Leander Starr Jameson

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File:Leander starr jameson.JPG
An 1895 cartoon of Jameson from Vanity Fair

Sir Leander Starr Jameson, Bt, KCMG (February 9, 1853November 26, 1917), also known as "Doctor Jim", was a British colonial statesman who was best known for his involvement in the Jameson Raid.

Early Life and Family

He was born on 9th February, 1853, very early in the morning, of the Jameson family of Edinburgh, the son of R. W. Jameson, a writer to the signet, and Christian Pringle, daughter of Major General Pringle of Symington. Robert William and Christian Jameson had twelve children, of whom Leander Starr was the youngest, born at Stranraer on the West Coast of Scotland, great-nephew of Professor Robert Jameson, Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh.

Leander Starr's somewhat unusual name resulted from the fact that his father Robert William Jameson had been rescued from drowning on the morning of his birth by an American traveller, who fished him out of a canal or river with steep banks into which William had fallen while on a walk awaiting the birth of his son. The kindly stranger named "Leander Starr" was promptly made a godfather of the baby, who was named after him. His father, Robert William, started his career as an advocate in Edinburgh, and was Writer to the Signet, before becoming a playwright, published poet and editor of the Wigtownshire Free Press.

A radical and reformist, Robert William was the author of Timoleon, a tragedy in five acts, which was performed at the Adelphi Theatre in Edinburgh in 1852, and ran to a second edition. In due course, the Jameson family moved to London, living in Chelsea and Kensington. Leander went to the Godolphin School in Hammersmith, where he did well in both lessons and games prior to his university education.

Leander Starr was educated for the medical profession at University College Hospital, London, for which he passed his entrance examinations in January, 1870. He distinguished himself as a medical student, becoming a Gold Medallist in Materia Medica. After qualifying as a doctor, Leander Starr was made Resident Medical Officer at University College Hospital (M.R.C.S. 1875; M.D. 1877).

After acting as house physician, house surgeon and demonstrator of anatomy, and showing promise of a successful professional career in London, his health broke down from overwork in 1878, and he went out to South Africa and settled down in practice at Kimberley. There he rapidly acquired a great reputation as a medical man, and, besides numbering President Kruger and the Matabele chief Lobengula among his patients, came much into contact with Cecil Rhodes.

Jameson was for some time the induna of the Matabele king's favourite regiment, the Imbeza. Lobengula expressed his delight with Jameson's successful medical treatment of his gout by honouring him with the rare status of induna. Although Jameson was a white man, he was underwent the initiation ceremonies linked with this honour.

Jameson's status as an induna gave him advantages, and in 1888 he successfully exerted his influence with Lobengula to induce that chieftain to grant the concessions to the agents of Rhodes which led to the formation of the British South Africa Company; and when the company proceeded to open up Mashonaland, Jameson abandoned his medical practice and joined the pioneer expedition of 1890. From this time his fortunes were bound up with Rhodes' schemes in the north. Immediately after the pioneer column had occupied Mashonaland, Jameson, with F. C. Selous and A. R. Colquhoun, went east to Manicaland and was instrumental in securing the greater part of that country, to which Portugal was laying claim, for the Chartered Company. In 1891 Jameson succeeded Colquhoun as administrator of Rhodesia.

The Jameson Raid

In November 1895, a piece of territory of strategic importance, the Pitsani Strip, part of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and bordering the Transvaal, was ceded to the British South Africa Company by the Colonial Office, overtly for the protection of a railway running through the territory. Cecil Rhodes, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and managing director of the Company was eager to bring South Africa under British dominion, and encouraged the disenfranchised Uitlanders of the Boer republics to resist Afrikaner domination.

Rhodes hoped that the intervention of the Company's private army could spark an Uitlander uprising, leading to the overthrow of the Transvaal government. Rhodes' forces were assembled in the Pitsani Strip for this purpose. Joseph Chamberlain informed Salisbury on Boxing Day that an uprising was expected, and was aware that an invasion would be launched, but was not sure when. The subsequent Jameson Raid was a debacle, leading to the invading force's surrender. Chamberlain, at Highbury, received a secret telegram from the Colonial Office on 31 December informing him of the beginning of the Raid.

