The Green Dragon Tavern, or Freemasons’ Arms
By Bro. CHARLES W. MOORE, Massachusetts
THE BUILDER AUGUST 1923
What the Goose and Gridiron Tavern is in the ancient annals of London Freemasonry The Green Dragon Tavern is to the memories of the Free-mason, of Boston and New England. In it and about it revolved many of the most exciting activities of the Boston Revolutionary times, not the least of which were the patriotic caucuses and plotting of the brethren who in those days held their lodge in that historic building. But there is no need here to expatiate upon that subject: the whole story is told at length and in colorful detail in the article printed below, which is an extract beginning on page 155 of “The Lodge of St. Andrew, and the Massachusetts Grand Lodge,” printed in Boston, 1870, “by vote of the Lodge of St. Andrew.”
NOTED LANDMARKS, which call to mind associations with the early history of a nation, always possess a peculiar interest to all lovers of their country, and the story belonging to them is awakening, as well as instructive. Among the famous places of Boston, in past days, was a widely known and celebrated building called The Green Dragon Tavern, situated on the border of a mill pond, in what is now Union street, and near the corner of Hanover street; “in its day,” it was the best hostelry, of the town. The celebrity of the “Green Dragon” however, is not now due to any remembered excellence of hospitable entertainment, but for the social and political public and private gatherings of the people, - with other interesting local incident, - for three fourths of a century, antecedent to the American Revolution; and above all, for the stirring, patriotic, no less than timely consequential measures determined under its roof by the historic men of ‘76, who brought to pass that memorable Epoch. It was indeed the cradle of “Rebellion”; the chosen asylum, where the Revolutionary master spirits, -who organized successful resistance to British aggression on the liberties of the colonies, - took grave counsel together.
To the Masonic Fraternity of Massachusetts, the old “Green Dragon,” -
which, a century ago, began to be called also “Freemasons’ Arms,” -
presents associations of especial significance. It was here within its walls,
that the Freemasonry of this commonwealth was preserved in Grand Lodge
jurisdiction, bright and vigorous; where its charities, its hospitalities, and its
good tidings were kept up between the years 1775 and 1792, a period which witnessed the disruption, by reason of the war for Independence, of important branches of the Order in Massachusetts. Still further, this was the scene of Warren’s most intimate political and Masonic associations, with the patriots and Masons of his time.
To the members of the Lodge of St. Andrew, this estate, - their own magnificent possession for more than a hundred years, - is endeared by ties which run over a still longer period.
No picture of the Green Dragon Tavern of any description, is known to be in existence save the on now presented in this “Memorial.” This was engraved recently for the Lodge of St. Andrew, from a model which the Hon. N.B. Shurtleff prepared some years since, with his usual accurate and thorough knowledge of ancient noted Boston houses. From this model in wood, with much painstaking on the part of the “Lodge,” in the way of exhibiting it for criticism to old inhabitants who were familiar with the look and details of this ancient structure - which was removed forty-two years ago, - the present picture has been made. It is believed to be a faithful representation and it may also be affirmed that it is unanimously recognized as such by every one who is competent to judge.
FROM THE RECORDS OF THE LODGE
At a Quarterly Communication, March 24, 1864 the Worshipful Master,
Edward Stearns, called the attention of the Lodge to the fact that the Green
Dragon Tavern was purchased by this Lodge, March 31, 1764, and that
Thursday next, the 31st instant, would complete a period of one hundred
years from the date of the deed of that estate. Whereupon, on motion of
Brother Wellington, it was
Voted, That a committee of five be appointed, with full power to make arrangements for celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of the purchase of the Green Dragon Tavern.
The following brethren were appointed: A. A. Wellington, Charles W. Moore, J.R. Bradford, Samuel P.Oliver, and Isaac Cary.
On motion of Brother Palmer, it was
Voted, That the above committee be increased to eight, that being the number of the original committee appointed January 12, 1764, “to purchase a house for the benefit of the Lodge of St. Andrew.”
