Mauritius, Or Isle Of France, an island belonging to England, in the Indian ocean, between hit. 19° 58' and 20° 31' S. and Ion. 57° 21' and 57° 51' E., about 500 m. E. of Madagascar, 120 m. E. N". E. of R6union, and 2,700 m. from the Cape of Good Hope; length N. and S. 39 m., greatest breadth 27 m.; area, 676 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 326,454. The island is divided into nine districts. (See map.) Port Louis is the capital and the port through which all the foreign trade is carried on. The population is made up of various Asiatic, African, and European races, and of every conceivable admixture of them all. Among them are several thousand Hindoos, by whom the sugar estates are mostly worked. The English element is generally confined to the public functionaries and a few merchants, and has not penetrated the mass of the population. English is little spoken. - There are numerous capes and bays along the shore, and the island is encircled by coral reefs at various distances, but generally parallel to the land. In these reefs there are 11 passes, through most of which large vessels may enter and find good anchorage within. The rivers are of little importance; in the rainy season they are swollen into torrents, while in the dry they are little more than brooks.
There are several lakes, which are called either bassins or mares. The largest is the Grand Bassin in the mountains of Savanc. The Mare aux Vakois, named from the vakoi or screw pine (pandaims uti-lis), which abounds in the district, and with which it is encircled, covers about two square miles in rainy weather. Many streams flow into it; it is in some places 25 fathoms deep, and is well stocked with crawfish, prawns, eels of enormous size, and a small red fish originally brought from China. Mauritius is exceedingly picturesque, having lofty ranges of hills, with bold and grand outlines. It is intersected by three principal chains of mountains, with spurs radiating to the coast, which vary from 1,800 to 2,800 ft. above the sea, and many of them are of very singular form. The most remarkable is Pieter Booth or Peterbote, 2,874 ft. high, terminated by a spire of naked rock, on the top of which rests an immense mass of stone, larger than the point on which it is balanced. The highest peak is the Piton of the Riviere Noire, which is 2,902 ft. above the sea. Another, called Le Ponce from its resemblance to the human thumb, is 2,707 ft. high. There are many curious caverns, of considerable extent, in some of the ranges.
In the centre of the island, on an elevated plateau, there is a mountain of a sugar-loaf form called Piton du Milieu de rile. The land rises gradually from the shore to the. interior, and the N. end is more elevated than the S. The island presents numerous indications of volcanic origin. The rocks rise in strata from the shore to the centre of the island, upon which there are many mountains composed of ferruginous rocks and grayish lava. Iron ore is very abundant, but the iron is of inferior quality. - The heat, which is greatest from November to April, is tempered on the coasts by sea breezes, and in the interior by the elevation of the surface; and the climate is so salubrious, that Europeans whose health is impaired in India come here to restore it. The mean annual temperature at Port Louis is about 74° F., and somewhat less on the opposite side of the island. The average annual fall of rain at Port Louis is 39-25 inches. The rainy season is from January to April, but showers are frequent at all times, particularly in the interior. Between December and May the island is subject to hurricanes, for which its neighborhood is famous. In 1773 the church and about 300 houses were destroyed at Port Louis by a hurricane; and on the opposite side of the island the sea rose 45 ft.
In March, 1818, and February, 1824, great hurricanes did immense damage to the plantations and shipping, and caused the loss of many lives. During a terrible cyclone on March 10-12, 1868, nearly 3,000 valuable buildings were destroyed, including some of stone and iron, and more than 20,000 huts of the laboring population; the number of persons killed was 89; and a vast amount of property of all kinds was destroyed. The mortality among the troops is very little greater than in Europe, and does not much exceed 3 per cent, per annum. But of late years malarious fevers have prevailed, and in 1872 had become endemic and were likely to occur with more or less severity in every hot season. In 1867 the number of deaths in the island was 40,114, or 12 per cent, of the population; but no such terrible mortality has occurred in any other year. The number of deaths in 1868 was 18,403, and it continued to decrease till 1871, in which year and 1872 there was again a slight increase. In 1871 the mortality from fever was nearly 45 per cent, of that from all causes; and in 1872 it was 43 percent. - The chief production is sugar; coffee is grown, and rice in small quantities; but the production of all articles of food is far inferior to the consumption.
