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Abel Seyler Passes Awway

Today in Masonic History Abel Seyler passes away in 1801.

Abel Seyler was a Swiss-born German banker and theatre principal.

Seyler was born in Liestal, Switzerland on August 23rd, 1730. He was born into an aristocratic family. On both his mother's and father's sides of the family he was related to prominent Swiss families, on his mother's side he was also related to prominent Italian families.

Sometime before the beginning of the 1750's, Seyler made his way to Hamburg. There he started two business the first with Edwin Müller called Müller& Seyler the second was not until 1757 when Müller and Seyler brought in Johann Martin Tillemann and formed Seyler & Tillemann. Both companies did essentially the same thing which was speculation, especially with financial instruments. The companies were heavily speculated in the debasement, reduction of value, of currency during the seven years war. In 1763, both companies declared bankruptcy. The bankruptcy has been referred to as a "malicious bankruptcy." The two companies were 3 million Mark Banco, currency only listed on a banks books as opposed to actual currency, in debt.

The only surviving documents from the bankruptcy trials, which are famous in the history of capitalism are from the creditors side, no documents remain regarding the response from Seyler and his partners. The creditors documents paint a picture of misused funds for personal gain and other unsavory behavior, although nothing was illegal.

After the bankruptcy, starting in 1767, Seyler became devoted to the theatre, a passion of his even before the fall of his companies. In 1767 he became the main financial backer of the Hamburg National Theatre which was the first attempt to make a German national theatre, a theatre backed by private and public funds more especially monies coming from the national budget of the country. Over the next 25 years Seyler helped to establish a variety of theaters and theatre companies around Germany especially in Gotha. He also backed several plays.

In 1792, Seyler retired with a pension from Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel.

Seyler passed away on April 25th, 1801.

Seyler is believed to have been initiated into Freemasonry in London around 1753. He became a member of Absalom lodge in Hamburg in 1755. Seyler along with several members of one of his theatre companies formed the first masonic lodge in Gotha which was originally named Cosmopolit. Later the lodge was renamed to Zum Rautenkranz in honor of the ducal family in Gotha. Seyler with many members of his theatre company and various members of Duke Ernest II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg's family were members of the lodge. The lodge became a center of the spiritual and cultural life of Gotha, and a stronghold of enlightenment and philanthropy. The Duke later gave Adam Weishaupt asylum in Gotha and several members of the lodge became members of the Illuminati, it is unclear whether Seyler was one of them.