Acquaint Them that their Healths Would be Drunk

in about Warren

Date: December 13, 1773

The brethren of the Ancient and Honorable Society of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS, are hereby Notified, That the Right Worshipful John Rowe, Esq; Grand Master of North-America, designs to celebrate the Feast of St. JOHN the Evangelist on Monday the 27th of December Instant, at the House of Brother Ingersoll, the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in King-Street, Boston, where the Brethren are desired to attend.

THO. BROWN, Gr. Secr’y.

— Dinner precisely at 2 o’Clock —

Source:  Boston Evening Post, issue 1994, page 3

Commentary:  Between the time this invitation appeared and the celebration on December 27th, the Destruction of the Tea occurred in Boston harbor. While not explicitly stated here, John Rowe’s Grand mastership was of English Modern masons.  In parallel Joseph Warren, as Grand master of Scottish Rite Ancients had issued an invitation for the same kind of celebration to be held at Green Dragon Tavern.

During the festivities on the 27th, Warren sent a delegation from his gathering for Ancients at the Green Dragon Tavern to the St. John’s Modern celebration taking place simultaneously at Colonel Ingersoll’s, to “acquaint them that their Healths would be drunk at half o’clock.”  John Rowe, grand master of St. John’s, returned the compliment.  By comparison, seasonal public Christmas celebrations generally did not occur in New England of the period.  Christmas trees and revels would have been condemned by the pious as pagan or idolatrous.

In addition to some likely critical (but opaque to scholars) role during the Tea Crisis, Joseph Warren had much to celebrate.  As a mason, this party and formal toast crowned years of behind the scenes work to achieve a détente between John Rowe’s Moderns and Joseph Warren’s St. Andrew’s Lodge of Ancients.  If you can keep track of all the different saints in lodges’ names and masonic feasts during a rapid fire conversation, you are a more precise thinker than am I.  I made such an error during a very well attended and successful talk before New York City’s Joseph Warren Gothic Lodge #934, but fortunately convivial brotherhood was not offended.

During the late 1760’s relations were hostile between Rowe’s Moderns and Warren’s Scottish rite Ancients. Warren’s Ancients long sought a “happy coalition” with John Rowe’s English Moderns.  St. Andrew’s Ancients were repeatedly rebuffed on stated grounds of irregularities in accepting new members and on the validity of their charter.  Warren performed an end-around, which one imagines was not popular with strident Patriots, of allying with British Army traveling masonic lodges.  In 1769 Warren’s St. Andrew’s, along with its allied British lodges, successfully petitioned The Scottish Rite hierarchy to elevate St. Andrew’s to Grand Lodge status. Rowe’s Moderns no longer held any sway over Warren, St. Andrew’s, or the Ancients in North America.

The schism, trans-Atlantic in nature, between Ancients and Moderns involved subtleties of masonic ritual. Independent hierarchies resulted. Formation of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge in the 1780s formally united the the variants under one umbrella organization, by then independent of their UK-chartered antecedents. In the post-Revolutionary period, so many of the St. John’s Grand Lodge Moderns had left as Tory refugees, that the nominal union in the Massachusetts Grand Lodge was in fact a predominantly Scottish Rite organization. Joseph Warren had posthumously won a revolution of sorts within the Masonic Atlantic world.  American History graduate students are invited to write their dissertation on this saga, as it is an interesting story on its own, and possesses important linkages to many people and themes of general interest.

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