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Sketch of John Paul Jones; a possible source for
The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
JOHN PAUL JONES.
When the quarrel between Great Britain and its American subjects resulted in actual war, and blood flowed at Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775, the "rebels," as the haughty ministers called the resisting colonists, had not a single armed vessel afloat to defend their exposed coast of several hundred miles in extent. Then, as now, the British navy was the right arm of English puissance; and every seaport town of the feeble colonists might have been cannonaded by a hundred guns at the same time. Although a few sons of wealthy merchants and planters had been schooled in the royal navy of father-land, and many American seamen had become somewhat expert in naval warfare by contests with the French during a portion of twenty years preceding the Revolution, yet when the tempest of war burst upon New England, and the wise men of the continent assembled in council, there appeared no reliable material for the organization of a marine force at all adequate for the contingency. So Congress directed its special attention and earliest efforts toward the establishment and support of an army.
The kindling flame of revolution at Lexington, and the thunder-peal from Bunker's Hill sixty days afterward, were signals for rapine which the British heeded with swift alacrity. Boston harbor was the centre from which radiated depredations upon public and private property in all directions; and around Boston harbor soon hovered a bevy of private vessels, manned by brave patriots and armed as circumstances would permit. These first taught the marauders to be circumspect, then cautious, then fearful. Within a few weeks, while the Continental army were piling huge fortifications on land to fence in the tiger of oppression and carnage upon the little Boston peninsula, these privateers made the marine freebooters flee to the protection of the guns of Castle William and of the ships of war in the surrounding waters. Right seemed to give might to the Americans; and a guardian angel appeared to sit at every prow, for they were almost always successful.
The necessity of a coast-guard became apparent, and early in the autumn of 1775, the Continental Congress made a first effort to organize a navy. In October, a Marine Committee were appointed, and an order for the building and arming of several vessels was put forth. In the mean while, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts had made similar efforts, and Washington had co-operated with the New England people by ordering the construction and arming of six vessels to cruise off the coasts of the Eastern Colonies. These temporary expedients were followed by more permanent arrangements. In December, the Continental Congress issued its first naval commissions, and Ezek. Hopkins was appointed the commander-in-chief. Among the lieutenants commissioned at the same time was JOHN PAUL JONES, a little wiry man (a Scotchman by birth), not more than five feet in height, and twenty-eight years of age. He was slight in physical stature, with a thoughtful expression, and dark, piercing eyes. No one would have suspected the presence of a hero in that unpretending young man when, with modest demeanor, he received his commission for service in a navy yet uncreated, and in the employment of a nation yet unheralded to the world except in glowing prophecies by political seers, to whom the wish was father to the thought. Yet all the greatness of a true hero slumbered in his brain, his heart, and his sinews; and it needed only the electric spark of opportunity to awaken it to full development. That spark was not long withheld; and when the war for Independence had closed, the sum of his exploits was a large item on the balance sheet which exhibited the account current of American heroism. He had fought twenty-three battles on the sea; made seven descents upon Great Britain or her Colonies; snatched from her navy, by conquest, four large ships and many tenders, store-ships, and transports; constrained her to fortify her home ports, to desist front cruel burnings in America, and to change her barbarous policy of refusing to consider captured American seamen as prisoners-of-war, and torturing them in prisons and prison-ships as "traitors, pirates, and felons."
Some British writers delight in calling John Paul Jones a "corsair" and "pirate" -- "a ruffian who would have fought under the colors of the Dey of Algiers as readily as under those of His Most Christian Majesty or of Congress" -- while Americans, influenced by the memory of his deeds, and assured by the truths of history, regard him as a hero and patriot worthy of a conspicuous place in the nation's Valhalla. In the language of our Declaration of Independence, we say, "Let facts be submitted to a candid world."
Our hero was the youngest of five sons of John Paul, a gardener, who lived with Mr. Craik, of Arbigland, in one of the most beautiful and picturesque spots on Solway Frith. The cottage of his birth, in a grassy glade among umbrageous trees, is yet preserved with care, and many pilgrims sit beneath its porch in every summer time. It is a very humble cot, and the gardener of Arbigland was a very humble man; and so Folly and Fiction conspired to account for the greatness of the son of John Paul and Jenny Macduff; by claiming for him a noble lineage. Regarding the brand of illegitimacy as more honorable, when connected with aristocracy, than the title to birth-right in lawful wedlock, his most ardent admirers called him a son of the neighboring Earl of Selkirk. That well-meant pretense was foul calumny. It stabbed female virtue and tarnished the morality of a Christian gentleman. The gardener's son vindicated his mother's chastity during his lifetime; and by his deeds proclaimed to the world the significant fact -- which worshipers of aristocracy are slow to believe -- that it needs not the blood of a peer, created but yesterday by royal patent, to give paternity to a true NOBLEMAN.
