition of property, there is no agreement between buyer and seller, between landlord and tenant, in short, between man and man, which is safe from its interference. Those who think this an exaggerated statement may find a confirmation of the truth in the transactions which have taken place in La Valletta, on the part of the navy and victualling boards, and we can assert with safety, that the English naval commissioner, backed by all the legal assistance he can command, finds it impossible to word a contract which the Maltese courts will not vacate upon some frivolous pretence of equity, however apparently indissoluble may be its conditions.

If such is the character of their civil, equally miserable is that of their criminal justice. We pass by the censures so justly bestowed upon the slowness and general inefficiency of its modes of proceeding; we are content to rest its merits upon the principle of its decisions, and of these a case, which occurred during the winter of 1812, will furnish a sufficient illustration. A man was indicted for administering poison which was followed by death. The evidence amounted perhaps to a moral conviction of his guilt; but there was a deficiency in the chain of proofs, which the prisoner's advocate, an able and eloquent lawyer, very acutely exposed. What was to be done? It was not decent to hang him, and it was not right to acquit him. The judges compromised the difficulty, (do not let the reader imagine it was a commutation of punishment after the establishment of crime,) by banishing the man, whom they believed guilty, but whom they could not legally convict.. This extraordinary decision was founded upon a case, recorded in the proceedings of the parliament of Catalonia, cited in confirmation of the sentence. Distinctions were drawn, at the time, respecting the difference of a person acquitted through some accidental defect of evidence, and one absolved as scevro d'ogni taccia. Much sophistry was also vented respecting the scandal of suffering a culprit to return into the bosom of society, to which, though it could not for


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