Washington & the Illuminati

I recently came across George Washington’s letter to George Washington Snyder, dated September 25, 1798. This letter is often used as proof that the Illuminati were active in the Americas, that George Washington knew about the activity, and that he even may have tacitly or actively approved. The actual letter doesn’t support these claims.

Snyder sent Washington a copy of John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, Collected From Good Authorities (1798). In his brief reply to Snyder, Washington stated that he had heard about the Illuminati and that he found their plans “nefarious, and dangerous” but did not discuss these in detail, asserting that the Freemasonic lodges in the United States were not under the influence of the Illuminati. He also explained that he had not read Robison’s book.

The letter and transcription, which can be found in the Library of Congress, follow below:

The transcription:

Mount Vernon, September 25, 1798.

Sir: Many apologies are due to you, for my not acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favour of the 22d. Ulto, and for not thanking you, at an earlier period, for the Book you had the goodness to send me.

I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous plan, and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati. With respect I am &c.

John Robison (1739-1805) was a Scottish scientist and a contributor of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Disillusioned by the bloodshed of the French Revolution, allegedly instigated by the Illuminati, he became an ardent monarchist. Proofs of a Conspiracy laid the groundwork for modern conspiracy theories. One of Robison’s prime sources was the work of Alexander Horn (1762–1820), a Scottish Benedictine monk who later became a secret agent and diplomat. Working parallel to Robison, Jesuit priest Abbé Augustin Barruel (October 2, 1741 – October 5, 1820) also claimed that the Illuminati were responsible for the violent excesses of the French Revolution linking them to the Jacobins in his book Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire du Jacobinisme (1797).

While Baron Adolph Knigge, Illuminati founder Adam Weishaupt’s second in command from 1780 to 1784, freely admitted that the Illuminati were trying to bring Freemasonry, and especially the Strict Observance tradition, under their control at the Wilhelmsbad Congress of 1782, Leopold Engel claimed that the success of this endeavor was limited, at best. He further pointed out that the decade following the exposure of the Illuminati in 1786 was ablaze with paranoia concerning this secret society. Concerning the rumors that they were the driving force behind the French Revolution, he wrote in his Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens (1906), “A great deal of grasping at straws and mental acrobatics were required to paste together this strange assertion, but in these times people believed everything as long as it was a matter of pinning yet another atrocity on Illuminatism.”


2 thoughts on “Washington & the Illuminati

  1. It’s the letter in October of 1798 that’s most often cited by conspiracy theorists: “It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.”

    It is often twisted to make it seem like Washington was saying that the Illuminati themselves had come to America, when in fact it is clear that what he meant was the revolutionary ideology (which he’d assumed was one and the same as the Jacobins). I’ve even seen some people who take out the “doctrine” part, in order to con people. Typically, then, this version reads: “It was not my intention to doubt that the Illuminati … had not spread in the United States.” Caught someone the other day doing that and citing another for the quote, even when the latter quoted Washington correctly. See below:

    Interesting info about that Horn fellow. I haven’t heard of him before.

    The “Illuminati conspiracy” had been created in Germany immediately following the French Revolution. Former Masons and Illuminati who switched camps and became counter-revolutionaries: Ernst von Göchhausen, Leopold Alois Hoffmann, J.G. Zimmermann, H.A.O. Reichard and K.L. von Haller; in journals such as the ‘Wiener Zeitschrift,’ ‘Revolutions-Almanach’ and ‘Eudämonia oder Deutsches Volksglück.’ It is known that Johann August von Starck had supplied much of the above material to Barruel; Horn probably did the same for Robison.

    I wrote about it in my book. But if you ever get the opportunity, I would recommend reading Steven Luckert’s PhD thesis, “Jesuits, Freemasons, Illuminati, and Jacobins: Conspiracy theories, secret societies, and politics in late eighteenth-century Germany.” On the German conspiracy theorists cited above, Luckert goes into great detail and describes exactly what they were writing about in their magazines and pamphlets; how, in reality, they were the real architects of the narrative which Robison and Barruel had subsequently popularized. At the same time, the “liberal” Illuminati and their allies were accusing this “conservative” camp of being part of the crypto-Jesuit complot. Each side had their own conspiracy about the other, much like France during the Revolution, which actually precipitated the Terror.

    The “Left” and “Right” were born in fire, so to speak. And the ostensible war continues.

    • Thanks for the informative reply, Terry. I’ll feature the October 24 letter in another post. I still need to get me a copy of your book, and I’ll definitely need to get my hands on Luckert’s dissertation, as well.

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