The French Revolution
DURING these dissensions and discontents, and this general fermentation of the public mind in Germany, political occurrences in France gave exercise and full scope for the operation of that spirit of revolt which had long growled in secret in the different corners of that great empire.
The Cosmo-political and sceptical opinions and sentiments so much cultivated in all the Lodges of the Philalethes had by this time been openly professed by many of the sages of France, and artfully interwoven with their statistical economics. The many contests between the King and the Parliament of Paris about the registration of his edicts, had given occasion to much discussion, and had made the public familiarly acquainted with topics altogether unsuitable to the absolute monarchy of France.
This acquaintance with the natural expectations of the subject, and the expediency of a candid attention on the part of Government to these expectations, and a view of Legislation and Government founded on a very liberal interpretation of all these things, was prodigiously promoted by the rash interference of France in the dispute between Great Britain and her colonies. In this attempt to ruin Britain, even the court of France was obliged to preach the doctrines of Liberty, and to take its chance that Frenchman would consent to be the only slaves. But their officers and soldiers, who returned from America, imported the American principles, and in every company found hearers who listened with delight and regret to their fascinating tale of American independence. During the war, the Minister, who had too confidently pledged himself for the destruction of Britain, was obliged to allow the Parisians to amuse themselves with theatrical entertainments, where English law was represented as oppression, and every fretful extravagance of the Americans was applauded as a noble struggle for native freedom.—All wished for a taste of that liberty and equality which they were allowed to applaud on the stage; but as soon as they came from the theatre into the street, they found themselves under all their former restraints. The sweet charm had found its way into their hearts, and all the luxuries of France became as dull as common life does to a fond girl when she lays down her novel.
In this irritable state of mind a spark was sufficient for kindling a flame. To import this dangerous delicacy of American growth, France had expended many millions, and was drowned in debts. The mad prodigality of the Royal Family and the Court had drained the treasury, and forestalled every livre of the revenue. The edicts for new taxes and forced loans were most unwelcome and oppressive.
The Avocats au parlement had nothing to do with state-affairs, being very little more than barristers in the highest court of justice; and the highest claim of the Presidents of this court was to be a sort of humble counsellors to the King in common matters. It was a very strange inconsistency in that ingenious nation to permit such people to touch on those state-subjects; for, in fact, the King of France was an absolute Monarch, and the subjects were slaves. This is the result of all their painful research, notwithstanding that glimmerings of natural justice and of freedom are to be met with in their records. There could not be found in their history so much as a tolerable account of the manner of calling the nation together, to learn from the people how their chains would best please their fancy. But all this was against nature, and it was necessary that it should come to an end, the first time that the monarch confessed that he could not do every thing unless they put the tools into his hands.
As things were approaching gradually but rapidly to this condition, the impertinent interference (for so a Frenchman, subject of the Grand Monarch, must think it) of the advocates of the Parliament of Paris was popular in the highest degree; and it must be confessed, that in general it was patriotic, however inconsistent with the constitution. They felt themselves pleading the cause of humanity and natural justice. This would embolden honest and worthy men to speak truth, however unwelcome to the court. In general, it must also be granted that they spoke with caution and with respect to the sovereign powers; and they had frequently the pleasure of being the means of mitigating the burdens of the people.
The Parliament of Paris, by this conduct, came to be looked up to as a sort of mediator between the King and his subjects; and as the avocats saw this, they naturally rose in their own estimation far above the rank in which the constitution of their government had placed them. For it must always be kept in mind, that the robe was never considered as the dress of a Nobleman, although the cassock was.
An advocate was merely not a rotourier; and though we can hardly conceive a profession more truly honourable than the dispensing of distributive justice, nor any skill more congenial to a rational mind than that of the practical morality which we, in theory, consider as the light by which they are always conducted; and although even the artificial constitution of France had long been obliged to bow to the dictates of nature and humanity, and confer nobility, and even title, on such of the professors of the municipal law as had, by their skill and their honourable character, risen to the first offices of their profession, yet the Noblesse de la Robe never could incorporate with the Noblesse du Sang, nor even with the Noblesse de l’Epee. The descendants of a Marquis de la Robe never could rise to certain dignities in the church and at court.
The avocats de la parlement felt this, and smarted under the exclusion from court-honours; and though they eagerly courted such nobility as they could attain, they seldom omitted any opportunity that occurred during their junior practice, of exposing the arrogance of the Noblesse, and the dominion of the court. This increased their popularity, and in the present situation of things, being certain of support, they went beyond their former cautious bounds, and introduced in their pleadings, and particularly in their joint remonstrances against the registration of edicts, all the wire-drawn morality, and cosmo-political jurisprudence, which they had so often rehearsed in the Lodges, and which had of late been openly preached by the economists and philosophers.
A signal was given to the nation for engaging „en masse“ in political discussion. The Notables were called upon to come and advise the King; and the points were laid before them, in which his Majesty, (infallible till now) acknowledged his ignorance or his doubts. But who were the Notables? Were they more knowing than the King, or less in need of instruction? The nation thought otherwise; nay, the court thought otherwise; for in some of the royal proclamations on this occasion, men of letters were invited to assist with their counsels, and to give what information their reading and experience should suggest as to the best method of convoking the States General, and of conducting their deliberations. When a Minister thus solicits advice from all the world how to govern, he most assuredly declares his own incapacity, and tells the people that now they must govern themselves. This however was done, and the Minister, Neckar the Philosopher and Philanthropist of Geneva, set the example, by sending in his opinion, to be laid on the council-table with the rest. On this signal, counsel poured in from every garret, and the press groaned with advice in every shape. Ponderous volumes were written for the Bishop or the Duke; a handsome 8vo for the Notable Officer of eighteen; pamphlets and single sheets for the loungers in the Palais Royal. The fermentation was astonishing; but it was no more than should have been expected from the most cultivated, the most ingenious, and the least bashful nation on earth. All wrote, and all read. Not contented with bringing forth all the fruits which the illumination of these bright days of reason had raised in such abundance in the conservatories of the Philalethes, and which had been gathered from the writings of Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Raynal, &c. the patriotic counsellors of the Notables had ransacked all the writings of former ages. They discovered THAT FRANCE HAD ALWAYS BEEN FREE! One would have thought, that they had travelled with Sir John Mandeville in that country where even the speeches of former times had been frozen, and were now thawing apace under the beams of the sun of Reason. For many of these essays were as incongruous and mal a-propos as the broken sentences recorded by Mr. Addison in the Spectator.
A gentleman who was in Paris at this time, a person of great judgment, and well informed in every thing respecting the constitution and present condition of his country, assured me that this invitation, followed by the memorial of Mr. Neckar, operated like an electrical shock. In the course of four or five days, the appearance of Paris was completely changed. Every where one saw crowds staring at papers pasted on the walls—breaking into little parties—walking up and down the streets in eager conversation—adjourning to coffee-houses—and the conversation in all companies turned to politics alone; and in all these conversations a new vocabulary, where every second word was Morality, Philanthropy, Toleration, Freedom, and Equalisation of property. Even at this early period persons were listened to without censure, or even surprise, who said that it was nonsense to think of reforming their government, and that it must be completely changed. In short, in the course of a month, a spirit of licentiousness and a rage for innovation had completely pervaded the minds of the Parisians. The most conspicuous proof of this was the unexpected fate of the Parliament. It met earlier than usual, and to give greater eclat to its patriotic efforts, and completely to secure the gratitude of the people, it issued an arret on the present state of the nation, containing a number of resolutions on the different leading points of national liberty. A few months ago these would have been joyfully received as the Magna Charta of Freedom, and really contained all that a wise people should desire; but because the Parliament had sometime before given it as their opinion as the constitutional counsel of the Crown, that the States should be convoked on the principles of their last meeting in 1614, which preserved the distinctions of rank, all their past services were forgotten—all their hard struggle with the former administration, and their unconquerable courage and perseverance, which ended only with their downfal, all were forgotten; and those distinguished members whose zeal and sufferings ranked them with the most renowned heroes and martyrs of patriotism, were now regarded as the contemptible tools of Aristocracy. The Parliament now set, in a fiery troubled sky—to rise no more.
Of all the barristers in the Parliament of Paris, the most conspicuous for the display of the enchanting doctrines of Liberty and Equality was Mr. Duval, son of an Avocat in the same court, and ennobled about this time under the name of Despresmenil. He was member of a Lodge of the Amis Reunis at Paris, called the Contract Social, and of the Lodge of Chevaliers Bienfaisants at Lyons. His reputation as a barrister had been prodigiously increased about this time by his management of a cause, where the descendant of the unfortunate General Lally, after having obtained the restoration of the family honours, was striving to get back some of the estates. Mr. Lally Tollendahl had even trained himself to the profession, and pleaded his own cause with astonishing abilities. But Despresmenil had near connections with the family which was in possession of the estates, and opposed him with equal powers, and more address. He was on the side which was most agreeable to his favourite topics of declamation, and his pleadings attracted much notice both in Paris and in some of the provincial Parliaments. I mention these things with some interest, because this was the beginning of that marked rivalship between Lally Tollendahl and Despresmenil, which made such a figure in the Journals of the National Assembly. It ended fatally for both. Lally Tollendahl was obliged to quit the Assembly, when he saw it determined on the destruction of the monarchy and of all civil order, and at last to emigrate from his country with the loss of all his property, and to subsist on the kindness of England. Despresmenil attained his meridian of popularity by his discovery of the secret plan of the Court to establish the Cour pleniere, and ever after this took the lead in all the strong measures of the Parliament of Paris, which was now overstepping all bounds of moderation or propriety, in hopes of preserving its influence after it had rendered itself impotent by an unguarded stroke. Despresmenil was the first martyr of that Liberty and Equality which it was now boldly preaching, having voluntarily surrendered himself a prisoner to the officer sent to demand him from the Parliament. He was also a martyr to any thing that remained of the very shadow of liberty after the Revolution, being guillotined by Robespierre.
I have already mentioned the intrigues of Count Mirabeau at the Court of Berlin, and his seditious preface and notes on the anonymous letters on the Rights of the Prussian States. He also, while at Berlin, published an Essai sur la Secte des Illumines, one of the strangest and most impudent performances that ever appeared. He there describes a sect existing in Germany, called the Illuminated, and says, that they are the most absurd and gross fanatics imaginable, waging war with every appearance of Reason, and maintaining the most ridiculous superstitions. He gives some account of these, and of their rituals, ceremonies, &c. as if he had seen them all. His sect is a confused mixture of Christian superstitions, Rosycrucian nonsense, and every thing that can raise contempt and hatred. But no such Society ever existed, and Mirabeau confided in his own powers of deception, in order to screen from observation those who were known to be Illuminati, and to hinder the rulers from attending to their real machinations, by means of this Ignis fatuus of his own brain. He knew perfectly that the Illuminati were of a stamp diametrically opposite; for he was illuminated by Mauvillon long before. He gained his point in some measure, for Nicholai and others of the junto immediately adopted the whim, and called them Obscurantem, and joined with Mirabeau in placing on the list of Obscurantem several persons whom they wished to make ridiculous.
Mirabeau was not more discontented with the Court of Berlin for the small regard it had testified for his eminent talents, than he was with his own Court, or rather with the minister Calonne, who had sent him thither. Calonne had been greatly dissatisfied with his conduct at Berlin, where his self-conceit, and his private projects, had made him act in a way almost contrary to the purposes of his mission. Mirabeau was therefore in a rage at the minister, and published a pamphlet, in which his celebrated memorial on the state of the nation, and the means of relieving it, was treated with the utmost severity of reproach; and in this contest his mind was wrought up to that violent pitch of opposition which he ever after maintained. To be noticed, and to lead, were his sole objects—and he found, that taking the side of the discontented was the best field for his eloquence and restless ambition.—Yet there was no man that was more devoted to the principles of a court than count Mirabeau, provided he had a share in the administration; and he would have obtained it, if any thing moderate would have satisfied him—but he thought nothing worthy of him but a place of active trust, and a high department. For such offices all knew him to be totally unfit. He wanted knowledge of great things, and was learned only in the bustling detail of intrigue, and at any time would sacrifice every thing to have an opportunity of exercising his brilliant eloquence, and indulging his passion for satire and reproach.—The greatest obstacle to his advancement was the abject worthlessness of his character. What we usually call profligacy, viz. debauchery, gaming, impiety, and every kind of sensuality, were not enough—he was destitute of decency in his vices—tricks which would disgrace a thief-catcher, were never boggled at in order to supply his expences. For instance,—His father and mother had a process of separation—Mirabeau had just been liberated from prison for a gross misdemeanour, and was in want of money—He went to his father, sided with him in invectives against his mother, and, for 100 guineas, wrote his father’s memorial for the court.—He then went to his mother, and by a similar conduct got the same sum from her—and both memorials were presented. Drinking was the only vice in which he did not indulge—his exhausted constitution did not permit it. His brother, the Viscount, on the contrary, was apt to exceed in jollity. One day the Count said to him, „How can you, Brother, so expose yourself?“—“What!“ says the Viscount, „how insatiable you are—Nature has given you every vice, and having left me only this one, you grudge it me.“—When the elections were making for the States-General, he offered himself a candidate in his own order at Aix—But he was so abhorred by the Noblesse, that they not only rejected him but even drove him from their meetings. This affront settled his measures, and he determined on their ruin. He went to the Commons, disclaimed his being a gentleman, sat up a little shop in the market place of Aix, and sold trifles—and now, fully resolved what line he should pursue, he courted the Commons, by joining in all their excesses against the Noblesse, and was at last returned a member of the Assembly.
From this account of Mirabeau we can easily foretel the use he would make of the Illumination which he had received in Germany. Its grand truths and just morality seem to have had the same effects on his mind as on that of Weishaupt or Bahrdt.
In the year 1768, Mirabeau, in conjunction with the duke de Lauzun and the Abbe Perigord, afterwards Bishop of Autun (the man so puffed in the National Assemblies as the brightest pattern of humanity) reformed a Lodge of Philalethes in Paris, which met in the Jacobin College or Convent. It was one of the Amis Reunis, which had now rid itself of all the insignificant mysticism of the sect. This was now become troublesome, and took up the time which would be much better employed by the Chevaliers du Soliel, and other still more refined champions of reason and universal citizenship. Mirabeau had imparted to it some of that Illumination which had beamed upon him when he was in Berlin. In 1788, he and the Abbe were wardens of the lodge. They found that they had not acquired all the dexterity of management that he understood was practised by his Brethren in Germany, for keeping up their connection, and conducting their correspondence. A letter was therefore sent from this Lodge, signed by these two gentlemen, to the Brethren in Germany, requesting their assistance and instruction. In the course of this year, and during the sitting of the Notables, A DEPUTATION WAS SENT from the German Illuminati to catch this glorious opportunity of carrying their plan into full execution with the greatest eclat.
Nothing can more convincingly demonstrate the early intentions of a party, and this a great party, in France to overturn the constitution completely, and plant a democracy or oligarchy on its ruins. The Illuminati had no other object.—They accounted all Princes usurpers and tyrants, and all privileged orders their abettors. They intended to establish a government of Morality, as they called it, (Sittenregiment) where talents and character (to be estimated by their own scale, and by themselves) should alone lead to preferment.
They meant to abolish the laws which protected property accumulated by long continued and successful industry, and to prevent for the future any such accumulation. They intended to establish universal Liberty and Equality, the imprescriptible Rights of Man, (at least they pretended all this to those who were neither Magi or Regentes.) And, as necessary preparations for all this, they intended to root out all religion and ordinary morality, and even to break the bonds of domestic life, by destroying the veneration for marriage-vows, and by taking the education of children out of the hands of the parents. This was all that the Illuminati could teach, and THIS WAS PRECISELY WHAT FRANCE HAS DONE.
I cannot proceed in the narration without defiling the page with the detested name of Orleans, stained with every thing that can degrade or disgrace human nature. He only wanted Illumination, to shew him in a system all the opinions, dispositions, and principles which filled his own wicked heart. This contemptible being was illuminated by Mirabeau, and has shown himself the most zealous disciple of the Order.
In his oath of allegiance he declares,
- „That the interests and the object of the Order shall be rated by him above all other relations, and that he will serve it with his honour, his fortune, and his blood.“—
He has kept his word, and has sacrificed them all—And he has been treated in the true spirit of the Order—used as a mere tool, cheated and ruined.—For I must now add, that the French borrowed from the Illuminati a maxim, unheard of in any other association of banditti, viz. that of cheating each other.
As the managers had the sole possession of the higher mysteries, and led the rest by principles which they held to be false, and which they employed only for the purpose of securing the co-operation of the inferior Brethren, so Mirabeau, Sieyes, Pethion, and others, led the Duke of Orleans at first by his wicked ambition, and the expectation of obtaining that crown which they intended to break in pieces, that they might get the use of his immense fortune, and of his influence on the thousands of his depending sycophants, who ate his bread and pandered to his gross appetites.
