« 前へ次へ »
Which pillage they with merry march bring home
Shakespeare: Henry V, 1, ii.
Edward Everett Hale 43. 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 Burr 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, bright young fellow; at some dinner-party, I think. Burr marked him, talked to him, walked with him, took him a day or two's voyage in his flat-boat, and, in short, fascinated him. For the next year, barrack-life was very tame to poor Nolan. He occasionally availed himself of the permission the great man had given him to write to him. Long, high-worded, stilted letters the poor boy wrote and rewrote and copied. But never a line did he have in reply from the gay
de ceiver. The other boys in the garrison sneered at him, because he lost the fun which they found in shooting or row. ing 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. But before long the young fellow had his revenge. For this time His Excellency, Honorable Aaron Burr, appeared again under a very different aspect. There were rumors that he had an army behind him and everybody supposed that he had an empire before him. At that time the young sters all envied him. Burr 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 take him out in his skiff to show him a canebrake or a cottonwood 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 MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY. What Burr meant to do I know no more than
dear reader. It is none of our business just now. Only, when the grand catastrophe came, and Jefferson and the House of Virginia of that day undertook to break on the wheel all the possible 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 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 court-martials 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 evidence 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 any one who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc. A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped, -rightly for all I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him but that, when the president of the court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything 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 court. Half the officers who sat in it had 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 spent half his youth with an older brother, hunting horses in Texas ; and, in a word, to him “ United States” was scarcely a reality. Yet he had been fed by “United States ” for all the years since 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 honor that “ A. Burr” 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, September 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 Nolar 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 Court! 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
in moment. Then Morgan added,
“Mr. Marsbal, 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 mentions the United States to the prisoner. Mr. Marshal, make my respects to Lieutenant Mitchell at Orleans, and request bim to order that no one shall mention the United States to the prisoner while he is on board ship. You will receive
written orders from the officer on duty here this evening. The Court is adjourned 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 signature. 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. The Secretary of the Navy 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 that he never saw or heard of the country. We had few long cruises then, and the navy was very much out of favor. But the commander to whom he was intrusted regulated the etiquette and the precautions of the affair, and according to his scheme they were carried out, I suppose, till Nolan died.
The rule adopted on board the ship was, I think, transmitted from the beginning. No mess liked to have him permanently, because his presence cut off all talk of home or of the prospect of return, of politics or letters, of peace or
- cut off more than half the talk men liked to have at sea. He was not permitted to talk with the men, unless an officer was by. With officers he had unrestrained intercourse, as far as they and he chose. Then the captain always asked him to dinner on Monday. His breakfast he ate in his own stateroom, he always had a stateroom, which was where a sentinel or somebody on the watch could see the door. And whatever 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 good. They called him “ Plain-Buttons,” because, while he always chose to wear a regulation armyuniform, 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.
As he was almost never permitted to go on shore, even though the vessel lay in port for months, his time at the best hung heavy; and everybody was permitted to lend him books, if they were not published in America and made no allusion to it. 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. 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. 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 English books from an officer, which, in those days, 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. Well, nobody thought there could be any risk of anything national 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 ours,