Adam Weishaupt (1748-1830) was a professor of canon law at the University of Ingolstadt, Bavaria and founded the Order of Bavarian Illuminati on May 1, 1776, at the University of Ingolstadt, Bavaria, originally under the name “Perfectibilists.” The original intent was to create an opposing party to what he perceived to be the bigotry and superstitions of the Priests at the university and to proliferate more cosmopolitan views. Leopold Engel in his Geschichte des Illuminaten-Ordens (History of the Illuminati Order, 1906) pointed out that the Bavarian educational system was firmly in the hands of former Jesuits, who exercised strict control over the curriculum. The Jesuit Order had been dissolved from 1773 – 1814, partially because Rome feared their power and partially because various secular powers envied their immense wealth. The aims of the Illuminati soon extended past the confines of the University of Ingolstadt, spreading throughout the German states and beyond.
In fact, Joseph Traynor has written, “(Weishaupt) was the first utopian to think on a global scale.”
Opinions about Weishaupt’s character varied widely among contemporaries.
French conspiracy theorist Abbe Barruel called him “a human devil.” John Robison, whose book Proofs of a Conspiracy fueled the Illuminati fear in the English speaking world, wrote Weishaupt was “the profoundest conspirator that ever existed.” And The Rev. George Oliver, D.D. in his Historical Landmarks and other Evidences of Freemasonry Explained proclaimed, “Weishaupt was a shameless libertine, who compassed the death of his sister-in-law to conceal his vices from the world and as he termed it, to preserve his honor.” In his letter to the Bishop of Philadelphia, however, Thomas Jefferson dismissed Barruel’s work as “the ravings of a Bedlamite,” calling Weishaupt “an enthusiastic philanthrope,” instead. Baron Adolph Knigge, ousted by Weishaupt from the Illuminati in a particularly bitter struggle, wrote that Weishaupt was an abrasive person and an autocratic leader in Philo’s Reply to Questions Concerning His Association with the Illuminati, but added that he “was undoubtedly a brilliant mind, a profound thinker” whose “heart was ablaze with an unmatched selfless zeal to accomplish something great and useful for humanity (43).” He also noted that Weishaupt “enjoyed among his impartial fellow citizens a reputation of scholarliness, wisdom, and impeccable morality. He led a moderate, respectable life, and completed his business affairs faithfully (45).”
Oliver’s remark doubtlessly was based on the accusation that Adam Weishaupt had seduced his dead wife’s sister, impregnated her, and then tried to kill the unborn child.
What really happened was that Weishaupt petitioned the Catholic Church for permission to marry his deceased wife’s sister. It took three years for Rome to issue the dispensation to marry, a process impeded by the Jesuits, with whom he has made bitter enemies. When he was assured it would only be a matter of weeks until the dispensation would arrive, the two did have intimate relations. Three months into the pregnancy, the dispensation was still pending. To avoid embarrassment, Weishaupt wrote to several of his friends about procuring the means for an abortion. They all advised against it.
In the end, Weishaupt married his lover, and the child was born.
Weishaupt commented in his Kurze Rechtfertigung meiner Absichten (Brief Justification of My Intentions, 1787) that a more powerful, wealthy man would have been applauded for his savvy and worldliness — not condemned as a seducer and child murderer.