Bahrdt, Charles Frederick

, one of those German writers who have of late years disgraced the profession of religion and philosophy, was born in 1741, at Leipsic, where his father was a clergyman, and educated this son for the church, but with so little success that he soon left college, and enlisted in the army. Being bought off, however, he returned to the university, and in 1761 was admitted to the degree of M. A. Soon afterwards he became catecbist in his father’s church, was a popular preacher, and in 1765 published sermons and some controversial writings, which evinced that he possessed both learning and genius. From his early days he appears to have been of a debauched turn, with a propensity to satire which no considerations could restrain and these two qualities, which he persisted in all his life, laid the foundation of what he termed his misfortunes, although they were no other than the contempt which his infamous conduct and impious doctrines have a natural tendency to produce in every well-ordered society. His life became a series of adventures too numerous for the plan of this work but the principal were these.

One of his shameful amours having rendered it necessary for him to leave Leipsic, his friends, with some difficulty, obtained for him a professorship at Erlangen, afterwards at Erfurth, and in 1771 at Giessen. But the boldness of his doctrines, and the malignity of his satirical compositions, of which he was very fond, would soon have expelled him from Giessen, if, just as he was about to be dismissed from his professorship, he had not received an invitation to Marschlins in Switzerland, to superintend an academy. To this place he went about 1776, and began his new career by forming the seminary after the model of an academy which had before been projected by Basedow, in the principality of Anhalt Dessau, under the name of P hilanthropinum. The plan of this was professedly to form the young mind to the love of mankind and of virtue, without any aid from | religion, except what he was pleased to call philosophical religion. But the Swiss were not yet prepared torso great a change of system, and after disgusting them with doctrines, the immoral tendency of some of which could no longer be mistaken, he removed to Durkheim, a town in the Palatinate, and formed an association for a Philanthropinum of his own. A large fund was collected, and he was enabled to travel into Holland and England to engage pupils. England is said to have furnished four.

On his return he obtained the castle of count Leining Hartzburgh at Heidesheim, for his Pkilanthropinum^ and in 1778 it was consecrated by a solemn religious festival. His conduct here, however, was too obnoxious both in principle and practice, to permit him a long continuance, and his shocking treatment of his wife contributed to render the scheme abortive. His academy became in debt, and he took to flight, but was imprisoned at Dienheim. On his release he settled at Halle, as the keeper of a tavern and billiard table, and lived in open adultery with a woman who was his assistant, and for whom he turned his wife and daughter out of doors.

His next design was to direct the operations of a secret society called the “German Union for noting out superstition and prejudices, and for advancing true Christianity.” To forward this project, which was but a branch of the general conspiracy then carrying on by the enemies of religion and government, he published a great many books, containing principles fortunately so wild and extravagant as to prove in some measure an antidote against the intended mischief. When he had laboured in this cause about two years, some of the secrets of the Union transpired his former conduct and his constant imprudence made him suspected his associated friends lodged informations against him his papers were seized, and he himself was sent to prison, first at Halle, and then at Magdeburg. After a year’s confinement he was released, and would probably have concerted some new projects, had he not been attacked by a disorder which put an end to his life, April 23, 1793.

His numerous works evince learning and sagacity, much critical taste, and considerable powers of discussion, but their general tendency is so hostile to all that the good and wise hold sacred, and to all that the well-being of society requires to be held sacred, that an enumeration of them | may well be spared, especially as it is very unlikely they will ever be imported into this country, and probably have already sunk into oblivion on the continent. Of hi* private character enough may be seen to illustrate the of such philosophers, in his lite in Di*. Gi. L’s supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica, from wh tii.s sketch has been extracted, and in professor Robmscn’s Proois of a Conspiracy. If higher proof be wanting, it may be taken from his German biographer Schlichtegroll, or from his life written by himself, which is a wonderful specimen of the effrontery of acknowledged depravity. 1


Encyclop. Brit, ubi supra. —Dict. Hist.