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Cecil Rhodes

Cecil Rhodes



Cecil RhodesExpansion is the rallying cry of the Anglo Saxon race at the close of the nineteenth century. No more prominent exponent of this principle can be found than Cecil Rhodes who has developed and organized British domination in South Africa, as Clive and Hastings did in India a century earlier.


Cecil Rhodes was born at Bishop Stortford Hertfordshire England, where his father was rector of the Parish. On account of his delicate health he was sent, in 1871, to Natal, where his brother Herbert was engaged in raising cotton. He returned to England in the next year and entered Oriel College, Oxford. On account of lung disease he relinquished his studies and went back to Natal. When diamonds were discovered on the Vaal river Herbert left Natal and bought a claim in Griqualand. Here he was joined by Cecil, who was left in charge of the diggings when Herbert went further north. While Cecil was superintending his gang of Kaffirs breaking up the diamond-bearing yellow ground he began to brood over the idea of Anglo-Saxon expansion hoping some day to see South Africa, as far as the Zambesi, under English control. He returned to Oriel College in 1876, kept his terms passed his examinations and took his degree in 1881. In the meantime his vacations had been regularly spent in the diamond fields. The young Englishman took interest in the politics of the Cape Colony. For a time he was the representative of Barkley West in the Cape Parliament, which he entered to use his influence to secure for England the remainder of unclaimed country. His idea was that the world's surface is limited, and the great object of a highly civilized country should be to take as much of the world as it can.


In 1883 General C. G. Gordon was sent by the British Government to arrange terms of peace with the Basutos, and Rhodes by the Cape officials on a similar errand. Gordon found Rhodes somewhat contradictory and disposed to have his own way. Nevertheless he highly prized the young politician, and invited him to stay in the Basutoland, but Rhodes refused. In 1884, by an agreement with the chief Mankoroane, he obtained the cession of Lower Bechuanaland, which had formerly been conquered by the Transvaal Boers. Over it the British Government established a protectorate. It was at this time that President Kruger sent out his Boers on every side to seize all the territory they could. Rhodes insisted on a display of force to retain the outlet to the north. Sir Charles Warren's expedition was therefore sent and accomplished its purpose.


When Sir T. Scanlan was made minister of the Cape, Rhodes accepted the post of Treasurer General. Diamond. mining had suffered from a financial crash, and now required great outlay of capital. Rhodes began pushing his scheme of amalgamating the diamond~mining companies. The three men who held the chief interest in the De Beers mine at Kimberley were Barnett I. Barnato, Alfred Beit and Cecil Rhodes. The last wished to use the profits of the mine for the acquisition of unoccupied regions to the north. Barnato opposed this as a mere fancy, but finally gave way to the earnestness of his associate. The trust deed of the De Beers Company was changed, and the mine furnished £500,000 to extend the British Empire. Barnato said that no other man than Rhodes could have induced him to join in the amalgamation and expansion project. In 1888 Lobengula, king of Matabeleland, granted the mineral rights of that country. This concession formed the solid basis of the British South African Company. Its charter was formally granted in October, 1889, and the company started on its career of expansion. In July, 1890, Cecil Rhodes was made Prime Minister of Cape Colony, and thus combined the management of the company with politic leadership. The first business of the company was to occupy Mashonaland and the neighboring Manica. Negotiations were also opened for securing Gazaland.


In 1891 Cecil Rhodes, who was now known as the Diamond King, visited England, and while there gave £10,000 for the support of Home Rule in Ireland. English Imperialists are generally opposed to that cause, but Rhodes believes that only on the broad basis of popular self-government call the empire rest secure. He is therefore, at the same time, all Imperial statesman and a Home Ruler. His political ideas are partly American he would apply the principles of the Federal Constitution to the relations between the various States composing the British Empire. Several of his managers at the Cape and in the Transvaal are Americans. He secs in the English-speaking people the providential race, predestined rulers of the world. Rhodes has always been antagonistic to the Boer rule in the Transvaal, asserting that, though republican in name it is not truly democratic, because all political power is lodged in the hands of the minority of the residents of the country. A certain proportion of the Uitlanders (Outlanders, or foreigners) are American citizens. Rhodes therefore claimed the sympathy of the United States for his efforts in behalf of the Uitlanders.


