shock of the Jameson Raid reinforced Julius's determination that
the firm should keep out of what he called high politics. In a letter
to Rouliot he made a significant remark, which would not perhaps
have appealed to Cecil Rhodes: "We are all interested to maintain
the [Transvaal] Republic because that keeps the land free to all
nations." As early as February 1896, he was even contemplating withdrawing
from the Rand, or at least reducing liabilities and risks. In the
previous year the Banque Française de l'Afrique du Sud had
been founded in Paris with a capital of £2 million, on the initiative
of Jacques Siegfried and the much esteemed Baron Jacques de Gunzburg,
and it was this bank that Julius felt might take over the responsibilities
of Wernher, Beit in the deep levels. "We want to get out rather
than get in," he told Rouliot. In 1889 investment had been a matter
of tens of thousands; now it was a question of finding millions.
For a start, to meet this crisis, Rand Mines issued £1 m.5 per
cent bonds, of which Porgès and his associates, and
various German banks and Rothschilds took about a third.
soon as Lionel Phillips reappeared in England, he too suffered the
lambastings of Labouchere's Truth. Like Beit, he was accused
of "wantonly" plotting the Raid in order to depress the Stock Exchange
for his own nefarious financial ends. "We have nothing to be afraid
of", Julius told Rouliot on 29 May, "as our case regarding
Stock Exchange transactions is almost absurdly good and pure, so
good that people can hardly believe we did not act differently."
His hope was that Kruger would "yield wisely here and there"; otherwise
the second-rate mines, which were in the majority, had no chance
of survival, due to "unnecessary, taxation".
the Raid had polarized attitudes between the white communities and
had alienated Boers living in Cape Colony as well as members of
the opposition party in the Transvaal, thought once to have been
sympathetic to the Uitlander cause. At Johannesburg a great dynamite
explosion, causing many deaths, had once more stirred up the outcry
against the "muddle" caused by the Republic's system of doling out
monopolies, more especially in dynamite. In Britain the rights and
wrongs of the Raid in the popular mind had been confused by the
ambitions of the German Kaiser. Intellectuals and Radicals like
Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, while not necessarily going all the way with
"Labby" and Truth, were almost sorry that Jameson had not
been hanged by Kruger, thus putting to an end all filibustering
for a good decade; and they were cynical about Chamberlain's pretence
of innocence. Margot Asquith wrote that "with the exception of a
few people in Mayfair" everyone in 1896 combined to repudiate an
enterprise which "covered England with ridicule and the friends
of Mr Rhodes and Mr Chamberlain with confusion". When the Matabeles
rose in Rhodesia and massacred whites, Blunt wished them "all possible
good fortune" and hoped they would capture Rhodes. In the event
they were brutally crushed by Rhodes, who thereby gained some helpful
was looking for means of diversification outside South Africa, and
during the next years he and his partners drew out large capital
sums. Already by 1895 the firm held American securities, mainly
in railways, and bonds issued in Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India,
the Netherlands and Portugal -not to mention interests in Rhodesia
and Mozambique. There was a large investment in trams ways worldwide.
Sometime during 1896 Marconi offered the firm world rights in all
his wireless inventions past, present and future, except in Italy,
for £50,000. This was turned down, no doubt because of the huge
investments that would be required for expansion.
17 July the official report on the Raid was published. As Julius
put it, the principal blame was on Rhodes, "Beit next". "Dr J. is
almost ignored and still he truly upset the applecart altogether
it was a sickening affair." By the end of the month the markets
were "quite merry again".
was still not well, and living quietly. The main work in the firm
devolved therefore on Julius. Lionel Phillips had perforce decided
to stay permanently in England, and in due course became a junior
partner in Wernher, Beit. FitzPatrick, however, remained in Johannesburg.
