From: The Anglo-American Establishment, by Carroll Quigley,
Professor of Foreign Service
New York: Books in Focus, 1981
Chapter 3 — The Secret Society of Cecil Rhodes (1)
When Milner went to South Africa in 1897, Rhodes and he were already old acquaintances of many years' standing. We have already indicated that they were contemporaries at Oxford, but, more than that, they were members of a secret society which had been founded in 1891. Moreover, Milner was, if not in 1897, at least by 1901, Rhodes's chosen successor in the leadership of that society.
The secret society of Cecil Rhodes is mentioned in the first five of his seven wills. In the fifth it was supplemented by the idea of an educational institution with scholarships, whose alumni would be bound together by common ideals — Rhodes's ideals. In the sixth and seventh wills the secret society was not mentioned, and the scholarships monopolized the estate. But Rhodes still had the same ideals and still believed that they could be carried out best by a secret society of men devoted to a common cause. The scholarships were merely a facade to conceal the secret society, or, more accurately, they were to be one of the instruments by which the members of the secret society could carry out his purpose. This purpose, as expressed in the first will (1877), was:
"The extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom and of colonization by British subjects of all lands wherein the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour, and enterprise,...the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of a British Empire, the consolidation of the whole Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial Representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire, and finally the foundation of so great a power as to hereafter render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity."
To achieve this purpose, Rhodes, in this first will, written while he was still an undergraduate of Oxford at the age of twenty-four, left all his wealth to the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord Carnarvon) and to the Attorney General of Griqualand West (Sidney Shippard), to be used to create a secret society patterned on the Jesuits. The reference to the Jesuits as the model for his secret society is found in a "Confession of Faith" which Rhodes had written two years earlier (1875) and which he enclosed in his will. Thirteen years later, in a letter to the trustee of his third will, Rhodes told how to form the secret society, saying, "In considering questions suggested take Constitution of the Jesuits if obtainable and insert 'English Empire' for 'Roman Catholic Religion.'"
In his "Confession of Faith" Rhodes outlined the types of persons who might be useful members of this secret society. As listed by the American Secretary to the Rhodes Trust, this list exactly describes the group formed by Milner in South Africa:
"Men of ability and enthusiasm who find no suitable way to serve their country under the current political system; able youth recruited from the schools and universities; men of wealth with no aim in life; younger sons with high thoughts and great aspirations but without opportunity; rich men whose careers are blighted by some great disappointment. All must be men of ability and character.... Rhodes envisages a group of the ablest and the best, bound together by common unselfish ideals of service to what seems to him the greatest cause in the world. There is no mention of material rewards. This is to be a kind of religious brotherhood like the Jesuits, 'a church for the extension of the British Empire.'"
In each of his seven wills, Rhodes entrusted his bequest to a group of men to carry out his purpose. In the first will, as we have seen, the trustees were Lord Carnarvon and Sidney Shippard. In the second will (1882), the sole trustee was his friend N. E. Pickering. In the third will (1888), Pickering having died, the sole trustee was Lord Rothschild. In the fourth will (1891), W. T. Stead was added, while in the fifth (1892), Rhodes's solicitor, B. F. Hawksley, was added to the previous two. In the sixth (1893) and seventh (1899) wills, the personnel of the trustees shifted considerably, ending up, at Rhodes's death in 1902, with a board of seven trustees: Lord Milner, Lord Rosebery, Lord Grey, Alfred Beit, L. L. Michell, B. F. Hawksley, and Dr. Starr Jameson. This is the board to which the world looked to set up the Rhodes Scholarships.
Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the best-known American authority on Rhodes's wills, claims that Rhodes made no reference to the secret society in his last two wills because he had abandoned the idea. The first chapter of his recent book, The American Rhodes Scholarships, states and reiterates that between 1891 and 1893 Rhodes underwent a great change in his point of view and matured in his judgment to the point that in his sixth will "he abandons forever his youthful idea of a secret society." This is completely untrue, and there is no evidence to support such a statement. (2) On the contrary, all the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, indicates that Rhodes wanted the secret society from 1875 to his death in 1902. By Dr. Aydelotte's own admission, Rhodes wanted the society from 1877 to 1893, a period of sixteen years. Accepted practice in the use of historical evidence requires us to believe that Rhodes persisted in this idea for the remaining nine years of his life, unless there exists evidence to the contrary. There is no such evidence. On the other hand, there is direct evidence that he did not change his ideas. Two examples of this evidence can be mentioned here. On 5 February 1896, three years after his sixth will, Rhodes ended a long conversation with R. B. Brett (later Lord Esher) by saying, "Wish we could get our secret society." And in April 1900, a year after he wrote his seventh and last will, Rhodes was reprimanding Stead for his opposition to the Boer War, on the grounds that in this case he should have been willing to accept the judgment of the men on the spot who had made the war. Rhodes said to Stead, "That is the curse which will be fatal to our ideas — insubordination. Do not you think it is very disobedient of you? How can our Society be worked if each one sets himself up as the sole judge of what ought to be done? Just look at the position here. We three are in South Africa, all of us your boys ... I myself, Milner, and Garrett, all of whom learned their politics from you. We are on the spot, and we are unanimous in declaring this war to be necessary. You have never been in South Africa, and yet, instead of deferring to the judgment of your own boys, you fling yourself into a violent opposition to the war."(3)
Dr. Aydelotte's assumption that the scholarships were an alternative to the secret society is quite untenable, for all the evidence indicates that the scholarships were but one of several instruments through which the society would work. In 1894 Stead discussed with Rhodes how the secret society would work and wrote about it after Rhodes's death as follows: "We also discussed together various projects for propaganda, the formation of libraries, the creation of lectureships, the dispatch of emissaries on missions of propaganda throughout the Empire, and the steps to be taken to pave the way for the foundation and the acquisition of a newspaper which was to be devoted to the service of the cause." This is an exact description of the way in which the society, that is the Milner Group, has functioned. Moreover, when Rhodes talked with Stead, in January 1895, about the scholarships at Oxford, he did not abandon the society but continued to speak of it as the real power behind the scholarships. It is perfectly clear that Rhodes omitted mentioning the secret society in his last two wills because he knew that by that time he was so famous that the one way to keep a society from being secret would be to mention it in his will. Obviously, if Rhodes wanted the secret society after 1893, he would have made no mention of it in his will but would have left his money in trust for a legitimate public purpose and arranged for the creation of the secret society by a private understanding with his trustees. This is clearly what happened, because the secret society was established, and Milner used Rhodes's money to finance it, just as Rhodes had intended.(4)
The creation of the secret society was the essential core of Rhodes's plans at all times. Stead, even after Rhodes's death, did not doubt that the attempt would be made to continue the society. In his book on Rhodes's w ills he wrote in one place: "Mr. Rhodes was more than the founder of a dynasty. He aspired to be the creator of one of those vast semi-religious, quasi-political associations which, like the Society of Jesus, have played so large a part in the history of the world. To be more strictly accurate, he wished to found an Order as the instrument of the will of the Dynasty, and while he lived he dreamed of being both its Caesar and its Loyola. It was this far-reaching, world-wide aspiration of the man which rendered, to those who knew him, so absurdly inane the speculations of his critics as to his real motives." Sixty pages later Stead wrote: "The question that now arises is whether in the English-speaking world there are to be found men of faith adequate to furnish forth materials for the Society of which Mr. Rhodes dreamed."
