Written by Vladimir Moss


On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI of France was guillotined. After the execution a huge old man with a long beard who had been prominent in the murdering of priests during the September riots mounted the scaffold, plunged both hands into the king’s blood and sprinkled the people with it, shouting: “People of France! I baptize you in the name of Jacob and Freedom!”[1]

Who was Jacob? There are various theories. Some think it was the ghost of Jacob Molet, the leader of the Templars who was executed by the Catholic Church. Others think it refers to Masons of the Scottish rite who were supporters of the Stuart Jacobites. Others think it was a reference to the Patriarch Jacob’s “struggle with God” in Genesis 32. Some think “Jacob” simply refers to Jewry. So were the French now baptized into the spirit of the Jewish revolution?...

In order to answer this question, we need to go back a little in time, to the Jewish and Masonic origins of the revolution.

The Jews and the Revolution

It was the French revolution that gave the Jews the opportunity to burst through into the forefront of world politics for the first time since the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There were 39,000 of them in France in 1789. Most (half according to one estimate, nine-tenths according to another[2]) were Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim living in Alsace and Lorraine, which France had acquired under the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

“It is important,” writes Nesta Webster, “to distinguish between these two races of Jews [the Ashkenazi and the Sephardim] in discussing the question of Jewish emancipation at the time of the Revolution. For whilst the Sephardim had shown themselves good citizens and were therefore subject to no persecutions, the Ashkenazim by their extortionate usury and oppressions had made themselves detested by the people, so that rigorous laws were enforced to restrain their rapacity. The discussions that raged in the National Assembly on the subject of the Jewish question related therefore mainly to the Jews of Alsace.”[3]

The eighteenth century had already witnessed some important changes in the relationship between the State and Jewry. In England, the Jews had achieved emancipation de facto, if not de jure. This was helped by the small number of Jews in Britain, and the non-ideological approach of the British government.

It was a different matter on the continent, where a more ideological approach prevailed. In 1782 the Masonic Austrian Emperor Joseph II published his Toleranzpatent, whose purpose was that “all Our subjects without distinction of nationality and religion, once they have been admitted and tolerated in our States, shall participate in common in public welfare,… shall enjoy legal freedom, and encounter no obstacles to any honest way of gaining their livelihood and of increasing general industriousness… Existing laws pertaining to the Jewish nation… are not always compatible with these Our most gracious intentions.” Most restrictions on the Jews were removed, but these new freedoms applied only to the “privileged Jew” – that is, the Jew whom the State found “useful” in some way – and not to the “foreign Jew”. Moreover, even privileged Jews were not granted the right of full citizenship and craft mastership.[4] For Joseph wanted to grant tolerance to the Jews, but not full equality.

As for France, “already, in 1784, the Jews of Bordeaux had been accorded further concessions by Louis XVI; in 1776 all Portuguese Jews had been given religious liberty and the permission to inhabit all parts of the kingdom. The decree of January 28, 1790, conferring on the Jews of Bordeaux the rights of French citizens, put the finishing touch to this scheme of liberation. [The Sephardic Jews of South-West France and papal Avignon, who were already more assimilated than their Ashkenazi co-religionists in Alsace, were given full citizenship in July, 1790.] But the proposal to extend this privilege to the Jews of Alsace evoked a storm of controversy in the Assembly and also violent insurrections amongst the Alsace peasants.”[5]

In their first debate on the subject, on September 28, 1789, they made a further important distinction between the nation and the individuals constituting the nation. Thus Stanislas Comte de Clermont-Tonnerre argued that “there cannot be a nation within a nation”, so “the Jews should be denied everything as a nation but granted everything as individuals.”[6] A separate nation of the Jews could not be allowed to exist within France. For “virtually all – moderates no less than radicals, Dantonists no less than Robespierrists, Christians as well as deists, pantheists, and atheists – held that equality of status in the state they were in their various ways intent on establishing was bound up of necessity with the elimination of all groups, classes, or corporations intermediate (and therefore mediating) between the state itself and the citizen.”[7]

Vital writes: “The immediate issue before the Assembly was the admission of certain semi-pariah classes – among them actors and public executioners – to what came to be termed ‘active citizenship’. It was soon apparent, however, that the issues presented by the Jews were very different. It was apparent, too, that it would make no better sense to examine the Jews’ case in tandem with that of the Protestants. The latter, like the Jews, were non-Catholics, but their national identity was not in doubt, nor, therefore, their right to the new liberties being decreed for all. Whatever else they were, they were Frenchmen. No one in the National Assembly thought otherwise. But were the Jews Frenchmen? If they were not, could they become citizens? The contention of the lead speaker in the debate, Count Stanislaw de Clermont-Tonnerre, was that the argument for granting them full rights of citizenship needed to be founded on the most general principles. Religion was a private affair. The law of the state need not and ought not to impinge upon it. So long as religious obligations were compatible with the law of the state and contravened it in no particular it was wrong to deprive a person, whose conscience required him to assume such religious obligations, of those rights which it was the duty of all citizens qua citizens to assume. One either imposed a national religion by main force, so erasing the relevant clause of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen to which all now subscribed. Or else one allowed everyone the freedom to profess the religious opinion of his choice. Mere tolerance was unacceptable. ‘The system of tolerance, coupled.. to degrading distinctions, is so vicious in itself, that he who is compelled to tolerate remains as dissatisfied with the law as is he whom it has granted no more than such a form of tolerance.’ There was no middle way. The enemies of the Jews attacked them, and attacked him, Clermont-Tonnerre, on the grounds that they were deficient morally. It was also held of the Jews that they were unsociable, that their laws prescribed usury, that they were forbidden to mix with the French by marriage or at table or join them in defence of the country or in any other common enterprise. But these reproaches were either unjust or specious. Usury was blameworthy beyond a doubt, but it was the laws of France that had compelled the Jews to practise it. And so with most of the other charges. Once the Jews had title to land and a country of their own the practice of usury would cease. So would the unsociability that was held against them. So would much of their religious eccentricity [ces travers religieux]. As for the further argument, that they had judges and laws of their own, why so they did, and on this matter he, Clermont-Tonnerre, would say to his critics (coming to the passage in his address to the Assembly that would be quoted over and over again in the course of the two centuries that followed), that that indeed was impermissible.

“’As a nation the Jews must be denied everything, as individuals they must be granted everything; their judges can no longer be recognized; their recourse must be to our own exclusively; legal protection for the doubtful laws by which Jewish corporate existence is maintained must end; they cannot be allowed to create a political body or a separate order within the state; it is necessary that they be citizens individually.’

“There remained the question, what if, as some argued, it was the case that the Jews themselves had no interest in citizenship? Why in that case, he went on, ‘if they do not want it, let them say so, in which case expel them [s’ils veulent ne l’être pas, qu’ils le disent, et alors, qu’on les bannisse]’. The idea of a society of non-citizens within the state and a nation within a nation was repugnant to him. But in fact, the speaker concluded, that was not at all what the Jews wanted. The evidence was to the contrary. They wished to be incorporated into the nation of France.

“Clermont-Tonnerre was promptly contradicted on this last, vital point by the abbé Maury. The term ‘Jew’, said the abbé, did not denote a religious sect, but a nation, one which had laws which it had always followed and by which it wished to continue to abide. ‘To proclaim the Jews citizens would be as if to say that, without letters of naturalization and without ceasing to be English or Danish, Englishmen and Danes could become Frenchmen.’ But Maury’s chief argument was of a moral and social order. The Jews were inherently undesirable, socially as well as economically. They had been chased out of France, and then recalled, no less than seven times – chased out by avarice, as Voltaire had rightly put it, readmitted by avarice once more, but in foolishness as well.

“’The Jews have passed seventeen centuries without mingling with the other nations. They have never engaged in anything but trade in money; they have been the plague of the agricultural provinces; not one of them has ever dignified [su ennoblir] his hands by driving a plough. Their laws leave them no time for agriculture; the Sabbath apart, they celebrate fifty-six more festivals than the Christians in each year. In Poland they possess an entire province. Well, then! While the sweat of Christian slaves waters the furrows in which the Jews’ opulence germinates they themselves, as their fields are cultivated, engage in weighing their ducats and calculating how much they can shave off the coinage without exposing themselves to legal penalties.’

