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A government by the wizards: MACUSA history revealed

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J.K. Rowling offered another glimpse into North America’s wizarding history Thursday, releasing the origin story of the Magical Congress of the United States of America – or MACUSA – on Pottermore.

The story offered both new insights into the American wizarding government and reinforced or expanded on some details already released in Rowling’s four-part History of Magic in North America. Major takeaways include:

–MACUSA was founded in 1693, at the tail end of the Salem Witch Trials and the year after the International Statute of Secrecy was passed, which effectively hid the wizarding community from Muggles. (However, the story didn’t touch on how the name MACUSA came about close to a century before the name the United States of America was first officially used in the Declaration of Independence. Divination, perhaps? Or a different original name that wasn’t mentioned?)

–The North American wizarding government’s biggest early concern was getting rid of Scourers, bands of wizard vigilantes who hunted down their fellow wizards (and whose No-Maj descendants kept a belief in and prejudice against magic alive and well over the following centuries). Tracking down fugitives who had fled to America from other countries was the second biggest worry.

–Secrecy was a major concern for American wizards. Rappaport’s Law, which was enacted in 1790 due to a serious and dangerous leak of details about the wizarding community, forbade wizards from marrying or even befriending No-Majs. The law was still in effect when Newt Scamander visited New York in the 1920s.

–MACUSA had no relationship with the American No-Maj government, which was unusual for Western nations.

–America’s first 12 Aurors were highly regarded for the dangerous job they took on, and their families remain respected. Percival Graves, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement during Newt Scamander’s time (and a major player in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) is descended from one of the original Aurors. (Another is Harry Potter’s distant relative.)

–American and British wizards alike officially stayed out of the Revolutionary War, though plenty of American wizards acted to protect No-Maj neighbors.

–MACUSA’s headquarters moved around frequently, having four different permanent homes from MACUSA’s founding through the 1890s before settling in New York’s Woolworth Building, which opened in 1913.

–There wasn’t an Azkaban equivalent for American wizarding criminals. Instead, serious crimes were punished with the death penalty.

Why North America?

Pottermore also released a video where Rowling explains why she wanted to explore the wizarding world through Newt’s eyes in 1920s-era New York.

“Newt’s been across pretty much every continent, but magic developed very differently in America. Newt accidentally walks right into the middle of MACUSA. He gets caught up into a society he doesn’t understand,” Rowling explains in the video.

MACUSA’s story is the third piece of writing on North America’s wizarding history Rowling has released ahead of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them‘s Nov. 18 debut. The first was the previously mentioned History of Magic in North America; the second was a history of Ilvermorny, North America’s wizarding school.

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About the author

Amanda Keim-Morrison

Amanda Keim-Morrison brings updates about J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world to Nerdvana. She's a former East Valley Tribune reporter and State Press editor; she now lives in Minnesota, where she's been a writer, web producer and editor and currently works on the tech side of several news sites. Amanda is a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts, a Horned Serpent at Ilvermorny and has a white stallion for a Patronus.