TheNorthernLight

/May2010

7

Yet,justasrecognizedFreemasonryandits
establishedGrandLodgeswithstoodtheattacks
ofAnti-Masonicproponents,the1899letter
quotedatthebeginningofthisarticle
demonstratesthatcompetinggroupscontinuedto
existaswell.WhileCerneaureturnedtoFrance
in1827,justasAmericananti-Masonicfervor
wasmushrooming,hisnamecontinuedtoserveas
anumbrellatermforspuriousandirregular
Masonicgroups.Althoughnotdirectlyconnected
toCerneau’sSupremeCouncilinNewYorkcity
inthe1810sand1820s,thedesignation
“Cerneauism”continuedtobeusedbyproponents
andopponentsintothe20thcenturyandbeyond.

Cerneau’sLastingInfluence

Theexistence—andpersistence—ofthe

CerneauSupremeCouncil,and“Cerneauism”in
general,hasconfoundedmembersofthe
recognizedSupremeCouncilsoftheNorthern
MasonicandSouthernJurisdictionsforcenturies.
Asmentionedabove,theofficialhistoryofthe
NorthernMasonicJurisduction,publishedin
1987andwrittenbyformerSovereignGrand
CommanderGeorgeA.NewburyandActive
EmeritusMemberLouisL.Williams,takesa
noticeablebiasagainstCerneauandhisBrothers.
TheseauthorssuggestthatCerneaustartedhis
groupforunsavoryreasonsandwasactingsolely
fromhubrisorsomeotherambition.Yet,more
recentarticleshavestartedtosuggestthat
Cerneauactedoutoflessmaliciousintent.Ina
1995articlepublishedinHeredom,MichaelR.
PollreviewedtheworkofAlbertPikeinan
attempttoresolvethequestionofthevalidityof
Cerneau’s“right”toestablishScottishRitebodies.
Hepresentedaconvincingargumentthat
Cerneaubelievedhehadtheauthoritytoactand
wasdoingsooutofhisownloveforhis
fraternity.

Ina1997articleinHeredom,AlainBernheim

transcribedanewly-founddocumentoriginally
presentedtoCerneaubytheSovereignGrand
ConsistoryoftheUnitedStatesofAmericain
1827whenhereturnedtoFrance.Presentedby
Cerneau’sowngroup,thedocumentatteststohis
“zealfortheinterestsoftheOrder”andstates
thathisBrothers“entertainthehighestesteem&
regardforhisperson,virtuesandservices.”While
documentsinCerneau’sownhandremain

unlocated,thisdocumentdoesprovidea
counterpointtothenegativeimpressionsoffered
bythepreviousbiographersofCerneauandthe
menwhorantheSupremeCouncilsofthe
NorthernMasonicandSouthernJurisdictionsin
the1810sand1820s.

WhileCerneauhimselfsailedaway,the

NorthernMasonicJurisdictionexperiencedthe
“chaos”ofspuriousgroupsuntiltheUnionof
1867,whichonceagainsettledquestionsof
regularityandrecognitionbybringingmultiple
ScottishRitegroupstogether.Bideaud’sgroup
continuedtopresentitselfastheauthorityafter
DeLaMottaconfirmeditaslawfulin1813.As
explainedabove,Cerneau’sgroupwastakenover
byEliasHicksin1827andcontinuedtomeet
until1846whenitwasdissolvedanditsfunds
weredistributedtoitsmembers.Butnotallof
Cerneau’smembersfollowedHicks.HenryC.
AtwoodstartedhisownSupremeCouncilaround
thesametime.In1858,leadershipofthisgroup
wasbestowedonEdmundB.Hays.

I

n1860,SovereignGrandCommanderEdward
AsaRaymondwalkedoutoftherecognized

SupremeCouncil’sAugustmeetinganddeclared
itclosed.Roundlyunderstoodtobesuffering
fromamentaldisorder,Raymondclaimed
“supremeandautocraticpower”inDecember
1860andstartedanotherSupremeCouncil.This
groupexisteduntil1863whenitmergedwiththe
Atwood-HaysCouncil.Fouryearslateran
agreementwasworkedoutregularizingthe
membersofthisCouncilandbringingthem
togetherwiththerecognizedSupremeCouncil
—theoriginalBideaudgroupthatDeLaMotta
acceptedin1813.

ThehistoryofJosephCerneauandhispatent

continuestoinspiredebateandcuriositytoday,
200yearslater.ThischapterofScottishRite
historytouchesonthefraternity’soriginswhile
alsodemonstratinghowcherishedthebondsof
Brotherhoodwere—provokingstrongfeelings
andpassionateemotions.Yetitmayalsooffer
insightthatcanassistustodaywith
understandingsomeofthefactorsthatmake
membershipattractive.

AimeeE.Newell,Ph.D.,isDirectorofCollections

attheScottishRiteMasonicMuseumandLibrary.
Todiscussadonationforthecollection,ortoaska
question,emailanewell@monh.orgorcall
781-457-4144.

NL