The vegetation in general resembles that of the Cape of Good Hope. Indigo, cotton, and spices have been successfully cultivated. The native timber is of excellent quality and considerable variety, including ebony (the finest in the world), oak, ironwood, and a kind of pine. The vacona or screw pine (pandanus utilis) is not only a very common wild plant, but is largely cultivated for the sake of its leaves, extensively used in the manufacture of the sacks in which the sugar is exported. Nearly every beautiful tree of the tropics flourishes here. The indigenous fruits arc of little value, and are chiefly those of the ebony and palmiste; but guavas, 13 kinds of bananas, peaches, pineapples, mulberries, and strawberries are raised on most of the plantations. The government botanic gardens at Pample-mousses, established by M. Poivre, the governor in 1708, are remarkable for their varied productions, and contain the richest and rarest plants of the East. With a view to improving the culture of the cane, an agricultural society was formed in 1853 by the principal planters. The surface of the ground being to a great extent covered with stones, renders the use of the plough impracticable, and cultivation is chiefly carried on by the hoe. Guano is extensively used as a manure.
Its power in increasing the product of the cane is at first almost incredible, but in a few years it exhausts the land. Deer and wild hoirs and goats are abundant in the mountains, and short-legged hares are numerous in the plains. Apes are to be found in the forests, and are frequently used as food by the negroes. The tenrec, a species of hedgehog, is common, and with the moutouck, an insect which eats into the heart of trees, is delicate food in the dry season for the wood cutters of the Plaines Wilhelms. There are great numbers of rats, which are exceedingly destructive, and mice are common. The birds of the island are not numerous, and are mostly of the smaller tribes, with partridges, wood pigeon-, and doves, and in the marshy spots a kind of water hen. The only bird of prey is a species of hawk. Mauritius was once the home of the dodo and of a number of other birds of species now supposed to be extinct. Among these were the " giant" (Leguatia gigantea), a kind of water hen, 6 ft. high, and a red bird of the rail family, with a bill like a snipe (aphanapteryx imperialis). The martin, introduced from Asia, has checked 'the increase of insects.
There is still, however, a considerable variety of beautiful insects on the island, among which are butterflies, moths, great numbers of grasshoppers, wasps, and wild bees. A most destructive insect, called the Icakerlac (blatta Americana ferru-ginea), is one of the greatest pests of the island, attacking every kind of substance, leather, binding of books, and provisions. Ants infest every place, and one kind occasions great damage to trees and wood work. There are no serpents, nor any venomous insects, except small species of scorpion and centipede. The fish on the coast are abundant and excellent; and there is a great variety of crabs and mol-lusks. The lobster attains a prodigious size. The sea slug so highly esteemed in China is found within the reefs. Horses, mules, don-keys, horned cattle, sheep, and hogs are imported. In 1870 there were on the island 18,-394 horned cattle and 18. 059 sheep. - Sugar was exported in 1863 to the amount of 296,512,877 lbs., the largest quantity ever exported in any one year; in 1868, 221,760,000 lbs.; in 1869, 2.39,680,000 lbs.; in 1870, 228,480,000 lbs.- in 1871, 275,520,000 lbs.; and in 1872, 284,480,-000 lbs. The average price per pound since 1869 has been 2 1/2 d.
The total value of the exports to Great Britain for the five years 1868-'72 was as follows: 1868, £1,055,419; 1869, £667,515; 1870, £871,387; 1871, £833,386 1872, £1,539,565. The total value of the exports to all countries in 1871 was, by official returns, £3,053,054, or including specie £3,120,-528; and in 1872, £3,177,301, or including specie £3,243,112; "but the true exports," says the government administrator, "undoubtedly far exceeded the amount declared." The value of the imports from Great Britain in the same period was as follows: 1868, £404,425; 1869, £399,879; 1870, £499,975; 1871, £538,-909; 1872, £5,911,712. The total value of the imports from all countries in 1871 was £1,807,382, or including specie £2,044,386; and in 1872, £2,437,512, or including specie £2,677,974. The only home product of noteworthy amount exported, besides sugar, is rum. Mauritius is mostly dependent upon imported provisions and manufactures. In 1870, 574 ships arrived, of which 322 were British, 39 French, and 3 from the United States. In 1872 the total tonnage of vessels entered and cleared was 543,452. The main roads of the island are good, being mostly macadamized and kept in order by the government.
There are two lines of railway: the North line, from Port Louis to Grande Riviere S. E., and the Midland, from Port Louis to Mahebourg, each of which has short branch lines. The scenery upon the latter line is very fine. Telegraphs are established along the lines. - There are at Port Louis a convent with a large boarding school attached for young ladies, and a convent with a hospital attached under the charge of the sisters of charity. There is also a royal college, in connection with which a new elementary school was opened in 1872; a branch school at Curepipe, and numerous other public schools, are in a very flourishing condition. The total number of pupils on the rolls of the government schools in 1872 was 5,040; and the annual grant for schools voted by the legislature is about £5,000. The Roman Catholic is the prevailing religion, presided over by a bishop. There are 17 Catholic churches and 32 chapels. The church of England is represented by a bishop with the title " Lord Bishop of Mauritius and its Dependencies." Both the Protestant and Catholic clergy are paid out of the colonial treasury. Mohammedanism is professed by some of the inhabitants, and a mosque is in course of building.
