1798: Proofs of Conspiracy, &c. CHAP. III – The German Union.


The German Union.

When such a fermentation had been excited in the public mind, it cannot be supposed that the formal suppression of the Order of the Illuminati in Bavaria, and in the Duchy of Wirtemberg, by the reigning princes, would bring all to rest again. By no means. The minds of men were predisposed for a change by the restless spirit of speculation in every kind of enquiry, and the leaven had been carefully and skilfully disseminated in every quarter of the empire, and even in foreign countries. Weishaupt said, on good grounds, that „if the Order should be discovered and suppressed, he would restore it with tenfold energy in a twelvemonth.“ Even in those states where it was formally abolished, nothing could hinder the enlisting new members, and carrying on all the purposes of the Order. The Areopagitæ might indeed be changed, and the seat of the direction transferred to some other place, but the Minerval and his Mentor could meet as formerly, and a ride of a few miles into another State, would bring him to a Lodge, where the young would be amused, and the more advanced would be engaged in serious mischief. Weishaupt never liked children’s play. He indulged Philo in it, because he saw him taken with such rattles: but his own projects were dark and solemn, and it was a relief to him now to be freed from that mummery. He soon found the bent of the person’s mind on whom he had set his talons, and, he says, that „no man ever escaped him whom he thought it worth while to secure.“ He had already filled the lists with enough[198] of the young and gay, and when the present condition of the Order required sly and experienced heads, he no longer courted them by play-things. He communicated the ranks and the instructions by a letter, without any ceremony. The correspondence with Philo at the time of the breach with him, shews the superiority of Spartacus. Philo is in a rage, provoked to find a pitiful professor discontented with the immense services which he had received from a gentleman of his rank, and treating him with authority, and with disingenuity.—He tells Spartacus what still greater services he can do the Order, and that he can also ruin it with a breath.—But in the midst of this rage, he proposes a thousand modes of reconcilement. The smallest concession would make him hug Spartacus in his arms. But Spartacus is deaf to all his threats, and firm as a rock. Though he is conscious of his own vile conduct, he abates not in the smallest point, his absolute authority—requires the most implicit submission, which he says „is due not to him, but to the Order, and without which the Order must immediately go to ruin.“—He does not even deign to challenge Philo to do his worst, but allows him to go out of the Order without one angry word. This shows his confidence in the energy of that spirit of restless discontent, and that hankering after reform which he had so successfully spread abroad.


This had indeed arisen to an unparalleled height, unexpected even by the seditious themselves. This appeared in a remarkable manner by the reception given to the infamous letters on the constitution of the Prussian States.


The general opinion was, that Mirabeau was the author of the letters themselves, and it was perfectly understood by every person, that the translation into French was a joint contrivance of Mirabeau and Nicholai.[199] I was assured of this by the British Minister at that Court. There are some blunders in respect of names, which an inhabitant of the country could hardly be guilty of, but are very consistent with the self-conceit and precipitancy of this Frenchman.—There are several instances of the same kind in two pieces, which are known for certain to be his, viz. the Chronique scandaleuse and the Histoire secrette de la Cour de Berlin. These letters were in every hand, and were mentioned in every conversation, even in the Prussian dominions—and in other places of the empire they were quoted, and praised, and commented on, although some of their contents were nothing short of rebellion.


Mirabeau had a large portion of that self-conceit which distinguishes his countrymen. He thought himself qualified not only for any high office in administration, but even for managing the whole affairs of the new King. He therefore endeavoured to obtain some post of honour. But he was disappointed, and, in revenge, did every thing in his power to make those in administration the objects of public ridicule and reproach. His licentious and profligate manners were such as excluded him from the society of the people of the first classes, whom it behoved to pay some attention to personal dignity. His opinions were in the highest degree corrupted, and he openly professed Atheism. This made him peculiarly obnoxious to the King, who was determined to correct the disturbances and disquiets which had arisen in the Prussian states from the indifference of his predecessor in those matters. Mirabeau therefore attached himself to a junto of writers and scribblers, who had united in order to disseminate licentious principles, both in respect of religion and of government. His wit and fancy were great, and he had not perhaps his equal for eloquent[200] and biting satire. He was therefore caressed by those writers as a most valuable acquisition to their Society. He took all this deference as his just due; and was so confident in his powers, and so foolish, as to advise, and even to admonish, the King. Highly obnoxious by such conduct, he was excluded from any chance of preferment, and was exceedingly out of humour. In this state of mind he was in a fit frame for Illumination. Spartacus had been eyeing him for some time, and at last communicated this honour to him through the intermedium of Mauvillon, another Frenchman, Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of the Duke of Brunswick. This person had been most active during the formal existence of the Order, and had contributed much to its reception in the Protestant states—he remained long concealed. Indeed his Illumination was not known till the invasion of Holland by the French. Mauvillon then stepped forth, avowed his principles, and recommended the example of the French to the Germans. This encouragement brought even Philo again on the stage, notwithstanding his resentment against Spartacus, and his solemn declaration of having abjured all such societies.—These, and a thousand such facts, show that the seeds of licentious Cosmopolitism had taken deep root, and that cutting down the crop had by no means destroyed the baneful plant.—But this is not all—a new method of cultivation had been invented, and immediately adopted, and it was now growing over all Europe in another form.


I have already taken notice of the general perversion of the public mind which co-operated with the schisms of Free Masonry in procuring a listening ear to Spartacus and his associates. It will not be doubted but that the machinations of the Illuminati increased this, even among those who did not enter[201] into the Order. It was easier to diminish the respect for civil establishments in Germany than in almost any other country. The frivolity of the ranks and court-offices in the different confederated petty states made it impossible to combine dignity with the habits of a scanty income.—It was still easier to expose to ridicule and reproach those numberless abuses which the folly and the vices of men had introduced into religion. The influence on the public mind which naturally attaches to the venerable office of a moral instructor, was prodigiously diminished by the continual disputes of the Catholics and Protestants, which were carried on with great heat in every little principality. The freedom of enquiry, which was supported by the state in Protestant Germany, was terribly abused, (for what will the folly of man not abuse?) and degenerated into a wanton licentiousness of thought, and a rage for speculation and scepticism on every subject whatever. The struggle, which was originally between the Catholics and the Protestants, had changed, during the gradual progress of luxury and immorality, into a contest between reason and superstition. And in this contest the denomination of superstition had been gradually extended to every doctrine which professed to be of divine revelation, and reason was declared to be, for certain, the only way in which the Deity can inform the human mind.


Some respectable Catholics had published works filled with liberal sentiments. These were represented as villainous machinations to inveigle Protestants. On the other hand, some Protestant divines had proposed to imitate this liberality by making concessions which might enable a good Catholic to live more at ease among the Protestants, and might even accelerate an union of faiths. This was hooted beyond measure, as Jesuitical, and big with danger.[202] While the sceptical junto, headed by the editors of the Deutsche Bibliothek and the Berlin Monatschrift, were recommending every performance that was hostile to the established faith of the country, Leuchtsenring was equally busy, finding Jesuits in every corner, and went about with all the inquietude of a madman, picking up anecdotes. Zimmerman, the respectable physician of Frederick King of Prussia, gives a diverting account of a visit which he had from Leuchtsenring at Hanover, all trembling with fears of Jesuits, and wishing to persuade him that his life was in danger from them. Nicholai was now on the hunt, and during this crusade Philo laid hands on him, being introduced to his acquaintance by Leuchtsenring, who was, by this time, cured of his zeal for Protestantism, and had become a disciple of Illuminatism. Philo had gained his good opinion by the violent attack which he had published on the Jesuits and Rosycrucians by the orders of Spartacus.—He had not far to go in gaining over Nicholai, who was at this time making a tour through the Lodges. The sparks of Illumination which he perceived in many of them pleased him exceedingly, and he very cheerfully received the precious secret from Philo.


This acquisition to the Order was made in January 1782. Spartacus was delighted with it, considered Nicholai as a most excellent champion, and gave him the name of Lucian, the great scoffer at all religion, as aptly expressing his character.


Nicholai, on his return to Berlin, published many volumes of his discoveries. One would imagine that not a Jesuit had escaped him. He mentions many strange schismatics, both in religion and in Masonry—But he never once mentions an Illuminatus.—When they were first checked, and before the discovery of the secret correspondence, he defended them, and strongly reprobated the proceedings of the[203] Elector of Bavaria, calling it vile persecution.—Nay, after the discovery of the letters found in Zwack’s house, he persisted in his defence, vindicated the possession of the abominable receipts, and highly extolled the character of Weishaupt.—But when the discovery of papers in the house of Batz informed the public that he himself had long been an Illuminatus, he was sadly put to it to reconcile his defence with any pretensions to religion[11].——Weishaupt saved him from disgrace, as he thought, by his publication of the system of Illuminatism—Nicholai then boldly said that he knew no more of the Order than was contained in that book, that is, only the two first degrees.


But before this, Nicholai had made to himself a most formidable enemy. The history of this contest is curious in itself, and gives us a very instructive picture of the machinations of that conjuration des philosophes, or gang of scribblers who were leagued against the peace of the world. The reader will therefore find it to our purpose. On the authority of a lady in Courland, a Countess von der Recke, Nicholai had accused Dr. Stark of Darmstadt (who made such a figure in Free Masonry) of Jesuitism, and of having even submitted to the tonsure. Stark was a most restless spirit—had gone through every mystery in Germany, Illuminatism excepted, and had ferreted out many of Nicholai’s hidden transactions.[204] He was also an unwearied book-maker, and dealt out these discoveries by degrees, keeping the eye of the public continually upon Nicholai. He had suspected his Illumination for some time past, and when the secret came out, by Spartacus‘ letter, where he boasts of his acquisition, calling Nicholai a most sturdy combatant, and saying that he was contentissimus, Stark left no stone unturned till he discovered that Nicholai had been initiated in all the horrid and most profligate mysteries of Illuminatism, and that Spartacus had at the very first entrusted him with his most darling secrets, and advised with him on many occasions[12].


This complete blasting of his moral character could not be patiently borne, and Nicholai was in his turn the bitter enemy of Stark, and, in the paroxysms[205] of his anger, published every idle tale, although he was often obliged to contradict them in the next Review. In the course of this attack and defence, Dr. Stark discovered the revival of the Illuminati, or at least a society which carried on the same great work in a somewhat different way.


