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The protagonist of the story is a young US Army lieutenant named Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (as he actually was in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, Nolan bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" Upon conviction, the judge icily grants Nolan his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life on warships of the US Navy, in exile, with no right to ever again set foot on US soil, and with no mention ever again made to him about his country.

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 being allowed back in a home port. None of the sailors in whose custody Nolan remains are allowed to speak to him about the U.S., and his newspapers are censored.

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. Nolan dies content after Danforth finally tells him all that has happened to the U.S. since his sentence was imposed.

  • Author: Edward Everett Hale
  • Title: The Man Without a Country
  • First Published by: Atlantic Monthly
  • First Published Date: 1863

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