“They have never been labourers, Maury continued, not even under David and Solomon. And even then they were notorious for their laziness. Their sole concern was commerce. Would you make soldiers of them, the abbé asked. If you did, you would derive small benefit from them: they have a horror of celibacy and they marry young. He knew of no general who would wish to command an army of Jews either on the Sabbath – a day on which they never gave battle – or indeed at any other time. Or did the Assembly imagine that they could make craftsmen of them when their many festivals and sabbath days presented an insurmountable obstacle to such an enterprise. The Jews held 12 million mortgages in Alsace alone, he informed his colleagues. Within a month of their being granted citizenship they would own half the province outright. In ten years’ time they would have ‘conquered’ all of it, reducing it to nothing more than a Jewish colony – upon which the hatred the people of Alsace already bore for the Jews would explode.

“It was not that he, Maury, wished the Jews to be persecuted. ‘They are men, they are our brothers; anathema on whoever speaks of intolerance!’ Nor need their religious opinions disturb anyone [!!!]. He joined all others in agreeing that they were to be protected. But that did not mean that they could be citizens. It was as individuals that they were entitled to protection, not as Frenchmen.

“Robespierre took the opposite line, supporting Clermont-Tonnerre. All who fulfilled the generally applicable conditions of eligibility to citizenship were entitled to the rights that derived from it, he argued, including the right to hold public office. And so far as the facts were concerned, much of what Maury had said about the Jews was ‘infinitely exaggerated’ and contrary to known history. Moreover, to charge the Jews themselves with responsibility for their own persecution at the hands of others, was absurd.

“’Vices are imputed to them… But to whom should these vices be imputed if not to ourselves for our injustice?… Let us restore them to happiness, to country [patrie], and to virtue by restoring them to the dignity of men and citizens; let us reflect that it can never be politic, whatever anyone might say, to condemn a multitude of men who live among us to degradation and oppression.’”[8]

Thus spoke the man who was soon to lead the most degrading and oppressive régime in European history to that date. Indeed, it is striking how those who spoke most fervently for the Jews – apart from leaders of the Jewish community such as the banker Cerfbeer and Isaac Beer – were Freemasons or Illuminati.

Thus in the two years before the crucial debate on September 27, 1791, writes General Nechvolodov, “fourteen attempts were made to give the Jews civic equality and thirty-five major speeches were given by several orators, among them Mirabeau, Robespierre, Abbé Grégoire, Abbé Sièyes, Camille, Desmoulins, Vernier, Barnave, Lameth, Duport and others.

“’Now there is a singular comparison to be made,’ says Abbé Lemann, ‘- all the names which we have just cited and which figure in the Moniteur as having voted for the Jews are also found on the list of Masons… Is this coincidence not proof of the order given, in the lodges of Paris, to work in favour of Jewish emancipation?’

“And yet, in spite of the revolutionary spirit, the National Assembly was very little inclined to give equality of civil rights to the Jews. Against this reform there rose up all the deputies from Alsace, since it was in Alsace that the majority of the French Jews of that time lived….

“But this opposition in the National Assembly did not stop the Jews. To attain their end, they employed absolutely every means.

“According to Abbé Lemann, these means were the following:

“First means: entreaty. A charm exercised over several presidents of the Assembly. Second: the influence of gold. Third means: logic. After the National Assembly had declared the ‘rights of man’, the Jews insisted that these rights should logically be applied to them, and they set out their ideas on this subject with an ‘implacable arrogance’.

“Fourth means: recourse to the suburbs and the Paris Commune, so as to force the National Assembly under ‘threat of violence’ to give the Jews equality.

“’One of their most thorough historians (Graetz),’ says Abbé Lemann, ‘did not feel that he had to hide this manoeuvre. Exhausted, he says, by the thousand useless efforts they had made to obtain civil rights, they thought up a last means. Seeing that it was impossible to obtain by reason and common sense what they called their rights, they resolved to force the National Assembly to approve of their emancipation.

“’To this end, naturally, were expended vast sums, which served to establish the ‘Christian Front’ which they wanted.

“’In the session of the National Assembly of January 18, 1791, the Duke de Broglie expressed himself completely openly on this subject: ‘Among them,’ he said, ‘there is one in particular who has acquired an immense fortune at the expense of the State, and who is spending in the town of Paris considerable sums to win supporters of his cause.’ He meant Cerfbeer.

“At the head of the Christian Front created on this occasion were the lawyer Godard and three ecclesiastics: the Abbés Mulot, Bertoliot and Fauchet.

“Abbé Fauchet was a well-known illuminatus, and Abbé Mulot – the president of the all-powerful Paris Commune, with the help of which the Jacobins exerted, at the time desired, the necessary pressure on the National and Legislative Assemblies, and later on the Convention.

“What Gregory, curé of Embermeuil, was for the Jews in the heart of the National Assembly, Abbé Mulot was in the heart of the Commune.

“However, although they were fanatical Jacobins, the members of the Commune were far from agreeing to the propositions of their president that they act in defence of Jewish rights in the National Assembly. It was necessary to return constantly to the attack, naturally with the powerful help of Cerfbeer’s gold and that of the Abbés Fauchet and Bertoliot. This latter declared during a session of the Commune on this question: ‘It was necessary that such a happy and unexpected event as the revolution should come and rejuvenate France… Let us hasten to consign to oblivion the crimes of our fathers.’

“Then, during another session, the lawyer Godard bust into the chamber with fifty armed ‘patriots’ dressed in costumes of the national guard with three-coloured cockades. They were fifty Jews who, naturally provided with money, had made the rounds of the sections of the Paris Commune and of the wards of the town of Paris, talking about recruiting partisans of equality for the Jews. This had its effect. Out of the sixty sections of Paris fifty-nine declared themselves for equality (only the quartier des Halles abstained). Then the Commune addressed the National Assembly with an appeal signed by the Abbés Mulot, Bertoliot, Fauchet and other members, demanding that equality be immediately given to the Jews.

“However, even after that, the National Assembly hesitated in declaring itself in the manner provided. Then, on September 27, the day of the penultimate session of the Assembly before its dissolution, the Jacobin deputy Adrien Duport posed the question of equality for the Jews in a categorical fashion. The Assembly knew Adrien Duport’s personality perfectly. It knew that in a secret meeting of the chiefs of Freemasonry which preceded the revolution, he had insisted on the necessity of resort to a system of terror. The Assembly yielded. There followed a decree signed by Louis XVI granting French Jews full and complete equality of rights…”[9]

However, as many had feared, emancipation created problems. In the late 1790s a new wave of Ashkenazis entered France from Germany, attracted by the superior status their emancipated French brothers now enjoyed. This was to lead to further disturbances in Alsace, which it was left to Napoleon to deal with…

“Nevertheless,” as Paul Johnson writes, “the deed was done. French Jews were now free and the clock could never be turned back. Moreover, emancipation in some form took place wherever the French were able to carry the revolutionary spirit with their arms. The ghettos and Jewish closed quarters were broken into in papal Avignon (1791), Nice (1792) and the Rhineland (1792-3). The spread of the revolution to the Netherlands, and the founding of the Batavian republic, led to Jews being granted full and formal rights by law there (1796). In 1796-8 Napoleon Bonaparte liberated many of the Italian ghettos, French troops, young Jews and local enthusiasts tearing down the crumbling old walls.

“For the first time a new archetype, which had always existed in embryonic form, began to emerge from the shadows: the revolutionary Jew. Clericalists in Italy swore enmity to ‘Gauls, Jacobins and Jews’. In 1793-4 Jewish Jacobins set up a revolutionary regime in Saint Esprit, the Jewish suburb of Bayonne. Once again, as during the Reformation, traditionalists saw a sinister link between the Torah and subversion.”[10]

Or more precisely: the Talmud and subversion. For it was not the Torah that taught the Jews to rebel perpetually against all Gentile power: it was the Talmud, with its institutionalized hatred of all non-Jews.

Civil War among the Masons

We have seen that the emancipation of the Jews in 1789-91 was carried out chiefly by the Freemasons. This is hardly surprising, given the Jewish nature of the central Masonic myth and rites. Judaism and Masonry are inter-related and inter-dependent.

