Academic historians dislike the concept that history is often made by groups of individuals plotting together in confidence, even though one obvious way to get big things done is to make plans with your friends and allies while keeping your rivals in the dark as long as possible.
One exception is the late Georgetown history professor Carroll Quigley, who in 1949 completed a book rather grandly entitled The Anglo-American Establishment.
Decades later Bill Clinton was an undergrad student of Quigley (he got a B from him). In Clinton’s 1992 acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, he cited Quigley as an inspiration. The Anglo-American Est... Best Price: $10.59 Buy New $15.15 (as of 07:15 EST - Details)
In reality, Quigley’s book, which wasn’t published until much later, was only very tangentially related to American institutions such as the Council of Foreign Relations. It actually focused on one group of British establishmentarians, the progressive imperialists who set up the British equivalent of the CFR, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (a.k.a., Chatham House), edited The Times of London for most of the first four decades of the 20th Century, and largely controlled the peculiarly influential All Souls College at Oxford.
Quigley calls them the Milner Group after Alfred Milner (1854-1925), an eminence grise who more or less started the Boer War of 1899-1902, then mentored “Milner’s Kindergarten” of bright young men in running South Africa, and finally popped up again in Lloyd George’s five-man war cabinet in 1917. But Milner mostly served behind the scenes.
Children of the Sun: A... Best Price: $5.94 Buy New $33.99 (as of 05:30 EST - Details) Quigley traces the Milner Group back to the far more colorful Cecil Rhodes’ desire to start a “Secret Society” to promote Angl0-American unity and global domination. In the first five wills written by the mining tycoon of southern Africa, Rhodes (1853-1902) called for his estate to fund a secret society to reunify America with Britain and promote Anglo settlement of the world. For example, Rhodes wrote in his first will that he was leaving his fortune:
To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Tragedy & Hope: A Hist... Best Price: $22.00 Buy New $23.49 (as of 07:15 EST - Details) Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.
Rhodes hoped his Secret Society would act as the Jesuits of the British Empire:
I look into history and I read the story of the Jesuits I see what they were able to do in a bad cause and I might say under bad leaders.
At the present day I become a member of the Masonic order I see the wealth and power they possess the influence they hold and I think over their ceremonies and I wonder that a large body of men can devote themselves to what at times appear the most ridiculous and absurd rites without an object and without an end.
The idea gleaming and dancing before ones eyes like a will-of-the-wisp at last frames itself into a plan. Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. …
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED: ... Best Price: $12.16 Buy New $25.09 (as of 05:35 EST - Details) To forward such a scheme what a splendid help a secret society would be a society not openly acknowledged but who would work in secret for such an object.
I contend that there are at the present moment numbers of the ablest men in the world who would devote their whole lives to it. … There are men now living with I know no other term the [Greek term] of Aristotle but there are not ways for enabling them to serve their Country. They live and die unused unemployed. What has the main cause of the success of the Romish Church? The fact that every enthusiast, call it if you like every madman finds employment in it. Let us form the same kind of society a Church for the extension of the British Empire. A society which should have members in every part of the British Empire working with one object and one idea we should have its members placed at our universities and our schools and should watch the English youth passing through their hands just one perhaps in every thousand would have the mind and feelings for such an object, he should be tried in every way, he should be tested whether he is endurant, possessed of eloquence, disregardful of the petty details of life, and if found to be such, then elected and bound by oath to serve for the rest of his life in his County. He should then be supported if without means by the Society and sent to that part of the Empire where it was felt he was needed. … Cecil Rhodes, Man and ... Best Price: $30.46 Buy New $9.03 (as of 10:35 EST - Details)
Take one more case of the younger son with high thoughts, high aspirations, endowed by nature with all the faculties to make a great man, and with the sole wish in life to serve his Country but he lacks two things the means and the opportunity, ever troubled by a sort of inward deity urging him on to high and noble deeds, he is compelled to pass his time in some occupation which furnishes him with mere existence, he lives unhappily and dies miserably. Such men as these the Society should search out and use for the furtherance of their object.
(In every Colonial legislature the Society should attempt to have its members prepared at all times to vote or speak and advocate the closer union of England and the colonies, to crush all disloyalty and every movement for the severance of our Empire. The Society should inspire and even own portions of the press for the press rules the mind of the people. The Society should always be searching for members who might by their position in the world by their energies or character forward the object but the ballot and test for admittance should be severe)
Diamonds, Gold, and Wa... Best Price: $1.49 Buy New $12.00 (as of 09:55 EST - Details) Once make it common and it fails. Take a man of great wealth who is bereft of his children perhaps having his mind soured by some bitter disappointment who shuts himself up separate from his neighbours and makes up his mind to a miserable existence. To such men as these the society should go gradually disclose the greatness of their scheme and entreat him to throw in his life and property with them for this object. I think that there are thousands now existing who would eagerly grasp at the opportunity. Such are the heads of my scheme.
For fear that death might cut me off before the time for attempting its development I leave all my worldly goods in trust to S. G. Shippard and the Secretary for the Colonies at the time of my death to try to form such a Society with such an object.
In his sixth and seventh wills, Rhodes switched from calling for a Secret Society to the Rhodes Scholarships to promote Anglosphere unity. (Probably the most famous living Rhodes Scholar is Quigley’s old student Bill Clinton.) Wills are legal documents, so it’s hard to keep your Secret Society secret if you put it in your will.
In the early versions of Rhodes’ Secret Society in the 1890s, the finances were to be controlled by Lord Rothschild while the propaganda was to be handled by the titanic newspaper editor William T. Stea d (1849-1912, last seen bobbing alongside John Jacob Astor IV amidst the wreckage of the Titanic). But Stead opposed the Boer War of 1899 and was replaced in Rhodes affections by Milner.