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with much that is extremely interesting. ' Each inhabited
island is a little village, separated from its neighbours by sea
and lagoon ; yet the whole forms and, as far as we can trace
the islands in history, has formed a compact kingdom, with a
well-designed constitution, a Cabinet of Ministers, a body of
executive and judicial, religious and revenue officers, all in
due subordination. Were not the whole aspect of Maldive



Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 237

civilisation coloured and penetrated by Mohammedanism, that
ever-present factor in the East, we might regard Pyrard's
description of this little kingdom, so strange and yet so par-
ticular, as one which might have come from the hand of Swift
or Defoe.

The islands are almost countless, and are said to number
12,000 or 13,000. According to Ptolemy, there were 1368
islands in the vicinity of Ceylon. Friar Jordanus had heard
of 10,000 or 12,000, and Marco Polo asserted that there were
12,700 inhabited and uninhabited. Most of the islands are
very small, separated by narrow channels, and the Maldivians
are almost amphibious in their habits, swimming easily from one
to the other. They are very skilful fishermen, and export fish
to Ceylon.

All these islands and banks have been divided into thirteen
provinces, called atollons, from a Maldive word atolu a word
which has become of general use. 2 The chief atoll is Male,
which has eight inhabited islets attached to it. Altogether
there are 175 inhabited islands. The religion of Buddha found
its way there in past times, and on one of the islands there are
said to be ' the jungle-covered ruins of a tope or dagoba,' as
in Ceylon. One of the islands is known as * Buddha's City '
and another as ' Bo-tree Island.' At present there are only two
Bo-trees growing in the group. The Maldivians have borne
the character of being kind and hospitable islanders. From
time to time they have been visited by many travellers. In
the time of Pyrard (1602) two languages were in use one of
them peculiar to the Maldives, and the other Arabic, by which
they set great store, learning it as a classical language. They
also spoke, according to the same authority, the languages of
Cambay, Guzerat, Malacca, and even Portuguese. Moham-
medanism is the current religion of these islanders. The Fast
of Ramedan, the rite of circumcision, and all the rules of
Mahomet are most scrupulously observed.

On the islands Goma or Ambergris, the sea coco-nut (coco
1 Voyage of Pyrard de Laval, p. xliii. 2 Ibid.



238 British Colonisation

de mer\ the ancient remedy for all ailments, was found.
Here also is gathered in large quantities the cowry, the most
widely used shell-money in Africa and the East. In former
days the Portuguese bought cowries in large numbers at the
Maldives. The current coin was, acording to Pyrard, a silver
one called a Larin, stamped with the king's name in Arabic
characters. The word is said to have been taken from the
city Lar in Persia. Coco fruit, cordage, and the well-known
Maldive mats, made of a rush growing in one atoll only, are
articles of commerce. Cotton cloth also has been manufac-
tured for centuries amongst the Maldivians.

Another, and perhaps the chief, occupation of the Maldivians
has been fishing from time immemorial both deep-sea fishing,
by which they catch albacore and bonito (known, when cured,
as komboli mas in Ceylon and Indian bazaars), and in-shore
fishing, by which they catch the ' red chief of fish,' or the
rangoo ; and also fishing at low-water, when the equinoctial
season comes, by means of a fish-kraal an ingenious method,
practised also in Ceylon, for driving the fish into stone
enclosures.

The Maldives have passed successively under the rule of
Portuguese, Dutch, and British. The Portuguese took Male,
deposing the Sultan and building a fortress. When the Dutch
drove the Portuguese out of Ceylon, the archipelago of the
Maldives was included in their rule, and in 1640 a Dutch
vessel was sent to the Maldivians from Ceylon. The Dutch
were always on friendly terms with the Maldivians, and recog-
nised the Maldive flag. In 1754 Dupleix sent a few French
troops to Male, but they were soon withdrawn. When Ceylon
was taken by the British the Maldives were included in the
conquest ; and the Sultan of the Maldivians, who are supposed
to number about 30,000, recognises the protectorate of Great
Britain by sending annually an embassy to Colombo with
presents to the Governor of Ceylon. To the ethnologist the
Maldivians have provided a most interesting study. Male
is about 400 miles distant from Ceylon, and the islands



Ceylon and the Maldive Archipelago 239

themselves have succeeded in preserving for centuries a
peculiar and distinctive character of their own. 1
1 For facts and figures see Appendix IX.

