Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798

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 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 lowborn 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, in 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 the 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 Soleil, 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 Palais 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 recognized 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 honors 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 honorable 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 Frenchman 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 perpetual 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 atrocious 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 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 on 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 only fit 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 instructions 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 Urkunden, 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 Lillis 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 1500 dahlers. This little anecdote shows the high importance attributed to these 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 favorite 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.

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Methinks I am a conspiracy theorist. Art thou? Thou block, thou stone, thou worse than senseless thing, for whilst thou slept didst this become a badge of honor. Informed dissent shall always prevail, wherefore art thou worthy, or art thou this unwholesome fool in the group conformity experiment herein?

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