Prologue to the 'Petition'


PROLOGUE TO "THE PETITION"

Ladies and Gentlemen:           

        You are about to witness a re-enactment of an important event during
our Revolutionary War.  This particular event was a Masonic meeting in
Morristown, NJ on St. John the Evangelist Day, December 27, 1779.  It is
not an imaginary event and the characters in this play were very real
people and include some of the greatest names in American History.  (We
note especially that of George Washington.)  The minutes of this meeting
have been preserved from that time until now and every action in this
play has been taken from those minutes.  Give particular attention to a
speech Bro. Washington makes late in the action.  The sentiments he
expresses are taken directly from letters he had written to his friends
and Brother Masons.


        The Winter of 1779-80 was one of the coldest ever recorded in this area
-- before or since!  Washington selected Morristown for his winter
quarters because of its strategic location in the inland hills between
New York and Philadelphia.  It was but the remnant of an army; poorly
clothed, ragged, hungry and cold, the men had received no pay for many
months.  Washington's appeal to the Continental Congress went unheeded. 
For days on end the men were reduced to chewing on birch twigs and it is
recorded that some officers killed and ate their pet dogs.  Yet -- here
they did endure!
        History records no greater suffering nor greater devotion to high
ideals that was exhibited by these stalwart citizen-soldiers at
Morristown.


        If you would know whence many of the Founders of this Nation developed
their lofty ideals of the dignity of the individual man, their sense of
equality, their sense of responsibility and devotion to duty as well as
their innate piety -- it is here presented in microcosm.


        Freemasonry was well established in America long before the Revolution
and played a very strong but unsung part in the founding and
establishment of this great Nation.


        And now, come with me to the meeting room above Arnold's Tavern on the
Green in Morristown, on a cold gray winter afternoon in 1779.


 THE  PETITION, 
          At Arnolds Tavern,  Morristown New Jersey, 
          St. Johns Day, December  27, 1779  
           by  Willett R. Wilson  (not dated but guess at 1960)


        Outside it is piercing cold.  Gray light of a somber winter afternoon
filters through the curtains of the ballroom of Arnold's Tavern in
Morristown.  In the center of the room stands an altar with three
candles on it.  There is a Bible closed, and a square and compasses.  On
the left there is a raised dais of three steps and a large chair for the
Master.  At the right is a two-step dais and a similar chair for the
Senior Warden.  Center rear is a one-step dais and a chair for the Jr.
Warden.  A small pedestal is in front of each of these stations.  On the
right and the left of the Master's station is a small table or desk for
the Treasurer and Secretary.  Several chairs are in haphazard order in
the rear, but there is a large open space about the altar.  There are
rods for the Senior and Junior Deacons.


        Enter, right, Binns the Tyler, wearing a white Masonic apron and in an
Army Private's uniform, and a male servant Joseph,of the tavern.  Joseph
knee britches and white stockings with a large white or green apron
(similar to a butcher's apron).  He carries a box or basket of candles
from which he and the Tyler fill the sconces.  The Tyler lights the
candles from the lighted candle which he brought into the room.  They
also place the chairs in a row along the rear of the room.  There are
not enough chairs for everyone so room must be provided for standees. 
The Tyler opens the Bible and displays the square and compasses.  Their
conversation continues as follows as they go about the simple tasks.