In 1895, Dr Jameson assembled a private army outside the Transvaal in preparation for the violent overthrow of the Boer government. The idea was to foment unrest among foreign workers (Uitlanders) in the territory, and use the outbreak of open revolt as an excuse to invade and annex the territory. Growing impatient, Jameson launched the Jameson Raid in October of 1895, and managed to push within twenty miles of Johannesburg before superior Boer forces compelled him and his men to surrender.

Sympathetic to the ultimate goals of the Raid, Chamberlain was uncomfortable with the timing of the invasion and remarked that "if this succeeds it will ruin me. I'm going up to London to crush it". He swiftly travelled by train to the Colonial Office, ordering Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor-General of the Cape Colony, to repudiate the actions of Jameson and warned Rhodes that the Company's Charter would be in danger if it was discovered that the Cape Prime Minister was involved in the Raid. The prisoners were returned to London for trial, and the Transvaal government received considerable compensation from the Company. Dr Jameson was tried in England for leading the raid; during that time he was lionized by the press and London society.

During the trial of Jameson, Rhodes' solicitor, Bourchier Hawksley, refused to produce cablegrams that had passed between Rhodes and his agents in London during November and December 1895. According to Hawksley, these demonstrated that the Colonial Office 'influenced the actions of those in South Africa' who embarked on the Raid, and even that Chamberlain had transferred control of the Pitsani Strip to facilitate an invasion. Nine days before the Raid, Chamberlain had asked his Assistant Under-Secretary to encourage Rhodes to 'Hurry Up' because of the deteriorating Venezuelan situation.

Jameson was sentenced to fifteen months in jail, but was soon pardoned. In June 1896, Chamberlain offered his resignation to Salisbury, having shown the Prime Minister one or more of the cablegrams implicating him in the Raid's planning. Salisbury refused to accept the offer, possibly reluctant to lose the government's most popular figure. Salisbury reacted aggressively in support of Chamberlain, supporting the Colonial Secretary's threat to withdraw the Company's charter if the cablegrams were revealed. Accordingly, Rhodes refused to reveal the cablegrams, and as no evidence was produced showing that Chamberlain was complicit in the Raid's planning, the Select Committee appointed to investigate the events surrounding the Raid had no choice but to absolve Chamberlain of all responsibility.

Later Political Career

Despite the Raid, Jameson had a successful political life following the invasion, receiving many honours in later life. In 1903 Jameson came forward as the leader of the Progressive (British) party in the Cape Colony. When the party was successful he became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1904 to 1908. He served as the leader of the Unionist Party from its founding in 1910 until 1912. Jameson was created a baronet in 1911 and returned to England in 1912.

According to Rudyard Kipling, his famous poem "If—" was written in celebration of Leander Starr Jameson's personal qualities at overcoming the difficulties of the Raid, for which he largely took the blame, though Joseph Chamberlain, British colonial secretary of the day, was, according to some historians, implicated in the events of the raid. Jameson is buried at Malindidzimu Hill [1]l or World's View [2], a granite hill in southwestern Zimbabwe 25 miles (40 km) south of Bulawayo. It was designated by Cecil Rhodes as the resting place for those who served Great Britain well in Africa. Rhodes is also buried there.

Biographies, Portaits and Honours

Leander Starr's life is the subject of a number of biographies, including The Life of Jameson by Ian Colvin (1922), and Dr. Jameson by G.Seymour Fort, (1918). The Jameson Raid has been the subject of numerous articles and books, and remains a fascinating historical riddle more than one hundred years after the events of the Raid took place.

