10 Notable Members of the Bavarian Illuminati

bb1By Terry Melanson

1. Charles-Pierre-Paul, Marquis de Savalette de Langes (1745-1797)

Savalette de Langes was the son of Charles Pierre Savalette de Magnanville (1713-1790) – intendant of the Generality of Tours (1745) and Keeper of the Royal Treasury from 1756 to 1788 – and Marie-Émilie Joly de Choin (1726-1776), the daughter of a fermier général. In 1773, like his father, Savalette de Langes became a Keeper of the Royal Treasury; 1790/91, Captain of the Paris National Guard in the battalion of Saint Roch and aide-de-campe to Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834).1

Gardes du Trésor royal (i.e. keeper of the royal treasury) was a heredity title. On the significance of the post, Roland Mousnier writes:

The highest-ranking receveur-payeurs were the two gardes du Trésor royal. According to the edict of June 1748 this office was worth 1,200,000 livres. They earned 5 percent of the official value of the office in salary plus 12,000 additional livres when they were actually on duty; they also received 1,500 livres in salary for their work on the council and 60,000 livres, increased by Necker to 85,000, to cover the wages and expenses of their commis. These offices were family property. In 1749 Charles-Pierre Savalette de Magnanville took the first of the two posts. In 1773 his son, Charles-Pierre-Paul Savalette de Langes became his assistant and designated heir. In November 1785 they switched positions, Langes becoming the titulary of the post and Magnanville his assistant and designated heir. Both men were maîtres des requêtes and conseillers d’Etat. The father was for a time intendant of Tours. The family could claim three degrees of nobility and thus came close, in principle, to the gentilhommerie.2

One of the most active and influential Masons of his time, Savalette de Langes was first initiated in 1766 at the Lodge “L’Union Indivisible” in Lille, he was the founder of the Paris Lodge “Les Amis Réunis” (1771), Regime of the Philalèthes (1773), and convoked the Philalèthes Convents of Paris in 1785 and 1787. From the beginning Savalette was on the side of the Duke de Chartres (future Duke d’Orléans) for the creation of the Grand Orient, and after this was accomplished (1773) Savalette subsequently became its Grand Officer and Archivist. He was also a member of the Paris Lodge “L’Olympique de la Parfaite Estime” from 1783-88, the founder of “La Société Olympique” in 1785, and a member of the Paris Lodge “Centre des Amis” in 1793.3

Permanent, official correspondence between the Illuminati and Savalette’s Amis Réunis was established in 1784. Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig von Beulwitz (1755-1829), the head of the Rudolstadt Illuminati was initiated into the Amis Réunis in 1784, while visiting Paris, and received into the 11th class of the Philalèthes. Another Illuminatus, Sigismund Falgera (1752-1790) was already initiated into the Amis Réunis in 1784 (to 1789) and was appointed the official Illuminati correspondent/liaison to the Paris Lodge.4 Yet even before this, other Illuminati were simultaneously members of the Amis Réunis – Count Kolowrat, for one (see below) – and it would be hard to believe that they hadn’t at least tried to “Illuminize” this most important Lodge in Paris. In this regard, about all we can safely say is that there remains a lack of documentation about any successes the Illuminati may have had in France before 1787.

The famous trip Johann Joachim Christoph Bode (then head of the Illuminati) had made from Weimar to Paris in 1787 has been for over 200 years a source of speculation. It turns out, however, that Bode had kept a travel journal that was only recently rediscovered and published for the first time in 1994. This, along with a letter Bode sent to Illuminatus Christian, Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt (1763-1830) at precisely the same time, includes the explicit admission that the Master of the Amis Réunis and the Philalèthes, Savalette de Langes, after over a month of meetings and talks with Bode, was persuaded to join the Illuminati. He was initiated on August 1st, 1787, followed three days later by Jean-Baptiste-Marie-Adéodat Taillepied de Bondy (1741-1822) and Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau (1748-1808). This hitherto unknown secret Lodge of the Illuminati in Paris had decided to operate under another name – Philadelphes. Little else is known save the pledge to work toward the “healthy reason” of the politically inclined Illuminati. Additional Amis Réunis recruits during Bode’s visit were Jean-Baptiste Le Sage (1757/67-1838) and Francois-Antoine Lemoyne Daubermesnil (1748-1802).5

In the letter to Christian von Darmstadt, Bode outlined some specifics about how the Illuminati would operate in France:

  1. Correspondences should be marked with a cross. In this way, out of politeness and respect, rejections from the censors would be few;
  2. The utilization of a standard Masonic cipher, but for the ninth key, the word St. … [a gap in the text, perhaps deliberately] from an agreed upon almanac;
  3. Adopt the name Philadelphes instead of Illuminati, and in place of Minervals, Preparatory class or Aspirants. One of the reasons, Bode says, is that the Amis Réunis already have the class of Philalèthes for their final grade. And finally, for those adverse to mysterious societies, a beneficial assembly under the name Philanthropes.