At Johannesburg, in the Transvaal, there had been formed, in 1894, a so-called National Union, which sought to secure reforms for the benefit of the Uitlanders. These adventurers coming from Great Britain, America, Germany and Australia, intended to return to their respective lands after making their fortunes. They objected to being denied ordinary rights by the Boers, with whom they were living temporarily. They grumbled at the monopolies which oppressed and obstructed them at every turn. The young Englishmen despised the sober, religions Boers as unfit for fighting. A Reform Committee was organized to extort the desired reforms from the Transvaal government by force or a show of force. Colonel Francis Rhodes, Cecil's brother, was a member. They prepared gradually for seizing the forts held by the Boers. Dr. Jameson was engaged to come to their aid with 1600 men. Cecil Rhodes, the Premier of Cape Colony, the Chartered Company, .The De Beers Company and the Gold Fields Company of Johannesburg, formed a plan to utilize the discontent of the Uitlanders for the overthrow of the Transvaal government. The crisis of this movement came with Dr. Jameson's raid in December, 1895. Plans had been laid in the autumn for an expedition against Johannesburg and a simultaneous uprising of the Uitlanders. Troops of the Chartered Company and volunteers were encamped and drilled at Pitsani from October, under various pretenses. The total number was 600 men, but Dr. Jameson and his associates expected a force of 2000 miners and others in Johannesburg to assist them. The expedition set out on Sunday night, December 29, 1895, though warning had been sent by Dr. J. H. Hammond from Johannesburg that matters were not favorable. The National Union had refused to raise the British Hag, and declared for a republic. Report of the raid was telegraphed to Cape Town, and the Governor, Sir Hercules Robinson, sent orders to direct Jameson to return. Jameson declared that his mission was peaceful, and that he must go ahead, on account of the condition of his company.


As soon as Jameson's party crossed the border the Boer Government summoned all burghers to assemble all January 1st at their respective posts, with horses and rifles to defend the country. The Boers assembled and took station at Krugersdorp in a deserted mine. When Jameson came up, he sent a message that he wished to pass the town, and that if resisted he would shell the place. The invaders did shell the Boers at the mine, but when they charged on an outpost they were repulsed with rifle shot. Jameson's party then changed their route, but the Boers followed, picking off the troopers with their well-aimed rifles. The raiders were cooped in a hollow in front of a narrow ford, while the Boers were posted behind ridges of rock. Jameson's men, exhausted, raised a white flag. They had lost 17 killed and 49 wounded, while of the Boers only 3 had been killed by the invaders; 2 others were shot accidentally. The defeated force was taken as prisoners to Pretoria, and President Kruger notified the British Government that he would deliver up the raiders to be dealt with by its courts. They were sent to Natal, placed Oil a British steamer and taken to England.


Telegrams then published proved that Jameson was acting under the orders of his superiors, and that Cecil Rhodes was expected to direct in person the revolution at Johannesburg, and that the money and arms were furnished by his companies. In January, 1896, Rhodes was therefore compelled to resign his office. It was even threatened that the charter of the British South Africa Company might be cancelled, but appearances were saved by his giving up his position as chairman. His influence, however, remained, and both in Africa and England he retained the supremacy which his strong personality and abundant services had given him. Rhodes returned to England and made some explanation to Sir Joseph Chamberlain, the minister of the Colonies . Then he went back to Bulawayo, intending to devote himself to the development of the newly acquired region, which had been called in compliment to himself Rhodesia. His services were soon required in suppressing the Matabele revolt and in arranging the terms of peace. In 1897 he again visited England and gave evidence before the South African Committee. He then coolly admitted. his full responsibility for the Jameson raid, which had been previously denied. In 1899 he returned to seek financial aid in his projects for development of South Africa and the building of a railroad from Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope. His early dream of expansiol1 bad now itself expanded, and embraced all Eastern Africa as well as the South. He visited Continental bankers and capitalists, and was accorded an interview with the German Emperor.


He returned to South Africa in June, 1899, four months previous to the outbreak of the war. He took but a subordinate part in the war itself, though he was in Kimberley throughout the siege of that place, and did good service there. But he steadily refused to interfere in the struggle, though appeals were made to him by both the contesting parties. After the raising of the siege he left Kimberley for England, but soon returned to South Africa against the urgent advice of his physician . For a year or more his health had been in a very precarious state, although he continued to direct affairs of great magnitude.


He died at "Groote Schuur" his residence near Town, on March 26, 1902, of a disease of the heart. last words were characteristic: So much to do. The war was very near its end when Mr. Rhodes died: if he could have lived, he might have been the greatest personal influence in the reorganization of political affairs in South Africa, and he certainly would have been pre-eminent in the .development of economic conditions there. Mr. Rhodes was unmarried, and a large part of his estate was left for the establishment, in Oxford, of scholarships for the benefit of students from the United States and elsewhere: this being along the line of Mr. Rhodes' favorite idea of the unification of the English. speaking races. Holders of the scholarships, which arc unusually valuable, must possess scholarship, personal character, certain qualities of leadership, and apparent fitness for public life, and athletic ability.


Cecil Rhodes was the active embodiment of the spirit which pervades the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. He exhibited no self-conceit, but thorough self-reliance. He was regardless of his personal appearance, careless in dress, and little disposed to exert himself physically. He disliked conventional society. Devoid of fear, he mingled freely with men of all classes whom fortune brought in his way. It was by venturing unarmed into the camp of the powerful King of the Matabeles that he was able to dictate peace almost on his own terms. Among English-speaking people his complete devotion to the idea of the extension of Anglo-Saxon dominions brought to his aid capitalists, and others who sought only personal profit, as well as far-sighted imperial statesmen. Cecil Rhodes stamped his name indelibly on the continent of Africa and in the history of the British Empire.

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