The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power

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

10
"We Are to Be Lords over Them" Fashioning a Distinctive Destiny as the Solitary Springbok

RHODES HAD DEVOTED much of his immense energy during the second half of the 1880s to the creation of a diamond monopoly. During this period, when he was also investing actively in gold properties, he continued to participate vigorously in the parliamentary and party politics of Cape Town. As consumed as he may have been with the high finance of mining amalgamation, he was equally assiduous in expanding his political base and reputation.

There was a third passion during these years. By the middle of the decade, Rhodes had become determined to push the Cape and, if possible, Britain, beyond Stellaland, Goshen, and Bechuanaland through Matabeleland to the Zambezi. Indeed, the drive north--the seeking out of an interior destiny--was intimately intertwined in Rhodes' mind and actions with his other two prominent lines of endeavor. Yet diamonds were not accumulated simply to finance a northern vision. Nor were political chips acquired and positions established solely in order to steer his northern aspirations toward reality. Rhodes' motives were more complicated, and so were the times. Each object had its own reality, but their trajectories intersected. As crucial and all- encompassing as were Rhodes' negotiations with Rothschild, Barnato, Beit, and Stow as he gained more and more economic power, so he devoted days and weeks to the parallel pursuit of political power, and--more fitfully until his hands were finally forced--to the acquisition of potential imperial advantage. During these few years Rhodes was still in his early thirties, a period when most men, feet firmly set on the lower rungs of an occupational or professional ladder, have much to learn. Rhodes was also settling in, but his feet were planted far higher, and on a steeper ladder, than most. In these middle years of enormous creative thrust, careful positioning, and artful compromise, he was successfully playing the game of much older men. 1 His reach for both tactical and strategic personal advantage was broad and fulfilling.

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