Several newspapers are published at Port Louis, only one of which is in the English language. - The government of the island is vested in a governor aided by an executive council, and a legislative council consisting of seven official members and ten non-official members chosen from the chief landed proprietors of the island, and confirmed in their appointment by the crown. There is a supreme court of civil and criminal justice, presided over by three judges; and a petty court for the trial of trivial crimes and offences. The revenue of the island, chiefly derived from customs and licenses, was for 1871 and 1872 £468,851 and £528,689; and the expenditure, £445,111 and £464,149 respectively. The gross railway revenue for the same years was £103,-462 and £116,446, and the expenditure £73,-194 and £88,423. The estimated army expenditure for 1872-'3 was £55,300; about one half of this outlay is generally contributed by the insular government. - The granitic island of Rod riguez; the Seychelles islands, 35 or 36 in number; the Carga dos Garaybs or St. Brandon isles, 16 in number; the PerhosBanhos, 25 in number; the Amirantes, 17 in number; Diego Garcia, and several smaller, are dependencies of Mauritius. Rodriguez is about 330 m. to the eastward, in lat. 19° 41' S. It is 26 m. long by 12 broad, and is composed of hills, with intervening valleys covered to a great extent with rocks and stones.
There is an abundance of fish around the island, great quantities of which are salted and sent to Mauritius; and sperm whales abound in the vicinity. The island of St. Brandon is noted for its scarlet coral (tubifora mv.sica). The Seychelles are between lat. 3° 30' and 5° 45' S. They were discovered but never occupied by the Portuguese. In 1742 the French took possession of them and named them lies de Labourdonnais, but the name was soon changed to Seychelles, after the vicomte lierault de Seychelles. When Mauritius was taken possession of by the British, this group fell into their hands with it. The chief of the islands are Mahe, Praslin, Silhouette, La Digue, and Curieuse, and the area of the whole group is about 50,000 acres. More than half of this area is included in Mah6, which is 16 m. long and from 3 to 5 m. wide, with a very steep and rugged granite mountain running through the centre, of which the principal peak, Morne Blanc, is 2,000 ft. high. The vegetation of this island, as well as of many others of the group, is exceedingly luxuriant; among the productions are cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, and various spices.
The town of Port Victoria, formerly Mah6, is situated on the N. E. coast; pop. estimated at about 7,000. These islands are a favorite resort for whaling vessels; all have abundance of excellent water. The most remarkable production is the coco de mer (Lodoicea Seychel-larum), so called because the nuts, weighing some 40 lbs. each, were found on the coast of Malabar long before the place of their growth was known. Tortoise shell is procured in con- siderable quantities. Storms are unknown; and notwithstanding their proximity to the equator, the climate is agreeable, the heat being tempered by the sea breezes. Diego Garcia lies about 14° further E., and is a low coral island. It abounds with turtle, and has a few residents from Mauritius. The Amirantes are a group of low coral islands about 100 m. S. W. of the Seychelles. They supply vessels with water, cocoanuts, sheep, fish, and turtle. Mauritius was discovered in 1505 by Pedro Mascarenhas, who called it Cerne. The Portuguese held it till 1598, when a Dutch squadron took possession of it, the commander changing the name to Mauritius, in honor of Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch first settled here in 1644, but they abandoned it in 1712 for the | Cape of Good Hope; and it was taken in 1715 by the French, who called it He de France. The first regular settlement took place in 1721; and under Mahe de Labourdonnais, who in-troduced the cultivation of the sugar cane, in-digo, and manioc, and was appointed gover-nor in 1734, the colony became very prosperous.
It was during his second administration that the ship St. Geran was wrecked, in which was lost the young lady whose story was the basis of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's tale of " Paul and Virginia." During the wars of the revolution and empire, the French island owed most of its wealth to corsairs, the terror of British merchant vessels in the Indian seas. The British seized the island with its dependencies in 1810, and by the peace treaties of 1814 and 1815 the English possession of the island was ratified. In 1835 slavery ceased to exist in Mauritius. The island was made a bishopric in December, 1854. - See Pike's " Subtropical Rambles in the Land of the Aphanap-teryx" (New York, 1873).