Past Worshipful Master, EUROPA UNITĂ Lodge No. 27, Bucharest;
President of Lecturers’ College
In the year 2009, Abel Douay and Gérard Hertault sent to the publisher for printing their book, by the title Napoléon III et la Roumanie. Influence de la franc-maçonnerie. This document was found in the manuscript archives at the Romanian Academy. The document, undated and unsigned, emanates from the French Ministry of the Imperial House and of Fine Arts and it is addressed to the Wallachian diplomat Ioan Bălăceanu. Although the French authors recommend prudence in regard to the source of the text, they ascribe authorship to the Count Alexandre Walewski, the famous foreign minister of Napoleon III, who led the Ministry of the Imperial House and of the Fine Arts between 1860 and 1863.
He comes, therefore, after the election of Alexandru Ioan Cuza to the principalities of Tara Romaneasca and Moldova. Nevertheless, he offers a very coherent explanation of the events leading to that election: the idea to place, for three or four years, a lord [hospodar] at the lead of the Principalities comes directly from the Emperor. Here are the reasons which have suggested it to him. The French government desires sincerely the unification of the Principalities under a foreign prince; but this combination has no chance of success, because Turkey, Russia, England and Austria would oppose it. The only means to attain at a later point to the desire of the Romanian people is to adopt today a provisional solution. By naming a lord for four years, the question of the foreign prince remains in wating; we give time to the Powers that at this moment are opposing this system to think for a longer time on it and, probably, to join it. in the meanwhile, the union of the Principalities is maintained, and the public peace is assured by the disarming of the rival ambitions that dispute power between themselves and which, instead of uniting against a prince elected for life, will content themselves to delay their hopes.
View in this way, the events take on a clear meaning. The involvement of Napoleon III in the Unification of the Principalities is already a notorious fact and I do not believe that it requires further argument. The novelty stems from the fact that the mandate of prince Cuza would have been limited to four years, or however long it would have taken the Powers opposed to the Unificiation to recognize it. Prince Cuza was merely the momentary solution before the introduction of a foreign ruler.
Therefore, the coup d’etat of 1864 and the violent conflict that started between the prince Cuza and the masons who had previously supported him can be interpreted as the attempt by the prince to stay on the throne beyond the limits set to his mandate. At the same time, the prince’s letters to Napoleon III, in which he offered his resignation, or the immediate acceptance of the abdication, can be interpreted as the expressions of a guilty conscience, because, it is undeniable, Alexandru Ioan Cuza had a conscience, even in the most perverted sequences of his existence.
At this point, however, we are not interested in the reign of the prince Cuza, but in his election, which marked the reality of the Unification of the Principalities. The first observation which we ought to make is that the events in Wallachia and Moldova were animated by a group of Romanian reformers who called themselves patriots and who were led by the veterans of the Revolution of 1848. Almost all of them were indoctrinated masons and the belonged to the radical and republican lodges of France, some of them even from the Italian Carbonari organization, and they all were to use to their full extent the valences of Freemasonry to attain their purposes.
Abel Douay and Gérard Hertault, the authors I have already mentioned, write:when once Napoleon had obtained the annulment of the first elections, the Wallachian patriots, but more especially the Moldovan patriots, were able to enter the Ad-hoc Divans in increased numbers. Almost all of them were masons. Among them, some distinguished themselves, as they had returned from France. They were the majority of the Revolutionaries of 1848, having returned from their long exile. Brethren Golescu, Dumitru and Ion Brătianu, Constantin A. Rosetti, Mihail Kogălniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Manolache Costache Epureanu, Moruzi, Constantin Negri etc. establishing their headquarters in the Wallachian capitol, Bucharest, they maintained permanent contact with their Parisian Lodges, especially the Lodge L’Athénée des Étrangers. Surrounding the “veterans” of 1848, time after time, young men had received their formative teaching, and they were no less active in the difficult electoral battle that was about to lead to the election of the princes of Moldova and Wallachia.
From a Masonic perspective, is very interesting the fact that also on the other side of the barricades, among the anti-unionists, there were well-known masons, such as Gheorghe Asachi or Theodor Balş from Moldova. We must therefore underline the fact that there is not a Masonic unanimity on the issue of the Unification, and the Brethren that found themselves under the Austrian influence, for example, acted vigorously against the unionist party.
However, many authors, among whom I number myself, frequently explain the Unification of the Principalities by pointing to Freemasonry. This opinion stems from two major reasons: the first, that both at the domestic level and at the foreign level, the Masonic structures in place were used to form and to support the unionist party; the second, that the Unification was not simply a political act, but it generated also a transformation at the level of mentalities, by Europeanizing the Romanian principalities, for example by importing French institutions and administrative strategies which, in their own turn, originate in mentalities modeled by Freemasonry.(…)
I believe that the Masonic pro-unionist actions in the Romanian Principalities was coordinated by Napoleon III, either directly or through his representatives in the Principalities. There were two kinds of such representatives: some were official, others were secret.
Among the official representatives, the consuls in Iasi and in Bucharest are well known, Victor Place and Louis Béclard. Victor Place, a diplomat and archeologist, was a kind of Indiana Jones doubling as an exalted tribune basking in the Masonic light. The French Foreign Ministry was forced to attract his attention periodically to be more prudent, at least in his official correspondence. He supported the unionists in Moldova with such zeal and so obviously, that everyone understood what was going on there, and the unionists won. The prince Cuza afterward asked him to recommend the men that would go to form the first government of the United Principalities.