The Worshipful Master, Brother Wm. F. Davis, Senior Warden, and Brother John P. Ober, were thereupon added to the committee.
THE FOLLOWING IS THE LODGE RECORD OF THE CELEBRATION
A special meeting of the Lodge of St. Andrew was held in the new building on the “Green Dragon” estate, Union street, on Thursday evening, March 31, 1864, at 6 ½ o’clock, for the purpose of celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of the purchase of the Green Dragon Tavern.
An apartment in the building was suitably decorated for the festival, and a bountiful dinner provided.
The Worshipful Master presided, and in a dignified, appropriate address, invoked the attention of the brethren to the ceremonies of the evening, and to the remarks of members whom he should call upon to speak upon the pleasant Masonic memories suggested by the spot whereon the Lodge was then assembled, and to the historical incidents connected with the “ancient Inn.” After a proper allusion to the distinguished men who had held Masonic intercourse together in times past in the hall of the “Green Dragon,” the Worshipful Master called up M.W.Brother Wm. Parkman:
Who stated that on the 12th day of January, 1764, the Lodge resolved by vote to purchase a house; accordingly Thomas Milliken, Samuel Barrett, Edward Foster, Caleb Hopkins, Moses Deshon, William Haskins, Joseph Webb, and John Jenkins were chosen a committee for that purpose. On the succeeding 31st of March, Catherine Kerr, by her deed of that date, conveyed in fee the premises known as the Green Dragon Tavern, unto the above named committee. The estate was managed by committees of the Lodge until 1832, when the estate was conveyed to Brothers Benjamin Smith, Henry Purkett, Zephaniah Sampson, David Parker, Thomas W. Phillips, John Suter, and Ezekiel Bates, to be held by them as trustees for the use and benefit of the Lodge of St. Andrew. In January 1852, Brothers Smith, Purkett, and Suter being deceased, a new board of trustees, consisting of Brothers David Parker, E. Bates, T. W. Phillips, Z. Sampson, J.P. Ober, Thomas Resteaux, and Wm. Parkman were chosen, to whom the premises were conveyed for the use and benefit of the Lodge. Brother David Parker was chosen chairman, Brother T. W. Phillips, treasurer, and Brother Wm. Parkman, secretary. In 1855 Brother Parker having removed from the city, resigned as chairman, and Brother John P. Ober was elected to fill the vacancy. In 1859 Brother Phillips died, and Brother Restieaux was elected treasurer.
The Most Worshipful Winslow Lewis then addressed the lodge, and said that:
By the dispensation of the Supreme Grand “Master, a severe domestic affliction has deprived us all of the presence of Brother Charles W. Moore, from whom we should have received the fullest information of those memorials of the past, which are so hallowed to the memories of every member of the Lodge of St. Andrew, who are now assembled to commemorate, on this spot, the associations connected with a locality dear to every Masonic heart, to every patriot’s breast! But, Worshipful Master, our Brother Moore, though absent, and stricken by bereavement, was not willing to let this Centennial occasion pass by, without communicating such interesting facts relating to the Green Dragon Tavern as he had from time to time preserved. And I therefore shall, with your permission sir, read a communication on this subject, which my Brother Moore has handed me, to be presented to the Lodge at this festival.
REMINISCENCES OF THE GREEN DRAGON TAVERN
With perhaps the single exception of Faneuil Hall, there was no public building in Boston at the close of the last century, which had acquired a more extensive notoriety or filled a larger place in the local history of the town, than the old “Green Dragon Tavern.” I need not trouble you with any particular description of it, for that will be given by one who is pre-eminently distinguished for his extensive and accurate knowledge of all the interesting historical localities of the city.
