An Old West Point Graduate Goes Into the History of the Subject
Major Fetchet, a West Point man and soldier of the civil war, says that hazing first started at West Point as a social protection for cadets who had not the advantages of wealth or social standing and were apt to be snubbed by those who possessed these advantages.
It began in a mild way, as prior to the civil war we had few plutocratic or official families. As wealth and family influence increased, there was an increase in hazing and in its severity, the idea being to eliminate foolish pretensions and bring all the cadets to a common level. It has established a true democracy both at West Point and Annapolis, no one set of pupils being allowed to put on silly airs or to lord it over another. As an institution, hazing has been effective in crushing snobbery and in aiding discipline. It cannot be denied that many abuses have crept into a once salutary system, and that there has in late years been considerable brutality â€” but this brutality has never been indorsed by general sentiment at either the military or the naval academy â€” hazing at the latter never having reached the lengths it has at West Point.
According to Major Fetchet, the three classes of boys who have been most subject to hazing at West Point are those who think themselves modern Alexanders, and “feel their oats” too much; the “mammy boys” who have been too tenderly reared, and the student philosophers. The first class, the most numerous and the one that has suffered most has very soon had the conceit taken out of it, and the lads instead of imagining themselves commanders-in-chief have been content to be high privates in the rear rank if they can only be let alone. The “mammy boys” have usually braced up under this stern regimen and made men of themselves, while the student philosophers, on learning that Grant, Lee, Sherman and Sheridan when at West Point suffered like indignities with themselves, have submitted with good grace to the general custom, and if ordered by the upper classmen to go out and fight, have done so. As a rule this show of pluck has ended their troubles, and they have had no molestation.
But although hazing has had its palliations, its code has been narrow and boyish, and has resulted in far more harm than good. Now that it has been voluntarily abolished, some other form of inner class discipline will have to take its place. Maj. Fetchet has a very high idea of the chivalry and honesty of the West Point cadets, and says that 90 per cent of all West Point transactions occur “upon honor.” This being the case, he is sure that in the future, “For every cowardly or disgraceful act, the cadet who cannot be fought, disciplined or hazed, will be requested to resign by his own class, and this will be effected by sending him to Coventry.” â€” Minneapolis Tribune.