1936 copyright; Illustrations by Edward A. Wilson; The Heritage Press, New York; hardbound, brown leatherette covers; very good condition with unmarked pages; protective outer sleeve very good with light fading along edge.
The Man Without a Country is the story of American Army lieutenant Philip Nolan, who renounces his country during a trial for treason and is consequently sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States. Though the story is set in the early 19th century, it is an allegory about the upheaval of the American Civil War and was meant to promote the Union cause.
The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, "I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: Nolan is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.
The sentence is carried out to the letter. For the rest of his life, Nolan is transported from ship to ship, living out his life as a prisoner on the high seas, never once allowed back in a home port. Though he is treated according to his former rank, nothing of his country is ever mentioned to him. None of the sailors in whose custody Nolan remains is allowed to speak to him about the U.S., and his newspapers are censored. Nolan is unrepentant at first, but over the years becomes sadder and wiser, and desperate for news. One day, as he is being transferred to another ship, he beseeches a young sailor never to make the same mistake that he had: "Remember, boy, that behind all these men ... behind officers and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother ... !" On one such ship, he attends a party in which he dances with a young lady he had formerly known. He then beseeches her to tell him something, anything, about the United States, but she quickly withdraws and speaks no longer to him.
Deprived of a homeland, Nolan slowly and painfully learns the true worth of his country. He misses it more than his friends or family, more than art or music or love or nature. Without it, he is nothing. Dying aboard the USS Levant, he shows his room to an officer named Danforth; it is "a little shrine" of patriotism. The Stars and Stripes are draped around a picture of George Washington. Over his bed, Nolan has painted a bald eagle, with lightning "blazing from his beak" and claws grasping the globe. At the foot of his bed is an outdated map of the United States, showing many of its old territories that had, unbeknownst to him, been admitted to statehood. Nolan smiles, "Here, you see, I have a country!"
The dying man asks desperately to be told the news of American history since 1807...