This idea of a society throughout the world working for federal union fascinated Milner as it had fascinated Rhodes. We have already mentioned the agreement which he signed with George Parkin in 1893, to propagandize for this purpose. Eight years later, in a letter to Parkin from South Africa, Milner wrote at length on the subject of imperial union and ended: "Good-bye for today. Keep up the touch. I wish we had some like- minded persons in New Zealand and Australia, who were personal friends. More power to your elbow. "(5) Moreover, there were several occasions after 1902 when Milner referred to his desire to see "a powerful body of men" working "outside the existing political parties" for imperial unity. He referred to this desire in his letter to Congdon in 1904 and referred to it again in his "farewell speech" to the Kindergarten in 1905. There is also a piece of negative evidence which seems to me to be of considerable significance. In 1912 Parkin wrote a book called The Rhodes Scholarships, in which he devoted several pages to Rhodes's wills. Although he said something about each will and gave the date of each will, he said nothing about the secret society. Now this secret society, which is found in five out of the seven wills, is so astonishing that Parkin's failure to mention it must be deliberate. He would have no reason to pass it by in silence unless the society had been formed. If the existing Rhodes Trust were a more mature alternative for the secret society rather than a screen for it, there would be no reason to pass it by, but, on the contrary, an urgent need to mention it as a matter of great intrinsic interest and as an example of how Rhodes's ideas matured.
As a matter of fact, Rhodes's ideas did not mature. The one fact which appears absolutely clearly in every biography of Rhodes is the fact that from 1875 to 1902 his ideas neither developed nor matured. Parkin, who clearly knew of the secret society, even if he did not mention it, says in regard to Rhodes's last will: "It is essential to remember that this final will is consistent with those which had preceded it, that it was no late atonement for errors, as some have supposed, but was the realization of life-long dreams persistently pursued."
Leaving aside all hypothesis, the facts are clear: Rhodes wanted to create a worldwide secret group devoted to English ideals and to the Empire as the embodiment of these ideals, and such a group was created. It was created in the period after 1890 by Rhodes, Stead, and, above all, by Milner.
The idea of a secret international group of propagandists for federal imperialism was by no means new to Milner when he became Rhodes Trustee in 1901, since he had been brought into Rhodes's secret society as the sixth member in 1891. This was done by his old superior, W. T. Stead. Stead, as we have indicated, was the chief Rhodes confidant in England and very close to Milner. Although Stead did not meet Rhodes until 1889, Rhodes regarded himself as a disciple of Stead's much earlier and eagerly embraced the idea of imperial federation based on Home Rule. It was in pursuit of this idea that Rhodes contributed £10,000 to Parnell in 1888. Although Rhodes accepted Stead's ideas, he did not decide that Stead was the man he wanted to be his lieutenant in the secret society until Stead was sent to prison in 1885 for his articles on organized vice in the Pall Mall Gazette. This courageous episode convinced Rhodes to such a degree that he tried to see Stead in prison but was turned away. After Stead was released, Rhodes did not find the opportunity to meet him until 4 April 1889. The excitement of that day for Stead can best be shown by quoting portions of the letter which he wrote to Mrs. Stead immediately after the conference. It said:
"Mr. Rhodes is my man! I have just had three hours talk with him. He is full of a far more gorgeous idea in connection with the paper than even I have had. I cannot tell you his scheme because it is too secret. But it involves millions. He had no idea that it would cost £250,000 to start a paper. But he offered me down as a free gift £20,000 to buy a share in the P.M. Gazette as a beginning. Next year he would do more. He expects to own before he dies 4 or 5 millions, all of which he will leave to carry out the scheme of which the paper is an integral part. He is giving £500,000 to make a railway to Matabeleland, and so has not available, just at this moment, the money necessary for starting the morning paper. His ideas are federation, expansion, and consolidation of the Empire.... He took to me. Told me some things he has told no other man — save Lord Rothschild — and pressed me to take the £20,000, not to have any return, to give no receipt, to simply take it and use it to give me a freer hand on the P.M.G. It seems all like a fairy dream.... He said he had taken his ideas from the P.M.G., that the paper permeated South Africa, that he met it everywhere.... How good God is to me.... Remember all the above about R. is very private." The day following this sensational conversation Stead lost a libel action to the amount of £2000 damages. Rhodes at once sent a check to cover it and said: "You must keep my confidence secret. The idea is right, but until sure of the lines would be ruined in too many hands. Your subsidiary press idea can be discussed without risk, but the inner circle behind would never be many, perhaps three or four."(6)
About the same time, Rhodes revealed to Stead his plans to establish the British South Africa Company and asked him who in England could best help him get the necessary charter. Stead recommended Albert Grey, the future Earl Grey, who had been an intimate friend of Stead's since 1 873 and had been a member of the Milner-Toynbee group in 1880-1884. As a result, Grey became one of the original directors of the British South Africa Company and took the first steps which eventually brought him into the select circle of Rhodes's secret society.
