LOYALTY ISLANDS (Fr. lies Loyalty or Loyaute), a group in the South Pacific Ocean belonging to France, about 100 m. E. of New Caledonia, with a total land area of about 1050 sq. m. and 20,000 inhabitants. It consists of Uea or Uvea (the northernmost), Lifu (the largest island, with an area of 650 sq. m.), Tiga and several small islands and Mard or Nengone. They are coral islands of comparatively recent elevation, and in no place rise more than 250 ft. above the level of the sea. Enough of the rocky surface is covered with a thin coating of soil to enable the natives to grow yams, taro, bananas, etc., for their support; cotton thrives well, and has even been exported in small quantities, but there is no space available for its cultivation on any considerable scale. Fresh water, rising and falling with the tide, is found in certain large caverns in Lifu, and by sinking to the sea-level a supply may be obtained in any part of the island. The chief product of the islands are bananas \> the chief export sandal-wood.
The Loyalty islanders are Melanesians; the several islands have each its separate language, and in Uea one tribe uses a Samoan and another a New Hebridean form of speech. The Loyalty group was discovered at the beginning of the 19th century, and Dumont d'Urville laid down the several islands in his chart. For many years the natives had a reputation as dangerous cannibals, but they are now among the most civilized Melanesians. Christianity was introduced into Mare by native teachers from Rarotonga and Samoa; missionaries were settled by the London Missionary Society at Mare in 1854, at Lifu in 1859 and at Uea in 1865: Roman Catholic missionaries also arrived from New Caledonia; and in 1864 the French, considering the islands a dependency of that colony, formally instituted a commandant. An attempt was made by this official to put a stop to the English missions by violence; but the report of his conduct led to so much indignation in Australia and in England that the emperor Napoleon, on receipt of a protest from Lord Shaftesbury and others, caused a commission of inquiry to be appointed and free liberty of worship to be secured to the Protestant missions. A further persecution of Christians in Uea, during 1875, called forth a protest from the British government.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)