Dr. Stark had written a defence against one of Nicholai’s accusations, and wished to have it printed at Leipzig. He therefore sent the manuscript to a friend, who resided there. This friend immediately proposed it to a most improper person, Mr. Pott, who had written an anonymous commentary on the King of Prussia’s edict for the uniformity of religious worship in his dominions. This is one of the most shameless attacks on the established faith of the nation, and the authority and conduct of the Prince, that can be imagined. Stark’s friend was ignorant of this, and spoke to Pott, as the partner of the great publisher Walther. They, without hesitation, undertook the publishing; but when six weeks had passed over, Stark’s friend found that it was not begun. Some exceptionable passages, which treated with disrespect the religion of Reason, were given as the cause of delay; and he was told that the author had been written to about them, but had not yet returned an answer. This was afterwards found to be false. Then a passage in the preface was objected to, as treating roughly a lady in Courland, which Walther could not print, because he had connections with that court. The author must be entreated to change his expressions. After another delay, paper was wanting. The MS. was withdrawn. Walther now said that he would print it immediately, and again got it into his hands, promising to send the sheets as they came from the press. These not appearing for a long time, the agent made enquiry, and found that it was sent to Michaelis at Halle, to[206] be printed there. The agent immediately went thither, and found that it was printing with great alterations, another title, and a guide or key, in which the work was perverted and turned into ridicule by a Dr. Bahrdt, who resided in that neighborhood. An action of recovery and damages was immediately commenced at Leipzig, and after much contest, an interdict was put on Michaelis’s edition, and a proper edition was ordered immediately from Walther, with securitty that it should appear before Bahrdt’s key. Yet when it was produced at the next fair, the booksellers had been already supplied with the spurious edition; and as this was accompanied by the key, it was much more saleable ware, and completely supplanted the other.


This is surely a strong instance of the machinations by which the Illuminati have attempted to destroy the Liberty of the Press, and the power they have to discourage or suppress any thing that is not agreeable to the taste of the literary junto. It was in the course of this transaction that Dr. Stark’s agent found people talking in the coffee-houses of Leipzig and Halle of the advantages of public libraries, and of libraries by subscription, in every town, where persons could, at a small expence, see what was passing in the learned world. As he could not but acquiesce in these points, they who held this language began to talk of a general Association, which should act in concert over all Germany, and make a full communication of its numerous literary productions by forming societies for reading and instruction, which should be regularly supplied with every publication. Flying sheets and pamphlets were afterwards put into his hands, stating the great use of such an Association, and the effect which it would speedily produce by enlightening the nation. By and by he[207] learned that such an Association did really exist, and that it was called the German union, for rooting out Superstition And Prejudices, and advancing true Christianity. On enquiry, however, he found that this was to be a Secret Society, because it had to combat prejudices which were supported by the great of this world, and because its aim was to promote that general information which priests and despots dreaded above all things. This Association was accessible only through the reading societies, and oaths of secrecy and fidelity were required. In short, it appeared to be the old song of the Illuminati.


This discovery was immediately announced to the public, in an anonymous publication in defence of Dr. Stark. It is supposed to be his own performance. It discloses a scene of complicated villiany and folly, in which the Lady in Courland makes a very strange figure. She appears to be a wild fanatic, deeply engaged in magic and ghost-raising, and leagued with Nicholai, Gedicke, and Biester, against Dr. Stark. He is very completely cleared of the facts alledged against him; and his three male opponents appear void of all principle and enemies of all religion. Stark however would, in Britain, be a very singular character, considered as a clergyman. The frivolous secrets of Masonry have either engrossed his whole mind, or he has laboured in them as a lucrative trade, by which he took advantage of the folly of others. The contest between Stark and the Triumvirate at Berlin engaged the public attention much more than we should imagine that a thing of so private a nature would do. But the characters were very notorious; and it turned the attention of the public to those clandestine attacks which were made[208] in every quarter on the civil and religious establishments. It was obvious to every person, that these reading societies had all on a sudden become very numerous; and the characters of those who patronised them only increased the suspicions which were now raised.


The first work that speaks expressly of the German Union, is a very sensible performance „On the Right of Princes to direct the Religion of their Subjects.“ The next is a curious work, a sort of narrative Dialogue on the Characters of Nicholai, Gedicke, and Biester. It is chiefly occupied with the contest with Dr. Stark, but in the 5th part, it treats particularly of the German Union.


About the same time appeared some farther account, in a book called Archives of Fanaticism and Illuminatism. But all these accounts are very vague and unsatisfactory. The fullest account is to be had in a work published at Leipzig by Goschen the bookseller. It is entitled, „More Notes than Text, or the German Union of XXII, a new Secret Society for the Good of Mankind,“ Leipzig 1789. The publisher says that it was sent him by an unknown hand, and that he published it with all speed, on account of the many mischiefs which this Society, (of which he had before heard several reports,) might do to the world, and to the trade, if allowed to go on working in secret. From this work, therefore, we may form a notion of this redoubtable Society, and judge how far it is practicable to prevent such secret machinations against the peace and happiness of mankind.


There is another work, „Further information concerning the German Union (Nahere Beleuchtung der Deutsche Union,) also showing how, for a moderate price, one may become a Scotch[209] Free Mason.“ Frankford and Leipzig, 1789. The author says that he had all the papers in his hands; whereas the author of More Notes than Text acknowledges the want of some. But very little additional light is thrown on the subject by this work, and the first is still the most instructive, and will chiefly be followed in the account which is now to be laid before the reader.


The book More Notes than Text contains plans and letters, which the Twenty-two United Brethren have allowed to be given out, and of which the greatest part were printed, but were entrusted only to assured members.


No. I. is the first plan, printed on a single quarto page, and is addressed, To all the Friends of Reason, of Truth, and of Virtue. It is pretty well written, and states among other things, that „because a great number of persons are labouring, with united effort, to bring Reason under the yoke, and to prevent all instruction, it is therefore necessary that there be a combination which shall work in opposition to them so that mankind may not sink anew into irrecoverable barbarism, when Reason and Virtue shall have been completely subdued, overpowered by the restraints which are put on our opinions.“——“For this noble purpose a company of twenty-two persons, public instructors, and men in private stations, have united themselves, according to a plan which they have had under consideration for more than a year and a half, and which, in their opinion, contains a method that is fair and irresistible by any human power, for promoting the enlightening and forming of mankind, and that will gradually remove all the obstacles which superstition supported by force has hitherto put in the way.“ [210]


This address is intended for an enlisting advertisement, and, after a few insignificant remarks on the Association, a rix-dahler is required along with the subscription of acquiescence in the plan, as a compensation for the expences attending this mode of intimation and consent.


Whoever pays the rix-dahler, and declares his wish to join the Association, receives in a few days, No. II. which is a form of the Oath of secrecy, also printed on a single 4to page. Having subscribed this, and given a full designation of himself, he returns it agreeably to a certain address; and soon after, he gets No. III. printed on a 4to sheet. This number contains what is called the Second Plan, to which all the subsequent plans and circular letters refer. A copy therefore of this will give us a pretty full and just notion of the Order, and its mode of declaration. It is intitled,


The Plan of the Twenty-Two,

and begins with this declaration: „We have united, in order to accomplish the aim of the exalted Founder of Christianity, viz. the enlightening of mankind, and the dethronement of superstition and fanaticism, by means of a secret fraternization of all who love the work of God.


„Our first exertion, which has already been very extensive, consists in this, that, by means of confidential persons, we allow ourselves to be announced every where as a Society united for the above-mentioned purpose; and we invite and admit into brotherhood with ourselves every person who has a sense of the importance of this matter, and wishes to apply to us and see our plans. [211]


„We labour first of all to draw into our Association all good and learned writers. This we imagine will be the easier obtained, as they must derive an evident advantage from it. Next to such men, we seek to gain the masters and secretaries of the Post-offices, in order to facilitate our correspondence.


„Besides these, we receive persons of every condition and station, excepting princes and their ministers. Their favourites, however, may be admitted, and may be useful by their influence in behalf of Truth and Virtue.


„When any person writes to us, we send him an oath, by which he must abjure all treachery or discovery of the Association, till circumstances shall make it proper for us to come forward and show ourselves to the world. When he subscribes the oath, he receives the plan, and if he finds this to be what satisfies his mind as a thing good and honourable, he becomes our friend only in so far as he endeavours to gain over his friends and acquaintances. Thus we learn who are really our zealous friends, and our numbers increase in a double proportion.


„This procedure is to continue till Providence shall so far bless our endeavours, that we acquire an active Brother and coadjutor in every place of note, where there is any literary profession; and for this purpose we have a secretary and proper office in the center of the Association, where every thing is expedited, and all reports received. When this happy epoch arrives, we begin our second operation.“ That is to say,


„We intimate to all the Brotherhood in every quarter, on a certain day, that the German[212] Union has now acquired a consistence, and we now divide the fraternised part of the nation into ten or twelve Provinces or Dioceses, each directed by its Diocesan at his office; and these are so arranged in due subordination, that all business comes into the Union-house as into the center of the whole.


„Agreeably to this manner of proceeding there are two classes of the Brotherhood, the Ordinary and the Managing Brethren. The latter alone know the aim of the association, and all the means for attaining it; and they alone constitute the Union, the name, and the connection of which is not intended to be at all conspicuous in the world.


„To this end the business takes a new external form. The Brethren, to wit, speak not of the Union in the places where they reside, nor of a Society, nor of enlightening the people; but they assemble, and act together in every quarter, merely as a Literary Society, bring into it all the lovers of reading and of useful knowledge; and such in fact are the Ordinary Brethren, who only know that an Association exists in their place of residence for the encouragement of literary men, but by no means that it has any connection with any other similar Society, and that they all constitute one whole. But these Societies will naturally point out to the intelligent Brethren such persons as are proper to be selected for carrying forward the great work. For persons of a serious turn of mind are not mere loungers in such company, but show in their conversation the interest they take in real instruction. And the cast of their reading, which must not be checked in the beginning in the[213] smallest degree, although it may be gradually directed to proper subjects of information, will point out in the most unequivocal manner their peculiar ways of thinking on the important subjects connected with our great object. Here, therefore, the active Brethren will observe in secret, and will select those whom they think valuable acquisitions to the sacred Union. They will invite such persons to unite with themselves in their endeavours to enlighten the rest of mankind, by calling their attention to profitable subjects of reading, and to proper books. Reading Societies, therefore, are to be formed in every quarter, and to be furnished with proper books. In this provision attention must be paid to two things. The taste of the public must be complied with, that the Society may have any effect at all in bringing men together who are born for somewhat more than just to look about them. But the general taste may, and must also be carefully and skilfully directed to subjects that will enlarge the comprehension, will fortify the heart, and, by habituating the mind to novelty, and to successful discovery, both in physics and in morals, will hinder the timid from being startled at doctrines and maxims which are singular, or perhaps opposite to those which are current in ordinary society. Commonly a man speaks as if he thought he was uttering his own sentiments, while he is only echoing the general sound. Our minds are dressed in a prevailing fashion as much as our bodies, and with stuff as little congenial to sentiment, as a piece of woollen cloth is to the human skin. So careless and indolent are men, even in what they call serious conversation. Till reflection becomes[214] a habit, what is really a thought startles, however simple, and, if really uncommon, it astonishes and confounds. Nothing, therefore, can so powerfully tend to the improvement of the human character, as well-managed Reading Societies.