Less than a year after Bode’s visit an organizational transformation did in fact take place at the Amis Réunis: a new Chapter was instituted, which included only one-fifth of the total number of Amis Réunis members. There were seventy-six members, according to Hermann Schüttler, of which eleven were known Illuminati. Of the eleven, however, he only lists ten: Daubermesnil, Le Sage, Roëttiers de Montaleau, Savalette de Langes, Taillepied de Bondy, Ludwig X. Landgrave von Hessen-Darmstadt (1753-1830), Friedrich Rudolf Salzmann (1749-1820), Friedrich Tiemann (1743-1802) and Russian envoy Count Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov (1733-1811). Among others, those who also belonged to the Chapter were the banker brothers Louis-Daniel Tassin (1742-1794) and Gabriel Tassin de l’Étang (1743-1794), Jean-Pierre Louis de Beyerlé (1740-1806) and François-Marie Marquis de Chefdebien d’Armissan (1753-1814). Schüttler rightly described it as a “lodge within a lodge within a lodge” (Amis Réunis -> Illuminati/Philadelphes -> the new 1788 Chapter). About the nature of its work nothing is known, only that it lasted until 1792 and had dwindled to 22 members.6

The significance of this and other evidence, as it relates to the conspiracy thesis of the French Revolution, is summarized by Porset:

The register of the Amis Réunis to which I have already referred, specifies, in 1789, which Brothers called for the recommencement of the Convent of Paris on the occasion of the reunion of the Estates-General…Montmorency-Luxembourg, who fled to England on the first day of the Revolution, was a member of the Philalèthes, but he was not a revolutionary. Yet in a very interesting letter written at that time, to Chataigner, he blames the Philalèthes and explains that he never wanted to give in to their pressure, but he adds that he didn’t want to betray them – whom he respected; and finally, Chaillon de Jonville, deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, thus the institution which preceded the Grand Orient, denounced the Philadelphes in a text which appeared in 1789; he held them responsible for the revolutionary disturbances. What more can be said? These Brothers of the foremost Lodges, weren’t they in a position to speak [candidly] about what they had experienced?7

Professor Porset, himself a Grand Orient Mason, thus ends his erudite work on the Philalèthes by reluctantly admitting that the 18th Century contemporary “anti-masonic” Illuminati conspiracy theorists, such as Barruel, Starck, Lefranc, and Hervás y Panduro (though Robison might be mentioned in this company as well) were better-informed than has previously been suspected.8

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Mesmerists in France at the time, of which Savalette de Langes was an adherent, member, and associate, were far from being harmless mystics. The formidable historian, Robert Darnton has shown conclusively that the clubs and Lodges of the Mesmerists, before, during, and after the Revolution, were the premiere gathering places for revolutionaries and radical pamphleteers.9 As Porset has summarized:

…it suffices to remark that Mirabeau, Lafayette, Duport, Brissot, Carra, Bergasse, the Rolands, d’Epremesnil, Desmoulins, Danton, Robespierre, and Savalette de Langes, were all Masons and frequented the same milieu, – and that this milieu, the Masonic-Mesmerists and Illuminists, played a decisive role before and during the Revolution.10

mirabeau-241x3002. * Gabriel Honoré Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791)

Comte de Mirabeau

That Mirabeau was influenced by Illuminati such as Jakob Mauvillon and the Prussian Aufklärer in particular, there is no doubt.

As an introduction, we can hardly improve upon the words of the Librarian of Congress, historian James H. Billington:

Frederick the Great’s interest in revolution as a spiritual and political event subtly influenced many Germans of his time. He created in Prussia a sense of new Promethean possibilities. His impatience with tradition in affairs of state was echoed in the republic of letters by the rebellious poets of the Sturm und Drang. Radical Bavarian Illuminists urged in the early 1780s that his secularizing reforms be carried even further through an “imminent revolution of the human mind.” Their opponents, in turn, already saw in such a program in 1786 the threat of an “imminent universal revolution.”

