Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
276
MADAGASCAR

of a commune; at its head is a chief or mpiadidy, who serves for three years.

For Europeans and in suits between Europeans and natives the French judicial code is applicable; suits between natives are tried by native tribunals (established 1898) presided over by a European assisted by two native assessors. These tribunals judge according to native law and usages, except when such customs (e.g. polygamy and slavery) have been expressly abolished. Arbitration councils are available everywhere for the settlement of disputes between native workmen and their employers. The native laws respecting land tenure have been improved by the adoption of a method of registration based on the Torrens system.

Revenue is derived from land, house and capitation taxes, from customs, posts and telegraphs, ferries, licences and other indirect imposts. The excess of expenditure over revenue is made good by subventions from France. A considerable portion of the revenue is expended on public works. Revenue and expenditure in 1905 were each just beneath £I, 000,000. This is exclusive of the sums spent by France in the island on the army, and for the naval base at Diégo-Suarez. There is a public debt amounting (1907) to £4,055,600. As stated in the French senate (February 1909), everything is taxed in the island; and no sooner has any enterprise become fairly successful than it is so heavily taxed as to be no longer worth carrying on, and certain crops have therefore been destroyed by the colonists who had planted them. This has been the case with tobacco, sugar, rum, and also in butter-making, cattle-breeding and other things. Notwithstanding this taxation, from 1895 to 1908 £12,000,000 was required for Madagascar from the home government, and the demand is constantly increasing. History.-From the earliest accounts given of the people of Madagascar by European travellers, as well as from what may be inferred from their present condition, they seem for many centuries to have been divided into a. number of tribes, often separated from one another by a wide extent of uninhabited country. Each of these was under its own chief, and was often at war with its neighbours. No one tribe seems to have gained any great ascendancy over the rest until about the middle of the 17th century, when a small but warlike people called Sakalava, in the south-west of Madagascar, advanced northward, conquered all the inhabitants of the western half of the island, as well as some northern and central tribes, and eventually founded two kingdoms which retained their supremacy until the close of the 18th century. About that time, the Hova in the central province of Imérina began to assert their own position under two warlike and energetic chieftains, Andrianimpoina and his son Radama; they threw off the Sakalava authority, and after several wars obtained a nominal allegiance from them; they also conquered the surrounding tribes, and so made themselves virtual kings of Madagascar. From that time until 1895 Hova authority was retained over a large part of the central and eastern provinces, but it was only nominal over much of the western side of the island, while in the south-west the people were quite independent and governed by their own chiefs.

While European intercourse with Madagascar is comparatively recent, the connexion of the Arabs with the island dates from a Arab very remote epoch; and in very early times settleinfe, -murse ments were formed both on the north-west and southdml east coasts. In the latter locality there are still Influence

° traces of their influence in the knowledge of Arabic possessed by a few of the people. But in these provinces they have become merged in the general mass of the people. It is different, however, in the north-west and west of the island. Here are several large Arab colonies, occupying the ports of Anorontsanga, Mojanga, Marovoay and Morondava, and retaining their distinct nationality. There is also in these districts a Hindu element in the population, for intercourse has also been maintained for some centuries between India and northern Madagascar, and in some towns the Banyan Indian element is as prominent as the Arab element. In the early times of their intercourse with Madagascar, the Arabs had a very powerful influence upon the Malagasy. This is seen in the number of words derived from the Arabic in the native language. Among these are the names of the months and the days of the week, those used in astrology and divination, some forms of salutation, words for dress and bedding, money, musical instruments, books and writings, together with a number of miscellaneous terms. The island is mentioned by several of the early Arabic writers and geographers, but medieval maps show curious ignorance of its size and position. Marco Polo has a chapter upon it, and terms it “ Madeigascar, ” but his accounts are ifffrziifse confused with those of the mainland of Africa. The ° first European Voyager who saw Madagascar was a lfortuguese named Diogo Diaz, captain of one of the ships of a fleet commanded by Pedro Cabral and bound for India. Separated from his companions by a storm near the Cape, he sighted the eastern coast of the island on the 10th of August 1500. That day being the feast of St Lawrence, Madagascar was named the “Isle of St Lawrence, ” and retained that name on all maps and charts for a hundred years. The Portuguese gave names to most of the Capes, but made no persistent attempts at colonization. After them the Dutch endeavoured, but with little success, to form colonies; and in the time of Charles I. proposals were made to form an English “ plantation, ” but these were never carried into effect, although for a short time there was a settlement formed on the south-west coast. In the latter part of the 17th and during most of the 18th century the French attempted to establish military positions on the east coast. For some time they held the extreme south-east point of the island at Fort Dauphin; but several of their commandants were so incapable and tyrannical that they were frequently involved in war with the people, and more than once their stations were destroyed and the French were massacred. Early in the 19th century all their positions on the mainland were relinquished, and they retained nothing but the island of Ste Marie on the east coast. In ISII Tamatave had been occupied by British troops, and the Treaty of Paris of 1814 recognized as British the “ French settlements in Madagascar, ” but as a matter of fact France had then no settlements on the mainland. The then governor of Mauritius, Sir Robert F arquhar, endeavoured to prosecute B ritish claims and obtained a cession of Diégo-Suarez Bay. These claims were not backed up by the home government, and a little later the policy was adopted by Great Britain of supporting the Hova authority. The political history of Madagascar as a whole may be said to date from the reign of Radama I. (1810-1828). He was a man much in advance of his age-shrewd, enterprising, and Rddéma I undeterred by difficulty-a kind of Peter the Great of his time, He saw that it was necessary for his people to be educated and civilized if the country was to progress; and making a treaty with the governor of Mauritius to abolish the export of slaves, he received every year in compensation a subsidy of arms, ammunition, and uniforms, as well as English training for his troops. He was thus enabled to establish 'his authority over a large portion of the island. For some years a British agent, Mr Hastie, resided at Radamafs court, and exercised a powerful influence over the king, doing much for the material advance of the country. At the same period (1820) Christian teaching was commenced in the capital by the London Missionary Society, and by its missionaries the language was reduced to a systematic written Introduc-

tion of

Chris-

tlanity.

form, and the art of printing introduced; books were prepared, the Scriptures were translated, numerous schools were formed, and several Christian congregations were gathered together. The knowledge of many of the useful arts was also imparted, and many valuable natural productions were discovered. The power of superstition was greatly broken, a result partly due to the keen good sense of the king, but chiefly to the spread of knowledge and religious teaching. . The bright prospects thus opening up were clouded by the death of Radama at the age of thirty-six, and the seizure of the royal authority by one of his wives, the Princess Ranavalona. She looked with much suspicion upon fhmwuom the ideas then gaining power among many' of her people, and determined to strike a decisive blow at the new teaching. In 183 5 the profession of the Christian religion was declared illegal; all worship was to cease, and all religious books were ordered to be given up. By the middle of 1836 all the English missionaries were obliged to leave the island, and for twenty-five years the most strenuous efforts were made by