References :

Description of Ceylon, by Robert Knox.

Lucas's Hist. Geog. of the British Colonies, vol. i.

Ceylon, by Sir James Emerson Tennent.

Fergusson's Handbook of Ceylon, 1892.

Proceedings of the, Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xix.

Rifle and Hound in Ceylon, by Sir S. Baker.

Two Happy Years in Ceylon, by C. F. Gordon Gumming

The Ceylon Observer.



CHAPTER XIII
MAURITIUS

MAURITIUS, like Madagascar, must be regarded as an African
island, although it lies so far removed from the great continent.
Originally (1505) it was discovered by Mascarenhas, the
Portuguese explorer ; but the Portuguese only made use of
the island as a port of call. In 1598 a Dutch fleet sighted
Mauritius, and the commander gave the island its present
name, calling it after Prince Maurice of Nassau. For some
years, however, they neglected to utilise the island, turning
their attention to more profitable quarters. About the middle
of the seventeenth century the French made great efforts to
form colonial settlements in this part of the world, the King
of France having taken into his own hands the management
of the factories at Madagascar, and Bishop Estienne being
then employed with a large staff of missionaries in erecting a
monastery near Port Dauphin. The French had also occupied
Mascarenhas, which they termed Bourbon. Clearly, therefore,
the Dutch ought to increase their influence in Mauritius if
they wished to keep their hold upon these waters; and in
June 1664 a Dutch expedition under Jacobus van Nieuwland
landed on the island. It was governed thenceforward as a
dependency of the Cape, and every year a vessel sailed from
Table Bay with supplies, bringing back ebony logs. 1 A few
burghers and thirty or forty men were its only white inhabi-
tants, and there was scarcely a semblance of administration in
the island. The Dutch authorities were so dependent upon
the Cape that they could not carry out their sentences until

1 Theal's History of Sottth Africa, p. 159.
240



Mauritius 24 1

reviewed by the Council of Justice at the Cape. Very little,
therefore, came of the Dutch occupation of Mauritius.

At the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685),
whilst Mauritius was still under Dutch influence, an attempt
was made to colonise the neighbouring island of Rodriguez
with French Huguenot refugees an immigration that reminds
us of the planting, about the same time, of the French
Huguenots at the Cape of Good Hope. An account of the
expedition is given by Frangois Leguat, one of the passengers,
who dedicated his work to Henri de Grey, Marquis et Comte
de Kent, Pair de la Grand' Bretagne (1708). In his work
there is a map of Rodriguez, * decouverte par les Portugais sous
le Roi Jen iv., Tan 1645, et depuis habite'e pendant 1'espace de
deux ans et 20 jours par Frangois Leguat, Jaq. de la Case,
Jean Testard, Isaac Boyer, Jean de la Haye, Robert Anselin,
et Pi. Thomas, Frangois Protestans, fugitifs pour leur re-
ligion.' Frangois Leguat was a refugee of noble blood who
was originally sent out to inspect and report upon the island
of Bourbon, where the Marquis du Quene proposed to estab-
lish a colony under the protection of the States-General and
the East India Company of the Netherlands an object which
is fully described in the Cape archives. The captain of the
ship passed by Bourbon or Eden, as the refugees had called
it and set the party on shore on the island of Rodriguez.
From Rodriguez he passed over to the Mauritius.

In 1721 Mauritius fell an easy prey to the French, and its
name was changed to the Isle of France, which it retained till
1 8 10. In the Isle of France French colonisation was, as in
the province of Quebec, fairly successful. The pictures of
colonial life as shown in Bernardin de St. -Pierre's narrative
are almost as attractive as those of Acadia in Nova Scotia in
both cases there are scenes of pastoral and natural wealth.
In the valleys of Grand Pr and within sight of Grand
Blomidon the peasantry live on their fat dyked pastures and
beneath their happy Acadian orchards ; in Mauritius they live
in the land of the badamier, the mango, the avocatier.