We have no record or other authentic evidence of the fact, but there can be little doubt that St. Andrew’s Lodge, which was, in its incipiency, composed largely of North-End men, originated and was informally organized in the “Long Room,” so-called, in the northerly end of this Tavern, in the year 1752. It is nevertheless proper to say, that this inference is predicated on the known fact, that it was in this Hall that in 1756 it was re-organized and commenced work under a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, - a circumstance that would not have probably occurred, had not the Hall been previously occupied by it, and was then in a condition suited to its purposes. And this hypothesis is strengthened by the additional fact, that it continued to hold its regular monthly meetings here until the year 1818, when it was removed to the Exchange Coffee House.
It was in this “Long Room,” also, where so much of our Revolutionary history was made, that the Massachusetts Grand Lodge - an offshoot of St. Andrew’s Lodge - with Joseph Warren for its Grand Master, was organized on the 27th of December, 1769, and continued to hold its meetings until its union with the St. John’s Grand lodge in 1792.
In 1697 the tavern was kept by John Cary, and was at that early day, and perhaps earlier, known as the Green Dragon Tavern.
In 1764 the property was purchased by St. Andrew’s Lodge, when it took the name of “Freemasons’ Arms,” - the new proprietors having placed a large Square and Compass on the front of the building. It however soon after dropped this title, and was more popularly known as “Masons’ Hall”; by which name it continued to be masonically designated until the removal of the Lodge, when it resumed its ancient title of “Green Dragon Tavern.”
On the 24th of June, 1772, the festival of St. John the Baptist, was celebrated by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, by a public procession, formed at Concert Hall, the brethren marching in full regalia to Christ Church in Salem street, where “a very suitable and pertinent discourse was preached by the Rev. Samuel Fayerweather, of Narragansett”; after which they returned to Masons’ Hall, and “dined together in the Garden, under a long Tent erected for that purpose; and the remainder of the day was dedicated to mirth and social festivity.”
The garden here spoken of, was in the rear of the house, and extended northerly to the water, covering the ground now occupied by Mr. Riddle as a salesroom. Our late Brother Sampson has said to me that he was accustomed in his boyhood days, to fish for flounders at the lower end of this garden; which, in early times, extended to what was then known as the “Mill Pond.” -a large basin of salt water, cut off from Charles river by dykes, and used for mill and other purposes. It was here that in the winter-time the “North-End Boys” and the “West Enders” used to fight their mimic, and not always bloodless, sectional battles, until, after the occurrence of several serious mishaps, they were interfered with and their sports forbidden by the Selectmen of the town. It is hardly necessary to say that the area formerly occupied by this pond is now an extensive business section of the city.
There were present at the above celebration, M.W. Joseph Warren, Grand Master; R. W. Joseph Webb, D.G.M.; Paul Revere, S.G.W., pro tem.;
Thomas Crafts, J.G.W. pro tem.; Samuel Barrett, G. Treasurer; Wm.
Palfrey, G. Secretary; and the Masters, Wardens, and brethren of St. Andrew’s Tyrian, Massachusetts, and St. Peter’s Lodges, together with a sufficient number of visitors to make a company of ninety-seven brethren, which at that early day was a very large and full attendance.
Public Masonic Processions were at this time of rare occurrence. One of the earliest of which we have any record, took place on St. John’s Day, Dec. 27, 1749, and was the occasion of unusual curiosity and interest in the community. It called forth from a learned wit a short poem, in which the circumstance is treated with much satirical humour and ridicule. The author of this poem was Joseph Green, a merchant of town, and undoubtedly an Anti-Mason, though it would be difficult to tell from what motive, unless it was that he had failed to obtain admission into “the Lodge.” But whatever the motive may have been, the poem is so well done and so keen in its satire, that I do not hesitate to quote a few passages for your amusement. The marching of the Procession is thus described:
“See! Buck before the apron’d throng,
Marches with sword and book along;
The stately ram, with courage bold,
So stalks before the fleecy fold,
And so the gander, on the brink
Of river, leads his geese to drink.”
The keeper of the Royal Exchange Tavern, where Masonic meetings were at one time held, is taken notice of in this wise:
“Where’s honest Luke? that cook from London;
For without Luke the Lodge is undone.
