Rev. Jedidiah Morse (1761–1826) was 1 of the early on American Republic’s best-known authors in addition to clergymen, serving equally pastor of the First Congregational Church of Charlestown, Massachusetts (now business office of Boston) for 30 years. Perhaps counterbalancing his other accomplishments, Morse was also 1 of the forerunners inward the champaign of U.S. conspiracy theory.
Besides his pastoral duties in addition to frequent service equally an orator on civic in addition to political occasions, Morse was a pioneer inward American geography, producing 1 of the get-go pop books on the subject, Geography Made Easy (1784), precisely a twelvemonth after his graduation from Yale College.
This was followed past times a serial of other works, most notably the two-volume American Universal Geography (1793), which altogether went through hundreds of editions. In an historic menses when go was yet difficult, expensive, in addition to infrequent, it is non besides much to tell that Jedidiah Morse taught most Americans of his twenty-four lx minutes menses most of what they knew of the province beyond their ain immediate horizons.
Morse also made a require himself equally a prominent purveyor of anti-Illuminati conspiracy theories. In the hysterical era of the XYZ Affair in addition to the Alien in addition to Sedition Acts inward the 1790s, Morse lent his considerable liberate energy in addition to prestige to the projection of turning the Bavarian Illuminati into a mainstream political issue. Joined past times many other prominent New England divines, including Yale College president Timothy Dwight, Morse almost succeeded.
Like many other old-fashioned New England Calvinists, Morse was deeply alarmed at the seeming rising of “infidelity” inward the 1790s, a category into which he lay non precisely the outright rejection of Christian belief, but also its liberalization into less supernatural, to a greater extent than rational forms such equally Unitarianism in addition to deism. Besides mankind’s innate wickedness, Morse in addition to his colleagues blamed radical politics, peculiarly the French Revolution in addition to its American sympathizers, for the decline of faith, in addition to vice versa.
The twelvemonth 1794 was a turning point. Robespierre’s reign of terror raged inward France, patch the Democratic Republican Societies in addition to the Whiskey Rebellion disturbed the political peace at home. That same year, deist speaker in addition to organizer Elihu Palmer toured the United States, in addition to Thomas Paine’s assault on revealed religion, The Age of Reason, get-go arrived on U.S. shores.
Under the infidels’ influence, Morse believed, “uncleanness, Sabbath breaking & all the overflowing of iniquity which springs from these” ran riot alongside the people. To pillars of New England’s Federalist/Congregationalist “Standing Order,” nether which the churches were supported past times taxes in addition to ministers used their pulpits to back upward the ruling political elite, it seemed that a “mental epidemic” was sweeping the country.
It exclusively got worse equally the 1790s wore on. Criticism of the government, in addition to political activism against it, grew to a greater extent than intense during the battles over the Jay Treaty with England inward 1796 in addition to the presidency inward the 1796 election. The pious Federalist John Adams trounce the free-thinking Jefferson inward that election, but with state of war against the French looming, Federalist hysteria came to a fever pitch.
It was inward this atmosphere, inward 1797, that Jedidiah Morse, Timothy Dwight, in addition to their colleagues discovered John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy, finding inward its delineate of piece of occupation concern human relationship of the Illuminati effort to destroy all religions in addition to governments a create explanation for many political in addition to cultural trends that disturbed them.
Morse launched his personal effort against the Illuminati past times giving 2 sermons on the national fast twenty-four lx minutes menses proclaimed past times President Adams for nine May 1798, 1 at his ain church building in addition to 1 at North Church, Boston. Following New England tradition, where sermons were pop reading affair in addition to frequently served equally political tracts, Morse’s endeavor was published shortly afterwards.
In his Sermon on the National Fast Day, Morse attacked the “deep-laid plan” of the French Republic “to destroy the confidence of the [American] people” inward the men in addition to institutions that governed them, a conception beingness implemented non precisely past times the French themselves, but also past times their local minions, the Democratic Republicans.