Q



242 British Colonisation

Labourdonnais, a native of St. Malo, and one of the best
colonial governors France has ever produced, did a great
deal for Mauritius, establishing sugar-works and creating that
industry which has since made Mauritius so prosperous. He
also encouraged cotton and indigo manufactories, and put
down the maroons or runaway slaves of the country. The
policy of Labourdonnais (1741) was to make Mauritius a
station which might serve as a basis of operations against
rival Europeans in the Eastern seas and a depot of French
trade. This policy was in its main features opposed entirely
to the ideas of St. Pierre, who in 1773 criticised the Eastern
policy of France. To use his own words : ' I thought in the
first place to render an essential service to my country by
demonstrating that this island, which was filled with troops,
was in no respect fit either to be the mart or the citadel of
the commerce of France with the East Indies, from which it
is 1500 leagues distant. This position I proved by the events
of former wars, in which Pondicheri was always taken by the
enemy, though the Isle of France swarmed with troops.' For
his expressed theories St. Pierre incurred great unpopularity.

However, it was as abase of privateering raids against English
commerce that Mauritius and Bourbon were at the beginning
of this century most useful to France. When the Republican
navy was shattered by England in one desperate encounter
after another, and resistance by open sea rendered impossible,
French India having been lost once and for all, daring French
privateers hailing from the northern ports of France as daring
and brave in their way as our Devon worthies of the sixteenth
century sallied forth upon the Indian waters, and carried on
for a time a most destructive campaign upon British com-
merce. In the years 1793-4, we are told, French privateers
captured no fewer than 788 English merchantmen, whilst we
only took 151 prizes. 'The merchants of Calcutta and
Madras stood aghast. Commerce was at a standstill, our
cruisers were outwitted, and on more than one occasion, in
spite of their heavier metal, had been compelled to haul down



Mauritius 243

their flags to the pygmy privateers hailing from the" port of St.
Malo. . . . The history of Surcouf, the daring Malouine
privateer, is not flattering to our national vanity, but it teaches
us a lesson which should not be lost upon our naval adminis-
trators. Leaving Isle of France in September 1795 in a
little craft of 180 tons, with a crew of thirty Bretons and an
armament of four six-pounders, he commenced a career which
for daring and sagacity has rarely been equalled, even in our
own annals. Sailing northward, Surcouf coasted the Burmese
coasts and captured the Penguin, an Indiaman of 600 tons
burthen ; in January at the mouth of the Hooghly he sighted
two full-rigged ships, both of which he captured, sending them
to the Isle of France; shortly afterwards he captured the
Diana, 850 tons, laden with rice, and the next day he boarded
and captured an Indiaman, the Triton, carrying 26 guns and
150 men.' In 1799 Surcouf fitted out the Clarisse from
France, and again sought Eastern waters. On the way out
he captured two full-rigged merchantmen, and pursued an
extraordinary career. Amongst other exploits he 'took in
September 1800 one American and two English traders; and
on the 7th of October, after a desperate combat, in which,
having shown even more than usual address and gallantry, he
carried, by boarding, the Kent, a fine Indiaman of 820 tons,
27 guns, having on board 437 Englishmen, of whom 120
were soldiers.' In 1806 he appears in Indian waters again
in command of the Ravenant, and such was the terror of his
name that the merchants of Hindustan offered a reward of
;io,ooo for his capture. 'Reaching his destination, Surcouf
sailed to the Malabar coast, and on the 26th of September
captured the Trafalgar, 12, and the Mangles, 14, both carry-
ing cargoes of rice ; and in the course of the next few days
five more vessels, the Admiral Aplin, Susanna, Hunter, For-
tune, and Success, were captured, and in November the New
Endeavour and the Micawby were placed under prize-crews and
despatched to the Isle of France.' The career of Surcouf,
after whom a French ship is now named, was emulated by



244 BritisJi Colonisation

Frangois Lememe, another Malouine, who in the space of
ten months captured fifteen vessels and realised ^82,000.
Dutertre, another Malouine, captured in October 1798 no less
than six English merchantmen the Surprise, Princess Royal,
Thomas, Lord Hobart, Governor North, and Wellesley. These
privateering raids are worth recalling to memory, as in the
future, if ever war breaks out between France and England,
they may possibly be repeated on a greater and, for ourselves,
more disastrous scale.

In 1809 a force was sent from Bombay to take possession
of Rodriguez, the refuge formerly of Frangois Leguat, the
Protestant exile. Bourbon surrendered in 1810, and in the
same year, after a stiff resistance, the British troops under
General Abercrombie succeeded in landing on the north
coast of Mauritius and capturing it. Articles of capitulation
were signed by which the Creoles, or French colonists born
in the country, were secured in the enjoyment of their pro-
perty, religion, laws, and customs. By the Treaty of Paris,
1814, the Isle of France, henceforward to be called Mauritius,
was to remain a British colony, together with the Seychelles
and other small islands. Bourbon or Reunion was to be
restored to France.

