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solennellement assemblee a Paris*' reveals his
attitude and that of his associates towards the
feudal society of his day ;

"Leshommes ne sont pas distingues essentielle-
ment par la difference des langues qu'ils parlent,
des habits qu'ils portent, des pays qu'ils occupent,
ni des dignit^s dont ils sont revetus. Le monde
entier n'est qu'une grande republique, dont
chaque nation est une famille et chaque parti-
culier un enfant. C*est pour faire revivre et
repandre ces essentielles maximes, prises dans
la nature de I'homme, que notre societe fut
d'abord 6tablie. Nous voulons reunir tous les
hommes d*un esprit eclaire, de moeurs douces,
et d'une humeur agreable, non seulement pour


and the French Revolution

I'amour des beaux arts mais encore plus par
les grands principes de vertu, de science et de
religion, ou I'interet de contraternite devient
celui du genre humain entier, oii toutes les
nations peuvent puiser des connaissances solides,
et ou les sujets de tous les royaumes peuvent
apprendre a se cherir mutuellement, sans
renoncer a leur patrie. . . . Quelle obligation
n'a-t-on pas a ces hommes superieurs qui, sans
interet grossier, sans m6me ecouter Tenvie
naturelle de dominer ont imagine un etab-
lissement dont I'unique but est la reunion des
esprits et des coeurs pour les rendre meilleurs,
et former dans la suite des temps une nation
toute spirituelle ou sans deroger aux divers
devoirs que la difference des etats exige, on
creera un peuple nouveau qui etant compose
de plusieurs nations, les cimentera toutes, en
quelque sorte par le lien de la vertu et de la

A well-informed person revealed to the world
some of the masonic secrets of equality and
tolerance.f The author, whose ladyhood was

* "Une Loge Ma9onnique d'avant 1789/' p. il.
t " La Franc- Ma9onnerie, ou r6v61ations des mysteres
des franc-ma9ons." Par Madame * * *


Secret Societies

probably fictitious, was merely printing and
making public the aspirations of all those who
were longing to assist at the eventual social
regeneration of France :

"II est tres naturel de deviner le secret des
francmagons par Texamen de ce qu'on leur voit
pratiquer constamment. lis entrent sans dis-
tinction les grands et les petits ; ils se mesurent
tous au m^me niveau ; ils mangent ensemble
pele-m^le ; ils se repandent dans le monde
entier avec la meme uniformite. II est done
plus que probable, concluai-je, qu'il n'est
question chez eux que d*une magonnerie pure-
ment symbolique, dont le secret consiste a b^tir
insensiblement une republique, universelle et
democratique, dont la reine sera la raison, et le
conseil supreme I'assemblee des sages."

When the Due d'Antin's grand mastership
ceased, a temporary debasement of masonry
resulted. Great abuses crept into the craft, for
under his successsor, the Comte de Clermont,
lodges were irregularly established, and dignities
were sold. Androgynous societies, the cause of
continual scandal, were established. The Society
of Jesus also endeavoured to disrupt masonic


and the Fre7ich Revolution

organisation, and very speedily the ** Grande
Loge " split up into factions. The Comte de
Clermont possibly was the servant of the Church
and the real promoter of the schisms of his
society. He had blended the careers of cleric and
soldier in a curious manner, for though tonsured
at nine years old, and subsequently dowered
with rich abbeys, he was enabled later, through a
Papal dispensation, to enter the army, where he
quickly rose to commanding rank, and showed
himself as useless a general as he afterwards
proved himself a Grand Master. As his
working substitutes in the " Grande Loge de
France " he nominated a financier named Baure,
and a dancing-master named Lacorne. For
eighteen years the " Grande Loge de France "
was convulsed by discord and evil practice,
justifying only too accurately the strictures of
the Church. It obeyed with something like
relief the order of the civil authorities in 1 767
to hold no further meetings, and remained
quiescent till the Comte de Clermont's death
in 1 771. Jn this year it was proposed to re-
form its organisation thoroughly. Emissaries
were sent into all parts of France to take count
of the situation, and to prepare reports for the


Secret Societies

central committee. In consequence of these
reports it was decided that the association
should be reorganised on a more democratic
basis, every office being made annually elective.
The Due de Chartres was chosen as Grand
Master, and the Due de Luxembourg as general
administrator. As the Due de Chartres did
not at once accept the Grand Mastership, he
never in point of action was Grand Master of
the *' Loge de France/* though in 1773 lan
assembly met, which, after confirming the
elections of 1771, installed him with great
solemnity in his office as head of the '^ Grand
Orient." The meeting convened for this
occasion at Folie-Titon, a " maison de plais-
ance," constituted the parliament of masonry,
though not all the lodges consented to send
representatives to it.

