Hardly any person in America can hear the name “Hatfield” without thinking “McCoy.” This most infamous feud in American folklore happened right in the Tri-State’s back yard.
The 2012 release of the History channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, has sparked a renewed interest in the saga. You can find in the pages of the Tri-State Visitors’ Guide several feud-related attractions, activities and festivals. But before you go exploring, here’s a tutorial on what really happened in the hills of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
The feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky had its roots in the Civil War and continued through 1981. The feud was led by patriarchs William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy. Here are some key events in the feud:
THE CIVIL WAR
Both William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy were Confederates and were both along in a raid that killed Union Gen. Bill France in the fall of 1863. That raid sparked into action the Kentucky homeguards, who were sent to take Devil Anse and his men. One of France’s men, Asa Harmon McCoy (Randall’s brother), came after Anse in revenge.
He camped out in a rock house near his home. Anse found out and sent his Uncle Jim Vance and Jim Wheeler Wilson, a fellow soldier, to confront McCoy.
It is believed that one of those men shot and killed Asa McCoy.
A couple of court decisions helped to fuel the feud. In the late 1870s, Devil Anse Hatfield got into a land dispute with McCoy’s cousin Perry Cline. Anse won the land dispute and was granted Cline’s entire 5,000-acre plot of land. A few months after the verdict, Randolph McCoy stopped to visit Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse. While visiting, McCoy saw a hog that he said bore the McCoy marking on its ear. Hatfield denied the accusation and the two were hauled into court with Preacher Anderson Hatfield (a Baptist preacher and justice of the peace) to settle the suit.
Both Hatfields and McCoys served as jurors. Randolph’s nephew Bill Staton, also a brother-in-law of Ellison Hatfield, swore that Floyd Hatfield owned the hog.
Floyd won the case. On June 18, 1880, Staton was killed in a shootout with Paris and Sam McCoy, who were sent to prison for their crime.
Ellison Hatfield testified at that trial.
ROMEO AND JULIET
Two months after the killing of Staton, Devil Anse’s son, Johnse met Roseanna McCoy, the daughter of Randolph McCoy, at an 1880 Election Day event.
They became lovers, but Randolph did not approve.
When she went to be with Johnse in West Virginia, a posse of McCoys rode to the cabin, took Johnse prisoner and set out for the Pikeville jail. Roseanna told Devil Anse, who gathered his own crew to cut off the McCoys and rescue his son. After that, the couple remained apart. Roseanna would give birth to their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth McCoy, in the spring of 1881. The baby died of measles later that year. Johnse Hatfield, who would be married four times in his life, met Nancy McCoy (the daughter of Asa Harmon McCoy, who had been killed by the Hatfields) and they were married on May 14, 1881.
TROUBLE AT THE POLLS
On Aug. 5, 1882, it was Election Day and at the polls on Blackberry Creek, Ellison Hatfield got into a fight with Tolbert McCoy (Randolph’s son). Tolbert’s two younger brothers, Pharmer and Randolph Jr., jumped in the fight with knives, and Pharmer McCoy shot Ellison.
HATFIELDS BURN WITH REVENGE
Preacher Anse Hatfield ordered constables to take the McCoy brothers to the Pikeville jail to face charges. They stopped at Floyd McCoy’s house for food and decided to spend the night further up Blackberry Creek. Devil Anse Hatfield found out and the next morning arrived on the scene, and a posse of nearly 20 family and friends took charge of the McCoy boys. When Ellison died, Devil Anse crossed into Kentucky, tied the boys to paw paw trees and the group of men executed the boys who had killed Ellison.
GOVERNORS GET INVOLVED
Hoping to leave no witnesses, the Hatfields raided the McCoy cabin in the dark of morning on New Year’s Day 1888. A firefight ensued, killing Randolph McCoy’s daughter Alifair and son Calvin. The raiders burned Randolph’s cabin to the ground. Randolph, his wife Sarah and the remaining children escaped.
The murders of the McCoys caused Kentucky’s governor Simon Buckner to unleash special officer Frank Phillips and 38 men to arrest the nearly 20 men and put out a special reward which brought a slew of bounty hunters to come after the Hatfields. Phillips captured several of those men, and Phillips shot and killed Uncle Jim Vance on Jan. 10, 1888.
On Jan. 19, a large firefight between Phillips and his men and Devil Anse Hatfield and his men happened, since known as the Battle of Grapevine Creek. Although no one was killed in the fight, it prompted Devil Anse to order 25 new Winchester repeating rifles to prepare for future attacks.
The raids brought the ire of West Virginia Gov. E. Willis Wilson, and many thought there might be another Civil War break out along the Tug Fork between factions in the two states. Both states ordered their National Guard units to prepare to defend their borders.
West Virginia’s governor sued Kentucky for the unlawful arrest of nine prisoners and unsuccessfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1888. The court ruled the Hatfields would have to stand trial in Kentucky whether or not the original arrests by Phillips were legal. Elison Mounts was hanged on Feb. 18, 1890, for the shooting of Alifair and Calvin McCoy, and the rest were given life sentences for their roles in killing the three McCoy brothers.
7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Hatfields and McCoys
1. Hollywood has always loved the Hatfields and McCoys. The Hatfields and McCoys saga has been reflected in various forms of entertainment, including books, songs and Hollywood films. Some of the most memorable portrayals of the feud include a 1952 Abbot and Costello feature; a Hatfield- and McCoy-themed episode of the animated series “Scooby-Doo”; and Warner Bros.’ 1950 “Merrie Melodies” cartoon “Hillbilly Hare,” in which Bugs Bunny finds himself ensnared in a dispute between the rival Martin and Coy families.
2. The Hatfields and McCoys inspired a famous game show. The conflict is believed to have been the primary inspiration for the popular game show “Family Feud,” which premiered in 1976. In 1979 members of both families appeared on the show during a special Hatfields and McCoys theme week to battle it out for the usual cash rewards—with one unique twist. Also included in the prize package was a pig, symbolizing the origins of the feud. (It was the rumored theft of a valuable pig by a Hatfield ancestor that had served as a catalyst for the eruption of hostilities more than 100 years earlier.) The Hatfields won the contest.
3. The formerly feuding families were featured in Life magazine in the 1940s. In May 1944, an issue of Life magazine revisited the Hatfields and McCoys nearly 50 years after violence among them rocked the Tug Valley area between Kentucky and West Virginia. The article was meant to show how the two “famous families now live together in peace,” and interviewed a number of descendants about the rivalry and relations between the two families five decades after the conflict. Among the photographs was a shot of two young women, Shirley Hatfield and Frankie McCoy, working together in a local factory that produced military uniforms. It was meant to symbolize the unifying effect of America’s war efforts at the height of World War II.
4. The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1888 several Hatfields were arrested and stood trial for the murder of two of Randall McCoy’s children. West Virginia sued for the men’s release, arguing that they had been illegally extradited across state lines. The Supreme Court eventually became involved in the case, known as Mahon v. Justice. In its 7-2 decision, the court ruled in favor of Kentucky, allowing for the trials and subsequent convictions of all the Hatfield men. Seven of them received life sentences, and one, Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts, was executed for his crimes.
5. A rare medical condition may be partly to blame for the violence of the notorious clash of clans. In a 2007 study, a team of doctors and geneticists who had studied dozens of McCoy descendants noted an unusually high rate of Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare, inherited condition that produces tumors of the eyes, ears, pancreas and adrenal glands as well as high blood pressure, a racing heartbeat and increased “fight or flight” stress hormones. The researchers also collected numerous oral histories from family members detailing the combative and often violent nature of the McCoy family dating back to the feud’s roots.
6. The Tug Valley witnessed another violent clash nearly 30 years after the Hatfields and McCoys feud. On May 19, 1920, detectives working for the anti-union Baldwin-Felts Agency evicted the families of workers who had attempted to unionize the Stone Mountain Coal Company mines outside Matewan, West Virginia. After Sid Hatfield, the Matewan chief of police and a Hatfield descendant, intervened on the miners’ behalf, a violent clash broke out that left seven detectives and four locals dead. The Matewan Massacre became a rallying cry for union activists across the country, with Sid Hatfield garnering fame for his defense of the miners. A year later, however, Hatfield was assassinated, purportedly by Baldwin-Felts agents. The events surrounding the Matewan Massacre and Sid Hatfield’s murder were depicted in the acclaimed 1987 film “Matewan.”
7. There are thousands of Hatfield and McCoy descendants—but not all of them are real. Sid Hatfield is just one of many notable Hatfield and McCoy descendants. Others include Henry D. Hatfield, nephew of family patriarch Devil Anse, who served as a senator and governor of West Virginia; 1930s jazz musician Clyde McCoy; and basketball coach Mike D’Antoni. There have even been fictional descendants, including Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the television and film series “Star Trek,” who was supposedly dozens of generations removed from his McCoy family roots.
The idea was to show the royal family in their day-to-day lives. The results were mixed.
A well-groomed, staid British family sit around the breakfast table. Two young adult children and their middle-aged parents are dressed formally, without a hair out of place. In a high-pitched voice, the mother tells a funny story about her great-great grandmother, while everyone listens with their backs remarkably straight.
But this is no ordinary English family. The storyteller is Queen Elizabeth II, and the subject of her tale is Queen Victoria. The scene was one part of a 105-minute color documentary named simply, “Royal Family,” that was broadcast across England on June 21, 1969.
The concept behind the documentary was to soften and modernize the royal image. But members of the royal family, including the Queen, were reportedly dubious about the idea from the start. After its premiere, Buckingham Palace greatly limited the film’s circulation, at least in its entire form.
Lord Mountbatten’s Son-in-Law Suggests TV Special
It was Lord Brabourne, the son-in-law of the royal cousin Lord Mountbatten, who suggested using the medium of television to provide the Queen’s subjects a sense of her personality. By the 1960s, the times were rapidly changing, and the shy, dutiful Queen and her young family were seen as increasingly irrelevant. A TV special, Brabourne suggested, could also introduce British subjects to 21-year-old Prince Charles, ahead of his investiture as Prince of Wales.
