The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power

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

17
"A Dominant Race Among a Native Race" The Second Premiership

RHODES DEVOTED his second premiership to the "native question." As secretary of native affairs as well as prime minister of the Cape, he transformed his own idealized vision of white-black relations, his own notions of the proper position of Africans in the future of the region, his own prejudices, and his own understanding of what the political traffic would bear into legislative directives which were broadly significant and far-reaching. Each of the major bills which shaped the place of Africans within the Colony during the 1893, 1894, and 1895 sessions formed an integral part of a grand design which Rhodes had adumbrated during the debates on the Registration Act of 1887, the Masters and Servants bill of 1890, and the Ballot and Franchise Act of 1892. His was the guiding hand, cognizant always of the anxieties of the Afrikaner Bond and mindful, but less so, of his standing and reputation within the Empire.

In his second term as leader of parliament Rhodes was more overbearing, but also more relaxed and more confident than before. His cabinet of Sprigg, Laing, Frost, Faure, and Schreiner (with Henry Hubert Juta replacing Schreiner as attorney general during most of 1894) was more pliant and less captious than the first ministry of all talents. Indeed, surrounded in the second term by men whom he could easily dominate and who were less troubled by principle than were Merriman, Innes, and Sauer, Rhodes boldly broke with the parliamentary traditions of the Cape and, with the adroitness of an experienced middle sibling, began agreeing upon and orchestrating governmental business before much of it even reached the House of Assembly. He convened caucuses of his Bond/English-speaking independent alliance well before the Cape realized that it had parties in the British sense.

Caucuses were an innovative departure from the past, and their existence infuriated the liberal opposition. As Merriman remarked, "If they were going to settle things in the lobby and the caucuses, they destroyed all sense of Par-

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