Cecil Rhodes

Letter to the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, 20th June 2020

Your admonishment of the Oxford dons agitating against our country’s imperial past and Cecil Rhodes in particular is well deserved. One should ask what specifically is it that  they and the street mobs they are aligned with object to in Rhodes’s life.

He was Prime Minister of Cape Colony in the 1890’s and brought in the common electoral roll  well before the Boer War started  in 1899,  declaring that the only criteria for admission to the roll  was income and education. Not many black Africans qualified  at the time it is true, but some did. It was the principle which mattered and the common roll provision was carried into the South Africa Constitution Act of 1909  long after Rhodes had died in 1902 as the Boer War ended.

The colour blind stipulation is also built into the qualifications for the award of Rhodes Scholarships which are awarded annually to citizens of all the individual  countries of the then British Empire plus the United States of America, to the great benefit of the Scholars and Oxford  University, to which Rhodes gave a second huge bequest. None of Rhodes’s fortune had anything to do with slavery which in any case had been abolished in the British Empire long before he was born.  Rhodes Scholarships are arguably the most generous and far-seeing  of any university  private provision in the whole world.  It is much to be regretted that not one of the several hundred winners still alive appear to have seen fit to spring to Rhodes’s defence.

(Final sentence omitted in published version)

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