The first stage of the Revolution, from 1789 to 1791, was dominated by the Masons, whose numbers had grown at an astonishing rate in the pre-revolutionary years. Adam Zamoyski writes that “there were 104 lodges in France in 1772, 198 by 1776, and a staggering 629 by 1789. Their membership included virtually every grandee, writer, artist, lawyer, soldier or other professional in the country, as well as notable foreigners such as Franklin and Jefferson – some 30,000 people.”[11] “Between 800 and 900 Masonic lodges,” writes Doyle, “were founded in France between 1732 and 1793, two-thirds of them after 1760. Between 1773 and 1779 well over 20,000 members were recruited. Few towns of any consequence were without one or more lodges by the 1780s and, despite several papal condemnations of a deistic cult that had originated in Protestant England, the élite of society flocked to join. Voltaire was drafted in on his last visit to Paris, and it was before the assembled brethren of the Nine Sisters Lodge that he exchanged symbolic embraces with Franklin.”[12]

In 1791 a split began to emerge between the more moderate liberal Masons, the great majority, who had been responsible for liberal reforms like the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and a more violent and revolutionary minority. The split was reflected in the composition of the Convention elected in 1792. It was divided between “Montagnards” (Jacobins) on the left, led by Marat, Danton, Robespierre and the Parisian delegates, and the “Girondins” on the right, led by Brissot, Vergniaud and the “faction of the Gironde”. The Montagnards were identified with the interests of the Paris mob and the most radical ideas of the Revolution; the Girondins – with the interests of the provinces and the original liberal ideals of 1789. The Montagnards stood for disposing of the king as soon as possible; the Girondins wanted a referendum of the whole people to decide.

The Montagnard Saint-Just said that a trial was unnecessary; the people had already judged the king on August 10; it remained only to punish him. For “there is no innocent reign… every King is a rebel and a usurper.”[13] Robespierre had voted against the death penalty in the Assembly, but now he said that “Louis must die that the country may live” – an unconscious echo of the words of Caiaphas about Christ: “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11.50). And he agreed with Saint-Just: “Louis cannot be judged, he has already been judged. He has been condemned, or else the Republic is not blameless. To suggest putting Louis XVI on trial, in whatever way, is a step back towards royal and constitutional despotism; it is a counter-revolutionary idea; because it puts the Revolution itself in the dock. After all, if Louis can still be put on trial, Louis can be acquitted; he might be innocent. Or rather, he is presumed to be until he is found guilty. But if Louis can be presumed innocent, what becomes of the Revolution?”[14]

There was a certain logic in these words: since the Revolution undermined all the foundations of the ancien régime, the possibility that the head of that régime might be innocent implied that the Revolution might be guilty. So “revolutionary justice” required straight execution rather than a trial; it could not afford to question the foundations of the Revolution itself. It was the same logic that led to the execution without trial of Tsar Nicholas II in 1918.

But the majority of the deputies were not yet as “advanced” in their thinking as Robespierre. So “during the third week of January 1793,” writes Jasper Ridley, “the Convention voted four times on the issue. A resolution finding Louis guilty of treason, and rejecting the idea of an appeal to the people by a plebiscite [so much for Rousseauist democracy!], was carried by 426 votes to 278; the decision to impose the death penalty was carried by 387 to 314. Philippe Egalité [the Duke of Orléans and cousin of the king who became Grand Master of the Masons, then a Jacobin, renouncing his title for the name ‘Philippe Egalité’] voted to convict Louis and for the death penalty. A deputy then proposed that the question of what to do with Louis should be postponed indefinitely. This was defeated by 361 to 360, a single vote. Philippe Egalité voted against the proposal, so his vote decided the issue. On 20 January a resolution that the death sentence should be immediately carried out was passed by 380 to 310, and Louis was guillotined the next day.”[15]

Now the Jacobins cast the Girondins aside. A coup against the Girondist deputies was carried out between May 31 and June 2, 1793. “In July 1793,” writes Jasper Ridley, “a young Girondin woman, Charlotte Corday, gained admission to Marat’s house by pretending that she wished to give him a list of names of Girondins to be guillotined. She found him sitting as usual in his bath to cure his skin disease, and she stabbed him to death.[16] She was guillotined, and the Girondin party was suppressed.

“In Lyons, the Girondins had gained control of the Freemasons’ lodges. In the summer of 1793 the Girondins there defied the authority of the Jacobin government in Paris, and guillotined one of the local Jacobin leaders. The Lyons Freemasons played a leading part in the rising against the Paris Jacobins; but the Jacobins suppressed the revolt, and several of the leading Girondin Freemasons of Lyons were guillotined.”[17] The revolutionary government now took terrible revenge on its defeated enemies. On October 12 the Committee “moved a decree that Lyons should be destroyed. Its very name was to disappear, except on a monument among the ruins which would proclaim ‘Lyons made war on Liberty. Lyons is no more.’”[18] Lyons was not completely destroyed, but whole ranges of houses were burnt and thousands were guillotined and shot. “The effect… was designed to be a salutory one. ‘What cement for the Revolution!’ gloated Achard in a letter to Paris.”[19]

And so the Revolution was frenziedly devouring its own children.[20] Or rather, the Masons were devouring their own brothers; for the struggle between the Girondists and the Montagnards was in fact, according to Lev Tikhomirov, a struggle between different layers of Masonry.[21] “In the period of the terror the majority of Masonic lodges were closed. As Louis Blanc explains, a significant number of Masons, though extremely liberal-minded, could still not, in accordance with their personal interests, character and public position, sympathize with the incitement of the maddened masses against the rich, to whom they themselves belonged. In the hottest battle of the revolution it was those who split off into the highest degrees who acted. The Masonic lodges were replaced by political clubs, although in the political clubs, too, there began a sifting of the revolutionaries into the more moderate and the extremists, so that quite a few Masons perished on the scaffolds from the hands of their ‘brothers’. After the overthrow of Robespierre on 9 Thermidor the Masonic lodges were again opened.”[22]

O.F. Soloviev writes: “The brotherhoods were considered outposts of counter-revolution, many disbanded themselves, some members emigrated, others stopped all work. Only after the coming to power of Napoleon, who protected the order, was its activity renewed and even broadened.”[23]

The Jacobins and the Illuminati

If we look into the origins of Jacobinism, then we very soon come up against the name of an organization called Illuminism, founded on May 1, 1776[24] by a Bavarian professor called Weishaupt, who assumed the name of “Spartacus” (from the slave who rebelled against Rome in the first century BC). Illuminism arose out of the dissatisfaction of a group of Masons with the general state of Masonry. Thus another founder member, Count Mirabeau, noted in the same year of 1776: “The Lodge Theodore de Bon Conseil at Munich, where there were a few men with brains and hearts, was tired of being tossed about by the vain promises and quarrels of Masonry. The heads resolved to graft on to their branch another secret association to which they gave the name of the Order of the Illuminés. They modelled it on the Society of Jesus, whilst proposing to themselves something diametrically opposed.”[25]

“Our strength,” wrote Weishaupt, “lies in secrecy. Therefore we must without hesitation use as a cover some innocent societies. The lodges of blue masonry are a fitting veil to hide our real aims, since the world is accustomed to expecting nothing important or constructive from them. Their ceremonies are considered pretty trifles for the amusement of big children. The name of a learned society is also a magnificent mask behind which we can hide our lower degrees.”[26]

“Weishaupt constructed his organization on several levels, revealing his most radical plans only to his chosen co-workers. Weishaupt chose the members of his organization mainly amidst young people, carefully studying each candidature.

“Having sifted out the unreliable and dubious, the leaders of the order performed on the rest a rite of consecration, which took place after a three-day fast in a dark basement. Every candidate was consecrated separately, having first had his arms and legs bound. [Then] from various corners of the dark basement the most unexpected questions were showered upon the initiate.

“Having replied to the questions, he swore absolute obedience to the leaders of the order. Every new member signed that he would preserve the secrets of the organization under fear of the death penalty.

“However, the newcomer was not yet considered to be a full member of the organization, but received the status of novice and for one to three months had to be under the observation of an experienced illuminé. He was told to keep a special diary and regularly present it to the leaders. The novice filled in numerous questionnaires, and also prepared monthly accounts of all matters linking him with the order. Having passed through all the trials, the novice underwent a second initiation, now as a fully-fledged member.

“After his initiation the new member was given a distinguishing sign, gesture and password, which changed depending on the rank he occupied.

