Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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Now let us singy Long live the kingi

And Gilpin long live he;
And, when he next doth ride abroad,

May I be there to seel



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I SUPPOSE that Tery few casual readers of the New
York HctM of August 13, 1863, observed, in an
obscure comer, among the *^ Deaths," the announcement,^-

"NoLAM. Died, on boud U. S. Corvette Levami, Lat a<> 11' S.,
Long. i3x^ W., on the zith of May, Tmup Nolaw."

I happened to observe it, because I was stranded at the
old Mission House in Mackinaw, waitmg 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 hdd
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 nth, Teob Man without a Country.*' For it was a»
« 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 itonr. Reason enough there has been till now



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The Man WUhaut a CautUry 183

ever since Madison's administration went out in 1817, for
very strict secrecy, the secrecy of honour itself, among the
gentlemen of the navy who have had Nolan in successive
charge. And certainly it speaks well for the esprU de corps
of the profession, and the personal honour of its members,
that to the press this man's story has been wholly unknown —
and, I think, to the coimtry 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 Crownin-
shields — ^who was in the Navy Department when he came
home — ^he found that the Depsurtment 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 men-
tioned 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 Ameri-
cans of to-day what it is to be A Man wrrHOirr a Country.

Philip Nolan was as fine a young officer as there was in
the "Legion of the West," as the Western division of our
army was then called. When Aaron Binr made his first
dashing expedition down to New Orleans in 1805, at Fort
Massac, or somewhere above on the river, he met, as the
Devil would have it, this gay, dashing, bri^t young fellow;
at some dinner-party, I think. Binr marked him, talked to
him, walked with him, took him a day or two's voyage in


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184 SloHm Every Child Should Know

his flat-boat, and, in short, fascinated him. For the next
jrear, banack-li£e was vay tame to poor Nolan. He
occasionally anuled himself of the permission the great man
had giren him to write to him. Long, high-worded, stilted
letters the poor boy wrote and rewrote and copied. But
nerer a line did he hare in reply firom the gay deceiver. The
other bojrs in the garrison sneered at him, because he lost
the fun which th^ found in shooting or rowing while he
was working away on these grand letters to his grand friend.
They could not understand why Nolan kept by himself
while they were playing high-low- jack. Poker was not yet
inrented. But before long the yoimg fellow had his revenge.
For this time His Excellency, Honourable Aaron Binr,
appeared again imder a very different aspect There were
rumours that he had an army behind him and everybody
supposed that he had an empire before him. At that time
the yoimgsters all envied him. Binr had not been talking
twenty minutes with the commander before he asked him to
send for Lieutenant Nolan. Then after a little talk he
asked Nolan if he could show him something of the great
river and the plans for the new post. He asked Nolan to
t^ke him out in his skiff to show him a canebrake or a cotton-
wood tree, as he said, really to seduce him; and by the time
the sail was over, Nolan was enlisted body and soul. From
that time, though he did not yet know it, he lived as A ican


What Burr meant to do I know no more than you, dear
reader. It is none of our business just now. Only, when
the grand catastrophe came, and Jefferson and the House
of XTu-ginia of that day undertone to break tm the wheel all
the posable Clarences of the then House of York, by the
great treason trial at Richmond, some of the lesser fry in that
distant Mississippi Valley, which was farther from us than

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The Man Without a Country 185

Puget's Sound is to-day, introduced the like novelty on their
provincial stage; and, to while away the monotony of the
summer at Fort Adams, got up, for spectacles^ a string of
courts-martial on the officers there. One and another of
the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the list,
little Nolan, against whom. Heaven knows, there was evi-
dence enough — that he was sick of the service, had been
willing to be false to it, and would have obeyed any order
to march any whither with anyone who would follow him
had the order been signed, ''By command of His £zc. A.
Burr." The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,
rightly for all T know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as
I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him, reader,
but that, when the president of the court asked him at the
close whether he wished to say aiiything to show that he had
always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in
a fit of frenzy —

"Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of
the United States again!"

I suppose he did not know how the words shocked old
Colonel Morgan, who was holding the coiut. Half the
officers who sat in it te,d served through the Revolution, and
their lives, not to say their necks, had been risked for the
very idea which he so cavalierly cursed in his madness. He,
on his part, had grown up in the West of those days, in the
midst of "Spanish plot,** " Orleans plot," and all the rest
He had been educated on a plantation where the finest com-
pany was a Spanish officer or a French merchant from
Orleans. His education, such as it was, had been perfected
in commercial expeditions to Vera Cruz, and I think he told
me his father once hired an Englishman to be a private tutor
for a winter on the plantation. He had spent half his youth
with an older brother, himting horses in Texas; and, in a


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i86 Stories Every Child Should Know

word, to him '^ United States" was scarcdy a reality. Yet
he had been fed by "United States" for all the years smce
he had been in the army. He had sworn on his faith as a
Christian to be true to "United States." It was "United
States" which gave him the uniform he wore, and the sword
by his side. Nay, my poor Nolan, it was only because
"United States" had picked you out first as one of her own
confidential men of honour that "A. Binr" cared for you a
straw more than for the flat-boat men who sailed his ark for
him. I do not excuse Nolan; I only explain to the reader
why he damned his country, and wished he might never
hear her name again.

