The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power

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

9
"If Only We Have the Pluck" Seeking Dominion over Diamonds and Gold

RHODES DEALT seriously in diamonds throughout the 1870s, but he also made ice, pumped water, shuttled to and from Oxford, and accepted a more mature role only when he was about twenty-eight, in 1881. Then he abandoned the pursuit of a profession in Britain, gave up the law, embraced colonial politics, and--definitively and imaginatively--tied his financial destinies to diamonds. After creating De Beers Mining Ltd. with Stow and others, and becoming one of the significant men of money on the mines, he busily carved out a place for himself in Cape Town, and--piece by piece--secured for himself, the Colony, and the Crown a sphere of influence which extended well beyond the confines of Kimberley.

Active in Basutoland and Bechuanaland, and more and more imperial in his ambitions, Rhodes could not and did not neglect the basis of his fortune. Nor was he any less assertive in his financial adventures during the 1880s than he was in extending his territorial reach northward. As busy as he was with the affairs of Stellaland and Goshen, or as occupied as he was in Basutoland or Cape Town, Rhodes' focus never strayed far from diamonds, and the opportunities for further aggrandizement and economic growth that his stake in De Beers represented.

Rhodes was a man of a few fundamental and powerful ideas. Two shaped his thinking about the diamond industry and motivated him year in and year out. He was one of the few who never lost his faith in the rewards of the Kimberley pipes. Each time a portion of the mining community decided that the fields were reaching the end of their useful life, Rhodes assured himself that there would be diamonds yet. He stayed with the blue earth and had confidence when reefs fell or the world price of diamonds faltered. He persisted stubbornly, even doggedly, as the sons of determined fathers do, and prospered after each period of local or international recession. Second, Rhodes

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