" Le Grand Orient n'est plus qu'un corps
forme par la reunion des representants libres
de toutes les loges: ce sont les loges elles-
m^mes, ce sont tous les masons membres de
ces loges, qui par la voie de leurs repr6sentants
donnent les lois ; qui les font observer d*une
part et qui les observent de Fautre. Nul


and the French Revolution

n'obeit qu'a la loi qu'il s'est imposee lui-meme.
C'est le plus libre, le plus juste, le plus naturel,
et par consequent le plus parfait des gouvernc-

The council of the new organisation sat in
the former Jesuit novitiate of the rue Pot de
Fer, and worked with increasing power and
industry until the outbreak of the Revolution
that was to realise their ideals. A section of
the "Grande Loge de France" refused to obey
the " Grand Orient/* and continued to operate
independently. The "Empereurs d'Orient et
d'Occident " and the " Chevaliers d'Orient "
also worked separately, nor would they take
part in the amalgamation. Later on, however,
great changes took place in masonic opinion,
while bonds of common interest drew together
lodges that would, without the political interest,
always have been divided.

Not only was France the home of many
masonic lodges, but its social system was riddled
with mystical societies which gathered their
initiates from among the adepts of masonic
grades, and owned allegiance to no supreme
* " Une Loge Ma9onnique d'avant 1789," p. 29.

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council. Swedenborg and Martinez de Pasqually
always regarded masonry as a school of in-
struction, and considered it the elementary and
inferior step that led to the higher mysteries.
In consequence of their teaching it came about
that a great number of sects and rites were
instituted in all parts of Europe, whose unity
consisted in a common masonic initiation, but
whose aims, doctrines, and practices were often
irreconcilable. The Martinezists, or followers
of Martinez de Pasqually, were a distinctively
French sect; they had lodges in Paris in 1754,
and also at Toulouse, Poitiers, Marseilles, and
other places. The term " Illuminates " is ap-
plied to them equally with the Swedenborgians,
Martinists, and several germane societies.

Pasqually is said to have been a Rosicrucian
adept. His teaching was theurgic and moral, and
his avowed object was to develop the somnolent
divine faculties in humanity, and to lead man
to enter into communication with the invisible,
by means of ''La Chose," the enigmatic name
he gave to the highest secret. He is chiefly
interesting as having been the first to permeate
the higher grades of French masonry with
illuminism, an example followed afterwards


and the French Revolution

with conspicuous success by the disciples of
Weishaupt. When Pasqually died in Haiti his
teaching was taken up by Willermooz, a Lyonese
merchant, also by the celebrated Louis Claude
de Saint-Martin. Saint-Martin absorbed and
developed his master's teaching in a peculiar and
personal manner, and through his philosophy
became an important influence on then current
affairs. He had been an officer in the regiment
of Foix at Bordeaux when he first became
acquainted with Pasqually, and soon after
meeting him he threw up his commission in
the army with the object of devoting his life
to meditation, and the study of Jacob Boehme.
He became the mystical philosopher of the
Revolution, and the book he published in 1775,
" Des Erreurs et de la Verite," produced an im-
mense sensation, comparable to that created by
the publication of " La Profession de Foi d'un
Vicaire Savoyard." Like Rousseau, he believed
in the infinite possibilities of man, holding that
Providence had planted a religion in man's
heart "which could not be contaminated by
priestly traffic, nor tainted by imposture."
Rousseau gave the name of conscience to " the
innate principle of justice and virtue which,


Secret Societies

independently of experience and in spite of
ourselves, forms the basis of our judgments " ;
Saint-Martin thought it the divine instinct.
On the belief in man's essential goodness both
founded their demand for social revolution,
claiming an opportunity for men to be indeed
men and not slaves, a chance for climbing back
to that old God-designed level of happiness
from which they had descended. Saint-Martin
saw in such a movement the awakening of men
from the sleep of death, and with deep con-
viction he responded to the cry " All men are
priests," uttered three centuries earlier by
Luther, with the cry " All men are kings ! "
The answer to the social enigmas of the century
was whispered by him in the ** ternaire sacre "
of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity ; and it echoed
with reverberating clangor through all the
lodges of France. Martinist societies were
everywhere founded to study the doctrines
contained in his book, and to expound the
teachings of the mystical philosopher who,
like Lamartine in a later day, contemplated
the Revolution as Christianity applied to

