TheNorthernLight

/May2010

5

DuPotet.AlthoughCerneau’spatentallowed
himtoconferthedegreesuptoandincludingthe
24thandthe25thdegreeononecandidateper
yearinCuba,thisjurisdictionalrestrictiondoes
notseemtohavestoppedCerneaufrom
conferringthedegreesoncehereachedNewYork,
nordidthefactthattherewasalreadyagroupof
menwhohadreceivedthe32°inthecity.
AntoineBideaud,whobecameanActive
MemberoftheSupremeCouncilintheFrench
WestIndies,initiatedJ.J.J.Gourgasandfourother
menasSublimePrincesoftheRoyalSecret,32°,
inAugust1806.

ExuberantBrotheror
MaliciousCharlatan?

Atthispointinthestory,Newburyand

WilliamssuggestthatCerneaupursuedhis
Masonicactivitieswithdefinitepurposeandnota
littlenefariousness.Theywritethathesoughtout
“NewYork’sleadingMasons,”includingfuture
governorDeWittClinton,andformeda“Grand
Consistory”in1807of25degrees.Some
interpretationsofthehistoryoftheScottishRite
inNewYorkcityatthistimefindstrong
competitionbetweenCerneau’sgroupand
Bideaud’sgroup.Inhis1938historyofthe
ScottishRite,SamuelHarrisonBaynardJr.,
suggestedthatthecompetitionbetweenthetwo
groupsstemmedfrompoliticaldifferencesand
wasfurtherstokedbyonegroupofferingonly25
degreesincomparisontothesecondgroup’s32
degrees.

InhishistoryofFreemasonryinNewYork,

PeterRossremarkedthatCerneauhasbeenthe

subjectofa“violentpaperwar”whichstartedin
theearly1800sandlastedfor200years.Noless
anauthoritythanAlbertGallatinMackeyjoined
thefraywritingthatCerneau“changedthenames
ofhisbodiesassuitedhispleasure”andthatthe
NorthernSupremeCouncilwas“infectedwithan
unhealthyabsorptionofbadmaterial.”Yet,
Mackeygrudginglyadmittedthatitwouldbe
“unwisenottoacknowledgethat[Cerneau
bodies]hadanexistence.”

J

osephCerneauhimselfenduredpersonal
attacksinthe1810sand1820s,labelinghima

peddlerofMasonicmaterialsanddegreesaswell
asaswindler.WhilemostsubsequentScottish
Ritehistorians,startingwithAlbertPike,have
expressedanegativeviewofCerneauandhis
activities,therearealwaystwo(ormore)sidesto
everystory.Inhis1862historyoftheScottish
Rite,RobertB.Folgerofferedacounterpoint,
comparingCerneau’sactivitiestothoseofJeremy
CrossandsuggestingthatCerneaudidnothing
wrong.Forexample,asaworkingjeweler,
Cerneaumadeandsoldsilverboxes,whichwere
usedbylodgestoholdcharterseals.Indeed,this
seemstoparallelPaulRevere’sworkofcrafting
Masonicofficerjewelsandsellingthemtohis
ownlodge,aswellasotherBoston-arealodges.
Yet,CerneauwasvilifiedandReverewas,well,
revered.

BaynardmakesthepointthattheScottish

Rite’scherishedmotto,“OrdoabChao,”
translatedto“orderoutofchaos,”wasinspiredby
thecompetingSupremeCouncilsthatbeganto
cropupintheearly1800s.By1813,theSupreme
CouncilinCharleston,SC,whichconsidered
itselftobeproperlyestablished,decidedtoresolve

TimelineofCerneau’sActivities

Inthe1780sCerneauwasalodgemember(andlater,Secretary)inHaiti.Duringtheslaverebellionof1802,
heleavesforCuba.

1802

1804

1806

1807

1813

1827

Flees

to

Cuba.

Petitions

GrandLodge

of

Pennsylvania

forlodgein

Cuba.

Becomesfirst

Master.

Appointedas

Deputy

Inspector

Generalfor

northern

Cuba.

MovestoNew

York.

Formed

“Grand

Consistory”

25degrees.

DeLaMotta

delegatedby

S.J.in

Charlestonto

sortout

situationin

NewYork.

Leaves

NewYork

for

France.