SCENE 1


Joseph:  This is the coldest winter we've ever had in Morristown.  There
must be three feet of snow out there.  And it's getting even colder. 
You fellows camped out in the jockey's hollow must be having a hard time
keeping warm.
Tyler:  Yes, and food's scarce too.  The snow's too deep for hunting
deer and rabbits, and foraging parties often come back empty handed.  I
think some of the men are too weak and hungry to go very far from camp. 
(They continue to place candles about the room.)
Joseph:  I've never seen our ballroom arranged like this before.  Is
this an altar in the middle of the room?
Tyler:  It is and the open Bible on it can be seen by everyone in the
room at all times.
Joseph:  But why three candles?  Why not four -- one at each corner?
Tyler:  This is not a funeral -- and that altar is not a casket. 
Actually, the three tapers have various meanings.  Masons understand
them.  Three is a good number.  All good things come in three's, you
know. ?????????
Joseph:  And bad ones come in threes too, so I hear.  But you Masons
seem to be having a good time today in spite of the weather.
Tyler:  Yes, today is a special day for Freemasons.  It's St. John the
Evangelist Day.  We pay honor to both the Saints - John -- St. John the
Evangelist today and St. John the Baptist on June 24th.  In a way, you
could say they are sort of, uh -- the Patron Saints of Freemasonry.
Joseph:  I didn't know you were a religious group -- like a church.  
Tyler:  Oh, Freemasonry's not a religion.  We open and close our
meetings with prayer, yes, because every man owes thanks to the Creator
of the Universe.  Beyond expressing a belief in a Supreme Being or in
God, no Mason is ever asked what his particular religious beliefs are. 
So you see, a Mason may be a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or for that
matter, a Buddhist, Moslem or Confucianism.  We try to recognize every
man as a brother, because we are all children of one Creator.
Joseph:  You sound a little like a preacher, but without all that
"hellfire and damnation" stuff.
Tyler:  I'm no preacher -- just a Connecticut farmer and right now a
soldier, like all the rest of them downstairs.  Most of them at this
meeting are officers, but when they come in here, everybody's equal. 
We're all Brothers.  Even the General himself, George Washington, sits
on the sidelines in this Lodge.  Would you believe that?
Joseph:  The General is a great man, and a very religious man, too.  He
stayed here two years ago in 1777.  This was his headquarters then, and
many's the time, at night when I took fresh wood up to the fireplace in
his room, I've seen him on his knees praying.  He always has a kind word
for everyone -- and do you know, when he came back to Morristown this
time, he remembered me and called me by my name.  He always calls me
Joseph, but everybody else calls me Joe.  His wife, Martha -- now
there's a fine aristocratic lady and the General's wife too, she is.  My
women folk tell me that for all her fine breeding, she never puts on any
airs like the English ladies do.  She's always knitting or sewing or
something, and gives it all away to the poor people around the town. 
They're staying in Col. Ford's big new house now.
Tyler:  Well spoken -- Joseph --.  The General is a great man.  He's a
smart one too, and I'm proud to be a Freemason and a soldier alongside
him.  One day this war will be over and he's the one who will be
responsible for our freedom and independence.  May God grant that it be
soon!  I haven't seen my wife and children in two years.  I hope they
will sleep warm and safe tonight.
Joseph:  (Going to the altar.)  Say, Binns, I see a square and compasses
here at the Bible.  What are they for?
Tyler:  Those are some of the working tools of a Mason.  We use the
tools of a mason or builder to teach important lessons, but we use them
symbolically.  The expressions "square shooter" and "fair and square"
had their origin in Freemasonry.  Five hundred years before Christ, a
great Chinese philosopher named Confucius taught his followers by using
builder's tools as symbols -- such as the plumb-bob or plumb-line,
should teach a man to be upright in character and strength.  The Bible
has many references to tools as having symbolic meanings.  Almost
everything in Masonry comes from the Bible.  It is the rule and guide
for our faith and practice.
Joseph:  I think I hear them coming now.  Say, before I go, could I
become a Mason?
Tyler:  Of course, any good man can apply.  But it must be of his own
free will and accord.  He will not be asked to join.  Maybe some day
there will be a Lodge in Morristown.  Thank you, Joe, for your help.
(Exit.)


