|1853.||Born at Bishop’s Stortford, July 5.|
|1870.||Goes out to Natal.|
|1871.||Moves to Kimberley.|
|1873-81.||Intermittent visits to Oxford.|
|1880.||First De Beers Company started.|
|1880.||Member for Barkly West.|
|1883.||Commissioner in Bechuanaland.|
|1885.||Warren expedition: Bechuanaland annexed by British Government.|
|1887.||Acute rivalry between Rhodes and Barnato.|
|1888.||Barnato gives way: De Beers Consolidated founded.|
|1888.||Lobengula grants concession for mining.|
|1889.||British South Africa Chartered Company formed.|
|1890.||Prime Minister of Cape Colony.|
|1890.||Occupation of Mashonaland.|
|1893.||Second Rhodes ministry.|
|1893.||War with Lobengula. Matabeleland occupied.|
|1895.||‘Drifts’ question between Cape and Transvaal Government.|
|1895.||Jameson Raid, December 28.|
|1896.||January, Rhodes’s resignation. Visit to England.|
|1896.||Rebellion in Rhodesia.|
|1897.||Inquiry into the Raid by Committee of the House of Commons.|
|1899.||Outbreak of Great Boer War.|
|1902.||Dies at Muizenberg, March 26.|
The Rhodes family can be traced back to sturdy English yeoman stock. In the eighteenth century they had held land in North London. Cecil’s father was vicar of Bishop’s Stortford, a quiet country town in Hertfordshire on the Essex border; he was a man of mark, wealthy, liberal, and unconventional, with the rare gift of preaching ten-minute sermons which were well worth hearing. Of his eldest sons, Herbert went to Winchester, Frank to Eton; Cecil, the fifth son, born on July 5, 1853, was kept at home. He had part of his education at the local Grammar School, but perhaps the better part at the Vicarage from his father himself. The shrewd Vicar soon saw that his fifth son was not fitted for the ordinary routine of professional life at home, and at the age of seventeen he was sent out to visit his brother Herbert, who had emigrated to Natal. Cecil said good-bye to his native land for the first time in 1870, and thus early elected to be a citizen of the Greater Britain beyond the seas.
The brothers had certain points of resemblance, being both original and adventurous; but they had marked differences. The elder was a wanderer pure and simple, a lover of sport and of novelty. He could follow a new track with all the ardour of a pioneer; he could not sit down and develop the wealth which he had opened up. The management of the Natal cotton farm soon fell into the hands of Cecil, now eighteen years old, who noted every detail, and studied his crops, his workmen, and his markets, while Herbert was absent in quest of game and adventure. It was this spirit which led Herbert westward in 1871, among the earliest of the immigrants into the diamond fields: before the end of the year Cecil followed and soon took over and developed his brother’s claim. It was no case of Esau and Jacob; the brothers had great affection for one another and fitted in together without jealousy. Each lived his own life and followed his own bent. As Kimberley was the first field in which Cecil showed his abilities, it is worth while to try to picture the scene. It remained a centre of interest to him for thirty years, the scene of many troubles and of many triumphs.
‘The New Rush’, as Kimberley was called in 1872, was a chaos of tents and rubbish heaps seen through a haze of dust — a heterogeneous collection of tents, wagons, native kraals and debris heaps, each set down with cheerful irresponsibility and indifference to order. The funnel of blue clay so productive of diamonds had been found on a bit of the bare Griqualand Veld, marked out by no geographical advantages, with no charm of woodland or river scenery. Here in the years to come the great pits, familiar in modern photographs, were to grow deeper and deeper, as the partitions fell in between the small claims, or as the more enterprising miners bought up their neighbours’ plots. Here the debris heaps were to grow higher and higher, as more hundreds of Kaffirs were brought in to dig, or new machinery arrived, as the buckets plied more rapidly on the network of ropes overhead. In the early ‘seventies there were few signs of these marvels to be seen by the outward eye — everything was in the rough — but they were no doubt already existing in the brain of ‘a tall fair boy, blue eyed and with somewhat aquiline features, wearing flannels of the school playing-field, somewhat shrunken with strenuous rather than effectual washings, that still left the colour of the red veld dust’.
