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How a spy network created the first conspiracy bestsellers

The French Revolution shocked the entire world: One of the oldest empires was in chaos, warring factions could not decide whether to maintain the Monarchy, create a constitutional half-monarchy or try an outright republic.

The royal French Bourbon line had been the enemy of the German-British cluster of Welfen, Wettiner and Reginare for centuries. In 1714 the Welfe George I. from Hannover had ascended to the British throne and kept a low profile while his behemoth-sized family used its 1200 years old intelligence network to flood Britain. France had control over the catholic Vatican and used covert operations in attemps to replace the Hannoverians with a catholic king.

The 1700s brought modern science and the ideas of teh enligthenment. In 1717 King George started British Freemasonry and tied it to a revamped “Royal Society” for control over science. The Welfen got into the enlightenment game and turned Britain into the most powerful empire of all times. On a side quest, it was possible to use enlightenment ideas to destabilize France and German territories. New organizations like the Bavarian Illuminati popped up everywhere. It’s most powerful members were princes and dukes of Braunschweig and Hessen.

Because of bad luck, the internal Illuminati documents were acquired by the police and plastered all over the press. All of Europe was talking about this: Secret societies underminded Germany and even France?

The duke of Braunschweig went into damage control mode and sent out a memo to masonic lodges: Some shadowy force, he claimed, had infiltrated masonry and other groups. But he himself was part of this shadowy force. Three years later various conspiracy books appeared and became bestsellers: John Robison’s “Proofs of a Copnspiracy” for the protestant audiences, Barruels 4-volume-series for the Catholics and other works for the Germans.

It was a campaign by aristocratic intelligence networks of Welfen, Wettiner and Reginare, plus the additional British networks. The goal was to further destabilize France and draw attention away from the aristocratic networks. The conspiracy behind the Illuminati and behind the French revolution was simply painted as anarchistic and godless. None of these conspiracy books followed the many leads to aristocratic-british networks.

A new study by Professor Claus Oberhauser from Austria sheds new light on how these conspiracy books were made. The network included the intelligence asset Alexander Horn, the Royal-Society-head John Robison and many others.

It may initially seem surprising that Sir John Macpherson (1744 – 1821) played a fairly central role in Alexander Horn’s British networks, as he is particularly associated with his time in India. As early as 1767 he was in Madras for the first time for the East India Company. Several trips, political offices and, above all, political scandals during his time as deputy governor general of Bengal – he almost provoked a war – were to follow. Back in Great Britain he was active as a supporter of Edmund Burke in the fight against the French Revolution on the continent. His intimate relationship with the future King George IV (1762 – 1830) was also the subject of scandal.

Horn and Macpherson met in Regensburg in 1793 or early 1794. Horn used his contacts to obtain information, which he then communicated to Walpole in Munich by letter.

Robison printed a letter from William Windham (1750 – 1810), the Secretary at War and an acquaintance from their time in Glasgow.

Britain had declared war against France during the revolution phase. Robison blamed the order of the Illuminati, which was already blown, without really examining the ties of its most powerful members to Britain.

I have been able to trace these attempts, made, through a course of fifty years, under the specious pretext of enlightening the world by the torch of philosophy, and of dispelling the clouds of civil and religious superstition which keep the nations of Europe in darkness and slavery […] till, at last, an association has been created for the express purpose of rooting out all the religious establishments, and overturning all the existing governments of Europe. I have seen this Association exerting itself zealously and systematically, until it has become almost irresistible: And I have seen the most active leaders in the French Revolution were members of this Association […] And, lastly, I have seen that this Association still exists , still works in secret, and that not only several appearances among ourselves show that its emissaries are endeavoring to propagate their detestable doctrines among us.

Robison was connected to powerful circles which were themselves connected to the Illuminati.

Just a few months before the work was published, Robison wrote to Windham that he had been introduced to the Illuminati by a friend who had long been involved with the Illuminati. It was more by chance that he found various writings in his house in 1795, all of which pointed to the Illuminati as a powerful group of conspirators. There was only a single volume of the magazine “The Latest Religious Events,” but its contents increased Robison’s curiosity as he read from page to page and prompted him to delve deeper into the German Freemasons and Illuminati. After excerpting some passages, another acquaintance in Edinburgh found these notes and encouraged him to write a book. This was George Gleig (1753 – 1840), the Bishop of Brechin.

Gleig had served in the British military under the Duke of Wellington. Thanks to a remarkable discovery, the notes that Robison used when writing his book can now be examined.

St Andrews is home to the “Commonplace Book” he kept, an alphabetically arranged notebook that Robison filled year after year. Robison’s notebook obviously had the purpose of systematically collecting material that he could use when writing his publications.

