In 1809 when Coleridge was prompted to write about his time in Malta by the death of Sir Alexander Ball, the late Civil Commissioner whom he so much admired, he recorded that he regarded his stay on the Island as “in many respects the most memorable and instructive period of my life”.2 As those familiar with Coleridge’s history recall, Coleridge had arrived on Malta in May 1804 predominantly to liberate himself from opium dependency. Coleridge impressed Ball, whom he met shortly after his arrival. Coleridge originally replaced Edmond Chapman as under-secretary3 during the latter’s absence from Malta on the speculative corn mission, about which more will be said below. However, following the death of the Public Secretary and Treasurer, Alexander Macaulay, on 18th January 1805, Coleridge was appointed as a temporary replacement pending Chapman’s return to the Island, although he declined to act as Treasurer. In contrast to his role as under-secretary, the Public Secretaryship contained formal responsibilities and in taking on the position he assumed a post second in civil dignity to that of the Civil Commissioner. He thus found himself at the heart of government. The purpose of this article is to outline the legal, political, administrative and economic challenges encountered by the British administration in the period 1800-1809 in which Coleridge had assumed an important role, as well as to venture some comments about the coherence of British policy. Some limited observations on Coleridge’s contribution to the success of British rule at this time will also be advanced.
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|Published - 2007