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Lourenco Marques

LOURENCO MARQUES, capital of Portuguese East Africa, or Mozambique, on the north bank of the Espirito Santo or English river, Delagoa Bay, and 396 m. by rail via Pretoria from Johannesburg. Pop. (1904) 9849, of whom 4691 were Europeans and 1690 Asiatics. The town is situated close to the mouth of the river in 25 53' S. and 32 30' E., and is built upon a low-lying spit of sand, formerly surrounded by swamps. The streets are regularly laid out and adorned by several fine buildings. The principal thoroughfare, the Avenida Aguiar, 2 m. long goes from the centre of the town to Reuben Point. The harbour is well equipped with piers, quays, landing sheds and electric cranes, which enable large steamers to discharge cargoes direct into the railway trucks. The depth of water at low tide is 1 8 ft. The streets are lit by electricity and there is an electric tramway system 7 m. in extent. At Reuben Point, which marks the spot where the English river enters the bay, xvu. 3 are the lighthouse, barracks and the private residences of the wealthy citizens. At its mouth the English river is about 2 m. across. Lourenco Marques is the nearest seaport to the Rand gold mines. The port is 8374 m. from Southampton via Cape Town and 7565 m. via the Suez canal. It is served by British, Portuguese and German liners, the majority of the goods imported being shipped at Southampton, Lisbon or Hamburg. Over 50% of the import trade of Johannesburg is with Lourenoo Marques. Great Britain and British possessions take some 40% of the import trade, Portugal, Germany, Norway, Sweden and America coming next in order. Most of the imports, being forwarded to the Transvaal, figure also as exports. The chief articles of import are food-stuffs and liquors, iron, mineral oils, inks and dyes, timber and live stock. These all form part of the transit trade. There is practically no export trade by sea save in coal, which is brought chiefly from the collieries at Middelburg in the Transvaal. At Port Matolla, 20 m. from the town, on the river of that name, one of the feeders of the English river, is a flourishing timber trade. The average value of the total trade of Lourenco Marques for the five years 1897-1899 and 1902-1903 (1900 and 1901 being years during which trade was disorganized by the Anglo-Boer War) was over 3,500,000. In 1905 the value of the trade of the port was 5,682,000; of this total the transit trade was worth over 4,500,000 and the imports for local consumption 1,042,000. The retail trade, and trade with the natives, is almost entirely in the hands of Indians. The chief import for local consumption is cheap wine from Portugal, bought by the Kaffirs to the extent of over 500,000 yearly. These natives form the bulk of the Africans who work in the Rand gold mines.

Lourenco Marques is named after a Portuguese navigator, who with a companion (Antonio Calderia) was sent in 1544 by the governor of Mozambique on a voyage of exploration. They explored the lower courses of the rivers emptying their waters into Delagoa Bay, notably the Espirito Santo. The various forts and trading stations which the Portuguese established, abandoned and reoccupied on the north bank of the river were all called Lourenco Marques. The existing town dates from about 1850, the previous settlement having been entirely destroyed by the natives. In 1871 the town was described as a poor place, with narrow streets, fairly good flat-roofed houses, grass huts, decayed forts and rusty cannon, enclosed by a wall 6 ft. high then recently erected and protected by bastions at intervals. The growing importance of the Transvaal led, however, to greater interest being taken in Portugal in the port. A commission was sent by the Portuguese government in 1876 to drain the marshy land near the settlement, to plant the blue gum tree, and to build a hospital and a church. It was not, however, until the end of the 19th century that any marked development took place in the town, and up to 1903 cargo had to be discharged in tugs and lighters.

In 1873-1877 Mr Burgers, president of the Transvaal, endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to get a railway built from Pretoria to Delagoa Bay. In 1878-1879 a survey was taken for a line from Lourenco Marques to the Transvaal, and in 1883 the Lisbon cabinet granted to Colonel Edward McMurdo, an American citizen, a concession which took the place of others which had lapsed for the building of a railway from Lourenco Marques to the Transvaal frontier, the Boer government having agreed (1883) to continue the line to Pretoria. Under this concession Colonel McMurdo formed in London in 1887 a company the Delagoa Bay and East African Railway Company to construct the line. Meantime a secret agreement had been come to between President Kruger and Portugal for the concession to the Transvaal of a "steam tramway" parallel to the projected railway, should the company not complete the line in the time specified. The company, however, built the line to the frontier shown on the Portuguese maps of 1883 within the time limit, the railway being opened on the 14th of December 1888. The frontier by this date had been fixed at Komati Poort, 5 m. farther from the coast. Portugal had previously agreed to grant the company " a reasonable extension of time " to complete the line if the frontier should be traced farther inland than shown on the 1883 maps. The Lisbon government required the extension to Komati Poort to be completed in eight months (five of which were in the rainy season), an impossible stipulation. The railway not being finished, the Portuguese seized the line on the 25th of June 1889 and cancelled the concession. Portugal in so doing acted, to all appearance, under pressure from the Transvaal. Great Britain and America at once protested, Portugal admitted the illegality of her act and consented to refer the amount of compensation to the decision of three Swiss jurists. This was in 1890, when Portugal paid 28,000 on account. It was not until the 29th of March 1900 that the award was made known. The arbitrators ordered Portugal to pay in addition to the 28,000 a sum, including interest, of 950,000. The damages were promptly paid. Meantime the railway had been continued from Komati Poort and was opened for through traffic to Pretoria on the 8th of July 1895. In 1906-1910 another railway (47 m. long) was built from Lourenfo Maiques due west to the Swaziland frontier, being a link in a new line to shorten the distance by rail between the Rand and the sea by some 60 m.

See also DELAGOA BAY and the authorities there cited. The text of the railway arbitration award was published in French at Berne in 1900. Annual reports on the trade of Lourenco Marques are issued by the British Foreign Office.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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