A volume might easily be written upon the

and the French Revolution

lodges and rites in France during this time ;
and their very number makes choice of those
deserving peculiar mention bewildering. The
well-known "Loge des Amis Reunis," or
" Philalethes," inaugurated by " the man of
all conspiracies," Savalette de Lange, and his
friends, carried on an important correspondence
with lodges in every quarter of Europe. Under
the pretext of pleasant gatherings and luxurious
dinners these " friends of truth " prosecuted
the dark and dangerous work of preparing
that reformation of society which in practice
became Revolution. One of the most famous,
if not the most interesting, of the intellectual
lodges, was that of the " Neuf Soeurs " in Paris,
founded in memory of Helvetius, which, if it
held a secret, held the secret of Voltaire,
" Humanity and Tolerance." It was intended
to be an encyclopaedic workshop, a complement
to the already existing Lodge of Sciences.
Since all the secondary education in France was
in the hands of a clerical corporation, and the
Sorbonne was dedicated to theology, the *' Neuf
Soeurs " organised * " la Societe Apollonienne."
This society arranged for courses of lectures

* November 17, 1780.

Secret Societies

to be given by its more eminent members ;
Marmontel and Garat, for example, lectured
on history, La Harpe on literature, Condorcet
and De la Croix on chemistry, Fourcroy and
Sue on anatomy and physiology. The impro-
vised college did not shut its doors during the
Revolution, but changed its name to " Lycee
Republicain." Its professors conformed to
Republican usages, and La Harpe was to be
seen lecturing in a red cap.

Some useful institutions seem to have been
evolved out of the conclaves of the ^' Neut
Soeurs," including the reformed laws of criminal
procedure embodied in the Code Napoleon.*
The Due de la Rochefoucauld, translator of the
American Constitution, was an associate of the
lodge, so was Forster, who sailed round the world
with Captain Cook; Brissot, who was later
condemned as leader of the Girondins, Camille
Desmoulins, Fauchet, Romme, Bailly, Rabaud
Saint Etienne, Danton, Andre Chenier, Dom
Gerle, Paul Jones, Franklin, Guillotin, Cabanis,
Petion, Sieves, Cerutti, Hanna, and Voltaire.
Together they form an illustrious company
who, all in their varying ways, took con-
* " Une Loge Ma9onnique d'avant 1789," p. 243,


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spicuous shares in the work of reformation.
Commemorative assemblies and processions were
organised by this lodge on the occasions of the
deaths of Franklin, Voltaire, and Paul Jones,
the liberators. The lodge has received historic
consecration at the hands of Louis Blanc, Henri
Martin, and Amiable. Having accomplished a
great work, it disappeared, like all the other
lodges, at the opening of the Revolution.

The share that women took in promoting
social changes has not received the attention it
deserves. Readers of Dumas are familiar with
the fact that in country districts fraternal
societies welcoming members of both sexes met
regularly in barns and farms ; but it does not
seem to be usually recognised that apart from
the "Loges de la Felicite," which had been the
occasion of frequent scandal, many regular and
well-conducted "lodges of adoption*' for
women were recognised by the " Grand Orient."
The Duchess de Bourbon, Egalite's sister, was
Grand Mistress of the adoptive lodge of "la
Candeur " in 1775, and Princesse de Lamballe
and Madame de Genlis also wielded the hammer.
The work of these fashionable dames cannot,
however, be taken seriously. It was a pastime

