The Ideal Arrangement of Rhodes and the Organic Unity of Empire by Kevin Cole



(If you appreciate the time and the effort invested in the following article, please consider supporting my ongoing research.  Originally published at  

The Ideal Arrangement of Rhodes and the Organic Unity of Empire 

By Kevin Cole

“Have a fixed purpose of some kind for your country and yourselves. Make your country for all the world a source of light, a centre for peace. This is what England must do or perish: she must form colonies abroad as far and as fast as she is able.” [1]

– John Ruskin, Inaugural Lecture at Oxford, 1870

“Mr. Rhodes was more than the founder of a dynasty. He aspired to be the creator of one of those vast semi-religious, quasi-political associations which, like the Society of Jesus, have played so large a part in the history of the world. To be more strictly accurate, he wished to found an Order as the instrument of the will of the Dynasty, and while he lived, he dreamed of being both its Caesar and its Loyola. It was this far-reaching, world-wide aspiration of the man which rendered, to those who knew him, so absurdly inane the speculations of his critics as to his real motives.” [2]

– William T. Stead, “The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes”, 1902

By 1891, the “Secret Society” that Cecil Rhodes had called for in previous wills dating back to his infamous “Confession of Faith” of June 2, 1877, was now finally beginning to take form.  He had begun to pen this “Confession” on the same day of his initiation into the Apollo University Lodge No. 357 of British Freemasonry at Oxford.  It did not take Rhodes long to express his dissatisfaction with the role of Freemasonry in his time and he found it to be inadequate in its role of building English gentlemen and more importantly, in maintaining the seeds of the British Empire.  Later that year, Lord Carnarvon was named by Rhodes as the Executor to Administer the Last Will and Testament of September 19, 1877. [3]

Lord Carnarvon had the following to say about the historical role of British Freemasonry:

“Following closely in the wake of colonization, wherever the hut of the settler has been built, or the flag of the conquest waved, there Masonry has soon equal dominion…. It has reflected… and consolidated the British Empire.” [4]

– Lord Carnarvon, Grandmaster of the United Grand Lodge of England, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1866-1867 and from 1874-1878

Rhodes felt he could do better.  With the inspiration of teachers like Oxford’s John Ruskin and his longing for Platonic, hierarchical, and medieval structures of society, in addition to the new blueprint for British expansionism put forth by historian John Robert Seeley, Rhodes set forth an elaborate plan to do just that.  Rhodes’ fourth will in 1891 would leave his fortune entirely to Lord N.M. Rothschild (the same Rothschild who along with Alfred Beit, had financed Rhodes’ De Beers Diamond Co. and its business ventures in South Africa under the cover of the British South Africa Company) and acclaimed journalist William T. Stead, who is often credited with popularizing the interview process in the English Press.  Stead and Rhodes had met in 1889, and Stead was introduced to the planned society on April 4th of that year. [5]  In February of 1891, Rhodes and Stead had a discussion about the goals and direction of the secret society and both “agreed that if necessary to achieve Anglo-American unity, Britain should join the United States.” [6]   This was an early positioning of Britain as an Atlantic rather than primarily European power and it expressed a willingness to cede certain perceptions of imperial strength for the ultimate unity of purpose they hoped to achieve by intermingling the two countries.

Rhodes and Stead outlined a planned secret society spread amongst two concentric circles of influence to achieve these goals, an inner circle which was known as the “Society of the Elect” and an outer circle known as the “Association of Helpers”. [7]  Stead’s new magazine, the Review of Reviews, founded the year before was to promote the ideals of the society under the guise of journalistic objectivity, and this was a strategy that was also later employed in the founding of the Round Table’s Journal of Commonwealth Affairs in 1910.  It is also a feature evident to this day in publications such as Foreign Affairs, the influential organ of the foreign policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and Washington D.C.  Soon after establishing this framework, Stead was given permission by Rhodes to recruit Reginald Brett and Alfred Milner into the secretive group.  From these additional members the outline for the society was expanded to include a “Junta of Three” made up of Milner, Brett and Stead, a “Circle of Initiates” which included Albert Grey, (Director of Rhodes’ British South Africa Company)  Arthur Balfour and Harry H. “Little” Johnston.  Finally, the arrangement called for “a college under Professor Seeley, to be established to train people in the English-speaking idea.” [8]

William T. Stead recounts the scheme below:

“In 1894 Mr. Rhodes came to England and again discussed with me the working of the scheme, reported to me his impressions of the various Ministers and leaders of the Opposition who he met, discussing each of them from the point of view as to how far he would assist in carrying out ‘our ideas’.  We also discussed together various projects for propaganda, the formation of libraries, the creation of lectureships, the dispatch of emissaries on missions of propaganda throughout the Empire, and the steps to be taken to pave the way for the foundation and the acquisition of a newspaper which was to be devoted to the service of the cause.” [9]

– William T. Stead, “The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes”

