A Portuguese island in the Atlantic ocean, lying between lat. 32° 37' and 32° 52' N., and Ion. 16° 38' and 17° 16' W.; greatest length from E. to W. 34 m., greatest breadth from N. to S. 14 m.; area, 311 sq. m.; pop. in 1871 reported at 118,379 (probably including the contiguous island of Porto Santo, the aggregate area and population of the two islands being set down in the census of 1869 at 317 sq. m. and 115,804). The number of inhabitants rapidly decreased after 1845, owing to the disease of the vine and the consequent decay of agricultural interests; in the decade ending with 1855 no fewer than 35,000 persons emigrated, the greater part of them to Surinam. Funchal is the capital and chief port, and the only town of any note. The coast line is remarkably regular, there being not a single indentation that can be called a bay. The island is almost exclusively a mass of basalt, and the surface is extremely irregular, rising abruptly from the north and south toward the interior, in a longitudinal ridge forming as it were the backbone of the island, with an elevation of from 2,000 to 4,000 ft. above the sea level, and surmounted here and there by jagged peaks and pyramids of rock of most picturesque appearance.
The loftiest summits are for the most part off the line of the ridge; Pico Ruivo, the culminating point of the island, rises in the central portion and slightly northward; its height is 6,165 ft., and many of the adjacent peaks are little inferior. The mountain slopes on either side are furrowed by deep valleys, watered by limpid streams, covered with gardens and vineyards, the latter being formed on the rocky declivities to the height of more than 2,000 ft.; and the elevations separating the valleys come down abruptly to the coast and terminate in lofty headlands, or in bold precipices of basalt or crumbling tufa, so steep that soundings close along shore are scarcely found under 50 fathoms, save in the roadstead of Funchal, where the depth varies from 30 to 40 fathoms. At the E. extremity the hills taper to a narrow and comparatively low promontory of rock some 6 m. long, called Point Sao Lourenco, where is a calcareous sand with terrestrial shells of an extinct species, and calcareous infiltration resembling the roots and branches of trees. The most remarkable of the gorges or valleys is named the Curral das Freiras. A road encircles the island, leading now between tall cliffs, now along the brow of bold precipices overhanging the sea.
From the mountains descend three small rivers in different directions, which, by means of artificial channels (levadas) and sluices, are so directed as to serve for irrigation. - The climate is one of the finest in the world, and so equable that for 18 years the mean annual temperature at Funchal, on the S. E. shore, did not vary from 68° F.; the extremes being 80° on the coast in the hottest months, August and September, and 63° in the coldest, December and January. The difference of temperature between day and night is likewise inconsiderable. Frequent rains at regular intervals throughout the year except from June to September, when it seldom rains, and light dews, add to the freshness and salubrity of the air, and produce a rich vegetation. Madeira is a favorite resort of consumptives, especially from England, the number of invalid visitors from that country being estimated at 300 annually, and their expenditure at $100,000, affording the exclusive means of subsistence to many of the inhabitants, Of the benefit to be derived from a timely sojourn in Madeira by persons afflicted with pulmonary disorders and other affections of the respiratory organs, there is no doubt whatever; but the efficacy of the climate in cases of confirmed disease has been greatly exaggerated. - The soil is extremely fertile; but an unwise division of the land proved inimical to agricultural prosperity.
Small holdings of from 10 to 50 acres, on the metayer plan, were let at a rent of half the produce, according to a yearly valuation of the crops; but at present the actual cultivators of the ground raise crops of sugar, vegetables, etc, on their own account, and are consequently more prosperous. Every spot of the island not encumbered by rocks is turned to account. The agriculture, however, is conducted in the primitive Portuguese manner, and with the rudest implements. Immense labor was expended in the erection of terrace walls to prevent the earth of the mountain slopes from being washed into the sea by the rains, and in the construction of the levadas already mentioned to conduct the water of the mountain streams to the cultivated lands. The water thus supplied is subject to a tax, and the supply regulated with great strictness. From the introduction of vines into Madeira in 1421, wine was until the middle of the present century the staple production and chief source of wealth of the island. The richest vine district was the valley of the Cama de Lobos, on the S. side, where grew the famous grape which gave the choice and rare Malmsey wine.
This wine, the dry Madeira, the Sercial, and the tinto, constituted the four principal kinds; besides which there were several others of inferior quality. (See Portugal, Wines of.) The grapes, almost all white, ripen in the shade of trellises, where they are allowed to become half dry before being gathered. They all come, it is said, from stocks brought from Candia in 1445, and have in turn contributed to the vineyards of Constance at the Cape of Good Hope. Most of the wine growers are English; and the chief commerce is with England, whose products are received into the island at one half of the usual duties. Many kinds of Canary wines and enormous quantities of wine manufactured in Europe are sold under the name of Madeira, which competition was in a degree instrumental in determining the decadence which reduced the insular production from 22,000 pipes in 1813 to 3,000 in 1844. The devastations of the oidium, however, reduced the islanders almost to absolute penury, and gave rise to a regular tide of emigration from the shores of Madeira to the West Indies and Guiana. The disease became apparent in 1851, diminished the production of juice, and at length nearly destroyed the vines themselves.