“The newcomer received a special pseudonym (order’s name), usually borrowed from ancient history…, and got to know an ancient Persian method of timekeeping, the geography of the order, and also a secret code.

“Weishaupt imposed into the order a system of global spying and mutual tailing.

“Most of the members were at the lowest level of the hierarchy.

“No less than a thousand people entered the organization, but for conspiratorial purposes each member knew only a few people. As Weishaupt himself noted, ‘directly under me there are to, who are completely inspired by me myself, while under each of them are two, etc. Thus I can stir up and put into motion a thousand people. This is how one must command and act in politics.”[27]

“Do you realize sufficiently,” he wrote in the discourse of the reception of the Illuminatus Dirigens, “what it means to rule – to rule in a secret society? Not only over the lesser or more important of the populace, but over the best men, over men of all ranks, nations, and religions, to rule without external force, to unite them indissolubly, to breathe one spirit and soul into them, men distributed over all parts of the world?”[28]

The supposed aim of the new Order was to improve the present system of government and to abolish “the slavery of the peasants, the servitude of men to the soil, the rights of main morte and all the customs and privileges which abase humanity, the corvées under the condition of an equitable equivalent, all the corporations, all the maîtrises, all the burdens imposed on industry and commerce by customs, excise duties, and taxes… to procure a universal toleration for all religious opinions… to take away all the arms of superstitions, to favour the liberty of the press, etc.”[29] This was almost exactly the same programme as that carried out by the Constituent Assembly at the beginning of the French revolution in 1789-91 under the leadership of, among others, the same Count Mirabeau – a remarkable coincidence!

However, this liberal democratic programme was soon forgotten when Weishaupt took over control of the Order. For “Spartacus” had elaborated a much more radical programme, a programme that was to resemble the socialism of the later, more radical stages of the revolution. “Weishaupt had made into an absolute theory the misanthropic gibes [boutades] of Rousseau at the invention of property and society, and without taking into account the statement so distinctly formulated by Rousseau on the impossibility of suppressing property and society once they had been established, he proposed as the end of Illuminism the abolition of property, social authority, of nationality, and the return of the human race to the happy state in which it formed only a single family without artificial needs, without useless sciences, every father being priest and magistrate. Priest of we know not what religion, for in spite of their frequent invocations of the God of Nature, many indications lead us to conclude that Weishaupt had, like Diderot and d’Holbach, no other God than Nature herself…”[30]

Weishaupt proceeded to create an inner secret circle within Masonry. He used the religious forms of Masonry, and invented a few “mysteries” himself. But his aim was to found a political organization controlled by himself.

His political theory, according to Webster, was “no other than that of modern Anarchy, that man should govern himself and rulers should be gradually done away with. But he is careful to deprecate all ideas of violent revolution – the process is to be accomplished by the most peaceful methods. Let us see how gently he leads up to the final conclusion:

“’The first stage in the life of the whole human race is savagery, rough nature, in which the family is the only society, and hunger and thirst are easily satisfied… in which man enjoys the two most excellent goods, Equality and Liberty, to their fullest extent. … In these circumstances… health was his usual condition… Happy men, who were not yet enough enlightened to lose their peace of mind and to be conscious of the unhappy mainsprings and causes of our misery, love of power… envy… illnesses and all the results of imagination.’

“The manner in which man fell from this primitive state of felicity is then described:

“’As families increased, means of subsistence began to lack, the nomadic life ceased, property was instituted, men established themselves firmly, and through agriculture families drew near each other, thereby language developed and through living together men began to measure themselves against each other, etc… But here was the cause of the downfall of freedom; equality vanished. Man felt new unknown needs…’

“Thus men became dependent like minors under the guardianship of kings; the human must attain to majority and become self-governing:

“’Why should it be impossible that the human race should attain to its highest perfection, the capacity to guide itself? Why should anyone be eternally led who understands how to lead himself?’

“Further, men must learn not only to be independent of kings but of each other:

“’Who has need of another depends on him and has resigned his rights. So to need little is the first step to freedom; therefore savages and the most highly enlightened are perhaps the only free men. The art of more and more limiting one’s needs is at the same time the art of attaining freedom…’

“Weishaupt then goes on to show how the further evil of Patriotism arose:

“’With the origin of nations and peoples the world ceased to be a great family, a single kingdom: the great tie of nature was torn… Nationalism took the place of human love…. Now it became a virtue to magnify one’s fatherland at the expense of whoever was not enclosed within its limits, now as a means to this narrow end it was allowed to despise and outwit foreigners or indeed even to insult them. This virtue was called Patriotism…’

“And so by narrowing down affection to one’s fellow-citizens, the members of one’s own family, and even to oneself:

“’There arose out of Patriotism, Localism, the family spirit, and finally Egoism… Diminish Patriotism, then men will learn to know each other again as such, their dependence on each other will be lost, the bond of union will widen out…’

“… Whilst the ancient religions taught the hope of a Redeemer who should restore man to his former state, Weishaupt looks to man alone for his restoration. ‘Men,’ he observes, ‘no longer loved men but only such and such men. The word was quite lost…’ Thus in Weishaupt’s masonic system the ‘lost word’ is ‘Man,’ and its recovery is interpreted by the idea that Man should find himself again. Further on Weishaupt goes on to show how ‘the redemption of the human race is to be brought about’:

“’These means are secret schools of wisdom, these were from all time the archives of Nature and of human rights, through them will Man be saved from his Fall, princes and nations will disappear without violence from the earth, the human race will become one family and the world the abode of reasonable men. Morality alone will bring about this change imperceptibly. Every father of a family will be, as formerly Abraham and the patriarchs, the priest and unfettered lord of his family, and Reason will be the only code of Man. This is one of our greatest secrets…’

“… His first idea was to make Fire Worship the religion of Illuminism; the profession of Christianity therefore appears to have been an after-thought. Evidently Weishaupt discovered, as others have done, that Christianity lends itself more readily to subversive ideas than any other religion. And in the passages which follow we find adopting the old ruse of representing Christ as a Communist and as a secret-society adept. Thus he goes on to explain that ‘if Jesus preaches contempt of riches, He wishes to teach us the reasonable use of them and prepare for the community of goods introduced by Him,’ and in which, Weishaupt adds later, He lived with His disciples. But this secret doctrine is only to be apprehended by initiates…

“Weishaupt thus contrives to give a purely political interpretation to Christ’s teaching:

“’The secret preserved through the Disciplinam Arcani, and the aim appearing through all His words and deeds, is to give back to men their original liberty and equality… Now one can understand how far Jesus was the Redeemer and Saviour of the world.’

“The mission of Christ was therefore by means of Reason to make men capable of freedom: ‘When at last reason becomes the religion of man, so will the problem be solved.’

“Weishaupt goes on to show that Freemasonry can be interpreted in the same manner. The secret doctrine concealed in the teaching of Christ was handed down by initiates who ‘hid themselves and their doctrine under the cover of Freemasonry,’ and in a long explanation of Masonic hieroglyphics he indicates the analogies between the Hiramic legend and the story of Christ. ‘I say then Hiram is Christ.’… In this manner Weishaupt demonstrates that ‘Freemasonry is hidden Christianity… But this is of course only the secret of what Weishaupt calls ‘real Freemasonry’ in contradistinction to the official kind, which he regards as totally unenlightened.”[31]

But the whole religious side of Weishaupt’s system is in fact simply a ruse to attract religious men. Weishaupt himself despised religion: “You cannot imagine,” he wrote, “what consideration and sensation our Priest’s degree is arousing. The most wonderful thing is that great Protestant and reformed theologians who belong to Q [Illuminism] still believe that the religious teaching imparted in it contains the true and genuine spirit of the Christian religion. Oh! men, of what cannot you be persuaded? I never thought that I should become the founder of a new religion.”[32]

Only gradually, and only to a very few of his closest associates, did Weishaupt reveal the real purpose of his order – the revolutionary overthrow of the whole of society, civil and religious. Weishaupt has been credited with founding the idea of world revolution.[33] Elements of all religions and philosophical systems, including Christianity and Masonry, were used by Weishaupt to enrol a body of influential men (about 2500 at one time[34]) who would obey him in all things while knowing neither him personally nor the real aims of the secret society they had been initiated into. The use of codes and pseudonyms, and the pyramidal structure of his organization, whereby nobody on a lower level knew what was happening on the one above his, while those on the higher levels knew everything about what was happening below them, was copied by all succeeding revolutionary organizations.