‘Twas he who oft dispell’d their sadness,
And filled the Brethren’s heart with gladness
Luke in return is made a Brother,
As good and true as any other,
And still, though broke with age and wine,
Preserves the token and the sign.”
In another place Luke comes in with less credit
“The high, the low, the great and small,
James Perkins short, and Aston tall;
Johnson as bulky as a house,
And Wethered smaller than a louse.
We all agree, both wet and dry,
From drunken Luke to sober I.”
The poet designates Lewis Turner as “Pump Turner,” probably from his occupation. Dr. Thomas Aston figures as “Aston tall.” Francis Johonnet is called “laughing Frank,” and is thus nicely introduced:
“But still I see a numerous train:
Shall they, alas! unsung remain?
Sage Hallowell, of public soul,
And laughing Frank, friend to the bowl;
Meek Rea, half smother’d in the crowd,
And Rowe, who sings at church so loud.”
Aston was an apothecary and grocer; Hallow here referred to, was probably Captain Benjamin Hallowell an active and influential Mason; John Rea was a ship-chandler, and kept in Butler’s Row; John Rowe afterwards Grand Master, was a distinguished merchant and importer, and lived in Essex street, and the owner of Rowe’s pasture, through which Rowe street now runs; Buck, probably means Buckley member of the First Lodge, as were also Henry Whethered and Henry Johnson.
Our brethren, in these early days of the Institution in the colonies, were more particular in the observance of the winter and summer festivals of the Order (Dec. 27th and June 24th) than their successors have been. These celebrations, however were not always public. On the contrary, I believe that of the 24th of June, 1772, was an exceptional case in the history of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge; and, consequently, in that of our own Lodge; for the two bodies, on all occasions, moved as a unit, and held their festivals together at the Green Dragon. I will not occupy your time by referring to them in the order in which they took place, but that of 1773, being the last with which General Warren’s name is connected as being present, I deem it worthy of special notice in this connection; and this cannot be done more satisfactory than in the words of the record. The annual communication of the Grand Lodge was held this year, on the 3d of December, and after the ordinary business had been disposed of, the record says:
“The Most Worshipful Grand Master (Warren) then desired the opinion of the Grand Officers present, with respect to Celebrating the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, 27th Instant.
“Motioned and Seconded, The Feast be Celebrated the 27th Instant, at Masons’ Hall (at the Green Dragon).
“Voted, The Stewards of the Grand Lodge of St. Andrew’s, and the Massachusetts Lodges, agree for and provide the dinner, and that three Brethren be desired to joyn the Stewards.
“Voted, Brothers Bruce, Proctor [and] Love.
“Voted, The Festival be advertised in the Public Prints.”
I accordingly find in the “Boston Evening Post,” of December 20, 1773, the following advertisement:
“THE Brethren of the Honourable Society of Free and Accepted MASONS, are hereby notified, That the Most Worshipful JOSEPH WARREN, Esq., Grand Master of the Continent of America; intends to Celebrate the Feast of St. JOHN the Evangelist, on Monday the 27th of December Inst. at Free Masons’ Hall (at the Green Dragon), Boston, where the Brethren are requested to attend the Festival.
By Order of the Most Worshipful Grand Master.
Wm. Hoskiss, G. Sec’y.
“N.B. Tickets may be had of Mess. Nathaniel Coffin, junr., William Mollineaux, junr., and Mr. Daniel Bell.
“The Table will be furnished at Two o’clock.”
This “Feast” was held in the Long Room of the Green Dragon on the 27th, and the record names as being present, “M.W. Joseph Warren, Esq., Grand Master; Hon. Wm. Brattle, Esq.; Rev. Dr. Samuel Mather; Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq.; and thirty-eight others including the Grand Officers.”
