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Toast

Anderson says (Constitutions, 1738, page 110) that in 1719 Doctor Desaguliers, having been installed Grand Master, "forthwith revived the old, regular, and peculiar toasts or healths of the Freemasons." If Anderson's statements could be implicitly trusted as historical facts, we should have to conclude that a system of regulated toasts prevailed in the Lodges before the revival. The custom of drinking healths at banquets is a very old one, and can be traced to the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. From them it was handed down to the moderns, and especially in England we find the "waeshael" of the Saxons, a term used in drinking, and equivalent to the modern phrase, "Your health."

Steele, in the Tatler, intimates that the word toast began to be applied to the drinking of healths in the early part of the eighteenth century. And although his account of the origin of the word has been contested, it is very evident that the drinking of toasts was a universal custom in the clubs and festive associations which were common in London about the time of the revival of Freemasonry. It is therefore to be presumed that the Masonic Lodges did not escape the influences of the convivial spirit of that age, and drinking in the Lodge-room during the hours of refreshment was a usual custom, but, as Doctor Oliver observes, all excess was avoided, and the confidentialities of freemasonry were regulated by the Old Charges, which directed the Brethren to enjoy themselves with decent mirth, not forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his inclination, nor hindering him from going home when he pleased The drinking was conducted by rule, the Master giving the toast, but first inquiring of the Senior Wardens "Are sou charged in the West, Brother Senior?" and of the Junior Wardens "Are you charged in the South, brother Junior?" to which appropriate replies being made, the toast was drunk with honors peculiar to the Institution. In an old Masonic song, the following stanza occurs:

"Are you charged in the West? are you charged in the South? " The Worshipful Master cries. "We are charged in the West, we are charged in the South.' Each Warden prompt replies.

One of the catechetical works of the eighteenth century thus described the drinking customs of the Freemasons of that period: "The table being plentifully supplied with seine and punch, every man has a glass set before him, and fills it with what he chooses. But he must drink his glass in turn, or at least keep the motion with the rest. When, therefore, a public health is given, the Master fills first, and desires the Brethren to charge their glasses; and when this is supposed to be done, the Master says, Brethren, are -you all charged? The Senior and Junior Wardens answer, we are all charged in the South and West. Then they all stand up, and observing the Master's motions, like the soldier his right-hand man, drink their glasses off." Another Work of the same period says that the first toast given was, The Sting and the Craft." But a still older work gives what it calls "A Free-Mason's Health" in the following words: "Here's a health to our Society and to every faithful Brother that keeps his oath of secrecy. As we are sworn to love each other, the world no Order knows lice this our noble and ancient Fraternity. Let them wonder at the Mystery. Here, brother, I drink to thee."

In time the toasts improved in their style, and were deemed of so much importance that lists of them, for the benefit of those who were deficient of inventive genius, were published in all the pocketbooks, calendars, and song books of the Order. thus a large collection is to be found in the Masonic Miscellanies of Stephen Jones. A few of them will show their technical character: "To the secret and silent"; "To the memory of the distinguished Three." "To all that live within compass and square"; "To the memory of the Tyrian Artists." "To him that first the word began," etc. But there was a regular series of toasts which, besides these voluntary ones, were always given at the refreshments of the Brethren. Thus, whether or no the reigning sovereign happened to be a member of the Fraternity, the first toast given was always "The King and the Craft." And the final toast by the Tiler, common in most English speaking countries still never be forgotten. In the French Lodges the drinking of toasts was, with the word itself, borrowed from England. It was, however, Subjected to strict rules, from which there could be no departure. Seven toasts were called Santas d'obligation, the Obligatory Healths, because drinking them was made obligatory, and could not be omitted at the Lodge banquet. They were as follows:

1. The health of the Sovereign and his family. 2. That of the Grand Master and the chiefs of the Order. 3. That of the Master of the Lodge. 4. That of the Wardens. 5. That of the other officers.. 6. That of the Visitors. 7. That of all Freemasons wheresoever spread over the two hemispheres.

In 1872, the Grand Orient, after long discussions reduced the number of Sants d'obligation from seven to four, and changed their character. They were revised thus.

1. To the Grand Orient of France, the Lodges of its correspondences and foreign Grand Orients. 2. To the Master of the Lodge. 3 To the Wardens, the officers, affiliated Lodges, and Visiting Brethren. 4. To all Freemasons existing on each hemisphere.

The systematized method of drinking toasts, which in an elaborate fashion once prevailed in the Lodges of the English-speaking countries, has been, to some extent, abandoned; yet a few toasts still remain, which, although not absolutely obligatory, are still never omitted. Thus no Masonic Lodge would neglect at its banquet to offer, as its first toast, a sentiment expressive of respect for the Grand Lodge. With the temperance movement there has been a grooving check upon the use of stimulants with these expressions of good will and affection, and in the United States old customs have been modified materially.

The venerable Doctor Oliver was a great admirer of the custom of drinking Masonic toasts, and panegyrizes it in his Book of the Lodge (page 147). He says that at the time of refreshment in a Masonic Lodge "the song appeared to have more zest than in a private company; the toast thrilled more vividly upon the recollection; and the Small modicum of punch with which it was honored retained a higher flavor than the same potation if produced at a private board." And he adds, as a specimen, the following "characteristic toast," which he says has always received with a "profound expression of pleasure."

To him that all things understood To him that found the stone and wood, To him that hapless lost his blood In doing of his duty To that blest age and that blest morn Whereon those three great men were born Our noble science to adorn With Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.

It is not surprising that he should afterward pathetically deplore the discontinuance of the custom. Brother Sir Walter Scott has in the Knight's Toast beautifully expressed a sentiment of sincere affection evoked by a demand in some jovial company that the speaker would voice his homage of some cherished loved one for the honor of their united applause, a versification by our Brother Craftsman deserving of record here as follows:

Saint Leon raised his kindling eve And lifts the sparkling cup on high; " I drink to one,' he said, ' Whose image never may depart, Deep graven on this grateful heart Till memory be dead." Saint Leon paused, as if he would Not breathe her name in careless mood Thus lightly to another; Then bent his noble heads as though To give the word the reverence due, And gently said, My mother!

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