At the urging of Palace press officer William Heseltine, who was convinced that offering a humanized view of the royal family would strengthen the monarchy, Prince Philip agreed. The Queen cautiously gave her consent, while other family members were decidedly not on board.
“I never liked the idea of ‘Royal Family,’ I thought it was a rotten idea,” Princess Anne later recalled, according to an account in the 2015 book, Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family. “The attention which had been brought upon one ever since one was a child, you just didn’t need any more.”
But the Mountbatten camp won the day and filming began in 1968. Richard Cawston, the chief of the BBC Documentary unit, was put in charge of shooting the royals at work and play. For months, he shot 43 hours of unscripted material at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, on the royal yacht, the royal train, and even at the Queen’s beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
Understandably, the royal family had a difficult time adjusting to the presence of the crew in their personal space. Peter Conradi writes in his 2012 book, Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century, that during a film day at Balmoral, Philip snapped at the crew, “Get away from the Queen with your bloody cameras!”
While the documentary was meant to show the human side of the monarchy, its narration carried an official tone. The voice-over, read by English actor and broadcaster Michael Flanders, ruminated on the importance of the Crown to the country in florid terms like, “Monarchy does not lie in the power it gives to the sovereign, but in the power it denies to anyone else.”
The finished documentary claimed to show a year in the life of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth was featured tirelessly working and making small talk with world leaders like U.S. President Richard Nixon. During his state visit, she asked him, “World problems are so complex, aren’t they, now?” To which Nixon replied, “I was thinking how really much more complex they are than when we last met in 1957.”
There were also sweet scenes, like one where the Queen takes her youngest son, Edward, to a candy store, paying for his treats herself even though the monarch is technically never supposed to carry money.
The royal family’s genuine sportiness was also highlighted—Prince Charles was shown waterskiing and fishing, Prince Philip flew an airplane and the Queen drove her own car surprisingly fast.
But there were also strained moments, according to detractors. At one point Prince Philip describes an instance when King George VI the Queen Mother’s late husband, took out his rage with a pruning knife on a rhododendron bush, screaming curse words while hacking it to bits. “He had very odd habits,” Philip deadpanned. “’Sometimes I thought he was mad.”
Then there was when Queen Elizabeth jokes: “How do you keep a regally straight face when a footman tells you: “‘Your Majesty, your next audience is with a gorilla?… It was an official visitor, but he looked just like a gorilla.”
Millions Tuned in for 1969 Premiere
Cawston let Philip see a rough cut of the documentary before showing it to the Queen. “We were all a little bit nervous of showing it to the Queen because we had no idea what she would make of it,” the film’s editor Michael Bradsell told the Smithsonian channel in a 2017 special. “She was a little critical of the film in the sense she thought it was too long, but Dick Cawston, the director, persuaded her that two hours was not a minute too long.”
The public was, in fact, intrigued—more than 30 million viewers in Britain alone viewed the premiere. It was said that during an intermission, toilets flushed all over London, causing a water shortage.
Less than a month later, on July 1, Prince Charles was invested at Caernarvon Castle in a carefully filmed spectacle organized by the photographer Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s soon to be ex-husband.
This double-whammy of royal TV was seen by some as a rousing success. “It redefined the nation’s view of the Queen,” Paul Moorhouse, former curator of the National Portrait Gallery, told Daily Telegraph in 2011. “The audience were amazed to be able to hear the Queen speaking spontaneously, and to see her in a domestic setting.”
Lifting the Veil on the Royal Family
But to many, the royal family had opened Pandora’s box, lifting the veil and making them easy targets for criticism and intrusive paparazzi activity.
“They were criticized for being stuffy, and not letting anybody know what they were doing, and my brother-in-law helped do up a film, and now people say, ‘Ah, of course, the rot set in when the film was made,’”royal cousin Lady Pamela Hicks and daughter of Lord Mountbatten told an interviewer. “You can’t do right; it’s catch-22.”
“Royal Family” was shown only once more in full, in 1977. And in 2011, Buckingham Palace gave the National Portrait Gallery a 90-second clip of the breakfast scene during the Diamond Jubilee celebration. The palace allowed a few more brief clips to be included in the 2011 documentary “The Dukeat 90.”
The Beauchamp Hotel in Darlinghurst is named after this former governor of NSW.
Built in 1540 to guard the English coast against foreign invasions, Walmer Castle is one of Kent’s most prominent landmarks. Since the 18th century it has been the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. During the 1920s Walmer was home to William Lygon, 7th Earl of Beauchamp, who held lavish homosexual parties at the castle. This led eventually to his dramatic fall from grace, the break-up of his family, and the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh’s most famous novel, Brideshead Revisited.
CABINET MINISTER AND FAMILY MAN
Born in 1872, William Lygon was a well-known public figure from a young age. Succeeding his father as Earl Beauchamp in 1891, he became mayor of Worcester at the age of 23, and was appointed governor of New South Wales, Australia, in 1899. A high-flying figure in the Liberal Party, he rose to become a senior cabinet minister in 1910. He was also appointed First Commissioner of the Office of Works (later English Heritage), in charge of works to royal residences and government buildings.
In 1913, Beauchamp was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. He enjoyed the pomp and ceremony that came with the role of Lord Warden: one of his duties was to welcome visiting foreign dignitaries at Dover on behalf of the king. Equally, however, he spent time at Walmer Castle with his family. In 1902, he had married Lettice Grosvenor, sister of Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster. Family photographs show Beauchamp, Lettice and their seven children enjoying their surroundings and each other’s company at Walmer.
Beauchamp’s family life appeared conventional. However, during the 1920s he is known to have thrown some rather racy parties at Walmer, to which he invited his high-class friends, along with local fishermen and youths. A hint of their nature is given in the memoirs of Lady Christabel Aberconway, who wrote that:
One Sunday, my host, Lord Jowitt, asked my husband if he and I would like to see one of the famous castles of the Cinque Ports. Delightedly we accepted. … We arrived [at Walmer] and were shown into a garden surrounding a grass tennis court. There was the actor Ernest Thesiger, a friend of mine, nude to the waist and covered with pearls.
In 1930 Beauchamp became embroiled in a scandal that would prove disastrous to his career and personal life. He had embarked on a round-the-world tour in August that year, spending two months in Sydney, Australia. He was accompanied by a young valet, who lived with him as his lover. This did not go unnoticed, and Beauchamp’s tastes were reported in the Australian Star newspaper:
The most striking feature of the vice-regal ménage is the youthfulness of its members … Rosy cheeked footmen, clad in liveries of fawn, heavily ornamented in silver and red brocade, with many lanyards of the same hanging in festoons from their broad shoulders, [who] stood in the doorway, and bowed as we passed in … Lord Beauchamp deserves great credit for his taste in footmen.
Following this report, Beauchamp’s brother-in-law, the Duke of Westminster, hired detectives and began to gather evidence of Beauchamp’s activities.
A RUINED REPUTATION
The Duke of Westminster was reported to be a bullying, womanising, angry man, once described as ‘nothing but a fatuous, spoilt, ageing playboy’. He had always disliked Beauchamp, jealous of his brother-in-law’s public office and apparent domestic happiness. In addition, the duke was a staunch Tory, whereas Beauchamp was the Liberal Party’s leader in the House of Lords. To ruin Beauchamp would not only satisfy Westminster’s personal vendetta, but would also be politically advantageous.
In 1931 Westminster publicly denounced Beauchamp as a homosexual to George V, who reportedly responded, ‘Why, I thought people like that always shot themselves’. Westminster insisted that Beauchamp be arrested, forcing him into exile.
Beauchamp fled first to Germany, where he contemplated suicide, but was dissuaded from it by his son Hugh. He later split his time between Paris, Venice, Sydney and San Francisco – four cities that were relatively tolerant of his sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, Westminster presented his evidence to his sister Lettice, who suffered a nervous breakdown at the news. She submitted a petition for divorce, moved to her brother’s Cheshire estate and took to her bed. The divorce petition described Beauchamp as:
A man of perverted sexual practices, [who] has committed acts of gross indecency with male servants and other male persons and has been guilty of sodomy … throughout the married life … the Respondent habitually committed acts of gross indecency with certain of his male servants.
Westminster ordered Beauchamp’s children to testify against their father, but they all refused. Though his wife had deserted him, his children’s support never wavered. They shunned their mother and never made peace with her (except the youngest son, Dickie). Westminster became their worst enemy and he let it be known that anyone dealing with the Lygons would be dropped from society. In an extraordinary display of spite, Westminster wrote Beauchamp a short letter, simply stating:
Dear Bugger-in-Law, You got what you deserved. Yours, Westminster.
Cut off from the rest of society, Beauchamp’s children took turns to visit their father abroad. According to Beauchamp’s daughter Sibell, he never grumbled, nor mentioned Westminster again, but grew resigned to his exile.
RETURN AND REPRIEVE
It was not until George VI came to the throne in 1936 that the warrant for Beauchamp’s arrest was lifted. Beauchamp returned to England in July 1937. He moved back to Madresfield, the family home, and wasted no time in painting out his wife’s image from a fresco in their personal chapel. The family threw her bust into the house’s moat.
Beauchamp died of cancer in 1938. His various misfortunes inspired Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited – the character of Lord Marchmain was based on Beauchamp himself, while his son Hugh proved the inspiration for the ill-fated Sebastian Flyte.
Ross D. Wyllie (born 21 November 1944) is an Australian pop music singer, television presenter and producer from the 1960s and 1970s. Wyllie had a top 20 hit with his cover of Ray Stevens‘ song “Funny Man” and an Australian No. 1 with “The Star”, both in 1969. Originally from Brisbane, he hosted, Uptight, a weekly four-hour music series, on Channel 0 in Melbourne from 1967 to 1969. In 1970 he followed with a similar show, Happening ’70, and from 1978 to 1980, he presented films on a late-night time slot.
