5 Supporter Of Rhodes
From Part 1 of Grey Steel by H.C. Armstrong

THE quarrel between Rhodes and Kruger appeared to be identical with the quarrel between the Englishmen and the Dutchmen of South Africa—for domination. In reality, many of the Dutch were not behind Kruger. In the Transvaal many thought that the old man—he was now well over seventy— had grown so obstinate and dictatorial that it would be good to replace him with a younger man. Martinus Steyn, the President of the Free State, a big-bearded Dutchman, jealously proud of his race and their independence, did not want close union with the Transvaal: the Transvaal was becoming rich and the Free State was poor, and he was afraid of being absorbed by his neighbour or at least overlaid; and in the Free State the English and the Dutch lived happily together and had no reason for disagreement. In the Cape a large percentage of the Dutchmen, solid, sound men of standing, like old Jacobus Smuts, had no ill-feeling against their English neighbours.

These Dutchmen, the Dutchmen of the Cape, had formed an organisation known as the Afrikander Bond—the Bond—to look after their interests. It was led by W. P. Schreiner, the son of a German missionary, but the organiser and the real director from behind was a Dutchman, J. H. Hofmeyr. The Bond members also wanted a united South Africa; to them Kruger's policy of creating an isolated Dutch country cut off from the Cape was folly. It would injure the Cape and the trade of Cape Town and it would ruin all the Dutch.

Hofmeyr and Rhodes found much in common. Both were enthusiastic South Africans: Hofmeyr by birth, Rhodes by adoption. Both were convinced that South Africa could exist only in union, with common laws, tariffs, customs, and a common railway system. Both were imperialists, wishing South Africa to remain part of the British Empire so long as the English Government did not interfere in its local affairs. Hofmeyr had proposed a tariff in favour of England and against other nations, the proceeds to be paid as an annual contribution to the British Navy.

The two men became close friends. Hofmeyr brought the Bond in behind Rhodes, and backed him both inside and outside the House. When Parliament was sitting they met almost daily and discussed all problems without restraint. Each morning they rode for exercise on the downs outside Cape Town. Rhodes relied on Hofmeyr's judgment and consulted him on all occasions, and Hofmeyr believed in Rhodes. Both he and Schreiner realised that if Rhodes succeeded it would mean a South Africa ruled by the Dutch, for they were in the majority. Rhodes on his side encouraged Dutchmen to take office and position under him—there were several Dutchmen in his cabinet. And he showed an open preference for men born in South Africa, and employed young Dutchmen born in South Africa, Afrikanders they were called, whenever he could.

Hand in glove, Cecil Rhodes and Hofmeyr, with Schreiner and the members of the Afrikander Bond, with their English and Dutch supporters, ruled the Cape and worked for a united South Africa.

Jan Smuts joined the Bond. Already he had become a strenuous and restless politician. Politics were in his blood as they were in the blood and in the mouth of every Dutchman. His father had been elected member for the Maimesbury district and was a whole-hearted supporter of the Bond and a follower of Hofmeyr—and he encouraged his son to join. Between himself and Jannie he had at last found an interest in common.

Though Jan Smuts was of little importance, both Rhodes and Hofmeyr were glad to have him as a recruit. Rhodes had already marked him down some years before, when he had gone on an official visit to Stellenbosch—it was part of his policy to encourage the Dutch colleges and schools—and Smuts was a junior student there. Smuts had been chosen to reply to the address which Rhodes had given, and Rhodes had been so struck by his speech—which echoed all Rhodes' own ideas—that he had asked Hofmeyr to keep an eye on the young man for future employment. Rhodes knew too his record at Cambridge and in London. He was exactly the type of clever, serious young Afrikander he wanted working for him, and one who had been to England, knew something of the outside world and what the British Empire meant: a man with the right ideas, as his articles in the newspapers showed. "Keep an eye on that young man," he said one day to Alfred Harmsworth; "he will do big service for the Empire before he is finished."

Hofmeyr knew him too. He had a great respect for old Jacobus Smuts and he recommended young Smuts in the strongest terms to Rhodes. To help him and to put him financially on his feet, Rhodes was thinking of employing him as one of the legal advisers to De Beers, his diamond combine.

For Jan Smuts it was his chance. As a barrister he had done no good. Briefs still did not come his way. The little work which had come had been haphazard and unsatisfactory, a little devilling, pot-boiling, and without any future. Politics! It was politics he wanted. As a lawyer and a journalist he had been unsure and hesitating, but when dealing with politics he was becoming sure of himself and confident. He had found the thing he could do. He knew he would succeed. His ambition woke: he determined to become great. The Bond and its policy appealed to him. Paul Kruger's policy of isolation was mean and little: he despised it. The idea of a united South Africa caught his imagination. It was the big idea, the big conception; and the big thing, together with power and success, appealed to him. Rhodes spelt success and power: he was the symbol of the big idea: the Colossus over-riding, towering above everyone else.

He became an ardent admirer and supporter of Rhodes. He opened out, loosened the stiff joints of his awkward manner, became more human, began to warm with enthusiasm. He supported Rhodes the man, and the ideas and aims of Rhodes. He worked whole-heartedly for Rhodes, absorbed his ideas, and expounded them in articles. He had in England seen the might and power of the British Empire. He wrote and spoke in favour of the English, the people from whom Rhodes came. He compared Afrikaans, the local dialect of Dutch used by the Dutchmen of South Africa, unfavourably with English as a language. He explained in an article in the Cape Time that the English were unpopular "not because of their pharisaism but because of their success," especially their success as organisers of colonies.

Rhodes! He became obsessed with Rhodes. He lived Rhodes. He made Rhodes his hero and his leader. He saw an assured future with Rhodes leading the way. He worked and talked Rhodes, and the climax was a meeting in October of 1895 in the Town Hall in Kimberley, where he made a long speech on his behalf.

To this meeting he was sent by Hofmeyr, who primed him. There was trouble brewing in Kimberley, the centre of the diamond industry. It was encouraged by Olive Schreiner, a South African novelist. She suspected that Rhodes was preparing some treachery against the Dutch, that the Uitlanders in the Transvaal were up to something, preparing something also: all through South Africa there was talk that Rhodes and the Uitlanders were plotting together against Kruger and the Transvaal Government, and about to take some action, a coup de main of some sort. The Dutch were becoming suspicious and awkward. The De Beers' Political and Debating Society were holding a meeting in Kimberley, in the Town Hall, and wanted someone direct from headquarters to speak for Rhodes and contradict the rumours. Hofmeyr schooled Smuts in what he was to say and he went with enthusiasm. He was no more the dull, reserved student. He had found an inspiration. He was in his element. He was on the high road in politics.

In the Town Hall in Kimberley, before a large audience, he defended Rhodes against all criticism: his Native Policy, which had many faults; his scheme to unite all English and Dutch into one people. Some said that Rhodes had no right to be the Prime Minister of the Cape, an English Colony, and to hold vast interests in the Transvaal, an independent Dutch republic, which might conflict with his political duties: Smuts stoutly defended the dual position. Others attacked Rhodes' private character, charged him with corruption, bribery, and dishonest opportunism: Smuts denied these vigorously, and criticised the handling by the Transvaal officials of the foreigners who worked in the mines; and ended off with an enthusiastic panegyric of Rhodes.

He was attacked and laughed at by some of the newspapers and by Olive Schreiner, but he did not care. The future was assured. He was on the road to success, with Rhodes leading the way. And he returned to Cape Town full of enthusiasm.

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