In 1782 Weishaupt convened a Universal Congress of Illuminati in Wilhelmsbad, and was well on the way to taking over Freemasonry when, in July, 1785, an Illuminatus was struck by lightning and papers found on him led to the Bavarian government banning the organisation. However, both Illuminism and Weishaupt continued in existence – only France rather than Germany became the centre of their operations. Thus the Parisian lodge of the Amis Réunis, renamed the Ennemis Réunis, gathered together all the really radical Masons from various other lodges, many of which were still royalist, and turned them, often unconsciously, into agents of Weishaupt. These adepts included no less than thirty princes. For it was characteristic of the revolution that among those who were most swept up by the madness of its intoxication were those who stood to lose most from it.

Some far-sighted men, such as the Apostolic Nuncio in Vienna and the Marquis de Luchet, warned against Illuminism, and de Luchet predicted almost exactly the course of events that the revolution would take on the basis of his knowledge of the order. But no one paid any attention. But then, in October, 1789 a pamphlet was seized in the house of the wife of Mirabeau’s publisher among Mirabeau’s papers and published two years later.

“Beginning with a diatribe against the French monarchy,” writes Webster, “the document goes on to say that ‘in order to triumph over this hydra-headed monster these are my ideas’:

“’We must overthrow all order, suppress all laws, annul all power, and leave the people in anarchy. The law we establish will not perhaps be in force at once, but at any rate, having given back the power to the people, they will resist for the sake of the liberty which they will believe they are preserving. We must caress their vanity, flatter their hopes, promise them happiness after our work has been in operation; we must elude their caprices and their systems at will, for the people as legislators are very dangerous, they only establish laws which coincide with their passions, their want of knowledge would besides only give birth to abuses. But as the people are a lever which legislators can move at their will, we must necessarily use them as a support, and render hateful to them everything we wish to destroy and sow illusions in their path; we must also buy all the mercenary pens which propagate our methods and which will instruct the people concerning their enemies which we attack. The clergy, being the most powerful through public opinion, can only be destroyed by ridiculing religion, rendering its ministers odious, and only representing them as hypocritical monsters… Libels must at every moment show fresh traces of hatred against the clergy. To exaggerate their riches, to makes the sins of an individual appear to be common to all, to attribute to them all vices; calumny, murder, irreligion, sacrilege, all is permitted in times of revolution.’

“’We must degrade the noblesse and attribute it to an odious origin, establish a germ of equality which can never exist but which will flatter the people; [we must] immolate the most obstinate, burn and destroy their property in order to intimidate the rest, so that if we cannot entirely destroy this prejudice we can weaken it and the people will avenge their vanity and their jealousy by all the excesses which will bring them to submission.’

“After describing how the soldiers are to be seduced from their allegiance, and the magistrates represented to the people as despots, ‘since the people, brutal and ignorant, only see the evil and never the good of things,’ the writer explains they must be given only limited power in the municipalities.

“’Let us beware above all of giving them too much force; their despotism is too dangerous, we must flatter the people by gratuitous justice, promise them a great diminution in taxes and a more equal division, more extension in fortunes, and less humiliation. These phantasies [vertiges] will fanaticise the people, who will flatten out all resistance. What matter the victims and their numbers? Spoliations, destructions, burnings, and all the necessary effects of a revolution? Nothing must be sacred and we can say with Machiavelli: “What matter the means as long as one arrives at the end?”’”[35]

The early phase of the revolution – that of the constitutional monarchy and the Declaration of the Rights of Man - was led by the more idealistic kind of Freemasons. But its later stages were controlled by the Jacobin-Illuminati with their radically destructive plans. Thus “according to Lombard de Langres [writing in 1820]: ’France in 1789 counted more than 2,000 lodges affiliated to the Grand Orient; the number of adepts was more than 100,000. The first events of 1789 were only Masonry in action. All the revolutionaries of the Constituent Assembly were initiated into the third degree. We place in this class the Duc d’Orléans, Valence, Syllery, Laclos, Sièyes, Pétion, Menou, Biron, Montesquiou, Fauchet, Condorcet, Lafayette, Mirabeau, Garat, Rabaud, Dubois-Crancé, Thiébaud, Larochefoucauld, and others.’

“Amongst these others [continues Webster] were not only the Brissotins, who formed the nucleus of the Girondin party, but the men of the Terror – Marat, Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins.

“It was these fiercer elements, true disciples of the Illuminati, who were to sweep away the visionary Masons dreaming of equality and brotherhood. Following the precedent set by Weishaupt, classical pseudonyms were adopted by these leaders of the Jacobins, thus Chaumette was known as Anaxagoras, Clootz as Anacharsis, Danton as Horace, Lacroix as Publicola, and Ronsin as Scaevola; again, after the manner of the Illuminati, the names of towns were changed and a revolutionary calendar was adopted. The red cap and loose hair affected by the Jacobins appear also to have been foreshadowed in the lodges of the Illuminati.

“Yet faithfully as the Terrorists carried out the plan of the Illuminati, it would seem that they themselves were not initiated into the innermost secrets of the conspiracy. Behind the Convention, behind the clubs, behind the Revolutionary Tribunal, there existed, says Lombard de Langres, that ‘most secret convention [convention sécrétissime] which directed everything after May 31, an occult and terrible power of which the other Convention became the slave and which was composed of the prime initiates of Illuminism. This power was above Robespierre and the committees of the government,… it was this occult power which appropriated to itself the treasures of the nation and distributed them to the brothers and friends who had helped on the great work.’”[36]

What was this occult power that controlled even the Illuminati? Many writers think that it was the Talmudists, the rabbinic leaders of the Jewish people. However, the final triumph of the Talmudists was delayed temporarily by an excess of the revolutionary zeal they had themselves stimulated. “In the local communes,” writes L.A. Tikhomirov, “individual groups of especially wild Jacobins, who had not been initiated into higher politics, sometimes broke into synagogues, destroying the Torah and books, but it was only by 1794 that the revolutionary-atheist logic finally forced even the bosses to pose the question of the annihilation not only of Catholicism, but also of Jewry. At this point, however, the Jews were delivered by 9 Thermidor, 1794. Robespierre fell and was executed. The moderate elements triumphed. The question of the ban of Jewry disappeared of itself, while the Constitution of Year III of the Republic granted equal rights to the Jews.”[37]

Napoleon Bonaparte

By the end of the eighteenth century, the revolution appeared to have lost its way, consumed by poverty, corruption and mutual blood-letting. It was saved by a young soldier, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was as sincerely faithful to the spirit of the French revolution as Cromwell had been to the English.

The Mason Christopher Hodapp writes: “It was rumoured for many years that Napoleon Bonaparte was a Freemason, but there is no historic proof of it. Still, many of his military officers, members of his Grand Council for the Empire, and 22 of the 30 Marshals of France were. So were his four brothers, three of whom were made kings by Napoleon. The Emperor’s wife, Empress Josephine, was even admitted into a French female lodge in 1804. Regardless of whether Napoleon was ever made a Mason, he did adopt the title Protector of Freemasonry, along with the lengthy list of other titles he assumed when he became emperor in 1804.”[38]

Madame de Staël called him Robespierre on horseback After all, he came from Corsica, which in 1755 had successfully rebelled from Genoa, and for which Rousseau wrote one of his most seminal works, Project de constitution pour la Corse, in 1765. But, like Cromwell (and Caesar), he found that in order to save the republic he had to take control of it and rule it like a king.

