MADAGASCAR

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MADAGASCAR ; an island of Africa, on ¦the eastern coast, separated from the continent by the channel of Mozambique, which is about 270 miles across. It extends from 11° 57' to 25° 40' S. lat, and from 43° 33' to 50° 25' E* Ion., and is about 900 miles long, and from 120 to 300 broad ; square miles, about 220,000; population, uncertain; estimated by Flacourt at l,600j000; by Rondoux, at 3,000,000; by Rochon, at 4,000,000. It is one of the largest islands in the world, and is remarkable for its fertility. The surface is greatly diversified, being intersected, throughout its whole length, by a chain of lofty mountains, the highest summits of which are said to be about 11,000 feet above the sea. The scenery of these mountains is often grand and picturesque. The forests abound in beautiful trees, as palms, ebony, wood for dyeing, bamboos of enormous size, orange and lemon trees. The botany of the island is interesting; iron mines abound in various parts; other minerals are found; but the mineralogy of the island has been but little explored. The country is well watered by numerous streams, mostly small, which descend from the mountains. In this genial climate, they produce a luxuriant fertility. Rice is the staple food of the inhabitants. Other productions are potatoes, sugar, silk, &c. The sheep produce fine wool. The cocoanut, banana, &c, flourish. The inhabitants are composed of two distinct races, the Arabs or descendants of foreign colonists, and the Negroes or original inhabitants of the island. The character of the inhabitants differs much in the different parts of the island, and the accounts of writers are very discordant on this subject. But, in reality, too little is known of the greater part of the island, to afford grounds for any safe opinions. The name and position of this island were first made known to Europeans by Mtarco Polo, in the thirteenth century, although it had been known to the Arabs for several centuries. It was visited by the Portuguese in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The French made attempts to found colonies there in tne middle of the seventeenth century, but abandoned the island after many struggles with the natives. In 1745, they made new attempts, but without much success > In 1814, it was claimed by England as a dependency of Mauritius, which had been ceded to her by France, and some settle merits were established. One of the native kings of the interior, who had shown himself eager to procure a knowledge of European arts for his subjects, consented, in 1820, to relinquish the slavetrade, on condition that ten Madegassees should be sent to England, and ten to Mauritius, for education. Those sent to England were placed under the care of the London missionary society, who sent missionaries and mechanics to Madagascar. In 1826, 1700 children were taught in the missionary schools, and parts of the Scripture have since been translated into the native language. This king died in 1828, and we do not know what has been the disposition of the new ruler.See Rochon, Voyage a Madagascar; Flacourt, Histoire de Madagascar; Copland, Histoiy of Madagascar (1822).