In his turn, Mr. Place wrote to the Count Walewski: The elevation of colonel Cuza to the principality is certainly the most thrilling triumph of French policy . nevertheless, in his official correspondence, dated January the 24th, 1859, he affirms: This election has yet another interesting part: the fact that, although it is a complete triumph of French policy, it had about itself something so unexpected, something quite so improvised, that not even the most obvious ill will could not accuse French agents of having worked to its accomplishment.
If we were to know of the activities of Victor Place no more than the historian knows, we would be amazed at the nonchalance with which this French enthusiast could lie. In fact, however, the consul was sending something else entirely to Paris, an extremely interesting piece of information: the fact that there existed no evidence that could have tied the French agents to the election of Cuza. In this manner, through an official piece of correspondence, he confirms, if involuntarily, the existence of such French agents in the territory of the Romanian Principalities in the period leading up to the elections of 1859 and the subsequent Unification.
I had myself reached the same conclusion as to the existence of such agents, because one of them, Auguste Carence, is a character I met in the history of Romanian masonry. Auguste Carence, officially a merchant, came to Wallachia, it is not known clearly when, and starting in the year 1856 he becomes active in the Masonic field, where his activities are nothing shy of prodigious. In 1874, several years after the fall of Napoleon III, the Grand Orient of France completely repudiated him, pretending that Auguste Carence had never been empowered to create lodges and to initiate masons, much less to represent the Grand Orient in Romania . This was of course just throwing dust to blind those foolish enough to believe it: in the period in which Carence had been active, the official title Romania did not even exist.
In fact, Carence founded and installed many lodges in the name of the Grand Orient of France. Almost all of them are celebrated names in the history of our country: Steaua Dunării, Înţelepţii din Heliopolis, Steaua României. For this paper, the most important is the story of the creation of the Steaua Dunării Lodge.
In the year 1966, Gérard Şerbănesco asserted, in his ample work Histoire de la Franc-Maçonnerie Universelle, that Auguste Carence came into Romanian territories in 1856 and founded three lodges, all of them bearing the same name: L’Étoile du Danube, in Galaţi, in Iaşi and in Bucharest. The affirmation is taken from the monumental Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie coordinated by Daniel Ligou, but the dictionary does not mention Auguste Carence!
In the Dictionary, we are told that, in the wake of the Crimean War and the abolition of the Russian Protectorate over the Principalities, the refugees that returned to the country constituted, first in Galaţi, the L’Étoile du Danube Lodge, then a lodge bearing the same name in Iaşi, then in the following year, a homonymous lodge in Bucharest. Alexandru Ioan Cuza himself apparently was WM of the entity in Galaţi, which capacity apparently weighed heavily in the decision to elect him prince in both principalities. Current Romanian historians, especially Horia Nestorescu-Bălceşti and Dan Berindei, determinedly deny the truth of this assertion, showing that we can talk of only one lodge named L’Étoile du Danube, the one in Bucharest.
Let us look at the facts, however. The Grand Orient of France emitted a patent, nr. 23540 / 1856, for the L’Étoile danubienne Lodge, headquartered in Bucharest. At the same time, in Brussels, the pro-unionist magazine L’Étoile du Danube was printed, under the two editors Cezar Bolliac and C. A. Rosetti. Soon, this magazine was to make its destiny in Romania. Thus, both versions of the name, L’Étoile danubienne and L’Étoile du Danube appear simultaneously and are both equally Masonic. In Romanian, for that matter, the title of the gazette of Bolliac and Rosetti quickly imposed itself and became dominant: Steaua Dunării, and this is the title that appears on the band of the fresh-minted lodge.
Officially, the L’Étoile danubienne lodge comprised only foreigners: most of the membership were French, there were also some Swiss, Belgians, Italians and Russians. Nevertheless, in the Masonic biography of some great Romanian personages such as Ion Brătianu, Ion Heliade-Rădulescu, or Dimitrie Bolintineanu, we find it said that on the date of june 1, 1857, they founded the Steaua Dunării Lodge in Bucharest!
Moreover, according to the documents researched by Horia Nestorescu-Bălceşti, the Steaua Dunării lodge transformed into a Grand Lodge on the date of June 1, 1859, and its first Grand Master is Ion Brătianu. Nevertheless, according to the documents researched by Dan Berindei, it emerges that: „at that moment, with the exception of one P. Petrovici, probably Romanian, all the members of the lodge were foreigners!”
We are either talking about a lodge with an exclusively foreign membership or about a lodge whose membership included great Romanian personages! It is as though we were talking about two different realities. In fact, it is likely they are two different realities. A lodge, let’s say, official, named L’Étoile danubienne, patented in Bucharest. And another structure, L’Étoile du Danube, undercover at least until 1859, which worked to achieve the Unification of the Principalities. Since Auguste Carence himself requested the patent and became the WM of the official lodge, his involvement in this Masonic edifice becomes clear suddenly.
In 1860, another strange occurrence took place in connection to Auguste Carence: the L’Étoile danubienne Lodge erased him, on the ground that he was in favor of the initiation of Romanian brethren. Since Carence was WM, this act led to the dormancy of the entity. On the other hand, the Grand Lodge Steaua Dunării does not seem to have been affected by this occurrence, because its GM until 1861 was Ion Brătianu, and thereafter Ion Heliade-Rădulescu. The fact itself that this latter entity, Steaua Dunării, which in some of the documents is named the Mother-Lodge, transformed in June 1859 into a Grand Lodge indicates the existence of certain territorial pretensions over the entire territory of the Principalities, which would tend to support the hypothesis of Şerbănesco and Ligou.
The history of Romanian masonry is still far from being completely written.