This organisation was more a dictatorship than anything else, and had about it something at once genial and Mephistophelian. The conquest of Rhodesia was nothing in comparison with the power attained by this combine, which arrogated to itself almost unchallenged the right to domineer over every white man and to subdue every coloured one in the whole of the vast South African Continent. Rhodesia, indeed, was only rendered possible through the power wielded in Cape Colony to bring the great Northward adventure to a successfully definite issue.
In referring to Rhodesia, I am reminded of a curious fact which, so far as I am aware, has never been mentioned in any of the biographies of Mr. Rhodes, but which, on the contrary, has been carefully concealed from the public knowledge by his admirers and his satellites. The concession awarded by King Lobengula to Rhodes and to the few men who together with him took it upon themselves to add this piece of territory to the British Empire had, in reality, already been given by the dusky monarch—long before the ambitions of De Beers had taken that direction—to a Mr. Sonnenberg, a German Jew who had very quickly amassed a considerable fortune in various speculations. This Mr. Sonnenberg—who was subsequently to represent the Dutch party in the Cape Parliament, and who became one of the foremost members of the Afrikander Bond—during one of his journeys into the interior of the country from Basutoland, where he resided for some time, had taken the opportunity of a visit to Matabeleland to obtain a concession from the famous Lobengula. This covered the same ground and advantages which, later, were granted to Mr. Rhodes and his business associates.
Owing in some measure to negligence and partly through the impossibility of raising the enormous capital necessary to make anything profitable out of the concession, Mr. Sonnenberg had put the document into his drawer without troubling any more about it. Subsequently, when Matabeleland came into possession of the Chartered Company, Mr. Sonnenberg ventured to speak mildly of his own concession, and the matter was mentioned to Mr. Rhodes. The latter’s reply was typical: “Tell the —— fool that if he was fool enough to lose this chance of making money he ought to take the consequences of it.” And Mr. Sonnenberg had to content himself with this reply. Being a wise man in his generation he was clever enough to ignore the incident, and, realising the principle that might is stronger than right, he never again attempted to dispute the title of Cecil John Rhodes to the conquest which he had made, and, as I believe, pushed prudence to the extent of consigning his own concession to the flames. He knew but too well what his future prosperity would have been worth had he remembered the document.
A COMPLEX PERSONALITY