Walter H Wills.

The Anglo-African who's who and biographical sketch-book online

. (page 37 of 49)
Online LibraryWalter H WillsThe Anglo-African who's who and biographical sketch-book → online text (page 37 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

merchants, the partners engaged in a variety
of schemes, nothing coming amiss which pro-
mised a profit. About the same time Mr.
Rhodes formed that friendship with Dr. Jame-
son which was destined to have such remarkable
consequences. In those earlier years of schem-
ing and money getting Mr. Rhodes never lost
sight of the idea of northern expansion, and
his friends knew how intensely he longed to
see the British flag carried forward to the
Zambesi. His principal confidant in politics
seems to have been Dr. Jameson (q.v.), and
while these two were discussing this question
of British Expansion in Africa, the late Mr.
Kriiger was dreaming dreams of an equally
ambitious nature. There were thus two pro-
minent expansionists in S.A. in those early
days the one aiming at securing the hinterland
for Great Britain, and the other seeking to
extend the Boer flag as far as the Zambesi.
Very early in his political career, therefore,
Mr. Rhodes realized that he was confronted
with considerable difficulties, as the Cape
Dutch strongly sympathized with the aspirations
of the Boers of the north, and he recognized
that extreme caution was necessary, and that
particularly he would have to show the Cape
Dutch that their self-interest was being served
by supporting his efforts at expansion.

Mr. Rhodes took his seat in the Cape Legisla-
tive Assembly in 1881, and he was soon re-
cognized as a man of extraordinary promise
who was destined to attain a high place amongst
S.A. politicians. His maiden speech was against
the proposal to disarm the Basutos, and it
was while serving as a member of a commission
to compensate the natives of that country
who had not taken up arms against the Cape
of Good Hope that Mr. Rhodes formed that

friendship with Gen. Gordon which endured
until the latter' s death. One of the first im-
portant occasions in which Mr. Rhodes pitted
himself against the ex-Pres. of the S.A.R. was
in connection with the Stellaland Commission
of which he (Mr. Rhodes) was a member A
number of Transvaal adventurers had set up
some small republics in parts of Bechuanaland,
more or less with the connivance of Mr. Kriiger,
with the intention of barring British progress
northwards, and expanding the border of
the Transvaal in a westerly direction. This
was the interpretation which Mr. Rhodes
placed upon the presence of the freebooting
Boers in Stellaland, and Goshen, and subsequent
events showed that he was right. After much
negotiation, the freebooters were cleared out
by a bloodless expedition under Sir Charles
Warren, and the first step in the direction of
northern expansion was gained. This helped
to bring the question of a Protectorate over
Bechuanaland to an acute stage, Mr. Rhodes
being assisted in this by precipitate action on
the part of Germany. The ambition of that
Power to obtain a foothold in S.A. an ambi-
tion foreshadowing a possible German-Boer
alliance stirred the Colonial Office into activity.
The Protectorate was authorized at the time
when the London Convention of 1884 had
been granted to the Transvaal, and mainly at
the instance of Mr. Rhodes ; but it was almost
too late. Mr. Kriiger boldly annexed Montsoia's
country. The Imperial Government, however,
refused to recognize this action, the boundaries
of the Republic having been fixed by the new
Convention, and demanded the withdrawal
of the proclamation. To strengthen the demand
Sir Charles Warren's troops were moved north-
wards, and Mr. Kriiger was immediately brought
to his bearings. He came to Fourteen Streams
to discuss matters with Sir Charles Warren and
Mr. Rhodes.

Mr. Rhodes' share in clearing the Boers out
of Bechuanaland directed attention to his
expansion scheme, and the ideas which in-
fluenced his conduct in this affair were set forth
in one of his speeches at the time. He said :
" Do you think that if the Transvaal had
Bechuanaland it would be allowed to keep it ?
Would not Bismarck have some quarrel with the
Transvaal, and without resources (financial
collapse in Pretoria was then imminent),
without men, what could they do ? Germany
would come across from her settlement at Angra
Pequefia. There would be some excuse to pick
a quarrel some question of brandy, or guns,