Although we very soon find him acting as an Illuminatus, we cannot suppose him so lost to common sense as to contribute his fortune, and risk his life, merely in order that the one should be afterwards taken from him by law, and the other put on a level with that of his groom or his pimp. He surely hoped to obtain the crown of his indolent relation. And indeed Mirabeau said to Bergasse, that „when the project was mentioned to the Duke of Orleans, he received it with all possible graciousness,“ (avec toute la grace imaginable.) During the contests between the Court and the Parliament of Paris, he courted popularity with an indecency and folly that nothing can explain but a mad and fiery ambition which blinded his eyes to all consequences. This is put out of doubt by his behaviour at Versailles on the dreadful 5th and 6th of October, 1789.
The depositions at the Chatelet prove in the most incontestible manner, that during the horrors of those two days he was repeatedly seen, and that whenever he was recognized by the crowd, he was huzzaed with Vive Orleans, Vive notre Roi Orleans, &c.—He then withdrew, and was seen in other places. While all about the unfortunate Royal Family were in the utmost concern for their fate, he was in gay humour, chatting on indifferent subjects. His last appearance in the evening of the 5th was about nine o’clock, conversing in a corner with men disguised in mean dress, and some in women’s clothes; among whom were Mirabeau, Barnave, Duport, and other deputies of the Republican party—and these men were seen immediately after, concealed among the lines of the regiment de Flandre, the corruption of which they had that day compleated.
He was seen again next morning, conversing with the same persons in women’s dress. And when the insulted Sovereign was dragged in triumph to Paris, Orleans was again seen skulking in a balcony behind his children, to view the procession of devils and furies; anxiously hoping all the while that some disturbance would arise in which the King might perish.—I should have added that he was seen in the morning at the top of the stairs, pointing the way with his hand to the mob, where they should go, while he went by another road to the King. In short, he went about trembling like a coward, waiting for the explosion which might render it safe for him to shew himself.
Mirabeau said of him,
- „The fellow carries a loaded pistol in his bosom, but will never dare to pull the trigger.“
He was saved, notwithstanding his own folly, by being joined in the accusation with Mirabeau, who could not rescue himself without striving also for Orleans, whom he despised, while he made use of his fortune.—In short, Orleans was but half illuminated at this time, and hoped to be King or Regent.
Yet he was deeply versed in the preparatory lessons of Illuminatism, and well convinced of its fundamental truths. He was well assured of the great influence of the women in society, and he employed this influence like a true disciple of Weishaupt.—Above three hundred nymphs from the purlieus of the Palais Royal were provided with ecus and Louis d’ors, by his grand procureur the Abbe Sieyes, and were sent to meet and to illuminate the two battalions of the Regiment de Flandre, who were coming to Versailles for the protection of the Royal Family. The privates of one of these regiments came and informed their officers of this attempt made on their loyalty—45,000l. livres were given them at St. Denys, to make them disband themselves—and the poor lads were at first dazzled by the name of a sum that was not familiar to them—but when some thinking head among them told them that it only amounted to two Louis d’ors a piece, they disclosed the bribery. They were then offered 90,000, but never saw it. (Depositions at, the Chatelet No. 317.) Mademoiselle Therouane, the favorita of the day, at the Palais Royal, was the most active person of the armed mob from Paris, dressed en Amazonne, with all the elegance of the opera, and turned many young heads that day which were afterwards taken off by the guillotine. The Duke of Orleans acknowledged, before his death, that he had expended above 50,000l. sterling in corrupting the Gardes Francoises. The armed mob which came from Paris to Versailles on the 5th of October, importuning the King for bread, had their pockets filled with crown pieces—and Orleans was seen on that day by two gentlemen, with a bag of money so heavy that it was fastened to his clothes with a strap, to hinder it from being oppressive, and to keep it in such a position that it should be accessible in an instant. (See the Depositions at the Chatelet, No. 177.)
But such was the contempt into which his gross profligacy, his cowardice, and his niggardly disposition, had brought him with all parties, that, if he had not been quite blinded by his wicked ambition, and by his implacable resentment of some bitter taunts he had gotten from the King and Queen, he must have seen very early that he was to be sacrificed as soon as he had served the purposes of the faction. At present, his assistance was of the utmost consequence. His immense fortune, much above three millions sterling, was almost exhausted during the three first years of the Revolution. But (what was of more consequence) he had almost unbounded authority among the Free Masons.
In this country we have no conception of the authority of a National Grand Master. When Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, by great exertions among the jarring sects in Germany, had got himself elected Grand Master of the Strict Observanz, it gave serious alarm to the Emperor, and to all the Princes of Germany, and contributed greatly to their connivance at the attempts of the Illuminati to discredit that party.
In the great cities of Germany, the inhabitants paid more respect to the Grand Master of the Masons than to their respective Princes. The authority of the D. of Orleans in France was still greater, in consequence of his employing his fortune to support it. About eight years before the Revolution he had (not without much intrigue and many bribes and promises) been elected Grand Master of France, having under his directions all the Improved Lodges.
The whole Association was called the Grand Orient de la France, and in 1785 contained 266 of these Lodges; (see Freymaurerische Zeitung, Neuwied 1787.) Thus he had the management of all those Secret Societies; and the licentious and irreligious sentiments which were currently preached there, were sure of his hearty concurrence. The same intrigue which procured him the supreme chair, must have filled the Lodges with his dependents and emissaries, and these men could not better earn their pay, than by doing their utmost to propagate infidelity, immorality, and impurity of manners.
But something more was wanted: Disrespect for the higher Orders of the State, and disloyalty to the Sovereign.—It is not so easy to conceive how these sentiments, and particularly the latter, could meet with toleration, and even encouragement, in a nation noted for its professions of veneration for its Monarch, and for the pride of its Noblesse. Yet I am certain that such doctrines were habitually preached in the Lodges of Philalethes, and Amis Reunis de la Verite. That they should be very current in Lodges of low-born Literati, and other Brethren in inferior stations, is natural, and I have already said enough on this head. But the French Lodges contained many gentlemen in easy, and affluent circumstances. I do not expect such confidence in my assertions, that even in these the same opinions were very prevalent. I was therefore much pleased with a piece of information which I got while these sheets were printing off, which corroborates my assertions.
This is a performance called La voile retiree, ou le Secret de la Revolution explique par la Franc Maconnerie. It was written by a Mr. Lefranc, President of the Seminary of the Eudists at Caen in Normandy, and a second edition was published at Paris in 1792. The author was butchered in the massacre of September. He says, that on the death of a friend, who had been a very zealous Mason, and many years Master of a respectable Lodge, he found among his papers a collection of Masonic writings, containing the rituals, catechisms, and symbols of every kind, belonging to a long train of degrees of Free Masonry, together with many discourses delivered in different Lodges, and minutes of their proceedings. The perusal filled him with astonishment and anxiety. For he found that doctrines were taught, and maxims of conduct were inculcated, which were subversive of religion and of all good order in the state; and which not only countenanced disloyalty and sedition, but even invited to it. He thought them so dangerous to the state, that he sent an account of them to she Archbishop of Paris long before the Revolution, and always hoped that that Reverend Prelate would represent the matter to his Majesty’s Ministers, and that they would put an end to the meetings of this dangerous Society, or would at least restrain them from such excesses. But he was disappointed, and therefore thought it his duty to lay them before the public.
Mr. Lefranc says expressly, that this shocking perversion of Free Masonry to seditious purposes was, in a great measure, but a late thing, and was chiefly brought about by the agents of the Grand Master, the Duke of Orleans. He was, however, of opinion that the whole Masonic Fraternity was hostile to Christianity and to good morals, and that it was the contrivance of the great schismatic Faustus Socinus, who being terrified by the fate of Servetus, at Geneva, fell on this method of promulgating his doctrines among the great in secret. This opinion is but ill supported, and is incompatible with many circumstances in Free Masonry—But it is out of our way at present. Mr. Lefranc then takes particular notice of the many degrees of Chivalry cultivated in the Lodges, and shows how, by artful changes in the successive explanations of the same symbols, the doctrines of Christianity, and of all revealed religion, are completely exploded, and the Philosophe Inconnu becomes at last a professed Atheist.—He then takes notice of the political doctrines which are in like manner gradually unfolded, by which „patriotism and loyalty to the prince are declared to be narrow principles, inconsistent with universal benevolence, and with the native and imprescriptible rights of man; civil subordination is actual oppression, and Princes are ex officio usurpers and tyrants.“ These principles he fairly deduces from the Catechisms of the Chevalier du Soliel, and of the Philosophe Inconnu. He then proceeds to notice more particularly the intrigues of the Duke of Orleans. From these it appears evident that his ambitious views and hopes had been of long standing, and that it was entirely by his support and encouragement that seditious doctrines were permitted in the Lodges. Many noblemen and gentlemen were disgusted and left these Lodges, and advantage was taken of their absence to improve the Lodges still more, that is to make them still more anarchical and seditious. Numbers of paltry scribblers who haunted the Palace Royal, were admitted into the Lodges, and there vented their poisonous doctrines. The Duke turned his chief attention to the French guards, introducing many of the privates and inferior officers into the obscure and even the more respectable Lodges, so that the officers were frequently disgusted in the Lodges by the insolent behaviour of their own soldiers under the mask of Masonic Brotherhood and Equality—and this behaviour became not unfrequent even out of doors. He asserts with great confidence that the troops were much corrupted by these intrigues—and that when they sometimes declared, on service, that they would not fire on their Brethren, the phrase had a particular reference to their Masonic Fraternity, because they recognised many of their Brother Masons in every crowd.—And the corruption was by no means confined to Paris and its neighbourhood, but extended to every place in the kingdom where there was a Municipality and a Mason Lodge.
Mr. Lefranc then turns our attention to many peculiarities in the Revolution, which have a resemblance to the practices in Free Masonry. Not only was the arch rebel the Duke of Orleans, the Grand Master, but the chief actors in the Revolution, Mirabeau, Condorcet, Rochefoucault, and others, were distinguished office-bearers in the great Lodges. He says that the distribution of France into departments, districts, circles, cantons, &c. is perfectly similar, with the same denominations, to a distribution which he had remarked in the correspondence of the Grand Orient. The President’s hat in the National Assembly is copied from that of a Tres Venerable Grand Maitre.—The scarf of a Municipal Officer is the same with that of a Brother Apprentice.—When the Assembly celebrated the Revolution in the Cathedral, they accepted of the highest honours of Masonry by passing under the Arch of Steel, formed by the drawn swords of two ranks of Brethren.—Also it is worthy of remark, that the National Assembly protected the meetings of Free Masons, while it peremptorily prohibited every other private meeting. The obligation of laying aside all stars, ribbands, crosses, and other honourable distinctions, under the pretext of Fraternal Equality, was not merely a prelude, but was intended as a preparation for the destruction of all civil distinctions, which took place almost at the beginning of the Revolution,—and the first proposal of a surrender, says Mr. Lefranc, was made by a zealous Mason.—He farther observes, that the horrible and sanguinary oaths, the daggers, death-heads, cross-bones, the imaginary combats with the murderers of Hiram, and many other gloomy ceremonies, have a natural tendency to harden the heart, to remove its natural disgust at deeds of horror, and have paved the way for those shocking barbarities which have made the name of Frenchmen abhorred over all Europe. These deeds were indeed perpetrated by a mob of fanatics; but the principles were promulgated and fostered by persons who style themselves philosophers.
I see more evidence of these important facts in another book just published by an emigrant gentleman (Mr. Latocnaye). He confirms my repeated assertions, that all the irreligious and seditious doctrines were the subjects of repeated harangues in the Mason Lodges, and that all the principles of the Revolution, by which the public mind was as it were set on fire, were nothing but enthusiastic amplifications of the common-place cant of Free Masonry, and arose naturally out of it. He even thinks „that this must of necessity be the case in every country where the minds of the lower classes of the State are in any way considerably fretted or irritated; it is almost impossible to avoid being drawn into this vortex, whenever a discontented mind enters into a Mason Lodge. The stale story of brotherly love, which at another time would only lull the hearer asleep, now makes him prick up his ears, and listen with avidity to the silly tale, and he cannot hinder fretting thoughts from continually rankling in his mind.“
Mr. Latocnaye says expressly, „That notwithstanding the general contempt of the public for the Duke of Orleans, his authority as Grand Master of the Masons gave him the greatest opportunity that a seditious mind could desire for helping forward the Revolution. He had ready to his hand a connected system of hidden Societies, protected by the State, habituated to secrecy and artifice, and already tinged with the very enthusiasm he wished to inspire. In these he formed political committees, into which only his agents were admitted. He filled the Lodges with the French guards, whom he corrupted with money and hopes of preferment; and by means of the Abbe Sieyes, and other emissaries, they were harangued with all the sophistical declamation, or cant of Masonry.“
Mr. Latocnaye says, that all this was peculiar to the Lodges of the Grand Orient; but that there were many (not very many, if we judge by the Neuwied almanac, which reckons only 289 in all France in 1784, of which 266 were of the Grand Orient) Lodges who continued on the old plan of amusing themselves with a little solemn trifling. He coincides with Mr. Lefranc in the opinion that the awful and gloomy rituals of Masonry, and particularly the severe trials of confidence and submission, must have a great tendency to harden the heart, and fit a man for attrocious actions. No one can doubt of this who reads the following instance:
- „A candidate for reception into one of the highest Orders, after having heard many threatenings denounced against all who should betray the Secrets of the Order, was conducted to a place where he saw the dead bodies of several who were said to have suffered for their treachery. He then saw his own brother tied hand and foot, begging his mercy and intercession. He was informed that this person was about to suffer the punishment due to this offence, and be that it was reserved for him (the candidate) to be the instrument of this just vengeance, and that this gave him an opportunity of manifesting that he was completely devoted to the Order. It being observed that his countenance gave signs of inward horror, (the person in bonds imploring his mercy all the while) he was told that in order to spare his feelings, a bandage should be put over his eyes. A dagger was then put into his right hand, and being hood-winked, his left hand was laid upon the palpitating heart of the criminal, and he was then ordered to strike. He instantly obeyed; and when the bandage was taken from his eyes, he saw that it was a lamb that he had stabbed. Surely such trials and such wanton cruelty are fit only for training conspirators.“
Mr. Latocnaye adds, that „when he had been initiated, an old gentleman asked him what he thought of the whole?“ He answered, „A great deal of noise, and much nonsense.“ „Nonsense.“ said the other, „don’t judge so rashly, young man; I have worked these twenty-five years, and the farther I advanced, it interested me the more; but I stopped short, and nothing shall prevail on me to advance a step farther.“ In another conversation the gentleman said, „I imagine that my stoppage was owing to my refusal about nine years ago, to listen to some persons who made to me, out of the Lodge, proposals which were seditious and horrible; for ever since that time I have remarked, that my higher Brethren treat me with a much greater reserve than they had done before, and that, under the pretext of further instruction; they have laboured to confute the notions which I had already acquired, by giving some of the most delicate subjects a different turn. I saw that they wanted to remove some suspicions which I was beginning to form concerning the ultimate scope of the whole.“
I imagine that these observations will leave no doubt in the mind of the reader with respect to the influence of the secret Fraternity of Free Masonry in the French Revolution, and that he will allow it to be highly probable that the infamous Duke of Orleans had, from the beginning, entertained hopes of mounting the throne of France. It is not my province to prove or disprove this point, only I think it no less evident, from many circumstances in the transactions of those tumultuous days, that the active leaders had quite different views, and were impelled by fanatical notions of democratic felicity, or, more probably, by their own ambition to be the movers of this vast machine, to overturn the ancient government, and erect a republic, of which they hoped to be the managers. Mirabeau had learned when in Germany that the principles of anarchy had been well digested into a system, and therefore wished for some instruction as to the subordinate detail of the business, and for this purpose requested a deputation from the Illuminati.