With leadership changes and the dying off of older collaborators, this ideal arrangement constantly evolved from Rhodes’ original vision, but what remained was the inner and outer circles of influence and the ultimate purpose of the imperial federation of the British Empire by whatever means necessary.  Even if this meant that the proposed imperial federation would need to evolve into a more interdependent Commonwealth framework put forth by Lord Rosebery and later Alfred Zimmern and Lionel Curtis.  At the time of writing the Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden in the 1940’s, Carroll Quigley maintained that the society still “exists to this day” in “modified form” and by 1974 Quigley was still extremely reluctant to sacrifice his career by revealing too much of what he had learned over the years about the plot. [10]  He documented that from 1891-1902, the details of the society were “only known to a score of persons,” with Rhodes and Stead in the leadership roles.  Alfred Milner was the leader in charge from 1902-1925, with Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian) and Lionel Curtis listed as the “most important members” during this period.  Kerr then took the lead from 1925-1940, followed by Robert Henry Brand (Lord Brand) after Kerr’s death. [11]

With these shifts in leadership and direction within the society, the group was known by many names.  These included “The Secret Society of Cecil Rhodes” or “The Dream of Cecil Rhodes”, “Milner’s Kindergarten” from 1901-1910 and perhaps most prominently as “the Round Table Group” from 1910-1920. [12]  There were also other names that denoted this society in its many machinations, including “The Times Crowd”, the “Chatham House Crowd”, the “All Souls Group” and the “Cliveden Set”, founded by Vincent Astor.  As older members of the society died off, these “helper” groups were essential for bringing new recruits into leadership positions in the “Society of the Elect.”

In 1899, William T. Stead was charged with insubordination by Rhodes for publically admonishing the Boer Wars (orchestrated by Rhodes and Alfred Milner’s Kindergarten in South Africa), and this led to Stead being surpassed in leadership by Alfred Milner, whom Stead had actually recruited in the first place.  Milner and what we will now recognize as the “Milner Group” then modified and expanded the Rhodes societal organization significantly in pursuit of the “same goals” and with Rhodes’ full support. [13]  Stead claimed that he was removed from the Will by Rhodes because he was “not willing to subordinate” his “judgment to that of the majority of our associates who were on the spot”.  It was collective thinking and collectivism that Rhodes was ultimately after, and individualism was not to be tolerated.

“That is the curse which will be fatal to our ideas—insubordination.  Do not you think it is very disobedient of you?  How can our Society be worked if each one sets himself up as the sole judge of what ought to be done?” [14]

– Cecil Rhodes to William T. Stead

Professor Quigley, uniquely positioned to write the history of this group outlined its secrecy and some of its goals and accomplishments as follows,

“This organization has been able to conceal its existence quite successfully, and many of its most influential members, satisfied to possess the reality rather than the appearance of power, are unknown even to close students of British history. This is the more surprising when we learn that one of the chief methods by which this Group works has been through propaganda. It plotted the Jameson Raid of 1895; it caused the Boer War of 1899-1902; it set up and controls the Rhodes Trust; it created the Union of South Africa in 1906-1910; it established the South African periodical The State in 1908; it founded the British Empire periodical The Round Table in 1910, and this remains the mouthpiece of the Group; it has been the most powerful single influence in All Souls, Balliol, and New Colleges at Oxford for more than a generation; it has controlled The Times for more than fifty years, with the exception of the three years 1919-1922, it publicized the idea of and the name “British Commonwealth of Nations” in the period 1908-1918, it was the chief influence in Lloyd George’s war administration in 1917-1919 and dominated the British delegation to the Peace Conference of 1919; it had a great deal to do with the formation and management of the League of Nations and of the system of mandates; it founded the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1919 and still controls it; it was one of the chief influences on British policy toward Ireland, Palestine, and India in the period 1917-1945; it was a very important influence on the policy of appeasement of Germany during the years 1920-1940; and it controlled and still controls, to a very considerable extent, the sources and the writing of the history of British Imperial and foreign policy since the Boer War.”

It would be expected that a group which could number among its achievements such accomplishments as these would be a familiar subject for discussion among students of history and public affairs. In this case, the expectation is not realized, partly because of the deliberate policy of secrecy which this Group has adopted, partly because the Group itself is not closely integrated but rather appears as a series of overlapping circles or rings partly concealed by being hidden behind formally organized groups of no obvious political significance.

This Group, held together, as it is, by the tenuous links of friendship, personal association, and common ideals is so indefinite in its outlines (especially in recent years)  that it is not always possible to say who is a member and who is not. Indeed, there is no sharp line of demarcation between those who are members and those who are not, since “membership” is possessed in varying degrees, and the degree changes at different times.” [15]

Quigley contends that planning stages of a Milner dominated group really go back to 1873, because of Alfred Milner’s own unique positioning at the “intersection of three influences”, which Quigley calls the Toynbee Group surrounding Arnold Toynbee at Balliol, “The Cecil Bloc” of Lord Robert Cecil, and then finally the “Rhodes Secret Society” with Cecil Rhodes and William T. Stead.  Quigley explains that “it is doubtful if Milner could have formed his group without the assistance from all three of these sources.” [16]  These groups intermingled at Oxford and then Balliol in 1880’s and included “Milner, his closest friend Arnold Toynbee, Thomas Raleigh, Michael Glazebrook, Philip Lyttleton Gell, and a future Seeley Lecturer (a lectureship named after J.R. Seeley) and organizing secretary of the Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships named George Parkin.  Arnold Toynbee died in 1883, and Milner took charge of establishing his legacy and honoring his memory with a Settlement House in his name in London. [17]  Arnold Toynbee was the uncle of the famous historian of the same name who would go on to dominate international relations, world history, the Round Table Group and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in the early 20th century.

