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Cerneau, Joseph

A jeweler, born at Villeblevin, in Yonne, a department of central France. A register of the Lodge Reunion des Coeurs at Port Republican (Port-au-Prince) in Santo Domingo, West Indies, was in the possession of General Albert Pike ,and in 1886 he quotes from it in publishing the report to him of the Supreme Council of France in regard to Joseph Cerneau (see page 29): "Joseph Cerneau appears on the same (the register for 1801) as Keeper of the Seals and Archives, the entry as to him, signed manu propria (by his own hand) being 'Garde de Sceaux et Archives: Joseph Cerneau, Marchand Orfevre, ne a Villeblerin, age de 37 ans R. .A. .R. . (i. e. Royal Arch (of Heredom) and Rose Croix)'" the other words not commented upon specifically by Brother Pike meaning Joseph Cerneau, merchant goldsmith, born at Villeblerin (the v in this word being copied as r), aged 87 years, etc. Cerneau was active in Cuba later on and we find that on December 17, 1804, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania received a petition from several Brethren for a Warrant to hold a Lodge at Havana and that Brother Joseph Cerneau might be named Master, a request which was granted on that date, the "Petition being duly recommended according to the Regulations of this Grand Lodge."

Antonie-Mathieu Dupotet was Master of Lodge No. .47, Reunion des Coeurs, and in the register of that Lodge his name is followed by the same initials of Degrees or titles as in the case of Cerneau, but with this important addition "et P. . du R. . S. .," meaning and Prince af the Royal Secret.

Brother Pike in his Memoir, af Cerneauism (page 6, Supplement, 1885) says. "

In July, 1806, he (Dupotet) gave Cerneau, at Baracoa, in Cuba, the Degrees of the Rite of Heredom Perfection, from 19 to 25.''

The Appendix to this Memoir, contains a copy of the Patent of the Twenty-fifth Degree to Joseph Cerneau, 16 July, 1806, signed by Dupotet, giving him power for the Northern part of the Island of Cuba to initiate and promote Brother Masons from the fourth to the twenty-fourth, and on one only a year the remaining Degree was perrnitted.

The Patent was said by General Pike in this Memoir to be " from papers belonging to Bro. . Charles Laflon de Ladebat, who was, prior to 1857, a member of the Supreme Council for the State of Louisiana, at New Orleans (claiming to be the Hicks-Laurent United Sup. Council continued), of which Jacques Foulhouze had been Grand Commander."

The Patent not only specifically restricted the conferring of Degrees by Joseph Cerneau as Deputy Grand Inspector to the northern part of the Island of Cuba and only to such in the series as are enumerated, namely from the fourth to the twenty-fourth and once a year not more than one in the twenty-fifth, but provides further that these candidates " shall have been officers of a Lodge regularly constituted and recognized, and in places only where there may not be found Sacred and Sublime and regularly constituted Asyla."

Dr. Robert B. Folger, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, 1881 (page 337) says "Joseph Cerneau established his Sovereign Grand Consistory, in New York City in 1807.

He pretended to no more than the Rite of Perfection in Twenty-five degrees.'' There is another allusion by the author (page 157), "

It will be found that the name of The Most Potent Sovereign Grand Consistory of Supreme Chiefs of Exalted Masonry, according to the Ancient Constitutional Scottish Rite of Heredom was continued up to the end of the time---viz., 1827."

Doctor Folger mentions the activity of Cerneau in promoting various branches of the Masonic Institution and says in his history, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (second edition, 1881, page 128), " Mr. Cerneau also established a Degree called Aaron's Band which continued to be worked as a detached Degree for many years, in a separate Body; but eventually about the year 1825, was stopped by the interference of the Grand Chapter, which Body stated that it was an infringement upon the Degree of High Priesthood."

We may fix the time when Cerneau came to New York from Cuba by a report made by Brother Duplessis, the proxy of Lodge No. 103 at Havana, to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on January 5, 1807. In this statement (see page 244, Reprint of the Minutes, volume 11, 1801-10), "It appears from said papers that difficulties of the highest importance had happened in that Lodge.