In such a cause as this, we may be certain that no ordinary person would be sent. One of the deputies was Amelius, the next person in the order to Spartacus and Philo. His worldly name was Johann. J. C. Bode, at Weimar, privy-counsellor to the Prince of Hesse-Darmstadt. (See Fragmente der Biographie des verstorbenes Freyherr Bode in Weimar, mit zuverlassigen Urkunder, 8vo. Riom. 1795. See also Endliche Shickfall der Freymaurerey, 1794; also Wiener Zeitschrift fur 1793.)—This person has played a principal part in the whole scheme of Illumination. He was a person of considerable and showy talents as a writer. He had great talents for conversation, and had kept good company. With respect to his mystical character, his experience was great. He was one of the Templar Masons, and among them was Eques a Liliis Convallium. He had speculated much about the origin and history of Masonry, and when at the Willemsbad convention, was converted to Illuminatism. He was the great instigator of Nicholai, Gedicke, and Biester, to the hunt after Jesuits which so much occupied them, and suggested to Nicholai his journey through Germany. Leuchtsenring whom I mentioned before, was only the letter-carrier between Bode and these three authors. He was just such a man as Weishaupt wished for; his head filled with Masonic fanaticism, attaching infinite importance to the frivolities of Masonry, and engaged in an enthusiastic and fruitless research after its origin and history. He had collected, however, such a number of archives (as they were called) of Free Masonry, that he sold his manuscript to the Duke of Saxe Gotha, (into whose service Weishaupt engaged himself when he was driven from Bavaria), for 150 dahlers. This little anecdote shows the high importance attributed to those matters by persons of whom we should expect better things. Bode was also a most determined and violent materialist. Besides all these qualities, so acceptable to the Illuminati, he was a discontented Templar Mason, having been repeatedly disappointed of the preferment which he thought himself entitled to. When he learned that the first operations of the Illuminati were to be the obtaining the sole direction of the Mason Lodges, and of the whole Fraternity, his hopes revived of rising to some of the Commanderies, which his enthusiasm, or rather fanaticism, had made him hope to see one day regained by the Order:—but when he found that the next and favourite object was to root out the Strict Observanz altogether, he started back. But Philo saw that the understanding (shall we call it?) that can be dazzled with one whim, may be dazzled with another, and he now attached him to Illuminatism, by a magnificent display of a world ruled by the Order, and conducted to happiness by means of Liberty and Equality. This did the business, as we see by the private correspondence, where Philo informs Spartacus of his first difficulties with Amelius. Amelius was gained over in August 1782, and we see by the same correspondence, that the greatest affairs were soon entrusted to him—he was generally employed to deal with the great. When a Graf or a Baron was to be wheedled into the Order, Amelius was the agent.—He was also the chief operator in all their contests with the Jesuits and the Rosycrucians. It was also Bode that procured the important accession of Nicholai to the Order. This he brought about through Leuchtsenring; and lastly, his numerous connections among the Free Masons, together with Knigge’s influence among them, enabled the Illuminati to worm themselves into every Lodge, and at last gave them almost the entire command of the Fraternity.
Such was the first of the deputies to France. The other was a Mr. Bussche, called in the Order Bayard; therefore probably a man of respectable character; for most of Spartacus’s names were significant like his own. He was a military man, Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of Hesse Darmstadt.—This man also was a discontented Templar Mason, and his name in that Fraternity had been Eques a Fontibus Eremi. He was illuminated by Knigge. He had also been unsuccessful both at court and in the field, in both of which situations he had been attempting to make a distinguished figure. He, as well as Bode, were immersed in debts. They were therefore just in the proper temper for Cosmo-political enterprise.
They went to Paris in the end of 1788, while the Notables were sitting, and all Paris was giving advice. The alarm that was raised about Animal Magnetism, which was indeed making much noise at that time, and particularly at Paris, was assigned by them as the great motive of the journey. Bode also said that he was anxious to learn what were the corrections made on the system of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants. They had taken that name at first, to screen themselves from the charges against them under the name of Templars. They had corrected something in their system when they took the name Philalethes. And now when the Schisms of the Philalethes were healed, and the Brethren again united under the name of Amis Reunis, he suspected that Jesuits had interfered; and because he had heard that the principles of the Amis Reunis were very noble, he wished to be more certain that they were purged of every thing Jesuitical.
The deputies accordingly arrived at Paris, and immediately obtained admission into these two Fraternities. They found both of them in the ripest state for Illumination, having shaken off all the cabalistical, chemical, and mystical whims that had formerly disturbed them, and would now take up too much of their time. They were now cultivating with great zeal the philosophico political doctrines of universal citizenship. Their leaders, to the number of twenty, are mentioned by name in the Berlin Monatschrift for 1785, and among them are several of the first actors in the French Revolution. But this is nothing distinctive, because persons of all opinions were Masons.
The Amis Reunis were little behind the Illuminati in every thing that was irreligious and anarchical, and had no inclination for any of the formalities of ritual, &c. They were already fit for the higher mysteries, and only wanted to learn the methods of business which had succeeded so well in spreading their doctrines and maxims over Germany. Besides, their doctrines had not been digested into a system, nor had the artful methods of leading on the pupils from bad to worse been practised. For hitherto, each individual had vented in the Lodges his own opinions, to unburden his own mind, and the Brethren listened for instruction and mutual encouragement. Therefore, when Spartacus’s plan was communicated to them, they saw at once its importance, in all its branches, such as the use of the Mason Lodges, to fish for Minervals—the rituals and ranks to entice the young, and to lead them by degrees to opinions and measures which, at first sight, would have shocked them. The firm hold which is gotten of the pupils, and indeed of all the inferior classes, by their reports in the course of their pretended training in the knowledge of themselves and of other men—and, above all, the provincial arrangement of the order, and the clever subordination and entire dependence on a select band or Pandæmonium at Paris, which should inspire and direct the whole.—I think (altho‘ I have not express assertions of the fact) from the subsequent conduct of the French revolters, that even at this early period, there were many in those societies who were ready to go every length proposed to them by the Illuminati, such as the abolition of royalty, and of all privileged orders, as tyrants by nature, the annihilation and robbery of the priesthood, the rooting out of Christianity, and the introduction of Atheism, or a philosophical chimera which they were to call Religion. Mirabeau had often spoken of the last branch of the Illuminated principles, and the conversations held at Versailles during the awful pauses of the 5th of October, (which are to be seen in the evidence before the Chatelet in the Orleans process,) can hardly be supposed to be the fancies of an accidental mob.
Mirabeau was, as I have said, at the head of this democratic party, and had repeatedly said, that the only use of a King was to serve as a pageant, in order to give weight to public measures in the opinion of the populace.—And Mr. Latocnaye says, that this party was very numerous, and that immediately after the imprudent or madlike invitation of every scribbler in a garret to give his advice, the party did not scruple to speak their sentiments in public, and that they were encouraged in their encomiums on the advantages of a virtuous republican government by Mr. Neckar, who had a most extravagant and childish predilection for the constitution of Geneva, the place of his nativity, and was also much tinged with the Cosmo-political philosophy of the times. The King’s brothers, and the Princes of the blood, presented a memorial to his Majesty, which concluded by saying, that „the effervesence of the public opinions had come to such a height that the most dangerous principles, imported from foreign parts, were avowed in print with perfect impunity—that his majesty had unwarily encouraged every fanatic to dictate to him, and to spread his poisonous sentiments, in which the rights of the throne were not only disrespected, but were even disputed—that the rights of the higher classes in the state ran a great risk of being speedily suppressed, and that nothing would hinder the sacred right of property from being ere long invaded, and the unequal distribution of wealth from being thought a proper subject of reform.“
When such was the state of things in Paris; it is plain that the business of the German deputies would be easily transacted. They were received with open arms by the Philalethes, the Amis de la Verite, the Social Contract, &c. and in the course of a very few weeks in the end of 1788, and the beginning of 1789, (that is, before the end of March) the whole of the Grand Orient, including the Philalethes, Amis Reunis, Martinistes, &c. had the secrets of Illumination communicated to them. The operation naturally began with the Great National Lodge of Paris, and those in immediate dependence on it. It would also seem, from many circumstances that occurred to my observation, that the Lodges in Alsace and Lorraine were Illuminated at this time, and not long before as I had imagined. Strasburg I know had been Illuminated long ago, while Philo was in the Order. A circumstance strikes me here as of some moment. The sects of Philalethes, and Amis Reunis were refinements engrafted on the system of the Chevaliers Bienfaisants at Lyons. Such refinements never fail to be considered as a sort of heresy, and the professors will be held with a jealous and unfriendly eye by some, who will pride themselves on adhering to the old faith. And the greater the success of the heresy, the greater will be the animosity between the parties.—May not this help to explain the mutual hatred of the Parisians and the Lyonnois, which produced the most dreadful attrocities ever perpetrated on the face of the earth, and made a shambles and a desert of the finest city of France?
The first proceeding by the advice of the deputies was the formation of a political committee in every Lodge. This committee corresponded with the distant Lodges, and in it were discussed and settled all the political principles which were to be inculcated on the members. The author of the Neueste Arbeitung says expressly, that „he was thoroughly instructed in this; that it was given in charge to these committees to frame general rules, and to carry through the great plan (grand auvre) of a general overturning of religion and government.“ The principal leaders of the subsequent Revolution were members of these committees. Here were the plans laid, and they were transmitted through the kingdom by the Corresponding Committees.
Thus were the stupid Bavarians (as the French were once pleased to call them) their instructors in the art of overturning the world. The French were indeed the first who put it in practice. These committees arose from the Illuminati in Bavaria, who had by no means given over working; and these committees produced the Jacobin Club. It is not a frivolous remark, that the Masonic phrase of the persons who wish to address the Brethren, (F. S. je demande la parole, which the F. S. reports to the V. G. M. and which he announces to the Brethren thus, „Mes freres, frere tel demande la parole, la parole lui est accordee,“) is exactly copied by the Jacobin Club. There is surely no natural connection between Free Masonry and Jacobinism—but we seek the link—Illuminatism.—
The office-bearers of one of the Lodges of Philalethes in Paris were Martin, Willermooz, (who had been deputy from the Chevaliers Bienfaisants to the Willemsbad Convention) Chappe, Minet, de la Henriere, and Savatier de l’Ange. In another (the Contract Social) the Political Committee consisted of La Fayette, Condorcet, Pethion, d’Orleans, Abbe Bartholis, d’Aiguillon, Bailly, Marq. de la Salle, Despresmenil. This particular Lodge had been founded and conducted by one De Leutre, an adventurer and cheat of the first magnitude, who sometimes made a figure, and at other times was without a shilling. At this very time he was a spy attached to the office of the police of Paris. The Duke of Orleans was Warden of the Lodge. The Abbe Sieyes was a Brother Orator, but not of this Lodge, nor, I think, of the former. It was probably of the one conducted by Mirabeau and the Abbe Perigord.
But it appears from the piece from which I am at present borrowing, that Sieyes was present in the meetings of both Lodges, probably as visiting Brother, employed in bringing them to common measures. I must observe, that the subsequent conduct of some of these men does not just accord with my conjecture, that the principles of the Illuminati were adopted in their full extent. But we know that all the Bavarian Brethren were not equally Illuminated, and it would be only copying their teachers if the cleverest of these their scholars should hold a sanctum sanctorum among themselves, without inviting all to the conference. Observe too that the chief lesson which they were now taking from the Germans was the method of doing business, of managing their correspondence, and of procuring and training pupils. A Frenchman does not think that he needs instruction in any thing like principle or science. He is ready on all occasions to be the instructor.
Thus were the Lodges of France converted in a very short time into a set of secret affiliated societies, corresponding with the mother Lodges of Paris, receiving from thence their principles and instructions, and ready to rise up at once when called upon to carry on the great work of overturning the state.
Hence it has arisen that the French aimed, in the very beginning, at overturning the whole world. In all the revolutions of other countries, the schemes and plots have extended no farther than the nation where they took their rise. But here we have seen that they take in the whole world. They have repeatedly declared this in their manifestos, and they have declared it by their conduct—This is the very aim of the Illuminati. Hence too may be explained how the revolution took place in a moment in every part of France. The revolutionary societies were early formed, and were working in secret before the opening of the National Assembly, and the whole nation changed, and changed again, and again, as if by beat of drum. Those duly initiated in this mystery of iniquity were ready every where at a call. And we see Weishaupt’s wish accomplished in an unexpected degree, and the debates in a club giving laws to solemn assemblies of the nation, and all France bending the neck to the city of Paris. The members of the club are Illuminati, and so are a great part of their correspondents.—Each operates in the state as a Minerval would do in the Order, and the whole goes on with systematic regularity. The famous Jacobin Club was just one of those Lodges, as has been already observed; and as, among individuals one commonly takes the lead, and contrives for the rest, so it has happened on the present occasion, that this Lodge, supported by Orleans and Mirabeau, was the one that stepped forth and shewed itself to the world and thus became the oracle of the party; and all the rest only echoed its discourses, and at last allowed it to give law to the whole, and even to rule the kingdom. It is to be remarked too that the founders of the club at Mentz were Illuminati, (Relig. Begebenh. 1793. p. 448.) before the Revolution, and corresponded with another Lodge at Strasburg; and these two produced mighty effects during the year 1790. In a performance called Memoires Posthumes de Custine it is said, that when that general was bending his course to Holland, the Illuminati at Strasburg, Worms, and Spire, immediately formed clubs, and invited him into that quarter, and, by going to Mentz and encouraging their brethren in that city, they raised a party against the garrison, and actually delivered up the place to the French army.
A little book, just now printed with the title Paragraphan, says, that Zimmerman, of whom I have spoken more than once, went to France to preach liberty. He was employed as a missionary of Revolution in Alsace, where he had formerly been a most successful missionary of Illuminatism. Of his former proceedings the following is a curious anecdote. He connected himself with a highly accomplished and beautiful woman, whose conversation had such charms, that he says she gained him near a hundred converts in Spire alone. Some persons of high rank, and great exterior dignity of character, had felt more tender impressions—and when the lady informed them of certain consequences to their reputation, they were glad to compound matters with her friend Mr. Zimmerman, who either passed for her husband or took the scandal on himself. He made above 1500 Louis d’ors in this way. When he returned, as a preacher of Revolution, he used to mount the pulpit with a sabre in his hand, and bawl out, „Behold, Frenchmen, this is your God. This alone can save you.“ The author adds, that when Custine broke into Germany, Zimmerman got admission to him, and engaged to deliver Manheim into his hands. To gain this purpose, he offered to set some corners of the city on fire, and assured him of support. Custine declined the offer.—Zimmerman appeared against him before the Revolutionary Tribunal, and accused him of treachery to his cause.—Custine’s answer is remarkable. „Hardly,“ said he, „had I set my foot in Germany, when this man, and all the fools of his country, besieged me, and would have delivered up to me their towns and villages—What occasion had I to do any thing to Manheim, when the Prince was neutral?“ Zimmerman found his full account in Robespierre’s bloody sway—but the short term of his attrocities was also the whole of Zimmerman’s carreer. He was arrested, but again liberated, and soon after again imprisoned, after which I can learn no more of him. The same thing is positively asserted in another performance, called Cri de la Raison, and in a third, called Les Masques Arrachees. Observe too, that it is not the clubs merely that are accused of this treachery, but the Illuminati. De la Metherie also, in his preface to the Journal de Physique for 1790, says expressly, that „the cause and arms of France were powerfully supported in Germany by a sect of philosophers called the Illuminated.“ In the preface to the Journal for 1792, he says, that „Letters and deputations were received by the Assembly from several Corresponding Societies in England, felicitating them on the triumph of Reason and Humanity, and promising them their cordial assistance.“——He read some of these manifestos, and says, that „one of them recommended strongly the political education of the children, who should be taken from the parents and trained up for the state.“——Another lamented the baleful influence of property, saying, that „the efforts of the Assembly would be fruitless, till the fence was removed with which the laws so anxiously secured inordinate wealth. They should rather be directed to the support of talents and virtue; because property would always support itself by the too great influence which it had in every corrupted state. The laws should prevent the too great accumulation of it in Particular families.“——In short, the counsel was almost verbatim what the Abbe Cossandey declared to have been preached in the meetings of the Illuminati, which terrified him and his colleagues, and made them quit the association. Anarcharsis Cloots, born in Prussian Westphalia, a keen Illuminatus, came to Paris for the express purpose of forwarding the great work, and by intriguing in the style of the Order, he got himself made one of the Representatives of the Nation. He seems to have been one of the completest fanatics in Cosmo-politism, and just such a tool as Weishaupt would choose to employ for a coarse and arduous job. He broke out at once into all the silly extravagance of the unthinking herd, and his whole language is just the jargon of Illumination. Citizen of the world—Liberty and Equality, the imprescriptible Rights of Man—Morality, dear Morality—Kings and Priests are useless things—they are Despots and Corrupters, &c.—He declared himself an atheist, and zealously laboured to have atheism established by law. He conducted that farcical procession in the true style of the most childish ritual of Philo, where counterfeited deputies from all quarters of the world, in the dresses of their countries, came to congratulate the nation for its victory over Kings and Priests. It is also worthy of remark, that by this time Leuchtsenring, whom we have seen so zealous an Illuminatus, after having been as zealous a Protestant, tutor of Princes, Hosrath and Hosmeister, was now a secretary or clerk in one of the Bureaus of the National Assembly of France.
I may add as a finishing touch, that the National Assembly of France was the only body of men that I have ever heard of who openly and systematically proposed to employ assassination, and to institute a band of patriots, who should exercise this profession either by sword, pistol, or poison;—and though the proposal was not carried into execution, it might be considered as the sentiments of the meeting; for it was only delayed till it should be considered how far it might not be imprudent, because they might expect reprisals. The Abbe Dubois engaged to poison the Comte d’Artois; but was himself robbed and poisoned by his accomplices.—There were strong reasons for thinking that the Emperor of Germany was poisoned—and that Mirabeau was thus treated by his pupil Orleans,—also Madame de Favras and her son.—This was copying the Illuminati very carefully.
