December 27 is the Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist, and therefore is one of two major celebrations for Freemasonry (June 24, the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, is the other). On the 27th of December, 1779, while encamped at Morristown, New Jersey during the Revolution, the Masonic brethren serving under Gen. George Washington celebrated the Feast Day in the Masonic style of that period, with a church service, a lodge meeting, and a meal together.
From the records of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey:
“...the headquarters of Washington, at the close of the year 1779, were at Morristown, in this State. The American Union Lodge, which was an army Lodge, whose Warrant had been granted by Colonel Richard Gridley, Deputy Grand Master of Massachusetts, was at that time with the army under Washington at Morristown. At the festival meeting of this Lodge, held to celebrate the festival of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1779, the record shows the presence of sixty-eight brethren, one of whom was George Washington.”
|One of George Washington's Masonic aprons|
is displayed in the museum of the Grand Lodge
of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
(Magpie Mason photo.)
It was at this meeting where a project was launched to bring some order and unity to the Masonic fraternity in the colonies by establishing a single grand lodge for America. Mordecai Gist, representing the Masons in the armed forces of Maryland, was made president of the committee that several months later would formally issue the call for this general grand lodge… with Gen. and Bro. George Washington as its Grand Master.
From this committee’s petition:
TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL,
The Grand Masters of the Several Lodgesin the Respective United States of America.
Union. Force. Love.
The subscribers, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in convention, to you, as the patrons and protectors of the craft upon this continent, prefer their humble address.
Unhappily, the distinctions of interest, the political views, and national disputes subsisting between Great Britain and these United States have involved us, not only in the general calamites that disturb the tranquility which used to prevail in this once happy country, but in a peculiar manner affects our society, by separating us from the Grand Mother Lodge in Europe, by disturbing our connection with each other, impeding the progress, and preventing the perfection of Masonry in America.
We deplore the miseries of our countrymen, and particularly lament the distresses which many of our poor brethren must suffer, as well from the want of temporal relief, as for want of a source of LIGHT to govern their pursuits and illuminate the path of happiness. And we ardently desire to restore, if possible, that fountain of charity, from which, to the unspeakable benefit of mankind, flows benevolence and love. Considering with anxiety these disputes, and the many irregularities and improprieties committed by weak or wicked brethren, which too manifestly show the present dissipated and almost abandoned condition of our lodges in general, as well as the relaxation of virtue amongst individuals, we think it our duty, Right Worshipful Brothers and Seniors in the Craft, to solicit your immediate interposition to save us from the impending dangers of schisms and apostasy. To obtain security from those fatal evils, with affectionate humility, we beg leave to recommend the adopting and pursuing the most necessary measures for establishing one Grand Lodge in America, to preside over and govern all other lodges of whatsoever degree or denomination, licensed or to be licensed upon the continent, that the ancient principles and discipline of Masonry being restored, we may mutually and universally enjoy the advantages arising from frequent communion and social intercourse....”
While Washington was not named in this petition, it was made known that he was the choice of the brethren to serve as the Grand Master. Washington did not accept the position, and the general Grand Lodge in America never came to fruition.