The New York Times, January 4, 1853, p.2:|
ENGLAND'S MILITARY COLONIES IN EUROPE.NUMBER TWO.
The two islands of Malta and Gozo, lying to the south of Sicily, form a fortress and military colony of England, scarce less impregnable and important than the Rock of Gibraltar. Malta has been for over half a century an English garrison.
About 700 years B. C. the Greeks drove the Phœnicians out of the island, settled on it, and called it Melitas. The Carthagenians dispossessed the Greeks, and the former were, in turn, dispossessed by the Romans, 242 years B. C., when Melita became dependent on the Sicilian Prætor.
It was soon much frequented by traders, and the people were famous, during five hundred years, for their fine linen and cotton manufactures.
On the division of the Roman Empire, the island fell to the share of CONSTANTINE. After 454 A. D., the Goths and Vandals fought for it and killed its commercial prosperity. BELISARIUS tried to restore it in 553, but in vain.
Then came the night, or rather twilight, of history. About the beginning of the Tenth Century, the Arabs had brought the island under the sway of the Ameer of Sicily. In about a hundred years came the French Northmen, and the feudal system.
Malta was afterwards given up to the Emperor of Germany, with CONSTANCE, heiress of Sicily. At the end of seventy-two years, CHARLES of Anjou, becoming master of Sicily, took Malta; but it was soon after taken by the King of Aragon, and became Spanish.
CHARLES V., of Spain and Germany, appreciated its great strength as a garrison post, and in the year 1530 gave it to the military Order of St. John of Jerusalem. This Order of Hospitalities was founded in 1099, by a Frenchman, PETER GERARD, with the object of relieving the sick pilgrims in Jerusalem. In a little time they devoted themselves to the duty of escorting the pilgrims to the sea-side on their return--as a protection against predatory Saracens.
The Order was afterwards armed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem; it soon rose into general notice, and was joined by devoted soldiers from all countries. It contained seven languages, or denominations, corresponding to the several nations represented in it. The nobility of Europe used to send their most promising children to be educated at Jerusalem by that reknowned military Order.
In 1289, the Hospitaliers found they could defend the Holy Sepulchre no longer, and were forced to quit Palestine along with the rest of the Christian powers. They went to Cyprus, and in 1307 took Rhodes from the Greeks and Mohammedans. They remained in this island till 1522, when SOLYMAN, the Sultan, with 150,000 men, came to drive them out.
After enduring a powerful siege and assult, a remnant of the knights and servitors escaped, and went wandering with their Grand Master, L'ISLE ADAM, at their head, till CHARLES V. gave them the island of Malta. This military corporation possessed property in most countries of Europe.
In 1557 LA VALETTE defended his castle of St. Elmo with desperate heroism, till the Viceroy of Sicily came to his relief, and the Ottomans retired. This siege was the most celebrated and sanguinary in the middle ages. After the departure of the Turks, the new City of La Valette [Valletta] was built by subscription of the several kings of Europe, that the Order may be the better able to stand its ground-
As Europe's bulwark against the Ottomite.
During the Eighteenth century the military brotherhood did good police service against the Barbary and Algerine Corsairs. In 1775 an insurrection of the Maltese against the Knights took place about the price of bread--that terrible inspiration of rebellion. It was said that CATHARINE II., of Russia, excited it, with a desire to destroy the order and seize Malta.
But that consummation was to come from another quarter. In 1789, the National Assembly of France confiscated the landed property of those Frenchmen who belonged to the aristocratic Order of St. John. In June, 1798, BONAPARTE, on his way to Egypt, demanded a free entry into all the ports of the island, to procure water and provisions for the fleet. Being met with a courteous refusal, he seized the island of Malta and Gozo for France, promising the Grand Master a principality in Italy as compensation, and the Knights pensions--which they never got.
This capture was in a great measure effected by exciting the Knights and the people of Malta one against the other. It is asserted that the Knights were divided among themselves, and that the French Knights, seeing that the Russians entertained a design against the island, preferred to surrender it to their own countrymen.