There had formerly been some degree of coldness between the two Grand Lodges in the Province; as was natural enough in view of the causes which led to the organization of the younger body. It is therefore the more gratifying to find on the record such unmistakable evidence of the fraternal feeling existing between them at this time, as the following:
“The Most Worshipful Grand Master was pleased to direct three Brethren, viz: Jona. Williams, Elisha Thatcher, and H. Hatell, to wait upon The Most Worshipful John Rowe, Esq., Gd. Master, the Grand Officers and Brethren at Their Feast, at Col. Ingersoll (Bunch of Graves Tavern), to acquaint them, the Healths would be drank at half after 4 o’clock. The committee returned for answer, that Grand Master Rowe and the Brethren concerned would return the Compliment at that period.”
I give the following summary of the “Reckoning on this occasion as a matter of curious reminiscence:
50 dinners a 3 s ---------------7. 10 0
13 dbtle. Bowles Punch ----------1. 14 8
12 Bottles Port a 3 s -----------1. 16 0
17 do. Medaira, a 4 s -----------3. 8 0
Advertising---------------------- 8 0
14. 16 8
Collected-40 Tickets a 6 s 12. 0 0
After Collection --------------- 2. 16 0
14. 16 8
“Punch” was a favourite Beverage in the days which we are speaking, and very large “double Punch Bowles” were a fashionable, if not a necessary appendage to the dinner table on all public occasions; nor we they dispensed with until a much later date.
Our late Brother John J. Loring was initiated in Masonry at the Green
Dragon, and used to describe with quiet humour, the appearance of
Brother Eben’r Oliver, - one of the old-school North-End mechanics, and
the Closet Steward of the Lodge, - while in the discharge of what the
brethren then doubtless held be one of the most important of his official
function. He was a large portly man, and without exaggeration, might
exclaim with Falstaff,
“I am in the waist two yards about.”
Sleek-headed, and such as sleep
“In fair, round belly, with good capon lined.”
But withal a most excellent, amiable, and faithful brother.
The Lodge having reached a convenient resting place in its “work,” the brethren were called from labour to refreshment, - and refreshments in those days was what the word in its common acceptation implies. At this interesting period of the proceedings, Brother Oliver never failed promptly to present himself at the door, in his best, “bib and tucker,” bearing a huge Punch Bowl! - one half resting on his correspondingly huge abdominal protuberance, the other supported his brawny arms. Thus prepared for the encounter, the brethren being seated “in order,” with their glass in hand, - he, with dignified solemnity, and fully impressed with the magnitude of the business before him slowly commenced his tour of duty, - paying his respects first to the Master in the “East,” and then passing regularly around the hall, until the members were all supplied, or in the technical language of the day, “all charged,” and waiting the order of the Master. He then slowly retired, with the benedictions of his brethren, and a consciousness of having faithfully performed his share in the “work” of the evening!
Such a scene would not commend itself to favour at the present time; but
it was one of a class common, only in the Lodges, but with modifications,
in the social, civil, literary and religious societies of that early day, when
.... The funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.”
It was in the “Long Room” of the Green Dragon that on the 28th of August, 1769, the present St. Andrew’s Chapter was organized as a Royal Arch Lodge, under the authority of the Charter of St. Andrew’s Lodge. This degree was anciently given in Masters’ Lodges; which arrangement was subsequently changed, and it was conferred in Royal Arch Lodges, attached to and working under the authority of the Charters of Craft lodges. The present Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of Ireland still retain a nearly analogous provision in the following words: “Every Warrant to hold Councils or Encampments, shall be granted to some warranted or acknowledged Lodge to which a Royal Arch Chapter is attached; and shall not only bear the same number, but shall be held in the same place in which the Lodge and Chapter usually hold their meetings.”
General Warren was a member of this Lodge, and being present in 1770, the year after its organization, the record says he “gave his opinion in favour of holding (continuing) the Royal Arch Lodge until he should receive instructions from Scotland. If then so directed, he will grant them a Charter therefor.” There is no evidence that such a charter was required or issued, and the Lodge continued to hold its meetings at the same place, and under its original authority, until the 25th of November, 1790, at which date we find in the records the following vote:
Voted, That Brother Matthew Groves be a committee to return the thanks of this Lodge to St. Andrew’s Lodge for their politeness in granting us the use of their Charter.
