Proofs of a Conspiracy, by John Robison 1798


Seeing that there are such grounds of apprehension, I think that we have cause to be on 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 the 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 of 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 these 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 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 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 to 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 crouding 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 enjoyment 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 highest complacence must result from the thought that we are co-operating with the Author of all wisdom and goodness, and helping forward the favorite 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 favorable 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 surprised 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 honor, 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 honor 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.


^220:* Had the good man been spared but a few months, his surprise at this neglect would have ceased. For, on the 19th of November 1793, the Archbishop of Paris came to the Bar of the Assembly, accompanied by his Vicar and eleven other Clergymen, who there renounced their Christianity and their clerical vows; acknowledging that they had played the villain for many years against their consciences, teaching what they knew to be a lie, and were now resolved to be honest men. The Vicar indeed had behaved like a true Illuminatus some time before, by running off with another man's wife and his strong box.--None of them, however, seem to have attained the higher mysteries, for they were all guillotined not long after.

^222:* I cannot help observing, that it is perfectly similar to the arrangement and denominations which appear in the secret correspondence of the Bavarian Illuminati.

^225:* The depositions at the Chatelet, which I have already quoted, give repeated and unequivocal proofs, that he, with a considerable number of the deputies of the National Assembly, had formed this plot before the 5th of October 1789. That trial was conducted in -4 strange manner, partly out of respect for the Royal Family, which still had some hearts affectionately attached to it, and to the monarchy, and partly by reason of the fears of the members of this court. There was now no safety for any person who differed from the opinion of the frantic populace of Paris. The chief points of accusation were written in a schedule which is not published, and the witnesses were ordered to depose on these in one general Yes No; so that it is only the least important part of the evidence that has been printed. I am well informed that the whole of it is carefully preserved, and will one day appear.

^228:* To prevent interruptions, I may just mention here the authorities for this journey and co-operation of the two deputies.

  1. Ein wichtiger Ausschluss uber ein noch wenig bekannte Veranlassung der Franzoschen Revolution, in the Vienna Zeitschrift for 1793, p. 145,
  2. Endliche Shickfall des Freymaurer-Ordens, 1794, p. 19.
  3. Neueste Arbeitung des Spartacus and Philo, Munich, 1793, p. 151-154.
  4. Historische Nachrichten uber die Franc Revolution 1792, von Girkinner, var. loc.
  5. Revolutions Almanach fur 1792--A. Gottingen, var. loc.
  6. Beytrage zur Biographie des verstorbenes Frey-Herr v. Bode, 1794.
  7. Magazin des Literatur et Kunst, for 1792, 3, 4, &c &c.

^231:* Minet was -(I think) at this time a player. He was son of a surgeon at Nantes--robbed his father and fled--enlisted in Holland--deserted and became smuggler--was taken and burnt in the hand--became player, and married an actress--then became priest--and was made Bishop of Nantes by Coustard in discharge of a debt of L. 500. Mr. Latocnaye often saw Coustard kneel to him for benediction. It cannot be supposed that he was much venerated in his pontificals in his native city.--It seems Minet, Minet, is the call of the children to a kitten--This was prohibited at Nantes, and many persons whipped for the freedom used with his name.

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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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