CEYLON, an island in the Indian Ocean, at the entrance of the bay of Bengal, situated between 79° 50', and 82° lo' East Long. and 5° 50', and 9° 51' North Lat. It is separated from the Coromandel coast, by the Gulf of Alanatir, a narrow strait, full of shoals, which receives the name of Adam's Bridge, because the natives gene rally believe that at this place the great ancestor of the human race, after his fall, passed from this island, which they imagine to have been the seat of the terrestrial paradise, to the shores of the continent. Many suppose that Ceylon, at a distant period, formed part of India, and was afterwards separated from it by some great convul sion of nature. This island is computed to be about 900 miles in circumference ; its greatest length is 280, and its greatest breadth 150 miles.
Mention is made of this island by some of the writers of antiquity , but the accounts which they give of it are very incorrect and contradictory. In modern times, the Portuguese were the first Europeans who visited Ceylon. It was discovered in 1505 by Almeyda, who was acciden tally driven from his cruize of the Maldive islands, by the violence of the currents, into one of the harbours of this country. The situation of the island, and the pro ductions in which it abounded, excited him to cultivate a closer connection with the natives, while the difficulty they found in repelling the attacks of the Arabs, rendered them willing to form an alliance with this powerful and enterprising nation. Accordingly, when-A hneyda was introduced to the king, he easily succeeded in persuad ing hint to pay the Portuguese an annual tribute of 250,000 lbs. of cinnamon, on condition that they would protect his coast from every hostile invasion. In order, however, to obtain a monopoly of this valuable article, these ambitious adventurers soon attempted to form a settlement on the island. This naturally excited the jealousy and indignation of the native princes ; but, after a long and bloody struggle, the Portuguese succeeded in reducing the whole of the coast under their dominion, and drove the Ceylonese to the mountains in the interior parts of the country. From thence the natives made frequent incursions on the coast, and destroyed the plan tations of their invaders, while they, in return, exercised towards the inhabitants every species of oppression and barbarity. This desultory warfare was carried on for upwards of a century, and though productive of little advantage, was attended with much bloodshed to both parties. In this state of distress, the Ceylonese were eager to accept the offer of assistance from the Dutch. In 1632, the States, agreeably to a previous treaty, sent a powerful armament to act in concert with the native princes against their oppressors. The struggle which ensued was violent and bloody ; every pass, every for tress, was warmly disputed with them ; and after the Portuguese were driven from all their stations, except Columbo, the seat of the government, they seemed determined to perish rather than yield it up. The Dutch invested the town, but the besieged baffled all their attempts, and rejected every proposal of surrender with disdain. At length, however, famine and disease began
to subdue those brave spirits who had despised death in every other form. After a siege of seven months, Columbo surrendered to the Dutch in 1636 ; and, by the fall of this place, a period was put to the dominion of the Portuguese in Ceylon, after it had subsisted for about a century and a half.
The joy of the natives at their deliverance from the yoke of the Portuguese, and the gratitude which they felt to the Dutch, seemed at first to have no bounds. The King of Candy cheerfully paid the expences of their armaments in cinnamon. and even conferred on his new allies the principal possessions, from which, by their assistance, he had lately expelled the Portuguese. On the other hand. they expressed the warmest gratitude to the monarch for these concessions ; they began to fortify their new acquisitions under the profession of regard to his security ; and so well were the natives cony inced of their good intentions, that they afforded them ever) assistance in their power to complete their operation-. The parts of the country assigned them were among du.. best adapted for cultivation on the island. and they also began to turn C.ese to the best advantage. At the same time, they kept up a most friendly intercourse with thr, natives, so that the Ceylonese viewed their operations without jealarusy, and were eager, by their good offices, to slim the gratitude which they felt to the guardians of their coasts. By means of these prudent measures, the colony was quietly brought into a nourishing state, and was even able to depend on its own internal resources. But, unhappily, the Dutch did not long pursue this wise and moderate system of policy. By degrees, they began to extend their posts into the interior of the country, and to seize on every spot which appeared advantageous for cultivation ; they also increased their demands on the king for the protection they afforded him ; and he quickly found that all the cinnamon which grew in his dominions would not be sufficient to gratify their insatiable desires. At length, enraged by their accumulated acts of injus tice and extortion, he suddenly attacked their settlements, and committed the greatest devastations upon them. This breach between the natives and the Dutch was followed by a long course of hostilities, during which much blood was shed, and no permanent advantage gained by either party. The Dutch, however, were the greatest losers in the contest ; for though they frequently routed the natives, overrun their country, and laid waste their villages, yet the hardships which they encountered in forcing their way through a country covered with wood and full of defiles, destroyed so many of their troops, that all their successes were too dearly purchas ed, and, in the end, they were always obliged to abandon the conquests they had made. On the other hand, the incursions of the natives upon their cultivated grounds, though in general temporary, and easily repulsed, fre quently destroyed the labours of many years.