General Warren, as before stated, was a member of the Royal Arch Lodge, as were also Col. Joseph Webb, Col. Paul Revere, and other prominent members of St. Andrew’s Lodge. Indeed, of the twenty-one members who composed the Royal Arch Lodge in 1769, fourteen of them were members of St. Andrew’s Lodge. In 1794 this Lodge assumed the name of a “Royal Arch Chapter,” and in 1798 it united with King Cyrus Chapter of Newburyport, and at Masons’ Hall, in the “Green Dragon Tavern,” organized the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Massachusetts.
On the 17th of May, 1770, the petitioners for “the Massachusetts Lodge,” which was a scion of St. Andrew’s Lodge, met at “Masons’ Arms,” in the “Green Dragon Tavern,” and organized that body. It held its second meeting at the same place on the following 4th of June, and was then removed to “Concert Hall.” And on the 10th of November, 1795, Columbian Lodge also held a meeting at the “Green Dragon.” These were the only occasions when the “Long Room” was ever occupied by any other private Masonic Lodge than our own. Columbian Lodge was at this date located at Concert Hall, and its occupancy of the room on the occasion referred to, was probably a matter of accommodation to the proprietors of that establishment, which was then the popular resort for dancing parties and other social purposes.
But it is perhaps to the political associations which cluster around its name, that the Green Dragon Tavern is more particularly indebted for its historic celebrity. It was here that many of the most important and eventful of the political transactions preceding the Revolution were, if not positively inaugurated, discussed, matured and put into execution. That this was so, is undoubtedly in some measure to be accounted for by the fact, that the Hall in the building was the only room in the Northern section of the town, excepting Deblois’s Hall, on the corner of Queen and Hanover streets, which at that time was adapted to popular assemblies; and by the additional and perhaps more significant fact, that the principal leaders of the Revolution in Boston, were members of the Masonic Fraternity, and many of them of the Lodge which held its communications there, - a circumstance which would very naturally influence them in the selection of the place for their private consultations. It is not however, to be inferred from this, that they either met as Masons or used Masonry as a cover to their purposes; for others than Masons were associated with them. But be this as it may, it will not be irrelevant nor perhaps wholly uninteresting to the members of the lodge, to refer briefly to some of the more popular purposes to which the Hall, in the early days of its history, was appropriated.
One of the largest, and perhaps one of the most efficient of the political clubs which sprung into existence during the troublous times of 1768, and onward, was that known as “The North-End Caucus.” This body was composed almost exclusively of North-End mechanics, - distinguished for their daring and activity, - and held its meetings in the Hall of the “Green Dragon Tavern.” Warren who, Frothingham says, was idolized by the North-Enders,” was an influential member of it, as were Revere and others of his personal friends.
The Hall was also used as a central and safe place for the meetings of private committees and rallying clubs, with which Warren, as chairman of the “Committee of Safety,” was in frequent consultation, and directed their movements. Barry, in his History of Massachusetts, says: “The town (Boston) was full of clubs and caucuses, which were used with effect to secure unity of action; and the hardy mechanics who had done so much to promote the industrial prosperity of the metropolis, and who now acted as patrols, were the steady supporters of the patriot cause. In vain were the artifices of loyalists employed to seduce them to compliance with the wishes of his excellency; and when their services were required at the barracks, ‘all the carpenters of the town and country’ left off work; and British gold was powerless to tempt them, though ‘hundreds were ruined, and thousands were half starved,’ nay, they went further, and obstructed the works of the governor. His supplies of straw were set on fire; his boats conveying bricks were sunk; and his wagons laden with timbers were overturned.”