After all these particulars, can any person have a doubt that the Order of Illuminati formally interfered in the French Revolution, and contributed greatly to its progress? There is no denying the insolence and oppression of the Crown and the Nobles, nor the misery and slavery of the people, nor that there were sufficient provocation and cause for a total change of measures and of principles. But the rapidity with which one opinion was declared in every corner, and that opinion as quickly changed, and the change announced every where, and the perfect conformity of the principles, and sameness of the language, even in arbitrary trifles, can hardly be explained in any other way. It may indeed be said „que les beaux genies se rencontrent,—that wits jump. The principles are the same, and the conduct of the French has been such as the Illuminati would have exhibited; but this is all—the Illuminati no longer existed.“ Enough has been said on this point already.—The facts are as have been narrated. The Illuminati continued as an Order, and even held assemblies, though not so frequently nor so formally as before, and though their Areopagus was no longer at Munich. But let us hear what the French themselves thought of the matter.
In 1789, or the beginning of 1790, a manifesto was sent from the GRAND NATIONAL LODGE of Free Masons (so it is entitled) at Paris, signed by the Duke of Orleans as Grand Master, addressed and sent to the Lodges in all the respectable cities of Europe, exhorting them to unite for the support of the French Revolution, to gain it friends, defenders, and dependents; and according to their opportunities, and the practicability of the thing, to kindle and propagate the spirit of revolution through all lands.
This is a most important article, and deserves a very serious attention. I got it first of all in a work called, Höchste wichtige Erinnerungen zur rechten Zeit über einige der allerernsthaftesten Angelegenheiten dieses Zeitalters, von L. A. Hoffmann, Vienna, 1795.
The author of this work says, „That every thing he advances in these memorandums is consistent with his own personal knowledge, and that he is ready to give convincing proofs of them to any respectable person who will apply to him personally. He has already given such convincing documents to the Emperor, and to several Princes, that many of the machinations occasioned by this manifesto have been detected and stopped; and he would have no scruple at laying the whole before the public, did it not unavoidably involve several worthy persons who had suffered themselves to be misled, and heartily repented of their errors.“ He is naturally (being a Catholic) very severe on the Protestants, (and indeed he has much reason,) and by this has drawn on himself many bitter retorts. He has however defended himself against all that are of any consequence to his good name and veracity, in a manner that fully convinces any impartial reader, and turns to the confusion of the slanderers.
Hoffmann says, that „he saw some of those manifestos; that they were not all of one tenor, some being addressed to friends, of whose support they were already allured.“ One very important article of their contents is Earnest exhortations to establish in every quarter secret schools of political education, and schools for the public education of the children of the people, under the direction of well-principled masters; and offers of pecuniary assistance for this purpose, and for the encouragement of writers in favour of the Revolution, and for indemnifying the patriotic booksellers who suffer by their endeavours to suppress publications which have an opposite tendency. We know very well that the immense revenue of the Duke of Orleans was scattered among all the rabble of the Palais Royal. Can we doubt of its being employed in this manner? Our doubts must vanish, when we see that not long after this was publicly said in the National Assembly, „that this method was the most effectual for accomplishing their purpose of setting Europe in a flame.“ „But much expence,“ says the speaker, „will attend it, and much has already been employed, which cannot be named because it is given in secret.“ The Assembly had given the Illumination war-hoop—“Peace with cottages, but war with palaces“—A pouvoir revolutionnaire is mentioned, which supersedes all narrow thoughts, all ties of morality. Lequinio publishes the most detestable book that ever issued from a printing press, Les Prejuges vaincus, containing all the principles, and expressed in the very words of Illuminatism.
Hoffmann says, that the French Propaganda had many emissaries in Vienna, and many friends whom he could point out. Mirabeau in particular had many connections in Vienna, and to the certain knowledge of Hoffmann, carried on a great correspondence in cyphers. The progress of Illumination had been very great in the Austrian States, and a statesman gave him an account of their proceedings, (qui font redresser les cheveux) which makes one’s hair stand on end. „I no longer wonder,“ says he, „that the Neueste Arbeitung des Spartacus und Philo was forbidden. O ye almighty Illuminati, what can you not accomplish by your serpent-like insinuation and cunning!“ Your leaders say, „This book is dangerous, because it will teach wicked men the most refined methods of rebellion, and it must never get into the hands of the common people. They have said with the most impudent face to some Princes, who did not perceive the deeper-laid reason for suppressing the book. The leaders of the Illuminati are, not without reason, in anxiety, lest the inferior classes of their own Society should make just reprisals for having been so basely tricked, by keeping them back and in profound ignorance of their real designs; and for working on them by the very goodness of their hearts, to their final ruin; and lest the Free Masons, whom they have also abused, should think of revenging themselves, when the matchless villainy of their deceivers has been so clearly exposed. It is in vain for them to talk of the danger of instructing the people in the methods of fomenting rebellion by this book. The aims are too apparent, and even in the neighbourhood of Regensburg, where the strength of the Illuminati lay, every person said aloud, that the IIluminatism discovered by this book was High Treason, and the most unheard of attempt to annihilate every religion and every civil government.“ He goes on: „In 1790 I was as well acquainted with the spirit of the Illumination-system as at present, but only not so documented by their constitutional acts, as it is now by the Neueste Arbeitung des Spartacus und Philo. My Masonic connections were formerly extensive, and my publication entitled Eighteen Paragraphs Concerning Free Masonry, procured me more acquaintance with Free Masons of the greatest worth, and of Illuminati equally upright, persons of respectability and knowledge, who had discovered and repented the trick and inveigling conduct of the Order. All of us jointly swore opposition to the Illuminati, and my friends considered me as a proper instrument for this purpose. To whet my zeal, they put papers into my hands which made me shudder, and raised my dislike to the highest pitch. I received from them lists of the members, and among them saw names which I lamented exceedingly. Thus stood matters in 1790, when the French Revolution began to take a serious turn. The intelligent saw in the open system of the Jacobins the complete hidden system of the Illuminati. We knew that this system included the whole world in its aims, and France was only the place of its first explosion. The Propaganda works in every corner to this hour, and its emissaries run about in all the four quarters of the world, and are to be found in numbers in every city that is a seat of government.
„He farther relates how they in Vienna wanted to enlist him, and, as this failed, how they have abused him even in the foreign newspapers.
„I have personal knowledge (continues he) that in Germany a second Mirabeau, Mauvillon, had proposed in detail a plan of revolution, entirely and precisely suited to the present state of Germany. This he circulated among several Free Mason Lodges, among all the Illuminated Lodges which still remained in Germany, and through the hands of all the emissaries of the Propaganda, who had been already dispatched to the frontiers (Vorposten) of every district of the empire, with means for stirring up the people.“ (N. B. In 1792, Mauvillon, finding abundant support and encouragement in the appearance of things round him, when the French arms had penetrated every where, and their invitations to revolt had met with so hearty a reception from the discontented in every state, came boldly forward, and, in the Brunswick Journal for March 1792, declared that „he heartily rejoiced in the French Revolution, wished it all success, and thought himself liable to no reproach when he declared his hopes that a similar Revolution would speedily take place in Germany.“)
In the Hamburgh Political Journal, August, September, and October 1790, there are many proofs of the machinations of emissaries from the Mason Lodges of Paris among the German Free Masons—See pages 836, 963, 1087, &c. It appears that a club has taken the name of Propaganda—and meets once a week at least, in the form of a Mason Lodge. It consists of persons of all nations, and is under the direction of the Grand Master, the Duke of Orleans. De Leutre is one of the Wardens. They have divided Europe into colonies, to which they give revolutionary names, such as the Cap, the Pike, the Lantern, &c. They have ministers in these colonies. (One is pointed out in Saxony, by marks which I presume are well understood.) A secret press was found in Saxe Gotha, furnished with German types, which printed a seditious work called the Journal of Humanity. This Journal was found in the mornings lying in the streets and highways. The house belonged to an Illuminatus of the name of Duport, a poor schoolmaster—he was associated with another in Strasburg, who was also an Illuminatus.—His name was Meyer, the writer of the Strasburg Newspaper. He had been some time a teacher in Salzmann’s accademy, who we see was also an Illuminatus, but displeased with their proceedings almost at first. (Private Correspondence.)
„I have personal knowledge (continues Professor Hoffman) that in 1791, during the temporary dearth at Vienna, several of these emissaries were busy in corrupting the minds of the poor, by telling them that in like manner the court had produced a famine in Paris in 1789. I detected some of them, and exposed them in my Patriotic Remarks on the Present Dearth, and had the satisfaction of seeing my endeavours of considerable effect.“
Surely these facts show that the Anarchists of France knew of the German Illuminati, and confided in their support. They also knew to what particular Lodges they could address themselves with safety and confidence.—But what need is there of more argument, when we know the zeal of the Illuminati, and the unhoped for opportunity that the Revolution had given them of acting with immediate effect in carrying on their great and daring work? Can we doubt that they would eagerly put their hand to the Plough? And, to complete the proof, do we not know from the lists found in the secret correspondence of the Order, that they already had Lodges in France, and that in 1790 and 1791 many Illuminated Lodges in Germany, viz. Mentz, Worms, Spire, Frankfort, actually interfered, and produced great effects. In Switzerland too they were no less active. They had Lodges at Geneva and at Bern. At Bern two Jacobins were sentenced to several years imprisonment, and among their papers were found their patents of Illumination. I also see the fate of Geneva ascribed to the operations of Illuminati residing there, by several writers—particularly by Girtanner, and by the Gottingen editor of the Revolution Almanac.
I conclude this article with an extract or two from the proceedings of the National Assembly and Convention, which make it evident that their principles and their practice are precisely those of the Illuminati, on a great scale.
When the assumption of the Duchy of Savoy as an 84th Department was debated, Danton said to the Convention.
„In the moment that we send freedom to a nation on our frontier, we must say to them you must have no more Kings—for if we are surrounded by tyrants, their coalition puts our own freedom in danger.—When the French nation sent us hither, it created a great committee for the general insurrection of the people.“
On the 19th of November 1792 it was decreed, „That the Convention, in the name of the French nation, tenders help and fraternity to all people who would recover their liberty.“
On the 21st of November, the President of the Convention said to the pretended deputies of the Duchy of Savoy, „Representatives of an independent people, important to mankind was the day when the National Convention of France pronounced its sentence, Royal dignity is abolished.——From that day many nations will, in future, reckon the era of their political existence.—From the beginning of civil establishments Kings have been in opposition to their nations—but now they rise up to annihilate Kings.—Reason, when she darts her rays into every corner, lays open eternal truths——She alone enables us to pass sentence on despots, hitherto the scare-crow of other nations.“
But the most distinct exhibition of principle is to be seen in a report from the diplomatic committee, who were commissioned to deliberate on the conduct which France was to hold with other nations. On this report was founded the decree of the 15th of December 1793. The Reporter addresses the Convention as follows:
„The Committees of Finance and War ask in the beginning—What is the object of the war which we have taken in hand? Without all doubt the object is THE ANNIHILATION OF ALL PRIVILEGES, WAR WITH THE PALACES, PEACE WITH THE COTTAGES. These are the principles on which your declaration of war is founded. All tyranny, all privilege, must be treated as an enemy in the countries where we set our foot. This is the genuine result of our principles.—But it is not with Kings alone that we are to wage war—were these our sole enemies, we should only have to bring down ten or twelve heads. We have to fight with all their accomplices, with the privileged orders, who devour and have oppressed the people during many centuries.
„We must therefore declare ourselves for a revolutionary power in all the countries into which we enter—(Loud applauses from the Assembly)—Nor need we put on the cloak of humanity—we disdain such little arts.—We must clothe ourselves with all the brilliancy of reason, and all the force of the nation. We need not mask our principles—the despots know them already. The first thing we must do is to ring the alarum bell, for insurrection and uproar.—We must, in a solemn manner, let the people see the banishment of their tyrants and privileged casts—otherwise, the people, accustomed to their fetters, will not be able to break their bonds.—It will effect nothing, merely to excite a rising of the people—this would only be giving them words instead of standing by them.
„And since, in this manner, we ourselves are the Revolutionary Administration, all that is against the rights of the people must be overthrown at our entry—We must display our principles by actually destroying all tyranny; and our generals after having chased away the tyrants and their satellites, must proclaim to the people that they have brought them happiness; and then, on the spot, they must suppress tithes, feudal rights, and every species of servitude.“
„But we shall have done nothing if we stop here. Aristocracy still domineers—we must therefore suppress all authorities existing in the hands of the upper classes.—When the Revolutionary Authority appears, there must nothing of the old establishment remain.—A popular system must be introduced—every office must be occupied by new functionaries—and the Sans Cullottes must every where have a share in the Administration.
„Still nothing is done, till we declare aloud the precision of our principles to such as want only half freedom.—We must say to them—If you think of compromising with the privileged casts, we cannot suffer such dealing with tyrants—They are our enemies, and we must treat them as enemies, because they are neither for Liberty nor Equality.—Show yourselves disposed to receive a free constitution—and the Convention will not only stand by you, but will give you permanent support; we will defend you against the vengeance of your tyrants—against their attacks, and against their return.—Therefore abolish from among you the Nobles, and every ecclesiastical and military incorporation. They are incompatable with Equality.—Henceforward you are citizens, all equal in rights—equally called upon to rule, to defend, and to serve your country.—The agents of the French Republic will instruct and assist you in forming a free constitution, and assure you of happiness and fraternity.“
This Report was loudly applauded, and a decree formed in precise conformity to its principles. Both were ordered to be translated into all languages, and copies to be furnished to their generals, with orders to have them carefully dispersed in the countries which they invaded.
And, in completion of these decrees, their armies found it easy to collect as many discontented or worthless persons in any country as sufficed for setting up a tree of liberty. This they held as a sufficient call for their interference.—Sometimes they performed this ceremony themselves—a representation was easily made up in the same way—and then, under the name of a free constitution, the nation was forced to acquiesce in a form dictated at the point of the bayonet, in which they had not the smallest liberty to choose—and they were plundered of all they had, by way of compensating to France for the trouble she had taken.—And this they call Liberty.—It needs no comment.—
Thus have I attempted to prove that the present awful situation of Europe, and the general fermentation of the public mind in all nations, have not been altogether the natural operations of discontent, oppression, and moral corruption, although these have been great, and have operated with fatal energy; but that this political fever has been carefully and systematically heightened by bodies of men, who professed to be the physicians of the State, and, while their open practice employed cooling medicines, and a treatment which all approved, administered in secret the most inflammatory poisons, which they made up so as to flatter the diseased fancy of the patient. Although this was not a plan begun, carried on, and completed by the same persons, it was undoubtedly an uniform and consistent scheme, proceeding on the same unvaried principle, and France undoubtedly now smarts under all the woes of German Illumination.
I beg leave to suggest a few thoughts, which may enable us to draw some advantage from this shocking mass of information.
I. I may observe, in the first place, and I beg it may be particularly attended to, that in all those villainous machinations against the peace of the world, the attack has been first made on the principles of Morality and Religion. The conspirators saw that till these are extirpated, they have no chance of success; and their manner of proceeding shews that they consider Religion and Morality as inseparably connected together. We learn much from this—Fas est et ab hoste doceri.—They endeavour to destroy our religious sentiments, by first corrupting our morals. They try to inflame our passions, that when the demands from this quarter become urgent, the restraints of Religion may immediately come in sight, and stand in the way. They are careful, on this occasion, to give such a view of those restraints, that the real origin of them does not appear.—We are made to believe that they have been altogether the contrivance of Priests and despots, in order to get the command of us. They take care to support these assertions by facts, which, to our great shame, and greater misfortune, are but too numerous. Having now the passions on their side, they find no difficulty in persuading the voluptuary, or the discontented, that tyranny, actually exerted, or resolved on in future, is the sole origin of religious restraint. He seeks no further argument, and gives himself no trouble to find any. Had he examined the matter with any care, he would find himself just brought back to those very feelings of moral excellence and moral depravity that he wishes to get rid of altogether; and these would tell him that pure Religion does not lay a single restraint on us that a noble nature would not have laid on itself—nor enjoins a single duty which an ingenuous and warm heart would not be ashamed to find itself deficient in. He would then see that all the sanctions of Religion are fitted to his high rank in the scale of existence. And the more he contemplates his future prospects, the more they brighten upon his view, the more attainable they appear, and the more he is able to know what they may probably be. Having attained this happy state of mind, (an attainment in the power of any kind heart that is in earnest in the enquiry) he will think that no punishment is too great for the unthankful and groveling soul which can forego such hopes, and reject these noble proffers, for the comparatively frivolous and transitory gratifications of life. He is not frightened into worthy and virtuous conduct by fears of such merited punishment; but, if not enticed into it by his high expectations, he is, at least, retained in the paths of virtue by a kind of manly shame.