„When these have been established in different places, we must endeavour to accomplish the following intermediate plans: 1. To introduce a general literary Gazette or Review, which, by uniting all the learned Brethren, and combining with judgment and address all their talents, and steadily proceeding according to a distinct and precise plan, may in time supplant every other Gazette, a thing which its intrinsic merit and comprehensive plan will easily accomplish. 2. To select a secretary for our Society, who shall have it in charge to commission the books which they shall select in conformity to the great aim of the Association, and who shall undertake to commission all other books for the curious in his neighbourhood. If there be a bookseller in the place, who can be gained over and sworn into the Society, it will be proper to choose him for this office, since, as will be made more plain afterwards, the trade will gradually come into the plan, and fall into the hands of the Union.


„And now, every eye can perceive the progressive moral influence which the Union will acquire on the nation. Let us only conceive what superstition will lose, and what instruction must gain by this; when, 1. In every Reading Society the books are selected by our Fraternity. 2. When we have confidential persons in every quarter, who will make it[215] their serious concern to spread such performances as promote the enlightening of mankind, and to introduce them even into every cottage. 3. When we have the loud voice of the public on our side, and since we are able, either to banish into the shade all the fanatical writings which appear in the reviews that are commonly read, or to warn the public against them; and, on the other hand, to bring into notice and recommend those performances alone which give light to the human mind. 4. When we by degrees bring the whole trade of bookselling into our hands, (as the good writers will send all their performances into the market through our means) we shall bring it about, that at last the writers who labour in the cause of superstition and restraint, will have neither a publisher nor readers. 5. When, lastly, by the spreading of our Fraternity, all good hearts and sensible men will adhere to us, and by our means will be put in a condition that enables them to work in silence upon all courts, families, and individuals in every quarter, and acquire an influence in the appointment of court-officers, stewards, secretaries, parish-priests, public teachers, and private tutors.


„Remark, That we shall speedily get the trade into our hands, (which was formerly the aim of the Association called the Gelehrtenbuchhandlung) is conceivable by this, that every writer who unites with us immediately acquires a triple number of readers, and finds friends in every place who promote the sale of his performance; so that his gain is increased manifold, and consequently all will quit the booksellers, and accede to us by degrees. Had the[216] above named Association been constructed in this manner, it would, long ere now, have been the only shop in Germany.“


The book called Fuller Information, &c. gives a more particular account of the advantages held forth to the literary manufacturers of Germany by this Union for God’s work. The Class of literary Brothers, or writers by trade, was divided into Mesopolites, Aldermen, Men, and Cadets.


The Mesopolites, or Metropolitans, are to be attached to the archive-office, and to be taken care of in the Union-house, when in straits through age or misfortune. They will be occupied in the department of the sciences or arts, which this Association profess principally to cherish. They are also Brethren of the third degree of Scotch Free Masonry, a qualification to be explained afterwards. The Union-house is a building which the ostensible Founder of the Union professed to have acquired, or speedily to acquire at ——, through the favour and protection of a German Prince, who is not named.


Aldermen are persons who hold public offices, and are engaged to exercise their genius and talents in the sciences. These also are Brothers of the third rank of Scotch Free Masonry, and out of their number are the Diocesans and the Directors of the Reading Societies selected.


The members who are designed simply Men, are Brothers of the second rank of Masonry, and have also a definite scientific occupation assigned them.


The Cadets are writers who have not yet merited any particular honours, but have exhibited sufficient dispositions and talents for different kinds of literary manufacture. [217]


Every member is bound to bring the productions of his genius to market through the Union. An Alderman receives for an original work 80 per cent. of the returns, and 70 for a translation. The member of the next class receives 60, and the Cadet 50. As to the expence of printing, the Alderman pays nothing, even though the work should lie on hand unsold; but the Man and the Cadet must pay one-half. Three months after publication at the fairs an account is brought in, and after this, yearly, when and in what manner the author shall desire.


In every Diocese will be established at least one Reading Society, of which near 800 are proposed. To each of these will a copy of an Alderman’s work be sent. The same favour will be shown to a dissertation by a Man, or by a Cadet, provided that the manuscript is documented by an Alderman, or formally approved by him upon serious perusal. This imprimatur, which must be considered as a powerful recommendation of the work, is to be published in the General Review or Gazette. This is to be a vehicle of political as well as of literary news; and it is hoped that, by its intrinsic worth, and the recommendation of the members, it will soon supplant all others. (With respect to affairs of the Union, a sort of cypher was to be employed in it. Each Diocesan was there designed by a letter, of a size that marked his rank, and each member by a number. It was to appear weekly, at the very small price of five-and-twenty shillings.)—But let us return to the plan.


When every thing has been established in the manner set forth above, the Union will assume the following republican form, (the reader always recollecting that this is not to appear to[218] the world, and to be known only to the managing Brethren.


Here, however, there is a great blank. The above-named sketch of this Constitution did not come to the hands of the person who furnished the bookseller with the rest of the information. But we have other documents which give sufficient information for our purpose. In the mean time, let us just take the papers as they stand.


No. IV. Contains a list of the German Union, which the sender received in manuscript. Here we find many names which we should not have expected, and miss many that were much more likely to have been partners in this patriotic scheme. There are several hundred names, but very few designations; so that it is difficult to point out the individuals to the public. Some however are designed, and the writer observes that names are found, which, when applied to some individuals whom he knows, accord surprisingly with the anecdotes that are to be seen in the private correspondence of the Illuminati, and in the romance called Materials for the History of Socratism (Illuminatism)[13]. It is but a disagreeable remark, that the list of the Union contains[219] the names of many public teachers, both from the pulpit, and from the accademic chair in all its degrees; and among these are several whose cyphers show that they have been active hands. Some of these have in their writings given evident proofs of their misconception of the simple truths, whether dogmatical or historical, of revealed religion, or of their inclination to twist and manufacture them so as to chime in with the religion and morality of the Sages of France. But it is more distressing to meet with unequivocal names of some who profess in their writings to consider these subjects as an honest man should consider them, that is, according to the plain and common sense of the words; whereas we have demonstrative proofs that the German Union had the diametrically opposite purpose in view. The only female in the list is the Grafin von der Recke, the Lady who gave Dr. Stark of Darmstadt so much trouble about his Tonsure. This Lady, as we have already seen, could not occupy herself with the frivolity of dress, flirtation, or domestic cares. „Femina fonte patet, vir pectore.“ She was not pleased however at finding her name in such a Plebeian list, and gave oath, along with Biester at the centre, that she was not of the Association. I see that the public was not satisfied with this denial. The Lady has published some more scandal against Stark since that time, and takes no notice of it; and there have appeared many accounts of very serious literary connections between these two persons and the man who was afterwards discovered to be the chief agent of the Union.


No. V. is an important document. It is a letter addressed to the sworn members of the Union, reminding the beloved fellow-workers that „the bygone[220] management of the business has been expensive, and that the XXII. do not mean to make any particular charge for their own compensation. But that it was necessary that all and each of the members should know precisely the object of the Association, and the way which mature consideration had pointed out as the most effectual method of attaining this object. Then, and not till then, could the worthy members act by one plan, and consequently with united force. To accomplish this purpose, one of their number had composed a Treatise on Instruction, and the means of promoting it.[14]“ This work has been revised by the whole number, and may be considered as the result of their deepest reflection. They say, that it would be a signal misfortune should this Association, this undertaking, so important for the happiness of mankind, be cramped in the very beginning of its brilliant progress. They therefore propose to print this work, this Holy Scripture of their faith and practice, by subscription. (They here give a short account of the work.) And they request the members to encourage the work by subscribing, and by exerting more than their usual activity in procuring subscriptions, and in recommending the performance in the newspapers. Four persons are named as Diocesans, who are to receive the money, which they beg may be speedily advanced in order to purchase paper, that the work may be ready for the first fair (Easter 1788.)


No. VI. is a printed paper (as is No. V.) without date, farther recommending the Essay on Instruction. No. VII. is in manuscript, without date. It is addressed[221] to „a worthy man,“ intimating that the like are sent to others, to whom will also speedily be forwarded an improved plan, with a request to cancel or destroy the former contained in No. III. It is added, that the Union now contains, among many others, more than two hundred of the most respectable persons in Germany, of every rank and condition, and that in the course of the year, (1788,) a general list will be sent, with a request that the receiver will point out such as he does not think worthy of perfect confidence. It concludes with another recommendation of the book on Instruction, on the returns from which first work of the German Union the support of the secretary’s office is to depend.


Accordingly No. VIII. contains this plan, but it is not entitled The Improved Plan. Such a denomination would have called in doubt the infallibility of the XXII. It is therefore called the Progressive (vorlaufig) plan, a title which leaves room for every subsequent change. It differs from the former only in some unimportant circumstances. Some expressions, which had given offence or raised suspicions, are softened or cancelled. Two copies of this, which we may call A and B, are given, differing also in some circumstances.


„The great aim of the German Union is the good of mankind, which is to be attained only by means of mental illumination (Auffklarung) and the dethroning of fanaticism and moral despotism.“ Neither paper has the expression which immediately followed in the former plan, „that this had been the aim of the exalted founder of Christianity.“ The paper A refers, on the present subject, to a dissertation printed in 1787, without a name, On the freedom of the Press and its Limitation. This is one of the most licentious pieces that has been published[222] on the subject, not only enforcing the most unqualified liberty of publishing every thing a man pleases, but exemplifying it in the most scandalous manner; libelling characters of every sort, and persons of every condition, and this frequently in the most abusive language, and expressions so coarse, as shewed the author to be either habituated to the coarsest company, or determined to try boldly once for all, what the public eye can bear. The piece goes on: „The Union considers it as a chief part of its secret plan of operation, to include the trade of bookselling in their circle. By getting hold of this, they have it in their power to increase the number of writings which promote instruction, and to lessen that of those which mar it, since the authors of the latter will by degrees lose both their publishers and their readers. That the present booksellers may do them no harm, they will by degrees draw in the greater part of them to unite with them.“—The literary newspaper is here strongly insisted on, and, in addition to what was said in the former plan, it is said, „that they will include political news, as of mighty influence on the public mind, and as a subject that merits the closest attention of the moral instructor. For what illumination is that mind susceptible of, that is so blinded by the prejudice created and nursed by the habits of civil subordination, that it worships stupidity or wickedness under a coronet, and neglects talents and virtue under the bearskin cap of the boor? We must therefore represent political transactions, and public occurrences, not as they affect that artificial and fantastical creature of imagination that we see every where around us wheeled about in a chariot, but as it affects a MAN, rational, active, free born man. By thus stripping the transaction of all foreign circumstances, we[223] see it as it affects, or ought to affect, ourselves. Be assured that this new form of political intelligence will be highly interesting, and that the Gazette of the Union will soon supersede all others, and, of itself, will defray all our necessary expences.“


This is followed by some allusions to a secret correspondence that is quick, unsusceptible of all discovery or treachery, and attended with no expence, by which the business of the secret plan (different from either of those communicated to the sworn Brethren at large) is carried on, and which puts the members in a condition to learn every thing that goes on in the world, for or against their cause, and also teaches them to know mankind, to gain an influence over all, and enables them effectually to promote their best subjects into all offices, &c. and finally, from which every member, whether statesman, merchant, or writer, can draw his own advantages. Some passages here and in another place make me imagine that the Union hoped to get the command of the post-offices, by having their Brethren in the direction.