He never did hear her name but once again. From that
moment, Sept. 23, 1807, till the day he died. May 11, 1863,
he never heard her name again. For that half-century and
more he was a man without a country.

Old Morgan, as I said, was terribly shocked. If Nolan
had compared George Washington to Benedict Arnold, or
had cried, " God save King George," Morgan would not have
felt worse. He called the court into his private room, and
returned in fifteen minutes, with a face like a sheet, to say :

"Prisoner, hear the sentence of the 0)urt! The Court
decides, subject to the approval of the President, that you
never hear the name of the United States again."

Nolan laughed. But nobody else laughed. Old Morgan
was too solemn, and the whole room was hushed dead
as night for a minute. Even Nolan lost his swagger in a
moment. Then Morgan added :

"Mr. Marshal, take the prisoner to Orleans in an armed
boat, and deliver him to the naval commander there."

The marshal gave his orders and the prisoner was taken
out of court.

"Mr. Marshal," continued old Morgan, "see that no one

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The Man Without a Country 187 '

mentions the United States to the prisoner. Mr. Marshal,
make my respects to Lieutenant Mitchell at Orleans, and
request him to order that no one shall mention the United
States to the prisoner while he is on board ship. You will
receive your written orders from the oflScer on duty here
this evening. The Court is adjomned without day."

I have always supposed that Colonel Morgan himself
took the proceedings of the court to Washington city, and
explained them to Mr. Jefferson. Certain it is that the
President approved them — certain, that is, if I may believe
the men who say they have seen his signatiu-e. Before the
Nautilus got round from New Orleans to the Northern
Atlantic coast with the prisoner on board, the sentence had
been approved, and he was a man without a country.

The plan then adopted was substantially the same which
was necessarily followed ever after. Perhaps it was sug-
gested by the necessity of sending him by water from Fort
Adams and Orleans. The Secretary of the Navy — it must
have been the first Crowninshield, though he is a man I do
not remember — ^was requested to put Nolan on board a
government vessel bound on a long cruise, and to direct that
he should be only so far confined there as to make it certain
tiiat he never saw or heard of the country. We had few long
cruises then, and the navy was very much out of favour;
and as almost all of this story is traditional, as I have ex-
plained, I do not know certainly what his first cruise was.
But the conunander to w^hom he was intrusted— ^rhaps
it was Tingey or Shaw, though I think it was one of the
yoimger men — ^we are all old enough now — ^regulated the
etiquette and the precautions of the affair, and according to
his scheme they were carried out, I suppose, till Nolan died.

When I was second officer of the Intrepid^ some thirty
years after, I saw the original paper of instructions. I have


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i88 Stories Every Child Should Know

been sorry erer since that I did not copy the whole of it. It
ran, however, much in this way —

WASHmoTON (with a date, which
must have been hite in 1807).

You will receive from Lieutenant Neale the person of Philip
Nolan, late a lieutenant in the United States army.

This person on his trial by court-martial expressed, with an oath,
the wish that he might never hear of the United States again.

The Court sentenced him to have his wish fulfilled.

For the present, the execution of the order is intrusted by the Presi-
dent to this Department

You will take the prisoner on board your ship, and keep him there
with such precautions as shall prevent his escape.

You will provide him with such quarters, rations, and clothing as
would be proper for an officer of his late rank, if he were a passenger
on your vessel on the business of his Government.

The gentlemen on board will make any arrangements agreeable to
themselves regarding his society. He is to be exposed to no indignity
of any kind, nor is he ever unnecessarily to be reminded that he is a

But under no circumstances is he ever to hear of his country or to
see any information regarding it; and you will especially caution all
the officers under your command to take care, that, in the various
indulgences which may be granted, this rule, in which his punishment
Ib involved, shall not be broken.

It is the intention of the Government that he shall never again see
the coimtry which he has disowned. Before the end of your cruise
jott will receive orders which will give effect to this intention.
Respectfully yours,

W. Southard, for the

Secretary of the Navy.

If I had only preserved the whole of this paptf , there
would be no break in the beginning of my sketch of this
story. For Captain Shaw, if it were he, handed it to his

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The Man Wilhout a Country 189

successor in the charge, and he to his, and I suppose the
commander of the Levant has it to-day as his authority for
keeping this man in this mild custody.