But all this is overlooked, or is kept out of sight, in the instructions of Illuminatism. In these the eye must be kept always directed to the Despot. This is the bugbear, and every thing is made to connect with present or future tyranny and oppression—Therefore Religion is held out as a combination of terrors—the invention of the state-tools, the priests. But it is not easy to stifle the suggestions of Nature—therefore no pains are spared to keep them down, by encreasing the uncertainty and doubts which arise in the course of all speculations on such subjects. Such difficulties occur in all scientific discussions.—Here they must be numerous and embarrassing—for in this enquiry we come near the first principles of things, and the first principles of human knowledge. The geometer does not wonder at mistakes even in his science, the most simple of all others.—Nor does the mechanic or the chemist reject all his science, because he cannot attain clear conceptions of some of the natural relations which operate in the phenomena under his consideration.—Nor do any of these students of nature brand with the name of fool, or knave, or bigot, another person who has drawn a different conclusion from the phenomenon.——In one point they all agree—they find themselves possessed of faculties which enable them to speculate, and to discover; and they find, that the operation of those faculties is quite unlike the things which they contemplate by their means—and they feel a satisfaction in the possession of them, and in this distinction.——But this seems a misfortune to our Illuminators. I have long been struck with this. If by deep meditation I have solved a problem which has baffled the endeavours of others, I should hardly thank the person who convinced me that my success was entirely owing to the particular state of my health, by which my brain was kept free from many irritations to which other persons are exposed. Yet this is the conduct of the Illuminated—They are abundantly self-conceited; and yet they continually endeavour to destroy all grounds of self-estimation.—They rejoice in every discovery that is reported to them of some resemblance, unnoticed before, between mankind and the inferior creation, and would be happy to find that the resemblance is complete. It is very true, Mr. Pope’s „Poor Indian, with untutor’d mind,“ had no objection to his dogs going to heaven with him:
„And thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
„His faithful dog shall bear him company.“
This is not an abject, but it is a modest sentiment. But our high-minded philosophers, who, with Beatrice in the play, „cannot brook obedience to a wayward piece of marl,“ if it be in the shape of a Prince, have far other notions of the matter. Indeed they are not yet agreed about it. Mr. de la Metherie hopes, that before the enlightened Republic of France has got into its teens, he shall be able to tell his fellow-citizens, in his Journal de Physique, that particular form of crystallization which men have been accustomed to call God.—Dr. Priestley again deduces all intelligence from elastic undulations, and will probably think, that his own great discoveries have been the quiverings of some fiery marsh miasma. While Pope’s poor Indian hopes to take his dog to heaven with him, these Illuminators hope to die like dogs, and that both soul and body shall be as if they never had been.
Is not this a melancholy result of all our Illumination? It is of a piece with the termination of the ideal Philosophy, viz. professed and total ignorance. Should not this make us start back and hesitate, before we pout like wayward children at the hardships of civil subordination, and before we make a sacrifice to our ill humour of all that we value ourselves for? Does it not carry ridicule and absurdity in its forehead?—Such assertions of personal worth and dignity, (always excepting Princes and Priests,) and such abject acknowledgments of worthlessness.—Does not this, of itself, show that there is some radical fault in the whole? It has all arisen from what they have called Illumination, and this turns out to be worse than darkness—But we also know that it has all arisen from self-conceited discontent, and that it has been brought to its present state by the rage of speculation. We may venture to put the question to any man’s conscience—whether discontent did not precede his doubts about his own nature and whether he has not encouraged the train of argument that tended to degrade him? „Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought.“—Should not this make us distrust, at least, the operations of this faculty of our mind, and try to moderate and check this darling propensity.—It seems a misfortune of the age—for we see that it is a natural source of disturbance and revolution.
But here it will be immediately said, „What, must we give over thinking—be no longer rational creatures, and believe every lie that is told us?“ By no means.—Let us be really rational creatures—and, taught by experience, let us, in all our speculations on subjects which engage the passions, guard ourselves with the most anxious care against the risk of having our judgments warped by our desires.—There is no propensity of our nature of which the proper and modest indulgence is not beneficial to man, and which is not hurtful, when this indulgence is carried too far,—and if we candidly peruse the page of history, we shall be convinced that the abuse is great in proportion as the subject is important. What has been so ruinously perverted as the religious principle?—What horrid superstition has it not produced? The Reader will not, I hope, take it amiss that I presume to direct his attention to some maxims which ought to conduct a prudent man in his indulgence of a speculative disposition, and apply them to the case in hand.
Whoever will for a while call off his attention from the common affairs of life, the Curæ hominum, et rerum pondus inane, and will but reflect a little on that wonderful principle within him, which carries him over the whole universe, and shows him its various relations—Whoever also remarks how very small a proportion his own individual existence bears to this immeasurable scene, cannot but feel an inexpressible pleasure in the contemplation of his own powers—He must rise in his own estimation, and be disposed to cherish with fondness this principle which so eminently raises him above all around him. Of all the sources of human vanity this is surely the most manly, the most excusable, and the most likely to be extravagantly indulged.—We may be certain that it will be so indulged, and that men will frequently speculate for the sake of speculation alone, and that they will have too much confidence in the results of this favourite occupation.—As there have been ages of indolent and abject credulity and superstition, it is next to certain that there are also times of wild and extravagant speculation—and when we see it becoming a sort of general passion, we may be certain that this is a case in point.
This can hardly be denied to be the character of the present day. It is not denied. On the contrary it is gloried in as the prerogative of the eighteenth century. All the speculations of antiquity are considered as glimmerings (with the exceptions of a few brighter flashes) when compared with our present meridian splendor. We should therefore listen with caution to the inferences from this boasted Illumination. Also when we reflect on what passes in our own minds, and on what we observe in the world, of the mighty influence of our desires and passions on our judgments, we should carefully notice whether any such warping of the belief is probable in the present case. That it is so is almost certain—for the general and immediate effect of this Illumination is to lessen or remove many restraints which the sanctions of religion lay on the indulgence of very strong passions, and to diminish our regard for a certain purity or correctness of manners, which religion recommends as the only conduct suited to our noble natures, and as absolutely necessary for attaining that perfection and happiness of which we are capable.—For surely if we take away religion, it will be wisdom „to eat and to drink, since to-morrow we die.“ If, moreover, we see this Illumination extolled above all science, as friendly to virtue, as improving the heart, and as producing a just morality, which will lead to happiness both for ourselves and others, but perceive at the same time that these assertions are made at the expence of principles, which our natural feelings force us to venerate as supreme and paramount to all others, we may then be certain that our informer is trying to mislead and deceive us.—For all virtue and goodness both of heart and conduct, is in perfect harmony, and there is no jarring or inconsistency. But we must pass this sentence on the doctrines of this Illumination. For it is a melancholy truth that they have been preached and recommended, for the most part, by clergymen, parish-ministers, who, in the presence of invoked Deity, and in the face of the world, have set their solemn seal to a system of doctrines directly opposite to those recommended in their writings; which doctrines they solemnly profess to believe, and solemnly swear to inculcate. Surely the informations and instructions of such men should be rejected. Where shall we find their real opinions? In their solemn oaths?—or in these infidel dissertations?—In either case, they are deceivers, whether misled by vanity or by the mean desire of church-emoluments; or they are prostitutes, courting the society of the wealthy and sensual. Honesty, like justice, admits of no degrees. A man is honest, or he is a knave, and who would trust a knave? But such men are unsuitable instructors for another reason—they are unwise; for, whatever they may think, they are not respected as men of worth, but are inwardly despised as parasites, by the rich, who admit them into their company, and treat them with civility, for their own reasons. We take instructions not merely from the knowing, the learned, but from the wise—not therefore from men who give such evidences of weakness.
Such would be the conduct of a prudent man, who listens to the instructions of another with the serious intention of profiting by them. In the present case he sees plain proofs of degraded self estimation, of dishonesty, and of mean motives. But the prudent man will go further—he will remark that dissolute manners, and actions which are inevitably subversive of the peace and order, nay, of the very existence of society, are the natural and necessary consequences of irreligion. Should any doubt of this remain in his mind; should he sometimes think of an Epictetus, or one or two individuals of antiquity, who were eminently virtuous, without the influence of religious sanctions, he should recollect, that the Stoics were animated by the thought, that while the wise man was playing the game of life, the gods were looking on, and pleased with his skill. Let him read the beautiful account given by Dr. Smith of the rise of the Stoic philosophy, and he will see that it was an artificial but noble attempt of a few exalted minds, enthusiasts in virtue, aiming to steel their souls against the dreadful but unavoidable misfortunes to which they were continually exposed by the daily recurring revolutions in the turbulent democracies of ancient Greece. There, a philosopher was this day a magistrate, and the next day a captive and a slave. He would see that this fair picture of mental happiness and independence was fitted for the contemplation of only a few choice spirits, but had no influence on the bulk of mankind. He must admire the noble characters who were animated by this manly enthusiasm, and who have really exhibited some wonderful pictures of virtuous heroism; but he will regret, that the influence of these manly, these natural principles, was not more extensive. He will say to himself, „How will a whole nation act when religious sanctions are removed, and men are actuated by reason alone?“—He is not without instruction on this important subject. France has given an awful lesson to surrounding nations, by shewing them what is the natural effect of shaking off the religious principle, and the veneration for that pure morality which characterises Christianity. By a decree of the Convention, (June 6, 1794) it is declared, that there is nothing criminal in the promiscuous commerce of the sexes, and therefore nothing that derogates from the female character, when woman forgets that she is the depositary of all domestic satisfaction——that her honour is the sacred bond of social life——that on her modesty and delicacy depend all the respect and confidence that will make a man attach himself to her society, free her from labour, share with her the fruits of all his own exertions, and work with willingness and delight, that she may appear on all occasions his equal, and the ornament of all his acquisitions. In the very argument which this selected body of senators has given for the propriety of this decree, it has degraded woman below all estimation. „It is to prevent her from murdering the fruit of unlawful love, by removing her shame, and by relieving her from the fear of want.“ The senators say, „the Republic wants citizens, and therefore must not only remove this temptation of shame, but must take care of the mother while she nurses the child. It is the property of the nation, and must not be lost.“ The woman all the while is considered only as the she-animal, the breeder of Sans Culottes. This is the just morality of Illumination. It is really amusing (for things revolting to nature now amuse) to observe with what fidelity the principles of the Illuminati have expressed the sentiments which take possession of a people who have shaken off the sanctions of Religion and morality. The following is part of the address to Psycharion and the company mentioned in page 257: „Once more, Psycharion, I indulge you with a look behind you to the flowery days of childhood. Now look forwards, young woman! the holy circle of the marriageable, (mannbaren) welcome you. Young men, honour the young woman, the future breeder (gebaererin)!“ Then, to all.—“Rejoice in the dawn of Illumination and of Freedom. Nature at last enjoys her sacred never-fading rights. Long was her voice kept down by civil subordination; but the days of your majority now draw nigh, and you will no longer, under the authority of guardians, account it a reproach to consider with enlightened eyes the secret workshops of nature, and to enjoy your work and duty.“ Minos thought this very fine, but it raised a terrible disturbance and broke up the assembly.
Such are the effects of this boasted enlightening of the human mind with respect to religion and morality. Let us next consider what is the result of the mighty informations which we have got in respect of our social or political connections.
II. We have learned the sum total of this political Illumination, and see that, if true, it is melancholy, destructive of our present comforts, numerous as they are, and affords no prospect of redress from which we can profit, but, on the contrary, plunges mankind into dissention, mutual injury, and universal misery, and all this for the chance only of prevailing in the contest, and giving our posterity a chance of going on in peace, if no change shall be produced, as in former times, by the efforts of ambitious men. But the Illumination appears to be partial, nay false. What is it? It holds out to the prince nothing but the resignation of all his possessions, rights and claims, sanctioned by the quiet possession of ages, and by all the feelings of the human heart which give any notion of right to his lowest subject. All these possessions and claims are discovered to have arisen from usurpations, and are therefore tyranny. It has been discovered, that all subordinate subjections were enforced, therefore their continuance is slavery. But both of these historical assertions are in a great degree false, and the inferences from them are unreasonable. The world has gone on as we see it go on at present. Most principalities or sovereignties have arisen as we see personal authorities and influence arise every day among ourselves. Business for the whole must be done. Most men are sufficiently occupied by their private affairs, and they are indolent even in these—they are contented when another does the thing for them. There is not a little village, nor a society of men, where this is not seen every day. Some men have an enjoyment in this kind of vicarious employment. Other men like influence and power, and thus are compensated for their trouble. Thus many petty managers of public affairs arise in every country. The mutual animosities of individuals, and still more, the animosities of tribes, clans, and different associations, give rise to another kind of superiors—to leaders, who direct the struggles of the rest, whether for offence or defence. The descendants of Israel said, „they wanted a man to go out before the people, like other nations.“ As the small business of a few individuals requires a manager or a leader, so do some more general affairs of these petty superiors.—Many of these also are indolent enough to wish this trouble taken off their hands; and thus another rank of superiors arises, and a third, and so on, till a great State may be formed; and in this gradation each class is a competent judge of the conduct of that class only which is immediately above it.
All this may arise, and has often arisen, from voluntary concession alone. This concession may proceed from various causes,—from confidence in superior talents—from confidence in great worth,—most generally from the respect or deference which all men feel for great possessions. This is frequently founded in self-interest and expectations of advantage; but it is natural to man, and perhaps springs from our instinctive sympathy with the satisfactions of others—we are unwilling to disturb them, and even wish to promote them.
But this subordination may arise, and has often arisen, from other causes—from the love of power and influence, which makes some men eager to lead others, or even to manage their concerns. We see this every day, and it may be perfectly innocent. It often arises from the desire of gain of one kind or another.—This also may frequently be indulged with perfect innocence, and even with general advantage. Frequently, however, this subordination is produced by the love of power or of gain pushed to an immoderate degree of ambition, and rendered unjust. Now there arise oppression, tyranny, sufferings, and slavery. Now appears an opposition between the rights or claims of the ruler and of the people. Now the rulers come to consider themselves as a different class, and their transactions are now only with each other.—Prince becomes the rival or the enemy of Prince; and in their contests one prevails, and the dominion is enlarged. This rivalship may have begun in any rank of superiors; even between the first managers of the affairs of the smallest communities; and it must be remarked that they only are the immediate gainers or losers in the contest, while those below them live at ease, enjoying many advantages of the delegation of their own concerns.
No human society has ever proceeded purely in either of these two ways, but there has always been a mixture of both.—But this process is indispensably necessary for the formation of a great nation, and for all the consequences that result only from such a coalition.—Therefore it is necessary for giving rise to all those comforts, and luxuries, and elegances, which are to be found only in great and cultivated states. It is necessary for producing such enjoyments as we see around us in Europe, which we prize so highly, and for which we are making all this stir and disturbance. I believe that no man who expects to be believed will positively assert that human nature and human enjoyments are not meliorated by this cultivation.—It seems to be the intention of nature, and, notwithstanding the follies and vices of many, we can have little hesitation in saying that there are in the most cultivated nations of Europe, and even in the highest ranks of those nations, men of great virtue and worth, and of high accomplishment—Nor can we deny that such men are the finest specimens of human nature. Rosseau indeed wrote a whimsical pamphlet, in which he had the vanity to think that he had proved that all these fruits of cultivation were losses to humanity and virtue—Yet Rousseau could not be contented with the society of the rude and unpolished, although he pretended that he was almost the sole worshipper of pure virtue.—He supported himself, not by assisting the simple peasant, but by writing music and luscious novels for the pampered rich.
This is the circumstance entirely overlooked, or artfully kept out of sight, in the boasted Illumination of these days. No attention is paid to the important changes which have happened in national greatness, in national connection, in national improvement—yet we never think of parting with any of the advantages, real or imaginary, which these changes have produced—nor do we reflect that in order to keep a great nation together—to make it act with equality, or with preponderancy, among other nations, the individual exertions must be concentrated, must be directed—and that this requires a ruler vested with supreme power, and interested by some great and endearing motive, such as hereditary possession of this power and influence, to maintain and defend this coalition of men.—All this is overlooked, and we attend only to the subordination which is indispensably necessary. Its grievances are immediately felt, and they are heightened tenfold by a delicacy or sensibility which springs from the great improvements in the accommodations and enjoyments of life, which the gradual usurpation and subsequent subordination have produced, and continue to support. But we are determined to have the elegance and grandeur of a palace without the prince.—We will not give up any of our luxuries and refinements, yet will not support those high ranks and those nice minds which produced them, and which must continue to keep them from degenerating into barbarous simplicity and coarse sensuality. We would keep the philosophers, the poets, the artists, but not the Mæcenases. It is very true that in such a state there would be no Conjuration des Philosophes; for in such a state this vermin of philosophes and scribblers would not have existed. In short, we would have what is impossible.