What was worse, they had criticized the clergy, too, suggesting that roughly secret, fifty-fifty deeper blueprint was “in operation, hostile to truthful freedom in addition to religion,” preparing the agency “for the spread” hither of “that atheistical philosophy” that was “deluging the Old World inward misery in addition to blood.” Morse recommended Robison’s mass equally a judicious explanation of everything that was happening, attributing it all to “the night conspiracies of the Illuminati”.
Initially the reply was less sensational than Morse must convey hoped, but the arguing kept him in addition to the Illuminati inward the world oculus for most of the side past times side 2 years. Democratic Republican newspapers questioned Robison’s veracity, printing negative reviews of the mass from the British press, in addition to demanded proof of the charges.
Not much proof was to live had, but Morse gamely struck dorsum with paper articles in addition to clippings defending Robison in addition to attacking their critics. At the same, Salem government minister William Bentley, a rare Jeffersonian alongside the Massachusetts clergy, supplied equal amounts of cloth damning Morse’s seat in addition to his sources.
The arguing was renewed in addition to expanded with a circular of published Thanksgiving sermons from Morse in addition to many other New England ministers over the wintertime of 1798–1799. Morse’s included an appendix that tried to document a sentiment of American events closely next the pattern of Robison’s in addition to the Abbé Barruel’s accounts of the French Revolution.
The Democratic Republican Societies of 1793–1794 were non mere debating clubs, he tried to show, but extensions of the Illuminati. They had been founded past times a French agent, “Citizen” Edmond Genet, in addition to precisely went tube in addition to reappeared nether other names after President Washington had publicly blamed them for the Whiskey Rebellion.
Morse hold upward seemed to teach his Illuminati witch-hunt on delineate of piece of occupation solid the world with a 3rd published sermon, originally given on roughly other national fast day, 25 Apr 1799. This fourth dimension a triumphant Morse claimed hold upward to convey “complete in addition to indubitable proof that such societies produce exist, in addition to convey for many years existed, inward the United States”.
The smoking gun was a missive of the alphabet detailing the membership in addition to organization (all the agency dorsum inward 1786) of a somewhat irregular Masonic organisation called Wisdom Lodge inward Portsmouth, Virginia, made upward chiefly of immigrants from St. Domingue in addition to France.
There were suggestions of other U.S. lodges beingness inward contact with Wisdom Lodge, in addition to a woman bring upward lodge inward France, but the connectedness to the Bavarian Illuminati was tenuous at best in addition to the bear witness of whatever existent influence nonexistent.
Nevertheless, Morse felt the illustration was sealed, in addition to the Illuminati theory gained roughly ground, until it was derailed past times a novel arguing over Morse’s ain integrity. It happened that both Morse in addition to his antagonist William Bentley were inward correspondence with the High German geographer Christoph Ebeling.
To both men, Ebeling had written letters castigating Robison’s book, contradicting many of the alleged facts it cited, in addition to dismissing the thought that the Bavarian Illuminati yet existed inward whatever form. Rumors of the letters began to circulate inward the summer of 1799.
The next autumn, Bentley saw to it that the text of his Ebeling missive of the alphabet appeared inward several newspapers, anonymously but describing the author in addition to recipient inward such a agency that readers mightiness assume the Massachusetts human who received the missive of the alphabet was Morse himself.
The Illuminati theory’s primary U.S. backer was forced on the defensive, unable to come upward create clean without admitting that he had covered upward incriminating information fifty-fifty though it was provided past times a respected colleague.
By the terminate of 1799, Republican newspapers were openly ridiculing Morse in addition to his ideas, in addition to edifice a sort of satirical conspiracy theory virtually the “New England Illuminati,” an oligarchy of “political priests” of which Morse was said to live a ringleader.
Morse shortly had to drib the Illuminati theory from his repertoire, although he continued to grapple for the old-time Puritan organized religious belief inward other ways over the balance of his life.
His skills equally a controversialist in addition to publishing entrepreneur were lay to proficient role resisting the instruction of liberal theology at Harvard, promoting missions to the Indians in addition to western migrants, in addition to helping flora Andover Theological Seminary, the New England Tract Society, the American Bible Society, in addition to the American Tract Society.
The theatre unit of measurement tradition of scientific in addition to artistic achievement mixed with conspiracy was carried on past times Jedidiah’s son, Samuel F. B. Morse.