This society took another step forward during Rhodes's visit to England in February 1890. The evidence for this is to be found in the Journals of Lord Esher (at that time R. B. Brett), who had obviously been let in on the plan by Stead. Under date of 3 February 1890, we read in these Journals: "Cecil Rhodes arrived last night from South Africa. I was at Stead's today when he called. I left them together. Tonight I saw Stead again. Rhodes had talked for three hours of all his great schemes.... Rhodes is a splendid enthusiast. But he looks upon men as 'machines.' This is not very penetrating." Twelve days after this, on 15 February, at Lord Rothschild's country house, Brett wrote in his journal: 'Came here last night. Cecil Rhodes, Arthur Balfour, Harcourts, Albert Grey, Alfred Lyttelton. A long talk with Rhodes today. He has vast ideas. Imperial notions. He seems disinterested. But he is very ruse and, I suspect, quite unscrupulous as to the means he employs. "(7)
The secret society, after so much preliminary talk, took form in 1891, the same year in which Rhodes drew up his fourth will and made Stead as well as Lord Rothschild the trustee of his fortune. It is perfectly clear from the evidence that he expected Rothschild to handle the financial investments associated with the trust, while Stead was to have full charge of the methods by which the funds were used. About the same time, in February 1891, Stead and Rhodes had another long discussion about the secret society. First they discussed their goals and agreed that, if necessary in order to achieve Anglo-American unity, Britain should join the United States. Then they discussed the organization of the secret society and divided it into two circles: an inner circle, "The Society of the Elect", and an outer circle to include "The Association of Helpers" and The Review of Reviews (Stead's magazine, founded 1890). Rhodes said that he had already revealed the plan for "The Society of the Elect" to Rothschild and "little Johnston." By "little Johnston" he meant Harry H. Johnston (Sir Harry after 1896), African explorer and administrator, who had laid the basis for the British claims to Nyasaland, Kenya, and Uganda. Johnston was, according to Sir Frederick Whyte, the biographer of Stead, virtually unknown in England before Stead published his portrait as the frontispiece to the first issue of The Review of Reviews in 1890.(8) This was undoubtedly done on behalf of Rhodes. Continuing their discussion of the membership of "The Society of the Elect," Stead asked permission to bring in Milner and Brett. Rhodes agreed, so they telegraphed at once to Brett, who arrived in two hours. They then drew up the
following "ideal arrangement' for the society:
1. General of the Society: Rhodes
2. Junta of Three: Stead, Brett, Milner
3. Circle of Initiates: Cardinal Manning, General Booth, Bramwell Booth, "Little" Johnston, Albert Grey, Arthur Balfour
4. The Association of Helpers
5. A College, under Professor Seeley, to be established to train people in the English-speaking idea."
Within the next few weeks Stead had another talk with Rhodes and a talk with Milner, who was "filled with admiration" for the scheme, according to Stead's notes as published by Sir Frederick Whyte.
The "ideal arrangement" for the secret society, as drawn up in 1891, never came into effect in all its details. The organization as drawn on paper reflected the romantic and melodramatic ideas of Cecil Rhodes and Stead, and doubtless they envisioned formal initiations, oaths, secret signs of recognition, etc. Once Milner and Brett were made initiates, the atmosphere changed. To them secret signs or oaths were so much claptrap and neither necessary nor desirable, for the initiates knew each other intimately and had implicit trust in each other without the necessity of signs or oaths. Thus the melodrama envisioned by Rhodes was watered down without in any way reducing the seriousness with which the initiates determined to use their own personal influence and Rhodes's wealth and power to achieve the consolidation of the British Empire, which they shared as an ideal with Rhodes.
With the elimination of signs, oaths, and formal initiations, the criteria for membership in "The Society of the Elect" became knowledge of the secret society and readiness to cooperate with the other initiates toward their common goal. The distinction between the initiates and The Association of Helpers rested on the fact that while members of both circles were willing to cooperate with one another in order to achieve their common goal, the initiates knew of the secret society, while the"helpers" probably did not. This distinction rapidly became of little significance, for the members of The Association of Helpers would have been very stupid if they had not realized that they were members of a secret group working in cooperation with other members of the same group. Moreover, the Circle of Initiates became in time of less importance because as time passed the members of this select circle died, were alienated, or became less immediately concerned with the project. As a result, the secret society came to be represented almost completely by The Association of Helpers — that is, by the group with which Milner was most directly concerned. And within this Association of Helpers there appeared in time gradations of intimacy, the more select ones participating in numerous areas of the society's activity and the more peripheral associated with fewer and less vital areas. Nevertheless, it is clear that "The Society of the Elect" continued to exist, and it undoubtedly recruited additional members now and then from The Association of Helpers. It is a very difficult task to decide who is and who is not a member of the society as a whole, and it is even more difficult to decide if a particular member is an initiate or a helper. Accordingly, the last distinction will not usually be made in this study. Before we abandon it completely, however, an effort should be made to name the initiates, in the earlier period at least.
