Cecil John Rhodes

Political Career

A trip in 1875 through the rich territories of Transvaal and Bechuanaland apparently helped to inspire Rhodes with the dream of British rule over all southern Africa; later he spoke of British dominion "from the Cape to Cairo." In 1881, Rhodes entered the Parliament of Cape Colony, in which he held a seat for the remainder of his life. In Parliament he stressed the policy of containing the northward expansion of the Transvaal Republic, and in 1885, largely at his persuasion, Great Britain established a protectorate over Bechuanaland.

Rhodes became the prime minister, and virtual dictator, of Cape Colony in 1890. He was responsible for educational reforms and for restricting the franchise to literate persons (thereby reducing the African vote). His personal and business sympathies with the Uitlanders [Afrik., = foreigners] in the Transvaal, who were mostly British and the victims of discrimination, brought him to conspire for the overthrow of the government of Paul Kruger. The result was the Jameson Raid (1895; see Jameson, Sir Leander Starr). Although Rhodes did not approve the timing of the raid, he was so clearly implicated that he was forced to resign as prime minister in 1896.

In 1897 a committee of the British House of Commons pronounced him guilty of grave breaches of duty as prime minister and as administrator of the British South Africa Company. Thereafter he devoted himself primarily to the development of the country that was called Rhodesia (since 1980, Zimbabwe) in his honor. In the South African War he commanded troops at Kimberley and was besieged there for a time. He died in South Africa and is buried in Zimbabwe.

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