The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

Remembering Fortunato Mizzi, the ‘Pater Patriae’

Sunday, 3 July 2022, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Jake Muscat

 

On 5 July, Fortunato Mizzi would have turned 178 years old. Seeing as both his party and country has forgotten about him and his legacy, I took the initiative of at least commemorating some of his achievments.

During his life, he fought for three main ideals: securing a more liberal Constitution for Malta; defending the Roman Catholicism of the island and promoting the Latin culture of the people.

ADVERTISEMENT

Fortunato was born in Valletta on 5 July 1844 to the Gozitan lawyer Francesco Mizzi and Maria Josepha Cassar. He would grow up and graduate as a lawyer in the year 1865 from the Royal University of Malta. He also married Sofia Fogliero de Luna on that same year.

Mizzi took part in several delegations which time and again submitted petitions to the British Government for constitutional reform. In 1880 he was one of the first to criticise the Keenan Commission, which would lead to educational reform on the island, as he was of the opinion that the true reason behind this commission was for purely solidifying imperial interests in Malta. In light of this, Fortunato and a number of allies founded the Partito Nazionale in order to militate against the pro-English reforms. In 1883 he then founded the journal Malta.

It should be noted that Fortunato was not against English as a language per se but rather against its imposition on Malta as an imperialistic means to Protestantise the population. In his own words, Mizzi believed in lealtà alla Corona Britannica, ma conservazione della nostra nazionalitàʺ (loyalty to the British Crown, but conservation of our nationality).

In the 1880 elections, held between 13 and 16 October, Fortunato Mizzi contested on the district of Gozo and was elected, with his Party obtaining five out of eight seats total. Following his election, Mizzi immediatly began his struggle with Sigismondo Savona and his Reformist Party, especially with regards to the role of Italian in the local educational system.

The following elections were held between 8 and 11 October 1883. Mizzi once again contested on the Gozo district and was subsequently re-elected. The Partito Nazionale won seven out of eight seats total.

During this time the Secretary of State informed the Governor that he was against holding debates in Italian and wished for English to be given the greatest importance in primary schools for colonialist reasons. Naturally, Fortunato did not agree with this and maintained that, ideally, students should be imparted some knowledge of Italian in the primary schools by way of preparation to the further study of this language.

On 3 June 1884, another general election was held with the Partito Nazionale again scoring a victory. In 1886, Mizzi travelled to London where he began putting forward his own constitutional proposals for the island along with Gerald Strickland. Fortunato and his Party were successful at obtaining a new Constitution for Malta from the British on 12 December 1887. The new Constitution allowed elected members to gain a majority in the Council and were granted the right to enact legislation and control local finances.

Elections were once again held on 24 and 25 September 1889, but this time Fortunato did not contest. He stated that he was retiring from politics for health reasons and thought to himself that he had already fulfilled his duty to the country by the acquisition of the 1887 Constitution and a representative Council.

By 1898, all the new civil liberties which had been gained in 1887 had been severly reduced. This, along with a public petition, was enough to convince Mizzi to come out of retirement and contest in the September elections of that year. He subsequentally contested again in 1899, 1900 and 1904, getting re-elected in each without being contested.

On 3 July 1903 the 1887 Constitution was withdrawn and replaced by one which had reversed all that Fortunato had fought for. As a reaction to this, Fortunato founded the Associazione Politica Maltese in January 1905 and was elected its president, however, he died shortly after on 18 May.

Mizzi died as he had lived: a fervent and practicing Catholic. His spiritual testament on his death bed was: ʺ.....Io sono moribondo, e sono lʹavvocato Fortunato Mizzi; ho vissuto e muio Cattolico apostolico romano......ʺ ( I am dying, and I am the lawyer Fortunato Mizzi; I lived and am dying as a Roman Apostolic Catholic).  

Mizzi was given the title of Pater Patriae (father of the homeland) for the great part he played in the bid for self-government and in defence of our Latin-Catholic culture. He dominated the Maltese political scene for over a quarter of a century, from his election to the Council of Government in 1880 to his death in 1905. He worked without rest for the rights of his patria for real and sincere respect, not only of words, but all that is heritage in the most complete worship of the Roman Catholic religion.

May he serve as the perfect example of what a patriotic, humble and pious politician ought to be like.

 

  • don't miss