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 encreased 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 honors, 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 favorite 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 meredian 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 Obscuranten, and joined with Mirabeau in placing on the list of Obscuranten 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, set 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 foretell 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 1786, 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 Soleil, 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 Nobles, A 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 as 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 nor 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 honor, 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 favor,” (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 incontestable manner, that during the horrors of these two days he was repeatedly seen, and that whenever he was recognised by the croud, 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 completed. 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 to 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.-45,000 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 L. 50,000 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.)