Degeneration and Imperial Federation

By the late 1800’s, there was a growing concern amongst the imperialist politicians and power players that the relationship between the British Empire and its self-governing parts had grown too distant and that greater central authority in England was needed.  This occurred amongst strong opposition to the “Little Englander” politicians that wished to stop the expansion of empire and who were also heavily critical of the 2nd Boer War led by Rhodes and the Milner Group.  This emerging imperial scheme was also partially fueled by fears of degeneration and racial decline prevalent during the late Victorian period, influenced partially by Charles Darwin’s expression of Evolution, (which Rhodes embraced as the embodiment of future progress) and its relationship to natural selection.  The thinking was that if an individual could regress and degenerate physically and even intellectually, so too could whole nations and empires.  This fear of degeneration not only played an important role in the development of new imperial strategies, it was also a factor in the creation of the pseudo-science of eugenics, as well as the establishment and implementation of compulsory education in 19th century England.

One of the most influential members of the Cecil Bloc and advocate of the Imperial Federation League (1884-1894) was Cambridge Professor of History and imperialist, John Robert Seeley (1834-1895).  In addition to being floated by Cecil Rhodes himself in the “Ideal Arrangement” for “a college to be established to train people in the English-Speaking idea under his name”, Professor Quigley also states that “Seeley was regarded as a precursor by the inner circle” of the Milner Group itself.   In a letter Quigley uncovered, Lionel Curtis wrote to Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian) in 1916 that “Seeley’s results were necessarily limited” and that “with the Round Table organization behind him Seeley by his own knowledge and insight might have gone further than us.   If we have been able to go further than him it is not merely that we followed his train, but also because we have so far based our study on the relations of these countries on a preliminary field-study of the countries concerned, conducted in close cooperation with people in those countries.” [18]

The Influence of Romantic Nationalism and the Strategy of Organic Union

In addition to the creation of the “English Speaking Idea”, another very important contribution to this study is John Robert Seeley’s transmission of the concept of organic unity.  This concept of organic unity was first brought into England and introduced into literary theory by Samuel Taylor Coleridge through his interpretations of German literary critics like historian August Wilhelm von Schlegel.  While he was certainly not alone historically, Schlegel believed that all of the arts made up a comprehensive whole or organic unity and conceived that poetry was the most comprehensive and central of these arts precisely because “language is the medium of expression”. [19]  Schlegel also asserted that history and theory were ultimately interrelated and essential to his literary criticism because “history teaches us what has been accomplished, and theory shows us what has yet to be done.” [20]

“Poetry will be the center and the goal of our considerations.  In our opinion, that is in fact the place it occupies in the Whole formed by art and science.  Philosophy is only an organon, a method that shapes true, that is Divine, thought – the thought that is precisely the essence of poetry; philosophy is thus solely a means of instruction, a tool and a means for achieving what poetry is… We therefore believe that poetry is the first and most noble of all the arts and of all the sciences; for it is also a science, in the fullest sense of the term, the science Plato calls dialectic and Jakob Boehme theosophy, that is the science of the sole true reality.  Philosophy has the same object, but approaches it only in a negative way and though an indirect presentation of it whereas any positive presentation of the Whole inevitably becomes poetry.” [21]

Although taking a more systematic approach characteristic of other German romantics, it would be John Robert Seeley, who would seize upon this zeitgeist and to further seek an ideological framing and reformulation of history and historiography “to serve the cause of Religion”. [22]  In this sense, it can be said that whoever dominates the historical field and/or a state system as a universal medium, also dominates the interpretation of the sole true reality.  Deborah Wormell, in her book Sir John Seeley and the Uses of History asserts that Seeley’s “goal in writing and teaching history was to create in the British people a single national consciousness with respect to the past, their mutual obligations and the destiny of the state.”  Seeley’s The Life and Times of Stein: Or Germany and Prussia in the Napoleonic Age was published in 1879 and The Expansion of England in 1883.

In The Life and Times of Stein, Seeley became supremely infatuated with this same German Romanticism and the role of Romantic Nationalism on creating and managing the changing body politic.  He was heavily influenced by the Addresses to the German Nation delivered by Johann Fichte in 1807-08, after the Prussian Army was defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Jena–Auerstedt in 1806.  Seeley calls this work by Fichte, “the prophetical or canonical book which announces and explains a great transition in modern Europe.” [23]  Seeley also spends a considerable amount of time detailing the history of the Tugenbund (aka The League of Virtue or the Moral and Scientific Union), which he claimed was a quasi-Freemasonic organization founded to boost the national and patriotic spirit after the defeat at Jena and to influence the new military and educational reforms that Fichte put forth.