Ross D. Wyllie was born in Ashgrove, Queensland on 21 November 1944, to Harold John Wyllie (1913–), an army sergeant serving during world war 2, and Jean nee Jennings (c. 1920–2002). He was raised in Brisbane with two siblings. As a child he contracted poliomyelitis and for most of his adult life he had a limp. In 1964 he joined a pop band, the Kodiaks, as lead singer. By 1967, as a solo artist, he signed with the Ivan Dayman‘s label, Sunshine Records, and released his debut single, “Short Skirts”. He was backed by label-mates, the Escorts. His next single, “A Bit of Love”, followed later that year, using only studio musicians.
Wyllie relocated to Melbourne and, on 28 October 1967, became the host of a new pop music TV show, Uptight, for local Channel 0. He signed with Festival Records and released a non-charting single, “Smile”, in April 1968.Uptight ran as a Saturday morning three-hour show until 1969. By that time it was being produced by Bob Fraser and the presenter’s wife, Eileen Wyllie, for Jardine Productions.Molly Meldrum was a regular member of the on-air team. Uptight – Party Time, by Ross D. Wyllie and the Uptight Party Team, was issued via Calendar/Festival Records in 1968. The record was produced by Roger Savage. It contains two side-long medleys of then-current songs including, “Midnight Hour”, “You Are My Sunshine” and “Day Tripper”.
In 1970 Uptight was replaced on Channel 0 by a one-hour pop music series, Happening ’70, with Wyllie retained as host and Eileen as producer. In April he released a double-A-sided single, “Free Born Man” / “My Little Girl”, but its sales were affected by the radio ban, during which commercial stations refused to play recordings by Festival Records (among others) from May to October. The singer, presenter left Melbourne to return to Brisbane late in 1970 and was replaced on Happening ’71, in April 1971, by Jeff Phillips.
In 1971 Wyllie signed with the Fable label and released a single, “He Gives Us All His Love”, in April. He followed with “It Takes Time” in August and “Sweet White Dove” in May 1972. He then turned to the pub and club circuit. Later he formed a production company with fellow pop singer, Ronnie Burns, and talent manager, Jeff Joseph. With Tony Healy he created a public relations company. In the late 1970s he presented a late-night movie show on Melbourne’s Channel 0–10. During the mid-1970s Wyllie opened and operated a record retail store in Bayswater, Arch Rivals.
In May 1988 Festival Records released, Smile: The Festival Files Volume Ten, a compilation album of Wyllie’s singles, as a part of their Festival File series. In a review of the collection for The Canberra Times, Stuart Coupe observed, “Star of Uptight, Wyllie’s run of hits ended in the early ’70s. This is probably the least interesting of the albums in this series, but at worst is a curio item.” In August 2003 Wyllie performed an Uptight-themed variety show at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, reuniting with other 1960s performers.
Aztec Records released another compilation, Ross D. Wyllie: the Complete Collection, in August 2014.Paul Cashmere of Noise11 described it as “the first definitive career overview of 60s pop star.”Toorak Times‘ Gary Turner observed, “[it features] all the classic hits including ‘Funny Man’, ‘The Star’, ‘My Little Girl’, ‘Smile’, ‘Uptight Party Medley’, ‘Short Skirts’ and many more tracks including tracks live from Festival Hall Melbourne in 1994.” Wyllie and Eileen were still living in Melbourne as from September 2014. During November 2016 Wyllie used a crowd funding site to attempt to raise money for a motorised wheelchair.
TitleDetailsUptight – Party Time(by Ross D. Wyllie and the Uptight Party Team)
^“Family Notices”. The Telegraph. City Final Last Minute News. Brisbane, Qld. 14 July 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 25 July 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
^ abcdefg McFarlane (1999). Encyclopedia entry for “Ross D. Wyllie”. Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 11 June2016.. Retrieved 20 November 2010. Note: McFarlane gives birth year as 1948.
^ Cashmere, Paul. (28 July 2003), “Melbourne Gets Uptight”. Archived from the original on 15 December 2003. Retrieved 28 June 2007.. Undercover Music News(Undercover Media). Retrieved on 20 November 2010.
In 1851, an American editor named Amelia Bloomer wrote an article in support of female pantaloons — inspiring women to wear a controversial garment called “bloomers.”
In the 1850s, crushing corsets, heavy skirts, and a half-dozen petticoats weighed women down as a literal hamper to their quest for liberation. So one women’s rights activist named Amelia Bloomer thought to change that by way of an outfit that became known as “bloomers.”
Even though bloomers still kept women covered from their necks to their feet, the garment sparked a backlash from anti-suffragists that was so fierce even Bloomer herself abandoned the new fashion.
As Amelia Bloomer’s suffragist friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton privately confessed, “Had I counted the cost of the short dress, I would never have put it on.”
This is the story of how bloomers completely backfired — and almost stalled the women’s rights movement in America.
Who Was Amelia Bloomer?
Born in 1818 in rural New York, Amelia Bloomer began her career as a humble teacher, but then she moved to Seneca Falls, a city that hosted a vibrant community of women’s rights activists.
In 1848, Bloomer attended the historic Seneca Falls Convention, where suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott discussed the condition of women’s rights in the United States.
The experience inspired Bloomer to found a newspaper called The Lily, which was dedicated to the growing fight for gender equality. It was the first American newspaper edited by a woman.
While encouraging increased access for women in education and in the ballot box, Bloomer waded into another major issue in the 19th-century women’s rights movement: fashion.
Victorian women were weighed down by pounds of petticoats and heavy corsets, a stark representation of their muted voices outside of the home. Additionally, the heavy styles of the mid-1800s weren’t just uncomfortable — they could prove deadly.
Tightly laced corsets impaired breathing, and flammable crinolines burned3,000 women to death between 1850 and 1860. Additionally, bulky garments got caught in newfangled machines, injuring and killing women.
Bloomer thus wondered, could a change in style change the condition of women?
The Invention Of Bloomers
In 1851, Amelia Bloomer read an editorial from a man who recently became supportive of the women’s suffrage movement in which he suggested that women adopt “Turkish pantaloons and a skirt reaching a little below the knee” as an alternative their current clothes.
The notion of loose pantaloons stuck with her.
Around the same time, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s cousin, Elizabeth Smith Miller, showed up in “Turkish trousers” that she’d designed herself.
Miller explained that long skirts impeded her work in the garden. In a moment of frustration, she declared, “This shackle should no longer be endured.” Miller donned “Turkish trousers to the ankle with a skirt reaching some four inches below the knee.”
Bloomer quickly adopted the style herself. Then, she promoted the new fashion to her readers.
The idea caught fire. Women wrote from across the country and subscriptions to The Lily skyrocketed. The outfit, once called a “freedom dress” or “Turkish pantaloons,” had earned a new name: bloomers.
“As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress,” Bloomer wrote, “letters came pouring in upon me by hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns—showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts.”
Stanton declared that bloomers made her feel “like a captive set free from his ball and chain.” In August 1851, American suffragists made the trend international when they wore bloomers to the World’s Peace Congress in London.
The Backlash Against Amelia Bloomer’s Costume
The style certainly caused an uproar. Magazines demonized bloomers as “a sort of shemale dress.” Gangs of boys harassed “Bloomerites” on the streets.
Stanton confessed that her own father banned her from wearing bloomers at his house and her sister “actually wept.” Men declared “they would not vote for a man whose wife wore the Bloomers.”
Stanton eventually gave up on bloomers herself, returning to “uncomfortable, inconvenient, and many times dangerous” Victorian dresses. “We put the dress on for greater freedom, but what is physical freedom compared with mental bondage?” She wrote. “By all means have the new dress made long.”
But Amelia Bloomer continued to wear her namesake trousers for years. She did eventually return to petticoats and full-length skirts and tried to frame the retreat as a victory.
“We all felt that the dress was drawing attention from what we thought of far greater importance — the question of woman’s right to better education, to a wider field of employment, to better remuneration for her labor, and to the ballot for the protection of her rights,” she wrote.
“In the minds of some people, the short dress and woman’s rights were inseparably connected. With us, the dress was but an incident, and we were not willing to sacrifice greater questions to it.”
Suffragists Abandon Bloomers
Why did bloomers spark such a backlash? Amelia Bloomer had a theory. By donning pants, women visibly likened themselves to men. The bloomers hinted at a larger-scale “usurpation of the rights of man,” Bloomer lamented.
For generations, bloomers were linked with all kinds of subversive female behavior. Once women put on trousers, critics argued, they’d begin smoking cigars, working as police officers, and engaging in lewd behavior.
In Bloomer’s day, suffragists thus retreated to a less controversial fashion statement: Susan B. Anthony tied a simple red shawl around her neck. The Philadelphia Press lavished praise on Anthony for her “plain dress and quaint red shawl,” a look deemed appropriately matronly.
Anthony’s clothes offered “not a hint of mannishness but all that man loves and respects. What man could deny any right to a woman like that?”
Amelia Bloomer tried to improve women’s lives by lightening their burden and increasing their mobility. But trousers were men’s domain, and when women donned them, they threatened the gender order.
A quiet, red shawl could be forgiven — but bloomers were apparently too much.
Best known for her trousers today, Amelia Bloomer devoted her life to women’s suffrage.
The death in custody of 31-year-old Stefano Cucchi has brought the abuse of police power under scrutiny in Italy. After losing her brother and enduring the subsequent trial, Ilaria Cucchi is now receiving harassment and online threats from police officers. Sociologists say Stefano’s case is not isolated and ask what the country will do to clean up its policing.
The Netflix film On My Skin (Sulla Mia Pelle), directed by Alessio Cremonini and starring Alessandro Borghi, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 2018.
At the end of the screening, Ilaria, a woman wearing a red dress, walked towards the film’s director, who was standing in the front row of the cinema receiving applause, and wrapped her arms around his neck.
The embrace momentarily hid their noticeably moved faces from the gaze of the surrounding crowd.
On My Skin (featured in our collection of human rights documentaries) tells the story of a man who was arrested by Carabinieri (Italy’s domestic police) officers in Rome and died in unclear circumstances after seven days of being in precautionary custody.
The man was Ilaria’s younger brother, Stefano Cucchi.
Since his death in 2009, Stefano, 31, has become an icon of the abuse of police power in Italy.
