A Masonic dinner in Rabat, Malta, by French soldiers in 1811. Why it had to be cancelled?

By a blog reader

In 1811, a number of French prisoners of war interned on the island of Malta decided to form a Masonic Lodge, naming it rather appropriately Les Amis en Captive.

The officers, mostly young men aged between 18 and 25  were interned in Rabat. Having gotten word of the formation of this new lodge, English Freemasons operating in Valletta, sent a deputation and invited the French brethren to a banquet in Valletta. To reciprocate the kindness and honourable reception extended to them by their ‘captors’,  the French brethren decided to reciprocate.

All arrangements were made, a hall was engaged and decorated, and a banquet was ordered. Alas, on the eve of the banquet, a man name Chilcott was sent to inform them that the Civil Commissioner or his Secretary had prohibited the meeting from taking place and forbade the English from attending. After protestations from the French brethren, Chilcott further informed them that their lodge’s existence was well known throughout the island, and the next day’s meeting was understood by the locals to be some special Masonic festival. He went on to tell them that for the previous few months, priests had been denouncing them from their pulpits, declaring to their parishioners that Freemasons had caused the drought from which the island was suffering and, for good measure, were also the cause of a disease which was killing of their horses and that soon because of the masons’ presence fire would fall from heaven. Freemasons were reported to have been seen on moonlit nights, flying like swallows ‘using barbarous words and terrible imprecations, the Master of the lodge flying better and higher than the rest and directing their movements.

The commissioner also told them that the authorities had gotten wind that the locals with the priests egging them on, were to descend at the time of the planned banquet and then all the exits from the hall would be set on fire, and all those attempting to escape the building would be lynched and killed and all would be burnt together as ‘sorcerers and heretics’.

The members of the French lodge were immediately summoned and after a long deliberation, they had the good sense to cancel the banquet.

And it is well that they did, for on the following day, more than a thousand peasants assembled from all over the island and descended upon the hall but were disappointed to learn that the meeting was cancelled. They broke down the doors of the hall and tore down all the decorations and masonic symbols which they piled up in the square with a religious ceremony accompanied by the singing of hymns.

Subsequently disappointed that they did not find any Freemasons to lynch, the “demonstrators fell out amongst themselves, blows were exchanged, and it was as much as the clergy could do to part the combatants. Many were more or less severely injured in the tumult..

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