Thus Germany – not France – gave birth to the sweeping, modern idea of revolution as a secular upheaval more universal in reach and more transforming in scope than any purely political change. This concept was transported to Paris by Count Mirabeau, a former French ambassador in Berlin; it helped him to become the leading figure in the early events of the French Revolution in 1789. His study of Frederick the Great in 1788 had proclaimed Prussia the likely site of a coming revolution, and the German Illuminists its probable leaders. Mirabeau’s speeches and writings the following year transferred these expectations of a deep transformation from Germany to France. He became both the leader in turning the Third Estate of the Estates-General into a new National Assembly and “the first to succeed in launching a journal without the authorization of the government.” His reputation as the outstanding orator of the Assembly is closely related to his pioneering role in convincing the French that their revolution, though political in form, was redemptive in content. Mirabeau popularized the Illuminist term “revolution of the mind,” introduced the phrase “great revolution,” and apparently invented the words “revolutionary,” “counter-revolution,” and “counter-revolutionary.” Mirabeau pioneered in applying the evocative language of traditional religion to the new political institutions of revolutionary France. As early as May 10, 1789, he wrote to the constituents who had elected him to the Third Estate that the purpose of the Estates-General was not to reform but “to regenerate” the nation. He subsequently called the National Assembly “the inviolable priesthood of national policy,” the Declaration of the Rights of Man “a political gospel,” and the Constitution of 1791 a new religion “for which the people are ready to die.”11

He’s prefaced here with an asterisk because his membership in the Illuminati, however probable or likely, is not confirmed.

Mirabeau’s (claimed) aliases are Adramelech and/or Leonidas.

In Die Mitglieder des Illuminatenordens 1776-1787/93, Hermann Schüttler used an asterisk under Mirabeau’s name in the section that lists the Paris Illuminati, but neglects to include it in his actual biography (pp. 221 and 106 respectively). The good thing about Schüttler, however, is that he is completely transparent. Precise citations are provided on three fronts: 1) for biographical details, 2) Masonic and 3) Illuminati membership. The sources for the latter, in identical order listed in Schüttler, are:

  • Le Forestier, René: Les Illuminés de Bavière et la Franc-Maçonnerie Allemande (Paris 1915), p. 664 n. 3
  • Grolmann, Ludwig Adam von: Endliches Schicksal des Freymaurer-Ordens in einer Schlußrede gesprochen vom Br. *** vormals Redner der Loge zu *** am Tage ihrer Auflösung (Giessen 1794), p. 20
    • ———: Nöthiger Anhang zu der jüngst erschienenen Schrift: Endliches Schicksal des Freymaurer-Ordens (Regensburg 1795), p. 14
  • Hoffmann, Jochen: “Bedeutung und Funktion des Illuminatenordens in Norddeutschland,” in: Zeitschrift für Bayerische Landesgeschichte (v. 45) (1982), p. 366 n. 21
  • Starck, Johann August von: Der Triumph der Philosophie im Achtzehnten Jahrhunderte. Zweyter Theil (v. 2: 1804), pp. 288ff and 293f
  • Barruel, Augustin: Memoires pour servir a l’Histoire du Jacobinisme [1798] (Vouille, 1973), I and II passim, and II p. 413; or, in the 1800 Münster/Leipzig German language edition, v. 4 p. 348f
  • cf. Lenhoff and Posner: Internationales Freimaurer-Lexikon [Vienna 1932] (Vienna reprint 1980), p. 1042f
  • cf. Welschinger, Henry: Mirabeau in Berlin als geheimer Agent der französischen Regierung 1786-1787 (Leipzig 1900), p. 37

Suffice it to say, none of the above sources are primary material, hence the asterisk. The oldest claim is from Grolmann – a former Illuminatus who was kicked out of the Order and subsequently took up with the counter-revolutionaries12 – followed by Barruel and Starck. Le Forestier points out that it was Starck who identified Mirabeau’s alias as Leonidas without citation. It seems that Starck’s source for Mirabeau being an Illuminatus rests solely upon Grolmann’s 1794 pamphlet Eine Rede über den Illuminaten-Orden and Barruel, who, in turn, cites “Discourse of a Master of a Lodge on the ultimate fate of Masonry” (Grolmann’s then-anonymous Endliches Schicksal des Freymaurer-Ordens in einer), which also apparently includes an appendix with “an admonition” by Leopold Alois Hoffmann.13

So, after all this time, the answer to the question of his Illuminati membership, in a definitive sense, has continued to elude the historian and archivist. And be that as it may, the circumstantial evidence is strong:

