The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power

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

19
"Jameson Must Be Mad" The Raid and Its Consequences

RHODES TURNED FORTY-TWO in mid-1895. The easy-going, wide-eyed vicar's son who had walked boldly down the Eudora's gangplank in 1870 had become an imperious, steely-looking, determined potentate of unrivaled economic, diplomatic, and political influence. Descended from a long line of prosperous yeomen and bankers, and a single clergyman, Rhodes had already outstripped them all in accomplishment, affluence, and sheer power. He was famous and renowned beyond all expectation; an empire builder as well as an entrepreneur and amalgamator without peer, he had created states and ruled them still. He had made war and won against heavy odds. He had claimed, brutally acquired, and both occupied and governed interior territories on behalf of the Crown. After the triumph of De Beers and the successful investment in gold had come the Royal Charter, the invasion of Shonaland, and the simple, wildly victorious campaign against the numerous Ndebele. He had a railway and a telegraph line. Siding with Sivewright, he had risen politically above the principled trio of Merriman, Innes, and Sauer in 1893 and tightened his already powerful alliance with Jan Hofmeyr's Afrikaner Bond. On their joint behalf, and to the acute distress of Africans, he had pushed through parliament laws restricting the exercise of the African franchise and the growth of large-scale African farming. He was credited with having resolved the "race" question--the antagonism of English- and Dutch-speaking South Africans. He had a country named after him, and the ear of everyone important in Britain. Before the end of 1895, Britain was to give him a measure of influence over the destiny of Bechuanaland ( Botswana). An object of widespread idolatry, he was the lion of every season, a favorite of the Queen, a true and worthy Roman possessed of territory, talent, ego fulfillment, and riches. Even his wildest dreams were being realized. Posterity was his to acquire. Objectively, Rhodes required little more.

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