We learn that the practice of Masonic Toasts is linked with Masonic Feasting, and probably inherited from the Guilds and other medieval societies.
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade.
The earliest guilds were formed as a religious organisation of workers. They were organized in a manner something like a trade union.
They often acted by an authority or monarch to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials.
It seems the earliest recorded history of Toasts was about 1670 where non operative apprentices were to provide in addition to their entry money a dinner with a speaking pint – this meant that the Apprentice following his initiation was to pay for his initiation banquet and a speaking pint was the Old Scottish pint which is the equivalent of three of our standard pints.
This tradition or laid down requirement was also a requirement for the Operative Masons who became apprenticed. We do remind ourselves that in an around this period of time that is the 1600’s it was the known as the ‘drinking age’ where it was socially acceptable to drink to excess as we know it today – sometimes when we look at society particularly the youth of society little has changed.
The verb toast came into use it seems around the 1700 when we drank to one’s health.
In the first Book of Constitutions of 1723 (England) which contained a collection of songs appeared the Masters Song which during certain stages of the song the Brethren were instructed to stop signing and drink to the GM’s Health, then later the Health of the Master and his wardens, then to Emperors Kings and Princes.
Also found in the 1723 of the B. of C was the Toast “God Bless the King and the Craft”
On 16 March1638 there is further evidence of toasting the Master Elect on the night of his election and it is recorded as this
“Our Brother Sir Robert Lawley Bart, was this evening chose Master of this Lodge unanimously and His Health was drank with the greatest regards in due form.”
In 1742 the toast sequence was:-
The King, the Very Worshipful (that is the GM), the Worshipful (that is the WM), the first and second wardens, the Initiate if any, the Visitors if any, the Brethren of this Lodge.