His chance came on 19 Brumaire (November 10), 1799, when he overthrew the Directory, describing parliamentarism as “hot air”, and frightened the two elective assemblies into submission. On December 13 a new constitution was proclaimed with Bonaparte as the first of three Consuls with full executive powers. And on December 15 the three Consuls declared: “Citizens, the Revolution is established upon its original principles: it is consummated…”[39]

Paul Johnson writes: “The new First Consul was far more powerful than Louis XIV, since he dominated the armed forces directly in a country that was now organized as a military state. All the ancient restraints on divine-right kingship – the Church, the aristocracy and its resources, the courts, the cities and their charters, the universities and their privileges, the guilds and their immunities – all had been swept away by the Revolution, leaving France a legal blank on which Bonaparte could stamp the irresistible force of his personality.”[40]

But, again like Caesar and Cromwell, he could never confess to being a king in the traditional sense. Under him, in Norman Davies’ phrase, “a pseudo-monarchy headed pseudo-democratic institutions.”[41]

So, as J.M. Roberts writes, while Napoleon reinstituted monarchy, “it was in no sense a restoration. Indeed, he took care so to affront the exiled Bourbon family that any reconciliation with it was inconceivable. He sought popular approval for the empire in a plebiscite and got it.[42]

“This was a monarchy Frenchmen had voted for; it rested on popular sovereignty, that is, the Revolution. It assumed the consolidation of the Revolution which the Consulate had already begun. All the great institutional reforms of the 1790s were confirmed or at least left intact; there was no disturbance of the land sales which had followed the confiscation of Church property, no resurrection of the old corporations, no questioning of the principle of equality before the law. Some measures were even taken further, notably when each department was given an administrative head, the prefect, who was in his powers something like one of the emergency emissaries of the Terror…”[43]

Cromwell had eschewed the trappings of monarchy, but Napoleon embraced them avidly. The trend towards monarchy and hierarchy developed; and “earlier than is generally thought,” writes Philip Mansel, “the First Consul Bonaparte aligned himself with this monarchical trend, acquiring in succession a guard (1799), a palace (1800), court receptions and costumes (1800-02), a household (1802-04), a dynasty (1804), finally a nobility (1808)… The proclamation of the empire in May 1804, the establishment of the households of the Emperor, the Empress and the Imperial Family in July, the coronation by the pope in December of that year, were confirmations of an existing monarchical reality.”[44]

Moreover, Napoleon spread monarchy throughout Europe. The kingdoms and Grand Duchies of Italy, Venice, Rome, Naples, Lucca, Dubrovnik, Holland, Mainz, Bavaria, Württemburg, Saxony, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Westphalia and Spain were all established or re-established with still greater monarchical power - and all ruled by Napoleon’s relations by blood or marriage. According to Stendhal, Napoleon’s court “totally corrupted” him “and exalted his amour propre to the state of a disease… He was on the point of making Europe one vast monarchy.”[45]

“’The French empire shall become the metropolitan of all other sovereignties,’ Napoleon once said to a friend. ‘I want to force every king in Europe to build a large palace for his use in Paris. When an Emperor of the French is crowned, these kings shall come to Paris, and they shall adorn that imposing ceremony with their presence and salute it with their homage.’”[46]

“As one of his secretaries Baron Meneval wrote, he saw himself as ‘the pillar of royalty in Europe’. On January 18th, 1813, he wrote to his brother Jerome that his enemies, by appealing to popular feeling, represented ‘upheavals and revolutions… pernicious doctrines.’ In Napoleon’s opinion his fellow monarchs were traitors to ‘their own cause’ when in 1813 they began to desert the French Empire, or in 1814 refused to accept his territorial terms for peace…”[47]

Jocelyn Hunt writes: “Kings before 1791 were said to be absolute but were limited by all kinds of constraints and controls. The Church had an almost autonomous status. Bonaparte ensured that the Church was merely a branch of the civil service. Kings were anointed by the Church, and thus owed their authority to God: Bonaparte took power through his own strength, camouflaged as ‘the General Will’ which, as Correlli Barnett acidly remarks, ‘became synonymous with General Bonaparte’.[48] When he became emperor in 1804, he crowned himself...

“The First Consul’s choice of ministers was a far more personal one than had been possible for the kings of France. Bonaparte established a system of meeting his ministers individually, in order to give his instructions. In the same way, Bonaparte chose which ‘ordinary’ citizens he would consult; kings of France had mechanisms for consulting ‘the people’ but these had fallen into disuse and thus, when the Estates General met in 1789, the effect was revolutionary. Bonaparte’s legislative body was, until 1814, submissive and compliant.…

“Police control and limitations on personal freedom had been a focus of condemnation by the Philosophes before the Revolution, but had not been entirely efficient: a whole industry of importing and distributing banned texts had flourished in the 1770s and 1780s. Bonaparte’s police were more thorough, and so swingeing were the penalties that self-censorship rapidly became the safest path for a newspaper to take. Bonaparte closed down sixty of the seventy-three newspapers in Paris in January, 1800, and had a weekly summary prepared of all printed material, but he was soon able to tell his Chief of Police, Fouché, ‘They only print what I want them to.’[49] In the same way, the hated lettres de cachet appear limited and inefficient when compared to Bonaparte’s and Fouché’s record of police spies, trials without jury and imprisonment without trial. Bonaparte’s brief experience as a Jacobin leader in Ajaccio had taught him how to recognise, and deal with, potential opponents.[50]

“The judiciary had stood apart from the kings of the ancien régime: while the King was nominally the supreme Judge, the training of lawyers and judges had been a matter for the Parlements, with their inherent privileges and mechanisms. The Parlements decided whether the King’s laws were acceptable within the fundamental laws of France. Under the Consulate, there were no such constraints on the legislator. The judges were his appointees, and held office entirely at his pleasure; the courts disposed of those who opposed or questioned the government, far more rapidly that had been possible in the reign of Louis XVI. Imprisonment and deportation became regularly used instruments of control under Bonaparte.

“Kings of France were fathers to their people and had a sense of duty and service. Bonaparte, too, believed that he was essential to the good and glory of France, but was able to make his own decisions about what constituted the good of France in a way which was not open to the king. Finally, while the monarchy of France was hereditary and permanent, and the position of First Consul was supposed to be held for ten years, Bonaparte’s strength was demonstrated when he changed his own constitution, first to give him the role for life and then to become a hereditary monarch. All in all, no monarch of the ancien régime had anything approaching the power which Bonaparte had been permitted to take for himself…

“When a Royalist bomb plot was uncovered in December, 1800, Bonaparte seized the opportunity to blame it on the Jacobins, and many were guillotined, with over a hundred more being exiled or imprisoned. The regime of the Terror had operated in similar ways to remove large numbers of potential or actual opponents. Press censorship and the use of police spies ensured that anti-government opinions were not publicly aired. The Declaration of the Rights of Man had guaranteed freedom of expression; but this freedom had already been eroded before Bonaparte’s coup. The Terror had seen both moral and political censorship, and the Directory had on several occasions exercised its constitutional right to censor the press. Bonaparte appears merely to have been more efficient…

“Bonaparte certainly held power without consulting the French people; he took away many of the freedoms they had been guaranteed in 1789; he taxed them more heavily than they had been taxed before. [In 1803 he wrote:] ‘I haven’t been able to understand yet what good there is in an opposition. Whatever it may say, its only result is to diminish the prestige of authority in the eyes of the people’.”[51]

In 1804, he even declared himself emperor with the name Napoleon, after which Beethoven tore out the title-page of his Eroica symphony, which had been dedicated to him, and said: “So he too is nothing but a man. Now he also will trample all human rights underfoot, and only pander to his own ambition; he will place himself above everyone else and become a tyrant…”[52] As de Tocqueville wrote: “Absolute government found huge scope for its rebirth [in] that man who was to be both the consummator and the nemesis of the Revolution.”[53]

So Napoleon was undoubtedly a despot, but a despot who could claim many precedents for his despotism in the behaviour of the Jacobins and Directory. And if he was not faithful to the forms of the revolution in its early phase, replacing democracy (of a despotic kind) with monarchy (of a populist kind), he nevertheless remained faithful to its fundamental principles, the principle, on the one hand, that nobody and nothing should be independent of the State (the principle of totalitarianism), and on the other, the principle that the Nation was the supreme value, and serving and dying for the Nation - the supreme glory.

However, writes Adam Zamoyski, “it was not so much a matter of France ‘űber alles’. ‘European society needs a regeneration,’ Napoleon asserted in conversation in 1805. ‘There must be a superior power which dominates all the other powers, with enough authority to force them to live in harmony with one another – and France is the best placed for that purpose.’ He was, like many a tyrant, utopian in his ambitions. ‘We must have a European legal system, a European appeal court, a common currency, the same weights and measures the same laws,’ Napoleon once said to Joseph Fouché: ‘I must make of all the peoples of Europe one people, and of Paris the capital of the world.’”[54]

And yet “at bottom,” as Johnson notes, “Bonaparte despised the French, or perhaps it would be more exact to say the Parisians, the heart of the ‘political nation’. He thought of them, on the basis of his experience during the various phases of the Revolution, as essentially frivolous.”[55]

The truth is, therefore, that it was neither the State nor the Nation that Bonaparte exalted above all, – although he greatly increased the worship of both in later European history, – but himself. So the spirit that truly reigned in the Napoleonic era can most accurately be described as the spirit of the man-god, of the Antichrist, of whom Bonaparte himself, as the Russian Holy Synod quite rightly said, was a forerunner.