Former New York State and City “Teacher of the Year” John Taylor Gatto, in his 1991 Underground History of American Education detailed that Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation were also the “seed” and catalyst for the introduction of compulsory education in the United States and around the globe in the 19th Century.  Gatto observes that “for one thousand years the Germans had made every effort to reconstruct the universal system, from Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire to the aftermath of Jena in 1806.” [24]

Among many reforms, Fichte’s address specifically called for the new education system under the methods of Johann Pestalozzi to solidify the new national consciousness.  Nearly seventy-five years later in England, J.R. Seeley felt that Fichte’s ideas, while specifically crafted as arguments for helping the “German situation after the defeat of Jena,” were also capable of being “applied generally.” [25]

“A preparation has been made for it in the definition of nationality, the virtue of which has been made to lie precisely in that union of past and present generations which secures the actions of man an earthly immortality.” [26]

– John Robert Seeley, The Life and Times of Stein

In addition to using Fichte’s model as a way to foster a national consciousness for the British people, Seeley truly sought to perpetuate a “spatio-temporal” consciousness shift, so the “nature of imperial policy could be redirected” under the enlarged historical context of a “Greater Britain”. [27]  “Greater Britain” was a phrase first coined by imperialist politician and Freemason, Sir Charles Dilke in his 1868 book of the same title.   In The Expansion of England (1883)  Seeley repeatedly reflects on the problems of the Greek and Roman Empires and how lessons could be learned to protect the British from suffering the same fate historically.   He contends that the only history that really matters is that which “deals with states” and “investigates their rise and development and mutual influence, the causes which promote their prosperity or bring about their decay.” [28]

Seeley concludes that past failures of Britain to fully establish itself in the 18th Century were due to the lack of a cohesive connective fabric that could maintain a political union over vast distances.    He realized that the ability to harness emerging science and technological advances would be the future catalyst for sewing the unity necessary to sustain his reconceptualization of Greater Britain around the world.

“In this material sense Greater Britain was created in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  But the idea that could shape the material mass was still wanting.  Towards this only one step was taken, namely, in laying down the principle that colonies did in some way belong together with the mother-country, that England did in some sense go with them across the sea, and that they could not cease to be English but through a war.

And what is true of the English colonies in the eighteenth century is equally true of the colonies of other States.  Greater Spain, Greater Portugal, Greater Holland, and Greater France, were all, as much as Greater Britain, artificial fabrics, wanting organic unity and life.“ [29]

Seeley continues:

“In the last century there could be no Greater Britain in the true sense of the word, because of the distance between the mother-country and its colonies and between the colonies themselves.  This impediment exists no longer.  Science has given to the political organism a new circulation, which is steam, and a new nervous system, which is electricity. These new conditions make it necessary to reconsider the whole colonial problem.  They make it in the first place possible actually to realise the old utopia of a Greater Britain, and at the same time they make it almost necessary to do so.  In the old time such large political organisms were only stable when they were of low type.  Thus Greater Spain was longer-lived than Greater Britain, precisely because it was despotically governed.  Greater Britain ran on the rock of parliamentary liberties, which were then impossible on so great a scale, while despotism was possible enough. Had it been thought possible to give parliamentary representation to our colonists, the whole quarrel might have easily have been avoided.  But it was not thought possible; and why?  Burke gives you the answer in the well-known passage, in which he throws ridicule upon the notion of summoning representatives from so vast a distance.  This notion has now ceased at any rate to be ridiculous, however great the difficulties of detail may still be.  Those very colonies, which then broke off from us, have since given the example of a federal organization, in which vast territories, some of them thinly peopled and newly settled, are held easily in union with older communities, and the whole enjoys in the fullest degree parliamentary freedom.  The United States have solved a problem substantially similar to that which our old colonial system could not solve, by showing how a State may throw off a constant stream of emigration, how from a fringe settlement on the Atlantic a whole Continent as far as the Pacific may be peopled, and yet the doubt never arise whether those remote settlements will not soon claim their independence, or whether they will bear to be taxed for the benefit of the whole.”

“And lastly what is thus shown to be possible appears now to be much more urgently important than in the last century.  For the same inventions which make vast political unions possible, tend to make states which are on the old scale of magnitude unsafe, insignificant, second-rate.  If the United States and Russia hold together for another half century, they will at the end of that time completely dwarf such old European States as France and Germany, and depress them into a second class.  They will do the same to England, if at the end of that time England still thinks of herself as simply a European State, as the old United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, such as Pitt left her.  It would indeed be a poor remedy, if we should try to face these vast states of the new type by an artificial union of settlements and islands scattered over the whole globe, inhabited by different nationalities, and connected by no tie except the accident that they happen all alike to acknowledge the Queen’s authority.  But I have pointed out that what we call our Empire is no such artificial fabric; that it is not properly, if we exclude India from consideration, an Empire at all; that it is a vast English nation, only a nation so widely dispersed that before the age of steam and electricity its strong natural bonds of race and religion seemed practically dissolved by distance.  As soon then as distance is abolished by science, as soon as it is proved by the examples of the United States and Russia that political union over vast areas has begun to be possible, so soon Greater Britain starts up, not only a reality, but a robust reality.  It will belong to the stronger class of political unions.  If it will not be stronger than the United States, we may say with confidence that it will be far stronger than the great conglomeration of Slavs, Germans, Turcomans and Armenians, of Greek Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Mussulmans and Buddhists, which we call Russia.” [30]

Seeley and the Milner Group also recognized how a selective interpretation of the American Federal System of organization could be re-purposed for the aims of fortifying the proposed imperial federation of the Empire. The romantic historical conception J.R. Seeley was seeking to reformulate for his own vision for Greater Britain was to view the American Revolution, not with disappointment, but as the end result of Greater Britain’s “first experiment in expansion”.   He compared Greater Britain to a bubble that expanded and burst and he blamed the “narrow mindedness” of King George III and the use of the old colonial system for creating the “schism” in the first place. [31]