It is then said, that „it is supposed that the levy will be sufficiently numerous in the spring of the ensuing year. When this takes place, a general synod will be held, in which the plan of secret operations will be finally adjusted, and accommodated to local circumstances, so as to be digested into a law that will need no farther alteration. A proper person will set off from this synod, with full powers to visit every quarter where there are sworn Brethren, and he will there establish a Lodge after the ancient simple ritual, and will communicate verbally the plan of secret operation, and certain instructions. These Lodges will then establish a managing fund or box. Each[224] Lodge will also establish a Reading Society, under the management of a bookseller residing in the place, or of some person acquainted with the mechanical conduct of things of this nature. There must also be a collector and agent, (Expediteur,) so that in a moment the Union will have its offices or comptoirs in every quarter, through which it carries on the trade of bookselling, and guides the ebb and flow of its correspondence. And thus the whole machine will be set in motion, and its activity is all directed from the centre.“


I remark, that here we have not that exclusion of Princes and ministers that was in the former plan; they are not even mentioned. The exclusion in express terms could not but surprise people, and appear somewhat suspicious.


No. IX. is a printed circular letter to the sworn Brethren, and is subscribed „by their truly associated Brother Barthels, Oberamtsman (first bailiff) for the King of Prussia, at Halle on the Saal.“


In this letter the Brethren are informed that „the XXII. were wont to meet sometimes at Halle, and sometimes at Berlin. But unavoidable circumstances oblige them not only to remain concealed for sometime, but even to give up their relation to the Union, and withdraw themselves from any share in its proceedings. These circumstances are but temporary, and will be completely explained in due time. They trust, however, that this necessary step on their part will not abate the zeal and activity of men of noble minds, engaged in the cause by the conviction of their own hearts. They have therefore communicated to their worthy Brother Barthels all necessary informations, and have unanimously conferred on him the direction of the secretary’s office, and have provided him with every document and[225] mean of carrying on the correspondence. He has devoted himself to the honourable office, giving up all other employments. They observe that by this change in the manner of proceeding, the Association is freed from an objection made with justice to all other secret societies, namely, that the members subject themselves to blind and unqualified submission to unknown superiors.“—“The Society is now in the hands of its own avowed members. Every thing will soon be arranged according to a constitution purely republican; a Diocesan will be chosen, and will direct in every province, and report to the centre every second month, and instructions and other informations will issue in like manner from the centre.


„If this plan shall be approved of by the Associated, H. Barthels will transmit to all the Dioceses general lists of the Union, and the Plan of Secret Operation, the result of deep meditation of the XXII. and admirably calculated for carrying on with irresistable effect their noble and patriotic plan. To stop all cabal, and put an end to all slander and suspicion, H. Barthels thinks it proper that the Union shall step forward, and declare itself to the world, and openly name some of its most respectable members. The public must however be informed only with respect to the exterior of the Society, for which purpose he had written a sheet to be annexed as an appendix to the work, On Instruction, declaring that to be the work of the Society, and a sufficient indication of its most honourable aim. He desires such members as choose to share the honour with him, to send him their names and proper designations, that they may appear in that Appendix. And, lastly, he requests them to instruct him, and co-operate with him, according[226] to the concerted rules of the Union, in promoting the cause of God and the happiness of mankind.“


The appendix now alluded to makes No. X. of the packet sent to the Bookseller Goschen of Leipzig, and is dated December 1788. It is also found in the book On Instruction, &c. printed at Leipzig in 1789, by Walther. Here, however, the Appendix is dated January 1789. This edition agrees in the main with that in the book from which I have made such copious extracts, but differs in some particulars that are not unworthy of remark.


In the packet it is written, „The Undersigned as Member and Agent of the German Union, in order to rectify several mistakes and injurious slanders and accusations, thinks it necessary that the public itself should judge of their object and conduct.“—Towards the end it is said, „and all who have any doubts may apply to those named below, and are invited to write to them.“ No names however are subjoined. In the Appendix to the book it is only said, „the agent of the German Union,“ &c. and „persons who wish to be better informed may write to the agent, under the address, To the German Union—under cover to the shop of Walther, bookseller in Leipzig.“—Here too there are no names, and it does not appear that any person has chosen to come from behind the curtain[15]. [227]


There has already been so much said about Enlightening, that the reader must be almost tired of it. He is assured in this performance that the Illumination proposed by the Union is not that of the Wolfenbuttle Fragments, nor that of Horus, nor that of Bahrdt. The Fragments and Horus are books which aim directly, and without any concealment, to destroy the authority of our Scriptures, either as historical narrations or as revelations of the intentions of providence and of the future prospects of man. The Theological writings of Bahrdt are gross perversions, both of the sense of the text, and of the moral instructions contained in it, and are perhaps the most exceptionable performances on the subject. They are stigmatised as absurd, and coarse, and indecent, even by the writers on the same side; yet the work recommended so often as containing the elements of that Illumination which the world has to expect from the Union, not only coincides in its general principles with these performances, but is almost an abstract of some of them, particularly of his Popular Religion, his Paraphrase on the Sermon on the Mount, and his Morality of Religion. We have also seen that the book on the Liberty of the Press is quoted and recommended as an elementary book. Nay both the work on Instruction and that on the Liberty of the Press are now known to be Bahrdt’s.


But these principles, exceptionable as they may be, are probably not the worst of the institution. We see that the outside alone of the Union is to be shewn to the public. Barthels felicitates the public that there is no subordination and blind obedience to unknown Superiors; yet, in the same paragraph, he tells us that there is a secret plan of operations, that is known only to the Centre and the Confidential Brethren. The author of Fuller Information says that he has this plan, and would print it, were[228] he not restrained by a promise[16]. He gives us enough however to show us that the higher mysteries of the Union are precisely the same with those of the Illuminati. Christianity is expressly said to have been a Mystical Association, and its founder the Grand Master of a Lodge. The Apostles, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, were the Elect, and Brethren of the Third Degree, and initiated into all the mysteries. The remaining Apostles were only of the Second Degree; and the Seventy-two were of the First degree. Into this degree ordinary Christians may be admitted, and prepared for further advancement. The great mistery is, that J—— C—— was a Naturalist, and taught the doctrine of a Supreme Mind, the Spectator, but not the Governer of the World, pretty nearly in the sense of the Stoics. The Initiated Brethren were to be instructed by reading proper books. Those particularly recommended are Basedow’s Practical Knowledge, Eberhard’s Apology for Socrates, Bahrdt’s Apology for Reason, Steinbardt’s System of Moral Education, Meiner’s Ancient Mysteries, Bahrdt’s Letters on the Bible, and Bahrdt’s Completion of the Plan and Aim of J—— C——. These books are of the most Antichristian character, and some of them aim at shaking off all moral obligation whatever.


Along with these religious doctrines, are inculcated the most dangerous maxims of civil conduct. The despotism that is aimed at over the minds of men, and the machinations and intrigues for obtaining possession of places of trust and influence, are equally alarming; but being perfectly similar to those of the Illuminati, it is needless to mention them.


The chief intelligence that we get from this author is that the Centre of the Union is at a[229] house in the neighbourhood of Halle. It is a sort of tavern, in a vineyard immediately without the city. This was bought by Doctor Karl Friederich Bahrdt, and fitted up for the amusement of the University Students. He calls it Bahrdt’s Ruhe (Bahrdt’s Repose). The author thinks that this must have been the work of the Association, because Bahrdt had not a farthing, and was totally unable for such an undertaking. He may however have been the contriver of the institution. He has never affirmed or denied this in explicit terms; nor has he ever said who are the XXII coadjutors. Wucherer, an eminent bookseller at Vienna, seems to have been one of the most active hands, and in one year admitted near two hundred members, among whom is his own shoemaker. He has published some of the most profligate pamphlets which have yet appeared in Germany.


The publication of the list of members alarmed the nation; persons were astonished to find themselves in every quarter in the midst of villains who were plotting against the peace and happiness of the country, and destroying every sentiment of religion, morality, or loyalty. Many persons published in the newspapers and literary journals affirmations and proofs of the false insertion of their names. Some acknowledged that curiosity had made them enter the Association, and even continue their correspondence with the Centre, in order to learn something of what the Fraternity had in view, but declared that they had never taken any part in its proceedings. But, at the same time, it is certain that many Reading Societies had been set up during these transactions, in every quarter of Germany, and that the ostensible managers were in general of very suspicious characters, both[230] as to morals and loyalty. The Union had actually set up a press of their own at Calbe, in the neighbourhood of Halberstadt. Every day there appeared stronger proofs of a combination of the Journalists, Reviewers, and even of the publishers and booksellers, to suppress the writings which appeared in defence of the civil and ecclesiastical constitutions of the States of Germany. The extensive literary manufacture of Germany is carried on in such a manner that it is impossible for any thing less than the joint operation of the whole federated powers to prevent this. The spirit of freethinking and innovating in religious matters had been remarkably prevalent in the dominions of the King of Prussia, having been much encouraged by the indifference of the late King. One of the vilest things published on this occasion was an abominable farce, called the Religion Edict. This was traced to Bahrdt’s Ruhe, and the Doctor was arrested, and all his papers seized and ransacked. The civil Magistrate was glad of an opportunity of expiscating the German Union, which common fame had also traced hither. The correspondence was accordingly examined, and many discoveries were made, which there was no occasion to communicate to the public, and the prosecution of the business of the Union was by this means stopped. But the persons in high office at Berlin agree in saying that the Association of writers and other turbulent persons in Germany has been but very faintly hit by this blow, and is almost as active as ever.


The German Union appears a mean and precipitate Association. The Centre, the Archives, and the Secretary are contemptible. All the Archives that were found were the plans and lists of the members and a parcel of letters of correspondence. The correspondence and other business was managed by[231] an old man in some very inferior office or judicatory, who lived at bed and board in Bahrdt’s house for about six shillings a week, having a chest of papers and a writing-desk in the corner of the common room of the house.


