Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

VI. Napoleonic and Anti-Napoleonic Societies

590. The Philadephians.—As early as the year 1780 a society of about sixty young men had formed at Besancon a masonic lodge under the above name. Colonel James Joseph Oudet, who, though he served under Napoleon, hated him, and had for some time been looking out for dupes to assist him in bringing back to France the detested Bourbon race, whose secret agent he was, pitched on the members of that lodge, still composed of enthusiastic, but inexperienced, youths, as suitable for his purpose. Having been initiated into nearly every secret society in Europe, Oudet soon invested the Philadelphians with all the machinery of one on a more elaborate scale than they had hitherto thought necessary.

According to the approved pattern, every member assumed a pseudonym; Oudet called himself Philopoemen; General Moreau, who, as we shall see, succeeded him as chief of the Order, took the name of Fabius, and so on. Oudet further created a dignity, sovereign, monarchical and absolute, with which, of course, he invested himself, and under which were two degrees: the first, that of Frank Federate, and the second, that of Frank Judge; this second degree comprehended the complement of all the secrets, up to the secret belonging, and known to the supreme chief alone. But to give his adepts something to think and talk about, he told them the establishment of a Sequanese (from Sequana, Seine) republic was his object, whilst he really intended the total overthrow of Napoleon.

He introduced the Philadelphian rites into the army, simultaneously into the 9th, 68th, and 69th regiments of the line, into the 2Oth of dragoons, the 15th of light infantry, and from thence into all the army. Bonaparte heard of the society, and suspected Oudet, who was sent back to his corps, which then occupied the garrison of St. Martin, in the Isle of Rhe. General Moreau took his place, but shortly after had to resign it again to Oudet, he, Moreau, having been implicated in the conspiracy of Pichegru. Before then the conspiracy of Arena to assassinate Bonaparte had been discovered, and a book, seized among the papers of Arena, and entitled "The Turk and the French Soldier," certainly was written by Oudet. The Philadelphians next attempted to seize Bonaparte while traversing the forests and mountains of the Jura attended by a very small retinue; but the attempt failed, one of the Order having betrayed the plot. Oudet was killed at the battle of Wagram (1809), and with his death the society collapsed.

591. The Rays.—During the power of Napoleon, he was opposed by secret societies in Italy, as well as in France. But his fall, which to many seemed a revival of liberty, to others appeared as the ruin of Italy; hence they sought to re-establish his rule, or at least to save Italian nationality from the wreck. The "Rays" were an Anti-Napoleonic society, composed of officials from all parts, brought together by common dangers and the adventures of the field. They had lodges at Milan and Bologna. The Sanfedisti also were an Anti-Napoleonic society (589).

592. Secret League in Tirol.—A very powerful association against Napoleon was in the year 1809 formed in Tirol. This country had by the treaty of Presburg (1805) been ceded by Austria to Bavaria. But the Tirolese, strongly attached to their former master, resented the transfer, and when in 1808 a renewal of the war between France and Austria was imminent, secret envoys, among whom was the already famous Andreas Hofer, were sent to Vienna to concert measures for reuniting the Tirol with Austria. But in consequence of the battle of Wagram, and the truce of Znaim, which followed it, Tirol was again surrendered to French troops. Then the Tirolese, betrayed by Austria, formed a number of secret societies among themselves, to drive out the French. The results of these associations are matters of history; but to show how the secret societies worked, and tested the character and loyalty of some of the leading members, the following incident, communicated by the hero of the adventure, may be mentioned. He had once enjoyed Napoleon's confidence, but having unjustly become suspected by him, he was obliged to take refuge in the most alpine part of the Austrian provinces, in Tirol. There he formed connections with one of the societies for the overthrow of Napoleon, and went through a simple ceremony of initiation. Two months elapsed after this without his hearing any more of the society, when at last he received a letter asking him to repair to a remote place, where he was to meet a number of brothers assembled. He went, but found no one. He received three more similar summonses, but always with the same result. He received a fifth, and went, but saw no one. He was just retiring, disgusted with the often-repeated deception, when he heard frightful cries, as from a person in distress. He hastened towards the spot whence they proceeded, and found a bleeding body lying on the ground, whilst he saw three horsemen making their escape in the opposite direction, who, however, fired three shots at him, but missing him. He was about to examine the body lying at his feet when a detachment of armed force, attracted by the same cries, darted from the forest; the victim on the ground indicated our hero as his assailant. He was seized, imprisoned, accused by witnesses who declared they had seen him commit the murde—for the body of the person attacked had been removed as dead—and he was sentenced to be executed the same night, by torchlight. He was led into a courtyard, surrounded by ruinous buildings, full of spectators. He had already ascended the scaffold, when an officer on horseback, and wearing the insignia of the magistracy, appeared, announcing that an edict had gone forth granting a pardon to any man condemned to death for any crime whatever, who could give to justice the words of initiation and signs of recognition of a secret society, which the officer named; it was the one into which the ci-devant officer of Napoleon had recently been received. He was questioned if he knew anything about it; he denied all knowledge of the society, and being pressed, became angry and demanded death. Immediately he was greeted as a brave and faithful brother, for all those present were members of the secret society, and had knowingly co-operated in this rather severe test.