or something and then Germany would stretch
from Angra Pequena to Delagoa Bay. 1
was never more satisfied with my own views
than when I saw the recent development of
the policy of Germany, What was the bar
in Germany's way ? Bechuanaland. What
was the use to her of a few sand heaps at Angra
Pequefia ? And what was the use of the arid
deserts between Angra Pequena and the interior
with this English and Colonial bar between
her and the Transvaal ? If we were to stop
at Griqualand West, the ambitious objects
of Germany would be attained." Bechuanaland
was, in fact, the key to the question of British
supremacy in S.A., and, Mr. Kriiger having been
defeated in his endeavours to extend the borders
of his Republic, and Germany's ambition for
empire in Africa having been curtailed, the road
was opened for the northern expansion, which
had for years been Mr. Rhodes' high ideal.
In pursuing his policy he did not lose sight
of the fact that he could only be successful
by having the co-operation of the Dutch in
Cape Colony, and by cultivating good political
relations with the Transvaal ; but although
the Bond was all powerful, he resolutely re-
fused to work in subservience to it. He never
for a moment turned aside from his plan of
extending the Empire to the north, and of
establishing a United South Africa under the
British flag ; but this could only be done by
welding the two white races together, by sink-
ing all differences, so that the native question
might be dealt with independently of the friction
between Dutch and British, and 011 uniform
principles throughout the States of S.A. The
part Mr. Rhodes played in checkmating Kriiger' s
designs in Bechuanaland was his first con-
spicuous service to the Empire ; it was the
first of a long series of splendid successes in a
direction which continued without intermission
down to that date at the end of 1895, when his
direct power for usefulness was checked by
the fact that he associated himself with the
movement for the relief of the Uitlanders which
resulted in failure.

Mr. Rhodes first attained Cabinet rank on
March 20, 1884, when he joined Sir Thomas
Scanlan's Ministry as Treasurer of the Cape
Colony. This Cabinet, however only lasted
until May 12 of the same year. On July 17,
1890, he became Premier and Commissioner of
Crown Lands and Public Works. He relin-
quished that portfolio on Sept. 23, 1890, but
retained the premiership until May 3, 1893,
when he formed his second Ministry without

portfolio. This lasted until Jan. 12, 1896, when
the raid made his resignation necessary.

The success which attended Mr. Rhodes'
efforts to bar the ambition of Mr. Kriiger
to draw a cordon across the British advance to
the northwards spurred him to continue in
the path he had marked out for himself, and
strengthened his resolve to keep open the road
for the Empire. It was not only the Dutch
he had to fear ; Germany had shown that,
given a favourable opportunity, she would
swoop down upon Mashonaland and Matabeleland.
At that time the mineral resources of these
countries were not suspected. The desire
of the ultra-Colonial party at Berlin to possess
themselves of this territory was largely due to
those ulterior motives Mr. Rhodes so clearly
foreshadowed in the speech already quoted.
All the time he was bending his energies to
acquire money he was thinking of the main
purposes for which he desired it, and maturing
his schemes for bringing those purposes to
maturity. It would occupy too much space to
attempt to give here the history of all the
movements which led up to the occupation of
Lobengula's territory. Suffice it to say he
succeeded in checkmating the designs both
of Mr. Kriiger and his satellites and of the
powerful Berlin Syndicate, secretly backed
by a great firm of German bankers. He de
cided upon applying British red to that portion
of the S.A. map lying between the Limpopo
on the south, Lake Tanganyika on the north,
and the Portuguese possessions on the east and

Meantime, however, a similar idea had oc-
curred to Mr. George Cawston (q.v.). A few
months later, Mr. Rhodes induced Mr. C. D.
Rudd (q.v.) to make a journey to Bulawayo,
with the object of obtaining a concession over
those regions ruled by Lobengula. In this he
was successful, and obtained from the Matabele
chief a concession embracing the whole of
Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Subsequent
treaties with other native chieftains, and
absorption of other concessions, increased this
area to about 750,000 square miles. The
romantic story of the occupation of Mashona-
land by Major Johnson's Pioneer Force, guided
by Mr. Selous (q.v.), is too familiar to need
repetition here. The terrible privations en-
dured by the settlers in the new country have
been referred to in the lives of Dr. Jameson
(q.v.) and Major Frank Johnson (q.v.). But
the "African Review" has recorded how, in
the face of much discouragement and great



difficulties, the gold districts were opened up,
townships were built, agriculture was initiated,
and law and order established in a land which
had been made hideous during the preceding
half century by scenes of Matabele rapine and
bloodshed. In the settlement of Rhodesia,
Mr. Rhodes carried the Cape Dutch with him,
at all events in a large measure. He had pre-
viously conciliated them. He had shown him-
self in the Cape Parliament extremely mindful
of the interests of the Dutch farmers. It took
him a considerable time to bring the Dutch to
his side, but he succeeded in the end.