Bahrdt gives a long narration of his concern in she affair, but we can put little confidence in what he says: yet as we have no better authority, I shall give a very short abstract of it, as follows:


He said, that he learned Cosmo-political Free Masonry in England, when he was there getting pupils for his academy—but neglected it on his return to Germany. Some time after his settlement he was roused by a visit from a stranger who passed for an Englishman, but whom he afterwards found to be a Dutch officer—(he gives a description which bears considerable resemblance to the Prince or General Salms who gave so much disturbance to the States General)—He was still more excited by an anonymous letter giving him an account of a Society which was employed in the instruction of mankind, and a plan of their mode of operations, nearly the same with that of No. III. He then set up a Lodge of Free Masonry on Cosmo-political principles, as a preparation for engaging in this great plan—he was stopped by the National Lodge, because he had no patent from it.—This obliged him to work in secret.—He met with a gentleman in a coffee-house, who entreated him to go on, and promised him great assistance—this he got from time to time, as he stood most in need of it, and he now found that he was working in concert with many powerful though unknown friends, each in his own circle. The plan of operation of the XXII. was gradually unfolded to him, and he got solemn promises of being made acquainted with his colleagues. But he now found, that after he had so essentially served their noble[232] cause, he was dropped by them in the hour of danger, and thus was made the sacrifice for the public good. The last packet which he received was a request from a Friend to the Union to print two performances sent him, with a promise of 100 dahlers for his trouble. These were the abominable farce called the Religion Edict, and some Dissertations on that Royal Proclamation.


He then gives an account of his system of Free Masonry, not very different from Weishaupt’s Masonic Christianity—and concludes with the following abstract of the advantages of the Union—Advancement of Science—A general interest and concern for Arts and Learning—Excitement of Talents—Check of Scribbling—Good Education—Liberty—Equality—Hospitality—Delivery of many from Misfortunes—Union of the Learned—and at last—perhaps—Amen.


What the meaning of this enigmatical conclusion is we can only guess—and our conjectures cannot be very favourable.


The narration, of which this is a very short index, is abundantly entertaining; but the opinion of the most intelligent is, that it is in a great measure fictitious, and that the contrivance of the Union is mostly his own. Although it could not be legally proved that he was the author of the farce, every person in court was convinced that he was, and indeed it is perfectly in Bahrdt’s very singular manner. This invalidates the whole of his story—and he afterwards acknowledges the farce (at least by implication) in several writings, and boasts of it.


For these reasons I have omitted the narration in detail. Some information, however, which I have received since, seems to confirm his account, while it diminishes its importance. I now find that the book called Fuller Information is the performance of[233] a clergyman called Schutz, of the lowest class, and by no means of an eminent character.—Another performance in the form of a dialogue between X, Y, and Z, giving nearly the same account, is by Pott, the dear friend of Bahrdt and of his Union, and author of the Commentary on the Edict. Schutz got his materials from one Roper, an expelled student of debauched morals, who subsisted by copying and vending filthy manuscripts. Bahrdt says, that he found him naked and starving, and, out of pity, took him into his house, and employed him as an amanuensis. Roper stole the papers at various times, taking them with him to Leipzig, whither he went on pretence of sickness. At last Schutz and he went to Berlin together, and gave the information on which Bahrdt was put in prison. In short they all appear to have been equally profligates and traitors to each other, and exhibit a dreadful, but I hope a useful picture of the influence of this Illumination which so wonderfully fascinates Germany.


This is all the direct information that I can pick up of the founder and the proceedings of the German Union. The project is coarse, and palpably mean, aiming at the dahlers of entry-money and of annual contribution, and at the publication and profitable sale of Dr. Bahrdt’s books. This circumstance gives it strong features of its parentage—Philo speaks of Bahrdt in his Final Declaration in terms of contempt and abhorence. There is nothing ingenious, nothing new, nothing enticing, in the plans; and the immediate purpose of indulging the licentious taste of the public comes so frequently before the eye, that it bears all the marks of that grossness of mind, precipitancy, and impatient oversight that are to be found in all the voluminous writings of Dr. Bahrdt. Many in Germany, however, ascribe the Union to Weishaupt, and say that it is the Illuminati[234] working in another form. There is no denying that the principles, and even the manner of proceeding, are the same in every essential circumstance. Many paragraphs of the declamations circulated through Germany with the plans, are transcribed verbatim from Weishaupt’s Corrected system of Illuminatism. Much of the work On Instruction, and the Means for promoting it, is very nearly a copy of the same work, blended with slovenly extracts from some of his own writings—There is the same series of delusions from the beginning, as in Illuminatism—Free Masonry and Christianity are compounded—first with marks of respect—then Christianity is twisted to a purpose foreign from it, but the same with that aimed at by Weishaupt—then it is thrown away altogether, and Natural Religion and Atheism substituted for it—For no person will have a moment’s hesitation in saying, that this is the creed of the author of the books On Instruction and On the Liberty of the Press. Nor can he doubt that the political principles are equally anarchical with those of the Illuminati.—The endeavours also to get possession of public offices—of places of education—of the public mind, by the Reading Societies, and by publications—are so many transcripts from the Illuminati. Add to this, that Dr. Bahrdt was an Illuminatus—and wrote the Better than Horus, at the command of Weishaupt. Nay, it is well known that Weishaupt was twice or thrice at Bahrdt’s Ruhe during those transactions, and that he zealously promoted the formation of Reading Societies in several places.—But I am rather of the opinion that Weishaupt made those visits in order to keep Dr. Bahrdt within some bounds of decency, and to hinder him from hurting the cause by his precipitancy, when spurred on by the want of money. Weishaupt could not work[235] in such an unskilful manner. But he would be very glad of such help as this coarse tool could give him—and Bahrdt gave great help; for, when he was imprisoned and his papers seized, his Archives, as he called them, shewed that there were many Reading Societies which his project had drawn together. The Prussian States had above thirty, and the number of readers was astonishingly great—and it was found, that the pernicious books had really found their way into every hut. Bahrdt, by descending a story lower than Weishaupt, has greatly increased the number of his pupils.


But, although I cannot consider the German Union as a formal revival of the Order under another name, I must hold those United, and the members of those Reading Societies, as Illuminati and Minervals. I must even consider the Union as a part of Spartacus‘ work. The plans of Weishaupt were partly carried into effect in their different branches—they were pointed out, and the way to carry them on are distinctly described in the private correspondence of the Order—It required little genius to attempt them in imitation. Bahrdt made the attempt, and in part succeeded. Weishaupt’s hopes were well founded—The leaven was not only distributed, but the management of the fermentation was now understood, and it went on apace.


It is to be remarked, that nothing was found among Bahrdt’s papers to support the story he writes in his diary—no such correspondences—but enough for detecting many of these Societies. Many others however were found unconnected with Bahrdt’s Ruhe, not of better character, either as to Morality or Loyalty, and some of them considerable and expensive; and many proofs were[236] found of a combination to force the public to a certain way of thinking, by the management of the Reviews and Journals. The extensive dealings of Nicholai of Berlin gave him great weight in the book-making trade, which in Germany surpasses all our conceptions. The catalogues of new writings in sheets, which are printed twice a-year for each of the fairs at Leipzig and Frankfort, would astonish a British reader by the number. The booksellers meet there, and at one glance see the whole republic of literature, and, like Roman senators, decide the sentiments of distant provinces. By thus seeing the whole together, their speculations are national, and they really have it in their power to give what turn they please to the literature and to the sentiments of Germany. Still however they must be induced by motives. The motive of a merchant is gain, and every object appears in his eye something by which money may be made. Therefore in a luxurious and voluptuous nation, licentious and free-thinking books will abound. The writers suggest and the booksellers think how the thing will tickle. Yet it must not be inferred, from the prevalence of such books, that such is the common sense of mankind, and that the writings are not the corrupters, but the corrupted, or that they are what they ought to be, because they please the public. We need only push the matter to an extremity, and its cause appears plain. Filthy prints will always create a greater crowd before the shop window than the finest performances of Wollett. Licentious books will be read with a fluttering eagerness, as long as they are not universally permitted; and pitiable will be the state of the nation when their number makes them familiar and no longer captivating. [237]


But although it must be confessed that great encouragement was given to the sceptical, infidel, and licentious writings in Germany, we see that it was still necessary to practise seduction. The Religionist was made to expect some engaging exhibition of his faith. The Citizen must be told that his civil connections are respected, and will be improved; and all are told that good manners or virtue is to be supported. Man is supposed to be, in very essential circumstances, what he wishes to be, and feels he ought to be: and he is corrupted by means of falsehood and trick. The principles by which he is wheedled into wickedness in the first instance, are therefore such as are really addressed to the general sentiments of mankind: these therefore should be considered as more expressive of the public mind than those which he afterwards adopts, after this artificial education. Therefore Virtue, Patriotism, Loyalty, Veneration for true and undefiled Religion, are really acknowledged by those corrupters to be the prevailing sentiments; and they are good if this prevalence is to be the test of worth. The mind that is otherwise affected by them, and hypocritically uses them in order to get hold of the uninitiated, that he may in time be made to cherish the contrary sentiments, cannot be a good mind, notwithstanding any pretensions it may make to the love of mankind.


No man, not Weishaupt himself, has made stronger professions of benevolence, of regard for the happiness of mankind, and of every thing that is amiable, than Dr. Bahrdt. It may not be useless to enquire what effect such principles have had on his own mind, and those of his chief coadjutors. Deceit of every kind is dishonourable; and the deceit that is professedly employed in the proceedings[238] of the Union is no exception. No pious fraud whatever must be used, and pure religion must be presented to the view without all disguise.

„The more fair Virtue’s seen, the more she charms.
Safe, plain, and easy, are her artless ways.
With face erect, her eyes look strait before;
For dauntless is her march, her step secure.
Not so, pale Fraud—now here she turns, now there,
Still seeking darker shades, secure in none,
Looks often back, and wheeling round and round,
Sinks headlong in the danger she would shun.“


The mean motive of the Protestant Sceptic is as inconsistent with our notions of honesty as with our notions of honour; and our suspicions are justly raised of the character of Dr. Bahrdt and his associates, even although we do not suppose that their aim is the total abolishing of religion. With propriety therefore may we make some enquiry about their lives and conduct. Fortunately this is easy in the present instance. A man that has turned every eye upon himself can hardly escape observation. But it is not so easy to get fair information. The peculiar situation of Dr. Bahrdt, and the cause between him and the public, are of all others the most productive of mistake, misrepresentation, obloquy, and injustice. But even here we are fortunate. Many remarkable parts of his life are established by the most respectable testimony, or by judicial evidences; and, to make all sure, he has written his own life. I shall insert nothing here that is not made out by the two last modes of proof, resting nothing on the first, however respectable the evidence may be. But I must observe, that his life was also written by his dear friend Pott, the partner of Walther the bookseller.[239] The story of this publication is curious, and it is instructive.


