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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41


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The Island of Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa. It derived its name from the Dutch, who conferred it in honour of Prince Maurice of Holland. It was first settled by the French in 1720, and being skilfully managed by M. de la Bourdonnais, the governor, it soon became a prosperous settlement. In 1810 it was captured by the English forces, and retained until 1814, when it was definitely ceded to Great Britain.

The capital of the island is Port Louis, at the bottom of a triangular bay, the entrance to which is in 20° 10 S. lat., and 57° 29' E. long. The anchorage is not extensive, but quite safe, and there are some docks formed, including a dry dock capable of admitting the largest ships. The town and harbour are both strongly fortified.

The island lies between 19° 58' and 20° 33' S. lat., and 57° 17' and 57° 40' E. long. It contains about 708 square miles, and according to the latest census the population, including the small dependencies of Seychelles, Kodrigues, Ac., and exclusive of the military, amounted to 318,584, being an average of 450 to the square mile. More than two-thirds of the number (or 210,636) were Indian coolies, of whom very large numbers have been introduced since the emancipation of the negro slaves.

The surface of the land is of varied formation, a considerable portion being volcanic; and the coast is fringed with extensive coral reefs. The mountains are not very high, but are marked with the usual volcanic irregularities. The most important mountain is the Peter Botte, in the rear of Port Louis, which is a cone, sustaining on its apex a gigantic rock nicely poised.

Mauritius is tolerably fertile, and it produces annually a large quantity of sugar, which is exported to England, France, and Australia. The soil suitable for the growth of the sugar-cane is, however, limited in extent, as great portions of the surface are encumbered with large boulders. Sugar is cultivated, notwithstanding, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, although excellent coffee, indigo, and cotton are grown. The blackwood or ebony of Mauritius is abundant, and of superior quality. Very little corn or grain is raised, and most articles of provisions are imported, the supply required for the use of the island being almost entirely derived from the Cape of Good Hope, Reunion, Madagascar, India, and Australia.

The revenue of Mauritius is rather in excess of the expenditure, the figures for 1871 being—revenue, £616,953; and the expenditure, £600,962. Vessels having an aggregate burden of 401,935 tons entered and cleared the ports of the colony during the same year. The imports were chiefly provisions, particularly grain and flour, with cotton stuffs, iron, hardware, cutlery, machinery, copper, linens, wine, coal, and guano, which last has been largely imported of late years, with great advantage to the crops of sugar. The value of the imports for the year was £2,044,216, and the exports—mainly sugar, with some rum, molasses, copper, and ebony—were valued at £3,120,529. Sugar pays an export duty of 3d. per 100 lb.

The first two lines of railway in Mauritius were commenced in 1860 and completed in 1863. Ordinary roads have also been made, bridges built, and facilities for communication greatly increased. Hospitals have likewise been founded in late years, and savings banks established.

The climate of the island is remarkably fine. There are four seasons, but the temperature in November, December, and January is very high; but throughout the year the thermometer ranges from 70° to 90°. In the more elevated districts the range is usually 7° or 8° lower than at Port Louis.

Few communities present so curious an admixture as that of Mauritius. The descendants of the original French inhabitants represent a considerable portion of the influential classes; Government officials and merchants, or planters of English birth or extraction, make up the remainder. In Port Louis may be seen representatives of almost every Eastern nation; many Chinese are found there, and in nearly every hamlet a Chinese storekeeper has established himself. The Creoles, or native coloured population, descendants on the mother's side from the African or Malayash slaves, form a very considerable portion of the population. Emigration of coolies from British India for the sugar plantations also adds to the population.