That unworthy Brethren had denounced the Lodge to the Governor of Havana and that Bro. Cerneau had been Ordered to quit the Island and was arrived at New York in the beginning of November last with his Family. That the worthy Brethren of the said Lodge No. 103, had proceeded to the choice of New Officers agreeably to the Communications and Returns aforesaid, and were Obliged to use the greatest caution in their work, &c.; that the Lodge had lost above Three Thousand Dollars by the unfortunate circumstance aforesaid, and our worthy Brother Cerneau had also met with a heavy loss by his being obliged to remove with his Family, though he had received from the Governor every mark of regard that could be expected by the most respectable Character, &c., and that the said Bro. Cerneau had previous to his departure given to the Brethren the most wholesome advice and Assisted them in reorganizing the said Lodge, which now consists of the most respectable Characters of the Island."

We find later on, April 6, 1807, the Grand Lodge authorizing a letter of sympathy to the " late and present Worshipful Masters and Worthy Brethren of Lodge No. 103.'' Brothers Emanuel De La Motta, M. J. Maduro Peixotto, J. J. J. Gourgas and Sampson Simson, the first being Treasurer-General of the Supreme Council having its Grand East at Charleston, South Carolina, visited Joseph Cerneau in New York on September 14, 1813, and as a result of that investigation he was denounced and he and his associates declared expelled from every lawful Degree or Masonic Society in which they may have been received or admitted (see page 25, Documents, Joseph M'cosh).

Joseph M'cosh states in Documents upon sublime Freemasonry in the United States of America (page vii), " Of J. C.'s Masonic conduct in Havana de Cuba, we have many facts before us which would blacken any thing we have before communicated. His labors were conduced by his being expelled from the island by the governor, at the request of the fraternity who resided there."

There is in the report of the Supreme Council for France, published in 1886, a reference that would indicate action against Joseph Cerneau had been taken by the Masonic authorities in Cuba as well as in the United States.

The item mentioning the decree issued at Charleston in 1813, says (page 31).

It declares him unworthy to be a Mason, annuls as irregular his Masonic operations, and demolishes the Consistories and Councils which he may have established. It thus approves the Masonic decisions made in 1805, by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of Havana, Island of Cuba, against this Ver I1l:. Brother."

In the business recorded of the Adjourned Grand Quarterly Communication at Philadelphia on January 16, 1809 (page 381, Reprint) the Grand Secretary "Brother Baker stated that he had been informed that Bro. Joseph Cerneau, formerly J. G. W. of the Provincial Lodge of St. Domingo and afterwards Master of Lodge No. 103, held at Havannah, and now residing in the City of New York, had been Guilty of Un-masonic Conduct.

Whereupon, On Motion made and Seconded, Resolved, that Brothers Duplessis, Chaudron and Baker be a Committee to Examine respecting the premisses and make Report thereon. "

But the details of this affair must be left to conjecture as we do not discover the Committee to have brought in any report.

In a footnote by General Pike to the report of the Supreme Council for France, July 7, 1886, published at Washington by the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States (page 29), we read of Cerneau's claims.

" He did not style himself to be an Inspector-General 'of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.' The Body that he established did not pretend to be a body, and he did not pretend to be an Inspector; of that Rite; but of 'the Ancient Constitutional Rite of Heredom.

He went back to France in December, 1827, and was no more heard of: and no Body claiming to be a Supreme Council of the 33d Degree, with any powers, was established by him until November 28, 1827.

Before then the 32ds of his Grand Consistory elected 33ds from among themselves, the title being merely honorary, and with no powers attached." As to the date when Joseph Cerneau left New York for France there is some uncertain, Doctor Folger intimating a later time than General Pike. Doctor Folger alludes in his History, 1881, to his personal acquaintance with Joseph Cerneau and in regard to his circumstances and movements in later years has this to say (page 117), " For, in the latter part of the time - from 1832 onward - he was in poor circumstances, and made application to the Supreme Council for assistance.

That body made some considerable purchases of him, which relieved his necessities. He returned to his native land in comparative poverty, and died there, between the years 1840 and 1845, while filling a small public office, under wretched pay."

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