He was arrested on 15 October 2009, after being caught handing a dose of cannabis to his friend Emanuele Mancini.
He spent his first night in custody in a Carabinieri cell. The next day he was taken to a prison wing of the local general hospital with distinct marks and bruises on his eyes, back pain and injuries to his legs.
Seven days after his arrest, at 6.15am on 22 October, Stefano was found dead in his hospital bed.
This young amateur boxer was in good health before his arrest but his family obtained photographs from the morgue showing Stefano’s emaciated body covered in purple bruises. They rejected the assertion that Stefano had died of natural causes and began a campaign for justice.
A SISTER’S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
Stefano’s story sparked a debate about the abuse of police power at a national level. The case polarised the Italian public, as the story was heavily politicised and peppered with accusations, slander, threats and cover-ups.
Stefano’s sister Ilaria received support from many, but she also received criticism and scorn from those who believed the Carabinieri officers’ integrity and innocence.
However, this year – seven years after the first trial – one of the Carabinieri officers involved in the trial added a new twist to the story.
On My Skin (Sulla Mia Pelle) film poster
On 11 October 2018, Francesco Tedesco, one of the three indicted officers, confessed that Stefano had been beaten, accusing his two colleagues, Alessio di Bernardo and Raffaele D’Alessandro. Tedesco claimed he was only a witness to the abuse and tried to stop the other two officers as they beat him for refusing to cooperate.
Furthermore, he accused his superiors of forcing him to stay silent about what happened that night.
He claimed to have written a report about the beating, but said it was suppressed by his managers.
Seven years after the first trial, following 45 hearings, dozens of reports, investigations and more than 100 testimonies collected from witnesses, the second trial is still not concluded. The confession of Francesco Tedesco, however, could add a new direction.
Stefano’s sister Ilaria Cucchi hasn’t been alone in her battle as she has significant public support in fighting for justice.
Nevertheless, since the release of On My Skin, Ilaria has been receiving death threats on Facebook from supporters of the Northern League (one of Italy’s two co-ruling political parties) and from accounts she believes belong to police officers.
On 20 October 2018, Ilaria posted one such comment on Facebook, saying she feels that she and her loved ones (as well as lawyer Fabio Anselmo, who followed Stefano’s case from the beginning) are in danger.
SHINING A LIGHT ON POLICE BRUTALITY IN ITALY
Anselmo’s law career spans some of the most renowed cases of abuse of power in Italy.
In 2005, he represented the family of 18-year-old Federico Aldrovandi, who was killed by four police officers when he was returning to his home in Ferrara. The trial ended in 2012 with the four officers sentenced to three years and six months each. This was later reduced by the Italian parliament to just six months each and the officers have now returned to work.
Anselmo was also involved in the case of Giuseppe Uva, who died in unclear circumstances in 2008 while in police custody. The trial is ongoing.
These and other cases have brought to public opinion the concept of “morti di Stato” (deaths at the hands of the Italian State), a term which defines all those incidents of violent deaths in police custody and the corresponding abuse of power.
While the abuse of police power is not unusual in Italy, it’s not easy to obtain statistics or figures on the topic as the only available sources are the witnesses in the trials.
And while the stories of Stefano Cucchi, Federico Aldrovandi and Giuseppe Uva are the most well known among the Italian public, there are many more cases which have not yet had media coverage.
International organisations such as the UN and the EU have criticised Italian policing of certain events.
One of the most widely reported episodes in recent years of abuse of police power in Italy occurred in July 2001, during the 27th G8 summit hosted by Italy, in Genoa.
The two-day summit was attended by leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US. The summit drew 200,000 protesters from all over the world for a mass demonstration.
Between July 19 and 22, hundreds of demonstrators were involved in clashes with Italian police officers. Many were injured and 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani, was shot dead by officer Mario Placanica as he and other protesters attacked the officer’s van.
On 21st July, the day after Giuliani’s death, 250 police officers raided the Armando Diaz school with additional support from Carabinieri officers, beat demonstrators who were spending the night there. Police authorities justified the assault claiming that they were looking for black-bloc members (hard left protesters who wear black and obscure their faces) who had devastated part of the city of Genoa during the previous days of the summit. They arrested 93 people, but only one belonged to the black-bloc group. Nevertheless, 61 of them were taken to hospital with injuries.
In the same night, the police brought some of the activists and demonstrators arrested in the school to holding cells in the barracks of Bolzaneto, a suburb of Genoa. There, some of the officers tortured several people, mentally and physically, using humiliation, threats and beatings. They even forced some to exalt Fascism.
At an international level, Italy ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1989, but did not introduce the convention into its legal system. In 2016, Ilaria Cucchi launched a petition on Change.orgto introduce a law against torture. She gained more than 240,000 signatures. Eventually, Italy introduced the law in 2017, motivated by the verdicts of the ECHR
However, according to the UN, as well as some experts and international human rights associations, the new law doesn’t respect international standards. As Human Rights Watch highlighted in their report, “the text of the new law requires ‘multiple acts’ for torture to occur. The [UN] convention, reflecting the international law, affirms ‘any act’ might be torture if it meets the gravity standard. The new law also requires that psychological trauma be ‘verifiable’ to establish ‘psychological’ torture”.
In the same report, Human Rights Watch said the discrepancy between the definition of torture drafted in the UN convention and the new law adopted by Italy (article 613-bis of the Penal Code) implies that “the restrictive definition and short statute of limitations – in a country whose judiciary system is infamous for its lengthy trials – raises the risks that torture will go unpunished, as well as hinder the ability of victims to get redress. This means that Italy will continue to be in violation of its international obligations.”.
Criticism about the new law, but for opposite reasons, came from some Italian right-wing movements too. On 12th July 2018, Fratelli D’Italia (Brothers of Italy) leader Giorgia Meloni announced on Twitter two proposals to abolish the crime of torture in Italy, on the grounds that the law would hinder the police officers to work properly. Her tweet has been widely criticised.
Two years before the introduction of the law, the current Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini criticised the verdict of the ECHR concerning the G8 in 2001 and said that a law against torture is a nonsense law that would allow criminals to blackmail police officers.
COULD CUCCHI’S CASE LEAD TO IMPROVEMENTS IN POLICING?
Based at the University of Genoa, professor of sociology Salvatore Palidda is one of the few Italian researchers focusing on the relationship between police and civil society.
According to Palidda, there are hundreds of cases like Cucchi’s, Aldrovandi’s and Uva’s that have not received media coverage, because they concern outcasts or immigrants without residency permits.
“The activity of police forces is always characterised by the coexistence of a peaceful management and a violent one. The discretion of power held by officers may turn into free will and lead to torture and murder”, Palidda said.
Key to understanding the violence perpetrated by some officers is their sense of impunity. “Some police managers tolerate and cover up illicit behaviours of officers in order to earn the respect of other subordinates and police trade unions,” Palidda explained.
Another factor that facilitates impunity is the reticence of police force members to report their colleagues. The stories of Aldrovandi, Cucchi and Uva, as well as the facts of the 2001 G8 in Genoa and many others are characterised by cover-ups and silence imposed by the officer’s superiors and colleagues. Indeed, the unexpected confession of the Carabinieri officer Francesco Tedesco regarding the death of Stefano Cucchi is a rare breach of this convention.
Palidda says one practical method of containing and controlling police brutality in Italy is to “establish an independent authority that would monitor and regulate the activities of police forces. This should bring impunity to an end and tribunals would investigate the alleged crimes without the support of police”.
However, he added, “these measures are possible only in a country where most of the population has an effective sense of democracy”.
In the 56 years since Deirdre Cusack called the Green Park Hotel home, she has never forgotten the brown paper that covered the cellar windows.
It had been there ever since the Japanese tried to invade Sydney Harbour in 1942, carefully placed to block out lights across a city fearing submarine attack.
The image feels a world away from the vibrant inner city watering hole the “Greenie” has become in 2020. Today it is both a haven and a refuge for Sydney’s LGBTQI community – “more than just a bar,” as one columnist said.
On Sunday night the 127-year-old hotel will call last drinks, after it was sold to the surrounding St Vincent’s Hospital to become a mental health clinic.
It caught the eye of Mrs Cusack, who was just one year old when her parents Sam and Fay McIntyre leased the Darlinghurst pub from Tooth’s Brewery in 1941. She would live above the corner pub –through a side door, past the ladies’ parlour and up the stairs – for 23 years until she married in 1964.
Sydney felt different then. By law, publicans were not allowed to live off premises and the beer came in wooden barrels (the rum, too).
The pub closed at 6pm and never opened on Sundays. Across the road from the Green Park was a paper shop, a flower shop and a butcher with sawdust on the floor.
Darlinghurst was a place where everyone knew everyone,” Mrs Cusack said. “I can still remember the SP bookies. They had a place down in one of the terrace houses and you’d see this trail of men going to down to put a bet on the horses and coming back to the pub to have a beer.”
Until 1931 Australians were only allowed to bet on horse races with an on-course bookmaker, before radio and television gave rise to “starting price bookies”, who hung around the city’s pubs and clubs.
“I didn’t have any outside playing space, so I used to play out in the lane behind the pub and hit a tennis ball up against a brick wall with my friends,” Mrs Cusack said.
“Kings Cross then was not as bad as it became. My mother had no problem letting me and a girlfriend walk up to the Cross on Saturday night, when the [first-edition] papers would come out for Sunday.”
She still recalls the mouthwatering burgers she used to eye off at the Hasty Tasty diner under the Coca-Cola sign. “God, they looked delicious.”
When her father Sam died in 1952, Mrs Cusack said there was never any question that her mother would carry on managing the “drinking pub”.
“It didn’t have meals or anything like that. And the main bar was for men only, mainly doctors from the hospital.”
The ladies sat in the parlour. It was their meeting place, like going out for coffee, Mrs Cusack said. “One lady used to always wear a hat with a short veil over her face as she sipped her sherry. Another shelled her peas before going home to prepare dinner.”
And then there were the steel troughs under the beer taps, filled with gentian violet (a purple dye), “so when the beer overflowed, you couldn’t reuse it.”
