Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/194

This page needs to be proofread.

a map of Africa, said 'That is my dream, all British.' But while he sought to bring home to Englishmen in South Africa the possibilities of new empire in South Africa, he desired to co-operate with the Dutch. In his second session he frankly remarked 'Members on the other side believe in a United States of South Africa, and so do I, but under the British flag.' Rhodes first spoke in the Cape Assembly on 19 April 1881. He championed the Basutos, his interest in whom led presently to a friendship with General Gordon, who invited him in 1884 to accompany him to Khartoum. On 25 June he spoke again, in opposition to the introduction of the Taal in the Cape parliament, for which he asserted that there was no real desire in the country. He impressed his hearers as 'a good type of English country gentleman' — nervous, ungainly, but of a most effective frankness. As a speaker he seemed to think, or rather dream, out loud. His vocabulary was poor, although he hit sometimes on a telling phrase ; he had moments of a discursive obscurity. Yet men who had listened to the famous orators of the world found themselves strangely impressed by his speaking. A strong persuasiveness and candour, helped by his appearance, held any audience. But 'fundamental brain-work' had been done before he rose, and when trimmed of excrescences the ordered clearness of his sequences was perfect.

His political activities were soon concentrated on that northern expansion which formed a great part of his completed work. The Cape Colony was then bounded on the north by the Orange River, beyond which lay Bechuanaland, of vast extent and the only avenue to the coveted northern territories which were the objective alike of Rhodes and of the Transvaal Boers. By the Pretoria Convention of 1881 the westward expansion of the Transvaal was limited to a line east of the trade routes from Bechuanaland. This did not prevent a series of raids from the Transvaal by which, not by haphazard but by design, the republic sought to occupy Bechuanaland, and, if might be, the regions of the north, even of the west. Rhodes's first important step was to urge the appointment of a delimitation commission in 1881. On this he served. An offer was obtained in 1882 from Mankoroane of the whole of his territory, about half Bechuanaland, for the Cape government. To this proposal Rhodes secured the agreement of the chief men of Stellaland, a Boer raider's settlement consisting of 400 farms, ’with a raad and all the elements of a new republic,' seated at Vryburg. Prolonged correspondence and a long appeal to the Cape Assembly on 16 Aug. 1883 did not avail to procure the acceptance of this offer, and it seemed certain that the Stellalanders and another group of Dutch immigrants, with two Bechuanaland chiefs, the opponents of Mankoroane, would be annexed by the Transvaal. Rhodes turned to the imperial government, and, after endless appeals, the force of his personality having impressed the high commissioner, Sir Hercules Robinson, he procured the declaration in 1884 of an imperial protectorate, the British flag being carried to the twenty-second parallel. On 27 Feb. 1884 a second convention signed in London gave definite frontiers on the eastern border of Bechuanaland, behind which the Transvaal covenanted to abide.

A few days later Bechuanaland was raided afresh by President Kruger. The imperial government promptly proclaimed the formal annexation of Bechuanaland, and sent up as resident the Rev. John Mackenzie, a veteran missionary. On 16 July Rhodes appealed once more, and this time with success, to the Cape Assembly, reminding them that Bechuanaland was 'the neck of the bottle and commanded the route to the Zambesi . . . We must secure it, unless we are prepared to see the whole of the north pass out of our hands. . . . I want the Cape Colony to be able to deal with the question of confederation as the dominant state of South Africa.' While those definitely committed to supporting the Dutch republics were not won over, a majority of the house concurred with Rhodes. Voters may have been influenced by the fact that that year, and within six months after the second convention of London was signed, a new factor entered South Africa, and by the supineness alike of the imperial and colonial governments all Damaraland and Namaqualand between twenty-six degrees south and the Portuguese border, 320,000 square miles in all, was occupied by Germany. The significance of the fact, if lost on the imperial government, impressed Rhodes and one other man, Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr [q. v. Suppl. II], leader of the Afrikander Bond, who combined his Dutch sjrmpathies with a deep antipathy to Germany. Despite the diversity between the two men's aims, Rhodes at once saw the wisdom of co-operation with a view to promoting northern expansion.

Towards the end of 1884 it was clear that Mackenzie, though loyal and upright, was scarcely the man for the time and place,