  1. There is an official diplomatic communiqué, dated 1791, that names Mirabeau among “Illuminati and Freemasons.” It was sent by Bavarian Foreign Minister Count Karl Matthäus von Vieregg (1719-1802), to Imperial Ambassador Ludwig Konrad von Lehrbach (1750-1805) at Munich, who then forwarded it to Vienna. There are a few individuals mentioned in the list that have since been confirmed as indeed being Illuminati, so Vieregg was better informed than his contemporaries.14 In addition to Mirabeau he lists such French revolutionaries as Duke d’Orléans, Lafayette, Antoine Barnave, Jacques Pierre Brissot, Claude Fauchet, even Thomas Paine. But in the end, since no distinction whatsoever is made between Freemasons and bona fide Illuminati, it’s effectively useless.15
  2. If he did become a member of the Illuminati, it was surely sometime during his three (semi-official and semi-secret) diplomatic missions to the court of Prussia, 1786-87. Mirabeau was already a friend and colleague of Jakob Mauvillon’s, the prefect of the Kassel Illuminati, and the latter had helped him with the bulk of the material for a history of Frederick the Great: De la monarchie prussienne, sous Frédéric le grand [The Prussian Monarchy under Frederick the Great] (1788). While in Berlin, he associated with the Popularphilosophen/rationalist circle of Illuminatus Friedrich Nicolai (prefect of Berlin), was privy to Karl Friedrich Bahrdt’s “German Union” as well as the operations of the Wednesday Society’s Berlinische Monatsschrift and Nicolai’s Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek. And in The Prussian Monarchy…, Mirabeau wrote glowingly and apologetically about the Illuminati – condemning its suppression – even to the point of embracing aspects of the Order’s anti-Jesuitism almost as if he were an Illuminatus himself.16 Indoctrinated, he certainly was;17 and, as Billington has summarized, after having imbued the principles of the Illuminati Mirabeau put them to good use in France during the Revolution.
  3. A curious document was found by his adoptive son, Lucas de Montigny, amongst the belongings of Mirabeau after his death: Plan of an intimate association to be established in the Order of Freemasonry, with a view to restore that Order to its genuine principles, and to make it really tend to the good of mankind: drawn up, in 1776, by B. Mi—–, now surnamed Arcesilaus. It is obvious that it represents the principles and teachings of the Illuminati, probably drafted by his friend Mauvillon whose alias within the Order, it so happens, was precisely Arcesilaus.18 1776, might have been a mistake; rather, it should have been 1786, corresponding to Mirabeau’s trip to Berlin; or, perhaps 1776 was intentional, alluding to the year of the Illuminati’s birth. Nevertheless, all the essentials are there: the imposition of a “secret society within a society,” or parasitizing Freemasonry; the harkening back to the primitive wisdom of man in an egalitarian golden age; praise for Pythagoras and the mystery schools; the importance and socio-political effectiveness of the secret society; to “abolish all ecclesiastical jurisdictions, diminish the number of priests, where that number is excessive, and wrest every weapon from the hand of superstition”; and the strategic use of the conspiratorial stratagems of the Jesuits toward good, rather than evil.
  4. Mirabeau also had a significant friendship with the Swiss banker, Illuminatus J.C. Schweizer (see below) who set up shop in Paris.

Someday it may well be proven one way or another whether Mirabeau was an Illuminatus. The question of his membership in Freemasonry has long been debated as well. Multiple sources simply state that it is supposed that he became a Mason in his younger years; Amsterdam in 1776 is often claimed.19 However, it now seems that the question has been solved – in the affirmative. According to Charles Porset, Mirabeau is known to have been affiliated with the famous Lodge “Neuf Soeurs” [Nine Sisters], December 22, 1783. The evidence can be found at the Masonic National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts: a manuscript of a speech made by the Marquis de Pastoret which is accompanied by Mirabeau’s signature. “This affiliation,” writes Porset “indicates that Mirabeau had already been initiated as an apprentice in another Lodge. At any rate, his Masonic membership gives us insight into how he could have established links with the Illuminati [in the first place] …”

roettiers_de_montaleau-199x3003. Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau (1748-1808)

Roettiers de Montaleau

As mentioned above, Roëttiers de Montaleau was initiated into the Illuminati, August 4th, 1787, by J. J. C. Bode. For over thirty years Montaleau was one of the most energetic Masons in France, a member of the Amis Réunis, the Philalèthes, and an officer and Grand Master of the Grand Orient. The “right-hand man of the Duke d’Orléans, Roëttiers was his active agent at the beginning of the French Revolution.”20 The protector of Freemasonry during the Revolution, Montaleau was arrested and nearly guillotined during the Reign of Terror. Released after the fall of Robespierre, he resuscitated and reorganized French Freemasonry becoming the Venerable Master of all the Lodges in 1795. As I had written in my book:

Exactly what influence the [Illuminati] connection really had on the man, we will never know. One question that naturally comes to mind, is: Since he was the protector and savior of French Freemasonry during and after the Revolution, and had full control over the direction he wished to steer the enterprise, how much of Bode’s Bavarian Illuminism had made its way into the inner core of the newly- re-instituted Grand Orient of France? At the very least, was there an adherence to the “secret society within a secret society” principle so integral to the very purpose of the Illuminati? It would seem like the perfect time to institute such a system and could be flawlessly integrated into the core.21

Between Savalette de Langes and Roëttiers de Montaleau, Bode had managed quite the coup by winning them to the cause of the Illuminati (secretly taking on the name Philadelphes). One of Montaleau’s first acts as Venerable of the Grand Orient was to issue a patent for the instalment of the Genevan Grand Orient Lodge “Des Amis Sincères” on June 7th, 1796. Curiously, this Lodge was joined by the professional revolutionist Philippe Buonarroti (in 1806), who then “immediately formed an inner circle within the Lodge, a ‘secret group of Philadelphes’.”22