Of the persons so far named, we can be certain that six were initiates. These were Rhodes, Lord Rothschild, Johnston, Stead, Brett, and Milner. Of these, Rothschild was largely indifferent and participated in the work of the group only casually. Of the others, Johnston received from £10,000 to £17,000 a year from Rhodes for several years after 1889, during which period he was trying to eliminate the influence of slave-traders and the Portuguese from Nyasaland. About 1894 he became alienated from Rhodes because of Johnston's refusal to cooperate with him in an attack on the Portuguese in Manikaland. As a result Johnston ceased to be an active member of the society. Lord Grey's efforts to heal the breach were only nominally successful. (9)
Stead was also eliminated in an informal fashion in the period 1899-1904, at first by Rhodes's removing him from his trusteeship and later by Milner's refusal to use him, confide in him, or even see him, although continuing to protest his personal affection for him. Since Milner was the real leader of the society after 1902, this had the effect of eliminating Stead from the society. (10)
Of the others mentioned, there is no evidence that Cardinal Manning or the Booths were ever informed of the scheme. All three were friends of Stead and would hardly be acceptable to the rising power of Milner. Cardinal Manning died in 1892. As for "General" Booth and his son, they were busily engaged in directing the Salvation Army from 1878 to 1929 and played no discernible role in the history of the Group.
Of the others who were mentioned, Brett, Grey, and Balfour can safely be regarded as members of the society, Brett because of the documentary evidence and the other two because of their lifelong cooperation with and assistance to Milner and the other members of the Group.
Brett, who succeeded his father as Viscount Esher in 1899, is one of the most influential and one of the least-known men in British politics in the last two generations. His importance could be judged better by the positions he refused than by those he held during his long life (1852-1930). Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he was a lifelong and intimate friend of Arthur Balfour, Albert Grey, Lord Rosebery, and Alfred Lyttelton. He was private secretary to the Marquess of Hartington (Duke of Devonshire) in 1878-1885 and a Liberal M.P. in 1880-1885. In the last year he was defeated in an attempt to capture the seat for Plymouth, and retired from public life to his country house near Windsor at the advanced age of thirty-three years. That he emerged from this retirement a decade later may well be attributed to his membership in the Rhodes secret society. He met Stead while still in public life and by virtue of his confidential position with the future Duke of Devonshire was able to relay to Stead much valuable information. These messages were sent over the signature "XIII."
This assistance was so highly esteemed by Stead that he regarded Brett as an important part of the Pall Mall Gazette organization. Writing in 1902 of Milner and Brett, Stead spoke of them, without mentioning their names, as 'two friends, now members of the Upper House, who were thoroughly in sympathy with the gospel according to the Pall Mall Gazette and who had been as my right and left hands during my editorship of the paper." In return Stead informed Brett of Rhodes's secret schemes as early as February 1 890 and brought him into the society when it was organized the following year.
The official positions held by Brett in the period after 1895 were secretary of the Office of Works (1895-1902), Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Windsor Castle (1901-1930), member of the Royal Commission on the South African War (1902-1903), permanent member of the Committee of Imperial Defence (1905-1930), chairman and later president of the London County Territorial Force Association (1909-1921), and chief British member of the Temporary Mixed Commission on Disarmament of the League of Nations (1922-1923). Although some of these posts, especially the one on the Committee of Imperial Defence, play an important role in the history of the Milner Group, none of them gives any indication of the significant position which Esher held in British political life. The same thing could be said of the positions which he refused, although they, if accepted, would have made him one of the greatest names in recent British history. Among the positions which he refused we might mention the following:
Permanent Under Secretary in the Colonial Office (1899), Governor of Cape Colony (1900), Permanent Under Secretary in the War Office (1900), Secretary of State for War (1903), Director of The Times (1908), Viceroy of India (1908), and an earldom (date unknown). Esher's reasons for refusing these positions were twofold: he wanted to work behind the scenes rather than in the public view, and his work in secret was so important and so influential that any public post would have meant a reduction in his power. When he refused the exalted position of viceroy in 1908, he wrote frankly that, with his opportunity of influencing vital decisions at the center, India for him "would be (it sounds vain, but it isn't) parochial. "(11)
This opportunity for influencing decisions at the center came from his relationship to the monarchy. For at least twenty-five years (from 1895 to after 1920) Esher was probably the most important adviser on political matters to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and King George V. This position arose originally from his personal friendship with Victoria, established in the period 1885-1887, and was solidified later when, as secretary to the Office of Works and Lieutenant Governor of Windsor Castle, he was in charge of the physical properties of all the royal residences. These opportunities were not neglected. He organized the Diamond Jubilee of 1897, the royal funeral of 1901, and the coronation of the same year. In the latter case he proved to be indispensable, for in the sixty-four years without a coronation the precedents had been forgotten. In this way Esher reached a point where he was the chief unofficial representative of the King and the "liaison between King and ministers." As an example of the former role, we might mention that in 1908, when a purchaser known only as "X" acquired control of The Times, Esher visited Lord Northcliffe on behalf of "a very high quarter" to seek assurance that the policy of the paper would not be changed. Northcliffe, who was "X," hastened to give the necessary assurances, according to the official History of The Times. Northcliffe and the historian of The Times regarded Esher on this occasion as the emissary of King Edward, but we, who know of his relationship with the Rhodes secret society, are justified in asking if he were not equally the agent of the Milner Group, since it was as vital to the Group as to the King that the policy of The Times remain unchanged. As we shall see in a later chapter, when Northcliffe did adopt a policy contrary to that of the Group, in the period 1917-1919, the Group broke with him personally and within three years bought his controlling interest in the paper.
