Napoleon had occupied the island on his way to Egypt. Defeat there however led to a re-evaluation of their position on this island. Nelson with the aid of Portuguese allies established a blockade and deputed Captain Ball, R. N. (afterwards the first governor) to assume, on the 9th of February I799, the provisional administration of Malta and to superintend operations on land. Nelson recognized the resistance movement in Malta as a successful revolution against the French, and upheld the contention that the king of Sicily (as successor to Charles V. in that part of the former kingdom of Aragon) was the legitimate sovereign of Malta. British troops were landed to assist in the siege; few lives were lost in actual combat, nevertheless famine and sickness killed thousands of the inhabitants, and finally forced the French to surrender to the allies. Canon Caruana and other leaders of the Maltese aspired to obtain for Malta the freedom of the Roman Catholic religion guaranteed by England in Canada and other dependencies, and promoted a petition in order that Malta should come under the strong power of England rather than revert to the kingdom of the two Sicilies.
The Treaty of Amiens (1802) provided for the restoration of the island to the Order of St John; against this the Maltese strongly protested, realizing that it would be followed by the reestablishment of French influence. The English flag was flown side by side with the Neapolitan. The Treaty of Paris (t814), with the acclamations of the Maltese, confirmed Great Britain in the aggregation of Malta to the empire.
A period elapsed before the government of Malta again became self supporting, during which over 600,000 was contributed by the British exchequer in aid of revenue, and for the importation of foodstuffs. The restoration of Church property, the reestablishment of law and administration on lines to which the people were accustomed before the French invasion, and the claiming for the Crown of the vast landed property of the knights, were the first cares of British civil rule. As successor to the Order, the Crown claimed and eventually established (by the negotiations in Rome of Sir Frederick Hankey, Sir Gerald Strickland and Sir Lintorn Simmons) with regard to the presentation of the bishopric (worth about 4000 a year) the right to veto the appointment of distasteful candidates. This right was exercised to secure the nomination of Canon Caruana and later of Monsignor Pace. When the pledge, given by the Treaty of Amiens, to restore the Order of St John with a national Maltese langue, could not be fulfilled, political leaders began demanding instead the reestablishment of the Consiglio Popolare of Norman times (without reflecting that it never had legislative power); but by degrees popular aspirations developed in favor of a free constitution on English lines. The British authorities steadily maintained that, at least until the mass of the people became educated, representative institutions would merely screen irresponsible oligarchies. After the Treaty of Paris stability of government developed, and many important reforms were introduced under the strong government of the masterful Sir Thomas Maitland; he acted promptly, without seeking popularity or fearing the reverse, and he ultimately gained more real respect than any other governor, not excepting the marquess of Hastings, who was a brilliant and sympathetic administrator. Trial by jury for criminal cases was established in 1829. A council of government, of which the members were nominated, was constituted by letters patent in 1835, but this measure only increased the agitation for a representative legislature. Freedom of the press and many salutary innovations were brought about on a report of John Austin and Lewis, royal commissioners, appointed in 1836. The basis of taxation was widened, sinecures abolished, schools opened in the country districts, legal procedure simplified, and Police established on an English footing. Queen Adelaide vistied Malta in 1838 and founded the Anglican collegiate church of St Paul. Sir F. Hankey as chief secretary was for many years the principal official of the civil administration. In 1847 Mr R. Moore O'Ferrall was appointed civil governor. In June 1849 the constitution of the council was altered to comprise ten nominated and eight elected members.
An executive council was established in 1881, and the franchise was extended in 1883. A quarter of a century of Sir Victor Houltons policy of laissez-faire was changed in 1883 by the appointment of Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson as chief secretary. An attempt was made to utilize fully the abilities of this eminent administrator by creating him civil lieutenant-governor, in whom to concentrate both the real and the nominal power of detailed administration; but the military authorities objected to his corresponding directly with the Colonial Office; and a political deadlock began to develop. Sir A. Dingli was transferred from an administrative office to that of chief justice. With the continuance of military power over details, the public could not understand where responsibility really rested. The elected me~mbers under the leadership of Dr Mizzi clamoured for more power, opposed reforms and protested against the carrying of government measures by the casting vote of a military governor as president of the council. To force a crisis, abstention of elected members from the council was resorted to, together with the election of notoriously unfit candidates. Under these circumstances a constitution of a more severe type was recommended by those responsible for the government of Malta and was about to be adopted, as the only alternative to a deadlock, by the imperial authorities.
A regulation excluding Maltese from the navy (because of their speaking on board a language that their officers did not understand) provoked from Trinity College, Cambridge, the Strickland correspondence in The Times on the constitutional rights of the Maltese, and a leading article induced the Colonial Office to try an experiment known as the Strickland-Mizzi Constitution of 1887. This constitution (abolished in 1903) ended a period of government by presidential casting votes and official ascendancy. For the first time the elected members were placed in a majority; they were given three seats in the executive council; in local questions the government had to make every effort to carry the majority by persuasion. When persuasion failed and imperial interests, or the rights of unrepresented minorities, were involved the power of the Crown to legislate by order in council could be (and was) freely used. This system had the merit of counteracting any abuse of power by the bureaucracy. It brought to bear on officials effective criticism, which made them alert and hard-working. Governor Simmons eventually gave his support to the new constitution, which was received with acclamation. Strickland, who had been elected while an undergraduate on the cry of equality of rights for Maltese and English, and Mizzi, the leader of the anti-English agitation, were, as soon as elected, given seats in the executive council to co-operate with the government; but their aims were irreconcilable. Mizzi wanted tc undo the educational forms of Mr Savona, to ensure the predominance of the Italian language and to work the council as a caucus. Strickland desired to replace bureaucratic government by a system more in touch with the independent gentlemen of thi country, and to introduce English ideas and precedents. Frictior soon arose. Mizzi cared little for a constitution that did not maki him complete master of the situation, and resigned his post in the government.
It became independent in 1964.