Bahrdt was in prison, and in great poverty. He intended to write his own life, to be printed by Walther, under a fictitious name, and in this work he intended to indulge his spleen and his dislike of all those who had offended him, and in particular all priests, and rulers, and judges, who had given him so much trouble. He knew that the strange, and many of them scandalous anecdotes, with which he had so liberally interlarded many of his former publications, would set curiosity on tiptoe, and would procure a rapid sale as soon as the public should guess that it was his own performance, by the singular but significant name which the pretended author would assume. He had almost agreed with Walther for a thousand dahlers, (about L. 200), when he was imprisoned for being the author of the farce so often named, and of the commentary on the Religion Edict, written by Pott, and for the proceedings of the German Union. He was refused the use of pen and ink. He then applied to Pott, and found means to correspond with him, and to give him part of his life already written, and materials for the rest, consisting of stories, and anecdotes, and correspondence. Pott sent him several sheets, with which he was so pleased, that they concluded a bargain. Bahrdt says, that Pott was to have 400 copies, and that the rest was to go to the maintenance of Bahrdt and his family, consisting of his wife, daughter, a Christina and her children who lived with them, &c. Pott gives a different account, and the truth was different from both, but of little consequence to us. Bahrdt’s papers had been seized, and searched for evidence of his transactions, but the strictest attention was paid to the precise points of the[240] charge, and no paper was abstracted which did not relate to these. All others were kept in a sealed room. Pott procured the removal of the seals and got possession of them. Bahrdt says, that his wife and daughter came to him in prison, almost starving, and told him that now that the room was opened, Pott had made an offer to write for their support, if he had the use of these papers—that this was the conclusion of the bargain, and that Pott took away all the papers. N. B. Pott was the associate of Walther, who had great confidence in him (Anecdotenbuch fur meinen lieben Amtsbruder, p. 400) and had conducted the business of Stark’s book, as has been already mentioned. No man was better known to Bahrdt, for they had long acted together as chief hands in the Union. He would therefore write the life of its founder con amore, and it might be expected to be a rare and tickling performance. And indeed it was. The first part of it only was published at this time; and the narration reaches from the birth of the hero till his leaving Leipzig in 1768. The attention is kept fully awake, but the emotions which successively occupy the mind of the reader are nothing but strong degrees of aversion, disgust, and horror. The figure set up to view is a monster, a man of talents indeed, and capable of great things; but lost to truth, to virtue, and even to the affectation of common decency—In short, a shameless profligate.—Poor Bahrdt was astonished,—stared—but, having his wits about him, saw that this life would sell, and would also sell another.—Without loss of time, he said that he would hold Pott to his bargain—but he reckoned without his host. „No, no,“ said Pott, „your are not the man I took you for—your correspondence was put into my hands—I saw that you had deceived[241] me, and it was my duty, as a man who loves truth above all things, to hinder you from deceiving the world. I have not written the book you desired me. I did not work for you, but for myself—therefore you get not a groschen.“ „Why, Sir,“ said Bahrdt, „we both know that this won’t do. You and I have already tried it. You received Stark’s manuscript, to be printed by Walther—Walther and you sent it hither to Michaelis, that I might see it during the printing. I wrote an illustration and a key, which made the fellow very ridiculous, and they were printed together, with one title page.—You know that we were cast in court.—Walther was obliged to print the work as Stark first ordered, and we lost all our labour.—So shall you now, for I will commence an action this instant, and let me see with what face you will defend yourself, within a few weeks of your last appearance in court.“ Pott said, „You may try this. My work is already sold, and dispersed over all Germany—and I have no objection to begin yours to-morrow—believe me, it will sell.“ Bahrdt pondered—and resolved to write one himself.


This is another specimen of the Union.

Dr. Carl Frederick Bahrdt was born in 1741. His father was then a parish minister, and afterwards Professor of Theology at Leipzig, where he died, in 1775. The youth, when at College, enlisted in the Prussian service as a hussar, but was bought off by his father. He was M. A. in 1761. He became catechist in his father’s church, was a popular preacher, and published sermons in 1765, and some controversial writings, which did him honour—But he then began to indulge in conviviality, and in anonymous pasquinades,[242] uncommonly bitter and offensive. No person was safe—Professors—Magistrates—Clergymen, had his chief notice—also students—and even comrades and friends. (Bahrdt says, that these things might cut to the quick but they were all just.) Unluckily his temperament was what the atomical philosophers (who can explain every thing by æthers and vibrations) call sanguine. He therefore (his own word) was a passionate admirer of the ladies. Coming home from supper he frequently met a young Miss in the way to his lodgings, neatly dressed in a rose-coloured silk jacket and train, and a sable bonnet, costly, and like a lady. One evening (after some old Renish, as he says,) he saw the lady home. Some time after, the mistress of the house, Madam Godschusky, came into his room, and said that the poor maiden was pregnant. He could not help that—but it was very unfortunate, and would ruin him if known.—He therefore gave the old lady a bond for 200 dahlers, to be paid by instalments of twenty-five.——“The girl was sensible, and good, and as he had already paid for it, and her conversation was agreeable, he did not discontinue his acquaintance.“ A comrade one day told him, that one Bel, a magistrate, whom he had lampooned, knew the affair, and would bring it into court, unless he immediately retrieved the bond. This bond was the only evidence, but it was enough. Neither Bahrdt nor his friend could raise the money. But they fell on another contrivance. They got Madam Godschusky to meet them at another house, in order to receive the money. Bahrdt was in a closet, and his comrade wore a sword. The woman could not be prevailed on to produce the bond till Bahrdt should arrive, and the money be put into her hands, with a present to herself. The[243] comrade tried to flutter her, and, drawing his sword, shewed her how men fenced—made passes at the wall—and then at her—but she was too firm—he then threw away his sword, and began to try to force the paper from her. She defended herself a good while, but at length he got the paper out of her pocket, tore it in pieces, opened the closet door, and said, „There you b——, there is the honourable fellow whom you and your wh— have bullied—but it is with me you have to do now, and you know that I can bring you to the gallows.“ There was a great squabble to be sure, says Bahrdt, but it ended, and I thought all was now over.—But Mr. Bel had got word of it, and brought it into court the very day that Bahrdt was to have made some very reverend appearance at church. In short, after many attempts of his poor father to save him, he was obliged to send in his gown and band, and to quit the place. It was some comfort, however, that Madam Godschusky and the young Miss did not fare much better. They were both imprisoned. Madam G. died sometime after of some shocking disease. The court records give a very different account of the whole, and particularly of the scuffle; but Bahrdt’s story is enough.


Bahrdt says, that his father was severe—but acknowledges that his own temperament was hasty, (why does not his fathers temperament excuse something? Vibratiunculæ will explain every thing or nothing.) „Therefore (again) I sometimes forgot myself. One day I laid a loaded pistol on the table, and told him that he should meet with that if he went on so. But I was only seventeen.“


Dr. Bahrdt was, of course, obliged to leave the place. His friends, and Semler in particular, an eminent theological writer, who had formed a very[244] favourable opinion of his uncommon talents, were assiduous in their endeavours to get an establishment for him. But his high opinion of himself, his temper, impetuous, precipitant, and overbearing, and a bitter satirical habit which he had freely indulged in his outset of life, made their endeavours very ineffectual.


At last he got a professorship at Erlangen, then at Erfurth, and in 1771, at Giessen. But in all these places he was no sooner settled than he got into disputes with his colleagues and with the established church, being a strenuous partizan of the innovations which were attempted to be made in the doctrines of christianity. In his anonymous publications, he did not trust to rational discussion alone, but had recourse to ridicule and personal anecdotes, and indulged in the most cutting sarcasms and gross scurrility. Being fond of convivial company, his income was insufficient for the craving demand, and as soon as he found that anecdote and slander always procured readers, he never ceased writing. He had wonderful readiness and activity, and spared neither friends nor foes in his anonymous performances. But this could not last, and his avowed theological writings were such as could not be suffered in a Professor of Divinity. The very students at Giessen were shocked with some of his liberties. After much wrangling in the church judicatories he was just going to be dismissed, when he got an invitation to Marschlins in Switzerland to superintend an academy. He went thither about the year 1776, and formed the seminary after the model of Basedow’s Philanthropine, or academy, at Dessau, of which I have already given some account. It had acquired some celebrity, and the plan was peculiarly suited to Bahrdt’s taste, because it left him at liberty to introduce any system of religious or irreligious[245] opinions that he pleased. He resolved to avail himself of this liberty, and though a clergyman and Doctor of Theology, he would outstrip even Basedow, who had no ecclesiastical orders to restrain him. But he wanted the moderation, the prudence and the principle of Basedow. He had, by this time, formed his opinion of mankind, by meditating on the feelings of his own mind. His theory of human nature was simple—“The leading propensities, says he, of the human mind are three—Instinctive liberty (Freyheitstriebe)-instinctive activity (Triebe fur Thatigkeit)—and instinctive love (Liebes triebe).“ I do not wish to misunderstand him, but I can give no other translation.—“If a man is obstructed in the exercise of any of these propensities he suffers an injury.—The business of a good education therefore is to teach us how they are to be enjoyed in the highest degree.“


We need not be surprised although the Doctor should find it difficult to manage the Cyclopedia in his Philanthropine in such a manner as to give satisfaction to the neighbourhood, which was habituated to very different sentiments,—Accordingly he found his situation as uncomfortable as at Giessen. He says, in one of his latest performances, „that the Grisons were a strong instance of the immense importance of education. They knew nothing but their handicrafts, and their minds were as coarse as their persons.“ He quarrelled with them all, and was obliged to abscond after lying sometime in arrest.


He came to Durkheim or Turkheim, where his father was or had been minister. His literary talents were well known.—After some little time he got an association formed for erecting and supporting a Philanthropine or house of education. A large fund was collected, and he was enabled to[246] travel into Holland and England, to engage pupils, and was furnished with proper recommendations.—On his return the plan was carried into execution. The castle or residence of Count Leining Hartzburgh, at Heidesheim, having gardens, park, and every handsome accommodation, had been fitted up for it, and it was consecrated by a solemn religious festival in 1778.