This antichristian quality is most clearly captured in Madame De Staël’s characterization: “I had the disturbing feeling that no emotion of the heart could ever reach him. He regards a human being like a fact or a thing, never as an equal person like himself. He neither hates nor loves… The force of his will resides in the imperturbable calculations of his egotism. He is a chess-master whose opponents happen to be the rest of humanity… Neither pity nor attraction, nor religion nor attachment would ever divert him from his ends… I felt in his soul cold steel, I felt in his mind a deep irony against which nothing great or good, even his own destiny, was proof; for he despised the nation which he intended to govern, and no spark of enthusiasm was mingled with his desire to astound the human race…”[56]

Napoleon and the Jews

If the French revolution gave the Jews their first political victory, Napoleon gave them their second. On May 22, 1799, the Paris Moniteur published the following report from Constantinople on April 17: “Buonaparte has published a proclamation in which he invites all the Jews of Asia and Africa to come and place themselves under his flag in order to re-establish ancient Jerusalem. He has already armed a great number and their battalions are threatening Aleppo.” This was not the first time that the Jews had persuaded a Gentile ruler to restore them to Jerusalem. The Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate had allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and start rebuilding the Temple. However, fire came out from the foundations and black crosses appeared on the workers’ garments, forcing them to abandon the enterprise.[57]

And the Jews were to be thwarted again. For British sea-power prevented Napoleon from reaching Jerusalem and making himself, as was reported to be his intention, king of the Jews. The Jews would have to wait over a century before another Gentile power – this time, the British – again offered them a return to Zion.

Napoleon now learned what many rulers before and after had learned: that kindness towards the Jews does not make them more tractable. Nechvolodov writes: “Since the first years of the Empire, Napoleon I had become very worried about the Jewish monopoly in France and the isolation in which they lived in the midst of the other citizens, although they had received citizenship. The reports of the departments showed the activity of the Jews in a very bad light: ‘Everywhere there are false declarations to the civil authorities; fathers declare the sons who are born to them to be daughters… Again, there are Jews who have given an example of disobedience to the laws of conscription; out of sixty-nine Jews who, in the course of six years, should have formed part of the Moselle contingent, none has entered the army.’

“By contrast, behind the army, they give themselves up to frenzied speculation.

“’Unfortunately,’ says Thiers describing the entry of the French into Rome in his History of the Revolution, ‘the excesses, not against persons but against property, marred the entry of the French into the ancient capital of the world… Berthier had just left for Paris, Massena had just succeeded him. This hero was accused of having given the first example. He was soon imitated. They began to pillage the palaces, convents and rich collections. Some Jews in the rear of the army bought for a paltry price the magnificent objects which the looters were offering them.’

“It was in 1805, during Napoleon’s passage through Strasbourg, after the victory of Austerlitz, that the complaints against the Jews assumed great proportions. The principal accusations brought against them concerned the terrible use they made of usury. As soon as he returned to Paris, Napoleon judged it necessary to concentrate all his attention on the Jews. In the State Council, during its session of April 30, he said, among other things, the following on this subject:

“’The French government cannot look on with indifference as a vile, degraded nation capable of every iniquity takes exclusive possession of two beautiful departments of Alsace; one must consider the Jews as a nation and not as a sect. It is a nation within a nation; I would deprive them, at least for a certain time, of the right to take out mortgages, for it is too humiliating for the French nation to find itself at the mercy of the vilest nation. Some entire villages have been expropriated by the Jews; they have replaced feudalism… It would be dangerous to let the keys of France, Strasbourg and Alsace, fall into the hands of a population of spies who are not at all attached to the country.’”[58]

Napoleon eventually decided on an extraordinary measure: to convene a 111-strong Assembly of Jewish Notables in order to receive clear and unambiguous answers to the following questions: did the Jewish law permit mixed marriages; did the Jews regard Frenchmen as foreigners or as brothers; did they regard France as their native country, the laws of which they were bound to obey; did the Judaic law draw any distinction between Jewish and Christian debtors? At the same time, writes Johnson, Napoleon “supplemented this secular body by convening a parallel meeting of rabbis and learned laymen, to advise the Assembly on technical points of Torah and halakhah. The response of the more traditional elements of Judaism was poor. They did not recognize Napoleon’s right to invent such a tribunal, let alone summon it…”[59]

However, if some traditionalists did not welcome it, other Jews received the news with unbounded joy. “According to Abbé Lemann,” writes Nechvolodov, “they grovelled in front of him and were ready to recognize him as the Messiah. The sessions of the Sanhedrin [composed of 46 rabbis and 25 laymen from all parts of Western Europe] took place in February and March, 1807, and the Decision of the Great Sanhedrin began with the words: ’Blessed forever is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who has placed on the throne of France and of the kingdom of Italy a prince according to His heart. God has seen the humiliation of the descendants of ancient Jacob, and He has chosen Napoleon the Great to be the instrument of His mercy… Reunited today under his powerful protection in the good town of Paris, to the number of seventy-one doctors of the law and notables of Israel, we constitute a Great Sanhedrin, so as to find in us a means and power to create religious ordinances in conformity with the principles of our holy laws, and which may serve as a rule and example to all Israelites. These ordinances will teach the nations that our dogmas are consistent with the civil laws under which we live, an do not separate us at all from the society of men…’”[60]

“The Jewish delegates,” writes Platonov, “declared that state laws had the same obligatory force for Jews, that every honourable study of Jewish teaching was allowed, but usury was forbidden, etc. [However,] to the question concerning mixed marriages of Jews and Christians they gave an evasive, if not negative reply. ‘Although mixed marriages between Jews and Christians cannot be clothed in a religious form, they nevertheless do not draw upon them any anathema.”[61]

On the face of it, the convening of the Sanhedrin was a great triumph for Napoleon, who could now treat Jewry as just another religious denomination, and not a separate nation, “appropriating for the state what had traditionally been a subversive institution”.[62] However, the Jews did not restrain their money-lending and speculative activities, as Napoleon had pleaded with them to do. On the contrary, only one year after the convening of the Great Sanhedrin, when it became evident that their financial excesses were continuing, Napoleon was forced to adopt repressive measures against them.

Moreover, he created rabbinic consistories in France having disciplinary powers over Jews and granted rabbis the status of state officials – a measure that was strengthen the powers of the rabbis over their people. In time Jewish consistories were created all over Europe. They “began the stormy propaganda of Judaism amidst Jews who had partially fallen away from the religion of their ancestors, organised rabbinic schools and spiritual seminaries for the education of youth in the spirit of Talmudic Judaism.”[63]

Moreover, as Tikhomirov points out, “no laws could avert the international links of the Jews. Sometimes they even appeared openly, as in Kol Ispoel Khaberim (Alliance Israélite Universelle), although many legislatures forbad societies and unions of their own citizens to have links with foreigners. The Jews gained a position of exceptional privilege. For the first time in the history of the diaspora they acquired greater rights than the local citizens of the countries of the dispersion. One can understand that, whatever the further aims for the resurrection of Israel might be, the countries of the new culture and statehood became from that time a lever of support for Jewry.”[64]

Indeed, the main result of the Great Sanhedrin, writes Nechvolodov, “was to unite Judaism still more. “’Let us not forget from where we draw our origin,’ said Rabbi Salomon Lippmann Cerfbeer on July 26, 1808, in his speech for the opening of the preparatory assembly of the Sanhedrin:- ‘Let it no longer be a question of “German” or “Portuguese” Jews; although disseminated over the surface of the globe, we everywhere form only one unique people.’”[65]

As we have seen, the emancipation of the Jews in France led to their emancipation in other countries. Even after the fall of Napoleon, on June 8, 1815, the Congress of Vienna decreed that “it was incumbent on the members of the German Confederation to consider an ‘amelioration’ of the civil status of all those who ‘confessed the Jewish faith in Germany.’”[66] Gradually, though not without opposition, Jewish emancipation and Jewish power spread throughout Europe…

Vladimir Moss.