Be that as it may, the order was dispersed, and is now dead. But its ghost still walks--and, most congenially, in the wide and grass grown streets of the ghostly Ferrara, where two or three bearing the ancient name and cognizance are still found to meet together--as out of place in this age of revolutions as owls are generally in the day light.
Meanwhile, the Maltese revolution was completed, and a French garrison was left in La Valette, on the departure of BONAPARTE. Some time afterwards the people rose upon the intruders and obliged them, to the number of six or seven thousand men, to shut themselves up in La Valette. Among the leaders of this popular insurrection were the poor priests, who saw, with dismay, the French stripping their saints and robbing the churches, worse than Turks.
In September and October, 1789, came the English fleets, under NELSON and SAUMEREZ, to Malta. This seizure of a maritime place by the French was a thing full of meaning and menace for England. The brave Maltese were supplied with guns and ammunition, and, for sixteen months, they were left to keep up the blockade and expend their lives against the French enemy.
In December, 1799, Sir THOMAS GRAHAM arrived with two thousand men and called on the Maltese to sweep the French from the island. The English then took direction of the seize, and in September, 1800, after a two years' blockade, the half starved French garrison surrendered to the English.
When the republicans were gone, the British sat down in their places, and the Maltese seemed as far as ever from being their own masters, after having spent their blood and treasure so liberally. General PIGGOT told them that GEORGE III. had taken them under his protection, and would make them happy and contented; and a Civil Commissioner was appointed to conduct their affairs. In reply to these regulations, the Congress of Malta and Gozo declared that though they recognized the King of England as their sovereign protector, they would be governed by their own Constitution and laws.
Matters stood thus, when, in 1602, the "hollow truce" of Amiens was made, and England agreed with the French Republic to restore Malta to the old Knightly Order. But the Maltese did not want the Order, which they styled an infamous Order. They loudly protested against the restoration, calling on England to keep her promise to them and preserve them free. England, they said, had not the slightest right to give them away.
All this greatly tried the moral responsibilities of England, of course, and she boggled at the carrying out of the pact, by which she was to quit Malta in three months. The British flag still continued to fly from the fortress of La Valette. The diplomatists raised a terrible dust, and arguments and protests rang through Europe. But the true argument was not mentioned at all.
The fact was, England was glad of a pretext to break faith with such political heretics as the French, who were also looking for something like an influence on the sea. She did not see the necessity of acting honestly towards such sons of rapine and unscrupulousness--had has preserved Malta in her grasp from that day to this...
The revenues of Malta, arising from Crown lands in the two islands, taxes on imported corn, customs, port dues, excise, &c., amount to over half a million dollars. This sum is distributed for the civil expenses of the island, while the protecting Government expends yearly as much more, in support of four royal regiments, and the military establishment in general.
There are two joint stock banks--of discount and deposit--in Malta, unconnected with the Government; and their capital is about half a million dollars each. The coins in circulation are chiefly Spanish and Sicilian dollars, some English silver, and a small quantity of the gold and silver of the Order which still passes current. The Maltese Monte di Pieta, or Savings Bank, established in 1597, still exists and flourishes--though BONAPARTE annihilated it for a time, by carrying off its funds, in 1798. There is another in Monte in Gozo; and these are the most useful and popular institutions in the islands.
The islanders have excellent schools and hospitals, in the former of which are taught Italian, English and Latin.
The trade of Malta was considerable during the war; but after the Treaty of Paris, the British monopoly was done away with, and the other Mediterranean ports were thrown open. Then came the plague, which for twelve years kept Malta tabooed, and greatly impoverished her commerce.
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All of Malta is
one time zone at GMT+1,
with DST from 1st Sun in Mar to 1st Sun in Oct.
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. A decade later Malta became a republic.
Since about the mid-1980s, the island has transformed itself into a freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a tourist destination.
Malta became an EU member in May 2004, and will begin to use the Euro as currency in 2008.
CIA World Factbook: Malta
Area of Malta:
316 sq km
slightly less than 2x the size of Wash., DC
Population of Malta:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Malta:
Maltese, English both official
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