Here Cecil Rhodes lived for the greater part of ten years, finding time amid his work for dreams: living, in general, aloof from the men with whom he did his daily business, but laying here and there the foundations of a friendship which was to bear fruit hereafter. Rudd,60 of the Matabeleland concessions, came out in 1873; Beit,61 the partner in diamond fields and gold fields, the co-founder of the Chartered Company, in 1875; and in 1878 there came out from Edinburgh one whose name was to be linked still more closely with that of Rhodes. Leander Starr Jameson, a skilful doctor, a cheerful companion, gifted with a great capacity for self-devotion, and with unshakeable firmness of will, was now twenty-five years old. Rhodes and he soon drew closely together and for years they were living under one roof. While his casual and rather overbearing manners repelled many of his acquaintances, Rhodes had a genius for friendship with the few; and it was such men as these who shared his work, his pastimes, and his thoughts, and reconciled him to spending many years in the unattractive surroundings of the mines.
But his life at this time had other phases. Not the least wonderful chapter in it was the series of visits which he paid to Oxford between 1873 and 1881. The atmosphere of a mining camp does not seem likely to draw a man towards academic studies and a University life. But Rhodes, who had a great power of absorbing himself in work, had also the power of projecting himself beyond the interests of the moment. Seven times he found opportunity to tear himself away from the busy work of mining and to keep terms at Oxford; and they made a lasting impression upon him. It was not the love of book-learning, still less the love of games, which drew him there. To many he may have seemed to be spending his time unprofitably. He indulged in some rowing and polo, he was master of the drag-hounds, he worried his neighbours by nocturnal practising of the horn. The examinations in the schools, and the more popular athletic contests, knew little of him. But his sojourn in Oxford was a tribute paid by the higher side of his mind to education and to the value of high thinking as compared with material progress; and no one who knew him well in later life could doubt that the traditions of Oxford had deeply influenced his mind. On these things he was by nature reticent, and was often misjudged.
Between the years 1878 and 1888 must be placed the struggle between him and his rivals for predominance in Kimberley. It had begun with small enterprises, the purchasing of adjoining claims, the undertaking of drainage work, the introduction of better machinery. It attracted more attention in 1880 with the founding of the first De Beers Company, named after a Boer who had owned the land on which the mine lay. It culminated in 1887 in the battle with Barnato,62 his most dangerous competitor, when by dexterous purchasing of shares in his rival’s company Rhodes forced him into a final scheme of amalgamation. In 1888 was founded the great corporation of De Beers Consolidated mines. The masterful will of Rhodes dictated the terms of the Trust deed, giving very extensive power to the Directorate for the using of their funds. He was already laying his foundations, though few could then have guessed what imperial work was to be done with the money thus obtained. The process of amalgamation was not popular in Kimberley. It resulted in closing down many of the less profitable claims and in reducing the amount of labour employed. But it brought in better machinery and it saved expenses of management. Above all, it curtailed the output of diamonds and so kept up the market price in Europe and elsewhere. Many people refused to believe that Rhodes could have outmanœuvred a man of exceptional financial ability without using dishonourable means. But there is no doubt that it was masterful character which won the day, that strength of will which decides the issue at the critical moment. Many others have been prejudiced against him merely from the fact that he spent so much time and energy in the pursuit of ‘filthy lucre’. We must remember that Rhodes himself said: ‘What’s the earthly use of having ideas if you haven’t the money to carry them out?’ We must also remember that all witnesses of his life agree that the ideas were always foremost, the money a mere instrument to realize them. The story was told to Edmund Garrett by one of Rhodes’s old Kimberley associates ‘how one day in those scheming years, deep in the sordid details of amalgamation, Rhodes (“always a bit of a crank”) suddenly put his hand over a great piece of No Man’s Africa on the map and said, “Look here: all that British — that is my dream”.’63
But long before this struggle was over, Rhodes had embarked on new courses which were to carry him still farther. His dreams of political work began to take shape when Griqualand was created a British province in 1880. Two electoral divisions were formed, Kimberley and Barkly West; and it was for the latter that Rhodes first took his seat in the Cape Parliament in 1880, a seat which he retained till his death. The Prime Minister was Sir Gordon Sprigg, a politician with experience but few ideas, more skilled in retaining office than in formulating a policy. Rhodes was at first reticent about his own projects, and spent his time quietly studying commercial questions, examining the problem of the native races and making friends among the Boers. If these friendships were obscured later by political quarrels, there is no reason to suspect their genuineness. His sympathy with the Dutch farmers had begun in 1872, when he made a long, lonely trek through the Northern Transvaal, and it lasted through life. He was interested in farming, he liked natural men, and was at home in unconventional surroundings. One of the closest observers of his character said that to see the true Rhodes you must see him on the veld. So long as the supremacy of the British flag was assured, there was nothing that he so ardently desired as friendly relations between British and Dutch, a real union of the races, a South African nation. It was for this that he worked so long with Jan Hofmeyr, leader of the Cape Dutch, and earned so many unfair suspicions from the short-sighted politicians of Cape Town.
