In brief, the catastrophe involved the daughter of President Rappaport’s trusted Keeper of Treasure and Dragots (the Dragot is the American wizarding currency and the Keeper of Dragots, as the title implies, is roughly equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury). Aristotle Twelvetrees was a competent man, but his daughter, Dorcus, was as dim as she was pretty. She had been a poor student at Ilvermorny and at the time of her father’s ascension to high office was living at home, hardly ever performing magic, but concentrating mainly on her clothes, the arrangement of her hair and parties.
One day, at a local picnic, Dorcus Twelvetrees became greatly enamoured of a handsome No-Maj called Bartholomew Barebone. Unbeknownst to Dorcus, Bartholomew was a Scourer descendant. Nobody in his family was magic, but his belief in magic was profound and unshakeable, as was his conviction that all witches and wizards were evil.
Totally oblivious to the danger, Dorcus took Bartholomew’s polite interest in her ‘little tricks’ at face value. Led on by her beau’s artless questions, she confided the secret addresses of both MACUSA and Ilvermorny, along with information about the International Confederation of Wizards and all the ways in which these bodies sought to protect and conceal the wizarding community.
Having gathered as much information as he could from Dorcus, Bartholomew stole the wand she had obligingly demonstrated for him, showed it to as many pressmen as he could find, then gathered together armed friends and set out to persecute and, ideally, kill all the witches and wizards in the vicinity. Bartholomew further printed leaflets giving the addresses where witches and wizards congregated and sent letters to prominent No-Majs, some of whom felt it necessary to investigate whether there were indeed ‘evil occult parties’ happening at the places described.
Giddy with his mission to expose witchcraft in America, Bartholomew Barebone overstepped himself by shooting at what he believed were a group of MACUSA wizards, but which turned out to be No-Majs who had the bad fortune to leave a suspected building while he was watching it. Fortunately nobody was killed, and Bartholomew was arrested and imprisoned for the crime without any need for MACUSA involvement. This was an enormous relief to MACUSA who were struggling to cope with the massive fallout of Dorcus’s indiscretions.
Bartholomew had disseminated his leaflets widely, and a few newspapers had taken him seriously enough to print pictures of Dorcus’s wand and note that it ‘had a kick like a mule’ if waved. The attention focused on the MACUSA building was so intense that it was forced to move premises. As President Rappaport was forced to tell the International Confederation of Wizards at a public inquiry, she could not be sure that every last person privy to Dorcus’s information had been Obliviated. The leak had been so serious that the after-effects would be felt for many years.
Although many in the magical community campaigned to have her imprisoned for life or even executed, Dorcus spent only a year in jail. Thoroughly disgraced, utterly shellshocked, she emerged into a very different wizarding community and ended her days in seclusion, a mirror and her parrot her dearest companions.
Dorcus’s indiscretions led to the introduction of Rappaport’s Law. Rappaport’s Law enforced strict segregation between the No-Maj and wizarding communities. Wizards were no longer allowed to befriend or marry No-Majs. Penalties for fraternising with No-Majs were harsh. Communication with No-Majs was limited to that necessary to perform daily activities.
Rappaport’s Law further entrenched the major cultural difference between the American wizarding community and that of Europe. In the Old World, there had always been a degree of covert cooperation and communication between No-Maj governments and their magical counterparts. In America, MACUSA acted totally independently of the No-Maj government. In Europe, witches and wizards married and were friends with No-Majs; in America, No-Majs were increasingly regarded as the enemy. In short, Rappaport’s Law drove the American wizarding community, already dealing with an unusually suspicious No-Maj population, still deeper underground.