It is somewhat extraordinary to think that the conquest
of the French islands of Bourbon and the Isle of France
was ever regarded by statesmen as an event only second in
importance to the battle of Trafalgar. Yet such was the case
in 1811. By the capture of the Isle of France, England cut
off a nursery for training sea-officers and narrowed the means
of raising seamen. The Isle of France was also the spot from
which the spirit of revolt and disobedience against British
rule was most sedulously kept alive amongst the Mahrattas
and other powers of Hindustan. It was full of adventurers
eager for the prizes of guerilla warfare ; it supplied arms and
ammunition, together with officers to teach the use of them, to
the disaffected in Persia. French commercial agents found
their way to Muscat and Bussorah from the Isle of France.



Mauritius 245

The permanent settled population of Europeans is greater in
Mauritius than in any other tropical colony, and many of them
are descendants of the old French nobility. The term ' Creole'
is applied to all those who, whether white or coloured, are
born on the island, and therefore carries no stigma with it.
The island produces hardly anything for its own consumption,
but exports sugar, spice, and other tropical products to every
quarter of the globe. It imports its breadstuffs from India, its
oxen from Madagascar, dried fish from South Africa, and
sheep from Australia.

Occasionally the island is visited by terrible cyclones, which
create havoc amongst the sugar-canes. The most disastrous
cyclone ever known visited the island on ' Black Friday,'
April 29, 1892. At 3 P.M. on that eventful day the velocity
of the wind is said to have reached 1 2 1 miles an hour. One-
third of the city of Port Louis lay in ruins, 1500 houses were
totally destroyed and 20,000 people rendered homeless. Out
of 62 churches 50 were destroyed, and the dead were lying
everywhere. The loss of property must be reckoned by
millions of francs. From this visitation Mauritius must take
some time to recover. 1

1 For facts and figures see Appendix X.

References :

Grant's History of Mauritius, 1801.
Captain Norman's Colonial France (1886).
St. -Pierre's Paul and Virginia.
Pike's Siibtropical Rambles, 1873.



CHAPTER XIV

HONG KONG

HONG KONG, first ceded to Great Britain in January 1841, and
finally acknowledged as a British possession by the Treaty of
Nankin, 1842, provides us with an unparalleled example of the
growth of British trade. The island commands a most im-
portant position in the China Sea at the mouth of the Canton
River, distant about forty miles from the Portuguese colony of
Macao, and ninety miles from Canton, the southern capital of
China. The length of the island is about eleven miles, with a
breadth of from two to three miles, consisting of a broken ridge
of lofty hills, the highest being Victoria Peak, 1890 feet above
the level of the sea. The great feature of the island is its
magnificent harbour, almost equal to that of Sydney, with an
area of ten square miles. From a strategic point of view it
may be called the Gibraltar of the East. Several small islets
are included in the colony of Hong Kong ; and jutting into its
harbour is a peninsula of the mainland of China, known as
British Kowloon, four square miles in area, but a very im-
portant addition, secured to the colony by Sir Harry Parkes
during the Chinese War of 1856.

Hong Kong, now that Port Hamilton in Quaelpaert (Corea)
has been abandoned, is the most easterly British possession.
Thence to Yokohama is a voyage of seven days, and from
Yokohama to Vancouver is a voyage of fourteen days. To
travel from Vancouver to Liverpool by rail and steamer takes
another fortnight, roughly speaking ; so that in five weeks it is
possible to reach Hong Kong, our furthest eastern possession,

246



Hong Kong 247

by going west across the North Atlantic, the Canadian
Dominion, and the North Pacific. Half of the trade of Hong
Kong is with China, and a third with India, mainly in tea,
silk, and opium.

Hong Kong owes a great deal to the discovery of gold in
Australia, which attracted crowds of Chinese emigrants to the
fields through its port. Upon what was a bare and desolate
island, inhabited by a few fishermen, and separated from the
mainland by a narrow strait only half a mile across, has arisen
the magnificent city of Victoria, a most striking monument of
the Victorian age, containing a population of 200,000 people.
The trade of Hong Kong has grown in direct proportion as
China has opened her gates to Western influences and external
commerce. It is in telegraphic communication with the
world by a cable to Shanghai and two cables to Singapore, via
Saigon and Hue respectively. There is an imperial garrison
of about 1300 men, towards which the colony contributes
^20,000 annually, which, considering the position of the port
and its enormous trade, is a comparatively trifling sum. Sir
William des Vceux has recently stated that the capacity of
vessels entered and cleared at the port of Hong Kong con-
siderably exceeded 13,000,000 tons in 1890, being more than
the tonnage either of New York, London, or Liverpool.