But his old misfortunes pursued him. He had indeed no colleagues to quarrel with, but his avowed publications became every day more obnoxious—and when any of his anonymous pieces had a great run, he could not stifle his vanity and conceal the author’s name. Of these pieces, some were even shocking to decency. It was indifferent to him whether it was friend or foe that he abused; and some of them were so horribly injurious to the characters of the most respectable men in the state, that he was continually under the correction of the courts of justice. There was hardly a man of letters that had ever been in his company who did not suffer by it. For his constant practice was to father every new step that he took towards Atheism on some other person; and, whenever the reader sees, in the beginning of a book, any person celebrated by the author for sound sense, profound judgment, accurate reasoning, or praised for acts of friendship and kindness to himself, he may be assured that, before the close of the book, this man will convince Dr. Bahrdt in some private conversation, that some doctrine, cherished and venerated by all Christians, is a piece of knavish superstition. So lost was Dr. Bahrdt to all sense of shame. He said that he held his own opinions independent of all mankind, and was indifferent about their praise or their reproach. [247]


Bahrdt’s licentious, very licentious life, was the cause of most of these enormities. No income could suffice and he wrote for bread. The artful manner in which the literary manufacture of Germany was conducted, made it impossible to hinder the rapid dispersion of his writings over all Germany; and the indelicate and coarse maw of the public was as ravenous as the sensuality of Dr. Bahrdt, who really battened in the Epicurean sty. The consequence of all this was that he was obliged to fly from Heidesheim, leaving his sureties in the Philanthropine to pay about 14,000 dahlers, besides debts without number to his friends. He was imprisoned at Dienheim, but was released I know not how, and settled at Halle. There he sunk to be a keeper of a tavern and billiard-table, and his house became the resort and the bane of the students in the University.—He was obliged therefore to leave the city. He had somehow got funds which enabled him to buy a little vineyard, prettily situated in the neighbourhood. This he fitted up with every accommodation that could invite the students, and called it Bahrdt’s Ruhe. We have already seen the occupations of Dr. B. in this Buen Retiro—Can we call it otium cum dignitate? Alas, no! He had not lived two years here, bustling and toiling for the German Union, sometimes without a bit of bread—when he was sent to prison at Halle, and then to Magdeburg, where he was more than a year in jail. He was set at liberty, and returned to Bahrdt’s Ruhe, not, alas, to live at ease, but to lie down on a sick-bed, where, after more than a year’s suffering increasing pain, he died on the 23d of April 1793, the most wretched and loathsome victim of unbridled sensuality. The account of his case is written by a friend, a Dr. Jung, who professes to defend his[248] memory and his principles. The medical description melted my heart, and I am certain would make his bitterest enemy weep. Jung repeatedly says, that the case was not venereal—calls it the vineyard disease—the quicksilver disease, (he was dying of an unconquerable salivation,) and yet, through the whole of his narration, relates symptoms and sufferings, which, as a medical man, he could not possibly mean to be taken in any other sense than as effects of pox. He meant to please the enemies of poor Bahrdt, knowing that such a man could have no friends, and being himself ignorant of what friendship or goodness is. The fate of this poor creature affected me more than any thing I have read of a great while. All his open enemies put together have not said so much ill of him as his trusted friend Pott, and another confident, whose name I cannot recollect, who published in his lifetime an anonymous book called Bahrdt with the Iron Brow—and this fellow Jung, under the absurd mask of friendship, exhibited the loathsome carcase for a florin, like a malefactor’s at Surgeon’s Hall. Such were the fruits of the German Union, of that Illumination that was to refine the heart of man, and bring to maturity the seeds of native virtue, which are choaked in the hearts of other men by superstition and despotism. We see nothing but mutual treachery and base desertion.


I do not concern myself with the gradual perversion of Dr. Bahrdt’s moral and religious opinions. But he affected to be the enlightener and reformer of mankind; and affirmed that all the mischiefs in life originated from despotism supported by superstition. „In vain,“ says he, „do we complain of the inefficacy of religion. All positive religion is founded on injustice. No[249] Prince has a right to prescribe or sanction any such system. Nor would he do it, were not the priests the firmest pillars of his tyranny, and superstition the strongest fetters for his subjects. He dares not show Religion as she is—pure and undefiled——She would charm the eyes and the hearts of mankind, would immediately produce true morality, would open the eyes of freeborn man, would teach him what are his rights, and who are his oppressors, and Princes would vanish from the face of the earth.“


Therefore, without troubling ourselves with the truth or falsehood of his religion of Nature, and assuming it as an indisputable point, that Dr. Bahrdt has seen it in this natural and so effective purity, it is surely a very pertinent question, „Whether has the sight produced on his mind an effect so far superior to the acknowledged faintness of the impression of Christianity on the bulk of mankind, that it will be prudent to adopt the plan of the German Union, and at once put an end to the divisions which so unfortunately alienate the minds of professing Christians from each other?“ The account here given of Dr. Bahrdt’s life seems to decide the question.


But it will be said, that I have only related so many instances of the quarrels of Priests and their slavish adherents, with Dr. Bahrdt. Let us view him in his ordinary conduct, not as the champion and martyr of Illumination, but as an ordinary citizen, a husband, a father, a friend, a teacher of youth, a clergyman.


When Dr. Bahrdt was a parish-minister, and president of some inferior ecclesiastical district, he was empowered to take off the censures of the church[250] from a young woman who had born a bastard child. By violence he again reduced her to the same condition, and escaped censure, by the poor girl’s dying of a fever before her pregnancy was far advanced, or even legally documented. Also, on the night of the solemn farce of consecrating his Philanthropine, he debauched the maid-servant, who bore twins, and gave him up for the father. The thing, I presume, was not judicially proved, otherwise he would have surely been disgraced; but it was afterwards made evident, by the letters which were found by Pott, when he undertook to write his life. A series of these letters had passed between him and one Graf, a steward, who was employed by him to give the woman the small pittance by which she and the infants were maintained. Remonstrances were made when the money was not advanced; and there are particularly letters about the end of 1779, which show that Bahrdt had ceased giving any thing. On the ** of February 1780, the infants (three years old) were taken away in the night, and were found exposed, the one at Usstein, and the other at Worms, many miles distant from each other, and almost frozen to death. The first was discovered by its moans, by a shoemaker in a field by the road-side, about six in the morning; the other was found by two girls between the hedges in a lane, set between two great stones, past all crying. The poor mother travelled up and down the country in quest of her infants, and hearing these accounts, found them both, and took one of them home; but not being able to maintain both, when Bahrdt’s commissioner refused contributing any more, it remained with the good woman who had taken it in[17]. [251]


Bahrdt was married in 1772, while at Giessen; but after wasting the greatest part of his wife’s little fortune left her by a former husband, he was provoked by losing 1000 florins (about 110l.) in the hands of her brother who would not pay it up. After this he used her very ill, and speaks very contemptuously of her in his own account of his life, calling her a dowdy, jealous, and every thing contemptible. In two infamous novels, he exhibits characters, in which she is represented in a most cruel manner; yet this woman (perhaps during the honey-moon) was enticed by him one day into the bath, in the pond of the garden of the Philanthropine at Heidesheim, and there, in the sight of all the pupils did he (also undressed) toy with his naked wife in the water. When at Halle, he used the poor woman extremely ill, keeping a mistress in the house, and giving her the whole command of the family, while the wife and daughter were confined to a separate part of it. When in prison at Magdeburgh, the strumpet lived with him, and bore him two children. He brought them all to his house when he was at liberty. Such barbarous usage made the poor woman at last leave him and live with her brother. The daughter died about a year before him, of an overdose of laudanum given by her father, to procure sleep, when ill of a fever. He ended his own wretched life in the same manner, unable, poor man, to bear his distress, without the smallest compunction or sorrow for his conduct; and the last thing he did was to send for a bookseller, (Vipink of Halle, who had published some of his vile pieces,) and recommend his strumpet and her children to his protection, without one thought of his injured wife.


I shall end my account of this profligate monster with a specimen of his way of using his friends. [252]


„Of all the acquisitions which I made in England, Mr. —— (the name appears at full length) was the most important. This person was accomplished in the highest degree. With sound judgment, great genius, and correct taste, he was perfectly a man of the world. He was my friend, and the only person who warmly interested himself for my institution. To his warm and repeated recommendations I owe all the pupils I got in England, and many most respectable connections; for he was universally esteemed as a man of learning and of the most unblemished worth. He was my friend, my conductor, and I may say my preserver; for when I had not bread for two days, he took me to his house, and supplied all my wants. This gentleman was a clergyman, and had a small but genteel and selected congregation, a flock which required strong food. My friend preached to them pure natural religion, and was beloved by them. His sermons were excellent, and delivered with native energy and grace, because they came from the heart. I had once the honour of preaching for him. But what a difference—I found myself afraid—I feared to speak too boldly, because I did not know where I was, and thought myself speaking to my crouching countrymen. But the liberty of England opens every heart, and makes it accessible to morality. I can give a very remarkable instance.


„The women of the town in London do not, to be sure, meet with my unqualified approbation in all respects. But it is impossible not to be struck with the propriety and decency of their manners, so unlike the clownish impudence of our German wh—. I could not distinguish them from modest women, otherwise than by their greater attention and eagerness to shew me civility. My friend[253] used to laugh at my mistakes, and I could not believe him when he told me that the lady who had kindly shewed the way to me, a foreigner, was a votary of Venus. He maintained that English liberty naturally produced morality and kindness. I still doubted, and he said that he would convince me by my own experience. These girls are to be seen in crowds every evening in every quarter of the town. Although some of them may not have even a shift, they come out in the evening dressed like princesses, in hired clothes, which are entrusted to them without any fear of their making off with them. Their fine shape, their beautiful skin, and dark brown hair, their bosoms, so prettily set off by their black silk dress, and above all, the gentle sweetness of their manners, makes an impression in the highest degree favourable to them. They civilly offer their arm and say, „My dear, will you give me a glass of wine.“ If you give them no encouragement, they pass on, and give no farther trouble. I went with my friend to Covent Garden, and after admiring the innumerable beauties we saw in the piazzas, we gave our arm to three very agreeable girls, and immediately turned into a temple of the Cytherean Goddess, which is to be found at every second door in the city, and were shewn into a parlour elegantly carpeted and furnished, and lighted with wax, with every other accommodation at hand.—My friend called for a pint of wine, and this was all the expence for which we received so much civility. The conversation and other behaviour of the ladies was agreeable in the highest degree, and not a word passed that would have distinguished them from nuns, or that was not in the highest degree mannerly and elegant. We parted in the street—and such is the liberty of England, that[254] my friend ran not the smallest risk of suffering either in his honour or usefulness.—Such is the effect of freedom.“


We may be sure, the poor man was astonished when he saw his name before the public as one of the enlighteners of Christian Europe. He is really a man of worth, and of the most irreproachable character, and knew that whatever might be the protection of British liberty, such conduct would ruin him with his own hearers, and in the minds of all his respectable countrymen. He therefore sent a vindication of his character from this slanderous abuse to the publishers of the principal newspapers and literary journals in Germany. The vindication is complete, and B. is convicted of having related what he could not possibly have seen. It is worthy of remark, that the vindication did not appear in the Berlin Monatschrift, nor in any of the journals which made favorable mention of the performances of the Enlighteners.


