This section is from "The American Cyclopaedia", by George Ripley And Charles A. Dana. Also available from Amazon: The New American Cyclopędia. 16 volumes complete..
Frame (Lat. Gallia or Francia; Ger. Frankreich, empire of the Franks), one of the principal countries of Europe, occupying the western end of the central part of that continent, between lat. 42° 20' and 51° 6' N., and Ion. 4° 48' AT. and 7° 38' E. It is bounded N. by the North sea and the strait of Dover (Pas de Calais), and N. AT. by the English channel (La Manche), which separate it from Great Britain; W. by the Atlantic and the bay of Bis-cay; S. by the Pyrenees, forming its frontier toward Spain, and by the Mediterranean; E. by the Alps, and the Jura and Vosges mountains, which respectively divide it from Italy, Switzerland, and the German empire; N. E., on which side it has no natural boundary, by a conventional line which runs from the Vosges, crossing the Moselle S. W. of Metz, to the shores of the North sea, some 25 m. E. of the strait of Dover, along the frontiers of Germany, the grand duchy of Luxemburg, and Belgium. Under the meridian of Paris, that is, toward its centre, it measures N. to S. about 590 m., and E. to AT., between lat. 48° and 49°, about 555 m.; while its greatest length N. W. to S. E., from the extremity of Finistere to Mentone, is about 675 m., and its greatest breadth, N. E. to S. AT., from a point E. of Luneville to the AT. extremity of the Pyrenees, a line crossing the former nearly at right angles, is about 550 m.
Its total area, the coast islands and Corsica included, is officially computed at 52,857,695 hectares, or 204,091 sq. m. It holds the fourth rank in extent among European countries, being surpassed by Russia, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Germany.-The shape of France is an irregular hexagon, the sides of which might be drawn respectively along the English channel, the Atlantic, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, the Alps, and the Vosges mountains, the last side running from the end of this range to the North sea. The first of these sides, or the N. AT. coast, presents from Dunkirk to the mouth of the Somme a succession of sandy downs, from which project Capes Gris Nez and Blane Nez, opposite Dover. From the mouth of the Somme, sweeping S. AT. toward the mouth of the Seine, the coast is characterized chiefly by cliffs of chalk and marl, with here and there harbors, the most important of which is Dieppe. The Seine now widens into a small bay, bearing the name of Seine, Havre, or Calvados, from which the coast line runs almost due W., fringed by a chain of reefs, to the mouth of the Tire, whence it takes a N. direction and forms the squareshaped peninsula of Cotentin. On the N. face of this peninsula, between Capes Bariieur and La Hague, lies the port of Cherbourg. From Cape La Hague, a low shelving shore, interrupted by granitic cliffs, runs southward to the bay of Cancale, the sandy bottom of which is dry at ebb tide.
The coast then resumes its westerly direction to form the triangular peninsula of Brittany, the rocky cliffs of which present a wild and desolate aspect. Its extremity, Cape St. Mathieu or Finistere, runs into the Atlantic, and is the westernmost point of France. The coast is here deeply indented by a large bay, which receives its name from the important military seaport of Brest, and by the less sheltered bay of Douarnenez, which is separated from the former by the peninsula of Crozon. From the point which projects S. of the bay of Douarnenez, the coast, gradually declining and becoming sandy again, recedes E. S. E. toward the mouth of the Loire. From the Loire to the Gironde, the shore, continuing low and sandy, is indented by several bays, generally protected by islands, and presents the two seaports of La Rochelle and Rochefort. From the mouth of the Gironde to the foot of the Pyrenees, the coast is but an unbroken line of sandy downs interspersed with marshes, the only opening to vessels being the basin of Ar-cachon. Drifting sands have here covered large tracts of good soil, and within the last two centuries a number of scattered cabins, private residences, convents, and even whole villages, have been thus completely buried.
Along the Atlantic division, which is about 550 m. in length, there are many islands, including Ushant (Ouessant) on the extreme point of Brittany, Belleisle, nearly opposite the mouth of the Loire, Noirmoutiers, Dieu, Re, and Oleron, between that river and the outlet of the Gironde. At the entrance of the English channel, near the Cotentin peninsula, four islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney (Aurigny), and Sark, although physically belonging to France, are held by Great Britain. The coast of the Mediterranean, about 350 m. long, recedes first toward the northeast, in a semicircular curve to the mouth of the Rhone, and forms what is improperly called the gulf of Lyons (Fr. golfe du Lion); bold and rocky near the Pyrenees, it soon lowers into a sandy beach, intersected by a number of lagoons, such as those of Thau and Valcares, but without a single good harbor. It is everywhere bordered by shoals, and the accumulation of sand is such as to require constant attention to prevent the filling up of the few indifferent ports which are to be found here. Aigues-Mortes, which was formerly an accessible port, is now some miles from the sea. Agde, notwithstanding works of improvement, affords protection only to a few barks.
A more important port is Cette. Beyond the mouth of the Rhone the shore, rising up in bold cliffs, abounds in good ports, the principal of which are Marseilles and Toulon. Between the mouth of the Var and the Italian boundary line, it is flanked by precipitous Alpine slopes, and gradually assumes the character of the Ligurian Riviera.-Besides the two great mountain chains which form the limits of France toward Spain and Italy, several others of minor importance, belonging to the Alpine and Pyrenean systems, intersect the country. The principal of these chains, which is but a part of the great European watershed, starts from the Pyrenees, taking first a winding course E. N. E. nearly parallel to the Mediterranean shore, then setting northward, under the names of Black mountains, Cevennes, and Cote d'Or; near lat. 48°, where it is called the plateau of Langres and Monts Faucilles, it makes a curve eastward, and then branches, projecting northward the Vosges, and southward various ridges which, through the Jura, connect with the Alps. This chain thus divides France into two very unequal parts, the greater sloping toward the Atlantic and the English channel, the smaller toward the Mediterranean. Four ranges, the general direction of which is N. W., branch off from this watershed and separate the basins of the various rivers flowing into the Atlantic and the English channel: 1, the hills known as the eastern Ardennes; 2, the western Ardennes, connecting with the hills of Picardy and Artois; 3, the branch consisting of the Morvan mountains, the hills of the Orleans forest, those of lower Normandy, and the Monts d'Arree, extending through the N. part of Brittany; 4, the mountains of Au-vergne, which may be more properly called a cluster, of which the mountains of Limousin and hills of Poitou are but the continuation.