4. Count Franz Joseph von Kolowrat-Liebensteinsky (b. 1748)

Aliases: Numenius and Julius

There were three members of the Kolowrat family (variously spelled Kollowrat, Kolovrat, Kalowait, Colovrat, Collowrath, Collowarth, Carolat, Carolath or Carlath) who were initiated into the Illuminati. Of polish-Slavic nobility, the Kolowrats held high positions within the Austrian Imperial administration, especially in Bohemia. F.J. Kolowrat was court chamberlain to the Emperor and an artillery captain in Prague.

First becoming a Freemason at the Prague Lodge “Zu den drei gekrönten Säulen” in 1779, he was a member of the Strict Observance (Frater Franciscus Eques ab Aquila Fulgente) and one of the deputies present at the Congress of Wilhelmsbad as a representative of Vienna and Sibiu [Hermannstadt] in Transylvania. It was at Wilhelmsbad that he was recruited into the Illuminati in August 1782.23 Kolowrat was received into the Paris Amis Réunis on December 11th, 1782.24

He had already been corresponding with Savalette de Langes as early as 1781, giving the latter details on occult personalities of the day.25 Marquis de Chefdebien attended the Wilhelmsbad Congress as well, and had received an intelligence report from Savalette de Langes, about, among others, Kolowrat. Savalette wrote that during a previous voyage in France Kolowrat was received by the Masonic adepts at Montpellier and Lyons (viz. Willermoz), even among the Élus Coëns and the Martinists.26 Illuminatus Count Savioli, in a Quibus licet report dated December 2nd, 1782, informed his superiors that Kolowrat was a theosophist and affiliated with Willermoz’s (Martinist) system at Lyons, and was probably even a Rosicrucian. This meant that Kolowrat had to be properly indoctrinated (or deprogrammed) by the Illuminati before he could be of any use: a re-orientation of his religious and mystical proclivities. As Weishaupt wrote to Zwack: “Put me in correspondence with Numenius: I want to try and cure him of his theosophy and bring him closer to our views.”27

It is not clear whether or not Kolowrat was “cured,” or even how far he advanced into the mysteries of the Illuminati,28 but in 1783 he co-founded a Lodge (“Zu den Wahren Vereinigten Freuden”) in Brno (or Brünn)29 that functioned as a base for the Illuminati in Bohemia.

Historian Jiri Kroupa elaborates:

In 1783 a division of Brno Masons founded a new lodge, The True United Friends (Zu Wahren Vereinigten Freuden). The lodge became the refuge of the Secret Order of Illuminati (Geheimorden der Illuminaten). The association of the Illuminati with Freemasonry was in fact part of the expansion strategy of this secret society, which remains of great interest to historians, especially in Germany. At the time of its greatest appeal within the Enlightenment milieu, the circle of Brno Illuminati had about forty members and exerted authority over two smaller circles in Opava and Prague. We are best informed about the Brno Illuminati. Their circle organized a number of lectures and discussions dealing with such themes as education, popular Enlightenment, morality and virtue, academic institutions, and patriotism. Thus for a brief period they established a society ‘in the manner of a learned Academy’, concerned mainly with moral philosophy and with the individual, or rather with what in the milieu of the Illuminati was called ‘character’. Through this secret union, Enlightenment and morality were introduced into the Masonic lodge. In his analysis of the function of the secret in esoteric societies, Norbert Schindler has accentuated the part it played in constituting a ‘new subjectivity’ for the neophyte.30

Sabine Roehr also briefly cites Schindler’s study in her book on Illuminatus Karl Leonhard Reinhold:

…the order functioned as a kind of scholarly academy in which knowledge was collected and scientific research done. One of its major objectives was to develop a new, strongly empiricist concept of science, especially of the science of man. Knigge spoke of a “semiotics of the soul.” Finally, full knowledge of the order and its utopian political goals was accessible only to those in the highest ranks. Schindler calls the educational undertaking of the order “secret pedagogy.” According to him, the Illuminati represented the dualism between Masonic secrecy and the enlightened demand to make everything public.31

5. Johann Caspar [Jean Gaspard] Schweizer (1754-1811)

Schweizer32 was a Swiss merchant and banker, a member of the Helvetian Society, made a Mason at the Zurich Lodge “Bescheidenheit und Freiheit” (Modestia cum Libertate) in 1782, was initiated into the Illuminati in 1785, and became a Jacobin.33


