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Grand Stewards Lodge

In 1719 Grand Master Desaguliers "forthwith revived the old regular and peculiar Toasts or Healths of the Free Masons." "In 1728 he proposed that a certain number of Stewards should be chosen, who should have the entire care and direction of the Annual Festival." It was thus that the rank of Grand Stewards was instituted in the Mother Grand Lodge, 1717, England. In American Grand Lodges Grand Stewards have few set duties; in the Mother Grand Lodge they had almost the whole care of preparing for a Quarterly Grand Communication, and divided with the Committee on Charity much of the administrative work of the infant Grand Lodge. In 1731 they were given Red Aprons to wear (Lodges which regularly sent Grand Stewards were called Red Apron Lodges), and it is believed that just as the thistle blue adopted by Grand Lodge as the color for Grand Lodge Aprons was borrowed from the Order of the Garter, the red of the Grand Stewards was adopted from the Order of Bath. A Grand Stewards Lodge was constituted in 1735. (See page 421.) From Minutes of early Lodges it appears that an appointment to wear the Red Apron was costly, either to the wearer or to his Lodge; it also appears from the same Minutes that the office of Lodge Stewards did not come into vogue until later, perhaps by following the lead of the Grand Lodge. In Bro. Oxford's history of Lodge No. 4 he states that it was in 1774 that the By-laws provided for two Stewards, one to act as Master of Ceremonies, one to order supper and liquors.

In American Lodges and Grand Lodges a "feast" is seldom more than a supper, dinner, or banquet, usually accompanied by a program of music and speeches. The English Lodge or Grand Lodge Feast was an occasion of a different kind. In Grand Lodge itself much Grand Lodge business was conducted at the table. Many constituent Lodges were "table Lodges"; their members assembled around the table, set up in the middle of the room, and remained there to open Lodge, conduct business, initiate Candidates, etc.; this custom continued in some Lodges into the first decade of the Nineteenth Century.

The Grand Stewards not only "provided" the feast, but also no doubt arranged for items of Grand Lodge business, and for that reason came to have an official standing second only to the Grand Master, his Deputy, and his Wardens. For at least two centuries in England, from about 1600 (and in lesser degree to the present) the social life of the Lodge, especially its eating and drinking, was not a mere adjunct to Lodge activity but stood near the center of it; the history of the Fraternity proves that Lodge Stewards exist to have charge of a Lodge's social life, that they should do so as Lodge officers, and that it is a departure from the original design of the Lodge to leave that function to Special or to Standing Committees.

In Vol. II, of Records of the Lodge of Antiquity, page 234, Bro. and Captain C. W. Firebrace says: "In the early days of Grand Lodge the Feast was provided by the voluntary efforts of one or more Stewards. It was not till 1728 [eleven years after erection of the Grand Lodge] that they were constituted into a Board of 12 members, and in March, 1731/2, a law was made 'giving a privilege to every Acting Steward of nominating his successor in that office for the year ensuing. [During the years when the Grand Stewards chose the appointive Grand Officers, and also chose their own successors it is evident that Grand Lodge was ruled by an oligarchy it is one of the many facts of a like kind which aroused resentment among Lodges and led to the formation of a now and more democratic Grand Lodge in 1751.1 In 1771 lt was proposed in Grand Lodge:

"(1) That the Law of 1731/2 be abrogated. "(2) That there be 15 Stewards instead of l2. "(3) That the Stewards be nominated by the Lodges within the Bills of Mortality in rotation beginning with the Senior Lodge, each of such Lodges having power to nominate one person at the annual Grand Feast to serve that Office for the year ensuing."

These Resolutions were approved at the next Meeting on November 29, but were not confirmed on February 24,1772, and the old practice continued until the Union (of the Modern (1717) and Ancient (1751) Grand Lodges in 1813. From a distance it looks as if Grand Lodge had become a closed circle ruled by a few London Lodges. In Minute Books it is referred to, now and then, not as Grand Lodge, but as 'the London Grand Lodge. Lodges which resented this Londonism, or local oligarchy, were willing to unite with the new Grand Lodge of 1751. For the Festivals of 1814 and 1815 the Grand Stewards were nominated by the Grand Master and the number increased to 18. Two years later it was decided that the 18 Lodges from which the Stewards of 1814 had been chosen should elect their Stewards annually, and it has so remained until now, the number being increased to 19 by the addition of an old Lodge which had been one of those from which they were originally drawn, but which had afterwards dropped out.

Note. It will be noted that Anderson's Constitutions state that Dr. Desaguliers revived "the old regular and peculiar Toasts or Healths," etc. It is not difficult to understand why a Toast list had to be "regulated," for an unregulated member might propose a Toast to some man or cause which would disturb peace and harmony-- thus, when the feelings between Jacobites and Hanoverians were most intense, a Toast to the Pretender would have aroused a storm; as would a toast to a Republican or to a Democratic candidate at an American Grand Lodge banquet. One of the most satisfactory books is The Grand Stewards and Red Apron Lodges, by Albert F. Calvert; Kenning & Son; London; 1917.

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