Happy 200th Anniversary N.M.J.!

5.2 SC001_018DP1DB_webToday marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite's Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, in New York City on August 5, 1813, the date of the warrant, or charter, shown above.

In 1813, the Charleston Supreme Council (today’s Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction), tasked its Grand Treasurer General, Emanuel De La Motta, to sort out which of the competing Scottish Rite bodies in New York City was legitimate. He ruled in favor of the group headed by Antoine Bideaud — stating that group members were the "legal and lawful founders of the sublime degrees." De La Motta drafted this charter, or warrant, which states that he does "hereby duly and legally form, constitute and establish" Bideaud’s group as the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s first Supreme Council on August 5, 1813. Although signed by De La Motta, the document is in the handwriting of J.J.J. Gourgas, who served De La Motta in a secretarial capacity during the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in 1813 and served as the first Grand Secretary General and third Sovereign Grand Commander for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Supreme Council.

You can learn more about the creation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's first Supreme Council and about the six men that comprised the Council by reading "The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's First Supreme Council" on pages 11-15 of the May 2013 issue of The Northern Light [pdf].

The actual charter itself is currently on view in the exhibition "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction" here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Charter/Warrant for the Northern District of the United States of America, 1813.
Issued by Emanuel De La Motta, New York, New York. SC 001.018, Photograph by David Bohl.

1863 Charter for Boston Council, Princes of Jerusalem

1.14 SC038DP1DB_webThis charter, one of many in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, created the Boston Council, Princes of Jerusalem, on March 11, 1863. While the Boston Council was successful, it existed for less than a decade. Why is that?

In 1871, just eight years after they were founded, the Boston Council united with the Giles F. Yates Council, also of Boston. Members of the Boston Council were received as full members and the charter seen here was surrendered. The years immediately following the "Union of 1867" - which united two previously competing Supreme Councils in the Northeast, and forming the present-day Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction - saw the consolidation of a number of subordinate bodies as the harmony that came with the union also brought with it the existence of multiple subordinate bodies in close proximity. This was especially true in cities such as Boston, where both previously competing Scottish Rite organizations flourished.

The charter is signed by both Winslow Lewis (1799-1875), in his capacity of Secretary General for the Supreme Council, and Killian H. Van Rensselaer (1800–1881), in his capacity as Sovereign Grand Commander.

Among the founding members listed on the charter is Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (1810-1874), who served as Mayor of Boston from 1868-1870, and who was an early trustee of Boston Public Library.

1.14 SC038DP1DB_seal_detailThe charter contains a vibrant, red wax seal (at right - click on the image for greater detail), which reads Supreme Council XXXIII - Deus Meumque Jus [a Latin phrase which is the motto of the Scottish Rite's 33rd degree and which translates to "God and My Right"]. In the center is the familiar image of the double-headed eagle, below which is the latitude coordinate 42° 21' 22", which refers to the Van Rensselaer-led Supreme Council's "Grand East" being in Boston, Massachusetts.


Charter, Boston Council, Princes of Jerusalem, 1863. Signed by Killian H. van Rensselaer, Boston, Massachusetts. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 038. Photograph by David Bohl.