In speaking of the year 1813, an account of the incredible number of affiliations which took place at this time between secret societies recently formed in Italy and Germany should not be omitted. The Emperor from the time when he was only First Consul, not only did not oppose the opening of Masonic lodges, but we have every reason to believe secretly favored them. He was very sure that nothing originated in these meetings which could be dangerous to his person or injurious to his government; since Freemasonry counted among its votaries, and even had as chiefs, the most distinguished personages of the state. Moreover, it would have been impossible in these societies, where a few false brethren had slipped in, for a dangerous secret, had there been one, to escape the vigilance of the police. The Emperor spoke of it sometimes as pure child’s play, suitable to amuse idlers; and I can affirm that he laughed heartily when told that the archchancellor, in his position as chief of the Grand Orient, had presided at a Masonic banquet with no less dignity than would have comported with the presidency of the senate or of the council of state. Nevertheless, the Emperor’s indifference did not extend to societies known in Italy under the name of Carbonari, and in Germany under various titles. We must admit, in fact, that since the undertakings of two young Germans initiated in Illuminism, it was natural that his Majesty should not have seen without anxiety the propagation of those bonds of virtue in which young fanatics were transformed into assassins.
I know nothing remarkable in relation to the Carbonari, since no circumstance connected our affairs with those of Italy. In regard to the secret societies of Germany, I remember that during our stay at Dresden I heard them mentioned with much interest, and not without fears for the future, by a Saxon magistrate with whom I had the honor of associating frequently. He was a man about sixty years of age, who spoke French well, and united in the highest degree German stolidity with the gravity natural to age. In his youth he had lived in France, and part of his education had been received at the College of Soreze; and I attributed the friendship which he showed for me to the pleasure he experienced in conversing about a country the memory of which seemed very dear to him. I remember perfectly well to-day the profound veneration with which this excellent man spoke to me of one of his former professors of Soreze, whom he called Don Ferlus; and I must have had a defective memory indeed had I forgotten a name which I heard repeated so often.