Hofmeyr was a curious man. He had a great understanding of the Dutch character and a great power of influencing men; but this was not done by parliamentary eloquence. By one satirist he was called ‘the captain who never appeared on the bridge’; by another he was nicknamed ‘the Mole’, because his activity could only be conjectured from the tracks which he left behind him. A third name current in Cape Town, ‘the Blind Man,’ was an ironical tribute to his exceptional astuteness in politics. His organ was ‘the Afrikander Bond’, a society formed partly for agricultural, partly for political purposes, a creature which like a chameleon has often changed its colour, sometimes working peacefully beside British politicians, at other times openly conducting an anti-British agitation. He certainly had no enthusiasm for the British flag, but he probably realized the freedom which the Colony enjoyed under it, and was clear of all disloyalty to the Crown. The policy dearest to the farmers of the Afrikander Bond was the protective system for their agricultural produce. If Rhodes would support this, he might induce the Dutch to give him a free hand in his plans for expansion towards the North; and this was needed, because the problem of the North was becoming urgent, and Sprigg and his party were blind to its importance.
A glance at the nineteenth-century map will show that the territories of the Dutch Republic, lying on the less barren side of the continent, tended to block the extension of Cape Colony and Natal towards the north, the more so as the Boers from time to time sent out fresh swarms westward and encroached on native territory in Bechuanaland. The Germans did not annex Namaqualand till 1885, but already their interest in this district was becoming evident to close observers. Rhodes’s most cherished dream had been the development of the high-lying healthy inland regions to the north by the British race under the British flag. But in those days, when Whitehall was asleep and officials in Cape Town were indifferent, Rhodes saw that his best chance was to convert the Dutch in the Colony. He hoped to make them realize that, if they supported him, the development of the interior might bring trade through Cape Town, which otherwise would go eastward through Portuguese channels. The building of railways, the settlement of new lands in which Dutch and English would share alike, were practical questions which might interest them, and Rhodes was quite genuine in his desire to see both races going forward together. ‘Equal rights for every civilized man south of the Zambezi’ was his motto, and to this he steadfastly clung.
To describe all the means by which Rhodes worked towards this end would be impossible. He worked hard at Kimberley to furnish the sinews of war; he used his personal influence and power of persuasion at Cape Town to win support from Hofmeyr and others; and he was ready to go to the frontier at any moment when there was work to be done. His first commission of this sort had been in Basutoland in 1882, when he helped the famous General Gordon to pacify native discontent; but the following year saw him at work on another frontier more directly affecting his programme. The Boers had again been raiding westwards and had started two new republics, called Goshen and Stellaland, on the route from Kimberley to the north. Rhodes travelled to the scene of action, interviewed Mankoroane, the Bechuana chief, and Van Niekerk, the head of the new settlement, and by sheer personal magnetism persuaded them both to accept British control. When the Cape Parliament refused the responsibility, he referred to the Colonial Office in London, and by the help of Sir Hercules Robinson, the High Commissioner, he carried his point. When the new Governor, who was appointed by the Colonial Office, quarrelled with the Boers, it was Rhodes who made up the quarrel, and when in 1885 the Transvaal Dutch interfered and provoked our home Government into sending out an overpowering force under Sir Charles Warren, it was Rhodes once more who acted as the reconciler, and effected a settlement between Dutch and British. When the indignant Delarey,64 provoked by English blundering, said ominously that ‘blood must flow’, Rhodes replied, ‘No, give me my breakfast, and then we can talk about blood’. He stayed with Delarey a week, came to terms on the points at issue, and even became godfather to Delarey’s grandchild. He was never the man to resort to force when persuasion could be employed, and he usually won his end by his own means.
