Expansion on le Sueur

As my paragraph on the le Sueur quotation has received a fair bit of attention, I decided to clarify my use of it here.

This is that paragraph:

The final quotation – “one should kill as many niggers as possible” – is the most abhorrent. But this wording actually does not come from the Maylam biography; it was introduced in Adebajo’s review, and no other source has been located or provided by the author. Maylam presents the quote as “You should kill as many as you can”, and cites Gordon Le Sueur’s book “Cecil Rhodes: The Man and his Work”, published in 1913.  On page 159, Le Sueur references a conversation recounted to him by ‘an unnamed officer’. This unidentified man reported hearing Rhodes say, following a deadly and bloody battle against rebels, “Well you should not spare them. You should kill all you can, as it serves as a lesson to them when they talk things over at their fires at night. They count up the killed, and say So-and-so is dead and So-and-so is no longer here, and they begin to fear you.”

There has been no contention of the trace from Adebajo, to Maylam, to le Sueur. Unless anyone has found evidence otherwise, we shall assume that descent is correct.

On page 159 of le Sueur’s work, the entire passage reads:

(1897) About nine o’clock one of the boys came and called me out, and whispered to me to come with him. Rhodes and Sir Lewis had then turned in. I got my revolver and accompanied the boy to the foot of the kopje. We crawled up a little way, and he said, “Listen.” I did, and heard natives talking excitedly and then shouting and clapping their hands. We returned quietly to the coach and the mules were given an extra feed. I did not go to bed that night, but about 1 a.m. roused the boys and Sir Lewis, and we turned back to Charter, nor was I sorry to leave the kopje behind. We should assuredly have been attacked at dawn. On our return to Charter we saw the officer in charge of police, and he said that a patrol was going out that very day to attack the kraal on the kopje under which we had spent the night. He spoke of a fight they had had a short time before, and on Rhodes asking how many were killed he replied, ‘* Very few, as the natives threw down their arms, went on their knees, and begged for mercy.” “Well,” said Rhodes, “you should not spare them. You should kill all you can, as it serves as a lesson to them when they talk things over at their fires at night. They count up the killed, and say So-and-so is dead and So-and-so is no longer here, and they begin to fear you.”

Now, there are two interpretations possible of this passage. The first is that which I summarised above- that le Sueur was quoting a conversation that Rhodes had with a separate officer, recounted to le Sueur by the officer several days later.The second is that le Sueur himself overheard the conversation, which happened after a group of rebels initiated an attack several days after a prior attack. In this interpretation, it seems logical that Rhodes was asking the officer why the rebels survived losing the first battle (and lived to attack again); the officer replies that they surrendered and were spared.

It is important to reiterate that I do not consider either interpretation to be a defence of Rhodes. The primary purpose of recounting this passage is to show that the earliest recorded version of this quote is inexcusably different from the genocidal statement used by Adebajo. There is much to be discussed on Rhodes’ response to rebellion and surrender. However, the quotation by Adebajo cannot be used to call Rhodes an ‘international criminal’, when its ultimate basis illustrates a military tactic still used by countless nations today.

 

 

with particular thanks to a certain professor whose interpretative guidance was most helpful

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One thought on “Expansion on le Sueur

  1. Thanks for clearing up the misinformation. I was not even aware the quotes were being used as evidence of rhodes’s brutality. Surely his actions speak for themselves

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