The Zurich lodge ‘Modestia cum Libertate’ today

Born in Zurich, his uncle Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) became his guardian and educator after Schweizer’s mother had died when he was four. Lavater, dubbed the “prophet of Zurich” by his contemporaries, was an important figure in the mystical, pietist, theosophic, and millenarian loose-movement denoted by scholars as “Illuminism” (c. 1760-1830)34 – not to be confused with the rationalist German Illuminati of Weishaupt or the French philosophes of the Enlightenment. These Illuminists, rather, were concerned – often obsessed – with spiritualism and the occult sciences. Besides Lavater,35 adherents of Illuminism included the likes of Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803), Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), Antoine-Joseph Pernety (1716-1796), Martinez de Pasqually (1727-1774), Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803), Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), Franz Xaver von Baader (1765-1841), Baron von Kirchberger de Liebisdorf (1739-1799), Jean-Baptiste Willermoz (1730-1824) and Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel (1744-1836).


From the mid-1770s until 1786, together with his young wife Magdalena, née Hess (1751-1814), Schweizer entertained scholars and artists at their house Zum unteren Berg in the Hirschengraben, Zurich. Guests included Lavater (of course), Illuminatus Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), doctor Johannes Hotze (1734-1801), professor Johann Jakob Steinbrüchel (1729-1796), professor Leonhard Meister (1741–1811), and Illuminati Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1757-1828). Schweizer was particularly friendly with Pestalozzi and the two would often engage in pedagogic discussions. By 1785 both were members of the Illuminati, and it was in that year, they set up a (secret?) society for the “furtherance of domestic and moral happiness.”36 It was, in fact, Pestalozzi who co-founded with Johann Heinrich Rahn (1749-1812) the Illuminati branch in Zurich in 1783. And a year later, Rahn and Pestalozzi had instituted a pedagogic society in the city as a camouflage organization of the Order.37

David Hess, the cousin of Magdalena, was the executor of their will. He wrote a biography of Schweizer in 1822 (published in 1884) which has become quite valuable, as the primary material he used – the personal papers of the Schweizers – has since been destroyed.38 On Schweizer and the Illuminati, Hess had written that the former had been a “Perfectibilist” at heart long before he’d learned of the Order’s existence; that the Illuminati had inflamed his imagination, and he vigorously devoted all his resources to the cause, both intellectual and financial.39 His financial resources, it should be noted, were indeed substantial, having inherited a banking house from his deceased father in 1768; a further fortune from his uncle, at the beginning of 1785, was valued at 1 million francs.40 Wrote Frédéric Barbey: “Schweizer quickly became one of the ‘heads’ of this secret society, a ‘perfect Illuminati’ [degree of Illuminatus Major?]. He puts at their disposal a considerable sum of money.”41 Quite generous with his finances Schweizer had been – even irresponsible. And the inheritance from his uncle, in particular, had offered a unique opportunity. “Armed with new funds that he would make available to the Illuminati, his philanthropy increased tenfold,” wrote Barbey, “and the treasure was scattered like a torrent ‘for the salvation of mankind.’”42

Johann Caspar and his wife were living comfortably in Zurich. However, “to Schweizer’s lively mind, Zurich seemed too cramped;”

[H]e longed for a wider sphere of activity, and hoped to increase his fortune by successful speculation, so that he might do good on a large scale. Paris seemed to him the most suitable place for the realisation of his plans. He founded there a banking house, gave brilliant receptions, became the confidant of Mirabeau, was caught in the whirlpool of the Revolution, and forfeited his entire fortune.43

Schweizer arrived in Paris in June of 1786,44 met, and immediately became friends with Mirabeau. The latter was back from his secret mission to Berlin (late-May to July), before returning (July to January, 1787).45 At any rate, it was inevitable they would become acquainted, for they frequented the same milieu, coupled with the fact that Mirabeau’s mission to Berlin was funded by Swiss and Paris bankers46 to begin with.

The point of contact between the two was fellow Swiss banker François Jeanneret (b. 1758), whom Schweizer had become acquainted with and together would incorporate the company Schweizer, Jeanneret & Cie. He had assured Schweizer a doubling of his money in short order through stock market manipulation. Jeanneret, an adept speculator, had important financial contacts in the capital leading up to the revolution – particularly the Genovese exile Étienne Clavière (1735-1793), who financed both Mirabeau and Jacques Pierre Brissot (1754-1793) to write, publish and distribute, financial pamphlets calculated to manipulate the price of stocks, gaining an advantage; Isaac Panchaud (1738-1789), who had directed the short-lived Caisse d’escompte (a sort of forerunner to the Bank of France); and Abbé d’Espagnac (1752-1794), an unrepentant speculator who took part in the storming of the Bastille, a member of the Jacobin club from its inception, and was subsequently beheaded along with Danton.47

As the revolution approached and Schweizer’s finances seemed entirely secure (thanks to insider manipulators), he preoccupied himself with politics. Indeed, as Frédéric Barbey had summarized:

The Bastille was stormed, the King was lead back to Paris, and the Constituent Assembly wearily hammers out a constitution in this city ablaze in riots. Schweizer’s friends Barnave, Mirabeau, Bergasse – elected [Estates-General] deputies – are precisely at the head of the movement. It is impossible that Caspar does not partake in their work, of the establishment of a just government, the realization of the happiness of France and of humanity.48

Caspar Schweizer, “the exalted Zuricher,” wrote historian Arthur Chuquet, “threw himself headlong into the Revolution, collaborated on the draft of the constitution with Mirabeau, composed hymns in honour of liberty, conducted the work on the fortification of Montmartre, made great speeches in the streets, and became a Jacobin and a sans-culotte.”49

Of those “hymns in honour of liberty,” one was titled La Nouvelle délivrance de la Gaule [The Recent Liberation of Gaul]. After singing praises of the seizing of the Bastille, Schweizer continues with the glorification his friends: Mirabeau, “with the figure of a lion, invincible like Prometheus”; Isaac René Guy Le Chapelier (1754-1794), “ardent deputy of Breton” (and one of the initial founders of Le Club Breton, known later as the Jacobin Club); Antoine Barnave, with “the silky curls”; J. J. Mounier, “sent forth from the misty mountains by the people of Delphi, who conspired for Liberty”; Jean-François Reubell (1747-1807), “the fair, who bears the gold coat of arms of Alsace for a shield.”50

For the next eight years Schweizer’s large house on the Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin was a meeting place for speculators and swindlers, “beaux-esprits,” writers and politicians, and those who played a role – sometimes a significant one – in the Revolution.51 While Schweizer was engrossed in political discourse, his wife conducted spiritualist and mesmerist séances at their home. Somnambulists were consulted, and spirits summoned. Those who attended were Bathilde d’Orléans, Duchess of Bourbon (“Grande Maîtresse” of the male/female Adoption Masonic Lodges of the Grand Orient), as well as revolutionary mesmerist Nicolas Bergasse. The Duchess of Bourbon and Magdalena Schweizer, in particular, became adherents of Catherine Théot (1716-1794), a millenarian mystic visionary, self-described as “the virgin who would receive the little Jesus.”52

Illuminatus Schweizer, an “assiduous Jacobin”53 in the thick of the Revolution, had truly endeared himself to those around him. The Marquis de Luchet (1740-1792) spoke of his beautiful poetic imagery, and Fabre d’Eglantine of his encyclopaedic knowledge. A Prince Gallitzin wrote to Schweizer: “I’ve never known a soul as noble as yours; you could command even a king!” The Duke of St. Aignan: “Schweizer is my religion. I find his virtue superhuman.” Nicolas Chamfort called him an “esprit universel” (savant; polymath; Renaissance man), a profound metaphysician with great intelligence, and a creative phenomenon. Mirabeau, to their mutual friend, the financier Isaac Panchaud: “some time without seeing Schweizer, and I weary after his creative spirit”; and to the Chevalier de Witry: “The virtue of Schweizer makes me blush and his genius surpasses even mine. His ideas are always fresh and bright; he seduces, he moves, he feels. Whatever subject he treats, he comprehends all aspects, he presents all points of view, and his style is never uniform, because nature is not either.”54

Despite the tumultuous events during the French Revolution – indeed the Reign of Terror – the Schweizers managed to survive unscathed in the refuge of their “salon.” Caspar remained a resolute revolutionary “burning with exalted patriotism.” Having decided to unite his fellow-Swiss-countrymen to the “grand republic,” Schweizer (with his wife) departs Paris six weeks after the execution of Marie Antoinette – heads draped with liberty caps and flying the tricolour flag – as an official diplomat for the Comité de salut public [Committee of Public Safety].55 They crossed the frontier at Pontarlier and entered Berne on December 6th, 1793, then on to Baden and the ultimate destination of Zurich. However, for five months “citizen” Schweizer was variously ignored, rebuked, ridiculed or treated suspiciously like a “Jacobin bandit.” The mission was a complete failure.56

In July 1793 they arrived back in Paris, and lack of success notwithstanding, Schweizer’s efforts did not go unnoticed. The head of the commission for commerce and provisions, Jean-Claude Picquet (a friend of Schweizer’s) had a new proposal. The Republic was in dire straits. France was encircled with a menacing military coalition, the currency was debased to the point of bankruptcy, and munitions, supplies and food were desperately needed. Schweizer was to join forces with an independent merchant from America, Colonel James Swan (1754-1830).