Having gained the concession from Loben-
gula, the next step procuring a charter from
the Imperial Govt. was fraught with
considerable difficulties ; but twenty months
after the original concession was granted, the
charter of the British S.A. Co. came into exist-
ence. Then followed a period of active
pioneering ; the settlers, when the pioneer force
was disbanded, spread themselves all over the
land. However, the greater difficulties were
still to come. The Matabele War of 1893 was
a small matter compared with the rebellion of
1896. But the way in which Mr. Rhodes
grasped the fact that the game of war was not
worth the candle, and. recognising this, the
readiness with which he completely changed
his plan from fighting to " dealing" are telling
examples of his resourcefulness and judgment.
The plucky way in which he went unarmed into
the Matoppo Hills to treat with the indunas will
ever be a subject of admiration to the Anglo-
Saxon race. Mr. Rhodes' next move was the
acquisition of Barotseland, which was another
step in the direction of hemming in the Trans-
vaal with British territory, and keeping open
the northern route for the great Cape to Cairo
Railway, which, it was his aim, should run
through all British country. The Afrikander
Bond tried to make a condition of their sup-
port the stipulation that any further extension
northwards should be by the way of the railway
from the Cape through the Boer Republics.
But it was not in Rhodes' scheme of things to
give these Republics the control of the interior
trade. Presently he got the line extended as
far as Mafeking. The Bechuanaland Railway
Co. was formed, and, notwithstanding all the
obstacles presented by the Matabele Rebellion
and the rinderpest, Bulawayo was reached in
due season. Concurrently telegraphic com-
munication was pushed on, going in front as
the harbinger of the railway. All manner of
evil predictions were adventured, but none of

these prophecies have been fulfilled. In con-
structing the telegraph line Mr. Rhodes' chief
concern was to make it the advance guard of
the railway, that great linking agency between
man and man of modern civilization ; but he
also had an eye to the fact that as a commercial
enterprise it would prove an extremely re-
munerative affair. In the prosecution of this
work, Sir Charles Metcalfe rendered Mr. Rhodes
effective service. It may be said here paren-
thetically that Mr. Rhodes had to the full that
peculiar instinct which enabled him to choose
his friends and co-workers with unerring judg-
ment, and that his magnificent successes are
as much due to this faculty as to any other
cause. He was not destined to see the accom-
plishment of this great scheme, the Cape to
Cairo Railway ; but he lived long enough to be
assured that he left it in hands which might be
counted xipon to bring it to a successful issue.
The greatest difficulty Mr. Rhodes had to con-
tend with in the prosecution of this great design
confronted him when he found that in the
various international arrangements made with
Belgium and Germany the British Govt.
failed to make provision at whatever cost, it
should have been made for the retention or
acquisition by Great Britain of a strip of terri-
tory, however slender, which would connect
her possessions in Central Africa with the
territory under her protection in North Africa.
In order to get over this obstacle, Mr. Rhodes
came to an arrangement with the authorities
of the Congo Free State ; but, to make assur-
ance doubly sure, he sought and was accorded
an interview with the Kaiser, and so impressed
the German Emperor with the soundness of
his case that, while guarding to the full all
German interests and rights, he gave Mr.
Rhodes permission to carry his line through
German territory.

There are innumerable aspects of the varied
and complex personality of the subject of this
memoir which it is impossible to deal with at
length. It would, in fact, be interesting to
follow Mr. Rhodes' career as a Cape Colonial,
in contradistinction to an Imperial, politician ;
but obviously the only part of his career which
has any particular general interest outside
narrow limits, seeing that such details are quite
uninteresting as concerning the giants of the
Imperial Parliament, is that part of it which
has to do with those great Imperial problems
which temporarily were localized in Cape
Colony. It may be noted, however, that his
policy was to disarm effective opposition, by