While his great work in 1883-5 was on the northern frontier he was growing to be a familiar figure among politicians at Cape Town. We have an impression of him as he appeared on his entrance into politics. ‘He was tall, broad-shouldered, with face and figure of somewhat loose formation. His hair was auburn, carelessly flung over his forehead, his eyes of bluish grey, dreamy but kindly. But the mouth — aye, that was the unruly member of his face — with deep lines following the curve of the moustache, it had a determined, masterful, and sometimes scornful expression. . . . His style of speaking was straight and to the point. He was not a hard hitter in debate — rather a persuader, reasoning and pleading in a conversational way as one more anxious to convince an opponent than to expose his weakness. He used little gesture: what there was, was most expressive, his hands held behind him, or thrust out, sometimes passed over his brow.’65 Such success as he had in Parliament he owed less to art than to nature, less to oratorical gifts than to force of character; but this brought him rapidly to the front. As early as 1884 he was in the Ministry, and despite his long absences over his northern work he was judged to be the only man who could become Prime Minister in the parliamentary crisis of 1890. There was, by that year, little question that he was the most influential man in South Africa. He had a large holding in the Transvaal goldfields, discovered in 1886; he was head of the great De Beers Corporation of Kimberley; and he was chairman of the newly-created Chartered Company. To many it seemed impossible that one man could combine these great financial interests with the position of First Minister of the Colony; but at least it was clear that the interests of the companies were subordinated to national aims, that the money which he obtained from mines was spent on imperial ends, and that his political position was never used for the promoting of financial objects.
But it is time to return to the development of the north, the greatest of his schemes and the one dearest to his heart. The year 1885 had secured Bechuanaland to the river Molopo as British territory, while a large stretch farther north was under a British protectorate. One danger had been avoided. The neck of the bottle was not corked up: a way to the interior was now open. The next factor to reckon with was the Matabele nation and its chief, Lobengula. They were a Bantu tribe, fond of fighting and hunting, an offshoot of the Zulus who fought us in 1881. They had a very large country surrounding the Matoppo hills, and Lobengula ruled the various districts through ‘indunas’ or chiefs, who had ‘impis’ or armies of fighting men at their disposal. To the north-east of them lay the weaker tribe of the Mashona, who paid tribute to Lobengula and whose country was a common hunting-ground for the Matabele braves. Over the latter, so long as he did not check too much their love of fighting, Lobengula exercised a fairly effective control. He himself was a remarkable man, strong in body and mind. Sir Lewis Michell describes him as he appeared to English visitors: ‘A somewhat grotesque costume of four yards of blue calico over his shoulders and a string of tigers’ tails round his waist could not make his imposing figure ridiculous. In early days he was an athlete and a fine shot; and though, as years went on, his voracious appetite rendered him conspicuously obese, he was every inch a ruler. . . . Visitors were much struck by his capacity for government: very little went on in his wide dominions of which he was not instantly and accurately informed.’ He was an arbitrary ruler, but not cruel to Europeans, of whom a few, like the famous hunter Selous, visited his capital from time to time. He clearly held the keys to the north, and it was with him that Rhodes had now to deal.
The first step was the mission sent out by Rhodes and Beit early in 1888, headed by their old associate Rudd. He and his two fellow-envoys stayed some months with Lobengula watching for favourable moments and trying to win his favour. They shifted their quarters when the king did so, touring from village to village, plied the king and his indunas with offers and arguments, and finally in October they obtained his signature to a treaty giving full and unqualified rights to the envoys for working minerals in his country. In return they covenanted to give him money, rifles, ammunition, and an armed steamboat.
The next step was to get the support of the British authorities in London for that political extension which was dearer to Rhodes than the richest mines and the biggest dividends. In this he was greatly helped by his consistent supporter, Sir Hercules Robinson, who held office in Africa for many years, studied men and matters at first hand, and had a juster estimate of Rhodes and his value to the Empire than the officials in Whitehall. The method of proceeding was by chartered company, the old Elizabethan method, which still has its value to-day, as it relieves the home Government of the expense of developing new countries, yet reserves to it the right to control policy and to enter into the harvest. The Company was to build railways and telegraphs, encourage colonization and spread trade; the Government was to escape from the diplomatic difficulties which might arise with neighbours if it were acting under its own name.