Enlarging History for the English-Speaking Union

Fellow Imperial Federation League member, Seeley Lecturer and later British Ambassador to the United States James Bryce, and his book The American Commonwealth (1888) were a major influence on Cecil Rhodes (and his trustees) and the imperial strategies for uniting the English-Speaking people and fostering the federal union of South Africa.  A worn and thoroughly marked copy was reportedly found at Rhodes’ home “Groote Schuur” in Cape Town. [32]  Bryce and his historical interpretations became so influential in England and the United States, that despite being a British citizen, he became the President of the American Political Science Association from 1907-1908.  To illustrate the sheer effectiveness of John Robert Seeley’s ideas in this cultural campaign, I discovered the previous factoid regarding the Rhodes ownership of the American Commonwealth in a publication entitled The Landmark: The Monthly Magazine of The English-Speaking Union, an organization founded by Rhodes acolyte Evelyn Wrench in 1918 and directly inspired by Seeley and Rhodes for the union of the “English-Speaking People”.  In the article Teaching Our History by W.H. Gardiner, it is declared that “the English-speaking peoples are going to have to work together in the future, and each is desirous of understanding as much as possible of the others.”  Therefore “each is getting a new concept of the meaning of our several histories.” [33]

The English-Speaking Union article continues by asserting that if it is desired “to give a history of the American Commonwealth, one must of course begin, not with the events of 1776, but at the roots which reach back into the soil of England—back to at least the days of the Magna Carta and Earl of Simon de Montfort, from which roots sprang perhaps the more important causes of American Secession.”  This is a perfect example of the type of enlarged historical context that John Robert Seeley had sought to proliferate to achieve Anglo-Saxon Unity and an internationalist polity, and a strategy put in motion by groups like the Anglo-American Pilgrims Society which purchased George Washington’s ancestral home Sulgrave Manor in England as a “Shrine of British-American Peace” and a “pilgrimage for the English-speaking peoples.”  [34] [35]   W.H. Gardiner, in elaborating on this new way to teach history, further states that once the “English causes of the American Secession” and the “seeming independence” of the American Commonwealth are mutually recognized, it will be understood that one cannot simply “drop contemporaneous British history.”  [36]

As will be discussed at a later time, this is a sentiment professed in direct contradiction to that of the American Revolutionary Period.  It was none other than Thomas Paine who staunchly proclaimed in Common Sense (1776) that not only can British and the whole of history be abandoned, but in fact “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.” [37]

In addition to Seeley Lecturer Bryce’s American Commonwealth, another book which directly influenced Rhodes and the Milner Group’s strategies was written by a Milner recruit and historian named Frederick Scott (F.S.) Oliver.  Oliver published a book entitled Alexander Hamilton: An Essay on American Union in 1906.  This book attempted to draw conclusions from alleged “parallels between what Hamilton faced in his struggle to replace the Articles of Confederation with the US Constitution and those who sought a stronger union of the British Empire.” [38]

This work by F.S. Oliver was very influential on Lionel Curtis and other members of the Milner Kindergarten while secretly planning for the unification of British South Africa.  These efforts resulted in Lionel Curtis and other members of the Milner Kindergarten drafting the Selborne Memorandum which outlined the strategy of organic union and indirect rule by claiming that self-government within the South African colonies now constituted a federal type of union to be known as British South Africa.   British South Africa as an enlarged ahistorical, poetic and contextual conception was then to fit nicely within the wider rhetorical conception of Greater Britain and the Empire—which included the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.   The seed money for this project was provided in secret by Milner and the Rhodes Trust and this was Seeley’s organizational strategy taken to its logical conclusion. [39]

The Technology of Indirect Rule

We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind. [40]

– John Robert Seeley, The Expansion of England (1883)

On March 31st, 1905, Lord Alfred Milner resigned as High Commissioner for South Africa and Governor of the Transvaal, and gave a farewell speech that outlined his hope for the future of South Africa and paid homage to the larger plans of J.R. Seeley and Cecil Rhodes.

“The words ‘Empire’ and ‘Imperial’ are perhaps in some respects unfortunate.  They seem to suggest domination, ascendency, the rule of a superior State over vassal States: but, as they are the only words available, we must just make the best of them, and try to raise them in the scale of language by giving them new significance.  When we who call ourselves Imperialists talk of the British Empire, we think of a group of States, all independent in their own local concerns, but all united for the defense of their own common interests and the development of a common civilization; united, not in alliance—for alliances can be made and unmade, and are never more than nominally lasting—but in permanent organic union.  Of such a union the dominions of our Sovereign as they exist today, are, we frankly admit, only the raw material.  Our ideal is still distant, but we deny that it is either visionary or unattainable.  And see how such a consummation would solve, and, indeed, can alone solve, the most difficult and the most persistent of the problems of South Africa; how it would unite its white races as nothing else can.” [41]

Lord Milner goes on to explain that “the British can never, without moral injury, accept allegiance to any body politic which excludes their motherland.  But that British and Dutch alike could, without any loss of integrity, without any sacrifice of their several traditions, unite in loyal devotion to an Empire-State, in which Great Britain and South Africa would be partners.”[42]  Milner of course did not divulge his own financing and approval of the drafting of the Selborne Memorandum by his close associates.