Nothing stands out in Mrs Cusack’s memory quite as much as a 27-year-old Queen Elizabeth II arriving in Sydney on the Royal tour of 1954; a trip five years in the planning and the first televised event in Australian history.
But never mind the telly. “Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip drove right past the hotel, decorated with all the flags. Every time there was a Royal visit everyone came out. To think they went past our place, it was very exciting.”
Less exciting were the years after Mrs Cusack returned from living in the UK, aged 20, and her mother put her to work in the pub, “a gruelling job”.
“I remember, she said to me one day, ‘for goodness sake. Go and get a job – the look on your face would turn the beer sour.'”
She didn’t wait a second, running out to grab the paper before finding a job in the office at Qantas.
From her home in Queensland, Mrs Cusack said it was sad to see the Green Park serve its final drinks, although she was glad the facade and features will be protected under heritage laws.
“In Australia they knock down too many buildings,” she said. “We go to Europe and we admire all the old buildings. In Australia, often all you’ve got is concrete and glass.
The Forgotten Sydney of AC/DC is a must watch mini documentary by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Tom Compagnoni, featuring the combined recollections of Mark Evans (Bass), Dave Evans (Vocals), Noel Taylor (drums) and Rob Bailey.
One of the most interesting revelations is that of session drummer Tony Currenti, owner of Tonino’s Penshurst Pizzeria, who played on High Voltage but had to turn the gig down due to passport issues.
Mark Evans also relates his views on the current Sydney scene, or lack of. Lets hope that it serves as a warning and that we fight to keep our local Perth music scene alive and kicking.
Synopsis: A British Businessman in South Africa, Member of Parliament in the Cape Colony, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, imperialist, acquired a British Royal Charter, formed the British South African Company (BSAC) that colonized Zimbabwe.First Name: Cecil JohnLast Name: RhodesDate of Birth: 5 July 1853Date of Death: 26 March 1902
The Early Years
Cecil John Rhodes was born on 5 July 1853 in the small hamlet of Bishops Stortford, England. He was the fifth son of Francis William Rhodes and his second wife, Louisa Peacock. A priest of the Church of England, his father served as curate of Brentwood Essex for fifteen years, until 1849, when he became the vicar of Bishop’s Stortford, where he remained until 1876. Rhodes had nine brothers and two sisters and attended the grammar school at Bishop’s Stortford. When he was growing up Rhodes read voraciously but vicariously, his favourite book being The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, but he equally adored the highly esteemed historian Edward Gibbon and his works on the great Roman Empire.
Rhodes fell ill shortly after leaving school and, as his lungs were affected, it was decided that he should visit his brother, Herbert, who had recently immigrated to Natal. It was also believed, by both Rhodes and his father, that the business opportunities offered in South Africa would be able to provide Rhodes with a more promising future than staying in England. At the tender age of 17 Rhodes arrived in Durban on 1 September 1870. He brought with him three thousand pounds that his aunt had lent him and used it to invest in diamond diggings in Kimberley.
After a brief stay with the Surveyor-General of Natal, Dr. P. C. Sutherland, in Pietermaritzburg, Rhodes joined his brother on his cotton farm in the Umkomaas valley in Natal. By the time Rhodes arrived at the farm his brother had already left the farm to travel 650 kilometres north, to the diamond fields in Kimberley. Left on his own Rhodes began to work his brother’s farm, growing and selling its cotton, proving himself to be an astute businessman despite his young age. Cotton farming was not Rhodes’ passion and the diamond mines beckoned. At 18, in October 1871, Rhodes left the Natal colony to follow his brother to the diamond fields of Kimberley. In Kimberley he supervised the working of his brother’s claim and speculated on his behalf. Among his associates in the early days were John X Merriman and Charles D. Rudd, of the infamous Rudd Concession, who later became his partner in the De Beers Mining Company and the British South Africa Company.
In 1872 Rhodes suffered a slight heart attack. Partly to recuperate, but also to investigate the prospects of finding gold in the interior, the Rhodes brothers trekked north by ox wagon. Their trek took them along the missionary road in Bechuanaland as far north as Mafeking, then eastwards through the Transvaal as far as the Murchison range. The journey inspired a love of the country in Rhodes and marked the beginning of his interest in the road to the north and the northern interior itself.
In 1873 Rhodes left his diamond fields in the care of his partner, Rudd, and sailed for England to complete his studies. He was admitted to Oriel College Oxford, but only stayed for one term in 1873 and only returned for his second term in 1876. He was greatly influenced by John Ruskin’s inaugural lecture at Oxford, which reinforced his own attachment to the cause of British Imperialism. Among his Oxford associates were Rochefort Maguire, later a fellow of All Souls and a director of the British South Africa Company, and Charles Metcalfe. At university Rhodes was also taken up with the idea of creating a ‘secret society’ of British men who would be able to lead the world, and spread to all corners of the globe the spirit of the Englishman that Rhodes so admired. He wrote of this society,
Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire.’
His university career engendered in Rhodes his admiration for the Oxford ‘system’ which was eventually to mature in his scholarship scheme: ‘Wherever you turn your eye – except in science – an Oxford man is at the top of the tree’.
An Arch Imperialist
One of Rhodes’ guiding principles throughout his life, that underpinned almost all of his actions, was his firm belief that the Englishman was the greatest human specimen in the world and that his rule would be a benefit to all. Rhodes was the ultimate imperialist, he believed, above all else, in the glory of the British Empire and the superiority of the Englishman and British Rule, and saw it as his God given task to expand the Empire, not only for the good of that Empire, but, as he believed, for the good of all peoples over whom she would rule. At the age of 24 he had already shared this vision with his fellows in a tiny shack in a mining town in Kimberley, when he told them,
‘The object of which I intend to devote my life is the defence and extension of the British Empire. I think that object a worthy one because the British Empire stands for the protection of all the inhabitants of a country in life, liberty, property, fair play and happiness and it is the greatest platform the world has ever seen for these purposes and for human enjoyment’.
Rhodes’ British Empire corridor through Africa. Source
A few months later, in a confession written at Oxford in 1877, Rhodes articulated this same imperial vision, but with words that clearly showed his disdain for the people whom the British Empire should rule:
“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimen of human being, what an alteration there would be in them if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence…if there be a God, I think that what he would like me to do is paint as much of the map of Africa British Red as possible…”
One of Rhodes’ greatest dreams was a ribbon of red, demarcating British territory, which would cross the whole of Africa, from South Africa to Egypt. Part of this vision was his desire to construct a Cape to Cairo railway, one of his most famous projects. It was this expansive vision of British Imperial control, and the great lengths that Rhodes went to in order to fulfil this vision, which led many of his contemporaries and his biographers to mark him as a great visionary and leader.
Rhodes was both ruthless and incredibly successful in his pursuit of this scheme of a great British Empire. His contemporaries marvelled both at his prowess and incredible energy and capacity, but they also shuddered at his callousness and depravity in all his pursuit. His contemporaries, both awed and appalled by the man, wrote of him as a man of original ideas who sought more than the mere ‘getting and spending which limits the ambitions and lays waste the powers of the average man’. Yet although many people at the time saw Rhodes as a man of great vision, an unconquerable leader with the ability to pursue his aims across the vast African continent, there were nonetheless dissident voices who were shocked by Rhodes’ actions and those of his British South Africa Company. One such voice was that of Olive Schreiner, who, initially awed by Rhodes, had come to abhor him. In April of 1897 she wrote, in a letter to her friend, John Merriman:
“We fight Rhodes because he means so much of oppression, injustice, & moral degradation to South Africa; – but if he passed away tomorrow there still remains the terrible fact that something in our society has formed the matrix which has fed, nourished, built up such a man!”
The King of Diamonds
Rhodes’ plans for the Cape To Cairo Railway, 1899 Source
Whilst at Oxford, Rhodes continued to prosper in Kimberley. Before his departure for Oxford Rhodes had realised that the changing laws in the Kimberley area would force the ‘small man’ out of the diamond fields and would only leave larger companies able to operate in the mines. In light of this he sought to consolidate a number of mines with his partner, Charles Rudd. Rhodes had also decided to move away from the ‘New Rush’ Kimberley mine fields, that were higher in the ground and thus more accessible, back to the lower yielding ‘Old Rush’ area. Here Rhodes and Rudd bought the costly claim of what was known as old De Beers (Vooruitzicht Farm) which owed its name to Johannes Nicolaas de Beer and his brother, Diederik Arnoldus de Beer, the original owners of the farm Vooruitzicht. It was this farm that would lend its name to Rhodes and Rudd’s ever growing diamond company.
In 1874 and 1875 the diamond fields were in the grip of depression, but Rhodes and Rudd were among those who stayed to consolidate their interests. They believed that diamonds would be numerous in the hard blue ground that had been exposed after the softer, yellow layer near the surface had been worked out. During this time the technical problem of clearing out the water that was flooding the mines became serious and he and Rudd obtained the contract for pumping the water out of the three main mines.
Rhodes had come to the realisation that the only way to avoid the cyclical boom and bust of the diamond industry was to have far greater control over the production and distribution of diamonds. And so, in April 1888, in search of an oligopoly over diamond production, Rhodes and Rudd launched the De Beers Consolidated Mines mining company. With 200 000 pounds capital the Company, of which Rhodes was secretary, owned the largest interest in mines in South Africa. Rhodes greatest coup was to get Barney Barnato, owner of the Kimberley mine, to go partnership with Rhodes’ De Beers Company. Of the encounter Barnato later wrote:
“When you have been with him half an hour you not only agree with him, but come to believe you have always held his opinion. No one else in the world could have induced me to into this partnership. But Rhodes had an extraordinary ascendancy over men: he tied them up, as he ties up everybody. It is his way. You can’t resist him; you must be with him.”
With his acquisition of most of the world’s diamond mines Rhodes became an incredibly rich man. But Rhodes was not after wealth for wealth’s sake, he was acutely aware of the relationship between money and power, and it was power which he sought. Hans Sauer wrote of a conversation he had had with Rhodes whilst looking over the Kimberley diamond mine, where Sauer had asked Rhodes, ‘what do you see here?’, and, Sauer writes, ‘with a slow sweep of his hand, Rhodes answered with the single word: “Power”.’
