Tommaso Francesco Maria de Bassus (1742-1815) [Part One]
Freemasonry: Member, Lodge “St. Theodor vom guten Rat”, München, 1781; co-founder of the Lodge “Zu den drei Sternen”, in Poschiavo, Switzerland
Illuminati: Insinuated Dec. 13, 1778; Member of the Areopagites [“highest ruling body within the Order of the Illuminati”], 1779
Order name “Hannibal” (1742 Puschlav [Poschiavo] – 1815 Sandersdorf) Catholic – Studied law in Ingolstadt (classmate of [Weishaupt]), Doctor of Law, Study Director of the University Library, Owner of Sandersdorf in 1780, Mayor (Podestà) of Traona from 1781-1783, Mayor of Puschlav in 1775, 1776, 1779, 1785, and again in 1795, founder of a printing press there, hosted [Weishaupt] in Sandersdorf in the autumn of 1783, Chamberlain in Munich in 1786, House search in Sandersdorf in May 1787, Dismissal from office, Interrogation in Munich in January 1788, Rehabilitation in 1798, elevated to the rank of Freiherr in 1814. The godfather of his grandson born in 1804 was Prince Maximilian Joseph of Zweibrücken, later King of Bavaria. Publisher of the first Italian edition of “Werther” (Puschlav 1782) and other writings, textbook author.
Excerpt from my 2009 book, Perfectibilists (254-5, 285 notes):
Bassus, Thomas Maria, Baron de (1742 Poschiavo, Switzerland – 1815 Sandersdorf, Germany)
In 1787 police searches of the Baron’s castle in Sandersdorf turned up incriminating evidence against him and the Illuminati. He was a great recruiter for the Order. In letters to Weishaupt he boasted of his conquests at Bozen (in the south of Austria), initiating “the President, the Vice-President, the principal Counsellors of Government, and the Grand Master of the Posts.” Later, during his travels through Italy, he sent word of having initiated “his Excellency the Count W…” in Milan. Afterwards he proceeded to Pavia in hopes of enlisting the Professors at the University.40
The following is a short biographical sketch, from Italianopera.org correspondents in Sondrio:
The baron Thomas Maria Freiherr de Bassus was born in Poschiavo, Switzerland, in 1742. He studied jurisprudence at the University of Ingolstadt. Weishaupt (code name Spartacus), who founded the Order of the Bavarian Illuminati, on the 1 May 1776, was his schoolmate. De Bassus practiced for a year as an Adviser of court to Münich in Bavaria. In 1767 he became Patron [Podestà] of Poschiavo, a task already taken from his father Giovanni Maria. He married Cecilia Domenica Massella, from a family of notaries. At the premature death of his father, he inherited the palace of piazza del Borgo in Poschiavo, known today as the Albrici Hotel, in addition to his wealthy possessions in Valtellina and in Val di Poschiavo. After he had engaged the position of legal Assistant in Tirano (in the province of Sondrio, under the power of Grigioni), de Bassus became Podestà of Traona in 1781 and inherited in that period the goods of the German family branch, e. g. the feuds of Sandersdorf, Mendorf, Eggersberg, Harlanden and Dachenstein.
Entering the Order of the Bavarian Illuminati with the code name of Hannibal, de Bassus had the assignment, like the pseudonym suggests, to spread Illuminism beyond the Alps, above all in the Three Leagues (Swiss) and in the north of Italy. De Bassus acquired a printing company that, with the help of the Illuminatus typographer Joseph Ambrosioni, became the center of the diffusion of Weishaupt’s ideas from Poschiavo. The edition of de Bassus (1782) of the first Italian translation of the Werther of Goethe, written by Gaetano Grassi from Milan, was famous.41
De Bassus’ printing house in Poschiavo was, according to the respected Italian historian Franco Venturi, one of the first centers for the dissemination of revolutionary ideas up to the eve of the French Revolution in 1789.42
In 1787 Bassus became the patron to composer Johann Simon Mayr (1763- 1845), and the latter was soon employed as a music teacher in Sandersdorf Castle.43
Bassus joined Weishaupt’s Order in 1778 and was made an Areopagite in 1779.44
40. Barruel, op. cit., p. 605. “Master of the Posts” refers to Thurn und Taxis.
41. It was published in Grigionitaliani Notebooks in July 2000 and on the Internet shortly thereafter. The site with the English translation is now defunct, however a copy of the page still survives for posterity on the servers of the valuable project known as the Internet Archive; the Italian version is located here.
42. Franco Venturi, Riformatori lombardi nel Settecento, Torino, Einaudi, 1978, Volume I, p. 196, cited in “La prima traduzione del Verter di Poschiavo.”