Possibly the most notable of the numerous historical volumes on the Jameson Raid is the book (in two editions) by Elizabeth Longford, 1906–2002, British author. Born Elizabeth Harman, she married (1931) Frank Pakenham, later (1961) Earl of Longford. She was educated at Oxford, lectured for the Workers' Education Association (1929–35), and was an unsuccessful Labour candidate for Parliament (1935 and 1950). A long-time writer for the Daily Express and the Sunday Times, Longford was an excellent biographer and historian. Her first serious historical work, and amongst her most celebrated, was Jameson's Raid published in 1960.

There are three portraits of Leander Starr Jameson in the National Portrait Gallery in London. One of these was by one of Leander's older brothers, Middleton Jameson, RA, (1851–1919), otherwise known as 'Midge', to whom he was devoted. Leander was awarded the KCMG, the Freedom of the City of London, Freedom of the City of Manchester, and Freedom of the City of Edinburgh for services to the British Empire.

Later Historical Documents

To this day, the events surrounding Leander's involvement in the Jameson Raid, being in general some what out of character with his prior history, the rest of his life and successful later political career, remain something of an enigma to historians. In 2002, The Van Riebeck Society published Sir Graham Bower’s Secret History of the Jameson Raid and the South African Crisis, 1895-1902 (Edited by Deryck Schreuder and Jeffrey Butler, Van Riebeeck Society, Cape Town, Second Series No.33), adding to growing historical evidence that the imprisonment and judgement upon the Raiders at the time of their trial was unjust, in view of what has appeared, in later historical analysis, to have been the calculated political manoeuvres by Joseph Chamberlain and his staff to hide his own involvement and knowledge of the Raid.

In his review of Sir Graham Bower’s Secret History ..., Alan Cousins (2004) notes that, 'A number of major themes and concerns emerge' from Bower's history, '... perhaps the most poignant being Bower’s accounts of his being made a scapegoat in the aftermath of the raid: "since a scapegoat was wanted I was willing to serve my country in that capacity".'

Cousins notes of Bower that 'a very clear sense of his rigid code of honour is plain, and a conviction that not only unity, peace and happiness in South Africa, but also the peace of Europe would be endangered if he told the truth. He believed that, as he had given Rhodes his word not to divulge certain private conversations, he had to abide by that, while at the same time he was convinced that it would be very damaging to Britain if he said anything to the parliamentary committee to show the close involvement of Sir Hercules Robinson and Joseph Chamberlain in their disreputable encouragement of those plotting an uprising in Johannesburg.'

Finally, Cousins observes that, '...in his reflections, Bower has a particularly damning judgement on Chamberlain, whom he accuses of ‘brazen lying’ to parliament, and of what amounted to forgery in the documents made public for the inquiry. In the report of the committee, Bower was found culpable of complicity, while no blame was attached to Chamberlain or Robinson. His name was never cleared during his lifetime, and Bower was never reinstated to what he believed should be his proper position in the colonial service: he was, in effect, demoted to the post of colonial secretary in Mauritius. The bitterness and sense of betrayal he felt come through very clearly in his comments.'

Speculation on the true nature of the behind-the-scenes story of the Jameson Raid has therefore continued for more than a hundred years after the events, and carries on to this day.

External links

National Portrait Gallery webpage to portraits of Jameson - [3]

Jameson's links with Rudyard Kipling, the Poem 'If' and Baden-Powell: see 'The Mafeking Connection Part I, mid-way down this webpage - [4]

Jameson's work as one of the first Rhodes Trustees: see - [5]

Source of book review of Sir Graham Bower’s Secret History: Cousins, A. (2004) Book Review of Deryck Schreuder and Jeffrey Butler, 'Sir Graham Bower's Secret History of the Jameson Raid and the South African Crisis, 1895–1902'. History, Volume 89, Number 295, July 2004, pp. 434-448(15) Publisher: Blackwell Publishing.

Links to on-line encyclopaedia with Jameson article - [6]

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition{{#if:| article {{#if:|[}} "{{{article}}}"{{#if:|]}}{{#if:| by {{{author}}}}}}}, a publication now in the public domain.

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