Even though he was under oath not to take part in politics until
June 1899, he could barely resist them, and was made head of the
Corner House's Intelligence department. Obviously he enjoyed writing
his long gossipy reports for London, and not surprisingly tended
to be more frank with Beit. He was also beginning to write a book
that was to become famous and a bestseller, The Transvaal from
Within. Far from "yielding", Kruger in September issued a provocative
order expelling from the Transvaal, which included Johannesburg,
all aliens who were a danger to public peace. An act was also passed
for controlling immigration. The British in protest sent a naval
unit to Delagoa Bay.
was the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. In January Julius was
summoned by the Prince of Wales to Marlborough House to discuss
arrangements, and no doubt contributions, for the forthcoming celebrations,
and also for the Prince's Hospital Fund. Other personalities present
were the Lord Mayor, the Chief Rabbi, Lord Rothschild and the banker
E. A. Hambro. The Prince was evidently impressed by Julius and invited
him -with Beit- to stay at Sandringham in June. First there were
races to watch. Julius wrote to Birdie :
June 1897 Sandringharn
only a line to tell you that I arrived safely and looked at the
horses. We went straight to the Stand, had an excellent lunch
in a tent. For choice walked here -2 miles- had tea, introduced
to the lady of the house and then went for a long walk over the
most beautiful grounds. Dinner at 8:15. A good many men staying
here but hardly any ladies except attendance. Unfortunately there
was a great deal of rain.
next morning he wrote again before breakfast.
dined all on one long table, the Prince and Princess [Alexandra]
sitting vis à vis in the middle and two gentlemen of the
household taking the heads at the end of the table, and the small
fry took seats anyhow -without name cards-wherever they found
an empty chair - this after the royal party was seated. The Duke
of York and his wife, Prince and Princess Christian of Denmark,
and Princess Victoria constitute the Royalties beside the hosts.
After dinner only cigarettes, and join the ladies about 1/2 hour
after they left; then perhaps half hour drawing room where everybody
was, and remained standing - then billiard room and bowling alley
which are all most comfortable and handy. Dinner excellent and
the Prince splendid jolly host talking to everybody -mixing his
own liquor etc. etc. Servants did not appear any more after we
went to billiard room, and the Duke of Portland pulled his own
cork and offered me a Johannes as I was helping myself to whisky.
I don't know many of the people but one talks to everybody sans
gêne and I suppose I will find out their names bye and bye.
The evening finished by Beit playing in a bowling match - Lord
W. Beresford having backed the other man for a pound. The whole
thing was really a joke as both men previously had played very
badly. It was amusing how the fact of a match roused the Prince
and he chalked for Beit whilst the Prince of D. chalked for the
other man. I am glad B. won!
long Julius and Beit were again guests of the Prince and Princess,
this time at Marlborough House. Presumably Birdie was not at any
of these functions because she had not yet been presented at Court.
However, this was soon put right, her sponsor being Mrs Euan Smith.
House was not yet known for its lavish parties (soon to come, however),
and for the moment Julius and Birdie did little formal entertaining.
Every Christmas Birdie would give one of her "Happy Evenings" for
some 150 poor girls, each child receiving a doll. These dolls were
"dressed by members of the household", in other words by Birdie's
"slave", or secretary-cum-companion, Margaret Pryce, whom she had
inherited from her mother. The invaluable Pryce was a key figure
in the Wernher household for years to come.
Phillips, fiery and volatile as ever, obviously felt demoted after
leaving Johannesburg. It was rather a case of Mirror, Mirror between
her and Birdie, and she was desperate to be presented at Court.
She had to wait until 1898, and although flatteringly sponsored
by the Duchess of Abercorn (the Duke being President of the Chartered
Company in place of Rhodes), she was only presented to Princess
Christian instead of the aged Queen Victoria.
of the Randlords, past and present, such as Max Michaelis, Jim Taylor
and Abe Bailey were branching out into country estates of many hundreds
of acres. Siggy Neumann outdid them all by acquiring Invercauld
near Balmoral, to which he would sometimes be invited. The Phillipses,
with a London house in Grosvenor Square, bought Tylney Hall, a vast
mock Tudor mansion near Basingstoke, complete with ballroom, oak
panelling and an Italian garden, standing in 2,500 acres. As for
the Wernhers, they were content for the time being to rent country
houses for the summer. One year they took Kimpton Hoo, in Hertfordshire;
another year it was Swallowfield near Reading.
was still the "apple" of Julius's eye, almost to the exclusion
of the other two children. Aged seven, he had a passion for steam
engines. "He is so full of spirits," Julius wrote to Birdie,
who was on a cure at Marienbad. "He is a wonderful boy, and it is
"Wonne" [bliss] to see his sweet eager face." His godfather Alfred
Beit "doted" on him, and both Julius and Beit visualized Derrick
as their successor in the firm.
Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry had opened in February and lasted
some months. Astonishingly, Chamberlain -who had been opposed to
any inquiry whatsoever- sat on it when many thought he should have
been the one on trial. Labouchere and Sir William Harcourt, two
of the prime antagonists of Rhodes and Beit, also sat on the Committee
-Rhodes being now to Labouchere the "figurehead of a gang of Hebrew
financiers" with whom he had shared the profits after manipulating
the Stock Exchange. A great number of half-truths, untruths, and
even whole truths were uttered on oath, and sometimes Rhodes refused
to reply at all. The result was that Rhodes was censured but let
off without punishment, and Chamberlain was absolved. Blunt's scathing
comment on Chamberlain's attitude towards Rhodes holds good to this
day: "Manage the matter in your own way, but remember I know nothing
about it." Really, it was a case of mutual blackmail. If one of
the pair held back, the other would do likewise. Rhodes even remained
a Privy Councillor.
was obviously nervous when sent for. His answers were patently evasive
at times, but some did at least illuminate certain interesting topics.
Asked what he felt as a German citizen about Rhodes's imperialistic
schemes, his reply was: "My views are that the interests of Germany
in South Africa are identical with those of England." Both countries,
he maintained, were trying to bring about a better state of affairs
in the Transvaal, and were anxious to get rid of an "incapable and
corrupt Government". (This was a subject on which he and Julius
were often questioned.) Why, as a German, should he oppose German
intrigues in the Transvaal? Beit's answer was that German political
aspirations in Southern Africa were "mere moonshine". The best service
he could do for his native land was, mixing his metaphors, to "choke
off rainbow-chasing" so that German commerce might flourish under
the British flag.
political aspirations were of course certainly not "moonshine".
After all, £200,000 had been taken up by the German banks in the
Corner House's latest issue.
told the Committee that he had always advised the Uitlanders to
proceed constitutionally, but in the end saw that it was hopeless
with such an administration in power. He had come to realize that
arising was inevitable. After he had given the money to Phillips
he did not discuss how it was to be spent, nor did he know to what
use it had been put until some while after the Raid. The money was
to "assist the people of Johannesburg to get their rights and to
save the industry from ruin".
then, did the money come from? "It came out of the firm." Out of
his business? "Yes." He said that he did not "intimate" to any of
his co-directors the facilities given to Johannesburg. Nor did he
even discuss the matter with them.
one concludes that the money had been in the form of an open credit
out of Corner House funds. Nothing was said about how the rifles
were paid for in England.
was asked if he was prompted at all by financial considerations.
"No, certainly not." He had had no communication with the Colonial
Office. He did, however, have discussions with Rutherfoord Harris
and Rochfort Maguire, colleagues of Rhodes, and had various conversations
about Johannesburg with Flora Shaw.
Rhodes had seen Phillips at Groote Schuur, it was agreed that the
expenses should be divided equally, £200,000 each. (It was later
thought that the Raid had cost Beit £400,000.) Beit spoke about
the franchise question and taxation, which if reduced could have
helped employment, both black and white. He had wanted the native
laws to be in more able hands. "The natives are very badly treated
by the Landdrost [magistrature], and our object was that these laws
should be carried out in a more humane way in order to attract more
native labour to the fields."
came the expected clash with Labouchere -who had already been forced
to withdraw his "not even honour among thieves" speech in the Commons,
but had continued with his "vile attacks" in Truth and even
in the Paris paper Le Gaulois, referring to "dangerous and
discredited sharks". As the atmosphere heated up, the Committee's
Chairman complained: "I think this is getting very irregular," and
the room had to be cleared. [The ritual of clearing the room
was lampooned in the House of Commons: "This is, I think we may
assume,/ An incomplete affair;/For whilst they often "clear the
room"/They never clear the air."] Beit demanded that Labouchere
should substantiate his accusations or withdraw them. He declared
on oath that it was utterly false that he had made "bear sales"
before the Raid, and offered to give the Committee access to his
Labouchere attempted to trap Phillips, who admitted that since arriving
in Johannesburg he had made a large fortune for himself, and that
the firm was now worth many millions. So, said Labouchere, referring
to the allegations about discriminating taxation, "you complain
that although millions were made, more millions might have been
made." "Certainly", replied Phillips with dignity. "I was not suffering
pecuniarily myself. I did not join the revolution on a money thing".
"That is a matter of opinion", retorted Labouchere.
and the rest of the "gang" were also let off, and Beit was invited
to Sandringham. The "few people in Mayfair" also bombarded him with
invitations, and he went to the Duchess of Devonshire's magnificent
Jubilee Ball dressed as a seventeenth- century Stadtholder of Nassau.
At that period he was far more socially in demand than the Wernhers.
The joke at Westminster was that the Inquiry was a "Lying-in- State".
Labouchere had not come out well, and was attacked in papers such
as the Critic (backed financially by Wernher, Beit). Undaunted,
he produced his own Alternative Report on the findings of the Committee,
claiming that Rhodes and Beit deserved severe punishment. "These
two men, the one a British statesman, the other a financier of German
nationality, disgraced the good name of England, which it ought
to be the object of all Englishmen to maintain pure and undefiled."
it happened, the firm had made money during the boom of 1895, not
perhaps quite in the way that Labby had thought, and it was Julius
as the partner mainly responsible for the firm's investment policy
who had been responsible. Julius told Rouliot that during the boom
he had got rid of "rubbish", or doubtful ventures. On 5 December
1895 he had written to Phillips: "There is no pleasure in helping
to push share values artificially, and I am afraid we have not been
quite guiltless in that respect on our side; it is tempting but
not worthy of a great firm."
who himself was not averse to using Truth for influencing
share prices, was still on the attack three years later, during
the Boer War, which many came to see as the inevitable consequence
of the Jameson Raid. By then he had gained plenty of sympathizers.
But at least it is now clear that the role of the Randlords in 1895
was not "monolithic". The mine-owners and capitalists were not united
then -Barnato and Robinson, for instance, were not among the plotters,
and small mine-owners kept their distance. Moreover, as the historian
R. v. Kubrick has since pointed out, the firm of Wernher, Beit-Hermann
Eckstein was by far the soundest in Johannesburg, and thus the least
vulnerable to the effects of heavy taxation. They also had the most
to lose. In sum, the verdict on Julius Wernher's original involvement
in the Raid, and any conscious preparation for it, must surely be
"Not Proven" -though with a qualification, which is according to
such evidence as is still available. Beit had regarded Rhodes as
a supreme authority in politics, invariably right. His motives for
supporting Rhodes before the Raid were complex, in part idealism,
in part -absurd as it may seem -mere loyalty, and they probably
will always remain a mystery. Indeed they could even have been due
less to hard-headed political or personal financial reasons than
to his sense of personal responsibility towards foreign investors.
Still, one cannot but be surprised that Julius had not been dragged
into the Inquiry.
health continued to suffer. As FitzPatrick wrote in retrospect,
the subsequent campaign against this "nervous, essentially modest
man" gave him the reputation of a kind of ogre, the arch-capitalist
millionaire who would sacrifice everything to making more and more
money. When FitzPatrick said that Beit was "generous in spirit",
with gifts of "forbearance, forgiveness and all that we arrogantly
term the great Christian spirit of kindliness and consideration
for others", it was not just white wash. Such things were repeated
many times after Beit's death, and not only in the business world.
And, as will be seen, it was Beit, not Labouchere, who won posthumous
Eckstein told Lord Rothschild that a chief cause of the mining financiers'
unpopularity was the "unspeakable vulgarity" of the Barnato family.
There was a joke, possibly even true, that when a great society
hostess in London invited Barnato to come upstairs and look at her
Watteau he assumed that she was referring to part of her anatomy.
His finances in fact became extremely precarious. He was frequently
depressed and took to drink. On 23 July 1897 he committed suicide,
throwing himself overboard on a liner not far from Madeira. He remains
and was considered at the time one of the most colourful and vivid
characters of all the Randlords.