In the early 1880s gold was discovered in the Transvaal, sparking the Witwatersrand Gold Rush. Rhodes considered joining the rush to open gold mines in the region, but Rudd, convinced him that the Witwatersrand was merely the beginning, and that far greater gold fields lay to the north, in present day Zimbabwe and Zambia. As a result Rhodes held back while other Kimberley capitalists hastened to the Transvaal to stake the best claims. In 1887 when Rhodes finally did act and formed the Goldfields of South Africa Company with his brother Frank, most of the best claims were already taken. Goldfields South Africa performed very poorly, prompting Rhodes to look towards the north for the gold fields that Rudd had assured him were lying in wait.
In 1880 Rhodes prepared to enter public life at the Cape. With the incorporation of Griqualand West into the Cape Colony in 1877 the area obtained six seats in the Cape House of Assembly. Rhodes chose the constituency of Barkley West, a rural constituency in which Boer voters predominated, and at age 29 was elected as its parliamentary representative. Barkley West remained faithful to Rhodes even after the Jameson Raid and he continued as its member until his death.
The chief preoccupation of the Cape Parliament when Rhodes became a member was the future of Basutoland, where the ministry of Sir Gordon Sprigg was trying to restore order after a rebellion in 1880. The ministry had precipitated the revolt by applying its policy of disarmament to the Basuto. Seeking expansion to the north and with prospects of building his great dream of a Cape to Cairo railway, Rhodes persuaded Britain to establish a protectorate over Bechuanaland (now Botswana) in 1884, eventually leading to Britain annexing this territory.
Rhodes seemed to have immense influence in Parliament despite the fact that he was acknowledged to be a poor speaker, with a thin, high pitched voice, with little aptitude for oration and a poor physical presence. What made Rhodes nonetheless so incredibly convincing to his contemporaries has remained much of a mystery to his biographers.
The Push for Mashonaland
Rhodes’ imperial vision for Africa was never far from his mind. In 1888 Rhodes looked further north towards Matabeleland and Mashonaland, in present day Zimbabwe. Matabeleland fell squarely in the territory which Rhodes hoped to conquer, from the Cape to Cairo, in the name of the British Empire. It also was believed to hold vast, untapped gold fields, which Rudd believed would be of far greater value than those discovered in the Witwatersrand.
In pursuit of his imperial dream and in his desire to make up for the failure of his Gold Fields Mining Company, Rhodes began to explore ways in which to exploit the mineral wealth of Matabeleland and Mahsonaland. The King of Matabeleland, King Lobengula, who was believed by the British to also rule over Mashonaland, had already allowed a number of British miners mineral rights in his kingdom. He had also sent a number of his men to labour in the diamond mines, thus setting a precedence for engagement with him. However, the King had consistently stated quite clearly that he wanted no British interference in his own territory.
In 1887 Lobengula signed a treaty with the Transvaal Government, an act that convinced Rhodes that the Boere were trying to steal ‘his north’. By this stage the ‘scramble for Africa’ was also already well under way and Rhodes became convinced that the Germans, French and Portuguese were going to try to take Matabeleland. These fears made Rhodes rapidly mobilise in order to get Matabeleland under British control. Although the British government at the time was against further colonial expansion to the north of South Africa, Rhodes was able to use the threat of other imperial powers, such as Germany, taking over the land to push the British Government to take action.
The Government sent John Smith Moffat, the then Assistant Commissioner to Sir Sidney Shippard in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) who was well known to the Matabele Chief Lobengula as their fathers were friends, to negotiate a treaty with Lobengula. The result was the Moffat Treaty of February 1888, essentially a relaxed British protection treaty. The Moffat Treaty was however between Lobengula and the British Government, Rhodes himself was hardly a relevant player in this. Worried that the Moffat Treaty was too weak to hold Matabeleland, and convinced that the Dutch and Germans were making plans to take the territory and desperate for exclusive mining rights in the region, Rhodes concocted to his own plan to take control of the territory. With his business partner Rudd, Rhodes formed the British South Africa Company (BSAC), crafted on the British and Dutch East India company models. The BSAC was a commercial-political entity aiming at exploiting economic resources and political power to advance British finance capital.
Shortly after the Moffat Treaty, in March 1888, Rhodes sent his business partner Charles Rudd to get Lobengula to sign an exclusive mining concession to the British South Africa Company. When Rudd arrived at Lobengula’s kraal however, there were a number of other British concession hunters already there, seeking to undertake the exact same manoeuvre as Rhodes’ BSAC. Through Rhodes influence however, Rudd was able to win over the support of the local British officials staying with Lobengula, a move which ultimately convinced Lobengula that Rudd had more power and influence than any of the other petitioners seeking concessions from him.
After much negotiation Rudd was eventually able to get Lobengula to sign a concession giving exclusive mining rights to the BSAC in exchange for protection against the Boere and neighbouring tribes. This concession became known as the Rudd Concession. Lobengula’s young warriors were angry and inflamed and were itching to kill the white men who were entering their lands. Lobengula however feared his people would be defeated if they attacked the whites, and so it is likely that he signed the Rudd Concession in the hopes of gaining British protection and thereby preventing a Boer migration into his lands which would then incite his warriors to battle. For Lobengula his options were essentially to either concede to the British or to the Dutch. In the belief that he was protecting his interests he sided with the seemingly more lenient and liberal British. Like so many documents signed by Africans during the colonial period, the Rudd Concession was however not what it claimed to be, but rather became a justifying document for the colonisation of the Ndebele and the Shona.
Using the Rudd Concession, despite initial protests by the British Government, Rhodes managed to acquire a Royal Charter (approval from the British monarch) for his British South Africa Company. The Royal Charter allowed Rhodes to act on behalf of British interests in Matabeleland. It gave the company full imperial and colonial powers as it was allowed to create a police force, fly its own flag, construct roads, railways, telegraphs, engage in mining operations, settle on acquired territories and create financial institutions.
Rhodes convinced the British Government to give his company the right to control those parts of Matabeleland and Mashonaland that were ‘not in use’ by the African residents there and to provide ‘protection’ for the Africans on the land that was reserved for them. This proposal, which would cost the British taxpayer nothing but would extend the reaches of the British Empire, eventually found favour in London. The charter was officially granted on 29 October 1889. For Rhodes is BSAC with its Royal charter was the means whereby which to expand the British Empire, which a timid government and penurious British treasury were not about to accomplish
Rhodes reclining on one of his many voyages to the north. Source
After gaining his charter from the British Government Rhodes and his compatriots in the BSAC essentially felt that Matabeleland and Mashonaland were now under their control. Rhodes felt that war with the Ndebele was inevitable and would not allow his plans for extending the British Empire to be thwarted by “a savage chief with about 8 000 warriors”. Rhodes was determined that white settlers would soon occupy Matabeleland and Mashonaland, and the Ndebele could not resist them.
To gain power over Matabeleland and Mashonaland Rhodes hired Frank Johnson and Maurice Heany, two mercenaries, to raise a force of 5 00 white men who would support BammaNgwato, enemies of Lobengula’s, in an attack on Lobengula’s kraal. Johnson offered to deliver to Rhodes the Ndebele and Shona territory in nine month for £87 500. Johnson was joined by Frederick Selous, a hunter with professed close knowledge of Mashonaland. Rhodes advised Johnson to select as recruits primarily the sons of rich families, with the intention that, if the attack did fail and the British were captured, the British Government would be left with no choice but to send armed forces into Matabeleland to rescue the sons of Britain’s elite. In the end Johnson’s attack was called off because Rhodes had received news that Lobengula was going to allow Rhodes’ men into Matabele and Mashonaland without any opposition.
Despite Lobengula capitulating and giving permission for vast numbers of BSAC miners to enter his territory, Rhodes calculated a new plan to gain power in the region. In 1890 Rhodes sent a ‘Pioneer Column’ into Mashonaland, a column consisting of around 192 prospecting miners and around 480 armed troopers of the newly formed British South Africa Company Police, who were ostensibly there to ‘protect’ the miners. By sending in this column, Rhodes had deviously planned a move which would either force Lobengula to attack the settlers and then be crushed, or force him to allow a vast military force to take seat in his country. In the words of Rutherfoord Harris, a compatriot of Rhodes:
“….if he attack us, he is doomed, if he does not, his fangs will be drawn and the pressure of civilisation on all his border will press more and more heavily upon him, and the desired result, the disappearance of the Matabele as a power, if delayed is yet the more certain.”
The men who formed part of the Pioneer Column were all promised both gold concessions and land if they were successful in settling in Mashonaland.
On 13 September 1890, a day after the Pioneer Column arrived in Mashonaland,Rhodes’s BSAC invaded and occupied Mashonaland without any resistance from Lobengula. They settled at the site of what was later to become the town of Salisbury, present day Harare, marking the beginning of white settler occupation on the Zimbabwean plateau. They raised the Union Jack (the British national flag) in Salisbury, proclaiming it British territory.
The prospectors and the company had hoped to find a ‘second Rand’ from the ancient gold mines of the Mashona, but the gold had been worked out of the ground long before. After failing to find this perceived ‘Second Rand’, Rhodes, instead of allowing the settlers mining rights, as had been agreed to by Lobengula, granted farming land to settler pioneers, something which went expressly against the Rudd Concession.
The end of the Matabele
In conceding Mashonaland to the BSAC Lobengula had avoided going to war with the British and had kept his people alive, and much of his territory intact. But unfortunately he had only been able to delay the inevitable. With no gold was found in Mashonaland, Rhodes’ BSAC was facing complete financial ruin. Leander Jameson suggested to Rhodes that ‘getting Matabeleland open would give us a tremendous life in shares and everything else’. Gaining the Matabeleland territory would also play directly into Rhodes megalomaniac vision of expanding the British Empire across Africa.
