New J.K. Rowling story explains why the U.S. wizarding community went underground
For the American wizarding community, total secrecy is key: Wizards can’t befriend or marry non-magical (No-Maj) people. Wizards are not allowed to communicate extensively with No-Majs. Even magical governments stayed away from interacting with their No-Maj counterparts, unlike those in Europe that led covert meetings between the leaders of magical and non-magical people. (Remember “The Other Minister”?)
“Rappaport’s Law,” the third story in J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America, outlines why witches and wizards in North America completely isolated themselves. In 1790, Emily Rappaport, the 15th president of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, introduced a law of segregation after a disastrous — and embarrassing — breach of the International Statute of Secrecy.
Rowling has never shied away from exposing the weaknesses of magical political leaders when it comes to their children (looking at you, Barty Crouch, Sr.), and in her 18th-century take on American magical leadership, she writes of a similar scandal at the MACUSA. Rappaport’s Law came into being because Dorcus Twelvetrees, the dim-witted daughter of Aristotle Twelvetrees, the Keeper of Dragots (Dragots are the American magical currency, so in other words, the Secretary of the Treasury) who was focused on rising among the ranks at the time, thought little of learning magic and instead spilled magical secrets — think addresses of MACUSA and Ilvermorny, the North American wizarding school — to a No-Maj she became smitten with named Bartholomew Barebone.
Bartholomew turned out to be an awful boyfriend. As a Scourer descendant (Scourers persecuted witches and wizards starting in the 17th century), he believed magic was evil and took advantage of Dorcus’ intel and even stole her wand. He gathered friends who helped him attempt to kill witches and wizards, sent Dorcus’ wand to the press, printed leaflets on the magical communities’ supposed evildoing, and wound up nearly killing some No-Majs he thought were MACUSA wizards. Though Bartholomew was imprisoned, the damage was done: Rappaport had to endure a public inquiry with the International Confederation of Wizards and create Rapport’s Law.
It may look like one young witch’s misplaced trust forced all witches and wizards underground, but Rowling notes that Rappaport’s Law arrived after MACUSA was “already dealing with an unusually suspicious No-Maj population.” (So, in a way, that growing fear and segregation of the magical community toward the end of the 18th century mirrors how the U.S. government established similar laws at the time. In real life, the U.S. attempted to strengthen national security by signing the Alien and Sedition Acts into law in 1798, which made it hard for immigrants to become citizens.) In other words, thanks to Scourers, ongoing suspicion, and a particularly damning and humiliating breach of secrecy, the New World became an even more secretive — and more dangerous — place for the magical community than ever before.