SACKVILLE, N.B. (CUP) — The Rhodes Trust recently announced that yet another Mount Allison University student has been awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. These scholarships were created in 1902 from the estate of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. According to the Rhodes Trust website, Rhodes’ vision in founding the scholarship was to develop outstanding leaders who would be motivated to fight “the world’s fight,” to “esteem the performance of public duties as their highest aim” and to promote international understanding and peace.
These aims are well and fine, but Rhodes’ idea of international understanding and peace was contingent on the rule of the British Empire, which Rhodes envisioned ruling the African continent “from Cape to Cairo.” The Rhodes Trust uses words to distract applicants from reading deeper into what the scholarship is about; however, I have to wonder about those who accept the financial support of a man who made his money in the worst of ways.
Rhodes made his millions in the diamond mines of southern Africa founding De Beers, a diamond company that has been a target of numerous legal accusations of anti-trust. Rhodes was also prominently involved in the Jameson Raid, an event that led to the outbreak of the Second Boer War. This war pitted Great Britain against the Netherlands for imperial control over southern Africa and resulted in collateral deaths of tens of thousands of native Africans.
Ninety-four Oxford University fellows deplored the decision to allow Rhodes on campus to accept an honorary degree. The opposition stemmed primarily from Rhodes’ involvement in the Jameson Raid and his circumvention of law in southern Africa. After the raid, Rhodes’ brother was tried and convicted of murder. His execution was commuted to a 15-year sentence before Rhodes spent £30 million (approximately £2.7 billion in 2012) in order to have him released.
Rhodes was obsessed with personal gain and expanding the wealth of De Beers. Even at the outset of the Second Boer War, Rhodes attempted to persuade military officials to protect his mining interests, rather than Britain’s military interests. Accounts of Rhodes during the time of war expose his fleeting concern for the lives of others and shed light on his perception of others who were not as “civilized” as the British.
Are the achievements of Rhodes scholars overshadowed by the atrocities Rhodes committed during his lifetime? Are the students receiving scholarships concerned that the $100,000 they receive from the Rhodes Trust comes from the imperial exploitation and war-mongering Rhodes took part in?
I know I would be concerned. If I claimed to care about corporate social responsibility, I would not be able to bring myself to accept the money. Being nothing more that a “C” student, however, I don’t have to create an excuse to deal with the ethical dilemma of being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. What excuse does the current class of Rhodes scholars have?