Lord Milner finishes by proclaiming that:

The road is long, the obstacles many, the goal may not be reached in my lifetime—perhaps not in that of any man in this room. You cannot hasten the slow growth of a great idea like that by any forcing process.  But what you can do is to keep it steadily in view, to lose no opportunity to work for it, to resist like grim death any policy which leads away from it.  I know that the service of that idea requires the rarest combination of qualities, a combination of ceaseless effort with infinite patience.  But then think, on the other hand, of the greatness of the reward; the immense privilege of being allowed to contribute in any way to the fulfilment of one of the noblest conceptions which has ever dawned on the political imagination of the mind.” [43]

This imperial rhetoric of subordinate interdependence that Lord Milner was employing was consistent with what John Robert Seeley recognized in The Expansion of England (1883), where he illustrated how new technologies of all types, official histories and rhetorical creations that buttress the national and today, the growing international consciousness, could all be used to change the meaning of imperialism, to repair any old schisms, to foster “common interests” and ultimately the “development of a common civilization” into a “permanent organic union” of subordinate body politics, that would be still allegiant to Greater Britain or an International Polity (or even a collectivized rhetorical “humanity”) such as the League of Nations or later the United Nations, that would then be able to secure for itself, an earthly immortality.

In its most basic and modern terms, if you want everyone to run your digital application or programming, you need to be sure that they all have the basic operating system as a medium of communicating its processes.  The operating system that John Robert Seeley proliferated, which Cecil Rhodes and the Milner Group adopted and perfected, was the cultural project based on the unity of the “English-speaking people”.  They planned for the enlarged historical context of the Anglo-Saxon (or Pan Angle) and the English language medium (as a form of technology), to become the monopolistic expression of their staked claim of our known reality.

“Human language is local and changeable, and is therefore incapable of being used as the means of unchangeable and universal information.” [44]

– Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part 1 Section 1

And they did so, while hiding behind the oratorical tradition and the truth of the poetic and imperfect nature of all language to accurately describe our true reality, the knowledge of which played a major role prior to, during, and after the American Revolution.  Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Noah Webster and others recognized the noble lie of the supreme name giver at the precipice of Plato’s Great Chain of Being that was eventually used as justification to give power to thrones. The destruction of these myths make claims of righteous universality and the unity of language and the arts, become visible as falsified and artificial scarcities.  These artificial scarcities have been used to maintain preeminent status and falsely perpetuate an arbitrary defined holistic balance over outsider cultures and the indigenous people that Cecil Rhodes viewed as barbarians.  This is accomplished through the manipulation of context and always at the cost and denial of the intrinsic value, rights and particularity of the individual.

This king of the hill quest for what Marshall McLuhan would much later call “all-at-onceness” in his pageant to claim victory and tribal ubiquity for the new electronic mediums as the “return to poetic form”, [45] juxtaposed to the internalized individuality associated with print culture, eventually fails. This failure occurs when the foundations of a universal claim are exposed by omissions, when new information that undermines the initial assertion is found, or when individuals, indigenous cultures, values and languages continue to persist outside of, withdraw their consent from, or nullify the status quo of any claimed authority, law or dominant culture.  When these crashes of absolutism happen, state systems and actors tend to react by force, fraud and coercion, as was demonstrated in the lead up to the American Revolution by King George III.  This continues today in the attempts of modern state systems and their agents to manage the consent of the body politic through propaganda, political correctness and deception.  It is a similar despotism of all previous empires that Seeley claimed Britain stood beyond, only now it is cloaked in a new benevolent appearance of indirect rule and representation and it has been exported as an organizational structure that still dominates modern education and societies today.  It is also codified in the very technologies and feedback mechanisms that we can use to see beyond it.

It has been widely overlooked how this systems thinking approach to achieving imperial organic unity was utilized by the Rhodes and Milner Round Table Group in all areas of imperial society, across many public and organized spheres of influence, from propaganda in the press, the appropriation and distortion of federal organizational models, the consolidation of international banking (Bank of International Settlements), the ecumenical movements of the early 20th century, the founding of the League of Nations to the creation of international relations as a collegiate discipline that became the language medium of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Royal Institute of International Affairs and all of the other interlocking think tanks born from this imperial project since Rhodes’ death in 1902.

On June 11, 1909, the sixth day of the First Imperial Press Conference in London, Lord Milner, Lord Morley, Winston Churchill, Arthur Balfour and many prominent members of the imperial press across the Empire gathered for a meeting on “Literature and Journalism.”  The purpose of the meeting was described in the South African newspaper, The Advertiser of June 12th, 1909, in an article entitled “Closer Organic Unity: Purpose of the Press”.  The goal of the conference was for the imperialists to impart their praise on the imperial press for “striving to maintain the high traditions already won” and to further encourage them to “impress the Imperial idea upon the peoples of their own land.” [46]  This was yet another example of the use of emerging technologies that John Robert Seeley envisioned would allow England to achieve the organic unity necessary to perpetuate itself.   Harry Brittain’s bi-continental Pilgrims Society had already achieved the monumental feat of linking New York and London on the Atlantic Cable in 1904 by convincing their fellow Pilgrim, George Gray Ward of the Commercial Cable Company to make it happen free of charge and “long before the age of broadcasting.”   This event was commemorated in the New York Herald as Pilgrims in Synchronous Symposia and in the Daily Express as, Pilgrims in Two Worlds Dine Together. [47]  It should be noted that Lord Roberts, who had served Cecil Rhodes’ interests in the Second Boer War, was the first President of the British Pilgrims and the first Englishman to use the Atlantic Cable during this unprecedented event.

