Will and Ariel Durant|
The Age of Napoleon (1975)
Excerpts referencing Freemasonry.
Meanwhile the bourgeoisie became the most powerful of the forces that were making for revolution. It was they who filled the theaters and applauded Beaumarchais' satires of the aristocracy. It was they, even more than the nobility, who joined the Freemasonry lodges to work for freedom of life and thought; they who read Voltaire and relished his erosive wit, and agreed with Gibbon that all religions are equally false for the philosopher and equally useful for the statesman.
Some delegates from Brittany formed the Club Breton; soon it opened its members to other deputies, and to other wielders of tongue or pen; Sieyes, Robespierre, and Mirabeau made it a sounding board and testing place for their ideas and schemes; here was the first form of that powerful organization that would later be called the Jacobins. Freemasonry lodges were active, too, usually on the side of constitutional monarchy; but there is no evidence of a secret Freemasonry conspiracy. Perhaps it was in the Club Breton that Sieyes and others planned the strategy by which the nobles and the clergy were to be drawn into united action with the Third Estate.
An Englishman in Paris in 1791 reported that "clubs abound in every street." There were literary societies, sporting associations, Freemasonry lodges, workmen's gatherings. Finding the Jacobins too expensive and bourgeois, some radical leaders formed in 1790 the "Society of the Friends of Man and the Citizen," which the Parisians soon called the Cordeliers Club, because it met in the former monastery of the Cordelier (Franciscan) friars; this gave a platform to Marat, Hebert, Desmoulins, and Danton.
Against French carbines the Spanish clergy raised the cross; they denounced Joseph as "a Lutheran, a Freemason, a heretic," and summoned their flocks to insurrection "in the name of God, His Immaculate Mother, and Saint Joseph."
Politically the son of his father, [Joseph de Maistre] was emotionally akin to his mother, who transmitted to him a passionate loyalty to the Catholic Church. "Nothing," he later wrote, "can replace the education given by a mother." He was schooled by nuns and priests and then in a Jesuit college at Turin; for them too his affection never waned; and after a brief flirtation with Freemasonry he accepted completely the Jesuit view that the state should be subordinate to the Church, and the Church to the pope.
Amid these diverse sentinels lurked a small minority- students, Freemasons, scientists, poets, businessmen, a few officials, even a noble or two- who were irked by the despotism of the past, furtively flirted with philosophy, and dreamed of representative government, free trade, free assembly, free press, free thought, and a stimulating participation in the international of the mind.
Upon that timid minority, those shocked commoners, those startled dignitaries and Inquisitors, the news of the French Revolution, however dulled by delay, came as an exhilarating or terrifying revelation. Some reckless spirits openly rejoiced; Masonic lodges in Portugal celebrated the event, the Portuguese ambassador in Paris, who may have read Rousseau or heard Mirabeau, applauded the French National Assembly; the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs allowed the official gazette to salute the fall of the Bastille; copies of the Revolutionary Constitution of 1791 were sold by French booksellers in Portugal. But when Louis XVI was deposed by a Paris uprising (1792), Queen Maria felt her throne tremble, and surrendered the government to her son. The future John VI turned with fury upon the liberals of Portugal, and encouraged his intendant of police to arrest, or expel, or keep under unremitting surveillance, every Freemason, every important alien, every writer who advocated political reform.
During the War of Liberation (1808-14) Manuel Jose Quintana and the priest Juan Nicasio Gallego poured out passionate poetry to stimulate the revolt against the French. Till that struggle tore them apart, most of the leading writers had been won to French ideas of intellectual and political liberty; they and the Freemasons were afrancesados - Frenchified; they deplored the monarchical emasculation of the provincial cortes that had once kept Spain alive in all its parts; they hailed the French Revolution, and welcomed Napoleon as challenging Spain to free itself from a feudal aristocracy, a medieval Church, and an incompetent government.
In their brief control of the Papal States Napoleon's French administrators, helped by native liberals, transformed the economic and political scene with perhaps painful vigor and speed. Feudalism and the Inquisition were ended. Over five hundred religious houses were closed, giving an uncomfortable freedom to 5,852 monks and nuns. Corrupt officials were dismissed; public accountancy was introduced. Roads were repaired and policed; brigandage was almost stopped. Streets were cleaned and lighted; a quarter of the Pontine Marshes was drained and put under cultivation. Religious liberty was proclaimed; the Jews moved freely from their ghetto; Masonic lodges flourished. Hospitals multiplied; prisons were improved; schools were built and manned; a new university was opened in Perugia.
The Universities of Vienna, Ingolstadt, and Innsbruck were manned by learned Jesuits. The press was strictly controlled; all Voltaireana were stopped at the nation's borders or the city gates. Freethinkers were rarities. Some Freemasonry lodges had survived Maria Theresa's attempt to destroy them; but they confined themselves to a moderate anticlericalism which even a good Catholic might allow, and a program of social reform which an emperor could endorse. So Mozart, a firm Catholic, was a Freemason; and Joseph II joined the secret order, approved the principles of reform, and made some of them laws. A more radical secret society, the Illuminati- which Adam Weishaupt, an ex-Jesuit, had founded at Ingolstadt in 1776survived, but in comparative decay. Leopold II renewed his mother's prohibition of all secret societies.
Lessing had let loose the German Aufklarung by exhuming and partly publishing the Fragmente eines Ungenannten (1774-78) in which Hermann Reimarus had expressed his doubts about the historicity of the Gospels. Of course there had been skeptics in every generation, but most of them had found silence golden, and the infection had been controlled by hellfire and police. But now it had found its way into the Freemasonry and Rosicrucian lodges, into the universities, and even into the monasteries.
So the molders of the German mind, and the makers of German literature, welcomed the French Revolution in its first three years. Gentlemen Freemasons, mystic Rosicrucians, proud Illuminati, hailed it as the dawn of the golden age they had awaited so long and ardently.
The czars knew how vital these myths were to social order, patient labor, and self-sacrificing heroism in war and peace. They paid the higher clergy well, and the lower clergy enough to keep them alive and patriotic. They protected religious dissent if it remained loyal to the state and kept the peace; Catherine II and Alexander I winked an eye at Freemasonry lodges that cautiously proposed political reforms.
The Story Of Civilization (tm) Ver. 4.8 11: The Age of Napoleon Durant, Will & Ariel. The Story Of Civilization Volume Eleven The Age Of Napoleon 1975 A History of European Civilization from 1789 to 1815. Copyright © by Will and Ariel Durant Copyright renewed © 1989 Exclusive electronic rights granted to World Library, Inc. by The Ethel B. Durant Trust, William James Durant Easton, and Monica Ariel Mihell.