593. Societies in Favour of Napoleon.—Many societies in favour of the restoration of Napoleon were formed, such as the "Black Needle," the "Knights of the Sun," "Universal Regeneration," etc. They were generally composed of the soldiers of the great captain, who were condemned to inactivity, and looked upon the glory of their chief as something in which they had a personal interest. Their aim was to place Napoleon at the head of confederated Italy, under the title of "Emperor of Rome, by the will of the people and the grace of God." The proposal reached him early in the year 1815. Napoleon accepted it like a man who on being shipwrecked perceives a piece of wood that may save him, and which he will cast into the fire when he has reached the land. The effects of these plots are known—Napoleon's escape from Elba, and the reign of a hundred days.

According to secret documents, the machinations of the Bouapartists continued even in 1842, the leaders being Peter Bonaparte, Lady Christina Stuart, the daughter of Lucien Bonaparte, the Marchioness Pepoli, the daughter of the Countess Lipona (Caroline Murat), and Count Rasponi. Then appeared the sect of the "Italian Confederates," first called "Platonica," which in 1842 extended into Spain. Another sect, the "Illuminati, Vindicators or Avengers of the People," arose in the Papal States; also those of "Regeneration," of "Italian Independence," of the "Communists," the "Exterminators," etc. Tuscany also had its secret societies that of the "Thirty-one," the "National Knights," the "Revolutionary Club," etc. A "Communistic Society "was formed at Milan; but none of these sects did more than excite a little curiosity for a time. Scarcely anything of their ritual is known.

594. The Illuminati.—This society, not to be confounded with an earlier one of the same name (351 et scq.}, was founded in France, but meeting with too many obstacles in that country, it spread all over Italy. Its object was to restore the Napoleon family to the French throne, by making Marie-Louise regent, until the King of Rome could be set on the throne, and by bringing Napoleon himself from St. Helena, to command the army. The society entered into correspondence with Las Casas, who was to come to Bologna, the chief lodge, and arrange plans; but the scheme, as need scarcely be mentioned, never came to anything.

595. Various other Societies.—At Padua a society existed whose members called themselves Selvaggi, "Savages," because the German democrat, Marr, had said, that man must return to the savage state to accomplish something great. They cut neither their nails nor their hair, cleaned neither their clothes nor boots; the medical students who were members of the sect surreptitiously brought portions of human bodies from the dissecting-rooms of the hospitals to their meetings, over which the initiated performed wild and hideous ceremonies. Not being able to obtain human blood for the purpose, they purchased bullocks' blood in which to drink death to tyrants. One of the members having overgorged himself was found dead in the street. The medical examination of his body led to the discovery of the cause, and by the police inquiry resulting therefrom, to the exposure of the society, their statutes, oaths, and ceremonies.

The members of the Unita Italiana, discovered at Naples in 1850, recognised each other by a gentle rubbing of noses. They swore on a dagger with a triangular blade, with the inscription, "Fraternity Death to Traitors Death to Tyrants," faithfully to observe all the laws of the society, on pain, in case of want of faith, to have their hearts pierced with the dagger. Those who executed the vengeance of the society called themselves the Committee of Execution. In 1849 the grand council of the sect established a "Committee of Stabbers," comitato de pugnalatori. The heads of the society were particular as to whom they admitted into it; the statutes say, "no ex-Jesuits, thieves, coiners, and other infamous persons are to be initiated." The ex-Jesuits are placed in good company truly!

In 1849 a society was discovered at Ancona calling itself the "Company of Death," and many assassinations, many of them committed in broad daylight in the streets of the town, were traced to its members. The "Society of Slayers," Ammazzatori, at Leghorn; the "Infernal Society," at Sinigaglia; the "Company of Assassins," Sicarii, at Faenza; the "Terrorists" of Bologna, were associations of the same stamp. The "Barbers of Mazzini," at Rome, made it their business to "remove "priests who had rendered themselves particularly obnoxious. Another Bolognese society was that of the "Italian Conspiracy of the Sons of Death," whose object was the liberation of Italy from foreign sway.

596. The Accoltellatori.—A secret society, non-political, was discovered, and many of its members brought to trial, at Ravenna, in 1874. Its existence had long been surmised, but the executive did not dare to interfere; some private persons, indeed, tried to bring the assassins to justice, but wherever they succeeded a speedy vengeance was sure to follow. To one shopkeeper who had been particularly active a notice was sent that his life was forfeited, and the same night a placard was posted up upon the shutters of his shop announcing that the establishment was to be sold, as the proprietor was going away. In many cases there were witnesses to the crimes, and yet they dared not interfere nor give evidence. One of the gang at last turned traitor; he gave the explanation of several "mysterious disappearances," and the names of the murderers. The gang had become too numerous, and amongst the number there were members whose fidelity was suspected. It was resolved to sacrifice them. They were watched, set upon and murdered by their fellow-accomplices. This society was known as the Accoltellatori, literally "knifers"—cut-throats. It originally consisted of twelve members only, who used to meet in the Cafu Mazzavillani a very appropriate name; mazza means a club or bludgeon, and villano,—villainous at Ravenna, where the fate of their victims was decided. The trial ended in most of the members being condemned to penal servitude.