And so, in 1893, the BSAC eventually clashed with the Ndebele, in what Rhodes had perceived as an inevitable war. The settlers justified their initial attacks against the Ndebele to the British Government by arguing that they were protecting the Shona against the ‘vicious’ and ‘savage’ Ndebele impis. This was however a ploy, consciously concucted by Jameson in conjunction with Rhodes, in order to ensure that the British Government would not object to their further intrusions into Matabeleland by creating the impression that the Ndebele were the first aggressors. To fight their war the company recruited large bands of young mercenaries who were promised land and gold in exchange for their fighting power.
The final blow any hopes that the Ndebele might avoid war, came when Jameson was able to convince the British Government that Lobengula had sent a massive impi of 7 000 men into Mashonaland, who then gave Jameson leave to engage in defensive tactics. There is no indication that the impi Jamseon reported on had ever existed. Lobengula himself, in a last appeal to the legal/rational system the British seemed to so fervently uphold, wrote to the British High Commissioner saying, “Every day I hear from you reports which are nothing but lies. I am tired of hearing nothing but lies. What Impi of mine have your people seen and where do they come from? I know nothing of them.”
An artist’s impression of the British battling against the Ndebele Source
It was however far too late for Lobengula. With the permission to engage in defensive action from the British Government Rhodes joined Jameson in Matabeleland and his group of mercenary soldiers struck a quick and fatal blow at the Ndebele. Rhodes’ mercenaries were in possession of the latest in munitions technology, carrying with them into the veld maxim guns, which, like machine guns, could fire rapid rounds. The Ndebele Impis were helpless in the face of this brutal killing technology and were slaughtered in their thousands. Lobengula himself realised he could not face the British in open combat and so he burnt down his own capital and fled with a few warriors. He is presumed to have died shortly afterwards in January of 1894 from ill health.
The war against the Matabele, fought mostly by voluntary mercenaries, cost around £66 000. Most of the money to pay for this war came directly from Rhodes Consolidated Goldfields Company, which by this point had begun to produce excellent yields from the deeper lying gold fields. The conquered lands were named Southern and Northern Rhodesia, to honour Rhodes. Today, these are the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. By the 1890s these conquered territories were being called Southern and Nothern Rhodesia.
The Precursor to Apartheid
In July 1890 Rhodes became the Prime Minister of the Cape colony, after getting support from the English-speaking white and non-white voters and a number of Afrikaner-bond, whom he had offered shares in the British South Africa Company. One of Rhodes most notorious and infamous undertakings as Prime Minister in South Africa, was his institution of the Glen Grey Act, a document that is often seen as the blueprint for the Apartheid regime that was to come.
On 27 July 1894, Rhodes gave a rousing speech, full of arrogance and optimism, to the Parliament of Cape Town that lasted more than 100 minutes. In this speech Rhodes was opening debate on the ‘Native’ Bill that he had been working on for two years. The bill had initially been intended merely as an administrative act to bring more order to the overcrowded eastern Cape district of Glen Grey, but in his typical fashion Rhodes had turned this routine administrative task into something far bigger, the formulation of what he described as a ‘Native Bill for Africa’. In much of his speech Rhodes set out, in clear cut terms, the chief purpose of his ‘Native Bill’, to force more Africans into the wage-labour market, a pursuit which would undoubtedly also help Rhodes in his own mining claims in Kimberley and the Transvaal.
Rhodes opened his speech on the Glen Grey Act with the following words:
‘There is, I think, a general feeling that the natives are a distinct source of trouble and loss to the country. Now, I take a different view. When I see the labour troubles that are occurring in the United States, and when I see the troubles that are going to occur with the English people in their own country on the social question and the labour question, I feel rather glad that the labour question here is connected with the native question.’
He then continued,
‘The proposition that I would wish to put to the House is this, that I do not feel that the fact of our having to live with the natives in this country is a reason for serious anxiety. In fact, I think the natives should be a source of great assistance to most of us. At any rate, if the whites maintain their position as the supreme race, the day may come when we shall all be thankful that we have the natives with us in their proper position….. I feel that I am responsible for about two millions of human beings. The question which has submitted itself to my mind with regard to the natives is this ”” What is their present state? I find that they are increasing enormously. I find that there are certain locations for them where, without any right or title to the land, they are herded together. They are multiplying to an enormous extent, and these locations are becoming too small…. The natives there are increasing at an enormous rate. The old diminutions by war and pestilence do not occur… W e have given them no share in the government ”” and I think rightly, too ”” and no interest in the local development of their country. What one feels is that there are questions like bridges, roads, education, plantations of trees, and various local questions, to which the natives might devote themselves with good results. At present we give them nothing to do, because we have taken away their power of making war ”” an excellent pursuit in its way ”” which once employed their minds…. We do not teach them the dignity of labour, and they simply loaf about in sloth and laziness. They never go out and work. This is what we have failed to consider with reference to our native population… What I would like in regard to a native area is that there should be no white men in its midst. I hold that the natives should be apart from white men, and not mixed up with them… The Government looks upon them as living in a native reserve, and desires to make the transfer and alienation of land as simple as possible… We fail utterly when we put natives on an equality with ourselves. If we deal with them differently and say, ” Yes, these people have their own ideas,” and so on, then we are all right ; but when once we depart from that position and put them on an equality with ourselves, we may give the matter up… As to the question of voting, we say that the natives are in a sense citizens, but not altogether citizens ”” they are still children….’
The Glen Grey Act was to pressure Africans to enter the labour market firstly by severely restricting African access to land and landownership rights so that they could not become owners of the means of production, and secondly by imposing a 10 shilling labour tax on all Africans who could not prove that they had been in ‘bona fide’ wage employment for at least three months in a year. This land shortage coupled with a tax for not engaging in wage labour would push thousands of Africans into the migrant labour market. These were all measures essentially designed to ensure a system of labour migration which would feed the mines in both Kimberley and the Rand with cheap migrant labour. This section of the act instigated the terrible migrant-labour system that was to be so destructive in 20th century South Africa.
Another pernicious outcome of the Glen Grey Act was its affected on African land rights claims and restricted and controlled where they could live. According to the act ‘natives’, as African peoples were then termed, were no longer allowed to sell land without the permission of the governor, nor where they allowed to divide or sublet the land or give it as inheritance to more than one heir. The act also laid out that the Glen Grey area and the Transkei should remain “purely native territories”. This act was eventually to become the foundation of the 1913 Natives Land Act, a precursor to much of the Apartheid policy of separate development and the creation of the Bantustans.
Lastly the Glen Grey Act radically reduced the voting franchise for Africans. One of Rhodes primary policies as Prime Minister was to aim for the creation of a South African Federation under the British flag. A unified South Africa was an incredibly important political goal for Rhodes, and so when the Afrikaner Bondsmen came to Rhodes to complain about the number and rise of propertied Africans, who were competing with the Afrikaners and characteristically voted for English, rather than Afrikaans, representative. In response to the Afrikaners’ complaints, Rhodes decided to give them, in the Glen Grey Act, a policy which would disenfranchise the Africans competing with Afrikaners whilst also ensuring Africans could not own farms which would compete with the Afrikaners.
To disenfranchise Africans the Act raised the property requirements for the franchise and required each voter to be able to write his own name, address and occupation before being allowed to vote. This radically curtailed the number of Africans who could vote, essentially marking the beginning of the end for the African franchise. This new law allowed for the voter-less annexation of Pondoland. The Glen Grey Act also denied the vote to Africans from Pondoland no matter their education or property. Through the adoption of the Act, Rhodes managed to gradually persuade Parliament to abandon Britain’s priceless nineteenth-century ideal that in principle all persons, irrespective of colour, were equal before the law.
The Glen Grey Act was vigorously opposed by the English speaking members of the Cape Parliament, but Rhodes, with his forceful character, was able to push the act through Parliament, and in August 1984 Rhodes’ Glen Grey Act became law. The Glen Grey Act, which created the migrant labour system, formalised the ‘native reserves’ and removed the franchise of almost all Africans, is seen by many as lying the ground work for the Apartheid system of the 20th century.
The Fall of Giants
By 1895, at the height of his powers, Rhodes was the unquestioned master of South Africa, ruling over the destiny of the Cape and its white and African subjects, controlling nearly all of the world’s diamonds and much of its gold, and effectively ruling over three colonial dependencies in the heart of Africa.
‘The Rhodes Colosuss striding from Cape Town to Cairo’, from Punch Magazine, 1892 Source
Although Rhodes’ policies were instrumental in the development of British imperial policies in South Africa, he did not, however, have direct political power over the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. He often disagreed with the Transvaal government’s policies and felt he could use his money and his power to overthrow the Boer government and install a British colonial government supporting mine-owners’ interests in its place. In 1895, Rhodes precipitated his own spectacular fall from power when he supported an attack on the Transvaal under the leadership of his old friend, Leander Jameson. It was a complete failure and Rhodes had to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape and head of the British South Africa Company in January 1896. After having befriended the Afrikaners for so many years, Rhodes’ support of the Jameson Raid and his attempts to get the miners in Johannesburg to rise up in a coup against the leaders of the Transvaal, were seen by the Bondsmen and Afrikaners as a complete betrayal, and Rhodes’ hopes of ever uniting South Africa under one flag were dashed against the rocks.
Despite his meteoric loss of power and prestige Rhodes nonetheless continued his political activities. In mid 1896 the Shona and Ndebele people in Southern Rhodesia, present day Zimbabwe, rose up against their colonial oppressors in a bid for freedom. Rhodes personally travelled to the region to take charge of the colonial response. In his attacks on the Ndebele and Shona he was vindictive, resorting to a scorched earth policy and destroying all their villages and crops.
After months of fighting Rhodes decided that conciliation was the only option. Looking to negotiate a peace settlement with the Ndebele and Shona he headed into the Matopo Mountains where a great indaba was held. Rhodes asked the chiefs why the Africans had risen up in war against the colonisers. The chiefs replied that the Africans had for decades been humiliated by the white settlers, subjected to police brutality and pushed into forced labour. Rhodes listened to the complaints and told the chiefs, “All that is over”. The chiefs saw this as a promise that the conditions for them and their countrymen would be improved, and so they agreed with Rhodes that they would end their hostilities. As a part of their agreement Rhodes spent many days in the Matopo hills, and every day the Ndebele would come to him and voice all their complaints. In belief that their worries and complaints would be given just recognition, the Ndebele and Shona chiefs laid down their arms and returned to their fields. When he left Rhodes was lauded by the people whose suffering by the hands of colonists was only to increase in the next century, as the ‘Umlamulanmkunzi’, the peacemaker.