 SCENE 2


(All enter and take their seats.)  (As they file in they chat with one
another - some little gayety.)
Worshipful Master:  (Raps gavel.)  This Convention Lodge will resume its
labors.  (Rising)  Brethren, some of you were on the duty roster this
morning and could not be here when we opened.  Speaking on behalf of
American Union Lodge, I welcome all of you to this fraternal meeting as
we celebrate the anniversary of St. John the Evangelist.  Our Brother,
Dr. Baldwin, the Chaplain at our church service across the Green, gave
an inspiring sermon this morning about St. John and asked us to emulate
his virtues of loyalty and trustworthiness and never to swerve from the
path of our duty to God, to our beloved country, and to our fellow man. 
These are duties incumbent upon all men, and especially upon us as
Freemasons.  We are especially grateful to Brothers Thomas Kinney and
Jerry Bruen of St. John's Lodge at Newark.  These good Brothers, who
live here in Morristown, rode through the snow to Newark and borrowed
from their Lodge the candlesticks, altar cloth, officers' jewels, aprons
and other materials.  We thank you Bro. Kinney and Bro. Bruen, and ask
that you express our appreciation to the officers and Brothers of St.
John's Lodge for their kindness.  American Union Lodge is especially
happy to welcome our Brothers and Comrades from our sister-states.  I
believe this is the first time in America that Masons from the various
Grand Lodges have met together in a tiled Lodge.  I have instructed
Bro.s Loraine and Binns, our Tyler, to admit all proven Masons without
regard to the Lodge from which they hail.  Here we are all Brothers and
Freemasons, and have important business to transact.  (Sits.)
(Worshipful Bro. Mordicai Gist rises and salutes with hand on heart.)
Gist:  Worshipful
Worshipful Master:  Worshipful Bro. Gist.
Gist:  Worshipful Bro. Heart, a group of fellow Masons have met together
informally on several occasions in recent weeks. and we regret that
because of the war, we are deprived of Masonic communication with the
Mother Grand Lodges in Europe.  We are a free and independent nation and
are engaged in battle to preserve that freedom.  Freemasonry is a
universal fraternity and has no connection with political matters.  We
wish to see our gentle craft grow and thrive in America.  We have seen
the Grand Lodges in England divided by schisms into two Grand Lodges,
each calling itself "Ancient" or "Modern".  This division is subversive
of the ancient traditions of our Fraternity and we now have the
opportunity in America to re-unite Masons with the distinction of being
Ancient or Modern.  We can here re-establish the craft upon the strong
foundation it has had since time immemorial.  We must not attempt to
break the strong but invisible ties which bind us all together as
Brothers.   We are separated by war and by political allegiance from the
government of England, but in keeping with our Masonic principles, we
should have the approbation of the Grand Lodges which granted us our
original charters and warrants, if we are to continue as regular and
duly constituted Lodges.  Therefore, Worshipful, may I have your
permission to read a Petition which several of us from different
colonies drew up at our last meeting at Col. Gray's quarters?
Worshipful Master:  Wor. Bro. Gist, you have my permission.  (Gist moves
to center, near Altar and reads "The Petition".)  (Applause follows.)
Gist:  Worshipful, if it be in order, I move that this Petition be
circulated among all Masons through the different lines of the Army.
John Sanford of NJ:  Worshipful, I second the Motion.
Wor. M.:  Brethren, you have heard the motion by Wor. Bro. Gist of
Maryland and seconded by Bro. Sanford of NJ.  Is there any discussion?
John Lawrence:  Worshipful Bro. Heart.
Wor. Master:  Bro. John Lawrence.
John Lawrence:  Wor. Bro. Gist has stated our situation fairly and
squarely.  If this proposal is consummated, I'm sure there will come a
day when our future brothers will call us blessed!
Bro. Durfee:  NO!  Just a moment! (repeat) -- oh, excuse me Wor. but may
I have permission to speak?
Wor. M.:  Yes. Bro. Durfee, you may.
Bro. Durfee:  Worshipful and Brothers - while I agree that we need a
Grand Lodge of our own in America, we do not need anybody's approval for
whatever action we take here, let alone the Grand Lodge of England!  We
are fighting now to establish and preserve our freedom.  We have severed
all ties with England.  At Bunker Hill they killed Joseph Warren, Grand
Master of Masons in Massachusetts and Joel Clarke, the first Master of
this very Lodge, lost his life fighting for our cause.  Su-u-ure, we
have our charters and warrants from Britain.  Tear them up (From the
group exclaim:  Hear, Hear.) -- and lets start all over again--on our
own.  (From the group exclaim:  Aye, Aye.)  Who needs England any more? 
I say leave out that part of the Petition that calls for approval of the
English Grand Lodge.  (Several more Ayes!)  (Small applause.)
Samuel Wyllis:  (Rising)  Worshipful.
Worshipful Master:  Bro. Wyllis of Connecticut.
Samuel Wyllis:  Brethren, I can assuredly understand the feelings of our
good Brother in respect to the war we are engage in against the despotic
government of England.  We are here as members of the oldest fraternity
on this earth.  We claim descent from the builders of King Solomon's
Temple.  Our Masonry is a universal brotherhood, and knows naught of
politics.  It overleaps kingdoms and provinces, and political -- and
religious quarrels have no place within the circle of friendship and
brotherly love, which binds all Masons into one common society or band
of friends and brothers.  Our charters are regular and constitutional. 
We can and should establish a Grand Lodge here, but it should have the
approval of the Mother Grand Lodge, which gave us our original
approval.  Otherwise we are clandestine, and we impugn the charters
