Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

XIX. Freemasonry, The Restoration and the Second Empire

449. The Society of "France Regenerated."—The Restoration, whose blindness was only equalled by its mediocrity—which, unable to create, proposed to itself to destroy what even time respects, the memories and glories of a people—could not please Freemasonry much. Hostile to Napoleon in his last years, it could not approve of the conduct of the new government. At all events, the Freemasons held aloof, though cynics might suggest that this was done with a view of exacting better terms. In the meanwhile, a society was formed in Paris, which, assuming masonic forms and the title of "France Regenerated," became an instrument of espionage and revenge in the hands of the new despot. But the very government in whose favour it acted, found it necessary within a year from its foundation silently to suppress it; for it found the rabid zeal of these adherents to be more injurious to its interests than the open opposition of its avowed enemies.

450. Priestly Opposition to Masonry.—The Masonic propaganda, however, was actively carried on. The priests, on their part, considered the moment come for inaugurating an anti-masonic crusade. Under Napoleon the priesthood could not breathe; the court was closed against it, except on grand occasions, when its presence was needed to add outward pomp to imperial successes. As the masters of ceremonies, the priests had ceased in France to be the councillors and confessors of its rulers; but now they reassumed those functions, and the Masons were at once recommended to the hatred of the king and the mistrust of the public. They were represented as abettors of rationalism and regicide; the consequence was, that a great many lodges were closed, though, on the other hand, the rite of Misraim was established in Paris in 1816, whose mother lodge was called the "Rainbow," a presage of serenity and calm, which, however, did not save the society from police persecution. In 1821, this lodge was closed, and not reopened till 1830. Towards the same time was founded the lodge of "Trinosophists." In 1821, the Supreme Grand Council rose to the surface again, and with it the disputes between it and the Grand Orient. To enter into their squabbles would be a sad waste of time, and I therefore pass them over.

451. Political Insignificance of Masonry.—The Freemasons are said to have brought about the July revolution of 1830, but proofs are wanting, and I think they may be absolved from that charge. Louis-Philippe, who was placed on the throne by that revolution, took the Order under his protection, and appointed his son, the Duke of Orleans, Grand Master. On the Duke's death, in 1842, his brother, the Duke de Nemours, succeeded him in the dignity. In this latter year, the disputes between the Grand Orient and the Supreme Grand Council were amicably settled. Again we are told that at a masonic congress held at Strasburg the foundations of the revolution of 1848 were laid. It is certain that Cavaignac, Lamartine, Ledru-Rollin, Prudhon, Louis Blanc, Marrast, Vilain, Pyat, and a great number of German republicans, attended that congress, but for this reason it cannot strictly be called a masonic, it was rather a republican, meeting. On the establishment of the Provisional Government after the revolution of 1848, the Freemasons gave in their adhesion to that government; on which occasion some high-flown speeches about liberty, equality, and fraternity were made, and everybody congratulated his neighbour that now the reign of universal brotherhood had begun. But the restoration of the Empire, which followed soon after, showed how idle all this oratory had been, and how the influence of Masonry in the great affairs of the world really is nil.

452. Freemasonry and Napoleon III.—Again the Napoleonic air waves around the Grand Orient. The nephew showed himself from the first as hostile to Freemasonry as his uncle had been; but the decree prohibiting the French lodges from occupying themselves with political questions, under pain of the dissolution of the Order, did not appear until the 7th September 1850. In January 1852, some superior members of the Order proposed to offer the dignity of Grand Master to Lucien Murat, the President's cousin. The proposal was unanimously agreed to; and on the 10th of the same month the new Grand Master was acknowledged by all the lodges. He held the office till 1861, when he was obliged to resign in consequence of the masonic body having passed a vote of censure upon him for his expressions in favour of the temporal power of the Pope, uttered in the stormy discussion of the French Senate in the month of June of that year. The Grand Orient was again all in confusion. Napoleon III. now interfered, especially as Prince Napoleon was proposed for the office of Grand Master; which excited the jealousy of the Muratists, who published pamphlets of the most vituperative character against their adversaries, who on their side replied with corresponding bitterness. Napoleon imposed silence on the litigants, prohibited attendance at lodges, promised that he himself would appoint a Grand Master, and advised his cousin to undertake a long voyage to the United States. Deprived of the right of electing its own chief, the autonomy of Freemasonry became an illusion, its programme useless, and its mystery a farce. In the meanwhile, the quarrels of the partisans of the different candidates calmed down; Prince Napoleon returned from America; Murat resigned himself to this defeat, as to others, and the Emperor forgot all about Freemasonry. At last, in January 1862, there appeared a decree appointing Marshal Magnan to be Grand Master. A Marshal! The nephew, in this instance, as in many others, had taken a leaf out of his uncle's book.

453. Jesuitical Manoeuvres.—Napoleonic Freemasonry, not entirely to lose its peculiar physiognomy, ventured to change its institutions. Jesuitism cast loving eyes on it, and drew it towards itself, as in the days of the Strict Observance. Murat threw out his net, but was removed just when it was most important for the interests of the Jesuits that he should have remained. He proposed to transform the French lodges—of which, in 1852, there were 325, whilst in 1861 only 269 could be found—into societies of mutual succour, and to abandon or submit the higher masonic sphere of morality and humanity to the society, which in these last sixty years has already overcome and incorporated the whole Roman clergy, once its rivals, and by oblique paths also many of the conservative sects of other creeds. Murat did not succeed, but others may; and though the Masons say that Jesuitism shall not succeed, yet, how is Freemasonry, that professes to meddle neither with politics nor religion, to counteract the political and religious machinations of the Jesuits? And even if Freemasonry had the same weapons, are there men among the Order able to wield them with the ability and fearlessness that distinguish the followers of Loyola? I fear not.

Besides, the Masons, though they talk loudly of fraternisation and equality, when driven at bay become the stanchest conservatives, wherefore the International at Lyons, in the year 1870, solemnly excommunicated Freemasonry, and in 1880 exacted from every candidate for admission to the society a declaration that he was not a Mason.