The third step was to make a way into the country and to start actual work. Lobengula’s consent was given conditionally: the first expedition was to avoid his capital, Bulawayo, and to go by the south-east to Mashonaland. The chief knew how difficult it might prove to hold in his impis when, instead of a solitary Selous, some hundreds of Europeans began to cross their hunting-grounds. And so it proved. Lobengula had to pretend later that he had not consented to their passage, and the expedition had to slip through the dangerous zone before they could be recalled authoritatively. By May 1890 a column of nearly one thousand men was ready to start from Khama’s country; and in June their equipment was approved by a British officer. On September 11, after a march of four hundred miles through trackless country (some of it unknown even to Selous, their guide), the British flag was hoisted on the site of the modern town of Salisbury. It is a chapter of history well worth reading in detail, but Rhodes himself could not be there: the heroes of the march were Jameson and Selous. The other half of Rhodesia, Matabeleland, was not added till a few years later; but British enterprise had now found the way and overcome the worst difficulties. ‘Occupation Day’ is still kept as the chief festival of the Colony.
Further extension was inevitable. The Matabele impis would not forgo their old habit of raiding amongst the Mashonas. Jameson’s complaints received only partial satisfaction from Lobengula. He himself did not want war, but he failed to control his men, and in September 1893 the Chartered Company was driven to fight. They had on the spot about nine hundred men and some machine-guns. Against these the Matabele with all their bravery could effect little. In two engagements they threw away their lives with reckless gallantry, and then they broke and fled. Lobengula himself was never heard of again. His rearguard cut up a small party of British who were too impetuous in pursuit, but by the end of the year the country was at peace. In 1894 Matabeleland was added to the territory of the Chartered Company, in 1895 the term ‘Rhodesia’ came into use for postal purposes, and in 1897 it was officially adopted for administrative purposes.
The jealousy of the Portuguese, who claimed the ‘Hinterland’ behind their East African colony, though they had never occupied it, caused a good deal of ill feeling, and very nearly led to hostilities both in Africa and Europe. The Boers formed schemes for raiding the new lands before they could be effectively occupied, and had to be headed off. The Matabele impis continued for months in a state of excitement; and their forays made it far too dangerous for Rhodes or for others to go up there for some time. But Rhodes himself said that he had less trouble with natives, with Dutch, and with Portuguese, than he had with compatriots of his own, who claimed to have received concessions from native chiefs and intrigued against him in London. But here his peculiar gifts came out, his patience, his persuasive power, his readiness to pour out money like water for a worthy end. Some he beat, others he bought; and in all cases he maintained his position against his rivals. Robinson, Rudd, Jameson, Selous, had all done their parts well, and Rhodes gave them full credit and generous praise; but the mind and the will that planned and carried out the whole movement, and added a province to the British Empire, was unquestionably his own.
Rhodes was Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890 to 1895; and during this time he was obliged to be more often at Cape Town. It was in 1891 that he first leased the property lying on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain where he built ‘Groote Schuur’, the famous house which he bequeathed to the service of the State. Here he gradually acquired 1,500 acres of land, laying them out with a sure eye to the beauty of the surroundings, and to the pleasure of his fellow-citizens. Here he lived from time to time, and received all kinds of men with boundless hospitality. No one can fully understand him who does not read the varying impressions of the friends and guests who sat with him on the ‘stoep’, under the trees in his garden, or high up on the mountain side, where he had his favourite nooks. The visitors saw what they had eyes to see. One would note his foibles, his blunt manner, his slovenly dress, his want of skill at billiards, his fondness for special dishes or drinks. Another would be impressed by his library with its teak panelling, by the books which he read and the questions which he asked, by his love for Gibbon and Plutarch, by his interest in Marcus Aurelius and other writers on high themes. Others again tell us of his relations to his fellow-men, how recklessly generous he was to young and old, to British and Dutch, and how his generosity was abused: how his acquaintances preyed upon him; how, for all that, he kept his true friendships few in number and he held them sacred. In fact, loyalty to friends meant more to Rhodes than loyalty to principles. His temper was impatient, especially in the last years of physical pain; he often tried to take short cuts to his ends, believing that his ends were worthy and knowing that life was short. He made many mistakes, but he retrieved them nobly. He was in some ways rough-hewn and unpolished, but he was a great man.
