The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Burmah, British

Edition of 1879. See also British rule in Burma on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BURMAH, British, a province of British India, comprising those portions of Burmah which the English crown has acquired by successive conquests, viz.: the states of Aracan and Tenasserim, which were ceded at the close of the Burmese war of 1824, and the intermediate state of Pegu, which became a British possession in 1852, after the second war with Burmah. They constitute a narrow strip of territory occupying about 1,000 m. of seaboard on the E. shore of the bay of Bengal and the Indian ocean, and extending southward over a part of the Malay peninsula, being included between lat. 22° 46′ and about lat. 10° N., and lon. 92° and 99° E. It is bounded N. by Bengal and Burmah proper, E. by Burmah proper and Siam, S. by the lower part of the Malay peninsula and the Indian ocean, and W. by the Indian ocean and the bay of Bengal. Area, 98,881 sq. m. ; pop. in 1871, 2,463,484. The three principal governmental divisions of the province, which was constituted in 1862, correspond to the three states above mentioned. The British parliamentary accounts for 1871 furnish the following particulars as to the area, districts, and population of each : Aracan (Akyab, Ramree, Sandoway), 23,529 sq. m., pop. 447,957; Pegu (Rangoon, Bassein, Myanoung, Prome, Toungoo), 36,454 sq. m., pop. 1,533,505; Tenasserim (Amherst, Shwé-gyeen, Tavoy, Mergui), 38,898 sq. m., pop. 482,022. Aracan, the northern portion, is for the most part a depressed valley, varying from 10 to 50 m. in width, enclosed between a low range of coast hills and a parallel inland chain of mountains known as the Aracan-Yoma, which attain an altitude of from 3,000 to 6,000 ft. This region extends from the Naf estuary, adjoining Chittagong in Bengal, southward to the Keintalee river on the northern border of Pegu. The soil of Aracan is alluvial. The prevailing rocks are sandstones, black gneiss, clay slates, and basalt. Iron and limestone are found in small quantities. There is a scarcity of timber. Small streams are numerous, but there is only one river of any importance, the Kuladyne, 250 m. long, and navigable one fifth of that distance for vessels of from 300 to 400 tons. Akyab, the chief town, is one of the principal ports in the province. At a point in the Aracan-Yoma range not far from the 19th parallel of N. lat., and known as “the ever visible peak,” the boundary line between the British possessions and Burmah proper changes its direction and runs thence due E. about 145 m. to the Poung-loung mountains, crossing the valley of the Irrawaddy in its course and forming the northern frontier of Pegu, the middle state or division of the province. Pegu is a hilly country, with an alluvial soil, fertile and well watered, and largely covered with valuable forests. It is traversed from N. to S. by two important rivers, the Irrawaddy and the Sittoung, which flow on the opposite sides of a range of hills called the Pegu-Yoma, about 2,000 ft. high and parallel to both. The Irrawaddy flows about 240 m. through British territory, amid the richest, most productive, and most thickly populated districts in the country, but divides into two large branches before entering the sea. On the eastern branch, called the Hleing or Rangoon river, is Rangoon, the capital, with a population of 96,942; and Bassein, also an important port, is situated on the western branch. Prome, one of the principal towns in the province, lies far up the river. The valley of the Sittoung resembles that of the Irrawaddy, but is less fertile. Toungoo, Shwé-gyeen, and Sittoung are its chief towns. Tenasserim, the southernmost state of British Burmah, is mountainous, well supplied with small streams, and rich in minerals, although tin is the only metal actually mined. The Salwen river in the north is a large stream, but not navigable further than about 100 m. inland, on account of rapids. At its mouth stands Maulmain, the capital of the ancient province. The Tenasserim river, which drains a part of the peninsula, admits of ship navigation only for a short distance. Amherst is a military station and town, with a tolerable harbor, on the gulf of Martaban. Tavoy and Mergui are small peninsular ports which carry on some trade with Rangoon. It is known that antimony, iron, coal, and gold occur in Tenasserim. The coast of the province is provided with six lighthouses.—The climate of British Burmah is warm and moist, but not generally unhealthy, except in the forest tracts during the prevalence of the S. W. monsoon. The amount of annual rainfall varies greatly with the locality; thus at Sandoway it is 253.15 inches, while it is only 48.50 inches at Prome. The average range of the thermometer between sunrise and noon is from 76⅞° to 88¾° F. in May, and from 65° to 80° F. in December. Rice is the principal product of the country, and the chief article of export. In 1869-70, 1,712,030 acres of this grain were planted. In the previous year 133 acres were employed in the cultivation of indigo, 100 acres were devoted to tea culture at Akyab, and mulberries were grown upon 25 acres in Sandoway. While the cultivable area of British Burmah is 38,195 sq. m., only 3,044512 sq. m. are actually cultivated. Very few articles are manufactured for export; silks are woven at Prome, and some lacquered ware is made. The total value of the trade of the province in 1869-'70 was £10,658,688, of which sum £2,114,504 represents the inland commerce. There is regular steam communication between Rangoon, Maulmain, Akyab, and Calcutta, as well as between all the more important ports in the province. The revenue is derived from land, capitation, and excise taxes, customs, and taxes on salt, fisheries, and forest produce. In 1869-'70, the total amount collected was £1,228,550. The cultivators of the soil hold their lands directly from the government, to which they pay each a small annual rental or assessment, the rate of which ranges from 10s. in some parts of Amherst to 6d. in Sandoway. The fresh-water fisheries of the country are annually leased by the government to individuals, and yield £54,000 a year to the revenue, notwithstanding that every person is at liberty to take what fish he may require for home consumption. The government of the province is vested in a chief commissioner, who is assisted by commissioners of division and other subordinate judicial officers, to the number of 137. The administration, however, is totally without legislative power. The natives, the greater proportion of whom are Burmese and Buddhists, are in the habit of referring their disputes for determination to an arbitrator chosen from among themselves, and usually a village elder. The total number of schools in the province is 456, 182 of which receive government aid. Of those which do not receive aid fully one half are mission schools.—British Burmah has prospered greatly since its organization under the general administrative system of India. The population has at least doubled, owing to the increased immigration from Burmah proper, China, and the neighboring countries, consequent upon the establishment of a stable government, which assures permanent tranquillity. The commerce of the country exhibits an even greater increase. The absence of good roads, however, is the most serious obstacle to progress, there being but 655½ m. of road in the province in 1869, of which 124 m. were first class and 374½ m. second class. A railway between Rangoon and Prome, 166 m., is projected. At present the rivers are almost the only commercial routes. A large trade is carried on with Upper Burmah by the Irrawaddy, on which river as many as 25,000 native boats are employed. It is also navigated by a considerable number of European steamers, one of which in 1869 reached a point above Mandalay.