This classic of American patriotism was first published during the civil war. It is about a man who curses the United States and is exiled to live the rest of his life at sea where he has plenty of time to contemplate the meaning and value of country and patriotism.
"DAMN THE UNITED STATES! I WISH I MAY NEVER HEAR OF THE UNITED STATES AGAIN!"
"The Man Without a Country" first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly for 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.