„Think not, indignant reader,“ says Arbuthnot, „that this man’s life is useless to mortals.“ It shews in a strong light the falsity of all his declamations in favour of his so much praised natural religion and universal kindness and humanity. No man of the party writes with more persuasive energy, and, though his petulance and precipitant self-conceit lead him frequently astray, no man has occasionally put all the arguments of these philosophers in a clearer light; yet we see that all is false and hollow. He is a vile hypocrite, and the real aim of all his writings is to make money, by fostering the sensual propensities of human nature, although he sees and feels that the completion of the plan of the German Union would be an event more destructive and lamentable than any that can be pointed out in the annals of superstition. I will not say that all partisans[255] of Illumination are hogs of the sty of Epicurus like this wretch. But the reader must acknowledge that, in the institution of Weishaupt, there is the same train of sensual indulgence laid along the whole, and that purity of heart and life is no part of the morality that is held forth as the perfection of human nature. The final abolition of Christianity is undoubtedly one of its objects—whether as an end of their efforts, or as a mean for the attainment of some end still more important. Purity of heart is perhaps the most distinctive feature of Christian morality. Of this Dr. Bahrdt seems to have had no conception; and his institution, as well as his writings, shew him to have been a very coarse sensualist. But his taste, though coarse, accorded with what Weishaupt considered as a ruling propensity, by which he had the best chance of securing the fidelity of his subjects.—Craving desires, beyond the bonds of our means, were the natural consequences of indulgence; and since the purity of Christian morality stood in his way, his first care was to clear the road by rooting it out altogether—What can follow but general dissoluteness of manners?


Nothing can more distinctly prove the crooked politics of the Reformers than this. It may be considered as the main-spring of their whole machine. Their pupils were to be led by means of their sensual appetites, and the aim of their conductors was not to inform them, but merely to lead them; not to reform, but to rule the world.—They would reign, though in hell, rather than serve in heaven.—Dr. Bahrdt was a true Apostle of Illuminatism; and though his torch was made of the grossest materials, and „served only to discover sights of woe,“ the horrid glare darted into every corner, rousing hundreds of filthy vermin, and directing their flight to the rotten carrion[256] where they could best deposit their poison and their eggs; in the breasts, to wit, of the sensual and profligate, there to fester and burst forth in a new and filthy progeny; and it is astonishing what numbers were thus roused into action. The scheme of Reading Societies had taken prodigiously, and became a very profitable part of the literary trade of Germany. The booksellers and writers soon perceived its importance, and acted in concert.


I might fill a volume with extracts from the criticisms which were published on the Religion Edict so often mentioned already. The Leipzig catalogue for one year contained 173. Although it concerned the Prussian States alone, these appeared in every corner of Germany; nay, also in Holland, in Flanders, in Hungary, in Switzerland, in Courland, and in Livonia. This shows it to have been the operation of an Associated Band, as was intimated to the King, with so much petulance by Mirabeau. There was (past all doubt) such a combination among the innumerable scribblers who supplied the fairs of Leipzig and Frankfort. Mirabeau calls it a Conjuration des Philosophes, an expression very clear to himself, for the myriads of gareteers who have long fed the craving mouth of Paris (always thirsting after some „new thing“) called themselves philosophers, and, like the gangs of St. Giles’s, conversed with each other in a cant of their own, full of morale, of energie, of bienvillance, &c. &c. &c. unintelligible or misunderstood by other men, and used for the purpose of deceit. While Mirabeau lived too, they formed a Conjuration. The 14th of July 1790, the most solemn invocation of the Divine presence ever made on the face of this earth, put an end to the propriety of this appellation; for it[257] became necessary (in the progress of political Illumination) to declare that oaths were nonsense, because the invoked was a creature of the imagination, and the grand federation, like Wieshaupt and Bahrdt’s Masonic Christianity, is declared, to those initiated into the higher mysteries, to be a lie. But if we have no longer a Conjuration des Philosophes, we have a gang of scribblers that has got possession of the public mind by their management of the literary Journals of Germany, and have made licentious sentiments in politics, in morals, and in religion, as familiar as were formerly the articles of ordinary news. All the sceptical writings of England put together will not make half the number that have appeared in Protestant Germany during the last twelve or fifteen years. And, in the Criticisms on the Edict, it is hard to say whether infidelity or disloyalty fills the most pages.


To such a degree had the Illuminati carried this favourite and important point that they obtained the direction even of those whose office it was to prevent it. There is at Vienna, as at Berlin, an office for examining and licensing writings before they can have their course in the market. This office publishes annually an index of forbidden books. In this index are included the account of the last Operations of Spartacus and Philo in the Order of Illuminati, and a dissertation on The Final Overthrow of Free Masonry, a most excellent performance, showing the gradual corruption and final perversion of that society to a seminary of sedition. Also the Vienna Magazine of Literature and Arts, which contains many accounts of the interferences of the Illuminati in the disturbances of Europe. The Censor who occasioned this prohibition was an Illuminatus named Retzer.[258] He makes a most pitiful and Jesuitical defence, showing himself completely versant in all the chicane of the Illuminati, and devoted to their Infidel principles. (See Rel. Begebenh. 1795, p. 493.)


There are two performances which give us much information respecting the state of moral and political opinions in Germany about this time. One of them is called, Proofs of a hidden Combination to destroy the Freedom of Thought and Writing in Germany. These proofs are general, taken from many concurring circumstances in the condition of German literature. They are convincing to a thinking mind, but are too abstracted to be very impressive on ordinary readers. The other is the Appeal to my Country, which I mentioned in page 84. This is much more striking, and in each branch of literature, gives a progressive account of the changes of sentiment, all supported by the evidence of the books themselves. The author puts it past contradiction, that in every species of literary composition into which it was possible, without palpable absurdity, to introduce licentious and seditious principles, it was done. Many romances, novels, journeys through Germany and other countries[18], are written on purpose to attach praise or reproach to certain sentiments, characters, and pieces of conduct. The Prince, the nobleman, is made despotic, oppressive, unfeeling or ridiculous—the poor, and the man of talents, are unfortunate and neglected—and here and there a fictitious Graff or Baron is[259] made a divinity, by philanthropy expressed in romantic charity and kindness, or ostentatious indifference for the little honours which are so precious in the eyes of a German.—In short, the system of Weishaupt and Knigge is carried into vigorous effect over all. In both these performances, and indeed in a vast number of other pieces, I see that the influence of Nicholai is much commented on, and considered as having had the chief hand in all those innovations.


Thus I think it clearly appears, that the suppression of the Illuminati in Bavaria and of the Union in Brandenburgh, were insufficient for removing the evils which they had introduced. The Elector of Bavaria was obliged to issue another proclamation in November 1790, warning his subjects of their repeated machinations, and particularly enjoining the magistrates to observe carefully the assemblies in the Reading Societies, which were multiplying in his States. A similar proclamation was made and repeated by the Regency of Hanover, and it was on this occasion that Mauvillon impudently avowed the most anarchical opinions.—But Weishaupt and his agents were still busy and successful. The habit of plotting had formed itself into a regular system. Societies now acted every where in secret, in correspondence with similar societies in other places. And thus a mode of co-operation was furnished to the discontented, the restless, and the unprincipled in all places, without even the trouble of formal initiations, and without any external appearances by which the existence and occupations of the members could be distinguished. The hydra’s teeth were already sown, and each grew up, independent of the rest, and soon sent out its own offsets.—In all places where such secret practices[260] were going on, there did not fail to appear some individuals of more than common zeal and activity, who took the lead, each in his own circle. This gave a consistency and unity to the operations of the rest, and they, encouraged by this co-operation, could now attempt things which they would not otherwise have ventured on. It is not till this state of things obtains, that this influence becomes sensible to the public. Philo, in his public declaration, unwarily lets this appear. Speaking of the numerous little societies in which their principles were cultivated, he says, „we thus begin to be formidable.“ It may now alarm—but it is now too late. The same germ is now sprouting in another place.


I must not forget to take notice that about this time (1787 or 1788,) there appeared an invitation from a Baron or Prince S——, Governor of the Dutch fortress H——, before the troubles in Holland, to form a society for the Protection of Princes.—The plan is expressed in very enigmatical terms, but such as plainly shew it to be merely an odd title, to catch the public eye; for the Association is of the same seditious kind with all those already spoken of, viz. professing to enlighten the minds of men, and making them imagine that all their hardships proceed from superstition, which subjects them to useless and crafty priests; and from their own indolence and want of patriotism, which make them submit to the mal-administration of ministers. The Sovereign is supposed to be innocent, but to be a cypher, and every magistrate, who is not chosen by the people actually under him, is held to be a despot, and is to be bound hand and foot.—Many circumstances concur to prove that the projector of this insidious plan is the Prince Salms, who so assiduously fomented all the disturbances in the Dutch and Austrian Netherlands.[261] He had, before this time, taken into his service Zwack, the Cato of the Illuminati. The project had gone some length when it was discovered and suppressed by the States.


Zimmerman, who had been President of the Illuminati in Manheim, was also a most active person in propagating their doctrines in other countries. He was employed as a missionary, and erected some Lodges even in Rome—also at Neufchatel—and in Hungary. He was frequently seen in the latter place by a gentleman of my acquaintance, and preached up all the ostensible doctrines of Illuminatism in the most public manner, and made many proselytes. But when it was discovered that their real and fundamental doctrines were different from those which he professed in order to draw in proselytes, Zimmerman left the country in haste.—Some time after this he was arrested in Prussia for seditious harangues—but he escaped, and has not been heard of since.—When he was in Hungary he boasted of having erected above an hundred Lodges in different parts of Europe, some of which were in England.


That the Illuminati and other hidden Cosmo-political societies had some influence in bringing about the French Revolution, or at least in accelerating it, can hardly be doubted. In reading the secret correspondence, I was always surprised at not finding any reports from France, and something like a hesitation about establishing a mission there; nor am I yet able thoroughly to account for it. But there is abundant evidence that they interfered, both in preparing for it in the same manner as in Germany, and in accelerating its progress. Some letters in the[262] Brunswick Journal from one Campe, who was an inspector of the seminaries of education, a man of talents, and an Illuminatus, put it beyond doubt. He was residing in Paris during its first movements, and gives a minute account of them, lamenting their excesses, on account of their imprudence, and the risk of shocking the nation, and thus destroying the project, but justifying the motives, on the true principles of Cosmo-politism. The Vienna Zeitschrift and the Magazine of Literature and Fine Arts for 1790, and other pamphlets of that date, say the same thing in a clearer manner. I shall lay together some passages from such as I have met with, which I think will shew beyond all possibility of doubt that the Illuminati took an active part in the whole transaction, and may be said to have been its chief contrivers. I shall premise a few observations, which will give a clearer view of the matter. [263]