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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
[Clear Hits]

3829. ILLUMINATI, Order of.—

I have
lately by accident got a sight of a single volume
(the 3d) of the Abbé Barruel's Antisocial
Conspiracy
”, which gives me the first idea I
have ever had of what is meant by the Illuminatism
against which “Illuminate Morse”,
as he is now called, and his ecclesiastical and
monarchical associates have been making such
a hue and cry. Barruel's own parts of the
book are perfectly the ravings of a Bedlamite.
But he quotes largely from Wishaupt whom he
considers as the founder of what he calls the
order. As you may not have had an opportunity
of forming a judgment of this cry of “mad
dog”, which has been raised against his doctrines,
I will give you the idea I have formed
from only an hour's reading of Barruel's quotations
from him, which, you may be sure, are
not the most favorable. Wishaupt seems to be
an enthusiastic philanthropist. He is among
those (as you know the excellent Price and
Priestley also are) who believe in the infinite
perfectability of man. He thinks he may in
time be rendered so perfect that he will be able
to govern himself in every circumstance, so as
to injure none, to do all the good he can, to
leave government no occasion to exercise their
powers over him, and, of course, to render political
government useless. This, you know, is
Godwin's doctrine, and this is what Robinson,
Barruel, and Morse had called a conspiracy
against all government. Wishaupt believes that
to promote this perfection of the human character
was the object of Jesus Christ. That his
intention was simply to reinstate natural religion,
and by diffusing the light of his morality,
to teach us to govern ourselves. His precepts
are the love of God, and love of our neighbor.
And by teaching innocence of conduct, he expected
to place men in their natural state of
liberty and equality. He says, no one ever
laid a surer foundation for liberty than our
grand master, Jesus of Nazareth. He believes
the Free Masons were originally possessed of
the true principles and objects of Christianity,
and have still preserved some of them by tradition,
but much disfigured. The means he
proposes to effect this improvement of human
nature are “to enlighten men, to correct their
morals and inspire them with benevolence”.
As Wishaupt lived under the tyranny of a
despot and priests, he knew that caution was
necessary even in spreading information, and
the principles of pure morality. He proposed,
therefore, to lead the Free Masons to adopt this
object, and to make the objects of their institution
the diffusion of science and virtue. He
proposed to initiate new members into his body
by gradations proportioned to his fears of the
thunderbolts of tyranny. This has given an air
of mystery to his views, was the foundation of
his banishment, the subversion of the Masonic
Order, and is the color for the ravings against
him of Robinson, Barruel, and Morse, whose
real fears are that the craft would be endangered
by the spreading of information, reason,
and natural morality among men. This subject
being new to me, I imagine that if it be so to
you also, you may receive the same satisfaction
in seeing, which I have had in forming the
analysis of it; and I believe you will think with
me that if Wishaupt had written here, where
no secrecy is necessary in our endeavours to
render men wise and virtuous, he would not
have thought of any secret machinery for that
purpose; as Godwin, if he had written in Germany,
might probably also have thought secrecy
and mysticism prudent.—
To Bishop James Madison. Ford ed., vii, 419.
(Pa., Jan. 1800)