The character and services of these important Clubs are well illustrated by our Brother Paul Revere, in his narrative of the events of 1775, when he says, about thirty persons, chiefly North-End mechanics, had agreed to watch the movements of the British soldiers and the Tories, in anticipation of their descent on Concord. These patriots met at the Green Dragon Tavern. “We were so careful,” he says, “that our meetings should be kept secret, that every time we met, every person swore upon the Bible that they (he) would not discover any of our transactions, but to Messrs. Hancock, Drs. Warren and Church, and one or two more leaders. They took turns to watch the soldiers, two by two, by patrolling the streets all night.”
In reference to this club, Elliott, in his history of New England, has the following: “Among the most active of the Sons of Liberty was Paul Revere. In the Fall and Winter of 1774-5, some of the best Boston mechanics formed themselves into a club, to watch the doings of the British soldiers. They were ‘High Sons of Liberty,’ and men of action, who met at the Green Dragon Tavern; and every man swore on the Bible that nothing should be revealed except to Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Dr. Warren, and Dr. Church” (the latter a traitor). Revere was a leading man in this club, and was sent by Warren on the night of the 18th of April to notify Hancock and Adams of the movement of the British troops on Lexington and Concord, at the former of which places these two patriots were concealed.
Another of these Clubs which held their meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern, was the “Caucus-Pro Bono Publico,” of which Warren was the leading spirit, and in which, says Elliott, “the plans of the Sons of Liberty were matured.”
It is to be regretted that no authentic record of the names of the persons who composed the Boston Tea Party in 1774, has come down to us. “But,” says Frothingham, “as Warren was presented to the Privy Council as one of the prominent actors in these proceedings, and was held up by his political opponents at home, as one of the Mohawks,” and as “he was not one to shrink from any post of duty, it is not more improbable that he was one of the band who threw the tea overboard, than that his friend John Hancock (captain of the Cadets) should have been one of the guard to protect the actors.”
The tradition of the Lodge is, that all the preliminary measures in this affair were matured at the Green Dragon, and that the execution of them was committed mainly to the members of the North-End Caucus, - that stalwart and fearless band of North-End mechanics, whose directing genius was Warren, - having the cooperation of the more daring of the “Sons of Liberty.” That Warren was present as a leader in the affair, does not admit of any serious doubt; nor is there any question that his personal friends Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Webb, Paul Revere, Thomas Melville, Adam Collson, Henry Purkett (who used modestly to say he was present only as a spectator, and in disobedience to the orders of his Master, who was actively present), and other patriots of the day, were cognizant of it, - and some of whom at least are known to have participated in its final consummation. It was the first act in the great drama, the conclusion of which was the independence of the country.
The “Master” referred to above, with whom our late Brother Purkett served his apprenticeship, was Samuel Peck, a cooper by trade, and one of the leading and influential members of the “North-End Caucus.” He was also an active member of St. Andrew’s Lodge, - a connection which strengthens the tradition of the Lodge, that the table for the famous Tea Party was first spread in its “Long Room.” Among the members of the Lodge, who are known to have taken an active part in the affair, were Adam Collson, Thomas Chase, Samuel Gore, Daniel Ingollson, Samuel Peck, Edward Proctor, Henry Purkitt, and Thomas Urann.
I have looked in vain for a copy of an old revolutionary song said to have been written and sung as a “rallying song” by the “tea party” at the Green Dragon. The following fragment, though probably not in all respects an exact transcript of the original, will indicate its general character:
Rally, Mohawks! - bring out your axes!
And tell King George we’ll pay no taxes
On his Foreign tea!
His threats are vain - and vain to think
To force our girls and wives to drink
His ‘vile Bohea!
Then rally boys, and hasten on
To meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon.
Our Warren’s there, and bold Revere,
With hands to do and words to cheer
For Liberty and Laws!
Our country’s “Braves” and firm defenders,
Shall neer be left by true North-Enders,
Fighting Freedom’s cause!
Then rally boys, and hasten on
To meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon.