Shifting the Body Politic by Controlling the Conversation

In summation, J.R. Seeley and Cecil Rhodes both believed that if the British had been able to establish a centralized parliamentary system in the latter half of the 18th Century, the American cause for independence and the entire American Revolution would have been avoided.  In the absence of being able to achieve a global polity for the empire with any immediacy in his time, Rhodes wholeheartedly embraced Seeley’s “English Speaking Idea” as the best way forward for the “ultimate recovery of the United States as an integral part of the British Empire”. [48] This idealized parliament, was in truth, undesirable to the members of the Round Table Group, but it served as attractive and effective rhetoric to many who felt that America should abandon isolationism and play a greater role in the affairs of the world, especially during the attempts to draw the United States into the League of Nations.  What Rhodes and his Trustees within the Milner Group deftly understood was how to capitalize on the overlapping circles or rings within rings of public and private influence peddling in order to manage public opinion on matters of foreign policy.  If they could control the conversation, they could ultimately affect the decision making of the politicians in their former colonies and existing dependencies.  The strategy was often one of indirect rule and the organizational structure, according to Rhodes was to be based on the Jesuit Order, inserting the Oxford Ideal and Cecil Rhodes himself in the place of Ignatius Loyola.

Lionel Curtis explained in his letter to Lord Lothian how the Milner Group was able to advance Seeley’s goal because they based their “study on the relations of these countries on a preliminary field-study of the countries concerned, conducted in close cooperation with people in those countries.”  This close cooperation was accomplished through working groups similar to the earlier Imperial Federation League and the Anglo-American League, except the Round Table Group understood the need to promote even greater organic unity with the political actors in each country or dependency.   This strategy was employed in the formation of programs and working groups such as the Seeley Lecturers, the Pilgrims Society, the Round Table Journal of Commonwealth Affairs, the Williamstown Institute of Politics, the Rhodes Scholarships, the Rhodes Scholarship State Boards and National Committees, the American University Union in England, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Rockefeller General Education Board and the aptly named English Speaking-Union.  As detailed previously, the core members of both the Rhodes Trust and the Pilgrims Society were instrumental in the creation of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York after the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.  These consolidations of influence and power were part of an ongoing and profound shift in where the body politic exists, particularly in the United States, towards a government ran by committee, public opinion, and a very selective meritocracy.

In describing Lord Alfred Milner’s adherence to Seeley’s earlier goals, George Beer, the first American and non-British Subject brought into the secretive Round Table Group in 1912 (after they began researching the causes of the American Revolution) stated that “only organic union in one body politic, with an exclusively imperial legislature and a ministry solely responsible to it, will solve the problem as he (Lord Milner) sees it.” [49]  Beer was also a co-founder of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Council on Foreign Relations, having served as the “chief expert” on Edward M. House’s “Inquiry” group, and as a vocal advocate of United States involvement in World War I. [50]

At a gathering in London in 1929, R.G. Casey, who would later become the first Australian Ambassador to the United States (and an influential propagandist for the Milner Round Table Group) [51] recounted the following details to his Prime Minister in Australia, regarding the intentions of Lionel Curtis and the role of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and its interdependent bodies:

“He showed how the big business interests could work in with the Institute to their mutual benefit. He said how impressed he had been in these years since the War at the degree to which the City, by its manifold foreign relations, was instrumental in influencing international affairs, and in the volume and quality of the information that they could add to the common fund of information on foreign affairs. He pleaded for greater use being made of the R.I.I.A. by the City, both as a ‘bank’ into which they could ‘deposit’ specific information, and as a common fund on which they could draw as required. Most of the big banks and business institutions maintained one or more men specifically to keep in touch with foreign affairs, either generally or in respect of the particular countries with which they do business, and these men were coming to regard the R.I.I.A. as a most useful source. The Foreign Office was under the disability that it could not maintain relations, either as regards receiving or giving information, with private individuals or firms, but the R.I.I.A. was under no such disability.

200,000 has been donated towards the capital fund necessary to endow the Institute. Sir Abe Bailey [26] has given 100,000 and a comparatively few others the other 100,000. They will want probably another 100,000 before they are finished.” [52]

As will be discussed in the next paper/chapter in more detail, the plot for the federation of the world and the triumph of the English-Speaking People of “Greater Britain” and the fostering of an internationalist polity was, by Rhodes’ bequest, to be finally accomplished through the expansion and control of education and the common “republic of letters” around the world. [53]  Dr. George MacLean, the Director of the American University Union in Great Britain explained with specificity that Rhodes’ “provisions are along the lines laid down by Oxford when she began her work of providing for the affiliation of colleges in the colonies and dependencies.” [54]  MacLean also confirms the role of the Carnegie Institution in Washington in providing funding and complementing this “plan of world-wide scope” that “will bear rich fruitage beyond our anticipation in the international, industrial, educational and political realms.” [55]


[1] Ruskin, John,  Inaugural Lecture at Oxford, 1870 – The Complete Works of John Ruskin, Volume 12, pg. 217

[2] Stead, William T., The Last Will and Testament of Cecil John Rhodes: With Elucidatory Notes of the   Testator” 1902, William Clowes & Sons, pg. 56.

