A SKETCH OF
five hundred and fifty from Mauritius, and four hundred and fifty from the Isle of Bourbon.
The French made their first attempt to establish a settlement on the island in 1642. A patent was granted by Cardinal Richelieu, to Captain Rivault, for the exclusive right of sending ships and forces to Madagascar and the neighboring islands, to establish a plantation or colony for the promotion of commerce. Out of this charter grew the French East India Company, and their first ship was sent out in 1642 under Captain Coquet, who had already prepared to sail to the island on his own account for a cargo of ebony. This expedition, which was furnished with two governors and directed to take possession of the island in the King's name, first landed and took possession of the Isle of Bourbon and other small islands in the vicinity. It chose a point upon the Island of Madagascar which proved to be exceedingly unhealthy, for the low lands are subject to a most fatal fever; but it finally fixed upon a spot on the south side of the bay of Taocanara, and built a fort which they called Dauphin. This fort is 150 feet above the level of the sea, and commands the road; so that no enemy's ships could escape the fire of its batteries. The landing to it is rendered difficult by a steep declivity; it is of an oblong form, and enclosed with strong walls of lime and gravel well cemented. This point is in the southeastern portion of the island; the anchorage in the roadstead is excellent, and the harbor is screened by the Isle of St. Clair from the heavy sea gales, so that the entrance is convenient at all times for large ships.
Though the French colony has never flourished to any considerable extent, yet as it furnished slaves and other supplies for the Mauritius and Isle of Bourbon, it has been resorted to by the French with varying conditions and some few intermissions down to the present day. It at one time contained a Catholic bishop, three missionaries and two lay brethren, with a chapel. monastery, and library. Efforts were made by these missionaries as early as 1647 to construct a grammar of the native language, and vocabularies were formed, together with a catechism for the use of young converts, copies of which are still extant, interlined with French and Latin. But it does not appear that letters or the Christian religion ever made much progress in the island until the arrival of a party of English missionaries in 1818, At no time has any system of European colonization prospered there.
The attention of the English was called to the Island of