It is impossible to put in a short compass the many important questions with which he dealt. His policy towards the natives was moderate and wise. He wished to educate them and then to trust them; to restrict the sale of liquor among them and to open to them the nobler lessons of civilization; to give them the vote when they were educated enough to use it well, but not before; to apply to them too his motto of ‘Equal rights for every civilized man south of the Zambezi’. His policy towards the Dutch was to establish identity of interest between the two nations and so to secure friendly relations with them; to draw them into co-operation in agriculture, in railways, in colonization, in export trade, in imperial politics. He did his best to win over the Orange Free State by a policy of common railways, and even to break down the sullen opposition of the Transvaal. But the latter proved impossible. President Kruger leant more and more upon Dutch counsellors from Holland; he looked more and more to Delagoa Bay and turned his back upon Cape Town: and the antagonism became more acute. In 1895 Mr. Chamberlain initiated a new era at the Colonial Office. He was actively awake to British interests in all parts of the globe; and President Kruger, who had tried to check trade with Cape Town by stopping the Cape railway at his frontier, and then by closing the ‘Drifts’ or fords over the Vaal, was compelled to give way and to keep to the agreements made with the Suzerain State.
A still more serious question was the treatment of the ‘Uitlanders’ or alien European settlers in the Transvaal. Though the Boer rulers took an increasingly large share of their earnings, they restricted more and more the grant of the franchise. In taxation, in commerce, in education, there was no prospect between the Vaal and the Limpopo of ‘Equal rights for all civilized men’ or anything like it. In June 1894 the High Commissioner frankly told Kruger that the Uitlanders had ‘very real and substantial grievances’; in 1895 they were no less substantial, and agitation was rife in Johannesburg. On December 28, Jameson at the head of an armed column left Pitsani on the borders and rode into the Transvaal to support a rising against the Boer Government. The Uitlanders were not expecting him; no rising took place, and Jameson’s small column was surrounded some miles west of Johannesburg, outnumbered, and forced to surrender. The Jameson Raid, for which Rhodes was generally held responsible, attracted all eyes in Europe as in Africa. How President Kruger used his advantage against the Uitlanders, among whom Col. Frank Rhodes was a leader, can be read in many books: here we need only relate how the event affected the Premier of Cape Colony. He resigned office at once and put himself at the disposal of the Government. Despite his past record he was judged by the Dutch, alike in the Cape and in the Transvaal, to have been the author of the Raid, and all chance of his doing further service in reconciling the two races was at an end. The beginning of 1895 saw him at the height of his ambition. The end of it saw his power shattered beyond repair.
His behaviour in this crisis enables us to know the real man. For a few days he kept aloof, unapproachable, overcome by the ruin of his work. He made no attempt to conciliate opinion: in moments of bitterness he scoffed at the ‘unctuous rectitude’ of certain politicians who were improving the occasion. But he spoke frankly to those who had the right to question him. He went to London in February and saw Mr. Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, and his Directors. He admitted that he was at fault. Believing that Kruger would always yield to a show of force, he had been responsible for putting troops near the border to exercise moral pressure. But neither then nor at any time had he given Jameson orders to invade the Transvaal, or to precipitate an armed conflict, which he believed to be unnecessary. Such was his consistent statement, and he was ready to face, when the time should come, the Parliamentary committees appointed by the British and South African Houses to report on the Raid. Meanwhile he put all brooding away and looked round for some practical work. Fortunately he found it in the most congenial sphere. His colony of Rhodesia, to which he had gone straight from London, was threatened with disaster from a great native outbreak. The causes were various. Rinderpest had spoiled one of the chief native industries, and superstition had invented foolish reasons for it; also the rumours, which were spreading about the Raid, made the natives believe that the British power was shaken. The Mashonas, as well as the Matabele, took part in the revolt which began early in April 1896. To meet it the colonists mustered their full strength, while General Carrington was sent out from home with some regular troops. Several engagements in difficult country followed: the enemies’ forces were quickly broken up, and by the end of July the time for negotiation was come.
But the chiefs of the Matabele had retired into their fortresses in the Matoppo hills and could not be reached. To send small columns to track them down might mean needless loss of life: to keep the forces in the field right through the winter was ruinous to the Company’s finances. Rhodes offered his own services as negotiator, and they were accepted. The man who could carry his point with Jewish financiers and Dutch politicians might hope to achieve his ends with the simpler native chiefs. But it was a sore trial of patience. He moved his own tent two miles away from the British troops to the foot of the hills, sent native messengers to the chiefs, and waited. During this time he was not idle: he put in a lot of riding and of miscellaneous reading: his mind was actively employed in planning roads and dams for irrigation, in scheming for the future greatness of the country. It was six weeks before a chief responded. Gradually they began to drop in and to hold informal meetings round the tent, putting questions, replying to Rhodes’s jokes, relapsing into fits of silence, oblivious as all savages are of the value of time. He would spend hours day after day in this apparently futile way; accustoming them to his presence, coaxing them into the right humour. At last he persuaded them to meet him in a formal ‘indaba’, which must have been a dramatic scene. Alone he stood facing them, boldly reproaching them with their bad faith and cruel acts. They stated their grievances: some were admitted: satisfaction was promised. In the end peace was proclaimed and the delighted natives greeted him uproariously with the title of Lamula ‘m Kunzi (Separator of the Fighting Bulls). The discussions were not over till the end of October, and it was a month later ere Rhodes was able to leave the country and face the Committee in London — a very different gathering in very different surroundings. His work during these two months was perhaps the greatest of his life; and that he should have been able to concentrate all his powers upon it so soon after the shattering blow of the Raid is a great tribute to his essential manliness and patriotism.