under which we were made Masons.  Worshipful, on the Wyllis farm near
Hartford, there stands an ancient white oak tree with wide-spreading
branches.  High up on the trunk is a hollow where once a branch had
grown.  Many years ago an infamous and ruthless Royal Governor sought to
arrest the Charter of Connecticut granted by the King, and which
permitted our nutmeg State a large degree of freedom to manage its own
internal affairs.  Had he been able to find it, Governor Andros would
have torn our charter to bits and cast it into his fireplace.  That
charter was hidden and preserved in our old oak, until it was safe to
restore it to the State House.  Charters and Warrants are precious
things and should be honored and preserved without taint.  We must here,
in our hearts and in our hand, preserve our Masonic charter and keep
unsullied, by the regularity of our actions, the purest principles of
universal brotherhood.  We are at war with England -- and may God grant
us victory -- but Masonry transcends political affairs.  We do not fight
our Mother Grand Lodge!  Let us seek her approval, that there be no
smirch upon the charters and warrants which permitted us to become Free
and Accepted Masons.  (Ayes and applause.)  Thank you Worshipful.
Worshipful Master:  Thank you Bro. Wyllis.  We in Connecticut are proud
of your old Charter Oak, and of you with stout hearts of oak.  Is there
any further discussion?  (None.)  All in favor of this motion will say
"Aye".  Those who oppose will say "Nay".  (None.)  The motion is
carried, Bro. Secretary.  (Rap of gavel.)
Richard Butler (Mass.):  Worshipful.
Worshipful Master:  Bro. Richard Butler of Massachusetts. 
Bro. Butler:  In view of the urgency of this matter and since military
procedures must take precedence, I move that a committee be appointed
from the different Lodges in the Army, from each Line, and from the
staff of the Army, to meet on the first Monday of February next -
(looking at an almanac calendar) - that would be on February 7, 1780, to
take "The Petition" into consideration.
Wor. Master:  Thank you, Bro. Butler.  Is there a second?
Bro. Sherburne (R.I.):  Second the motion.
Wor. Master:  All in favor of this motion say "Aye". -- Those opposed
say "Nay". 
 (only Bro. Durfee says a quiet "Nay".)
Wor. Master:  Bro. Durfee, because of the urgency of this matter, do you
think you can find it in your heart to make this motion unanimous? 
(Durfee hesitates and finally says "Aye".)
Wor. Master:  The motion is carried Bro. Secretary (raps gavel).  In
consideration of the motion just made to appoint a committee to
recommend further action on this Petition, I now place the Lodge on
refreshment in charge of the Junior Warden.  The brethren will remain in
the Lodge room and I will ask the officers to meet with me here in the
East.  (Raps gavel.)  (Officers huddle in the East while the others mill
about the room, chatting with one another.)  (After a few moments --
Wor. Master raps gavel.):
Wor. Master:  The Lodge will be at Labor.  We have appointed the
following Bro.s to an ad hoc committee to recommend further to be taken
in the matter of "The Petition".:
        John Pierce                     representing the Massachusetts Line
        Jonathan Heart                  "       "       Connecticut Line
        Charles Graham                  "       "       New York Line
        John Sanford                            "       New Jersey Line
        George Tudor                            "       Pennsylvania Line
        Otto H. Williams                        "       Delaware Line
        Merdecai Gist                           "       Maryland Line
        Prentice Brown                  "       St. John's Regional Lodge
        John Lawrence                   "       the Staff - American Army
        Thomas Machin                   "       Masons in the Corps of Artillery
Brethren, you will meet on February 7, 1780, and report your
recommendations at a subsequent meeting.  It is hoped that your actions
will meet with the approval of the Mother Grand Lodge in England.
Capt. Leonard Bleecker:  Worshipful.
Worshipful Master:  Bro. Bleecker of N.Y.
Capt. Bleecker:  Worshipful, the Army is spending its second winter here
in Morristown and there is only one place I would rather be than here --
and that is at my own home in New York City.  Morristown is a happy
choice for winter quarters and we have been made welcome here.  Since
the Continental Congress has been, shall we say, a little slow in
providing our soldiers with food and clothing -- and they haven't been
paid in months -- the people hereabouts have been most generous in their
hospitality and in sharing what they have.  Therefore, Worshipful, I
move that after we have paid for our dinners here today, that a special
collection be taken up by our Treasurer, and the monies that each
Brother chooses to contribute, be turned over to Bro.s Thomas Kinney and
Jacob Arnold for distribution to the poor of this town. Capt Isaac Craig
(PA): Second the motion Worshipful Master: All in favor of the motion
give the voting sign. Hands down. Those opposed same sign. (None) The
motion is carried Bro. secretary, ( raps gavel). Those who wish to
contribute will place their money in a box Bro. Lorain will have at the
door.   Are there any other matters to be brought up before we proceed
to close this Lodge?  (None)  Bro. George Washington, we are please to
have you with us today. Would you care to make a few remarks?  
George Washington: (Rising) Thank you worshipful. As I look about this
Lodge I believe I am the only Virginia Mason present. I was raised to
the sublime degree of Master mason in Fredericksburg Lodge in 1753, so I
have been a brother now for 26 years. This is the festival of St. John
the Evangelist. I recall I sat in this fine lodge when we were near West
point on St. John the Baptist day on June 24th past so I feel right at
home.


