The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power

By Robert I. Rotberg; Miles F. Shore | Go to book overview

3
"I Am in Charge Here" The Cotton Fields, a Testing

CECIL RHODES landed in Africa clear-headed, bright-eyed, enthusiastic, and with a characteristic confidence in his own resources. Although he was barely seventeen, and had never been far from the comfortable and nurturing surroundings of Bishop's Stortford, even a seventy-two-day, non-stop voyage aboard the tiny 322-ton bark Eudora had done little to limit his appetite for adventure or weaken his growing ability to make the most of whatever opportunities came his way. If outwardly composed, Rhodes was neither cocksure nor brash. Contemporaries noted his studious air, quiet maturity, and easy manners. He was tall and still thin, with high cheekbones, wavy brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a careful and striking gaze. For one so young, he clearly could put strangers at their ease. He was a "quick study," and had a nimble mind. Mature judgment he may have lacked, but creative ideas and schemes came easily to him, and, fortunately, he had the physical energy to match his zest for all things new, unusual, and challenging.

Durban was still raw and ramshackle when the Eudora reached the then treacherous bar outside its harbor on the afternoon of 1 September 1870. The town's buildings were mostly of galvanized iron; the streets were of sand. A new light railway was being laid two miles from the landing stage into the town. Sugar was being exported from the countryside, but this gathering place of English immigrants and Zulu laborers was still without proper port facilities or any of the commercial and resort pretensions which it would later assume. Pietermaritzburg, in the drier hills fifty-four miles northwest of Durban's open roadstead, was the embryo colony's capital and the center of the colony of Natal's nascent cultural and intellectual life. There the legislative council had been sitting yearly since 1856 under the eye of a lieutenant governor subordinate to the governor of the Cape Colony. Battles were still to come against the Zulu for paramountcy in the northern portions of this seaward outpost of Britain. So were attempts to attract immigrants and discover

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