Certain other persons were probably taken into'The Society of the Elect" in the next few years. Hawksley, Rhodes's lawyer, was one. He obviously knew about the secret society, since he drew up the wills in which it was mentioned. This, combined with the fact that he was an intimate confidant of Rhodes in all the activities of the society and was made a trustee of the last three wills (1892), makes it probable that he should be regarded as an initiate.
Likewise it is almost certain that Milner brought in Sir Thomas Brassey (later Lord Brassey), the wealthy naval enthusiast whose name is preserved in Brassey's Naval Annual. Brassey was treasurer and most active figure in the Imperial Federation League during its ten years' existence. In 1889, as we have mentioned, he hired George Parkin to go to Australia on behalf of the League to make speeches in support of imperial federation. We have already indicated that Milner in 1893 approached Parkin in behalf of a mysterious and unnamed group of wealthy imperialists, and, some time later, Milner and Brassey signed a contract with Parkin to pay him £450 a year for three years to propagandize for imperial federation. Since this project was first broached to Parkin by Milner alone and since the Imperial Federation League was, by 1893, in process of dissolution, I think we have the right to assume that the unnamed group for which Milner was acting was the Rhodes secret society. If so, Brassey must have been introduced to the scheme sometime between 1891 and 1893. This last interpretation is substantiated by the numerous and confidential letters which passed between Milner and Brassey in the years which followed. Some of these will be mentioned later. It is worth mentioning here that Brassey was appointed Governor of Victoria in 1895 and played an important role in the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1900.
The propaganda work which Parkin did in the period 1893-1895 in fulfillment of this agreement was part of a movement that was known at the time as "Seeley's lecturers." This movement was probably all that ensued from the fifth portion of the "ideal arrangement" — that is, from the projected college under Professor Seeley.
Another person who was brought into the secret society was Edmund Garrett, the intimate friend of Stead, Milner, and Rhodes, who was later used by Milner as a go- between for communications with the other two. Garrett had been sent to South Africa originally by Stead while he was still on the Pall Mall Gazette in 1889. He went there for a second time in 1895 as editor of the Cape Times, the most influential English-language newspaper in South Africa. This position he undoubtedly obtained from Stead and Rhodes. Sir Frederick Whyte, in his biography of Stead, says that Rhodes was the chief proprietor of the paper. Sir Edward Cook, however, the biographer of Garrett and a man who was very close to the Rhodes secret society, says that the owners of the Cape Times were Frederick York St. Leger and Dr. Rutherfoord Harris. This is a distinction without much difference, since Dr. Harris, as we shall see, was nothing more than an agent of Rhodes.
In South Africa, Garrett was on most intimate personal relationships with Rhodes. Even when the latter was Prime Minister of Cape Colony, Garrett used to communicate with him by tossing pebbles at his bedroom window in the middle of the night. Such a relationship naturally gave Garrett a prestige in South Africa which he could never have obtained by his own position or abilities. When High Commissioner Hercules Robinson drew up a proclamation after the Jameson Raid, he showed it to Garrett before it was issued and cut out a paragraph at the latter's insistence.
Garrett was also on intimate terms with Milner during his period as High Commissioner after 1897. In fact, when Rhodes spoke of political issues in South Africa, he frequently spoke of "I myself, Milner, and Garrett." We have already quoted an occasion on which he used this expression to Stead in 1900. Milner's relationship with Garrett can be gathered from a letter which he w rote to Garrett in 1899, after Garrett had to leave South Africa to go to a sanatorium in Germany: "It is no use protesting against the decrees of fate, nor do I want to say too much on what Rhodes calls 'the personal.' But this really was a great blow to me, and I have never quite got over your breakdown and departure, never quite felt the same man since, either politically or privately. . . . Dear Friend, I miss you fearfully, always shall miss you. So does this young country. '"(12)
I think we are justified in assuming that a man as intimate as this with Rhodes and Milner, who was used in such confidential and important ways by both of them, who knew of the plans for the Johannesburg revolt and the Jameson Raid before they occurred, and who knew of the Rhodes secret society, was an initiate. That Garrett knew of the Jameson plot beforehand is recorded by Sir Edward Cook in his biography. That Garrett knew of the secret society is recorded by Garrett himself in an article which he published in the Contemporary Review after Rhodes's death in 1902. The words in which Garrett made this last revelation are of some significance. He spoke of "that idea of a sort of Jesuit-like Secret Society for the Promotion of the Empire, which for long he hugged and which — minus, perhaps, the secrecy and the Jesuitry — I know to have had a good deal of fascination for others among our contemporaries not reckoned visionaries by the world. "
We have said that Garrett was used by Milner as an intermediary with both Rhodes and Stead. The need for such an intermediary with Rhodes arose from Milner's feeling that it was politically necessary to conceal the intimacy of their relationship. As Rhodes told Stead, speaking of Milner, on 10 April 1900, "I have seen very little of him. He said to me, 'The less you and I are seen together the better.' Hence, I never invited him to Groote Schuur."(13)
Garrett was also used by Milner as an intermediary with Stead after the latter became alienated from the initiates because of his opposition to the Boer War. One example of this is of some significance. In 1902 Milner made a trip to England without seeing Stead. On 12 April of that year, Garrett, who had seen Milner, wrote the following letter to Stead: "I love the inner man, Stead, in spite of all differences, and should love him if he damned me and my policy and acts ten times more. So does Milner — in the inner court — we agreed when he was over — only there are temporary limitations and avoidances.... He told me why he thought on the whole he'd better not see you this time. I quite understood, though I'm not sure whether you would, but I'm sure you would have liked the way in which, without any prompting at all, he spoke of his personal feelings for you being unaffected by all this. Someday let us hope, all this tyranny will be overpass, and we shall be able to agree again, you and Milner, Cook and I." It is possible that the necessity for Milner to overrule his personal feelings and the mention of "the inner court" may be oblique references to the secret society. In any case, the letter shows the way in which Stead was quietly pushed aside in that society by its new leader.
Another prominent political figure who may have been an initiate in the period before 1902 is Lord Rosebery. Like his father-in-law, Lord Rothschild, who was an initiate, Rosebery was probably not a very active member of The Society of the Elect, although for quite different reasons. Lord Rothschild held aloof because to him the whole project was incomprehensible and unbusinesslike; Lord Rosebery held aloof because of his own diffident personality and his bad physical health. However, he cooperated with the members of the society and was on such close personal relationships with them that he probably knew of the secret society. Brett was one of his most intimate associates and introduced him to Milner in 1885. As for Rhodes, Rosebery's official biographer, the Marquess of Crewe, says that he "both liked and admired Cecil Rhodes who was often his guest." He made Rhodes a Privy Councillor, and Rhodes made him a trustee of his will. These things, and the fact that the initiates generally assumed that Rosebery would grant their requests, give certain grounds for believing that he was a member of their society.(14) If he was, he played little role in it after 1900.
Two other men, both fabulously wealthy South Africans, may be regarded as members of the society and probably initiates. These were Abe Bailey and Alfred Beit.
Abe Bailey (later Sir Abe, 1864-1940) was the largest landowner in Rhodesia, a large Transvaal mine-owner, and one of the chief, if not the chief, financial supporters of the Milner Group in the period up to 1925. These financial contributions still continue, although since 1925 they have undoubtedly been eclipsed by those of Lord Astor. Bailey was an associate of Rhodes and Alfred Beit, the two most powerful figures in South Africa, and like them was a close friend of Milner. He named his son, born in 1900, John Milner Bailey. Like Rhodes and Beit, he was willing that his money be used by Milner because he sympathized with his aims. As his obituary in The Times expressed it, "In politics he modeled himself deliberately on Rhodes as his ideal of a good South African and a devoted Imperialist.... He had much the same admiration of Milner and remained to the end a close friend of 'Milner's young men.'" This last phrase refers to Milner's Kindergarten or The Association of Helpers, which will be described in detail later.
Abe Bailey was one of the chief plotters in the Jameson Raid in 1895. He took over Rhodes's seat in the Cape Parliament in 1902-1907 and was Chief Whip in the Progressive Party, of which Dr. Jameson was leader. When the Transvaal obtained self-government in 1907, he went there and was Whip of the same party in the Legislative Assembly at Pretoria. After the achievement of the Union of South Africa, in the creation of which, as we shall see, he played a vital role, he was a member of the Union Parliament and a loyal supporter of Botha and Smuts from 1915 to 1924. After his defeat in 1924, he divided his time between South Africa and London. In England, as The Times said at his death, he "took a close interest behind the scenes in politics." This "close interest" was made possible by his membership in the innermost circle of the Milner Group, as we shall see.
Certain others of Rhodes's chief associates cooperated with Milner in his designs after
Rhodes's death and might well be regarded as members of Rhodes's society and of the
Milner Group. Of these we might mention Alfred Beit, Dr. Starr Jameson and his
assistant R. S. Holland, J. Rochfort Maguire, and Lewis Loyd Michell. Alfred Beit (1853-1906) was the business genius who handled all Rhodes's business affairs and incidentally had most to do with making the Rhodes fortune. He was a Rhodes
Trustee and left much of his own fortune for public and educational purposes similar to those endowed by Rhodes. This will be discussed later. His biography was written by George Seymour Fort, a protege of Abe Bailey, who acted as Bailey's agent on the boards of directors of many corporations, a fact revealed by Fort himself in a letter to The Times, 13 August 1940.
Leander Starr Jameson (later Sir Starr, 1853-1917) was Rhodes's doctor, roommate, and closest friend, and had more to do with the opening up of Rhodesia than any other single man. His famous raid into the Transvaal with Rhodesian police in 1895 was one of the chief events leading up to the Boer War. After Rhodes's death, Jameson was leader of his party in Cape Colony and served as Premier in 1904-1908. A member of the National Convention of 1908-1909, he was also director of the British South Africa Company and a Rhodes Trustee. He was a great admirer of Milner and, even before the death of Rhodes, had given evidence of a desire to shift his allegiance from Rhodes to Milner. In 1898 he wrote to his brother: "Rhodes had done absolutely nothing but go backwards.... I hate it all and hate the people more than ever; would clear out by the next boat, but have not pluck enough to acknowledge myself beaten.... Milner is the only really healthy personality in the whole crowd. "(15) This feeling may have been only a temporary reaction, resulting from the way in which Rhodes received news of the Jameson Raid, but it is likely that more basic issues were concerned, since more than two years had elapsed between the raid and these statements. At any rate, Milner and Jameson were able to cooperate loyally thereafter. Jameson's biographical sketch in The Dictionary of National Biography was written by Dougal Malcolm of Milner's Kindergarten.
Reginald Sothern Holland (now Sir Sothern) was private secretary to Dr. Jameson in 1904 and later for three years permanent head of the Prime Minister's Department (1905-1908). He was secretary to the South African Shipping Freights Conference (1905-1906) with Birchenough and succeeded Birchenough as His Majesty's Trade Commissioner to South Africa (1908-1913). During the war he was in charge of supply of munitions, at first in the War Office and later (1915) in the Ministry of Munitions. He was also on various commissions in which Milner was interested, such as the Royal Commission on Paper Supplies (with Birchenough), and ended the war as Controller of the Cultivation Division of the Food Production Department (which was seeking to carry out recommendations made by the Milner and Selborne Committee on Food Production). He became a Rhodes Trustee in 1932.
Lewis Loyd Michell (later Sir Lewis, 1842-1928) was Rhodes's banker in South Africa and after his death took over many of his interests. A Minister without Portfolio in Jameson's Cabinet in the Cape Colony (1904-1905), he was also a director of the British South Africa Company and a Rhodes Trustee. He published a two-volume Life of Rhodes in 1910.
J. Rochfort Maguire (1855-1925), Fellow of All Souls, was an exact contemporary of Milner's at Oxford (1873-1877) and Rhodes's most intimate friend in college. He worked for Rhodes for the rest of his life. He obtained the original mining concession (which became the basis of the British South Africa Company) from Lobengula in 1883, was Rhodes's representative in the House of Commons for five years (1890-1895), (16) and his personal representative in Rhodesia or London during Rhodes's absences from either place. Director of the British South Africa Company for twenty-seven years (1898-1925), he was president for the last two. His sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography was written by Dougal Malcolm.
Of these six men whom Milner inherited from Rhodes, only one was young enough to become an active member of the Milner Group. This was Sothern Holland, born 1876, who did become a member, although perhaps not of the inner circle. The other five were Milner's own age, with established positions and power of their own. They all knew Milner well and cooperated with him. Even if they were initiates, they played no vital role in the history of the Milner Group after 1905.
As we have indicated, the character of the secret society and its personnel were changed after 1902. This was the result of the activities of Lord Milner. The death of Rhodes and the elimination of Stead gave the organization a much less melodramatic form while making it a much more potent political instrument. Moreover, as a result of the personal ascendancy of Milner, the membership of the organization was drastically changed. Of the initiates or probable initiates whom we have mentioned, Rothschild, Johnston, Hawksley, Rosebery, Jameson, Michell, and Maguire played little or no role in the society after 1902. Beit died in 1906, and Garrett the following year. Of the others, Grey, Brassey, Esher, and Balfour continued in active cooperation with the members of the Group. The real circle of initiates in the twentieth century, however, would appear to include the following names: Milner, Abe Bailey, George Parkin, Lord Selborne, Jan Smuts, A. J. Glazebrook, R. H. Brand (Lord Brand), Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), Lionel Curtis, Geoffrey Dawson, H. A. L. Fisher, Edward Grigg, Leopold Amery, and Lord Astor. Since 1925, when Milner died, others have undoubtedly been added. This circle, with certain additional names, we shall call the "inner core" or the "inner circle" of the Milner Group. The history of these men's activities and the evidence which entitles us to attribute them to the circle of initiates will occupy most of the remainder of this volume.
The changes which Milner made in the Rhodes secret society were not important. There was no change in goals, and there was very little change in methods. In fact, both of these were modified more by Lord Lothian and his friends after Milner's death than they were by Milner after Rhodes's death.
Rhodes and Milner were aiming at the same goals, and had been for twenty-five years, in 1902. They differed slightly on how these goals could be obtained, a difference based on different personalities. To Rhodes it seemed that the ends could be won by amassing great wealth, to Milner it seemed that they could be won by quiet propaganda, hard work, and personal relationships (as he had learned from Toynbee). Neither rejected the other's methods, and each was willing to use the other and his methods to achieve their common dream as the occasion arose. With the death of Rhodes in 1902, Milner obtained control of Rhodes's money and was able to use it to lubricate the workings of his propaganda machine. This is exactly as Rhodes had wanted and had intended. Milner was Rhodes's heir, and both men knew it. Rhodes himself said before his death, "They tell me I can only live five years. I don't mean to die. I want to live. But if I go, there is one man — Sir Alfred Milner. Always trust Milner. You don't know yet what you have got in him." In 1898, in conversation with Stead, Rhodes said, "You will support Milner in any measure that he may take short of war. I make no such limitation. I support Milner absolutely without reserve. If he says peace, I say peace; if he says war, I say war. Whatever happens, I say ditto to Milner. "(17)
The goals which Rhodes and Milner sought and the methods by which they hoped to achieve them were so similar by 1902 that the two are almost indistinguishable. Both sought to unite the world, and above all the English-speaking world, in a federal structure around Britain. Both felt that this goal could best be achieved by a secret band of men united to one another by devotion to the common cause and by personal loyalty to one another. Both felt that this band should pursue its goal by secret political and economic influence behind the scenes and by the control of journalistic, educational, and propaganda agencies. Milner's intention to work for this goal, and to use Rhodes's money and influence to do it, is clearly implied in all his actions (both before and after 1902), in his correspondence with Rhodes (some of it unpublished), and in letters to Parkin in September 1901 and to Lord Grey in May 1902. (18)
It is very likely that, long before Rhodes died, this plan was discussed in private conversations of which no record was kept. For example, three of the Rhodes Trustees under the last will — Grey, Milner, and Beit — with Lyttelton Gell had dinner at Beit's house and talked over important matters far into the night of 30 November 1898. It is quite clear that Rhodes talked over with his associates the ways in which his ideals would be carried out after his death. He lived constantly under the fear of death and regarded his whole life as a race in which he must achieve as much of his purpose as possible before he died. The biographer of Alfred Beit is quite confident that Rhodes discussed with Beit a plan by which Rhodes would omit from his will all mention of a project close to his heart — the Cape to Cairo Railway — leaving this project to be covered, as it was, by Beit's own will. There can be little doubt that Rhodes would have discussed a project even closer to his heart — the worldwide group of Anglo-Saxon sympathizers — with the trustees of his own will, and, above all, with the one most clearly devoted to his ideas, Milner.