I have no hesitation in saying, that the British Constitution is the form of government for a great and refined nation, in which the ruling sentiments and propensities of human nature seem most happily blended and balanced. There is no occasion to vaunt it as the ancient rights of Britons, the wisdom of ages, &c. It has attained its present pitch of perfection by degrees, and this not by the efforts of wisdom, but by the struggles of vice and folly, working on a rich fund of good nature, and of manly spirit, that are conspicuous in the British character. I do not hesitate to say that it is the only form of government which will admit and give full exercise to all the respectable propensities of our nature, with the least chance of disturbance and the greatest probability of man’s arriving at the highest pitch of improvement in every thing that raises him above the beasts of the field. Yet there is no part of it that may not, that is not, abused, by pushing it to an improper length, and the same watchful care is necessary for preserving our inestimable blessings that was employed in acquiring them. This is to be done, not by flying at once to an abstract theory of the rights of man. There is an evident folly in this procedure. What is this theory? It is the best general sketch that we can draw of social life, deduced from our knowledge of human nature. And what is this knowledge? It is a well digested abstract, or rather a declaration of what we have observed of human actions. What is the use therefore of this intermediate picture, this theory of the rights of man?—It has a chance of being unlike the original——it must certainly have imperfections, therefore it can be of no use to us. We should go at once to the original—we should consider how men have acted—what have been their mutual expectations—their fond propensities—what of these are inconsistent with each other—what are the degrees of indulgence which have been admitted in them all without disturbance.—I will venture to say that whoever does this, will find himself imperceptibly led to contemplate a mixed hereditary monarchy, and will figure to himself a parliament of King, Lords, and Commons, all looking at each other with somewhat of a cautious or jealous eye, while the rest of the nation are fitting, „each under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and there is none to make him afraid;“—in one word, the Constitution of Great Britain.
A most valuable result of such contemplation will be a thorough conviction that the grievance which is most clamorously insisted on is the inevitable consequence of the liberty and security which we enjoy. I mean ministerial corruption, with all the dismal tale of placemen, and pensioners, and rotten boroughs, &c. &c. These are never seen in a despotic government—there they are not wanted—nor can they be very apparent in an uncultivated and poor state—but in a luxurious nation, where pleasures abound, where the returns of industry are secure; here an individual looks on every thing as his own acquisition—he does not feel his relation to the state—has no patriotism—thinks that he would be much happier if the state would let him alone. He is fretted by the restraints which the public weal lays on him—therefore government and governors appear as checks and hindrances to his exertions—hence a general inclination to resist administration. Yet public business must be done, that we may lie down and rise again in safety and peace. Administration must be supported—there are always persons who wish to possess the power that is exercised by the present ministers, and would turn them out. How is all this to be remedied? I see no way but by applying to the selfish views of individuals—by rewarding the friends of administration—This may be done with perfect virtue—and from this the selfish will conceive hopes, and will support a virtuous ministry—but they are as ready to help a wicked one. This becomes the greatest misfortune of a free nation. Ministers are tempted to bribe—and, if a systematic opposition be considered as a necessary part of a practical constitution, it is almost indispensable—and it is no where so prevalent as in a pure democracy. Laws may be contrived to make it very troublesome, but can never extirpate it nor greatly diminish it: this can be done only by despotism, or by national virtue. It is a shameful complaint—we should not reprobate a few ministers, but the thousands who take the bribes. Nothing tends so much to diminish it in a corrupted nation as great limitations to the eligibility of representatives—and this is the beauty of our constitution.
We have not discovered, therefore, by this boasted Illumination, that Princes and superiors are useless, and must vanish from the earth; nor that the people have now attained full age, and are fit to govern themselves. We want only to revel a little on the last fruits of national cultivation, which we would quickly consume, and never allow to be raised again. No matter how this progress began, whether from concession or usurpation—We possess it, and, if wise, we will preserve it, by preserving its indispensable supports. They have indeed been frequently employed very improperly, but their most pernicious abuse has been this breed of scribbling vermin, which have made the body politic smart in every limb.
Hear what opinion was entertained of the sages of France by their Prince, the father of Louis XVI. the unfortunate martyr of Monarchy. „By the principles of our new Philosophers, the Throne no longer wears the splendour of divinity. They maintain that it arose from violence, and that by the same justice that force erected it, force may again shake it, and overturn it. The people can never give up their power. They only let it out for their own advantage, and always retain the right to rescind the contract, and resume it whenever their personal advantage, their only rule of conduct, requires it. Our philosophers teach in public what our passions suggest only in secret. They say to the Prince that all is permitted only when all is in his power, and that his duty is fulfilled when he has pleased his fancy. Then, surely, if the laws of self-interest, that is, the self-will of human passions, shall be so generally admitted, that we thereupon forget the eternal laws of God and of Nature, all conceptions of right and wrong, of virtue and vice, of good and evil, must be extirpated from the human heart. The throne must totter, the subjects must become unmanageable and mutinous, and their ruler hard-hearted and inhuman. The people will be incessantly oppressed or in an uproar.“—“What service will it be if I order such a book to be burnt?—the author can write another to-morrow.“ This opinion of a Prince is unpolished indeed, and homely, but it is just.
Weishaupt grants, that „there will be a terrible convulsion, and a storm—but this will be succeeded by a calm—the unequal will now be equal—and when the cause of dissension is thus removed, the world will be in peace.“—True, when the causes of dissension are removed. Thus, the destruction of our crop by vermin is at an end when a flood has swept every thing away—but as new plants will spring up in the waste, and, if not instantly devoured, will again cover the ground with verdure, so the industry of man, and his desire of comfort and consideration, will again accumulate in the hands of the diligent a greater proportion of the good things of life. In this infant state of the emerging remains of former cultivation, comforts, which the present inhabitants of Europe would look on with contempt, will be great, improper, and hazardous acquisitions. The principles which authorise the proposed dreadful equalisation will as justly entitle the idle or unsuccessful of future days to strip the possessor of his advantages, and things must ever remain on their savage level.
III. I think that the impression which the insincerity of conduct of those instructors will leave on the mind, must be highly useful. They are evidently teaching what they do not believe themselves—and here I do not confine my remark to their preparatory doctrines, which they afterwards explode. I make it chiefly with respect to their grand ostensible principle, which pervades the whole, a principle which they are obliged to adopt against their will.—They know that the principles of virtue are rooted in the heart, and that they can only be smothered—but did they pretend to eradicate them and proclaim hominem homini lupum, all would spurn at their instruction. We are wheedled, by tickling our fancy with a notion that sacred virtue is not only secure, but that it is only in such hearts that it exerts its native energy. Sensible that the levelling maxims now spoken of are revolting to the mind, the Illuminators are under the necessity of keeping us from looking at the shocking picture, by displaying a beautiful scene of Utopian happiness—and they rock us asleep by the eternal lullaby of morality and universal philanthropy. Therefore the foregoing narration of the personal conduct of these instructors and reformers of the world, is highly useful. All this is to be brought about by the native loveliness of pure virtue, purged of the corruptions which superstitious fears have introduced, and also purged of the selfish thoughts which are avowed by the advocates of what their opponents call true religion. This is said to hold forth eternal rewards to the good, and to threaten the wicked with dreadful punishment. Experience has shown how inefficient such motives are. Can they be otherwise? say our Illuminators. Are they not addressed to a principle that is ungenerous and selfish? But our doctrines, say they, touch the hearts of the worthy. Virtue is beloved for her own sake, and all will yield to her gentle sway. But look, Reader, look at Spartacus the murderer, at Cato the keeper of poisons and the thief—Look at Tiberius, at Alcibiades, and the rest of the Bavarian Pandemonium. Look at poor Bahrdt. Go to France—look at Lequinio, at Condorcet. Look at the Monster Orleans.——All were liars. Their divinity had no influence on their profligate minds. They only wanted to wheedle you, by touching the strings of humanity and goodness which are yet braced up in your heart, and which still yield sweet harmony if you will accompany their notes with those of religion, and neither clog them with the groveling pleasures of sense, nor damp the whole with the thought of eternal silence.
A most worthy and accomplished gentleman, who took refuge in this country, leaving behind him his property, and friends to whom he was most tenderly attached, often said to me that nothing so much affected him as the revolution in the hearts of men.—Characters which were unspotted, hearts thoroughly known to himself, having been tried by many things which search the inmost folds of selfishness or malevolence—in short, persons whose judgments were excellent, and on whose worth he could have rested his honour and his life, so fascinated by the contagion, that they came at last to behold, and even to commit the most atrocious crimes with delight.—He used sometimes to utter a sigh which pierced my heart, and would say, that it was caused by some of those things that had come across his thoughts. He breathed his last among us, declaring that it was impossible to recover peace of mind, without a total oblivion of the wickedness and miseries he had beheld.—What a valuable advice, „Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.“—When the prophet told Hazael that he would betray his Prince, he exclaimed, „Is thy servant a dog, that he should do such a thing?“ Yet next day he murdered him.
Never since the beginning of the world, has true religion received so complete an acknowledgment of her excellence, as has been extorted from the fanatics who have attempted to destroy her. Religion stood in their way, and the wretch Marat, as well as the steady villain Weishaupt, saw that they could not proceed till they had eradicated all sentiments of the moral government of the universe. Human nature, improved as it has been by religion, shrunk from the talks that were imposed, and it must therefore be brutalized—The grand confederation was solemnly sworn to by millions in every corner of France—but, as Mirabeau said of the declaration of the Rights of Man, it must be made only the „Almanack of the bygone year“—Therefore Lequinio must write a book, declaring oaths to be nonsense, unworthy of San Culottes, and all religion to be a farce. Not long after, they found that they had some use for a God—but he was gone—and they could not find another. Their constitution was gone—and they have not yet found another. What is now left them on which they can depend for awing a man into a respect for truth in his judicial declarations? what but the honour of a Citizen of France, who laughs at all engagements, which he has broken again and again? Religion has taken off with her every sense of human duty. What can we expect but villainy from an Archbishop of Paris and his chapter, who made a public profession that they had been playing the villains for many years, teaching what they thought to be a bundle of lies? What but the very thing which they have done, cutting each other’s throats?—Have not the enlightened citizens of France applauded the execution of their fathers? Have not the furies of Paris denounced their own children? But turn your eyes from the horrifying spectacle, and think on your own noble descent and alliance. You are not the accidental productions of a fatal chaos, but the work of a Great Artist, creatures that are cared for, born to noble prospects, and conducted to them by the plainest and most simple precepts, „to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God,“ not bewildered by the false and fluttering glare of French Philosophy, but conduced by this clear, single light, perceivable by all, „Do to others what you should reasonably expect them to do to you.“
Think not the Muse whose sober voice you hear,
Contracts with bigot frown her fallen brow,
Casts round Religion’s orb the mists of Fear,
Or shades with horror what with smiles should glow.
No—she would warn you with seraphic fire,
Heirs as ye are of Heaven’s eternal day,
Would bid you boldly to that Heaven aspire,
Not sink and slumber in your cells of clay.
Is this the bigot’s rant? Away, ye vain,
Your doubts, your fears, in gloomy dulness steep;
Go—soothe your souls in sickness, death, or pain,
With the sad solace of eternal sleep.
Yet know, vain sceptics, know, th‘ Almighty Mind,
Who breath’d on man a portion of his fire,
Bade his free soul, by earth nor time confin’d,
To Heaven, to immortality aspire.
Nor shall this pile of hope his bounty rear’d,
By vain philosophy be e’er destroy’d;
Eternity, by all or hop’d or fear’d,
Shall be by all or suffer’d or enjoy’d.
The unfortunate Prince who has taken refuge in this kingdom, and whose situation among us is an illustrious mark of the generosity of the nation, and of the sovereignty of its laws, said to one of the Gentleman about him, that „if this country was to escape the general wreck of nations, it would owe its preservation to Religion.“—When this was doubted, and it was observed, that there had not been wanting many Religionists in France; „True,“ said the Prince, „but they were not in earnest.—I see here a serious interest in the thing. The people know what they are doing when they go to church—they understand something of it, and take an interest in it.“ May his observation be just, and his expectations be fulfilled!
IV. I would again call upon my countrywomen with the most earnest concern, and beseech them to consider this subject as of more particular importance to themselves than even to the men.—While woman is considered as a respectable moral agent, training along with ourselves for endless improvement; then, and only then, will she be considered by lordly man as his equal;—then, and only then, will she be allowed to have any rights, and those rights be respected. Strip women of this prerogative, and they become the drudges of man’s indolence, or the pampered playthings of his idle hours, subject to his caprices, and slaves to his mean passions. Soon will their present empire of gallantry be over. It is a refinement of manners which sprang from Christianity; and when Christianity is forgotten, this artificial diadem will be taken from their heads, and unless they adopt the ferocious sentiments of their Gallic neighbours, and join in the general uproar, they will sink into the insignificance of the women in the turbulent republics of Greece, where they are never seen in the busy haunts of men, if we except four or five, who, during the course of as many centuries, emerged from the general obscurity, and appear in the historic page, by their uncommon talents, and by the sacrifice of what my fair countrywomen still hold to be the ornament of their sex. I would remind them, that they have it in their power to retain their present honourable station in society. They are our early instructors; and while mothers in the respectable stations of life continued to inculcate on the tender minds of their sons a veneration for the precepts of Religion, their pliant children, receiving their instructions along with the affectionate caresses of their mothers, got impressions which long retained their force, and which protected them from the impulses of youthful passions, till ripening years fitted their minds for listening to serious instruction from their public teachers. Sobriety and decency of manners were then no slur on the character of a youth, and he was thought capable of struggling for independence, or pre-eminence, fit either for supporting or defending the state, although he was neither a toper nor a rake. I believe that no man who has seen thirty or forty years of life will deny that the manners of youth are sadly changed in this respect. And, without presuming to say that this has proceeded from the neglect, and almost total cessation of the moral education of the nursery, I think myself well warranted, from my own observation, to say that this education and the sober manners of young men have quitted us together.
Some will call this prudery, and croaking. But I am almost transcribing from Cicero, and from Quintilian. Cornelia, Aurelia, Attia, and other ladies of the first rank, are praised by Cicero only for their eminence in this respect; but not because they were singular. Quintilian says, that in the time immediately prior to his own, it had been the general practice of the ladies of rank to superintend the moral education both of sons and daughters. But of late, says he, they are so engaged in continual and corrupting amusements, such as the shows of gladiators, horse-racing, and deep play, that they have no time, and have yielded their places to Greek governesses and tutors, outcasts of a nation more subdued by their own vices than by the Roman arms——I dare say this was laughed at, as croaking about the corruption of the age. But what was the consequence of all this?—The Romans became the most abandoned voluptuaries, and, to preserve their mean pleasures, they crouched as willing slaves to a succession of the vilest tyrants that ever disgraced humanity.
What a noble fund of self-estimation would our fair partners acquire to themselves, if, by reforming the manners of the young generation, they should be the means of restoring peace to the world! They have it in their power, by the renewal of the good old custom of early instruction, and perhaps still more, by impressing on the minds of their daughters the same sentiments, and obliging them to respect sobriety and decency in the youth, and pointedly to withhold their smiles and civilities from all who transgress these in the smallest degree. This is a method of proceeding that will most certainly be victorious. Then indeed will the women be the saviours of their country. While therefore the German fair have been repeatedly branded with having welcomed the French invaders, let our ladies stand up for the honour of free-born Britons, by turning against the pretended enlighteners of the world, the arms which nature has put into their hands, and which those profligates have presumptuously expected to employ in extending their influence over mankind. The empire of beauty is but short, but the empire of virtue is durable; nor is there an instance to be met with of its decline. If it be yet possible to reform the world, it is possible for the fair. By the constitution of human nature, they must always appear as the ornament of human life, and be the objects of fondness and affection; so that if any thing can make head against the selfish and overbearing dispositions of man, it is his respectful regard for the sex. But mere fondness has but little of the rational creature in it, and we see it harbour every day in the breast that is filled with the meanest and most turbulent passions. No where is it so strong as in the harems of the east; and as long as the women ask nothing of the men but fondness and admiration, they will get nothing else—they will never be respected. But let them rouse themselves, assert their dignity, by shewing their own elevated sentiments of human nature, and by asking up to this claim, and they may then command the world.
