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2002 articles 1994 articles

New light on Malta during the Peace of Amiens, 1801-1803

D. F. Allen

Abstract

SIR Charles William Pasley (1780-1861) is remembered today as a general in the British Army who earned distinction as a military engineer, writing manuals about field fortification, telegraphy, sapping, mining, pontooning, and how best to explode gunpowder under water for the salvage of wrecks. Pasley's distinction was recognized beyond the army by his election in 1816 as a Fellow of the Royal Society, by his appointment in 1841 as Inspector General of Railways and by the award in 1844 of an honorary D.C.L. by the University of Oxford. Less well known are the sympathetic impressions of Malta which he had formed between 1801 and 1804, when he was far from being a pillar of the Establishment but merely a twenty-one-year-old lieutenant from Minorca, recently posted to the Malta garrison. Lieutenant Pasley's unpublished journal and letters from Malta are buried in his personal papers which were bequeathed to the British Museum in the 1930s by his descendants. Pasley's comments on Malta now merit rehearsal for two reasons above all. First because they relate to that uneasy period of the Peace of Amiens, by which Britain had promised to hand back the Maltesse islands to the Order of St John, expelled by Bonaparte in 1798. Young Pasley's journal and letters from Malta are interesting secondly because at that stage in his career he enjoyed few social advantages and was correspondingly open to the customs of the Maltese. Pasley had been born a bastard in Scotland, from where the Dumfries schoolmaster and his own energy and ability as well as the patronage of his better born Malcolm cousins had propelled him into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. In short, Pasley was a philosophical and literary Scottish soldier, curious about the distinctive history and folklore of Malta. And his professional interest in mihtary fortification took renewed inspiration from the bastions of Valletta.

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