Take a moment, this finals season, and remember this school’s long and noble past. Remember the simpler times, the more idyllic times, the times when prostitutes gathered across the street and young men stole wine from our president. Debauched Bwogger Henry Litwhiler brings you a moment from our glorious, degenerate history.
“King’s College” summons up certain idyllic images of young men pursuing the life of the mind, studious straight-edges preparing for lives in the clergy. To the contrary: With an average matriculation age of fifteen (two years younger than that of Princeton), the College was remarkably juvenile and, at times, raucous.
It wasn’t until the presidency of Myles Cooper, however, that the largely-local student body came to live on campus to any serious degree. Naturally, the commuter-centric model kept the shenanigans to a minimum—students would walk to the College for classes and then return home before they could do anything to upset the faculty’s sensibilities.
President Cooper, looking to emulate the structure of his alma mater, The Queen’s College at Oxford, set about instituting a more residential regime shortly after he took office in 1763. Displacing faculty and placing a greater burden on families’ finances, Cooper mandated that all King’s College students reside on campus. Perhaps because of the concentration of prostitutes on the street next to the College, Cooper proceeded to institute a 10pm. curfew and have the entire campus fenced off from the surrounding city.
Predictably, Cooper was keen to employ harsh punishment when his charges flouted the rules. If only he had kept some record of transgressions and punishments so that posterity could understand the wisdom of his ways!
Never fear: Cooper was just the anal record-keeper you’d imagine him to be. In thirty-odd pages of flowing script, Cooper and other faculty members make note of every offense committed and punishment meted out at the College from 1771 to 1775. In 1931, the pages were typeset and published as The Black Book or Misdemeanors in King’s College, and the University Archives have since digitized and published the book online for your reading pleasure.
The Brothers Rapalje?
In the book’s extensive pages, none occupy a more prominent place than the ambiguously-related John and George Rapalje.
John entered the College in 1770, but his first appearance in the Black Book comes in 1773 when, delinquent on his “Exercises,” he was sentenced to be confined to his room for two weeks.
Hell-bent on a life of crime, John appears again in December when he is again sentenced to two weeks of confinement, this time for making “so much Noise and Confusion as to cause [Dr. Clossy] to stop his Anatomical Lecture”.
Then, a bit over a month later:
Jan. 19, 1774
Rapalje suspended by the President, till the next Visitation, for leaving College, contrary to express Order, before he had finished a Theme,— and also for being indebted two Exercises at once.
Bored with banal delinquency, J.R. finally kicks things up a notch:
June 20. Rapalje (viz. John) to be represented for stealing a pair of Cotton Stockings belonging to [Edward Cornwallis] Moncrieffe.
June 21. Van Bueren, Willett, Davan, Rapalje to be represented to ye Committee & Board of Governors for having stolen a very large Quantity of Wine out of the President’s garret.
The punishment for Grand Theft Cotton Stockings?
Rapalje, for stealing Moncrieff’s Stockings, ordered to be confined within the walls of ye College for one Month after next Vacation, subject to such dally Exercises as the President shall assign him; and in Case of Deficiency in the performance of either Order, that he be recommended to ye next Board of Governors for Expulsion, and that he also make a public Acknowledgement, in the Hall, for his offence.
George entered the College in 1772 and managed to stay out of trouble until 1774, when, perhaps lacking his now-graduated relative’s guiding hand:
July 13. Rapalje, Suspended by the President, till the next Meeting of the Governors, for using [mathematics Professor] Mr [Robert] Harpur in the most scandalous Manner, and making use of ye most Indecent Language.
July 21. The above George Rapalje — having been fully convicted of the Charge before ye Board of Governors, — was sentenced to be Expelled.
So the dynasty ends under the hammer of swift justice.