4

May2010/

TheNorthernLight

JosephCerneau’s

SupremeCouncil

MISUNDERSTANDINGORMALICE?

ByAIMEEE.NEWELL,Ph.D.

O

nJune3,1899,WilliamT.Petherbridge
(1848-1924),ThricePotentMasterof
OnotaLodgeofPerfectioninPittsfield,

MA,wrotetoCharlesC.Dame,33°,Deputyof
Massachusetts,petitioningforadispensationfor
thelodgetoworkonthecomingFestivalofSt.
John:

Owingtoourcloseproximitytotheso-called

CerneauConsistoryatLenox,itisadifficultmatter
tobuildupanactiveScottishRitebody,wehave
manyloyalMasons,buttothemajoritywho
unfortunatelytakenopainstoinvestigate,theyare
justasapttotakethewordofthemembersofthe
spuriousbodyastheyaretobelievewhatwetell
them...

Inthesebrieflines,Petherbridgeraiseda

numberofquestionsandoutlinedpressingissues
thatconfrontedtheScottishRitethenandnow.
WhatwastheCerneauConsistory?Whywasita
“spuriousbody?”WhywastheLodgeof
Perfectionfindingitdifficulttoattractmembers?
JustastheRiteisworkingtoday,over100years
later,tobringinnewmembers,Freemasonsin
1899werestrugglingtodothesame,thwarted,in
part,byaspuriousgroupthattookitsnamefrom
onecreatedalmost100yearsearlier,in1807,by
JosephCerneau.

WhowasJosephCerneau?

MostofthedetailsaboutJosephCerneau’slife

—whetherMasonicornot—arefarfrom
securelydocumented.AccordingtoGeorgeA.
NewburyandLouisL.Williams’1987Historyof
theScottishRite,
CerneauwasborninVilleblevin,
Francein1763andbecameajeweler.Duringthe
1780s,CerneauwenttoSantoDomingowhere
heservedasSecretaryofaMasoniclodgein
1802.Laterin1802,aslaverebellionforced

CerneautoleaveHaitiandrelocatetoCuba.In
1804,hepetitionedtheGrandLodgeof
Pennsylvaniaforawarrantforanewlodgethere
andbecamethelodge’sfirstMaster.

Cerneau’sconnectiontotheScottishRite

seemstobegininCuba.AntoineMatthieuDu
Potet,aFreemasoninSantoDomingo,was
appointedaDeputyInspectorGeneralofthe
LodgeofPerfectionthere,butfledtoCuba
duringthesameslaverebellionthatprovoked
Cerneautoleave.AccordingtoNewburyand
Williams,DuPotetgaveCerneautheauthority
ofaDeputyInspectorGeneralforthenorthern
partofCubainJuly1806.Newburyand
WilliamspointoutthatthisLodgeofPerfection
wasnotthesameastoday,butmodeledonthe
oldstyle,whichoriginatedinFrancein1760,and
governed25degrees.ThisLodgeofPerfection
hadnoconnectionwiththeSupremeCouncil
foundedinCharleston,SC,in1801.

CerneauwasexpelledfromCubalaterin1806

andmovedtoNewYorkwithhispatentfrom

NewYork

circa1806,

whenCerneau

movedto

thecity.