Robison describes the cosmopolitans in his “Commonplace Book” as a new type of secret society that works secretly under the guise of philosophical systems to overthrow the foundations of societies.
He cites as a source Ernst August Anton von Göchhausen’s “Unveiling the System of the World Citizen Republic”, a book in which not only was the Illuminati accused of planning a cosmopolitan conspiracy, but the Jesuits were named as their invisible superiors.

Ernst August von Göchhausen was a Ducal Saxony-Weimar Secret Chamber Councilor in Eisenach and therefore tied to the cluster of Welfen, Wettiner and Reginare. We cannot reconstruct whether Göchhausen really believed his own writings. Karl von Eckartshausen, who was a member of Adam Weishaupt’s Illuminati Order and was later considered a mystic theosophist, published anonymously in 1791 the pamphlet “On the danger that threatens the thrones, the states and Christianity with complete decline”. His works have been translated into numerous European languages, particularly French, Russian and English. His most prominent reader was probably the Russian Tsar Alexander I. It is extremely bold for someone who was not only an Illuminati member, but in many ways also an occultist, to anonymously publish a pamphlet in which he wants to lecture the reader about conspiracies.

Robison criticizes Weishaupt himself for failing as a university teacher in that he took advantage of his protégés and taught them the doctrine of cosmopolitanism without pointing out the consequences.

Unlike his book, Robison openly quotes in his notes the various articles from “Latest Religious Events” from which his information comes. The Latest Religious Events was one of the German magazines that took a firm stand against what they saw as false enlightenment.

Its editor was the Giessen historian Heinrich Martin Gottfried Köster (1734 – 1802). Köster was one of the circle of translators of Augustin Barruel’s Mémoires pour sérvir à l’Histoire du Jacobinisme into German, which also included the Johann August Starck. Starck was a German writer, influential Freemason and temporarily general superintendent of Königsberg in Prussia. In 1811 he was raised to the nobility by the Grand Duke of Hessen. One can imagine that the House of Hesse would have been extremely unhappy if he had dared to critically examine the role of Guelph, Wettin and Reginare secret services in relation to the French Revolution. He studied theology and oriental studies at the Guelph University of Göttingen under Johann David Michaelis, a fellow of the noble British scientific association Royal Society. From 1763 onwards, von Starck was a teacher in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he delved deeper into secret societies.

Even after years of working on the manuscript, Robison was never satisfied with his book. Completion was delayed by the author becoming seriously ill and having to take laudanum to relieve his severe stomach pain.
After George Gleig has already been identified as one of the most important partners in writing the book, there is still a second person mentioned in Proofs of a Conspiracy who supported Robison. Dilworth and Hammermayer suspected that this friend was Alexander Horn.

However, it is difficult to estimate how much of a role Horn really had in the Proofs of a Conspiracy. At least it is clear that Robison collected material about the Illuminati and the Freemasons in his Commonplace Book, primarily using the literature reports in Latest Religious Events.

Robison kept his distance to the French Jesuit conspiracy author Augustin Barruel (1741 – 1820) but they were running in the same circles and their books are very similiar.

It must be emphasized that in the first two of a total of four volumes of Barruels Mémoires, Barruel did not yet make a clear distinction between the theosophical illuminés around Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin and the Ingolstadt Illuminati. It was only through the influence of Johann August Starck that the Illuminati became the actual masterminds of the conspiracy in the third and fourth volumes. Barruel was founded on the initiative of an intermediary in Great Britain, the Swiss entrepreneur Jean-André Deluc, supported by Johann August Starck and his network of like-minded men.

Shortly before the publication of the first volume of the Mémoires, Deluc warned Barruel that the book might be received with great displeasure in the press. He therefore suggested that Barruel get in touch with other important figures, especially Edmund Burke. In fact, Barruel had met Burke shortly after his arrival in London in 1792, but had not seen him again for a long time. When Barruel received a package from an unnamed sender in France that he was supposed to forward to Burke, he took the opportunity to send him the newly published first volume of the Mémoires and asked him for his opinion on it. Burke thanked him on May 1, 1797 with a very kind letter.

Burke was expressing his desire that Barruels books would see great success:

I cannot easily express to you how much I am instructed & delighted by the first Volume of your History of Jacobinism. The whole of the wonderful Narrative is supported by documents & proofs with the most legal regularity & exactness. […] I long impatiently for the second volume; but the great object of my Wishes is, that the Work should have a great circulation in France, if by any means it can be compassed & for that end, I should be glad upon the scale of a poor Individual to become a liberal Subscriber.

Barruel was naturally very pleased with Burke’s flattering words, and immediately sent him the next volume of the Mémoires and asked permission to use the letter, which he did. But were Barruel and Robison in contact and exchanging ideas about their works, as Norman Cohn assumes in his oft-quoted study “Warrant for Genocide”?
There is no evidence for this; On the contrary, everything indicates that there was neither a meeting nor an exchange of letters between the two authors. On the one hand, Horn only mentioned Barruel’s or Robison’s works in passing in his letters and reports.