splitting his opponents into groups when he
could not convert them to his views. By hook
or by crook he eliminated his political enemies.
Indeed, he achieved some success, employing
similar tactics, in regard to the statesmen and
politicians of the Old Country. Eminently
practical in all that he did, he bent himself to
the task of conciliating the Dutch, and
endeavouring to bring them to a sound ap-
preciation of their own interests. Witness the
Scab Act, which afterwards, vitiated by per-
missive clauses, has failed to exercise the
beneficent influence it would have exercised
but for those later amendments. The pro-
visions of the Scab Act in its purity would have
saved the Dutch and English farmers and as
the farmers are mostly Dutch, this was a
measure especially concerning the Afrikanders
from the cruel loss which the prevalence of
disease among the sheep of the country inflicted
upon them. Then, as regards the natives, Mr.
Rhodes approached them with sympathy shorn
of sentimentality. The Glen Grey Act, a
masterpiece of constructive statesmanship,
though primarily designed that is to say, on
the face of it in the interests of the white
settlers, and especially the employers of labour,
was really a measure pregnant with happy
auguries for the natives themselves. If the
natives continue to increase and multiply in
idleness in their kraals, discontent must in-
evitably result, and discontent must breed the
poison of sedition and rebellion. In the rup-
ture between whites and blacks which would
inevitably follow, the blacks would be the
greater and the final sufferers. The Glen
Grey Act, and indeed all Mr. Rhodes' legislative
and philanthropic actions in regard to the
natives, were based on sound common sense,
infused with sympathy and sustained by know-
ledge. Like all Mr. Rhodes' public and private
acts, his attitude toward the native question
was tinctured with imagination. Mr. Rhodes
in this, as in all things, looked not merely to
the requirements of the immediate moment ;
he was never content to patch up a convenient
modus vivendi which left out of account the
future. On the contrary, he discounted that
future, and his policy was always conceived
and carried out with a view to its ultimate

As we understand political parties in Eng-
land, Mr. Rhodes was a Liberal. He believed
in the policy of according the various com-
ponent sections of the British race the fullest
measure of local self-government possible, so

long as this liberty did not in any way impinge
upon the Imperial unity he desired so fervently
to further, and did so much to conserve. He
had, of course, an ulterior political motive in
giving those much-debated cheques to Mr.
Parnell and Mr. Schnadhorst. But he was
primarily influenced by his prepossession in
favour of the idea of local decentralization plus
Imperial centralization. In this, as in one or
two other matters, Mr. Rhodes allowed the
proleptic quality he possessed of projecting
himself into the future to carry him away.
Home Rule for Ireland in conjunction with a
general scheme for the readjustment of the
local and Imperial government of the Empire
is an exceedingly sound proposition. As de-
tached therefrom it is a political impossibility.
This Mr. Rhodes would have been the first to
allow. Unfortunately, he permitted his san-
guine spirit to make him for the moment too
'' previous."

It will always be a difficult matter to under-
stand Mr. Rhodes' true connexion with the
Reform Movement in the Transvaal. As
Managing Director of the Consolidated Gold-
fields Co. his interference was as justifiable as
that of any other member of the Committee,
but in his capacity as Premier of the Cape
Colony and Managing Director of the Chartered
Co. his position was extremely difficult. Mr.
Rhodes, who was represented on the Reform
Committee by his brother, Col. Frank Rhodes,
avowed that his intentions were merely to
obtain such amelioration of the conditions as-
he was entitled to claim as representing an
enormous amount of capital invested in the
Transvaal. He also aimed at Free Trade in
S.A. products. Other matters there were
Customs Union, Railway Convention, etc.,
but they, he said, would follow in time. He
stated that if these objects were obtained the
expense of keeping Jameson's men on the
border would be amply repaid. Some people
averred that it was Mr. Rhodes' intention to
seize and annex the Transvaal to Rhodesia,
but it was never seriously credited. How-
ever there was evidently considerable suspicion,
even amongst the Reform leaders, that Mr.
Rhodes was utilizing the Reform Committee
and the Rhodesian troops to ultimately plant
the Union Jack in Pretoria in the place of the
Transvaal flag. This, however, was the one
point upon which Johannesburg was united.
The Republic must be maintained, but under
wider constitutional powers which should give
representation and good government to all



