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Edward E. Hale
Illustrated by Nella F. Binckley
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THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY
* * *
INMEMORYOFPHILIP NOLAN,Lieutenant in the Army of the United States.He loved his country as no other man hasloved her, but no man deserved
"The Man Without a Country" first appeared in the Atlantic Monthlyfor December, 1863. It was the author's wish that it be published anonymously, in the hope that it might be ascribed to some officer of the Navy; but unfortunately, the man who compiled the year's index for the magazine, which was mailed with the December number, recognized Dr. Hale's handwriting, and gave him credit for it in the index.
The story was written during the darkest period of the Civil War, and this war is perhaps the gloomiest period in the history of our great republic in the history of our great Republic; it was written at a time when one-half of the people in the United States were burning with patriotism, and were ready to lay down their lives to preserve the Union, while the other half were striving to disrupt what to them was merely a confederation of States, in no wise binding, and were damning the United States, even as did Philip Nolan; at at time when the President was bending low under the weight of sorrow for the loss of thousands of noble men who were falling in battle, and was enduring in pitiful silence the villification that was heaped upon him by the "copper-head" opposition; at a time when patriotism was preached in the pulpit, sung by our poets, and exhaled with every breath.
The story launched in such an atmosphere, met with immediate favor. It was reprinted everywhere without regard for copyright, and was translated into several foreign languages. It was accepted by many as a narrative of actual facts, and provoked many discussions as to whether Philip Nolan was a real person; some even went so far as to identify him.
While to-day we know that the story is allegorical, and was intended by the author merely to stimulate the love of country which the disastrous war was putting to a very severe test, and that no such punishment as Nolan suffered would be imposed by the United States, yet its lesson of the value of patriotism will be kept alive in our hearts so long as the "Stars and Stripes" are the symbols of freedom.
"DAMN THE UNITED STATES! I WISH I MAY NEVER HEAR OF THE UNITED STATESAGAIN!"
I SUPPOSE that very few casual readers of the New York Heraldof August 18th observed, in an obscure corner, among the "Deaths," the announcement,—
"NOLAN. Died, on board U.S. Corvette Levant, Lat. 2° 11' S., Long. 131° W., on the 11th of May, PHILIPNOLAN."
I happened to observe it, because I was stranded at the old Mission-House in Mackinaw, waiting for a Lake Superior steamer which did not choose to come, and I was devouring to the very stubble all the current literature I could get hold of, even down to the deaths and marriages in the Herald. My memory for names and people is good, and the reader will see, as he goes on, that I had reason enough to remember Philip Nolan. There are hundreds of readers who would have paused at that announcement, if the officer of the Levant who reported it had chosen to make it thus:
—"Died, May 11th, THE MAN WITHOUT ACOUNTRY."
For it was as "The Man without a Country" that poor Philip Nolan had generally been known by the officers who had him in charge during some fifty years, as, indeed, by all the men who sailed under them. I dare say there is many a man who has taken wine with him once a fortnight, in a three years' cruise, who never knew that his name was "Nolan," or whether the poor wretch had any name at all.
There can now be no possible harm in telling this poor creature's story. Reason enough there has been till now, ever since Madison's administration went out in 1817, for very strict secrecy, the secrecy of honor itself, among the gentlemen of the navy who have had Nolan in successive charge. And certainly it speaks well for the esprit de corps of the profession, and the personal honor of its members, that to the press this man's story has been wholly unknown,—and, I think, to the country at large also. I have reason to think, from some investigations I made in the Naval Archives when I was attached to the Bureau of Construction, that every official report relating to him was burned when Ross burned the public buildings at Washington. One of the Tuckers, or possibly one of the Watsons, had Nolan in charge at the end of the war; and when, on returning from his cruise, he reported at Washington to one of the Crowninshields,—who was in the Navy Department when he came home,— he found that the Department ignored the whole business. Whether they really knew nothing about it or whether it was a "Non mi ricordo," determined on as a piece of policy, I do not know. But this I do know, that since 1817, and possibly before, no naval officer has mentioned Nolan in his report of a cruise.
But, as I say, there is no need for secrecy any longer. And now the poor creature is dead, it seems to me worth while to tell a little of his story, by way of showing young Americans of to-day what it is to be A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY.