extracted from 'The Anglo-American Establishment' 1949 - by Carroll Quigley
from YamaguchyIncorporatedYarmulkaInc Website
What is not so widely known is that Rhodes in five previous wills left his fortune to form a secret society, which was to devote itself to the preservation and expansion of the British Empire. And what does not seem to be known to anyone is that this secret society was created by Rhodes and his principal trustee, Lord Milner, and continues to exist to this day.
To be sure, this secret society is not a childish thing like the Ku Klux Klan, and it does not have any secret robes, secret handclasps, or secret passwords. It does not need any of these, since its members know each other intimately. It probably has no oaths of secrecy nor any formal procedure of initiation. It does, however, exist and holds secret meetings, over which the senior member present presides.
At various times since 1891, these meetings have been presided over by:
They have been held in:
This society has been known at various times as:
All of these terms are unsatisfactory,
for one reason or another, and I have chosen to call it the
Milner Group. Those persons who have used the other terms, or
heard them used, have not generally been aware that all these
various terms referred to the same Group.
This evidence I have sought to point out without overly burdening this volume with footnotes and bibliographical references. While such evidences of scholarship are kept at a minimum, I believe I have given the source of every fact which I mention. Some of these facts came to me from sources which I am not permitted to name, and I have mentioned them only where I can produce documentary evidence available to everyone.
Nevertheless, it would have been very
difficult to write this book if I had not received a certain amount
of assistance of a personal nature from persons close to the Group.
For obvious reasons, I cannot reveal the names of such persons, so I
have not made reference to any information derived from them unless
it was information readily available from other sources.
Since membership may not be a formal matter but based rather on frequent social association, and since the frequency of such association varies from time to time and from person to person, it is not always easy to say who is in the Group and who is not. I have tried to solve this difficulty by dividing the Group into two concentric circles: an inner core of intimate associates, who unquestionably knew that they were members of a group devoted to a common purpose; and an outer circle of a larger number, on whom the inner circle acted by personal persuasion, patronage distribution, and social pressure. It is probable that most members of the outer circle were not conscious that they were being used by a secret society.
More likely they knew it, but, English
fashion, felt it discreet to ask no questions. The ability of
Englishmen of this class and background to leave the obvious
unstated, except perhaps in obituaries, is puzzling and sometimes
irritating to an outsider. In general, I have undoubtedly made
mistakes in my lists of members, but the mistakes, such as they are,
are to be found rather in my attribution of any particular person to
the outer circle instead of the inner core, rather than in my
connecting him to the Group at all. In general, I have attributed no
one to the inner core for whom I do not have evidence, convincing to
me, that he attended the secret meetings of the Group. As a result,
several persons whom I place in the outer circle, such as Lord
Halifax, should probably be placed in the inner core.
Of course I have an attitude, and it would be only fair to state it here. In general, I agree with the goals and aims of the Milner Group. I feel that the British way of life and the British Commonwealth of Nations are among the great achievements of all history. I feel that the destruction of either of them would be a terrible disaster to mankind. I feel that the withdrawal of Ireland, of Burma, of India, or of Palestine from the Commonwealth is regrettable and attributable to the fact that the persons in control of these areas failed to absorb the British way of life while they were parts of the Commonwealth. I suppose, in the long view, my attitude would not be far different from that of the members of the Milner Group.
But, agreeing with the Group on goals, I cannot agree with them on methods. To be sure, I realize that some of their methods were based on nothing but good intentions and high ideals - higher ideals than mine, perhaps. But their lack of perspective in critical moments, their failure to use intelligence and common sense, their tendency to fall back on standardized social reactions and verbal clichés in a crisis, their tendency to place power and influence into hands chosen by friendship rather than merit, their oblivion to the consequences of their actions, their ignorance of the point of view of persons in other countries or of persons in other classes in their own country - these things, it seems to me, have brought many of the things which they and I hold dear close to disaster.
In this Group were persons like Esher,
Grey, Milner, Hankey, and Zimmern, who must command the admiration
and affection of all who know of them. On the other hand, in this
Group were persons whose lives have been a disaster to our way of
life. Unfortunately, in the long run, both in the Group and in the
world, the influence of the latter kind has been stronger than the
influence of the former.
Only by a knowledge of the errors of the
past is it possible to correct the tactics of the future.
Within The Society of the Elect,
the real power was to be exercised by the leader, and a "Junta of
Three." The leader was to be Rhodes, and the junta was to be Stead,
Brett, and Alfred Milner. In accordance with this decision, Milner
was added to the society by Stead shortly after the meeting we have
From 1891 to 1902, it was known to only
a score of persons. During this period, Rhodes was leader, and Stead
was the most influential member. From 1902 to 1925, Milner was
leader, while Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian) and Lionel Curtis were
probably the most important members. From 1925 to 1940, Kerr was
leader, and since his death in 1940 this role has probably been
played by Robert Henry Brand (now Lord Brand).
All of these terms were more or less inadequate, because they focused attention on only part of the society or on only one of its activities. The Milner Kindergarten and the Round Table Group, for example, were two different names for The Association of Helpers and were thus only part of the society, since the real center of the organization, The Society of the Elect, continued to exist and recruited new members from the outer circle as seemed necessary. Since 1920, this Group has been increasingly dominated by the associates of Viscount Astor.
In the 1930s, the misnamed "Cliveden
set" was close to the center of the society, but it would be
entirely unfair to believe that the connotations of superficiality
and conspiracy popularly associated with the expression "Cliveden
set" are a just description of the Milner Group as a whole. In fact,
Viscount Astor was, relatively speaking, a late addition to the
society, and the society should rather be pictured as utilizing the
Astor money to further their own ideals rather than as being used
for any purpose by the master of Cliveden.
This is the more surprising when we learn that one of the chief methods by which this Group works has been through propaganda.
It would be expected that a Group which could number among its achievements such accomplishments as these would be a familiar subject for discussion among students of history and public affairs.
In this case, the expectation is not realized,
partly because of the deliberate policy of secrecy which this Group
has adopted, partly because the Group itself is not closely
integrated but rather appears as a series of overlapping circles or
rings partly concealed by being hidden behind formally organized
groups of no obvious political significance.
Sir Alfred Zimmern, for example,
while always close to the Group, was in its inner circle only for a
brief period in 1910-1922, thereafter slowly drifting away into the
outer orbits of the Group. Lord Halifax, on the other hand,
while close to it from 1903, did not really become a member until
after 1920. Viscount Astor, also close to the Group from its
first beginnings (and much closer than Halifax), moved rapidly to
the center of the Group after 1916, and especially after 1922, and
in later years became increasingly a decisive voice in the Group.
This history can be divided into four periods, of which:
During these four periods, the Group
grew steadily in power and influence, until about 1939. It was badly
split on the policy of appeasement after 16 March 1939, and received
a rude jolt from the General Election of 1945. Until 1939, however,
the expansion in power of the Group was fairly consistent. This
growth was based on the possession by its members of ability, social
connections, and wealth. It is not possible to distinguish the
relationship of these three qualities - a not uncommon situation in
The Toynbee group was a group of political intellectuals formed at Balliol about 1873 and dominated by Arnold Toynbee and Milner himself. It was really the group of Milner's personal friends.
The Cecil Bloc was a nexus of political and social power formed by Lord Salisbury and extending from the great sphere of politics into the fields of education and publicity. In the field of education, its influence was chiefly visible at Eton and Harrow and at All Souls College, Oxford. In the field of publicity, its influence was chiefly visible in The Quarterly Review and The Times.
The "Rhodes secret society" was a group
of imperial federalists, formed in the period after 1889 and using
the economic resources of South Africa to extend and perpetuate the
By 1902, when the leadership of the
Cecil Bloc had fallen from the masterful grasp of Lord
Salisbury into the rather indifferent hands of Arthur Balfour,
and Rhodes had died, leaving Milner as the chief controller of his
vast estate, the Milner Group was already established and had
a most hopeful future. The long period of Liberal government which
began in 1906 cast a temporary cloud over that future, but by 1916
the Milner Group had made its entrance into the citadel of political
power and for the next twenty-three years steadily extended its
influence until, by 1938, it was the most potent political force in
At first their family fortunes may have
been adequate to their ambitions, but in time these were
supplemented by access to the funds in the foundation of All Souls,
the Rhodes Trust and the Beit Trust, the fortune of Sir Abe Bailey,
the Astor fortune, certain powerful British banks (of which the
chief was Lazard Brothers and Company), and, in recent years, the
This group formed at Oxford in the early 1870s and was extended in the early 1880s. At Balliol it included Milner, Arnold Toynbee, Thomas Raleigh, Michael Glazebrook, Philip Lyttelton Gell, and George R. Parkin. Toynbee was Milner's closest friend. After his early death in 1883, Milner was active in establishing Toynbee Hall, a settlement house in London, in his memory. Milner was chairman of the governing board of this establishment from 1911 to his death in 1925.
In 1931 plaques to both Toynbee and
Milner were unveiled there by members of the Milner Group. In 1894
Milner delivered a eulogy of his dead friend at Toynbee Hall, and
published it the next year as Arnold Toynbee: A Reminiscence. He
also wrote the sketch of Toynbee in the Dictionary of National
Biography. The connection is important because it undoubtedly gave
Toynbee's nephew, Arnold J. Toynbee, his entree into government
service in 1915 and into the Royal Institute of International
Affairs after the war.
On his return, he toured around England, giving speeches to the same purpose. This brought him into close contact with the Cecil Bloc, especially George E. Buckle of The Times, G.W. Prothero, J.R. Seeley, Lord Rosebery, Sir Thomas (later Lord) Brassey, and Milner. For Buckle, and in support of the Canadian Pacific Railway, he made a survey of the resources and problems of Canada in 1892.
This was published by Macmillan under the title The Great Dominion the following year. On a subsidy from Brassey and Rosebery he wrote and published his best-known book, Imperial Federation, in 1892. This kind of work as a propagandist for the Cecil Bloc did not provide a very adequate living, so on 24 April 1893 Milner offered to form a group of imperialists who would finance this work of Parkin's on a more stable basis.
Accordingly, Parkin, Milner, and Brassey,
on 1 June 1893, signed a contract by which Parkin was to be paid
£450 a year for three years. During this period he was to
propagandize as he saw fit for imperial solidarity. As a result of
this agreement, Parkin began a steady correspondence with Milner,
which continued for the rest of his life.
The following year, when he was offered
the position of Principal of Upper Canada College, Toronto, he
consulted with Buckle and Moberly Bell, the editors of The Times,
hoping to get a full-time position on The Times. There was none
vacant, so he accepted the academic post in Toronto, combining with
it the position of Canadian correspondent of The Times. This
relationship with The Times continued even after he became
organizing secretary of the Rhodes Trust in 1902. In 1908, for
example, he was The Times's correspondent at the Quebec tercentenary
celebration. Later, in behalf of The Times and with the
permission of Marconi, he sent the first press dispatch ever
transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean by radio.
Gell was made first chairman of Toynbee
Hall by Milner when it was opened in 1884, and held that post for
twelve years. He was still chairman of it when Milner delivered his
eulogy of Toynbee there in 1894. In 1899 Milner made Gell a director
of the British South Africa Company, a position he held for
twenty-six years (three of them as president).
Six of these later received titles from
a grateful government, and all of them enter into any history of
the Milner Group.
As Milner said in 1894,
As to Toynbee's influence on Milner himself, the latter, speaking of his first meeting with Toynbee in 1873, said twenty-one years later, "I feel at once under his spell and have always remained under it." No one who is ignorant of the existence of the Milner Group can possibly see the truth of these quotations, and, as a result, the thousands of persons who have read these statements in the introduction to Toynbee's famous Lectures on the Industrial Revolution have been vaguely puzzled by Milner's insistence on the importance of a man who died at such an early age and so long ago.
Most readers have merely dismissed the
statements as sentimentality inspired by personal attachment,
although it should be clear that Alfred Milner was about the last
person in the world to display sentimentality or even sentiment.
These ideas were accepted by most of the men whose names we have already mentioned and became dominant principles of the Milner Group later. Toynbee can also be regarded as the founder of the method used by the Group later, especially in the Round Table Groups and in the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
As described by Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, in his preface to the 1884 edition of Toynbee's Lectures on the Industrial Revolution, this method was as follows :
In a prefatory note to this same edition, Toynbee's widow wrote:
After Milner published his
Reminiscence of Arnold Toynbee, it was reprinted in subsequent
editions of the Industrial Revolution as a memoir, replacing
A close friend of Milner's, he became a
journalist, was with Milner in South Africa during the Boer War, and
wrote a valuable work on this experience called Lord Milner in South
Africa (1903). Milner reciprocated by writing his sketch in the
Dictionary of National Biography when he died in 1910.
The opportunity to carry out this
purpose came to him through his social work with Barnett, for it was
by this connection that he met George J. (later Lord)
Goschen, Member of Parliament and director of the Bank of
England, who in the space of three years (1880-1883) refused the
posts of Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, and Speaker
of the House of Commons. Goschen became, as we shall see, one of the
instruments by which Milner obtained political influence. For one
year (1884-1885) Milner served as Goschen's private secretary,
leaving the post only because he stood for Parliament himself in
An ardent imperialist, at the same time that he was a violent reformer in domestic matters, he was "one of the strongest champions in England of Cecil Rhodes." He introduced Albert Grey to Rhodes and, as a result, Grey became one of the original directors of the British South Africa Company when it was established by royal charter in 1889. Grey became administrator of Rhodesia when Dr. Jameson was forced to resign from that post in 1896 as an aftermath of his famous raid into the Transvaal. He was Governor-General of Canada in 1904-1911 and unveiled the Rhodes Memorial in South Africa in 1912.
A Liberal member of the House of Commons
from 1880 to 1886, he was defeated as a Unionist in the latter year.
In 1894 he entered the House of Lords as the fourth Earl Grey,
having inherited the title and 17,600 acres from an uncle.
Throughout this period he was close to Milner and later was very
useful in providing practical experience for various members of the
Milner Group. His son, the future fifth Earl Grey, married the
daughter of the second Earl of Selborne, a member of the Milner
With Edward Cook he began a practice which he was to repeat many times in his life later. That is, as Fellow of New College, he became familiar with undergraduates whom he later placed in positions of opportunity and responsibility to test their abilities. Cook was made secretary of the London Society for the Extension of University Teaching (1882) and invited to contribute to the Pall Mall Gazette. He succeeded Milner as assistant editor to Stead in 1885 and succeeded Stead as editor in 1890. He resigned as editor in 1892, when Waldorf Astor bought the Gazette, and founded the new Westminister Gazette, of which he was editor for three years (1893-1896).
Subsequently editor of the Daily News
for five years (1896-1901), he lost this post because of the
proprietors' objections to his unqualified support of Rhodes,
Milner, and the Boer War. During the rest of his life (1901-1919) he
was leader-writer for the Daily Chronicle, edited Ruskin's works in
thirty-eight volumes, wrote the standard biography of Ruskin and a
life of John Delane, the great editor of The Times.
He wrote a series of articles for the Gazette, which were published in book form in 1891 as In Afrikanderland and the Land of Ophir. He returned to South Africa in 1895 as editor of the Cape Times, the most important English-language paper in South Africa. Both as editor (1895-1900) and later as a member of the Cape Parliament (1898-1902), he strongly supported Rhodes and Milner and warmly advocated a union of all South Africa.
His health broke down completely in
1900, but he wrote a character analysis of Rhodes for the
Contemporary Review (June 1902) and a chapter called "Rhodes and
Milner" for The Empire and the Century (1905). Edward Cook
wrote a full biography of Garrett in 1909, while Milner wrote
Garrett's sketch in the Dictionary of National Biography, pointing
out "as his chief title to remembrance" his advocacy "of a United
South Africa absolutely autonomous in its own affairs but remaining
part of the British Empire."
During the First World War, he was a
member of various governmental committees concerned with subjects in
which Milner was especially interested. He was chairman of the Board
of Trade's Committee on Textiles after the war; chairman of the
Royal Commission of Paper; chairman of the Committee on
CottonGrowing in the Empire; and chairman of the Advisory
Council to the Ministry of Reconstruction.
The two men were similar in many ways:
both had been educated in Germany, and both had mathematical minds.
It was Goschen's influence which gave Milner the opportunity to form
the Milner Group, because it was Goschen who introduced him to the
Cecil Bloc. While Milner was Goschen's private secretary, his
parliamentary private secretary was Sir Robert Mowbray, an older
contemporary of Milner's at Balliol and a Fellow of All Souls for
forty-six years (1873-1919).
But Goschen's influence on Milner was greater than this, both in specific matters and in general. Specifically, as Chancellor of Oxford University in succession to Lord Salisbury (1903-1907) and as an intimate friend of the Warden of All Souls, Sir William Anson, Goschen became one of the instruments by which the Milner Group merged with All Souls.
But more important than this, Goschen
introduced Milner, in the period 1886-1905, into that
extraordinary circle which rotated about the Cecil family.