I regret not being able to give the balance of this song, but perhaps some curious antiquary may hereafter discover it, if it ever appeared in print. I am inclined to think, however, that it was a doggerel made for the occasion, and passed away when it ceased to be of use, or appropriate. The two stanzas I have reproduced, are given as nearly as my memory serves, as they were often recited more than a third of a century ago, by the late Brother Benjamin Gleason, who, born near the time, was curious in gathering up interesting reminiscences of the revolutionary period of our history.
In January 1788, a meeting of the mechanics and artisans of Boston was held at the Green Dragon Tavern, and there passed a series of resolutions urging the importance of adopting the Federal Constitution, then pending before a Convention of delegates from different parts of the State. Hon. Daniel Webster, in a speech delivered by him at Andover, in the autumn of 1843, referring to this meeting and these resolutions, holds the following language: “There was a particular set of resolutions, founded on this very idea of favouring home productions, full of energy and decision, passed by the mechanics of Boston. And where did the mechanics of Boston meet to pass them? Full of the influence of these feelings, they congregated at the Head-Quarters of the Revolution. I see, waving among the banners before me, that of the old Green Dragon. It was there, in Union street, that John Gray, Paul Revere,” - both members of the Lodge,- “and others of their class, met for consultation. There, with earnestness and enthusiasm, they passed their resolutions. A committee carried them to the Boston delegation in the Convention,” then in session. Paul Revere, whom Mr. Webster in a previous address, delivered on another occasion, says, was, “a man of sense and character, and of high public spirit, whom the mechanics of Boston ought never to forget,” was chairman of this committee. He placed them in the hands of Samuel Adams. “How many mechanics,” said Mr. Adams, “Were at the Green Dragon when these resolutions were passed?” “More, sir,” was the reply, “than the Green Dragon could hold.” “And where were the rest, Mr. Revere?” “In the streets, sir.” “And how many were in the streets?” “More, sir, than there are stars in the sky.”
The late Hon. Edward Everett, in an address on the Battle of Lexington, delivered at Lexington on the 19th of April, 1835, speaking of the patriot Samuel Adams, says:
“He was among the earliest and ablest writers on the patriotic side. He caught the plain, downright style of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. More than most of his associates, he understood the efficacy of personal intercourse with the people. It was Samuel Adams, more than any other individual, who brought the question home to their bosoms and firesides, not by profound disquisitions and elaborate reports, - though these in their place were not spared, - but in the caucuses, the club rooms, at the Green Dragon, in the ship-yards, in actual conference, man to man and heart to heart.”
The Old South Church was, in these stirring times, called by the patriots, the Sanctuary of Freedom; while, on the other hand, the Green Dragon Tavern was denounced by the Tories as a Nest of Traitors! The distinction in these appellations is more obvious than the difference! The enemies of the tyrannical and oppressive measures of the government, were all either patriots or traitors, according to the standard by which they were tried.
I give these anecdotes as striking and forcible illustrations of the popular character of the Green Dragon, and of the important part which the mechanics of the North-End played in public affairs, at that day. It is not however, to be inferred that the mechanics residing in other sections of the town were inactive. That the former appear more prominently than other of their class, is probably owing to the circumstance that the North-End was then the business part of the town, and where most of the mechanical trades were carried on.
It man I think, be safely assumed, that from the year 1767, when the Townshend Revenue Acts were passed, imposing a Tax on Tea, creating a Board of Customs, and legalizing Writs of Assistance, to the close of the War of Independence, there was not a other public house in the whole country, and assuredly not in Massachusetts, where so much of the “secret history” of the Revolutionary period was made, as at the old Green Dragon Tavern; and it is to be deeply regretted that the subject was not attended to when that history could have been intelligently and reliably written. It is now too late. The patriotic men who alone could have furnished the material have passed away, - and they have taken their “secret” with them.
When Mr. Webster, who was perhaps better read in the early local history and events of the Revolutionary period than any other public man of his time, described the Green Dragon Tavern as the “Head-Quarters of the Revolution,” he wrote the title page, and opened a volume, which, if written as he alone could have written it, would have been an addition to the early political annals of the Commonwealth of surpassing interest and importance.