exception) only female sovereigns, helped to give women considerable influence in native society. The southern and western peoples still practise infanticide as regards children born on several unlucky days in each month. This was formerly the general practice all over the island. The old laws among the Hòva were very barbarous in their punishments, and death in various cruel forms was inflicted for very trifling offences. Drunkenness is very prevalent in many parts of the island; and it can hardly be said of many of the Malagasy that they are very industrious. But they are courageous and loyal to their chiefs and tribe, and for short periods are capable of much strenuous exertion. They are affectionate and firm in their friendships, kind to their children and their aged and infirm relatives, very respectful to old age, most courteous and polite and very hospitable to strangers. Slavery had a patriarchal and family character, and was seldom exercised in a cruel or oppressive way.
The Malagasy have never had any organized religious system or forms of worship; there are no temples, images or stated seasons of devotion, nor is there a priesthood, properly so-called. Yet they have never been without some distinct recognition of a supreme being, whom they call Andriamànitra, “The Fragrant One,” and Zànahàry, “The Creator”—words which are recognized all over the island. They have also retained many ancient sayings, proverbial in their style, which enforce many of the truths of natural religion as to the attributes of God. With all this, however, there has long existed a kind of idolatry, which in its origin is simply fetishism—the belief in charms—as having power to procure various benefits and protect from certain evils. Among the Hòva in modern times four or five of these charms had acquired special sanctity and were each honoured as a kind of national deity, being called “god,” and brought out on all public occasions. Together with this idolatry there is also a firm belief in the power of witchcraft and sorcery, in divination, in lucky and unlucky days and times, in ancestor worship, especially that of the sovereign’s predecessors, and in several curious ordeals for the detection of crime. The chief of these was the celebrated tangèna poison ordeal, in which there was implicit belief, and by which, until its prohibition by an article in the Anglo-Malagasy treaty of 1865, thousands of persons perished every year. Sacrifices of fowls and sheep are made at many places at sacred stones and altars, both in thanksgiving at times of harvest, &c., and as propitiatory offerings. Blood and fat are used to anoint many of these stones, as well as the tombs of ancestors, and especially those of the Vazimba. In some of the southern districts it is said that human sacrifices were occasionally offered. The chief festival among the Hòva, and almost confined to them, was that of the New Year, at which time a kind of sacrificial killing of oxen took place, and a ceremonial bathing, from which the festival took its name of Fàndròana (the Bath). This festival is now merged in the French national fête of the 14th of July. Another great festival was at circumcision times. This rite was observed by royal command at intervals of a few years; these were occasions of great rejoicing, but also of much drunkenness and licentiousness. Since 1868 circumcision has been observed by each family at any time convenient to itself. It is practised by all the Malagasy tribes. Funerals were also times of much feasting, and at the death of people of rank and wealth numbers of bullocks were and are still killed. Although there was no proper priesthood, the idol-keepers, the diviners, the day-declarers and some others formed a class of people closely connected with heathen customs and interested in their continued observance.
Industries and Commerce.—The rearing of cattle and the dressing of hides, the collection of rubber and bee culture are important industries. The chief food crops grown have been indicated (see Flora), and the gold-mining is separately noticed below. Other industries undertaken or developed by Europeans are silk and cotton weaving and raphia-fibre preparation, and ostrich farming. Sugar, rice, soap and other factories have been established. In 1904 the exportation of straw and other fibre hats began; these resemble those of Panama and promise to become an important item. Tanning bark, coffee and guano are also recent exports.
Since 1862, when the country was thrown open to foreign trade, the growth of over-sea commerce has been comparatively slow. In the early days cattle were the chief export. About 1870 india-rubber began to be exported in considerable quantities, and cattle, rubber and hides continue staple products. Other important exports are raphia fibre and beeswax. Since 1900 gold has become a leading export, the value of the gold sent out of the country in the five years 1901–1906 being £1,384,493. The imports consist chiefly of tissues (mostly cotton goods), breadstuffs and rice, liquors, metal-ware and coal. Better means of internal transport and increased production in the island have greatly reduced the import of rice, which came mostly from Saigon.
Before the occupation of Madagascar by France the duty on imports and exports was 10% ad valorem, and the foreign trade was very largely in the hands of British and American merchants. In July 1897 the French tariff was applied and increased rates levied on foreign goods, notably cottons. This practically killed the American trade and reduced the British trade to a very small proportion. In 1897 the British imports were valued at £179,000; the next year, with the new tariff in force, they had dropped to £42,000. The only export duties are: cattle 2s. per head and rubber 2d. per ℔.
In 1880–1885 the entire foreign trade of Madagascar, imports and exports, was estimated to be about £1,000,000; in 1900–1906 the volume of trade had increased to a little over £2,500,000 a year. But while from 1900 onwards imports had a tendency to decrease (they were £1,841,310 in 1901 and £1,247,936 in 1905), exports steadily increased, owing to the working of gold-mines. The total value of the exports rose from £359,019 in 1901 to £822,470 in 1906. About 90% of the trade is with France or other French colonies. The remaining trade is nearly all British and German.
Banking business is in the hands of French companies. The legal currency is the French 5-franc piece and the smaller French coins. There was no native coinage, the French 5-franc piece or dollar being the standard, and all sums under that amount were obtained by cutting up those coins into all shapes and sizes, which were weighed with small weights and scales into halves, quarters, eighths, twelfths and twenty-fourths of a dollar, and even reckoned down to the seven hundred and twentieth fraction of the same amount.
Gold-mining.—Gold-mining has been carried on regularly since 1897, and by 1900 the value of the ore extracted exceeded £100,000. Reports of rich discoveries attracted considerable attention in South Africa and Europe during 1904–1906, but experts, sent from the Transvaal, came to the conclusion that Madagascar would not become one of the rich goldfields of the world. The chief mining districts have been already indicated (see under Geology). Rich finds were reported from the north of the island during 1907, in which year the export of gold was £320,000. The mines afford a lucrative occupation for some thousands of persons, and many of the claim-holders are British. Decrees of 1902 and 1905 regulate the conditions under which mining is carried on. By decree of the 23rd of May 1907, the radius of the circle within which claims may be pegged is 2 kilometres (11 m.), and a tax of 5% is levied on the value of the gold extracted.
Communications.—There is regular steamship communication between the chief ports and Marseilles, Zanzibar and India (via Mauritius and Ceylon); and a submarine cable to Mozambique places the island in telegraphic connexion with the rest of the world. The French have built carriage roads from the interior to the principal ports as well as to connect the principal towns. On these roads large use is made of bullock wagons, as well as carts drawn by men, and women also. Tamatàve and Antanànarìvo are joined by coast canals and lakes and by a railway service. Where other means are not available, goods are carried by canoes, or on the shoulders of bearers along the native footpaths.
There is a well-organized postal service, and all the towns of note are linked by a telegraph system, which has a length of over 4000 miles.
Government, Revenue, &c.—The colony is not represented in the French Chambers, nor has it self-government. At the head of the administration is a governor-general, who is assisted by a nominated council of administration which includes unofficial members. This council must be consulted on matters affecting the budget. In several towns there are chambres consultatives, composed of local merchants and planters. The island is divided into circles, placed under military officers, and provinces, presided over by a civilian. As far as possible in local affairs, each of the native races is granted autonomy, the dominion of the Hòva over the other tribes being abolished. Each province has its native governor and minor officials, the governor being generally selected by popular vote. Each village has an organization (the Fòkon’ òlona) resembling that of a commune; at its head is a chief or mpiadidy, who serves for three years.
|Hides and skins||31,548||250,339||218,791|