The rule adopted on board the ships on which I have met
"the man without a coimtry" was, I think, transmitted
from the beginning. No mess liked to have him permanently,
because his presence cut off all talk of home or the pros-
pect of return, of politics or letters, of peace or of war— cut
off more than half the talk men liked to have at sea. But
it was always thought too hard that he should never meet the
rest of us, except to touch hats, and we finally sank into one
system. He was not permitted to talk with the men, unless
an office was by. With officers he had unrestrained inter-
course, as far as they and he chose. But he grew shy,
though he had favourites: I was one. Then the captain
always asked him to dinner on Monday. Every mess in
succession took up the invitation in its turn. According to
the size of the ship, you had him at your mess more or less
often at dinner. His breakfiist he ate in his own state-room
— ^he always had a state-room— which was where a sentinel
or somebody on the watch could see the door. And what-
ever else he ate or drank, he ate or drank alone. Sometimes,
when the marines or sailors had any special jollification^ they
were permitted to invite ''Plain-Buttons,'' as they called
him. Then Nolan was sent with some officer, and the men
were forbidden to speak of home while he was there. I
believe the theory was that the sight of his punishment did
them food. They called him "Plain-Buttons,'' because,
while he always chose to wear a regulation army-uniform, he
was not permitted to wear the army-button, for the reason
that it bore either the initials or the insignia of the country he
had disowned.

I remember, soon after I joined the navy, I was on shoie


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f go Stories Every Child Should Know

with some of the older officers from our ship and from the
Brandywine^ which we bad met at Alexandria. We had
leave to make a party and go up to Cairo and the Pyramids.
As we jogged along (you went on donkeys then), some of
the gentlemen (we boys called them " Dons," but the phrase
was long since changed) fell to talking about Nolan, and
someone told the system which was adopted from the first
about his books and other reading. As he was almost never
permitted to go on shore, even though the vessel lay in port
for months, his time at the best hirng heavy; and everybody
was permitted to lend him books, if they were not published
in America and made no allusion to it. These were conmion
enougli in the old days, when people in the other hemisphere
talked of the United States as little as we do of Paraguay.
He had almost all the foreign papers that came into the ship,
sooner or later; only somebody must go over them first, and
cut out any advertisement or stray paragraph that alluded
to America. This was a little cruel sometimes, when the
back of what was cut out might be as innocent as Hesiod.
Right in the midst of one of Napoleon's battles, or one of
Canning's speeches, poor Nolan would find a great hole,
because on the back of the page of that paper there had been
an advertisement of a packet for New York, or a scrap from
the President's message. I say this was the first time I ever
heard of this plan, which afterwards I had enough and more
than enough to do with. I remember it, because poor
Phillips, who was of the party, as soon as the allusion to
reading was made, told a story of something which happened
at the Cape of Good Hope on Nolan's first voyage; and it
is the only thing I ever knew of that voyage. They had
touched at the Cape, and had done the civil thing with the
English Admiral and the fleet, and then, leaving for a long
cruise up the Indian Ocean, Phillips had borrowed a lot of

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The Man WUhotU a Country 191

English books from an officer, which, in those da3rs, as indeed
in these, was quite a windfall. Among them, as the Devil
would order, was the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," which
they had all of them heard of, but which most of them had
never seen. I think it could not have been published long.
Well, nobody thought there could be any risk of anything na-
tional in that, though Phillips swore old Shaw had cut out
the ''Tempest" from Shakespeare before he let Nolan have
it, because he said " the Bermudas ought to be oiurs, and, by
Jove, should be one day." So Nolan was permitted to join
the circle one afternoon when a lot of them sat on deck
smoking and reading aloud. People do not do such things
so often now; but when I was young we got rid of a great deal
of time so. Well, so it happened that in his turn Nolan
took the book and read to the others; and he read very well,
as I know. Nobody in the circle knew a line of the poem,
only it was all magic and Border chivalry, and was ten
thousand years ago. Poor Nolan read steadily through
the fifth canto, stopped a minute and drank something,
and then began, without a thought of what was coming :

"Breathes there the man, with soul so dead.
Who never to himself hath said," —

It seems impossible to us that anybody ever heard this
for the first time; but all these fellows did then, and poor
JTolan idmaieS went on, still unconsciously or mechanically —
" This is my own, my native land I "
Then they all saw that something was to pay; but he
expected to get through, I suppose, turned a little pale, but
plunged on,

"Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned.
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand? —
If such there breathe, go, mark him well — •*

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X92 Stories Every ChUd Should Know

By this time the men were all beside themselves, wishing
there was any way to make him turn over two pages; but
he had not quite presence of mind for that; he gagged a
little, coloured crimson, and staggered on —

''For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name.
Boundless his wealth as wish can Hal"i^
De^te these titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self — "

and here the poor fellow choked, could not go on, but
started up, swung the book into the sea, vanished into his
state-room, "And by Jove," said Phillips, "we did not see
him for two months again. And I had to mak* up some
b^garly story to that English surgeon why I did Aot return
his Walter Scott to him."