(Turning to the sidelines).  Brethren, outside there is war, and bloody
strife, hunger and cold. Within the sacred walls of this lodge there is
peace and harmony, friendship and brotherly love. The plight of our men
encamped at Jockey Hollow is of special concern to me and I am making
every effort to induce the congress at Philadelphia to honor our
requisitions and send us the food clothing and money  so desperately
required. You as men and  Masons are faithful to your trust, and devoted
to your duty. I am proud to be associated with you. If my endeavors to
avert the evil with which our country was threatened by a deliberate
plan of tyranny should be crowned with the success that is wished, the
praise is due to the Grand Architect of the Universe, who did not see
fit to suffer his superstructure of justice to be subjected to the
ambition of the princes of this world, or to the rod of oppression in
the hands of any power on earth. 


Being persuaded that a just application of the principles  on which the
Masonic fraternity of founded must be productive of private virtue and
public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interest of
this society, and to be considered by them as a deserving brother.
Endure with me my Brothers, and with Gods help and your perseverance, we
shall yet win through to victory    and establish upon theses shores a
land of freedom for all men and for all time. Thank you Worshipful
master, (applause and standing ovation)


WM.. Thank you Bro. Washington. Your presence always graces our
meetings. Brethren you will give your attention to our Chaplain Bro. and
Rev. Baldwin.


Rev. Baldwin: Brethren let Us Pray
Almighty Father, Grand Architect the Universe, we humbly bow before thee
and thank thee for this opportunity to meet in fraternal communication.
Pardon all that the holy Eye hath seen amiss in us while we have been
together. We ask Thy richest blessing to be bestow upon our Commander
-in Chief Bro. George Washington. Grant unto him the wisdom, strength
and courage he so sorely needs as he leads this fledging nation through
these time of peril, cold and hunger.


We beseech Three to continue to bless this beloved fraternity and these
masons here assembled in Thy Holy Name. grant that the time may soon
come when all peoples wherever dispersed, may be united into a
Brotherhood of Man   to serve thee and for the honor of Thy Holy name. 
Amen


All: So mote it be


WM..  Bro. Senior deacon, attend to the alter. ( Done, the Bible being
closed slowly and with dignity/


WM..  Bro. Junior deacon, inform the Tyler that this convention Lodge is
closed.  ( Done)


WM..  Brethren before I sound the gavel, I would remind you that we are
about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again
with the world. remember that you have promised to befriend and relieve
every Brother who shall need your assistance. remember too that every
human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Finally brethren be ye
all of one mind, live in peace and may the God of love and peace delight
to dwell with and bless you


WM..   This  Convention is now closed. (Sounds gavel)


Brethren file from room each depositing money in the box help by the
Tyler.
 
