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Leander Starr Jameson

Dr (later Sir) Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917) was born in Edinburgh, and after training as a medical doctor at University College in London he migrated to South Africa in 1878 to join a medical practice in Kimberley, the centre of the burgeoning diamond mining industry. There he became friends with Cecil Rhodes and also quickly became a close associate of his. Although he remained on the Cape Colony’s medical register until 1911, Jameson was increasingly drawn into politics and in fact hardly practiced as a doctor. He is said to have fallen under the “power of Rhodes's personality almost immediately on meeting” him, and went on to be the key figure who attempted to realise Rhodes’s political ambitions (Lowry 2004).

Jameson led Rhodes’ chartered company’s expedition into Matabeleland and Mashonaland, as they were then known, in 1890; and by 1891 he had been appointed chief magistrate and administrator of Mashonaland. In this capacity Jameson showed no regard whatsoever for African property rights or lives, permitting white settlers to use unrestrained use of violence towards Africans and for this to go unpunished. He had little regard for ‘interference’ from the Colonial Office. In 1893, Jameson fabricated a pretext for the invasion and conquest of Matabeleland, and he was subsequently appointed chief administrator of that region too. Jameson’s allegiance was single-mindedly to Rhodes and to company profit, and modern-day biographers describe “his chaotic regime” as “characterized by ignorance, neglect, irresponsibility, and unscrupulousness.” (Lowry 2004).

Ever with an eye to Rhodes, profit and expansion, from 1894 Jameson became increasingly drawn into a plot to stage a take-over of the gold-rich Transvaal by encouraging a revolt by the Uitlanders (foreigners living and working in the Transvaal). In December 1895 Jameson and a small group of men entered the Transvaal, where they hoped they would be backed by an uprising of the Uitlanders. Instead they were humiliatingly quickly forced to surrender to Boer forces at Doornkop on 2 January 1896. Jameson was tried at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, although he was released by the end of that year. A select committee at the Cape found Rhodes primarily responsible for orchestrating the Raid and he was forced to resign as Prime Minister.

Jameson later returned to Cape politics, becoming member of the Cape assembly for Kimberley in 1900. In 1902 he became director of De Beers and of the British South Africa Company. He also nursed Rhodes through the period that led to his death from heart disease in 1902. He became leader of the Progressive Party, and was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony between 1904 and 1908. Jameson went on to play an important role in paving the way for the Union of South Africa in 1910 by advocating the ending of hostilities between English- and Afrikaans-speaking elements. However, after Union Jameson was not appointed to Botha’s cabinet. He died in London in 1917 and was buried near Rhodes’s grave in the Matapos Hills in what is now Zimbabwe. Schreiner commented on his role regarding Union in a 1909 letter to F.S. Malan: “In the picture of Jameson walking with his arm round the neck of his fellow ‘Conventioner’ of Africander blood, I see an omen of evil. It is not love that is uniting you all - it is greed.”, with other comments often more critical even than this. 

For further information see:
Jane Carruthers, Greg Cuthbertson, Stephen Grey et al (eds) (1996) The Jameson Raid: A Centennial Retrospective South Africa: Brenthurst Press
Ian Colvin (1922) The Life of Jameson (2 vols) London: Edward Arnold & Co
George Seymour Fort (1918) Dr Jameson London: Hurst & Blackett
Donal Lowry (2004) ‘Jameson, Sir Leander Starr, baronet (1853-1917)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/34155  
Paul Maylam (2005) The Cult of Rhodes: Remembering an Imperialist in Africa Cape Town: David Philip
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