Late in the summer of 1794 the “Commission de commerce et approvisionnements” appointed Johann-Gaspard Schweizer, a rich Zurich banker then living in Paris, as Swan’s associate. The firm of Swan & Schweizer (known in official correspondence as Jones & Gaspard) was ordered by the commission to arrange in America for the purchase of food, merchandise, naval munitions, and whatever the commission might designate as necessary to the republic. The goods were to be paid for with bullion, a quantity of which they were authorized to export, and with the large credit from the American sales of the confiscated goods, including wine which had been captured from British cargoes. Jones & Gaspard was further empowered to provision French vessels in American waters.

The head of the Commission de Commerce, Jean-Claude Picquet, knew that Swan was an expert financier, but he was entirely aware of Swan’s reputation. For this reason, Picquet dispatched Schweizer to accompany the colonel on his American mission, charging him to follow Swan’s every step.57


Swan, a most interesting character, had an “uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.”58 An immigrant from Scotland, he arrived in Boston in 1765 and was initiated into the famous St. Andrews Masonic Lodge in 1777,59 which met at the Green Dragon Tavern (referred to by subsequent historians as the “headquarters of the revolution”). The Sons of Liberty gathered there as well. Swan joined them, and together, along with the tavern’s fellow-Masons, planned and executed the Boston Tea Party.60 He worked in a counting house alongside “Count Rumford,” served in the revolutionary army, was appointed secretary of the Massachusetts Board of War, and married heiress Hepzibah Clarke – thus linking him with the gentry and gaining ample opportunities to benefit financially. After the war of independence, Swan “launched a wide variety of commercial ventures, including speculation in Maine lands, Boston real estate, and confiscated loyalist property.”61 The economic depression of 1786 affected his fortune, and in late-1787 he set out for France looking for new schemes. With letters of introduction from prominent French officers (Lafayette among them), Swan succeeded in insinuating himself among the financial elite, and in 1791 “entered into partnership with a French firm, rechristened Dallarde, Swan & Cie.”62 His wife Hepzibah joined him in 1790 and they lived in luxury on the rue de Lille across the river from the Tuileries Gardens. “Casting all shame aside,” Eleanor Pearson DeLorme cites historian Yvon Bizardel, “Swan was inviting influential Frenchmen and distinguished Americans to dinner with shady traffickers, including ‘a Persian from Damascus’ and two pirates who pillaged American cargoes and sold their crews into slavery.”63

The gold bullion was obtained from melting down confiscated ecclesiastical ornaments while the large caches of luxury goods were looted from aristocrats and the royal family. An example of the latter still exists today in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts – a ‘Vase Bachelier,’ “decorated in polychrome enamels and gold,” from the Château of Versailles.

Rice writes:

Swan reached America in December, 1794, and with the new year the “commercial agency” of Swan & Schweizer began doing business. Schweizer, incidentally, had been delayed on the way, but his absence or presence never greatly concerned his partner. Headquarters were established at Philadelphia, then the seat of the federal government. Sub agents were appointed in all the principal ports: John Vaughan, at Philadelphia; John Murray, at New York; Mason & Fenwick, at Georgetown; Samuel & Joseph Sterett, at Baltimore; W. & J. Thayer, at Charleston; Caleb Gardner, at Newport; Elias Derby, at Salem; Myers, at Norfolk; William Armistead & Company, at Alexandria; N. & J. Cuslie at Petersburg; and Henry Jackson, at Boston. All these firms could be “depended upon” as true friends to France and liberty. If their political principles were suspected, the business was entrusted to some one else, as the case of Messrs. Sterett of Baltimore, who found the agency taken from them in September, 1795.64

Swan & Schweizer closed its books in 1796. France had negotiated treaties with its enemies and was fortunate to have had a good crop year. But due to the political situation in Europe and deteriorating relations between the United States and France, Schweizer stayed in America, with the Swan family in Philadelphia, until 1801. Schweizer occupied himself with tutoring Swan’s three daughters, composing poems to his wife, land speculation, as well as writing a book called Critique de la civilisation.

Significantly, Frédéric Barbey describes the latter activities in following manner:

He again plunged into his social studies. He thought about founding a model state on his land in Virginia, putting to practice the religion of nature, community of property, and universal tolerance. The accumulation of thousands of extracts and notes allowed him to write a Critique of civilization, an immense work and a unique treasure for future sociologists.65

I can only assume that this utopian tome of Schweizer’s is part of the lost or destroyed property of his estate mentioned above; there doesn’t seem to be any bibliographic record of it other than the mention of the book by both Hess and Barbey and a few others.

Having gone into debt, neglecting his business in Europe and being separated from his family, Schweizer would record in his diary that the six years spent in America was disastrous; as if a cruel demon had intervened on a daily basis, creating a thousand obstacles between him and his work.

Upon his return to France his misfortune continued. Deceived by his associates, surrounded and duped by usurers, he spent his remaining years engaged in costly court battles accompanied by declining health and a broken spirit.

Read More Here