In 1841, about a year before his untimely demise at the end of a rope aboard the Somers , young Philip Spencer was a student at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He had already failed in his studies at another college, and was to be dismissed from Union, too, after a scrape with the authorities. But he remained long enough to help found what has since become a national fraternity, Chi Psi.
According to Chi Psi tradition, the young man was not hanged for mutiny at all, but for refusing to reveal or explain his fraternity affiliation: his judges believed his Chi Psi oath conflicted with his oath of allegiance to his country. History fails to support the tradition, but it survives in a fine old Chi Psi song; two of its many verses will give some sense of their flavor: