July 1st, 2020
Letter to Daily Telegraph published without final paragraph on Friday 19th 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 spring to Rhodes’s defence.