43. “Johann Simon Mayr (1763 – 1845)”. The Bassus family brewery was also located at Sandersdorf Castle, since 1550. Today, the brewery continues and on the official logo for the company (de Bassus Schlossbrauerei zu Sandersdorf) there is displayed prominently that very famous castle in which the Bavarian authorities found the incriminating documents against the Illuminati.
Incidentally, De Bassus’ alias/pseudonym was not “Minos” as Hermann Schüttler had presumed — which I had repeated in Perfectibilists — in his book, Die Mitglieder des Illuminatenordens, 1776-1787/93 (1991). The following Illuminati members, however, did take the name “Minos”: Franz Dietrich von Ditfurth and Philipp Anton Freiherr von Redwitz.
Schloß zu Sandersdorf; Nachtrag von weitern Original-Schriften welche die Illuminaten-Sekte
The authorities raided the premises of Areopagite Tommaso de Bassus, at Sandersdorf Castle, found correspondences and other incriminating evidence. Published in May 1787, it was titled:
Nachtrag von weiteren Originalschriften, welche die Illuminatensekte überhaupt, sonderbar aber den Stifter derselben Adam Weishaupt, betreffen, und bey der auf dem Baron Bassuischen Schloß zu Sandersdorf, einem bekannten Illuminaten-Neste, vorgenommenen Visitation entdeckt, sofort auf Churfürstlich höchsten Befehl gedruckt und zum geheimen Archiv genommen worden sind, um solche jedermann auf Verlangen zur Einsicht vorlegen zu lassen ["Supplement of further original writings concerning the Illuminati sect in general, but particularly concerning its founder, Adam Weishaupt, which were discovered during the visitation carried out at the Baron Bassus’ castle in Sandersdorf, a well-known Illuminati nest. These writings have been immediately printed and taken to the secret archive by order of the Elector, in order to present them for inspection upon request."]
On Pages 39, 47 n.99, in Perfectibilists:
Except for minor discrepancies, the Illuminati didn’t deny the authenticity of the published documents; they objected to the way in which it was edited. In a few pages within the Originalschriften des Illuminatenordens, and Nachtrag von weitern Originalschriften, the editors, understandably, couldn’t resist appending scurrilous footnotes in condemnation of the Order. A more general objection from researchers and historians, however, is the fact that omissions are blatant throughout the texts. While reproducing letters and official reports, the editors usually censored the real identity of any noble or other high-ranking individual listed, making it difficult from the beginning to gain a complete picture of the Order. One of the last historians to inspect the original unedited material (at the Secret Archives of the Royal House of Bavaria), was René Le Forestier. In his 1914 tome, Les Illuminés de Bavière et la Franc-Maçonnerie Allemande, Le Forestier declares unequivocally that both Originalschriften des Illuminatenordens and Nachtrag von weitern Originalschriften were “scrupulous copies” of the material then housed in the archives. Except for the censoring of the actual names of a few initiates, there was nothing neither falsified nor suppressed in the resulting publications of 1787.99[…] [p. 47]99. See Le Forestier, op. cit., p. 532 and n. 3. Tragically the original documents once housed in the Bavarian Archives for all to inspect have gone missing. According to Monika Neugebauer-Wölk, “the entire collection was brought to the Munich Geheimes Hausarchiv and has been lost since the Second World War” (see her “Illuminaten” entry, op. cit., p. 595). Reinhard Markner — co-author with Neugebauer-Wölk on Die Korrespondenz des Illuminatenordens Band 1: 1776-1781 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2005) — maintains the original documents were destroyed during a WWII bombing raid on Munich in 1944 (email communication: Jan. 17, 2006).
Daniele Papacella, in Dai Bassi ai de Bassus : la riscoperta di una dinastia poschiavina, p.15, captions an early painting of Bassus, located at the Poschiavo Museum in Engadine:
"Tommaso Francesco Maria de Bassus (1742-1815) - At the age of 38, the native of Poschiavo officially becomes part of the Bavarian nobility. To truly obtain the title, he must fight, for in Bavaria the legitimacy of this succession is contested by two second cousins. Only a lengthy legal battle enables him to access the assets in 1781. At the end of the dispute, he proudly poses in a red livery. This is not a military uniform, but a style that signifies his loyalty to his new lord: the Elector Prince of Bavaria [Karl Theodor]."
In 1781, Baron de Bassus was one of the most important members of the Illuminati, and by 1786/87 had amassed and stored official communications and correspondences from within the highest level of the Order. The painting captures for posterity what he looked during this crucial decade, as does the following.
See Perfectibilists, pp. 38-9:
1787 — May. As a result of further police searches of Baron de Bassus’ castle at Sandersdorf the Bavarian government published more secret documents of the Order, in two volumes, under the title of Nachtrag von weitern Originalschriften … [Supplement of Further Original Works …]
Sandersdorf Castle, Beer, and Illuminati Original Writings
Much more to come....