The sulphur remedy was tried in 1857, and so successfully as to have produced a marked improvement in the vintage of 1861; since which time the favorable signs have continued in regard to both the quantity and the quality of the wine. Catawba and Isabella vines from the United States were used for grafting, and found productive of good, although no wine was obtained from the original stocks. The following statement shows the rapid decrease in the vintages from 1847 to 1855: 1847 to 1850, 16,000 to 17,000 pipes; 1851, 12,000; 1852, 1,000; 1853, 754; 1854, 187; 1855, 29. On the failure of the vine, the sugar cane, which had formerly been extensively cultivated, again became an object of care; and an attempt was made to employ in cochineal rearing as many as possible of the laborers who had been suddenly deprived of occupation. The cane, however, will not flourish in Madeira at a greater elevation than 1,000 ft. above the sea level; it grows best in the vicinity of Funchal and Sao Jorge. Coffee, which was plentifully produced, and of excellent quality, before the prosperous era of viticulture, has.been almost totally abandoned; and numerous attempts to grow tobacco have been thwarted by the government, although its cultivation in the island has not been prohibited since 1864. Maize, for which the soil is peculiarly favorable, is grown in large quantities; as are also wheat, barley, arrowroot, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions, beans, and pumpkins.
Among the fruits, besides the grape, are oranges, peaches, guavas, tigs, mangos, pineapples, yams, pomegranates, custard apples, bananas, and nearly all the fruits of the temperate zone; walnuts and chestnuts growing in great abundance in the woods on the mountains, and forming an important article of food for the people. The island produces 80 or 90 indigenous plants, but the greater part of the flora resembles that of the Canary islands and of the Mediterranean basin. Hedges of geraniums, fuchsias, and heliotropes fringe the roads and narrow paths in every part of the island. The most remarkable forms of the native vegetation are the dragon tree and a species of cactus, the latter of which exists in great abundance in the lowlands. The aloe, agave, and hydrangea flourish in the elevated regions; and heaths, pines, and brilliant flowering plants crown the loftiest summits. The laurels, of which there are four kinds, are also conspicuous; and the juniper attains the height of 50 ft., and yields a valuable aromatic wood.
Madeira has no indigenous land mammals; the cattle, goats, horses, asses, rabbits, rats, and mice were introduced by the Portuguese. The horses are small, but active and hardy; they are used only for riding, oxen being employed for draught, and asses for carrying. • The only bird peculiar to the island is a wren, but about 30 species breed there, among which are the kestrel, buzzard, and barn owl, the blackbird, redbreast, goldfinch, quail, partridge, woodcock, two kinds of swallows and three of pigeons, and the green Canary bird from which the domesticated species is derived. There are very few reptiles, and none poisonous; a small lizard is seen in hosts basking on the rocks. About 190 species of fish are found near the island, many of which are peculiar. Among them are the torpedo, the stag-horned horse fish, striped remora, flying fish, sword fish, trumpet fish, and several curious species of shark. About 1,200 species of insects have been enumerated, and about 119 species of shells have been found, most of which are peculiar to the island. - The people of Madeira are of mixed Portuguese, Moorish, and negro descent. The men are well formed and strong, with black hair and eyes; but the women are generally far from comely, though they have fine eyes and hair.
The lower classes are gay, polite, respectful to their superiors, industrious, and capable of long continued labor; the upper classes are indolent; neither have much intellectual culture; the morals of both are extremely lax; and illegitimate children are numerous. The Portuguese, the language of the country, is spoken with little purity; and French and English are pretty commonly understood by the commercial classes and the hotel keepers. The manufactures arc insignificant, consisting chiefly of baskets, straw hats, coarse linens and woollens, shoes, artificial flowers, sweetmeats, and some needlework embroidery. - The imports, which are mainly from Great Britain, consist of cotton, woollen, and linen fabrics, fancy and dress goods, hardware, breadstuffs, salt fish, and coal, the last mostly for the use of ocean steamers. The main article of export is wine, of which 49,413 gallons were sent to England in 1868, 53,667 in 1869, 71,590 in 1870, 86,800 in 1871, and 93,588 in 1872. The other articles of export are cochineal and embroidery and other needlework.
The value of the exports to Great Britain for five years was as follows:
Madder (Rubia tinctorum).
1868, $264,465; 1869, $269,965; 1870, $283,-735; 1871, $456,680; 1872, $419,095. The total value of the imports from Great Britain during the same period was: 1868, $421,525;
1869, $464,000; 1870, $467,440; 1871, $469,-355; 1872, $560,085. The total value of the exports and imports to all countries in 1872 was $841,032 and $1,504,953, respectively. - Madeira is divided into about 50 parishes, each of which has a church and a resident priest, under the jurisdiction of the see of Funchal. Although the Roman Catholic is the established religion, Protestants of foreign birth enjoy freedom of worship. About 800 natives who openly professed themselves Protestants were obliged to flee to the United States or Trinidad. There are primary and Sunday schools throughout the island; but not more than one eighth of the children are registered, and scarcely one third of these are in regular attendance. A law exists requiring parents to send their children to school after a certain age, but it has never been enforced. - Belonging to and about 11 m. S. E. of Madeira are three small, rocky, and uninhabited islands, called the Desertas, whither a few farmers repair to sow grain and to gather their meagre crops. The island of Porto Santo, about 25 m.
N. E. of Madeira, is also dependent upon it. (See Porto Santo.) - There is a story that Madeira was accidentally discovered by an Englishman named Machin, about 134G; but the true discoverer is commonly admitted to be Goncalves Zarco, who visited the island in 1419. A Portuguese colony was founded there in 1421; and Funchal, the capital, was incorporated as a city in 1508. From 1580 to 1640 Madeira, in common with Portugal, formed a part of the Spanish dominions. In July, 1801, an attack by the French being apprehended, the island was garrisoned with British troops under Col. Clinton; after the removal of which a second garrison, commanded by Commdore Hood and Major Beresford, landed in December, 1807, and held possession until the peace of 1814. It was seized by the partisans of Dom Miguel in August, 1828, and declared for Donna Maria in June, 1834. About 7,000 persons were carried off by cholera in 1856.