Chapter 3 Notes
1. This section is based on W. T. Stead, The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John
Rhodes (London, 1902); Sir Francis Wylie's three articles in the American Oxonian
(April 1944), XXXI, 65-69; July 1944), XXXI, 129-138; and January 1945), XXXII, 1-
1 1 ; F. Aydelotte, The American Rhodes Scholars (Princeton, 1946); and the biographies and memoirs of the men mentioned.
2. No such claim is made by Sir Francis Wylie, from whose articles Dr. Aydelotte
derived most of the material for his first chapter. Sir Francis merely mentions the secret society in connection with the early wills and then drops the whole subject.
3. W. T. Stead, The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes (London, 1902),
110-111. The statement of 1896 to Brett is in Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher(4 vols., London, 1934-1938), 1, 197.
4. Dr. Aydelotte quotes at length from a letter which Rhodes sent to Stead in 1891, but he does not quote the statements which Stead made about it when he published it in 1902. In this letter he spoke about the project of federal union with the United States and said, "The only feasible [way] to carry this idea out is a secret one (society) gradually absorbing the wealth of the world to be devoted to such an object." At the end of this document Stead wrote: "Mr. Rhodes has never to my knowledge said a word nor has he ever written a syllable, that justifies the suggestion that he surrendered the aspirations which were expressed in this letter of 1891. So far from this being the case, in the long discussions which took place between us in the last years of his life, he reaffirmed as emphatically as at first his unshaken conviction as to the dream — if you like to call it so — a vision, which had ever been the guiding star of his life." See W. T. Stead, The Last
Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes (London, 1902), 13-11.
5. Sir John Willison, Sir George Parkin (London, 1929), 234.
6. This paragraph and the two preceding it are from Sir Frederick Whyte, The Life of
W. T Stead (2 vols., Boston 1925), 270-272 and 39.
7. See Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher (4 vols., London, 1938), 1,
149-150. It should be noted that the excision in the entry for 3 February marked by three points (. . .) was made by Lord Esher's son when he edited the journals for publication.
8. See F. Whyte, Life of W. T. Stead (2 vols., Boston, 1925), 199-212.
9. No mention of the secret society is to be found in either Sir Harry Johnston, The
Story of My Life (London, 1923), or in Alex. Johnston, Life and Letters of Sir Harry
Johnston (London, 1929). The former work does contain an account of Johnston's break
with Rhodes on page 497. More details are on pages 145-148 of the later work, including a record of Rhodes's saying, "I will smash you Johnston, for this." Johnston was convinced that it was a result of this enmity that Milner rather than he was chosen to be High Commissioner of South Africa in 1897. See pages 338-339.
10. Rhodes's reason for eliminating him (given in the January 1901 codicil to his will) was "on account of the extraordinary eccentricity of Mr. Stead, though having always a great respect for him, but feeling the objects of my Will would be embarrassed by his views." Milner's reasons (given in the "Stead Memorial" number of The Review of Reviews, May 1912) were his "lack of balance," which was "his Achilles heel.' See also the letter of 12 April 1902 from Edmund Garrett to Stead, quoted below, from F. Whyte, The Life ofW. T. Stead (2 vols., Boston, 1925), 211.
11. The quotation is from the sketch of Lord Esher in the Dictionary of National
Biography. The other quotations from Brett are from The Journals and Letters of
Reginald, Viscount Esher (4 vols., London, 1934-1938).
12. E. T. Cook, Edmund Garrett (London, 1909), 158. The excision in this letter
marked by three points (. . .) was made by Cook. Cook was a protege of Milner's, found in New College, invited to contribute to the Pall Mall Gazette in 1881, and added to the staff as an editor in August 1883, when Milner was acting as editor-in-chief, during the absence of Morley and Stead. See F. Whyte, The Life ofW. T. Stead (2 vols., Boston, 1925), I, 94. Cook remained close to Milner for many years. On 4 October 1899 Lord Esher wrote to his son a letter in which he said: "Cook is the Editor of the Daily News and is in close touch with Milner and his friends" — Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher (4 vols., London, 1938), I, 240.
13. F. Whyte, Life of W. T. Stead (2 vols., Boston, 1925), 211. The quotation in the
next paragraph is from the same place.
14. As an example of this and an example of the way in which the secret society
functioned in the early period, see the following passage from the Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher (4 vols., London, 1938), under the date 21 November 1892: "I went to London on Friday and called on Rhodes. He had asked me to do so.... Rhodes asked for the Government carriage of his telegraph poles and 200 Sikhs at Blantyre. Then he will make the telegraph. He would like a gunboat on Tanganyika. I stayed there to lunch. Then saw Rosebery. He was in good spirits." From Sir Harry Johnston's autobiography, it is clear that the 200 Sikhs were for him.
15. S. G. Millen, Rhodes (London, 1934), 341-342.
16. In the House of Commons, Maguire was a supporter of Parnell, acting on orders
from Rhodes, who had given £10,000 to Parnell's cause in 1888. Rhodes's own
explanation of why he supported Parnell is a typical Milner Group statement. He said that he gave the money "since in Mr. Parnell's cause.... I believe he's the key to the Federal System, on the basis of perfect Home Rule in every part of the Empire." This quotation is from S. G. Millin, Rhodes (London, 1934), 112, and is based on W. T. Stead, The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes (London, 1902).
17. The first quotation is from Edmund Garrett, "Milner and Rhodes," in The Empire
and the Century (London, 1905), 478. According to The Times obituary of Milner, 14
May 1925, Rhodes repeated these sentiments in different words on his deathbed, 26
March 1902. The statement to Stead will be found in W. T. Stead, The Last Will and
Testament of Cecil John Rhodes (London, 1902), 108.
18. See Cecil Headlam, ed., The Milner Papers, 1897-1905 (2 vols., London, 1931-
1933), 1 1,412-413; the unpublished material is at New College, Oxford, in Milner Papers, XXXVIII, ii, 200.