Vintage postage stamp of Cecil John Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia former Zimbabwe.
Thereafter, Rhodes was in ill-health, but he began concentrating on developing Rhodesia and especially in extending the railway, which he dreamed would one day reach Cairo, Egypt.
After the Anglo-Boer war that broke out in October 1899, Rhodes rushed to Kimberley to organise the defence of the town. However, his health was worsened by the siege, and after travelling to Europe he returned to the Cape in February 1902. He died on 26 March 1902 at Muizenberg in the Cape Colony (now Cape Town). Reportedly some of his last words were, ‘so little done, so much to do’. Rhodes was buried at the Matopos Hills, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). He left £6 million (approx USD 960 million in 2015), most of which went to Oxford University to establish the Rhodes scholarships to provide places at Oxford for students from the United States, the British colonies, and Germany.
Rhodes never married and he did not have any known children and there is some suggestion that he was homosexual. This suggestion is based on the care and concern he showed to some men, but it is not enough to offer any solid truth
Almost 114 years after the death of Cecil Rhodes his memory lives on, with the Rhodes Must Fall campaign spreading from Cape Town to Oxford.
Once glorified by white colonialists, Rhodes is now more widely viewed as a prime villain in southern African history. Since his death he has been the subject of more than 30 biographies, so one is left to wonder if there is anything new that could be said about him. An attempt is made in the latest book by Robin Brown, The Secret Society: Cecil John Rhodes’s Plan for a New World Order – an attempt that fails.
The main claim of the book is that Rhodes established a “secret society” whose task was to extend British rule across the globe. This society continued to exist in different guises long after Rhodes’ death in 1902. Thereafter the society came to operate within, or under the guise of, other bodies – the Rhodes Trust operating as the “top layer of the structure”; in 1909 the society was renamed the Round Table; and from 1920 the Institute of International Affairs became its new face.
… a homosexual hegemony – which was already operative in the Secret Society – went on to influence, if not control, British politics at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Rhodes himself, the book alleges, was gay, and because homosexuality was a criminal offence in Britain at the time, he realised that gays only survived if they operated in:
… a society that remained secret, ring-fenced by wealth and political influence.
So it appears that the society’s secrecy was necessitated by both imperial aspirations and sexual inclinations.
The book contains major flaws, the chief of which is the lack of solid, supporting evidence. Brown claims that “Rhodes documented everything” – which was not actually the case in this regard. Just about the only documentary evidence cited to support the existence of this secret society is the codicil attached to Rhodes’ first will, which did indeed proclaim his intention to form such a society.
The problem is that this will was drawn up in 1877 when Rhodes had not yet accumulated great wealth. According to this early will he would leave all his worldly goods in trust to allow for the formation of a secret society, but his limited wealth at the time could hardly have made this possible.
The plan to form such a society also did not appear in Rhodes’ final will. One has to agree with Robert L. Rotberg – whose biography of Rhodes is the most substantial – that to read Rhodes’ plan today is:
… to sense the ruminations and even fantasies of a madcap bumbler.
Each chapter of Brown’s book has just a handful of endnotes, and there are hardly any references to source material that might substantiate the claims made. The problem is highlighted on pages 237-38. First it is stated that there is “clear evidence” that Lord Alfred Milner took over and transformed the secret society after Rhodes’ death. But on the very next page Brown writes that during this transformation process Milner “kept things covert” so that ‘there is little hard evidence’ of the society’s existence at the time.
This is the problem throughout the book – because the society was so secret it presumably kept no surviving records, meaning that there is no proof of its existence. The book thus comes to be based heavily on surmise and assertion. While critics can argue that it is impossible to prove that the society existed at all, Brown can retort that it is impossible to prove that it did not exist. What cannot be contested is that the book lacks referenced source material to substantiate its claims.
The suggestion that the Rhodes Trust was closely linked to the secret society is not credible. In Anthony Kenny’s massive bookon the history of the trust there are only three brief references to the idea of a secret society – and one of those is to a letter by Leo Amery stating that there was no such society.
The book contains some basic errors which undermine one’s confidence in the content and analysis. The cotton farm where Rhodes joined his brother on arrival in Natal in 1870 was not north-east of Durban, but to the west (p.6). Rhodes was not “of the era of British reformers who caused slavery to be outlawed”, nor did he display “liberal attitudes towards blacks” (p.19). Jameson was imprisoned for four months, not one (p.22). Rhodes’ brokers were not John Rudd and Robert Moffat – they were Charles Rudd and J.S. Moffat (p.57).
George V did not precede Victoria (p.154). Clinton’s presidential nomination speech was in 1991, not 1981 (p.168). Chamberlain was the colonial secretary, not foreign secretary (p.222 and elsewhere).
The book would have worked better had it been presented as an examination of the personal networks that Rhodes developed. There is no doubt that he succeeded in cultivating influential figures in the world of politics, business and finance in Britain, but Brown’s attempt to conjure up a secret society out of these networks is misguided and not adequately substantiated.
he book adds another dimension to this central thesis, making a rather startling assertion on page 144:
A man was walking his dog through Centennial Park in Sydney on the morning of February 7, 1986 when he noticed the body of a woman floating in Busby Pond. After police were alerted, two uniformed constables rowed out and dragged her in.
When detectives rolled her over on the riverbank, they realised it was 31-year old Sallie-Anne Huckstepp – the high-profile police whistle-blower and sex worker.
Huckstepp knew her days were numbered when she appeared on 60 Minutes in 1981and accused NSW detective sergeant Roger Rogerson of being a cold-blooded killer. The man she claimed Rogerson had killed was her boyfriend, heroin dealer Warren Lanfranchi.
The Lanfranchi hit
After robbing another dealer, Lanfranchi fired shots at a young policeman. To avoid facing charges, he asked his associate, notorious standover man Neddy Smith, to negotiate a price with Rogerson.
At the time, Rogerson had a sterling reputation in the force, and was slated to potentially become the next police commissioner.
He then shot Lanfranchi twice, later claiming it was in self-defence. Subsequent investigations found that while Rogerson may not have acted in self-defence, he had not done anything untoward. Rogerson was commended for his bravery.
Lanfranchi was the third man Rogerson had shot dead in a public place in five years.
Two weeks later, Huckstepp turned up at police headquarters with her father and detailed a string of allegations against NSW police.
The claims included that Rogerson had executed her boyfriend, and stolen the $10,000 Lanfranchi had turned up to bribe the officer with. Huckstepp also gave details of payments she had been making to Vice and Drug Squad detectives for the past 10 years, while she had been a sex worker on Darlinghurst Road.
A life on the wild side
Huckstepp was born into a middle-class Jewish family and grew up in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. She attended the exclusive Dover Heights High School. But there was trouble at home. She didn’t get on with her step-mother and her behaviour became unruly.
At 14, she was sent to the Minda Remand Centre in Lidcombe. After being released, she found a job as a waitress at the Kings Cross club Whiskey A Go Go. She then got into heroin, and to support both her and her boyfriend’s habits, she started working the streets.
It was through her associations in Sydney’s underworld that Huckstepp became keenly aware that NSW police were heavily involved in criminal activities, and that Rogerson was one of the kingpins.
Partners in crime
In 1980, when Rogerson was moved to the Darlinghurst police station, he was the star detective of the Armed Holdup Squad. At the time, the heroin market was going through the roof in Kings Cross, and the opportunity to make some extra cash was hard to resist.
Neddy Smith was one of the top heroin distributors in the city, and he was raking it in. He and Rogerson formed a mutually-beneficial association.
Smith became a police whistle-blower in the early 1990s, testifying at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that Armed Holdup Squad detectives had been supplying information that enabled him to carry out a string of holdups.
However, Smith refused to name Rogerson during the hearing.
Huckstepp had always lived a charmed, and somewhat tragic life. She shot to stardom after her television appearance, coming across as an articulate and engaging figure. And she had a significant impact in alerting the public to the high level of corruption amongst NSW police.
Penguin publishers gave her an advance to write an autobiography, and author Richard Neville arranged for her to move into artist Martin Sharp’s house.
Many believe her notoriety prevented Huckstepp from being knocked-off straightaway.
A life cut short
But by the time her body was dragged out of the water, five years had passed. She was using again and back working the streets. No one was paying attention anymore.
On the night she was murdered, Huckstepp received a phone call from heroin dealer Warren Richards: an associate of Rogerson and Smith. She told her flatmate that she had to step out for a moment, and would be back in 10 minutes. That was the last time she was seen alive.
Smith ended up serving two life sentences for beating a tow truck driver to death, and for shooting brothel-keeper Harvey Jones. Police suspected that Smith was connected with a string of drug-related murders, so they bugged his cell and got his cellmate to chat with him.
Sure enough, Neddy bragged about killing seven people, one of which was Sallie-Anne. He outlined how he strangled her to death, and held her head under the water. His confession led to her body being exhumed from Rookwood Cemetery for DNA testing.
Smith later claimed he’d made up the story, as he knew he was being recorded. He went to trial for her murder, but was acquitted in 1999.
He claimed Rogerson wanted Huckstepp dead because she was “bugging” him by “ringing him up and leaving messages that he was a dog.” He said it was an associate of Rogerson who strangled Huckstepp, performing the deed to get on the good side of the detective. He said the man had never been to prison.
Smith added that the reason Huckstepp was left floating in the pond was that Rogerson wanted to leave a message.
Rogerson had an alibi for the night of the murder – he was drinking with police prosecutor Mal Spence in a Merrylands pub.
But Rogerson had no alibi when he stood trial earlier this year for the murder of 20-year-old UTS student Jamie Gao, as he was captured on CCTV footage.
In June, he was found guilty of murdering Gao during a drug deal at a Padstow storage facility in May, 2014. In September, he was sentenced to life in prison.