The two Committees, sitting in London and Cape Town, agreed to censure, though in modified terms, Rhodes’s conduct over the Raid; but he still retained the respect of the bulk of his countrymen, and on his return the citizens of Cape Town gave him an enthusiastic welcome. They and he were looking ahead as well as behind: they felt that his services were still needed for the establishing of a United South Africa under the British flag. But in this respect his work was done. The Cape Dutch were more and more influenced by their sentiment for the Transvaal, and racial feeling ran high. Rhodes severed himself from all his old Dutch colleagues and became more of a party leader. Meanwhile Kruger watched the breach, assured himself of Dutch support, made no concessions to the Uitlanders, repelled all overtures from Mr. Chamberlain, and steered straight for war. Rhodes, despite his knowledge of the Dutch, made the mistake of believing up to the last moment that Kruger would give way and not fight; but, when the war broke out in 1899, he went up to Kimberley to take his share of the work and the danger. The siege lasted about four months, and Rhodes, though he failed to work harmoniously with the military commandant, rendered many services to the town, thanks to his wealth, influence, and knowledge of the place. When the town was relieved in February 1900, he went to Rhodesia and spent many months there. Though he was urged by his followers to return to politics, Cape Town saw little of him; when he was not in the north, he was mostly at his seaside cottage at Muizenberg, half-way between the capital and the Cape of Good Hope. The heart complaint, from which he had suffered intermittently all his life, had rapidly grown worse; his last year was one of great suffering, and in March 1902 he breathed his last at Muizenberg with Jameson and a few of his dearest friends around him. He was buried in the place which he had himself chosen amid the Matoppo hills. On a bare hill-top seven gigantic boulders keep guard round the simple tombstone on which his name is engraved. After the English service was over, the natives celebrated in their own fashion the passing of the great chief who had already been enshrined in their imagination.
At Kimberley, at Cape Town, in the Matoppos, his work was done before the nineteenth century was finished, and he had earned his rest. The complete union of the European races for which he laboured in Parliament is yet to come. The vast wealth which he won in Kimberley is fulfilling a noble purpose. By his will he founded scholarships at Oxford for scholars from the Dominions and Colonies, from the United States and from Germany — his faith in the Anglo-Saxon race being extended to our Teutonic kinsmen. He regarded a common education and common ideals as the surest cement of Empire. But above all else his name will be preserved among his countrymen by the provinces which he added to the British dominions. Kimberley and Cape Town have their monuments, their memories of his many successes and his few failures: the Matoppos have his grave. To us the peace and solitude of the hills where he lies may seem to contrast strangely with the stirring activity of his life. But solitude will not reign there always, if Rhodes’s ideal is fulfilled. It was here that he had stood with a friend, looking towards the vast horizon northwards, and, in an often-quoted sentence, expressed his dream for the future: ‘Homes, more homes, that’s what I work for!’ So long as our race produces such bold dreamers, such strenuous workers, its future, in Africa and elsewhere, need occasion no doubts or fears.
60 C. D. Rudd (1844-96), educated at Harrow and Cambridge.
61 Alfred Beit, born at Hamburg, 1853; died in London, 1906.
62 Barney Barnato, born in Houndsditch, 1852; died at sea, 1897.
63 Perhaps the best character sketch of Rhodes is that printed as an appendix to Sir E. T. Cook’s Life of Edmund Garrett (Edward Arnold, 1909). Garrett’s career as journalist and politician in South Africa was terminated by illness in 1899.
64 General Jacobus Delarey, one of the most successful commanders in the Great Boer War of 1899-1902.
65 Cecil Rhodes: a Monograph and a Reminiscence, by Sir Thomas Fuller (Longmans & Co., 1910)
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05