December 8/21, 2010.

[1] Eliphas Levi, in Sergius Fomin, Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem (Russia before the Second Coming), Moscow, 1993, p. 38 (in Russian).

[2] William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 411.

[3] Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, Christian Book Club of America, 1924, p. 247.

[4] David Vital, A People Apart, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 35-36.

[5] Webster, op. cit., p. 247.

[6] Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, London: Phoenix, 1987, 1995, p. 306.

[7] Vital, op. cit., p. 49.

[8] Vital, op. cit., pp. 43-45.

[9] General A. Nechvolodov, L’Empéreur Nicolas II et les Juifs (Emperor Nicholas II and the Jews), Paris, 1924, pp. 216-220 (in French).

[10] Johnson, op. cit., pp. 306-307.

[11] Zamoyski, Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999, p. 51.

[12] Doyle, op. cit., pp. 64-65. Franklin was a major player in the American revolution, in which French and Americans had co-operated in overthrowing British monarchical rule. The American revolution had demonstrated that the ideas of the philosophes were not just philosophical theory, but could be translated into reality. And the meeting of Franklin and Voltaire showed that science and philosophy could meet in the womb of Masonry to bring forth the common dream - liberty and “the pursuit of happiness”.

[13] Hunt, op. cit., 1998, p. 37.

[14] Doyle, op. cit., p. 195. The Robespierrist lawyer Bertrand Barère said, borrowing a phrase from Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty does not flourish unless moistened with the blood of kings. I vote for death”.

[15] Ridley, The Freemasons, London: Constable, 1999, pp. 136-137.

[16] David’s painting of the dead Marat in his bath gave the revolution an “iconic” representation of its first martyr. See Simon Schama’s excellent analysis of the painting and the painter for BBC television. (V.M.)

[17] Ridley, op. cit., p. 140.

[18] Doyle, op. cit., p. 254.

[19] Jocelyn Hunt, The French Revolution, London & New York: Routledge, 1998, p. 63.

[20] As Pierre Vergniaud said before the Convention in March, 1793: “It must be feared that the Revolution, like Saturn, will devour its children one after the other”.

[21] Tikhomirov, Tikhomirov, Religiozno-Filosofskie Osnovy Istorii (The Religious-Philosophical Foundations of History), Moscow, 1997, p. 458 (in Russian).

[22] Tikhomirov, op. cit., p. 460.

[23] Soloviev, Masonstvo v Mirovoj Politike XX Veke (Masonry in World Politics in the 20th Century), Moscow: Rosspen, 1998, p. 22 (in Russian).

[24] May 1, which has been adopted as International Labour Day by the Socialists, was a feast “of satanic forces – witches, sorcerers, evil spirits, demons” (O.A. Platonov, Ternovij Venets Rossii (Russia’s Crown of Thorns), Moscow: Rodnik, 1998, p. 194 (in Russian)). It was called “Walpurgisnacht” in Germany after the eighth-century English missionary to Germany, St. Walburga, whose feast is May 1.

[25] Webster, op. cit., p. 205. According to his second-in-command, Baron von Knigge, Weishaupt, had a “Jesuitical character” and his organisation was “such a machine behind which perhaps Jesuits may be concealed” (quoted in Webster, op. cit., p. 227). He was in fact “a Jew by race who had been baptized a Roman Catholic and had become professor of canon law at the Roman Cathlic university of Ingoldstadt in Bavaria” (Jasper Ridley, The Freemasons, London: Constable, 1999, p. 114).

[26] Platonov, op. cit., p. 195.

[27] Platonov, op. cit., pp. 195-196.

[28] Webster, op. cit., p. 221.

[29] Webster, op. cit., p. 205.

[30] Henri Martin, Histoire de France (History of France), XVI, 533; in Webster, op. cit., p. 207.

[31] Webster, op. cit., pp. 213-217.

[32] Webster, op. cit., pp. 218-219.

[33] Yu.K. Begunov, A.D. Stepanov, K.Yu. Dushenov, Taina Bezzakonia (The Mystery of Iniquity), St. Petersburg, 2002, p. 401 (in Russian).

[34] Ridley, op. cit., p. 115.

[35] Webster, op. cit., pp. 241-242.

[36] Webster, op. cit., pp. 244-245.

[37] Tikhomirov, op. cit., p. 365.

[38] Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies, Indianapolis: Wiley, 2005, p. 42.

[39] M.J. Cohen and John Major, History in Quotations, London: Cassell, 2004, p. 530.

[40] Johnson, Napoleon, London: Phoenix, 2002, p. 46.

[41] Davies, Europe: A History, London: Pimlico, 1997, p. 701.

[42] The result of the plebiscite was 3,571,329 ‘yes’ votes to 2,570 ‘noes’. As Johnson points out, “Bonaparte was the first dictator to produce fake election figures.” (op. cit., pp. 49-50). (V.M.)

[43] Roberts, History of the World, Oxford: Helicon, 1996, pp. 589-590.

[44] Mansel, “Napoleon the Kingmaker”, History Today, vol. 48 (3), March, 1998, pp. 40, 41.

[45] Mansel, op. cit., p. 43.

[46] Adam Zamoyski, 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow, London: Harper Perennial, 2004, p. 9.

[47] Mansel, op. cit., p. 43.

[48] Johnson writes: “He liked the vague and abstract notion of Rousseau’s concept, the General Will, offering a ruling elite that knew its business the opportunity to harness the people to a national effort without any of the risks of democracy. In practice an elite always formed itself into a pyramid, with one man at its summit. His will expressed the General Will… and gave it decisiveness, the basis for action. Constitutions were important in the sense that window-dressing was important in a shop. But the will was the product to be sold to the nation and, once sold, imposed” (op. cit, p. 17). (V.M.)

[49] As he said to Metternich: “You see me master of France; well, I would not undertake to govern her for three months with liberty of the press” (Cohen and Major, op. cit., p. 530). (V.M.)

[50] Johnson writes: “Fouché, who operated the world’s first secret police force, and who was the prototype of Himmler or Beria, was an important element in Bonaparte’s legacy of evil, for some of his methods were widely imitated in Austria and Prussia, where they became permanent, and even in harmless Sweden, where they were carried out by Bonaparte’s marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte” (op. cit., p. 105). (V.M.)

[51] Hunt, op. cit., pp. 104, 105-106, 107, 108, 112. He had no time for the press either.

[52] Cohen and Major, op. cit., p. 531.

[53] De Tocqueville, L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (The Ancient Regime and the Revolution), 1856, book 3, chapter 8; in Cohen and Major, op. cit., p. 527.

[54] Zamoyski, 1812, p. 9.

[55] Johnson, op. cit., p. 119.

[56] De Staël, in Johnson, op. cit., p. 119.

[57] Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, III, 20; Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, V, 22; Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, III, 15; Karen Armstrong, A History of Jerusalem, London: HarperCollins, 1997, pp. 194-196.

[58] Nechvolodov, op. cit., pp. 221-222.

[59] Johnson, op. cit., p. 310.

[60] Nechvolodov, op. cit., pp. 225-226.

[61] Platonov, op. cit., p. 266.

[62] Eliane Glaser, “Napoleon’s Jews: A Law unto Themselves”, BBC History Magazine, vol. 8, no. 8, August, 2007, p. 36. This did not mean, however, that the complaints of the citizens of Alsace were ignored. According to the “infamous decree” of March 17, 1808, writes Vital, “existing debts to Jews [in Alsace] were to be heavily and arbitrarily reduced. But the stipulations of the decree went a great deal further. Restrictions were to be levelled on the freedom of Jews to engage in a trade of their choice and to move from one part of the country to another without special permission. They were to submit to special commercial registration. They were not to employ the Hebrew language in their commercial transactions. Unlike all other citizens, they were to be forbidden to offer substitutes in case of conscription for military service. And the entry of foreign Jews into France was to be conditional either on military performance or on satisfaction of specified property qualifications.” (op. cit., p. 59). The decree lasted for ten years, but was not then renewed by the Restoration government.

[63] Platonov, op. cit., pp. 267-268.

[64] Tikhomirov, op. cit., p. 366.

[65] Nechvolodov, op. cit., p. 226.

[66] Vital, op. cit., p. 62.

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