                                    EPILOGUE


Afternoon several years later, Joe is in the meeting room of what is now
'Freemasons Tavern' putting things in order after the noon meal.  He
moves the alter and candles to the side of the room. hears voices and
recognizes that of Bro. Arnold, goes to the top of the stairs and greets
him enthusiastically.


Joe:  Bro. Arnold, This is a real surprise, I did not know you were in
town !


Arnold: I arrived last evening and can only stay a short while, but I
did want to see you and let you know how pleased I am  that Bro. freeman
saw fit to keep you on after he bought the Tavern, I also wanted to say
that I'm happy you were able to join the fraternity. You will never be
sorry you did .


Joe: Thank you for your interest and confidence in me. Tell me  sir,
what was the outcome of the meeting you had here in December of '97.  I
have since learned what it was all about, did the petition pass??


Arnold:  Joe, there is not too much I can tell you at this moment. The
committee did meet in Feb. of 1780 and did agree that the petition
should be circulated throughout the Grand Lodges then in existence and
also that the committee  formally agreed that Bro. George Washington
should be chosen as general Grand master. However we were still 
fighting a war for independence and permanent freedom so the Petition
did not receive the attention it deserved. Since the final cessation of
hostilities in Nov., of 1783 there have been more grand lodges formed
including our own here in New Jersey. It seems the feeling among them,
and also of Bro. Washington, that it would be impractical to have a
Supreme grand Lodge. What will be final outcome be, we will not know for
some time. Regardless of this Freemasonry is flourishing and becoming
united in every way. This was the main objective of the committee. And
Joe those men who met here on that day in Dec. of '79 have become great
men, leaders of this new and prospering nation.They were and still are
giving their very all to see that the ideals they fought for are
safeguarded forever.  Peace and harmony, the right to worship Deity in
their own way and manner and to express our own political beliefs,
without recrimination from anyone.


In a very short time I'm sure Bro. Washington will be called upon to
lead this nation as its' first president. Under the leadership of such
as he, with our new symbol of freedom and justice, that banner, waving
high for all to see, and under the Divine Guidance of Almighty God, we
shall become the greatest nation on this earth.
Joe: I hear Bro. Freeman calling you,  it has been good to see you


Joe: Bro. Arnold, I bid you adieu ( leaves the room)


                AFTER   EPILOGUE


Ladies & Gentlemen;
We have just portrayed a few moments of Masonic and American history,
endeavoring to show the unity that exisited with the American Union Army
under General Washington. He never willingly gave responsibility to
anyone unless he felt that that person could be truste. So it was rather
natural that he chose, for his personal aides and officers, brother
Masons.  You see, they had a common goal regardless of their political
or religious backgrounds. They wanted freedom, Justice & Loyality, peace
and harmony to exist and they were fght for it for all people. Also they
trusted each other to preserve those precious principles.


Many of you do not know nor have ever heard just how many of our
founding fathers were Masons and how much Masonry played a part in the
founding of our country. Many of the drafters of the Constitution and
Declaration of Independence were Masons. Statesmen and soldiers alike.
I'd like to name just a few of whom you have read and even studied. 
Other than those already mentioned in the play,  Paul Revere, John
Hancock, the first signer of the declaration fo Independence, Benjamin
Franklin, Peyton Randolph of Virginia, Richard Stockton of NJ, General
Von Steuben,. the Great Marquis de Lafayette and many many others.


The meeting of December 27th, 1779 started early for there was another
piece of business that needed attention but was  not mentioned in the
play.There was a court martial being held in Arnolds Tavern that week
over that base and forlorn one, whom Masons very seldom mention,
Benedict Arnold. He was being tried for misconduct while stationed at
Philadelphia and that very morning had been severly reprimanded and
chastised. This did nothing to bolster his already deflated ego and a
short time later he deflected to the enemy.


Following that the officers crossed the green to the Church service
already mentioned and  you know the rest.  No it did not come to pass,
but it did serve to unite Freemasonry more firmly, we did sever all ties
to England and today still hold to the original plan that all states 
should govern themselves.


Now let me introduce our cast....
----- 


If you got this far have a good Holiday Season
-- 
Tom Thornton,  Cincinnati #3, Morristown NJ, USA