33 c

Secret Societies

for them, just as were the decorous fetes held
within the lodges in which both men and women
participated. The entertainments were elegant
and refined, often taking the form of the illus-
tration of a virtue such as benevolence, or of
homage to some humanitarian quality. For
example, one day a lady discovered that a poor
working woman with nine children had added
to her burdens by adopting the orphan of a
friend. The ladies of her lodge were enthu-
siastic at such generosity, and caused the poor
woman to be exhibited at one of their reunions
in a tableau surrounded by the ten children.
After considerable acclamation she was allowed
to go her way with clothes and money presented
by her admirers. " Bienfaisance " was a par-
ticularly fashionable virtue. Women of society
raised altars in their rooms dedicated to this
quality. The tone of society, however, was not
wholly sentimental ; it was also reasonable, and
it became the vogue for ladies to attend scientific
lectures ; classes in drawing-rooms on minera-
logy, chemistry, and physics were well attended ;
ladies were no longer painted as goddesses, but
as students, in laboratories, surrounded by tele-
scopes and retorts ; Countess Voyer attended


and the French Revolution

dissections, and one of her friends wielded the
scalpel with grace ; Madame de Genlis, whose
self-satisfaction is almost priggish, alludes in her
memoirs to the intense pleasure she derived
from some geological lectures.

While the world of fashion was playing with
science and masonry, the opinions and beliefs of
its social inferiors were gradually crystallising
into action. Serious women of the bourgeoisie
and farmer classes attended meetings and dis-
cussions and taught their sons and their husbands
what it meant to fight for an ideal ; and how
the ternaire sacre could be translated into fact.

At the lowest computation there were seven
hundred lodges in France before the Revolution,
and a very large proportion of them had
acknowledged '' lodges of adoption " for
women. It is impossible from the material
published on the subject, however, to form
even an approximate estimate of the number
of members of either sex belonging to these
associations. It was very large, but the claim
to a million adherents made by the '^ Loge de
la Candeur" in 1785 is clearly greatly in excess
of actual fact. At Bayonne '^ La Zelee," at
Angers the " Tendre Accueil," at Saint-Malo


Secret Societies

the '* Triple Esperance/' at Rheims the " Triple
Union," at Tours the " Amis de la Vertu "
flourished. Poignant satires on credulity were
delivered at the " Loge de la Parfaite Intelli-
gence " at Liege to which the Prince Bishop and
the greater part of his chapter belonged, and of
which all the office-bearers were dignitaries of
the Church. The system seems to have per-
meated every section of French national life.

Pernetti, a Benedictine, librarian of Frederick
the Great, had founded a Swedenborgian brother-
hood at Avignon, in company with a Polish
noble Gabrionka, who by some is supposed to
have been Cagliostro, and Pernetti is but an ex-
ample of dozens of other missionaries. Every-
where gatherings and associations existed,
separated by rites and by practices, but united in
intention by their common love for and faith in
the creed of brotherhood.

One thing only was needed to transform this
heterogeneous collection of lodges, sects, and
rites into a powerful political lever upon society,
and that was a mind which could devise a
common course of action or a common political
understanding to unite them. Secret idealistic
societies had done a wonderful work in fostering


and the French Revolution

principles and hopes and ideals, but in order to
become effective in action transmutation of some
kind was necessary.

Masonic writers have of late made but little
allusion to the influence of the German ^' illu-
minates " on the French lodges, and are disposed
to detract from the reputation of the marvellous
organiser Weishaupt, Professor of Canon Law at
the University of Ingoldstadt. Barruel, Louis
Blanc, and Deschamps unite, however, in regard-
ing him as the most profound of conspirators.
Le Couteulx de Canteleu considers the young
professor of Ingolstadt as the originator of a
remarkable system, of which Von Knigge was
the most able missionary. With Weishaupt
alone lay the credit not only of realising the
cause of the ineffectiveness of societies upon
society, but of elaborating an homogeneous
scheme which was destined to embrace and
eventually absorb all lodges and all rites. He
was no freemason when he invented his design,
but in order to study masonic methods he was
received as a mason in Munich, where one Zwack,
a legal member of the lodge, afterwards one of
Weishaupt's confederates, sold him the ultimate
secrets of masonry. Equipped with this know-


Secret Societies

ledge he allied himself with Von Knigge of the
" Strict Observance," and caused all his own
disciples to become masons. " Every secret
engagement is a source of enthusiasm," said
Weishaupt ; "it is useless to seek for the
reasons ; the fact exists, that is enough." In
conformity with this belief he recruited the new
secret society which he intended should absorb
all the others.