V. Another good consequence that should result from the account that has been given of the proceedings of this conspiracy is, that since the fascinating picture of human life, by which men have been wheedled into immediate anarchy and rebellion, is insincere, and a mere artificial creature of the imagination, it can have no steadiness, but must be changed by every freak of fancy, or by every ingenious sophist, who can give an equal plausibility to whatever suits his present views. It is as much an airy phantom as any other whim of Free Masonry, and has no prototype, no original pattern in human nature, to which recourse may always be had, to correct mistakes, and keep things in a constant tenor. Has not France given the most unequivocal proofs of this? Was not the declaration of the Rights of Man, the production of their most brilliant Illuminators, a picture, in abstracto, where man was placed at a distance from the eye, that no false light of local situation might pervert the judgment or engage the passions? Was it not declared to be the master-piece of human wisdom? Did not the nation consider it at leisure? and, having it continually before their eyes, did they not, step by step, give their assent to the different articles of their Constitution, derived from it, and fabricated by their most choice Illuminators? And did not this Constitution draw the applauses of the bright geniuses of other nations, who by this time were busy in persuading, each his countrymen, that they were ignoramuses in statistics, and patient slaves of oppression or of ancient prejudices? Did not panegyrics on it issue from every garret in London? Where is it now? where is its successor? Has any one plan of government subsisted, except while it was supported by the incontroulable and inexorable power of the guillotine? Is not the present administration of France as much as ever the object of discontent and of terror, and its coercions as like as ever to the summary justice of the Parisian mob? Is there any probability of its permanency in a state of peace, when the fears of a foreign enemy no longer give a consolidation to their measures, and oblige them either to agree among themselves, or immediately to perish?
VI. The above accounts evince in the most uncontrovertible manner the dangerous tendency of all mystical societies, and of all associations who hold secret meetings. We see that their uniform progress has been from frivolity and nonsense to wickedness and sedition. Weishaupt has been at great pains to shew the good effects of secrecy in the Association, and the arguments are valid for this purpose. But all his arguments are so many dissuasive advices to every thinking and sober mind. The man who really wishes to discover an abstruse truth will place himself, if possible in a calm situation, and will by no means expose himself to the impatient hankering for secrets and wonders—and he will always fear that a thing which resolutely conceals itself cannot bear the light. All who have seriously employed themselves in the discovery of truth have found the great advantages of open communication of sentiment. And it is against common sense to imagine that there is any thing of vast importance to mankind which is yet a secret, and which must be kept a secret in order to be useful. This is against the whole experience of mankind—And surely to hug in one’s breast a secret of such mighty importance, is to give the lie to all our professions of brotherly love. What a solecism! a secret to enlighten and reform the whole world. We render all our endeavours impotent when we grasp at a thing beyond our power. Let an association be formed with a serious plan for reforming its own members, and let them extend in numbers in proportion as they succeed—this might do some good. But must the way of doing this be a secret?—It may be to many—who will not look for it where it is to be found—It is this:
„Do good,—seek peace,—and pursue it.“
But it is almost affronting the reader to suppose arguments necessary on this point. If there be a necessity for secrecy, the purpose of the association is either frivolous, or it is selfish.
Now, in either case, the danger of such secret assemblies is manifest. Mere frivolity can never seriously occupy men come to age. And accordingly we see that in every quarter of Europe where Free Masonry has been established, the Lodges have become seed-beds of public mischief. I believe that no ordinary brother will say that the occupations in the Lodges are any thing better than frivolous, very frivolous indeed. The distribution of charity needs be no secret, and it is but a very small part of the employment of the meeting. This being the case it is in human nature that the greater we suppose the frivolity of such an association to be, the greater is the chance of its ceasing to give sufficient occupation to the mind, and the greater is the risk that the meetings may be employed to other purposes which require concealment. When this happens, self-interest alone must prompt and rule, and now there is no length that some men will not go, when they think themselves in no danger of detection and punishment. The whole proceedings of the secret societies of Free Masons on the Continent (and I am authorised to say, of some Lodges in Britain) have taken one turn, and this turn is perfectly natural. In all countries there are men of licentious morals. Such men wish to have a safe opportunity of indulging their wits in satire and sarcasm; and they are pleased with the support of others. The desire of making proselytes is in every breast—and it is whetted by the restraints of society. And all countries have discontented men, whose grumblings will raise discontent in others, who might not have attended to some of the trifling hardships and injuries they met with, had they not been reminded of them. To be discontented, and not to think of schemes of redress, is what we cannot think natural or manly—and where can such sentiments and schemes find such safe utterance and such probable support as in a secret society? Free Masonry is innocent of all these things; but Free Masonry has been abused, and at last totally perverted—and so will and must any such secret association, as long as men are licentious in their opinions or wicked in their dispositions.
It were devoutly to be wished therefore that the whole fraternity would imitate the truly benevolent conduct of those German Lodges who have formally broken up, and made a patriotic sacrifice of their amusement to the safety of the state. I cannot think the sacrifice great or costly. It can be no difficult matter to find as pleasing a way of passing a vacant hour—and the charitable deeds of the members need not diminish in the smallest degree. Every person’s little circle of acquaintance will give him opportunities of gratifying his kind dispositions, without the chance of being mistaken in the worth of the person on whom he bestows his favours. There is no occasion to go to St. Petersburg for a poor Brother, nor to India for a convert to Christianity, as long as we see so many sufferers and infidels among ourselves.
But not only are secret societies dangerous, but all societies whose object is mysterious. The whole history of man is a proof of this position. In no age or country has there ever appeared a mysterious association which did not in time become a public nuisance. Ingenious or designing men of letters have attempted to show that some of the ancient mysteries were useful to mankind, containing rational doctrines of natural religion. This was the strong hold of Weishaupt, and he quotes the Eleusinian, the Pythagorean, and other mysteries. But surely their external signs and tokens were every thing that is shocking to decency and civil order. It is uncommon presumption for the learned of the eighteenth century to pretend to know more about them than their contemporaries, the philosophers, the lawgivers of antiquity. These give no such account of them. I would desire any person who admires the ingenious dissertations of Dr. Warburton to read a dull German book, called Caracteristik der Mysterien der Altern, published at Frankfort in 1787. The author contents himself with a patient collection of every scrap of every ancient author who has said any thing about them. If the reader can see anything in them but the most absurd and immoral polytheism and fable, he must take words in a sense that is useless in reading any other piece of ancient composition. I have a notion that the Dionysiacs of Iona had some scientific secrets, viz. all the knowledge of practical mechanics which was employed by their architects and engineers, and that they were really a Masonic Fraternity. But, like the Illuminati, they tagged to the secrets of Masonry the secret of drunkenness and debauchery; they had their Sister Lodges, and at last became rebels, subverters of the states where they were protected, till aiming at the dominion of all Ionia, they were attacked by the neighbouring states and dispersed. They were Illuminators too, and wanted to introduce the worship of Bacchus over the whole country, as appears in the account of them given by Strabo. Perhaps the Pythagoreans had also some scientific secrets; but they too were Illuminators, and thought it their duty to overset the State, and were themselves overset.
Nothing is so dangerous as a mystic Association. The object remaining a secret in the hands of the managers, the rest simply put a ring in their own noses, by which they may be led about at pleasure; and still panting after the secret, they are the better pleased the less they see of their way. A mystical object enables the leader to shift his ground as he pleases, and to accommodate himself to every current fashion or prejudice. This again gives him almost unlimited power; for he can make use of these prejudices to lead men by troops. He finds them already associated by their prejudices, and waiting for a leader to concentrate their strength and set them in motion. And when once great bodies of men are set in motion, with a creature of their fancy for a guide, even the engineer himself cannot say, „Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.“
VII. We may also gather from what we have seen that all declamations on universal philanthropy are dangerous. Their natural and immediate effect on the mind is to increase the discontents of the unfortunate, and of those in the laborious ranks of life. No one, even of the Illuminators, will deny that those ranks must be filled, if society exists in any degree of cultivation whatever, and that there will always be a greater number of men who have no farther prospect. Surely it is unkind to put such men continually in mind of a state in which they might be at their ease; and it is unkindness unmixed, because all the change that they will produce will be, that James will serve John, who formerly was the servant of James. Such declamations naturally tend to cause men to make light of the obligations and duties of common patriotism, because these are represented as subordinate and inferior to the greater and more noble affection of universal benevolence. I do not pretend to say that patriotism is founded in a rationally perceived pre-eminence or excellence of the society with which we are connected. But if it be a fact that society will not advance unless its members take an interest in it, and that human nature improves only in society, surely this interest should be cherished in every breast. Perhaps national union arises from national animosity;—but they are plainly distinguishable, and union is not necessarily productive of injustice. The same arguments that have any force against patriotism are equally good against the preference which natural instinct gives parents for their children, and surely no one can doubt of the propriety of maintaining this in its full force, subject however to the precise laws of justice.
But I am in the wrong to adduce paternal or filial affection in defence of patriotism and loyalty, since even those natural instincts are reprobated by the Illuminati, as hostile to the all-comprehending philanthropy. Mr. de la Metherie says, that among the memorials sent from the clubs in England to the National Assembly, he read two, (printed,) in which the Assembly was requested to establish a community of wives, and to take children from their parents and educate them for the nation. In full compliance with this dictate of universal philanthropy, Weishaupt would have murdered his own child and his concubine,—and Orleans voted the death of his near relation.
Indeed, of all the consequences of Illumination, the most melancholy is this revolution which it seems to operate in the heart of man,—this forcible sacrifice of every affection of the heart to an ideal divinity, a mere creature of the imagination.—It seems a prodigy, yet it is a matter of experience, that the farther we advance, or vainly suppose that we do advance, in the knowledge of our mental powers, the more are our moral feelings flattened and done away. I remember reading, long ago, a dissertation on the nursing of infants by a French academician, Le Cointre of Versailles. He indelicately supports his theories by the case of his own son, a weak puny infant, whom his mother was obliged to keep continually applied to her bosom, so that she rarely could get two hours of sleep during the time of suckling him. Mr. Le Cointre says, that she contracted for this infant „une partialite toute-a-fait deraisonable.“—Plato, or Socrates, or Cicero, would probably have explained this by the habitual exercise of pity, a very endearing emotion.—But our Academician, better illuminated, solves it by stimuli on the papillæ and on the nerves of the skin, and by the meeting of the humifying aura, &c. and does not seem to think that young Le Cointre was much indebted to his mother. It would amuse me to learn that this was the wretch Le Cointre, Major of the National Guards of Versailles, who countenanced and encouraged the shocking treason and barbarity of those ruffians on the 5th and 6th of October 1789. Complete freezing of the heart would (I think) be the consequence of a theory which could perfectly explain the affections by vibrations or crystallizations.—Nay, any very perfect theory of moral sentiments must have something of this tendency.—Perhaps the ancient systems of moral philosophy, which were chiefly searches after the summum bonum, and systems of moral duties, tended more to form and strengthen the heart, and produce a worthy man, than the most perfect theory of modern times, which explains every phenomenon by means of a nice anatomy of our affections.
So far therefore as we are really more illuminated, it may chance to give us an easier victory over the natural or instinctive attachments of mankind, and make the sacrifice to universal philanthropy less costly to the heart. I do not however pretend to say that this is really the case: but I think myself fully warranted to say, that increase of virtuous affections in general has not been the fruit of modern Illumination. I will not again sicken the reader, by calling his attention to Weishaupt and his associates or successors. But let us candidly contemplate the world around us, and particularly the perpetual advocates of universal philanthropy. What have been the general effects of their continual declamations? Surely very melancholy; nor can it easily be otherwise.—An ideal standard is continually referred to. This is made gigantic, by being always seen indistinctly, as through a mist, or rather a fluttering air. In comparison with this, every feeling that we have been accustomed to respect vanishes as insignificant; and, adopting the Jesuitical maxim, that „the great end sanctifies every mean,“ this sum of Cosmo-political good is made to eclipse or cover all the present evils which must be endured for it. The fact now is, that we are become so familiarised with enormities, such as brutality to the weaker sex, cruelty to old age, wanton refinement on barbarity, that we now hear unmoved accounts of scenes, from which, a few years ago, we would have shrunk back with horror. With cold hearts, and a metaphysical scale, we measure the present miseries of our fellow creatures, and compare them with the accumulated miseries of former times, occasioned through a course of ages, and ascribed to the ambition of Princes. In this artificial manner are the atrocities of France extenuated; and we struggle, and partly succeed, in reasoning ourselves out of all the feelings which link men together in society.—The ties of father, husband, brother, friend—all are abandoned for an emotion which we must even strive to excite,—universal philanthropy. But this is sad perversion of nature. „He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?“ Still less can he love this ideal being, of which he labours to conjure up some indistinct and fleeting notion. It is also highly absurd; for, in trying to collect the circumstances which constitute the enjoyments of this Citizen of the World, we find ourselves just brought back to the very moral feelings which we are wantonly throwing away. Weishaupt allures us by the happiness of the patriarchal life as the summum bonum of man. But if it is any thing more than eating and sleeping, and squabbling with the neighbouring patriarchs, it must consist in the domestic and neighbourly affections, and every other agreeable moral feeling, all which are to be had in our present state, in greater abundance.
But this is all a pretence;—the wicked corrupters of mankind have no such views of human felicity, nor would they be contented with it; they want to intrigue and to lead; and their patriarchal life answers the same purpose of tickling the fancy as the Arcadia of the poets. Horace shows the frivolity of these declamations, without formally enouncing the moral, in his pretty Ode,
Beatus ille qui procul negotiis.
The usurer, after expatiating on this Arcadian felicity, hurries away to change, and puts his whole cash again out to usury.
Equally ineffective are the declamations of Cosmo-politism on a mind filled with selfish passions;—they just serve it for a subterfuge.—The ties of ordinary life are broken in the first place, and the Citizen of the World is a wolf of the desart.
The unhappy consequence is, that the natural progress of liberty is retarded. Had this ignis fatuus not appeared and misled us, the improvements which true Illumination has really produced, the increase in sciences and arts, and the improvement in our estimate of life and happiness, would have continued to work silently and gradually in all nations; and those which are less fortunate in point of government would also have improved, by little and little, without losing any sensible portion of their present enjoyments in the possession of riches, or honours, or power. Those pretensions would gradually have come to balance each other, and true liberty, such as Britons enjoy, might have taken place over all.
Instead of this, the inhabitants of every state are put into a situation where every individual is alarmed and injured by the success of another, because all pre-eminence is criminal. Therefore there must be perpetual jealousy and struggle. Princes are now alarmed, since they see the aim of the lower classes, and they repent of their former liberal concessions. All parties maintain a sullen distance and reserve;—the people become unruly, and the sovereign hard-hearted; so that liberty, such as can be enjoyed in peace, is banished from the country.
VIII. When we see how eagerly the Illuminati endeavoured to insinuate their Brethren into all offices which gave them influence on the public mind, and particularly into seminaries of education, we should be particularly careful to prevent them, and ought to examine with anxious attention the manner of thinking of all who offer themselves for teachers of youth. There is no part of the secret correspondence of Spartacus and his Associates, in which we see more varied and artful methods for securing pupils, than in his own conduct respecting the students in the University, and the injunctions he gives to others. There are two men, Socher and Drexl, who had the general inspection of the schools in the Electorate. They are treated by Spartacus as persons of the greatest consequence, and the instructions given them stick at no kind of corruption. Weishaupt is at pains, circuitous and mean arts, to induce young gentlemen to come under his care, and, to one whom he describes in another letter as a little master who must have much indulgence, he causes it to be intimated, that in the quarters where he is to be lodged, he will get the key of the street-door, so that he can admit whom he will. In all this canvassing he never quits the great object, the forming the mind of the young man according to the principles of universal Liberty and Equality, and to gain this point, scruples not to flatter, and even to excite his dangerous passions. We may be certain, that the zeal of Cosmo-politism will operate in the same way in other men, and we ought therefore to be solicitous to have all that are the instructors of youth, persons of the most decent manners. No question but sobriety and hypocrisy may inhabit the same breast. But its immediate effect on the pupil is at least safe, and it is always easy for a sensible parent to represent the restrictions laid on the pupil by such a man as the effects of uncommon anxiety for his safety. Whereas there is no cure for the lax principles that may steal upon the tender mind that is not early put on its guard. Weishaupt undoubtedly thought that the principles of civil anarchy would be easiest inculcated on minds, that had already shaken off the restraints of Religion, and entered into habits of sensual indulgence. We shall be safe if we trust his judgment in this matter.—We should be particularly observant of the character and principles of Men of Talents, who offer themselves for these offices, because their influence must be very great. Indeed this anxiety should extend to all offices which in any way give holders any remarkable influence on the minds of considerable numbers. Such should always be filled by men of immaculate characters and approved principles; and, in times like the present, where the most essential questions are the subjects of frequent discussion, we should always consider with some distrust the men who are very cautious in declaring their opinions on these questions.
It is a great misfortune undoubtedly to feel ourselves in a situation which makes us damp the enjoyments of life with so much suspicion. But the history of mankind shows us that many great revolutions have been produced by remote and apparently frivolous causes. When things come to a height, it is frequently impossible to find a cure—at any rate medicina sero paratur, and it is much better to prevent the disease—principiis obsta—venienti occurrite morbo.
