In December 1887 a new Constitution was granted to the Maltese
Islands replacing that of 1849. According to this Constitution there
was to be a Council of Government consisting of 20 members, 14 of
whom were to be elected members. Unfortunately this Constitution had
only a short span of life. Difficulties arose due to the heated
"language question", and on the 3rd June 1903 this
Constitution was revoked and substituted by another one, similar to
that of 1849.
At the turn of the century, the British Government undertook the
construction of the breakwater in the Grand Harbour and two new
docks in the dockyard. These projects generated considerable
employment, to the extent that workmen were brought from abroad.
However the termination of these projects and the subsequent rundown
of British forces in the island brought about a grave economic
crisis which brought the islands to the verge of bankruptcy.
In April 1913, the International Eucharistic Congress, presided by
the Papal legate Cardinal Ferrata, was held in Malta. Five Cardinals
and a number of foreign bishops and Catholics also participated in
This joyful event was followed in August 1914 by the outbreak of the
First World War during which Malta contributed its share as part of
the British Empire in three ways, as a hospital base, a Naval base,
and by the services rendered by the Maltese in the British Army and
Navy. As a hospital base, Malta was considered to be "The Nurse
of the Mediterranean", as thousands of wounded and sick Allied
soldiers from Gallipoli and Salonika were brought to Malta.
Considerable work was also carried out in the local naval dockyard,
which employed about 10,000 men.
Following the end of the war in November 1918 there was a mood of
discontent prevailing on the island due to various factors including
the political situation, unemployment and the price of bread. In
February 1919 a National Assembly was convened in Valletta under the
presidency of Dr Filippo Sceberras to obtain better constitutional
concessions. On the 7th June 1919 riots broke out as a result of the
prevailing unrest, both economic and political, during which four
Maltese were killed.