subjects. So strong was this feeling on the
question of the flag that special emissaries
were sent to Cape Town to obtain assurances
from Mr. Rhodes on the point. These assur-
ances were given, and Mr. Rhodes telegraphed
to Dr. Jameson to restrain him from taking
that independent action which his impatience
had threatened (see Dr. Jameson's Life). But
little is to be gained now by dwelling at length
on that unhappy business. The provocation
must not be forgotten. To a man of Mr.
Rhodes' temperament and power of looking
into the future it was well-nigh impossible to
sit down quietly, while successive Imperial
Governments and Cape Ministers paltered with
the situation in S.A. Mr. Kriiger and his
friends and myrmidons were leaving no stone
unturned to make the position of the British,
and, indeed, of all aliens other than their own
allies, impossible in the Transvaal, and to
eliminate the Imperial factor in S.A. gene-
rally. All efforts at redress in the S.A.R.
proving abortive ; the Uitlanders repeatedly
told from this side that if they wanted relief
they must take steps to secure it from within,
Mr. Rhodes ultimately determined to lend
them a helping hand. Arms were smuggled
into Johannesburg, and Dr. Jameson's armed
force was stationed on the border. It is im-
possible to say whether, given fair luck instead
of " rank bad luck," given discreet subor-
dinates, this ill-judged attempt, would or could
have proved successful. In any case, it re-
sulted in dire failure, and it is not too much
to say the event itself, and what grew out of
it, must have had the effect of shortening by
many years the most useful life in S.A. In
dismissing it, it is sufficient to quote and en-
dorse Mr. Chamberlain' s famous statement in
the House of Commons, which, while recog-
nizing the political fault, asserted that nothing
existed " which affected Mr. Rhodes' personal
character as a man of honour."

A man of honour Mr. Rhodes undoubtedly
was. The " African Review," in an excellent
appreciative memoir of this great man, has
recorded in words which we cannot attempt
to improve upon how loyal he was to his friends,
and just to his enemies. He always set before
him a high standard of conduct, the standard
set up by Aristotle, which he was so fond of
quoting. He aimed for himself, and, so far
as lay in his power, set the ideal before his
fellow men, to achieve that realization of the
highest spiritual good that was in him through
the systematic and strenuous training of the

best qualities of his manhood. His states-
manship was conceived on these lines. He
desired to see the British Empire great and
prosperous, not in a merely material and sordid
way, but great and prosperous by reason of
the aggregated greatness and well-being of its
individual citizens. He worked unceasingly
to this end, sparing himself nothing, and to
this noble ambition he sacrificed his life. Almost
his last public service to the country he loved
so dearly was rendered during the recent war.
Those who were with him during the Kim-
berley siege know with what singleness of
purpose he threw himself into the defence of
the town. There, as on so many other occa-
| sions, he displayed the true nobility and altruism
of his nature. For, strongly individual as Mr.
Rhodes was, he was in no sense, save the purely
superficial one, an egotist. He lived for his
race. He knew that his race needed him, and
this nerved him to make a splendid struggle
with death when he became conscious of its
near approach. " There is so much to be
done," were almost his last words. Never-
theless, he met the spectre with resignation
and with the fortitude of a pagan hero. " When
I am dead," he once said, " let there be no fuss !
Lay me in my grave. Tread down the earth
and pass on ; I shall have done my work I "
Though not a brilliant orator, he was a most
convincing speaker ; excelled in knowing what
to say, and when to say it, and always carried
his audience with him. He won the con-
fidence of the Cape Dutch under the leadership
of Mr. Hofmeyr, and did not despair of ulti-
mately winning over the Transvaalers, until
the unfortunate raid made his temporary
withdrawal from S.A. politics necessary. Few
Englishmen have had a larger following of hero-
worshippers, and it is fortunate for our pre-
dominance in the Cape that he had not to
encounter such opposition from British Minis-
ters as might seriously have impeded the
fruition of his schemes. This was largely due
to his almost hypnotic power of impressing his
ideas upon all with whom he came in contact.

We have previously referred to that earlier
period in Mr. Rhodes' career when he was first
building up a place amongst the mining and
financial magnates. The small claims were
becoming unworkable owing to thousands of
tons of debris falling from the walls, and Mr.
Rhodes quickly perceived that the only pos-
sible way to continue working was by amal-
gamating the holdings into one workable, con-
cern. This process was initiated I until the



Kimberley claims were controlled by four
companies, and eventually in 1888 the great
De Beers Consolidated Co. was formed to
absorb even these. It was not without en-
countering exceeding difficulties that Mr.

Online LibraryWalter H WillsThe Anglo-African who's who and biographical sketch-book → online text (page 37 of 49)