IX. Nor can it be said that these are vain fears. We know that the enemy is working among us, and that there are many appearances in these kingdoms which strongly resemble the contrivance of this dangerous association. We know that before the Order of Illuminati was broken up by the Elector of Bavaria, there were several Lodges in Britain, and we may be certain that they are not all broken up. I know that they are not, and that within these two years some Lodges were ignorant or affected to be so, of the corrupted principles and dangerous designs of the Illuminati. The constitution of the Order shews that this may be, for the Lodges themselves were illuminated by degrees. But I must remark, that we can hardly suppose a Lodge to be established in any place, unless there be some very zealous Brother at hand to instruct and direct it. And I think that a person can hardly be advanced as far as the rank of Scotch Knight of the Order, and be a safe man either for our Church or State. I am very well informed, that there are several thousands of subscribing Brethren in London alone, and we can hardly doubt, but that many of that number are well advanced. The vocabulary also of the Illuminati is current in certain societies among us. These societies have taken the very name and constitution of the French and German societies. Corresponding—Affiliated—Provincial—Rescript—Convention—Reading Societies—Citizen of the World—Liberty and Equality, the Imprescriptible Rights of Man, &c. &c. And must it not be acknowledged that our public arbiters of literary merit have greatly changed their manner of treatment of Theological and political writings of late years? Till Paine’s Age of Reason appeared, the most sceptical writings of England kept within the bounds of decency and of argument, and we have not, in the course of two centuries, one piece that should be compared with many of the blackguard productions of the German presses. Yet even those performances generally met with sharp reproof as well as judicious refutation. This is a tribute of commendation to which my country is most justly entitled. In a former part of my life I was pretty conversant in writings of this kind, and have seen almost every English performance of note. I cannot express the surprise and disgust which I felt at the number and the gross indecency of the German dissertations which have come in my way since I began this little history,—and many of the titles which I observe in the Leipzig catalogues are such as I think no British writer would make use of. I am told that the licentiousness of the press has been equally remarkable in France, even before the Revolution.—May this sense of propriety and decency long continue to protect us, and support the national character for real good breeding, as our attainments in manly science have hitherto gained us the respect of the surrounding nations!
I cannot help thinking that British sentiment, or British delicacy, is changed; for Paine’s book is treated by most of our Reviewers with an affected liberality and candour, and is laid before the public as quite new matter, and a fair field for discussion—and it strikes me as if our critics were more careful to let no fault of his opponents pass unnoticed than to expose the futility and rudeness of this indelicate writer. In the reviews of political writings we see few of those kind endeavours, which real love for our constitutional government would induce a writer to employ in order to lessen the fretful discontents of the people; and there is frequently betrayed a satisfaction at finding administration in straits, either through misconduct or misfortune. Real love for our country and its government would (I think) induce a person to mix with his criticisms some sentiments of sympathy with the embarrassment of a minister loaded with the business of a great nation, in a situation never before experienced by any minister. The critic would recollect that the minister was a man, subject to error, but not necessarily nor altogether base. But it seems to be an assumed principle with some of our political writers and reviewers that government must always be in fault, and that every thing needs a reform. Such were the beginnings on the continent, and we cannot doubt but that attempts are made to influence the public mind in this country, in the very way that has been practised abroad.—Nay,
X. The detestable doctrines of Illuminatism have been openly preached among us. Has not Dr. Priestley said, (I think in one of his letters on the Birmingham riots,) „That if the condition of other nations be as much improved as that of France will be by the change in her system of government, the great crisis, dreadful as it may appear, will be a consummation devoutly to be wished for;—and though calamitous to many, perhaps to many innocent persons, will be eventually glorious and happy?“—Is not this equivalent to Spartacus saying, „True—there will be a storm, a convulsion—but all will be calm again?“—Does Dr. Priestley think that the British will part more easily than their neighbours in France with their property and honours, secured by ages of peaceable possession, protected by law, and acquiesced in by all who wish and hope that their own descendants may reap the fruits of their honest industry?—Will they make a less manly struggle?—Are they less numerous?—Must his friends, his patrons, whom he has thanked, and praised, and flattered, yield up all peaceably, or fall in the general struggle? This writer has already given the most promising specimens of his own docility in the principles of Illuminatism, and has already passed through several degrees of initiation. He has refined and refined on Christianity, and boasts, like another Spartacus, that he has, at last, hit on the true secret.—Has he not been preparing the minds of his readers for Atheism by his theory of mind, and by his commentary on the unmeaning jargon of Dr. Hartley? I call it unmeaning jargon, that I may avoid giving it a more apposite and disgraceful name. For, if intelligence and design be nothing but a certain modification of the vibratiunculæ or undulations of any kind, what is supreme intelligence, but a more extensive, and (perhaps they will call it) refined undulation, pervading or mixing with all others? Indeed it is in this very manner that the universal operation of intelligence is pretended to be explained. As any new or partial undulation may be superinduced on any other already existing, and this without the least disturbance or confusion, so may the inferior intelligences in the universe be only superinductions on the operations of this supreme intelligence which pervades them all,—And thus an undulation (of what? surely of something prior to and independent of this modification) is the cause of all the beings in the universe, and of all the harmony and beauty that we observe,—And this undulation is the object of love, and gratitude, and confidence (that is, of other kinds of undulations.)—Fortunately all this has no meaning.—But surely, if any thing can tend to diminish the force of our religious sentiments, and make all Dr. Priestley’s discoveries in Christianity insignificant, this will do it.
Were it possible for the departed soul of Newton to feel pain, he would surely recollect with regret that unhappy hour, when provoked by Dr. Hooke’s charge of plagiarism, he first threw out his whim of a vibrating ether, to shew what might be made of an hypothesis.—For Sir Isaac Newton must be allowed to have paved the way for much of the atomical philosophy of the moderns. Newton’s æther is assumed as a fac totum by every precipitate sciolist, who, in despite of logic, and in contradiction to all the principles of mechanics, gives us theories of muscular motion, of animal sensation, and even of intelligence and volition, by the undulations of ætherial fluids. Not one of a hundred of these theorists can go through the fundamental theorem of all this doctrine, the 47th prop. of the 2d book of the Principia, and not one in a thousand know that Newton’s investigation is inconclusive.—Yet they talk of the effects and modifications of those undulations as familiarly and confidently as if they could demonstrate the propositions in Euclid’s Elements.
Yet such is the reason that satisfies Dr. Priestly.—But I do not suppose that he has yet attained his acme of Illumination. His genius has been cramped by British prejudices.—These need not sway his mind any longer. He is now in that „rara temporis (et loci) felicitate, ubi sentire quæ velis, et quæ sentias dicere licet,“—in the country which was honoured by giving the world the first avowed edition of the Age of Reason, with the name of the shop and publisher. I make no doubt but that his mind will now take a higher flight,—and we may expect to see him fire „that train by which he boasted that he would blow up the religious establishment of his stupid and enslaved native country.“—Peace be with him.—But I grieve that he has left any of his friends and abettors among us, who declaim, in the most violent and unqualified terms, against all national Establishments of Religion, and in no friendly terms of any establishments which maintain or allow any privileged Orders. Discanting much on such topics increases the dissatisfaction of the less fortunate part of mankind, who naturally repine at advantages which do not arise from the personal merit of the possessor, although they are the natural and necessary fruits of merit in their ancestors, and of the justice and security of our happy Constitution. No well informed and sensible man will deny that the greatest injury was done to pure Religion when Constantine declared Christianity to be the Religion of the Empire, and vested the Church with all the riches and power of the Heathen Priesthood. But it is false that this was the source of all or of the worst corruptions of Christianity. The merest novice in Church History knows that the errors of the Gnostics, of the Cerinthians, and others, long preceded this event, and that thousands lost their lives in those metaphysical disputes. But I cannot help thinking that, in the present condition of Europe, religion would desert the world, if the opinions of men were not directed, in some proper degree, by National Establishments. Teachers among the Independents will court popularity, as they have always courted it; by fostering some favourite and discriminating opinion of their hearers. The old subjects of debate have now lost their zest, and I should fear that the teachers would find it a successful, as it is an easy road to popularity, to lead their hearers through a series of refinements, till they are landed, much to their satisfaction, in the Materialism of Dr. Priestley, from which it is but a step to the Atheism of Diderot and Condorcet.
Seeing that there are such grounds of apprehension, I think that we have cause to be upon our guard, and that every man who has enjoyed the sweets of British liberty should be very anxious indeed to preserve it. We should discourage all secret assemblies, which afford opportunities to the disaffected, and all conversations which foster any notions of political perfection, and create hankerings after unattainable happiness. These only increase the discontents of the unfortunate, the idle, and the worthless.—Above all, we should be careful to discourage and check immorality and licentiousness in every shape. For this will of itself subvert every government, and will subject us to the vile tyranny of a profligate mob.
XI. If there has ever been a season in which it was proper to call upon the public instructors of the nation to exert themselves in the cause of Religion and Virtue, it is surely the present. It appears, from the tenor of the whole narration before the reader, that Religion and Virtue are considered as the great obstacles to the completion of this plan for overturning the governments of Europe—and I hope that I have made it evident that those conspirators have presupposed that there is deeply rooted in the heart of man a sincere veneration for unsophisticated virtue, and an affectionate propensity to Religion; that is, to consider this beautiful world as the production of wisdom and power, residing in a Being different from the world itself, and the natural object of admiration and of love—I do not speak of the truth of this principle at present, but only of its reality, as an impression on the heart of man. These principles must therefore be worked on,—and they are acknowledged to be strong, because much art is employed to eradicate them, or to overwhelm them by other powerful agents.—We also see that Religion and Virtue are considered by those corrupters as closely united, and as mutually supporting each other. This they admit as a fact, and labour to prove it to be a mistake.—And lastly, they entertain no hopes of complete success till they have exploded both.
This being the case, I hope that I shall be clear of all charge of impropriety, when I address our national instructors, and earnestly desire them to consider this cause as peculiarly theirs. The world has been corrupted under pretence of moral instruction.——Backwardness, therefore, on their part, may do inconceivable harm, because it will most certainly be interpreted as an acknowledgment of defeat, and they will be accused of indifference and insincerity. I know that a modest man reluctantly comes forward with any thing that has the appearance of thinking himself wiser or better than his neighbours. But if all are so bashful, where will it end? Must we allow a parcel of worthless profligates, whom no man would trust with the management of the most trifling concern, to pass with the ignorant and indolent for teachers of true wisdom, and thus entice the whole world into a trap? They have succeeded with our unfortunate neighbours on the continent, and, in Germany, (to their shame be it spoken) they have been assisted even by some faithless clergymen.
But I will hope better of my countrymen, and I think that our clergy have encouragement even from the native character of Britons. National comparisons are indeed ungraceful, and are rarely candid—but I think they may be indulged in this instance. It is of his own countrymen that Voltaire speaks, when he says, that „they resemble a mixed breed of the monkey and the tiger,“ animals that mix fun with mischief, and that sport with the torments of their prey.—They have indeed given the most shocking proofs of the justness of his portrait. It is with a considerable degree of national pride, therefore, that I compare the behaviour of the French with that of the British in a very similar situation, during the civil wars and the usurpation of Cromwell. There have been more numerous, and infinitely more atrocious, crimes committed in France during any one half year since the beginning of the Revolution, than during the whole of that tumultuous period. And it should be remembered, that in Britain, at that period, to all other grounds of discontent was added no small share of religious fanaticism, a passion (may I call it) which seldom fails to rouse every angry thought of the heart.—Much may be hoped for from an earnest and judicious address to that rich fund of manly kindness that is conspicuous in the British character,—a fund to which I am persuaded we owe the excellence of our constitutional government—No where else in Europe are the claims of the different ranks in society so generally and so candidly admitted. All feel their force, and all allow them to others. Hence it happens that they are enjoyed in so much peace——hence it happens that the gentry live among the yeomen and farmers with so easy and familiar a superiority:
——Extrema per illos
Justitia excedens terris vestigia fecit.
Our clergy are also well prepared for the task. For our ancestors differed exceedingly from the present Illuminators in their notions, and have enacted that the clergy shall be well instructed in natural philosophy, judging that a knowledge of the symmetry of nature, and the beautiful adjustment of all her operations, would produce a firm belief of a wisdom and power which is the source of all this fair order, the Author and Conductor of all, and therefore the natural object of admiration and of love. A good heart is open to this impression, and feels no reluctance, but on the contrary a pleasure, in thinking man the subject of his government, and the object of his care. This point being once gained, I should think that the salutary truths of Religion will be highly welcome. I should think that it will be easy to convince such minds, that in the midst of the immense variety of the works of God there is one great plan to which every thing seems to refer, namely, the crowding this world, to the utmost degree of possibility, with life, with beings that enjoy the things around them, each in its own degree and manner. Among these, man makes a most conspicuous figure, and the maximum of his enjoyments seems a capital article in the ways of Providence. It will, I think, require little trouble to shew that the natural dictates of Religion, or the immediate results of the belief of God’s moral government of the universe, coincide in every circumstance of sentiment, disposition, and conduct, with those that are most productive of enjoyment (on the whole) in social life. The same train of thought will shew, that the real improvements in the pleasures of society, are, in fact, improvements of man’s rational nature, and so many steps toward that perfection which our own consciences tell us we are capable of, and which Religion encourages us to hope for in another state of being.—And thus will „the ways of Wisdom appear to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be peace.“
Dwelling on such topics, there is no occasion for any political discussion. This would be equally improper and hurtful. Such discussions never fail to produce ill-humour.—But surely the highest complacence must result from the thought that we are co-operating with the Author of all wisdom and goodness, and helping forward the favourite plans of his providence. Such a thought must elevate the mind which thus recognises a sort of alliance with the Author of nature.—Our brethren in society appear brethren indeed, heirs of the same hopes, and travelling to the same country. This will be a sort of moral patriotism, and should, I think, produce mutual forbearance, since we discover imperfections in all creatures, and are conscious of them in ourselves—notwithstanding which, we hope to be all equal at last in worth and in happiness.
I should gladly hope that I shall not be accused of presumption in this address. There is no profession that I more sincerely respect than that of the religious and moral instructor of my country. I am saying nothing here that I am not accustomed to urge at much greater length in the course of my professional duty. And I do not think that I am justly chargeable with vanity, when I suppose that many years of delightful study of the works of God have given me somewhat more acquaintance with them than is probably attained by those who never think of the matter, being continually engaged in the bustle of life. Should one of this description say that all is fate or chance, and that „the same thing happens to all,“ &c. as is but too common, I should think that a prudent man will give so much preference to my assertion, as at least to think seriously about the thing, before he allow himself any indulgence in things which I affirm to be highly dangerous to his future peace and happiness.——For this reason I hope not to be accused of going out of my line, nor hear any one say „Ne sutor ultra crepidam.“ The present is a season of anxiety, and it is the duty of every man to contribute his mite to the general good.
It is in some such hopes that I have written these pages; and if they have any such effect, I shall think myself fortunate in having by chance hit on something useful, when I was only trying to amuse myself during the tedious hours of bad health and confinement. No person is more sensible of the many imperfections of this performance than myself. But, as I have no motive for the publication but the hopes of doing some good, I trust that I shall obtain a favourable acceptance of my endeavours from an intelligent, a candid, and a good-natured public. I must entreat that it be remembered that these sheets are not the work of an author determined to write a book. They were for the most part notes, which I took from books I had borrowed, that I might occasionally have recourse to them when occupied with Free Masonry, the first object of my curiosity. My curiosity was diverted to many other things as I went along, and when the Illuminati came in my way, I regretted the time I had thrown away on Free Masonry.—But, observing their connection, I thought that I perceived the progress of one and the same design. This made me eager to find out any remains of Weishaupt’s Association. I was not surprized when I saw marks of its interference in the French Revolution.—In hunting for clearer proofs I found out the German Union—and, in fine, the whole appeared to be one great and wicked project, fermenting and working over all Europe.—Some highly respected friends encouraged me in the hope of doing some service by laying my informations before the public, and said that no time should be lost.—I therefore set about collecting my scattered facts.—I undertook this task at a time when my official duty pressed hard on me, and bad health made me very unfit for study.—The effects of this must appear in many faults, which I see, without being able at present to amend them. I owe this apology to the public, and I trust that my good intentions will procure it acceptance.
Nothing would give me more sincere pleasure than to see the whole proved to be a mistake;—to be convinced that there is no such plot, and that we run no risk of the contagion; but that Britain will continue, by the abiding prevalence of honour, of virtue, and of true religion, to exhibit the fairest specimen of civil government that ever was seen on earth, and a national character and conduct not unworthy of the inestimable blessings that we enjoy. Our excellent Sovereign, at his accession to the throne, declared to his Parliament that he gloried in having been born a Briton.—Would to God that all and each of his subjects had entertained the same lofty notions of this good fortune! Then would they have laboured, as he has done for near forty years, to support the honour of the British name by setting as bright an example of domestic and of public virtue.—Then would Britons have been indeed the boast of humanity—then we should have viewed these wicked plots of our neighbours with a smile of contempt, and of sincere pity—and there would have been no need of this imperfect but well-meant performance.