A few weeks after Adam Weishaupt resigned from his chair in Ingolstadt, he settled in Regensburg in May 1785. Weishaupt remained in exile in Regensburg for over two years and wrote some of his defensive writings there, which were later received by his opponents and supporters. It should be emphasized that during their active times, the Illuminati had members in various important positions, especially in Regensburg, due to the special legal situation.

Among them was a member of the important Regensburg Thurn und Taxis family, who were personally known to Horn and his brother, namely Maximilian Carl Heinrich Joseph Graf von Thurn und Taxis (1745 – 1825). Carl Anselm zu Thurn und Taxis (1733 – 1805) and his Horn’s son and friend Karl Alexander were Freemasons and Grand Masters of the Regensburg Mother Lodge. Furthermore, because of the Reichstag, Regensburg was an attractive place for many secret societies, as one could recruit international members, build a (political) network and also obtain diplomatic information: Thomas Walpole’s membership in the Illuminati is for example to mention.

An event of great consequence for the Illuminati Order also occurred in Regensburg: member Johann Jakob Lanz (1735 – 1785) was killed by lightning on July 20, 1785 during a visit to Weishaupt. The documents found on him led to new investigations and actions directed against the Illuminati. Weishaupt himself, who was unable to obtain a new professorship and keep the order alive through reform measures, decided in the summer of 1787 to go to Gotha, where Duke Ernst II willingly granted him asylum.

Interestingly, Horn’s involvement with the Illuminati only began after the order was banned, i.e. after 1785.

From what has been said so far, it should be clear that Horn surrounded himself with actors who were all opponents of the French Revolution.

Drake affair

Since Francis Drake worked as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Munich, the agent Alexander Horn had been in very close contact with him and had also been used by him for secret missions. On November 11, 1803, he was also chosen by Drake as an embassy man.

It should be emphasized that the Drake affair was directly related to the plan to assassinate Napoleon. The assassination attempt using an “infernal machine” failed in 1800, but the plans continued. Tim Clayton recently explained this: He describes in detail the assassination plan by Pichegru, Moreau and Cadoudal and the connection between English politicians, diplomats and secret agents with French confidants.

In addition to this large conspiracy taking place in France, the second part took place in Munich with strong British assistance and is closely linked to the person Jean-Claude Hippolyte Méhée de la Touche (1762 – 1826). He was a well-known writer, pamphleteer and supporter of moderate phases of the French Revolution. After being arrested several times for minor crimes, he still managed to get into the French secret service thanks to his network.

His mission, if he ever existed, was to gather information about French émigrés in Great Britain.
Sparrow reports that Méhée de la Touche had already planned his actions in advance from around April 1802. At the beginning of 1803, Méhée de la Touche first introduced himself to the responsible representative of the British government in Guernsey in order to convince him to let him negotiate with the British government about possible uprisings. His plan, which was supposed to begin as a conspiracy by French royalists in Paris and extend to Louisiana, was sent in February to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs, Hawkesbury and Pelham. Méhée de la Touche then traveled personally to London to negotiate with the Undersecretary of State at the Foreign Office, George Hammond.

He initially refused support because they were not at war with France. During his stay in London, Méhée de la Touche was under suspicious observation. Here he met again Bertrand de Molleville (1744 – 1818), whom he had once helped to escape to Great Britain. De Molleville, who had been invited by Pelham to meet with Méhée de la Touche, recommended him as an agent in a letter from the government. During this time, Méhée de la Touche published a number of anti-Napoleonic pamphlets, worked out his rebellion plan in much more detail and presented it again. Hawkesbury ultimately agreed to send Méhée de la Touche to Munich to prepare for the uprising together with Francis Drake.

According to a report to Hawksbury, Méhée de la Touche and Drake worked out the uprising plan in Munich. But Drake doubted that Méhée would actually be able to carry out his plan. Drake was only interested in creating the conditions for a coup d’État to be carried out to defeat Louis XVIII. to be installed as the rightful ruler. He also recommended sending agents with the same mission to all countries under French control.

Drake sent Méhée de la Touche via Strasbourg to Paris, from where he reported on the preparation of the conspiracy. At the end of February 1804, however, everything was exposed: the conspiracy surrounding Pichegru was discovered, the Duke of Enghien was identified as one of the co-conspirators and executed shortly afterwards. The last meeting between a liaison Méhée de la Touches and Drakes took place in March.

As early as March 22nd, Drake reported to Hawkesbury that he expected to have to leave Munich very soon. In fact, on March 31st, the French side called for Drake’s expulsion.

Diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Bavaria were terminated shortly afterwards. Drake and Spencer Smith’s fate was exploited by French propaganda: several pamphlets, pamphlets, newspaper articles and at least three cartoons appeared in print. The writings and pamphlets were quickly translated and distributed in the Reichstag and throughout Europe. This circumstance caused great problems for Drake to return to London. He and Spencer Smith endured ridicule and scorn.

Hawkesbury feared that records of this failed mission might later be found. He therefore had almost all relevant documents removed, which is why only those relating to Méhée’s employment and his instructions have been preserved in the British Library. The question also arises as to what role Horn played in the Drake affair.


Edmund Burke’s main concern was to prevent radical revolutionary ideas from spreading to Great Britain. In his reflections he compared the achievements of the Glorious Revolution with the legal violations of the French Revolution.

Barruel’s books were tailored to the wishes of Burke.

Burke supported Britain’s war against France from 1793 and wanted Britain to fight on the side of the royalists and émigrés in a civil war. Burke also supported the royalist rebellion in La Vendée. In addition to direct military actions and the promotion of uprisings through secret service methods, a propaganda campaign was also needed. Psychological warfare that branded the French revolutionaries as satanic anarchists. Burke married the daughter of Dr. Christopher Nugent, a physician and fellow of the Royal Society.

Barruel at least names the King of Denmark-Norway as a co-conspirator, Christian VII from the House of Oldenburg. His mother was the daughter of the British King George II. The stepmother was Juliana Maria of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern. He married his cousin from the British royal family. So the connections to Britain are obvious. Nevertheless, Barruel maintains, despite the involvement of various “kings of the north” in the conspiracy against France and (Catholic) Christianity, “the name of His British Majesty is not even mentioned” in the conspirators’ correspondence. King George III was “too wise” to get involved with the conspirators and therefore the conspirators’ silence about him was conclusive evidence that he was not involved.

This argument is nonsense to say the least.

King George III fought on all fronts worldwide against the arch-enemy France. The French spent a fortune financing and equipping George Washington in the Revolutionary War against George III.

Barruel tells a strange story that he was invited to dinner by French Freemasons, who locked the doors and urged him to be accepted into the order. Normally, after passing the pre-selection, someone has to memorize lengthy ritual texts and reproduce them word for word as accurately as possible in order to be awarded the first degree. The oblique French forced three full degrees on him in a blazing fast ceremony, while he actually wanted to bow out politely. After a ridiculous drama, he was then asked whether he would swear loyalty to the Grand Master of these Freemasons, as if the orders came from a king or emperor. It is likely that this story is partly or entirely fictional. We find an almost identical story in the conspiracy author John Robison.

The Jacobins, who played the key role in the French Revolution, ensured that almost no records exist of their most important meetings. One influence was the London “Revolution Society”, which overlapped with the Society for Constitutional Information (CSI). The members of the British clubs included

  • Richard Price: Member of the Royal Society. When Lord Shelburne became British Prime Minister in 1782, Price was offered the post of private secretary.
  • Joseph Priestley: Member of the Royal Society. He was a scientist and, moreover, he combined the rationalism of the Enlightenment with Christian teachings. He was also associated with Lord Shelburne.
  • Andrew Kippis: Member of the Royal Society.
  • Abraham Rees: Member of the Royal Society.
  • Theophilius Lindsey: He was chaplain to Algernon Seymour, 7th Duke of Somerset
  • Thomas Brand Hollis: Member of the Royal Society. He corresponded with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson
  • Peter Finch Martineau: He came from a dynasty. He later served as Acting Lieutenant of Hertfordshire; by which is meant an administrative rank awarded by the Crown.

When the “radical” currents in Britain got somewhat out of control in the 1790s, there were a number of trials for “high treason”. The parliamentarian Edmund Burke condemned the French Revolution in a widely read text. Burke later became private secretary to British Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth. Burke later became a member of the Privy Council himself.

Initially the British radicals were imprisoned in the Tower of London, then they were transferred to Newgate Prison. If convicted, those accused of treason would face the brutal punishment of hanging, disemboweling and quartering. Each would have been “hung by the neck, cut open alive, and disemboweled (and his entrails to be burned in front of his face) and then beheaded and quartered.”

The entire radical movement was on trial. There were reportedly 800 arrest warrants ready to go. The whole scene could have been decapitated in one big blow. Ultimately, leniency was exercised and new laws were passed to rigorously monitor migrants, such as the Seditious Meetings Act, the Treasonable Practices Act, and the Treason Act. The Seditious Meetings Law stated that any place, such as a room or building, where political meetings were held to discuss the injustice of the Kingdom’s laws, constitutions, governments and policies would be declared a house of disorder and must be punished.

Anyone who even thought about causing physical harm to the king or his descendants was committing high treason.

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