That story shows about the time when Nolan's brag-
gadocio must have broken down. At first, they said, he
took a very high tone, considered his imprisonment a mere
iajcty affected to enjoy the voyage, and all that; but Phillips
said that after he came out of his state-room he never was
the same man a^in. He never read aloud a^in unless
it was the Bible or Shakespeare, or something else he was
sure of. But it was not that merely. He never entered in
with the other young men exactly as a companion again.
He was alwa)rs shy afterwards, when I knew him — ^very
seldom spoke, unless he was spoken to, except to a very few
friends. He lighted up occasionally — I remember late in
his life hearing him fairly eloquent on something which had
been sugj<ested to him by one of Fl^chier's sermons — ^but
generali/ ne had the nervous, tired look of a heart-woimded

When Captain Shaw was coming home — ^if, as I say, it
was Shaw — ^rather to the surprise of everybody they made


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The Man WithotU a Country 193

one of the Windward Islands, and lay off and on for nearly a
week. The bo)rs said the officers were sick of salt- junk, and
meant to have turtle-soup before they came home. But
after several days the Warren csime to the same ren-
dezvous; they exchanged signals; she sent to Phillips and
these homeward-bound men letters and papers, and told
them she was outward-bound, perhaps to the Mediterranean,
and took poor Nolan and his traps on the boat back to try
his second cruise. He looked very blank when he was told
to get ready to join her. He had known enough of the signs
of the sky to know that till that moment he was going
'*home." But this was a distinct evidence of something he
had not thought of, perhaps — ^that there was no going home
for him, even to a prison. And this was the first of some
twenty such transfers, which brought him sooner or later
into half our best vessels, but which kept him all his life at
least some hundred miles from the coimtry he had hoped he
might never hear of again.

It may have been on that second cruise — ^it was once when
he was up the Mediterranean, — ^that Mrs. Graff, the cele-
brated Southern beauty of those days, danced with him.
They had been lying a long time in the Bay of Naples, and
the officers were very intimate in the English fleet, and there
had been great festivities, and our men thought they must
give a great ball on board the ship. How they ever did it
on board the Warren I am sure I do not know. Perhaps it
was not the Warren, or perhaps ladies did not take up so
much room as they do now. They wanted to use Nolan's
state-room tor something, and they hated to do it without
asking him to the ball; so the captain said they might ask
him, if they would be responsible that he did not talk with
the wrong people, "who woiild give him intelligence." So
the dance went on, the finest party that had ever been known,


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194 Stories Every Child Should Knew

I dare say; for I never heard of a man-of-war ball that was
iK>t. For ladies they had the family of the American consiil,
one or two travellers who had adventured so far, and a nice
bevy of En^dsh giris and matrons, perhaps Lady Hamilton

Well, different officers relieved each other in standing and
talking with Nolan in a friendly way, so as to be sure that
nobody else spoke to him. The dancing went on with
spirit, and after a while even the fellows who took this
honorary guard of Nolan ceased to fear any contreiemps.
Only when some English lady — ^Lady Hamilton, as I said,
perhaps — called for a set of "American dances," an odd
thing happened. Everybody then danced contra-dances.
The black band, nothing loath, conferred as to what " Ameri-
can dances'* were, and started off with "Virginia Red,"
which they followed with "Money Musk," which, in its
turn in those days, should have been followed by " The Old
Thirteen." But just as Dick, the leader, tapped for his
fiddles to begin, and bent forward, about to say, in true
negro state, " 'The Old Thirteen,' gentlemen and ladies I"
as be had said " 'Virginny Reel,' if you please!" and
" 'Money-Musk,' if you please!" the captain's boy tapped
him on the shoulder, whispered to him, and he did not
announce the name of the dance; he merely bowed, began
on the air, and they all fell to — the officers teaching the Eng-
lish girls the figure, but not telling them why it had no

But that is not the story I started to tell. As the dancing
went on, Nolan and our fellows all got at ease, as I said:
so mucn so, that it seemed quite natural for him to bow
to that splendid Mrs. Graff and say:

"I hope you have not forgotten me, Miss Rutledge.
Shall I have the honour of dancing?"


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The Man Without a Country 195

He did it so quickly, that Fellows, who was with hiin,
could not hinder him. She laughed and said:

"I am not Miss Rutledge any longer, Mr. Nolan; but
I will dance all the same," just nodded to Fellows, as if to

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Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 14 of 22)