[3] Meredith, Martin, Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa, pg. 128

[4] Harland-Jacob, Jessica,  Builders of Empire: Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717-1927 pg. 4

[5] Quigley, Carroll, The Anglo-American Establishment, 1981, GSG & Associates, pg. 4

[6] Ibid, pg. 38

[7] Ibid, pg. 4

[8] Ibid, pg. 39

[9] Stead, op.cit. pg. 104.

[10] Quigley, op.cit. pg. 3

[11] Ibid, pg. 4

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Stead, Estelle Wilson, My Father: Personal & Spiritual Reminiscences, 1913, London W. Heinemann,  pg. 251

[15] Quigley, op. cit. pg. 5

[16] Ibid, pg. 6

[17] Ibid,pg. 8

[18] ibid, p.28

[19] Craig, Charlotte M. and Konzett, Matthias, Encyclopedia of German Literature, 2000, Routledge pg. 864

[20] Ibid

[21] Schaeffer, Jean-Marie, Art of the Modern Age: Philosophy of Art from Kant to Heidegger, pg.117

[22] Wormell, Deborah, Sir John Seeley and the Uses of History, Cambridge University Press, Wormell, p. 111

[23] Seeley, Sir John Robert, Life and Times of Stein: Or, Germany and Prussia in the Napoleonic Age, Vol. 1,
    pg. 360

[24] Gatto, John Taylor, The Underground History of American Education, Chapter 7, pg.135.

[25] Wormell, op. cit. pg.146

[26] Seeley, op. cit., pg.360

[27] Bell, Duncan, The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order, 1860-1900, 2009, Princeton
University Press, pg. 9.

[28] Seeley, John Robert, The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures, MacMillan, 1883, pg, 161.

[29]  Ibid, pg. 85

[30]  Ibid, pg. 86

[31] ibid, pg. 152

[32] Gardiner, W. H.,”Teaching Our History,” 1919, The Landmark: The Monthly Magazine of the English Speaking Union,  Volume 1 pg. 505

[33] Ibid.

[34]  Tryon, James L., “Manor, A Shrine of British-American Peace”, The Advocate of Peace, (1894-1920)
Vol. 75, No. 4, April 1913), pg. 84-85

[35] Brittain, Harry, Pilgrims and Pioneers, 1946, Hutchinson and Co., pg. 118

[36] Gardiner, W.H., “Teaching Our History”, Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1919, Government Printing Office, Washington.

[37] Paine, Thomas, Common Sense, 1776.

[38] Thompson, J. Lee, Forgotten Patriot: A Life of Alfred, Viscount Milner of St. James and Cape Town, 1854-1925, 2007, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, pg. 249.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Seeley, John Robert, The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures, MacMillan, 1883, pg.8

[41] Milner, Viscount Alfred, Speeches of Viscount Milner, Hughes Rees, Ltd., 1905, pg.26

[42] Ibid. pg.27

[43] Ibid. pg.27

[44] Paine, Thomas, The Age of Reason, Part 1, Section 1 (1794)

[45] Eric McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan, Frank Zingrone, Essential McLuhan, Basic Books, 1995, pg. 5

[46] The Advertiser “Closer Organic Unity: Purpose of the Press”, June 12, 1909

[47] Brittain, Harry, Pilgrims and Pioneers, Hutchinson and Co., pg. 109

[48] Flint, John E. Flint, Cecil Rhodes, Little Brown, 1974, pp.248-52.

[49] Beer, George Louis, “Lord Milner and British Imperialism”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 30, No.2, June 1915, pp. 301-308.

[50] Quigley, op cit. pg.168

[51] Weigold, Auriol, Churchill, Roosevelt and India: Propaganda During World War II, Routledge, 2008, pg.65

[52] Casey, R. G., Personal and Confidential Letter of May 2nd, 1929 to the Australian Prime Minister.

(Footnote: Abe Bailey was an associate of Cecil Rhodes & member of the Circle of Initiates, Rhodes’ neighbor at Table Mountain, the largest landowner in Rhodesia, chief plotter of the Jameson Raid during the 2nd Boer War in 1895 and longtime financier of the Milner Group and Royal Institute of International Affairs)  (Quigley, Carroll, The Anglo-American Establishment, 1981, GSG & Associates, pg. 48.)

[53] MacLean, George, “The Cecil Rhodes Scholarships”, The School Review, Vol. 11, No. 4, (April 1903), pp.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

About the author:

Kevin Cole is the founder of Unity of the Polis Research @  He is a co-producer of “The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto” (2012) and co-writer of the film “State of Mind: The Psychology of Control” (2013)  He is also a member and content provider for the Tragedy and Hope online research community and can be reached at or

Distributed Wisdom Begins with Knowledge and Ends with Sharing.
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page
#logo { margin: 0px; }