In a certain sense the Boer War was fought just as much against financiers as against President Kruger. It put an end to the arrogance of both.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF FORTUNE
It is impossible to speak of South Africa without awarding to Cecil Rhodes the tribute which unquestionably is due to his strong personality. Without him it is possible that the vast territory which became so thoroughly associated with his name and with his life would still be without political importance. Without him it is probable that both the Diamond Fields to which Kimberley owes its prosperity and the Gold Fields which have won for the Transvaal its renown would never have risen above the importance of those of Brazil or California or Klondyke.
It was Rhodes who first conceived the thought of turning all these riches into a political instrument and of using it to the advantage of his country—the England to which he remained so profoundly attached amid all the vicissitudes of his life, and to whose possessions he was so eager to add.
Cecil Rhodes was ambitious in a grand, strange manner which made a complete abstraction of his own personality under certain conditions, but which in other circumstances made him violent, brutal in manner, thereby procuring enemies without number and detractors without end. His nature was something akin to that of the Roman Emperors in its insensate desire to exercise unchallenged an unlimited power. Impatient of restraint, no matter in what shape it presented itself, he brooked no resistance to his schemes; his rage against contradiction, and his opposition to any independence of thought or action on the part of those who were around him, brought about a result of which he would have been the first to complain, had he suspected it—that of allowing him to execute all his fancies and of giving way to all his resentments. Herein lies the reason why so many of his schemes fell through. This unfortunate trait also thrust him very often into the hands of those who were clever enough to exploit it, and who, more often than proved good to Rhodes’ renown, suggested to him their own schemes and encouraged him to appropriate them as his own. He had a very quick way of catching hold of any suggestions that tallied with his sympathies or echoed any of his secret thoughts or aspirations.
Yet withal Rhodes was a great soul, and had he only been left to himself, or made longer sojourns in England, had he understood English political life more clearly, had he had to grapple with the difficulties which confront public existence in his Mother Country, he would most certainly have done far greater things. He found matters far too easy for him at first, and the obstacles which he encountered very often proved either of a trivial or else of a removable nature—by fair means or methods less commendable. A mining camp is not a school of morality, and just as diamonds lose of their value in the estimation of those who continually handle them, as is the case in Kimberley, so integrity and honour come to be looked upon from a peculiar point of view according to the code of the majority.