There seems to be a dilemma about how to close the American military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – and what to do with the suspected terrorist detainees. They are not wanted within the United States, and neither their homelands nor any place else seems to want them.

It’s time to refresh our memory about a similar set of circumstances in the early days of our country. Back in 1807, Arron Burr was tried for treason on the charge that he was trying to separate parts of the Louisiana Purchase from the United States.

A lesser-known United States Army lieutenant named Philip Nolan was also tried as a co-conspirator. During his testimony, Nolan was reported to have said, “Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!”

Then, a half-century later, in 1863, The Atlantic Monthly published “The Man Without a Country,” by Edward Everett Hale. It is a story of an American Army officer who renounces his country during a trial for treason and is consequently sentenced to spend the rest of his life at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States.

In the Hale story, 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 was he allowed back in a home port.

As Hale intended, his story created support for the United States as a united country, identified the propriety of the Union over the individual states and thus influenced readers to view Southern secession negatively. By so doing, he influenced many individuals to join, or at least support, the North’s effort as President Lincoln maintained, “to preserve the Union.”

Now we are confronted with individuals who appear to have no place anywhere in a rational society. Therefore, we should seek to isolate them from the society they have indicated a continuous desire to destroy.

Indeed, two of the planners believed to be behind the attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas were released from detention at Guantanamo in 2007 and returned to Yemen.

The example so spectacularly described in Hale’s story would appear to be an effective solution. These co-conspirators should be sentenced to the possibility of forever being separated from the society they have indicated they want to destroy. Deprived of a homeland, some may, over time, come to accept the benefits of a humane society and be reconsidered for some form of parole. Deprived of any homeland, they may, over time, learn the true worth of human companionship.

For those who do not repent, they would live out their lives by being transported from ship to ship and eventually be buried at sea.

For those interested in Hale’s story “The Man Without a Country,” it was published in the December 1863 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Dr. Lloyd V. Stover was a World War II carrier pilot who subsequently became an attorney and environmental scientist. He believes with involvement in varied experiences most of us have the probability of greater understanding about the human condition by our varied experiences. He may be reached at