September 22, 1853 – Cecil Rhodes:
“Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.“
When Rhodes died in 1902, his fortune was used to establish the Rhodes Scholarship which brings especially gifted students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford in England for two years. Students from any academic discipline are selected on the basis of intellectual distinction, as well as the promise of future leadership and service to the world.
Rhodes wanted to promote unity between English-speaking nations and instill a sense of civic-minded leadership and moral fortitude in future leaders irrespective of their chosen career paths. Although initially restricted to males within the British Commonwealth and the United States, today the scholarship is open to applicants from all backgrounds.
The Rhodes Scholarship was originally, as per the language used in Rhodes’s will, open only to “male students”. That stipulation didn’t change until 1977.
Here are some past Rhodes Scholars: nearly-First Lady William Jefferson Clinton; political commentator and former Democratic advisor, George Stephanopoulos; musician and actor Kris Kristofferson; filmmaker, Terrence Malik; my boo Senator Corey Booker, Supreme Court Justice, David Souter; former-National Security Advisor, Susan Rice; lesbian political commentator, Rachel Maddow; Joe Biden‘s Secretary of Adorable, Pete Buttigieg; gay Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ronan Farrow.
Rhodes was an English-born South African who was a co-founder of the De Beers diamond company and the namesake of the South African country of Rhodesia (today it is Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia). During his short life he was a businessman, politician and philanthropist who lived and dreamed on a grand scale. By 18 years old, and over the next two decades, Rhodes had near-complete domination over the world’s diamond market.
Rhodes moved from England to South Africa when he was a teenager in hopes that a better climate would help ease his asthma. He was frail and also suffered heart problems. His brother lived there, having made a failed attempt at farming cotton. With outside partners the brothers bought African diamond and gold deposits and formed the De Beers Company in 1888. Rhodes was named chairman.
He was a British Imperialist who was certain the USA would eventually rejoin Britain. He believed that in the near future the United Kingdom, (including Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Cape Colony), the USA, along with Germany, would together dominate the world. He wrote of the British:
“I contend that we are the finest race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.”
Afrikaners are a Southern African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers first arriving at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th centuries. Rhodes was pals with Afrikaner leader, Jan Hofmeyr, and it was largely because of Afrikaner support that Rhodes became the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (1890-1896), the British controlled area of Southern Africa. Politically, Rhodes advocated greater self-government for the Cape Colony. It was always his preference for the British Empire to be controlled by local white settlers and politicians rather than by London. Rhodes was a full-on racist, chauvinist, and an architect of apartheid, the policy of separation of blacks and whites.
In his private life, Rhodes hired robust young male companions, ostensibly as bodyguards and secretaries. He did not have relationships with any females, platonic or otherwise.
Neville Pickering, the first secretary of the De Beers Company, was Rhodes’s first significant boyfriend. When young, fit, handsome Pickering turned 25 years old, Rhodes returned from serious business negotiations for Pickering’s birthday in 1882. For the occasion, Rhodes drew up a new will leaving his estate to Pickering, which read simply: “I, C.J. Rhodes, being of sound mind, leave my worldly wealth to N.E. Pickering”. When Pickering was badly injured in a riding accident, Rhodes nursed him back to health, staying by his side for six weeks, refusing to answer telegrams concerning his business interests. Pickering died in Rhodes’s arms, and at his funeral, Rhodes furiously wept. Rhodes had passed up a deal worth millions to be with Pickering during his final days.
Rhodes recovered though, and Pickering was replaced by Henry Latham Currey, who had become Rhodes’s private secretary in 1884. When Currey became engaged to be married in 1894, Rhodes was humiliated and outraged. Rhodes ended that relationship. Over the years Rhodes accumulated a shifting entourage of fit, good-looking young men, known as “Rhodes’s lambs”, almost always blonde, blue-eyed jocks.
Eventually, Rhodes had a long, significant relationship with Scotsman Sir Leander Starr Jameson, the British Administrator of the lands in what is now Zimbabwe. It was Jameson who ended up nursing Rhodes during his final illness. Jameson was a trustee of his estate and residuary beneficiary of his will, which allowed him to continue living in Rhodes’s mansion after his death. Jameson died in England in 1917, and after the conclusion of World War I, his body was moved to a mountaintop grave beside Rhodes’ final resting place in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Today, Cecil Square is the main gay cruising areas in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.
Rhodes was taken by heart failure in Cape Town at just 48 years old. At the time of his death, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world, and his will established that Rhodes Scholarship thingy. Rhodes’s aims were to promote leadership marked by public spirit and good character, and to “render war impossible” by promoting friendship between the great powers. According to Rhodes’s guidelines for scholarship selection, “candidates must display a fondness for success in manly outdoor sports, such as football and cricket”. Of course.
Once glorified by white colonialists, Rhodes is now viewed as a prime villain in South African History. Since his death he has been the subject of more than 30 biographies.
Rhodes established a secret society whose task was to extend British rule across the globe. This society continued to exist in different guises long after Rhodes’ death. The society operated under the guise of the Rhodes Trust; in 1909 the society was renamed the Round Table; and from 1920 the Institute of International Affairs became its new cover.
Because homosexuality was a criminal offence in Britain at the time, Rhodes realized that gays only survived if they operated in:
“… a society that remained secret, ring-fenced by wealth and political influence.”
Rhodes Must Fall is a current protest movement. The goal is the removal of all Cecil Rhodes statutes and tributes from university campuses around the world. His statue at the University of Cape Town was removed in 2015, and now the movement is directed towards a statue of Rhodes at Oxford, but the university recently made the decision to keep the statue.
Rhodes in 1907:
“Africa is still lying ready for us it is our duty to take it. It is our duty to seize every opportunity of acquiring more territory and we should keep this one idea steadily before our eyes that more territory simply means more of the Anglo-Saxon race more of the best the most human, most honorable race the world possesses.”