In 1776 the order of the Perfectibilists was
founded. They began by creating a new world,
for they purposed to work independently of
existing conditions. They invented their own
calandar, with new divisions of time and new
names for days and periods ; they took unto
themselves the appellations of Greece and Rome.
Weishaupt became Spartacus, after the leader of
the servile insurrection in the time of Pompey ;
Von Knigge became Philo ; Zwack, Cato ;
Costanzo, Diomedes ; Nicolai, Lucian. The
map of Europe was re-named ; in their corre-
spondence Munich was Athens; Austria Egypt ;
and France Illyria. The organisation of the
Perfectibilists was designed to enlist all pro-
fessions and both sexes. It consisted of two
large classes, that of "preparations" and that


and the French Revolution

of ** mysteries.'* In the former there were four
grades : novice, minerval, illuminate minor,
and illuminate major. In the latter there were
also four grades : priest, regent, philosopher,
and man-king. There was also a " plant-
nursery '' for children, and a class in which
women were trained to influence men. The
associates who possessed the full confidence of
Weishaupt were called Areopagites.

The order was designed as the directing
instrument of that social revolution which
Weishaupt and many others knew to be immi-
nent. France was the country selected for the
great experiment, and Weishaupt faced with
courage the problem that students of social
questions realised in the latter half of the
eighteenth century would be the difficulty in
any revolution. He saw like them that the
future class struggle for survival and supremacy
in France would lie between the bourgeoisie and
the people, that the nobles would count for
nothing in the contest. He knew that the
commercial classes were extremely rich, that in
so far as the actual administrative work went
it was in the hands of the third estate, that in
the event of revolution it would become the


Secret Societies

first and perhaps the only power in the country.
A consideration of the representative institutions
of France before the Revolution convinces us
of the fact that the actual people were unre-
presented, and moreover that it was unlikely
that they would ever have a voice in the
management of affairs, unless their claims
were enforced by well organised and wide
reaching secret societies. Weishaupt's scheme
was intended to prevent the bourgeoisie reaping
all the revolutionary harvest. As a disciple of
Rousseau he did not favour the establishment of
commercial supremacy as a substitute for the old
system of autocracy. " Salvation does not lie
where shining thrones are defended by swords,
where the smoke of the censors ascends to
heaven, or where thousands of starving men
pace the rich fields of harvest. The revolution
which is about to break upon us will be sterile if
it is not complete.'* He feared that the conces-
sions of kings, and the removal of food taxes,
might delude the people into the belief that all
was well, and he imparted his fear to his disciples.
His object in establishing the Perfectibilists was
the literal realisation of Rousseau's theories.
He dreamt of and schemed for a day when the


and the French Revolution

abolition of property, social authority, and
nationality would be facts, when human beings
would return to that happy state in which they
form but one family.* Being an ex- Jesuit and
acquainted with the organisation of that order, he
determined to adapt its system to his own scheme,
to make as it were a counter-society of Jesus.
All the maxims and rules of Jesuit adminis-
tration were to be pushed further and applied
more rigorously than had been contemplated
by their inventors. Passive obedience, universal
espionage, and all the dialectic of casuistry were
his chosen tools, and so successful was the
undertaking that in four years a system of
communication and information with every part
of Europe had been established. The unseen
hands of the society were in all affairs, its ears
in the cabinets of princes and cardinals. The
Church was regarded unrelentingly as a foe, for
the Perfectibilists were the enemies of institu-
tional Christianity, and represented themselves
as professors of the purest Christian Socialism.
Weishaupt classed the theological and sacerdotal
systems among the worst enemies of man, and
in his instructions to his disciples urged that
* Letter of Spartacus to Cato, p. i6o. Robison.

Secret Societies

they should be contended with as definite evils.
And the Church feared him, for did he not
declare that men were still slaves because they
still knelt ? Did he not command the people
to rise from their knees ? Abbe Deschamps,
in *'Les societes secretes et la societe/* expresses
his dread of the machinations of so terrible an
Order, and points out that "once dechristianised
the masses will claim absolute equality and the
right to enjoy life ! "

Weishaupt, on the other hand, said : " He
who would work for the happiness of the human
race, for the contentment and peace of man, for
the diminishing of discontent, should examine
and then enfeeble the principles which trouble
that peace, that content, that happiness. Of
this class are all systems which are opposed to
the ennobling and perfecting of human nature ;
all systems which unnecessarily multiply the
evils of the world, and represent them as greater
than they really are ; all systems which depre-
ciate the merit and the dignity of man, which

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Online LibraryUna Pope-HennessySecret societies and the French revolution, together with some kindred studies by Una Birch → online text (page 2 of 12)