What can a single man do? Here is the answer

By Bill Federer

Fictional Philip Nolan from 'The Man Without a Country'
Fictional character Philip Nolan from ‘The Man Without a Country’

“The Man Without a Country” was a classic novel written by Edward Everett Hale. It was loosely based around Aaron Burr, who had been vice president under Thomas Jefferson.

Aaron Burr turned the social club Tammany Hall into the infamous New York political machine. He founded the Bank of the Manhattan Company, which was later absorbed into the Chase Manhattan Bank. While vice president, Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.

Burr was indicted on charges of conspiracy and treason in 1807 for attempting to take control over part of the Louisiana Territory and Mexico. In 1808, Aaron Burr fled the United States and lived in Europe for several years.

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In the novel, “The Man Without a Country,” 1863, Edward Everett Hale created a fictitious character named Philip Nolan, who supposedly met Aaron Burr and joined in the conspiracy. When arrested and convicted of treason, Philip Nolan exclaimed: “D–n the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!”

The judge ordered Philip Nolan’s wish fulfilled, that for the rest of his life he would sail the world’s seas on Navy ships and never set foot or hear the name of his former country again. Sailors were forbidden to discuss or even mention the United States to Philip Nolan.

Toward the end of the novel, “The Man Without a Country,” Edward Everett Hale wrote that a visitor met Philip Nolan: “… But he could not stand it long … he beckoned me down into our boat … he said to me: ‘Youngster, let that show you what it is to be without a family, without a home, and without a country. And if you are ever tempted to say a word or to do a thing that shall put a bar between you and your family, your home, and your country, pray God in his mercy to take you that instant home to his own heaven. Stick by your family, boy … and for your country, boy,’ and the words rattled in his throat, ‘and for that flag,’ and he pointed to the ship, ‘never dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a thousand hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy … 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, if those devils there had got hold of her to-day!'”

Edward Everett Hale, who was born April 3, 1822, was the grandnephew of Revolutionary hero Nathan Hale. He entered Harvard at age 13 and later taught at the Boston Latin School. Edward Everett Hale published over 50 books, opposed slavery and was pastor of Boston’s South Congregational Church for 45 years. In 1903, Edward Everett Hale became chaplain of the United States Senate.

Edward Everett Hale wrote: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do and, with the help of God, I will do.”

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