Courts of Finances
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 | Freemasonry, Philalèthes | 6 Comments
We’ll be mentioning this famous Lodge in Paris in forthcoming posts. What follows is a concise explanation of its operation and makeup (translated from a French Masonic Encyclopedia entry by Pierre François Pinaud).
From 1771 to 1791, this lodge was one of the most prestigious in Paris and was consecrated by the Keeper of the Royal Treasury Savalette de Langes. Initially formed abroad in Rumigny, a small town of Thiérache, by a magistrate of the Parliament of Paris (banished by Chancellor Maupeou), in 1773 the lodge settled permanently in Paris. Savalette de Langes had made the inner circle of the Amis Réunis the social center of modern Freemasonry and cosmopolitanism of the late Enlightenment. Here the elite and and the talented joined together. The orchestra of the Amis Réunis was composed of six musicians of renown, like the composer [Isidore] Bertheaume, the brothers Blasius, the King’s violinists, Boutray of the l’Académie [Royale] de Musique, and either the brothers Breval or Louis Francoeur, the King’s Superintendent of Music.
The Lodge utilized a large space in a house in the Rue Popincourt, built in 1708 by the architect Dulin for the supplier of arms [Nicholas?] Dunoyer. By the time of its dissolution in 1791, Les Amis Réunis counted some 300 members with a further 37 casual brothers and brother servants. It comprised about 12% foreigners, such as the Baron de Beutz, chancellor of Saxony; the Baron de Gleichen, Minister of Denmark in Madrid, Naples and Paris; and Count Stroganoff, a Russian subject. A hundred senior officers or generals decorate the pillars, and about fifteen of their regiment. Painters and sculptors are well represented with a dozen doctors, all members of the Academy of Medicine or professors at the University of Paris - Monge was an assiduous member of the lodge for some years. But the Amis Réunis’ uniqueness is the significant number of its members who belonged to the world of finance: 37% of the Lodge in total, 84 people, were indeed financiers. We count no fewer than 15 bankers or speculators, 13 receiver generals, 7 tax collectors [fermiers généraux], 7 general treasurers including those of the Navy and War, 4 general paymasters, 19 members of the Courts of Finances of Paris, 7 senior officials of the Royal treasury and finally, 11 brothers who were occupied with public finance. On the eve of the Revolution, the lodge of the Amis Réunis had the highest concentration of financiers; a number of them met in groups, or independently, to engage in speculative ventures. We also find Lodge members as shareholders of the arms factory in Charleville, the Water Company in Paris, and the mines at Baïgorry, Decize or Rueil. Another group actively participated in speculation about the dollars held by the bank St. Charles de Madrid. Others are shareholders of the Hudson Bay Company that traded with Canada. Many specialize in international commerce, and others with India or the islands trading sugar and rum, but also the slave trade. At the famous East India Company, one finds Lodge members as shareholders or as administrators. A last group is actively involved in real estate speculation in Paris.
The success of the Amis Réunis in the financial world may be explained by the fact that, in the latter third of the 18th-century, in the absence of public credit, only powerful financiers could undertake large scale financial transactions. Everything is then prefaced upon trust. This leads to the membership of professional lobbyists, and familial networks which are found in the Lodge. The trustworthiness of Masonic affiliation may result in more business, which enables both administrators and profiteers. The Lodge therefore offered a discreet setting for financial conversations and the development of protective relationships; philosophical bonds are then the natural extension in the world of finance.
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