printed at Hartford, September 26, 1799, by E. Babcock. In this paper, on the pretendedauthority of Professor Ebeling, we are told "that Robison had lived too fast for his income,and to supply deficiencies had undertaken to alter a bank bill, that he was detected and fled toFrance; that having been expelled the Lodge in Edinburgh, he applied in France for thesecond grade, but was refused; that he made the same attempt in Germany and afterwards inRussia, but never succeeded; and from this entertained the bitterest hatred to masonry; andafter wandering about Europe for two years, by writing to Secretary Dundas, and presenting acopy of his book, which, it was judged, would answer certain purposes of the ministry, theprosecution against him was stopped, the Professor returned in triumph to his country, andnow lives upon a handsome pension, instead of suffering the fate of his predecessor Dodd."
Payson goes on to quote a writer in
The National Intelligencer
of January 1801, who styles himself a "friendto truth" and speaks of Professor Robison as "a man distinguished by abject dependence on a party, by thebase crimes of forgery and adultery, and by frequent paroxysms of insanity." Mounier goes further still, and inhis pamphlet
De l'influence attribuée aux Philosophes, ... Francs-maçons et ... Illuminés
, etc., inspired by theIlluminatus Bode, quotes a story that Robison suffered from a form of insanity which consisted in hisbelieving that the posterior portion of his body was made of glass!
In support of all this farrago of nonsense there is of course no foundation of truth; Robison was a well-knownsavant who lived sane and respected to the end of his days. On his death Watt wrote of him: "He was a man of the clearest head and the most science of anybody I have ever known."
John Playfair, in a paper read beforethe Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1815, whilst criticizing his
Proofs of a Conspiracy
--though at the sametime admitting he had himself never had access to the documents Robison had consulted!--paid the followingtribute to his character and erudition:His range in science was mostextensive; he was familiar with the whole circle of the accuratesciences.... Nothing can add to the esteem which they [i.e. "those who were personallyacquainted with him"] felt for his talents and worth or to the respect in which they now holdhis memory.
Nevertheless, the lies circulated against both Robison and Barruel were not without effect. Thirteen years laterwe find another American, this time a Freemason, confessing "with shame and grief and indignation" that hehad been carried away by "the flood of vituperation poured upon Barruel and Robison during the past thirtyyears," that the title pages of their works "were fearful to him," and that although "wishing calmly andcandidly to investigate the character of Freemasonry he refused for months to open their books." Yet when in1827 he read them for the first time he was astonished to find that they showed "a manifest tendency towardsFreemasonry." Both Barruel and Robison, he now realized, were "learned men, candid men, lovers of theircountry, who had a reverence for truth and religion. They give the reasonsfor their opinions, they quote theirauthorities, naming the author and page, like honest people; they both had a wish to rescue British Masonryfrom the condemnation and fellowship of continental Masonry and appear to be sincerely actuated by thedesire of doing good by giving their labours to the public."
That the author was right here in his description of Barruel's attitude to Freemasonry is shown by Barruel'sown words on the subject:England above all is full of those upright men, excellent citizens, men of every kind and inevery condition of life, who count it an honour to be masons, and who are distinguished fromother men only by ties which seem to strengthen those of benevolence and fraternal charity. Itis not the fear of offending a nation amongst which I have found a refuge which prompts meto make this exception. Gratitude would prevail with me over all such terrors and I should sayin the midst of London: "England is lost, she will not escape the French Revolution if theSecret Societies and Subversive Movements, by Nesta H. WebsterPREFACE3