It is not necessary to enter here upon the causes of the
Chinese War of 1857-60. For generations China, entrenched
behind her defences, had manifested a resolve to have little or
nothing to do with foreigners. The opium question was
pushed to the forefront as the casus belli, and, undoubtedly,
opinions must vary on the morality or immorality of the opium
traffic ; but we must not lose sight of the main point, for what
was really settled by the war of 1857-60 was whether China
should retain or not her peculiar position among nations.
At times, indeed, her officials seemed, from their attitude and
uncompromising character, to do violence to the comity of
nations. But barriers have been broken down, and the
Chinese people have, upon the whole, profited by their



248 British Colonisation

intercourse with the rest of the world. For the British the
tangible results of the war were the opening of the Yang-tsze
to navigation, with four trading ports upon it, as well as the
coast ports of Chefoo, Tientsin, and Tewchwang in North
China, the island of Formosa, and ports in the south, all of
which have become closely associated with Hong Kong in a
growing trade. This trade, we are informed by those most
capable of knowing, ' will still greatly expand as restrictions to
commerce are further removed by the Chinese, and as the
navigation of the rivers of the empire by steamers is per-
mitted, and railways and improved means of locomotion and
transport generally are introduced in the country.' 1

The British occupation of Hong Kong has been very far-
reaching in its effects. Springing up so quickly on the flank
of the Chinese empire, and in spite of all opposition making
its way to the front as a great emporium of Eastern trade,
Hong Kong has been an object-lesson to Japan. The story
also of the destruction of the Summer Palace of the Chinese
Emperors conveyed to them the truth that England's power
was paramount along the Eastern seas. Thus it was that
Japan first awoke from her long sleep, welcomed Europeans,
and adapted herself to European ways and customs.

From another point of view Hong Kong has been ex-
tremely useful. It has performed the office of a vast Chinese
emigration bureau, and has been the means of dispersing
Chinese labour all over the world. At the same time the
Hong Kong authorities, by their special emigration ordinances,
which provided that Chinese should be well cared for both
going and returning, won a reputation for justice and probity,
and inspired the Chinese nation with confidence in British
rule. The emigrants themselves, emerging from their isolation
and going out to all parts of the world as labourers in every
department, learned much and profited much from the great
world outside, which they had always been taught to despise.

1 Paper by Mr. William Keswick, Proceedings of the Royal Colonial
Institute, 1889-90.



Hong Kong 249

Each of them became, upon his return home, a kind of news-
agent to his fellows, reporting upon the government, customs,
and, generally speaking, just administration of the Europeans.
Not unfrequently the emigrant from the Celestial Empire
reversed the phrase ' Spoliis orientis onustusj and returned with
the spoils of the West. A large number of Chinese have gone
also through Hong Kong to the nearer and more accessible
Straits Settlements, as well as to the Dutch possessions of Java
and Sumatra.

Hong Kong is admirably suited to be a distributing centre,
and no more marvellous development has taken place than
that of the native junk trade. The public works of this vast
emporium are on a scale commensurate with its importance.
There are docks and large engineering works, so that the
largest vessel afloat can be refitted and repaired. Janus-like, it
looks both ways, east and west, and is at once a depot, arsenal,
mart, emigration centre, and the meeting-place of all nations.

The European population is about 3000, consisting mainly
of merchants and officials. British rule is popular with the
Chinese, although the task of government has been often con-
ducted under singularly embarrassing circumstances. The
administration of law in an island close to China, where
official life is so stereotyped in itself and so utterly different
from our own, has often been beset with difficulties. Hong
Kong is so accessible and easy a refuge that it has been
almost impossible to prevent it becoming a kind of Alsatia for
the Chinese criminals ; the population itself is of a migratory
character, and therefore it has been out of the question to
depend much upon a permanent public opinion amongst
Chinese residents themselves in favour of British law. The
police force of 750 men, consists of British chiefly Scotsmen,
Sikhs, and Chinamen ; and, notwithstanding all the difficul-
ties in the way, it cannot but be considered a triumph of
administration that this migratory population of nearly 200,000



Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 21 of 31)