1902 Encyclopedia > Dominica


DOMINICA, in French DOMINIQUE, a British West lndia island, the largest in the Leeward group of the Lesser Antilles, lying between the French islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, 24 miles north of the former and about the same distance south of the latter, at the intersection of 15° 30' N. lat. by 61° 30' W. long. It has a length of 29 miles with a maximum breadth of 16, and its area is estimated at 291 square miles. The longer axis is formed by a chain of mountains, which attains in some parts a height of upwards of 5000 feet, and gives the whole island a strongly marked profile and great irregularity of surface. The results and symptoms of volcanic activity are abundant, in the shape of solfataras, emissions of subterranean vapours, and hot springs; and in the southern part of the island there exists a boiling lake of unascertained depth, in which the water is frequently projected 3 feet or more above the surface by the force of the ebullition. Besides a large number of minor rivulets, upwards of thirty streams of considerable size might be mentioned, and this abundance of natural irrigation develops great fertility in the rich volcanic soil. The hills are in many parts covered with valuable timber trees of the kinds commonly found in the West Indies; and the sugar-cane, coffee, cocoa, cotton, hidigo, oranges, plantains, and arrow-root are grown in the lowlands. The island is botanically remarkable for the great number of peculiar species which it possesses in com-parison with the poverty in this respect of Guadaloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, and Antigua : as many as 24 are mentioned by Grisebach. Game is abundant; the fisheries on the coast are productive; and large quantities of honey and wax are furnished by the wild bees, which were originally introduced from Europe. The coasts of the island are not much indented, and the only anchorages of importance are Prince Bupert's Bay and Roseau, both on the west side. The total tonnage of the ships that annually enter and clear amounts to 18,018 tons, according to the average of the fifteen years from 1860 to 1874 inclusive; and of this total only 3742 tons belong to foreign vessels. The imports in 1874 were valued at £56,714, and the exports of the same year at £67,720,—being a decrease since 1860 of £11,087 and £12,738 respectively. Since 1872 Dominica has formed part of the colony of the Leeward Islands, and sends its representatives to the general legisla-tive council; but at the same time it retains its lieutenant-governor or president, a separate treasury, and its local legislature, consisting of seven elective members and seven nominees of the crown. In 1874 its public revenue amounted to £15,022, its expenditure to £17,456, and its debt to £4813. In common with the Virgin Islands it has attained complete religious equality by the abolition of the salaries paid from the public funds to the clergymen of the Church of England, who had a much smaller portion of the population under their jurisdiction than the Roman Catholic priests. Of the Carib aborigines there are no representatives ; and the present inhabitants, numbering, according to the census of 1871, 27,178, consist mainly of descendants of the former negro slaves, with a certain number of Spanish and English families. The capital is Roseau, or Charlotteville, a fortified port near the southern end of the island, with about 5000 inhabitants. Dominica was so named on its discovery by Columbus in 1493, in commemoration of the date, which happened to be Sunday (Dies Dominica) the 3d of November. It was ceded to England by France at the Peace of Paris in 1763, was captured by the French in 1778, regained by the English in 1783, again seized by the French in 1802, and finally surrendered to Britain in 1814. It was in the neighbouring sea that Rodney obtained his victory over Count de Grasse in 1782.

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