"What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards?
Alas! not all the blood of all the Howards."
John Paul the younger was born on the 6th of July, 1747. His childhood and earliest youth were passed among the most beautiful and romantic scenery on the southern coast of Scotland. Near his father's cottage the blue waters of the Nith came flowing into the Solway from the north, and from the banks of the estuary that received them arose the huge granite pile of the steep Criffel. Away eastward to farthest point of vision, where the sparkling Esk pours its tribute, the Frith was spread out; and southward and far seaward the Cumberland shore stretched away and faded in dim perspective. In the shadowy distance, vailed in blue, the lofty summits of the Helvellyn, the Skiddaw, and the Saddleback appeared solemn and mysterious, like ever-vigilant sentinels. Such were the features of nature daily unvailed to the eye of young Paul; and his eager ear was charmed by local legends, or the tales of ocean perils, excitements, and exploits, narrated by the bonneted seamen who frequented the Frith. These stirred the heart of the child. His unfledged ambition became restless, and, borne upon the wings of imagination, it hovered with delight over valorous achievements in perspective, and listened with the ear of perfect faith to the world's future applause. In the little bays and inlets on the Kirkcudbright shore he manœuvered tiny fleets, himself "High Admiral of the Blue;" and among his companions in martial sports he was ever regarded as one born to command.
The sea was the mysterious world toward which the thoughts of young Paul were continually tending. It was the frequent burden of his dreams; and in every seaman he beheld a hero and coveted exemplar. At length his great desire was satisfied. At the age of twelve years he was apprenticed to a shipping merchant of White Haven (the principal port of the Solway), and soon afterward sailed for the Rappahannock, in Virginia. At Fredericksburg, on the bank of that stream, John's elder brother had been settled for several years, and at his house young Paul spent most of his time while on shore, in the study of navigation and other subjects pertaining to a successful life on the ocean. His sprightliness, integrity, and sobriety commended him strongly to his master. But business losses soon compelled that gentleman to release the apprentice, and at the age of sixteen years he was master of his own actions.
At that period there were several White Haven vessels engaged in the African slave-trade. Thirsting for adventure, young Paul sought and obtained the appointment of third mate in one of those slavers. His skill as a seaman and knowledge as a navigator attracted the attention of his superiors and the owners, and at the age of nineteen years he was promoted to first mate of the Two Friends, one of the largest of the White Haven vessels engaged in that trade. But he had become disgusted with the cruel business. That manly justice and all-pervading humanity of his character, planted at his birth and wonderfully fruit-bearing in his maturity, were outraged; and abandoning the prospect of certain official promotion and great pecuniary gains, he left the vessel, at Jamaica, in 1768, and returned to Scotland as a passenger in a brigantine bound for Kirkcudbright. On the voyage, the captain and mate sickened and died, and, at the earnest solicitation of the crew, John Paul took command, and safely navigated the vessel, with its valuable cargo, into its destined haven. The owners were grateful to the young man for the preservation of their property, and at once made him master of the vessel. As such he made two voyages to the West Indies. During the second, an event occurred which had an important influence in shaping his destiny. At his command, the carpenter of the vessel, a mutinous and insolent fellow, was flogged in the usual way, and at the end of the voyage was discharged. He shipped in a Barcelona packet, where he died, and Captain Paul's envious enemies at home circulated the report that the carpenter's death was caused by the excessive punishment inflicted by his commander. The story, often told and always embellished, gained general credence. Paul was regarded with suspicion by those whom he respected as his best friends; and, after engaging for a little while in the coast trade, he abandoned Scotland forever.
Captain Paul commanded a London vessel in the West India trade for about eighteen months; and after engaging in commercial speculations, at Tobago, on his own account, for a short time, he went to Virginia to take charge of the estate of his brother, who had died childless and intestate. The roseate hues of childhood's dreams concerning life on the sea had become mellowed into russet, and even graver autumnal tints, by the pencil of reality; and, charmed by the climate and the amenities of Virginia life, he resolved to abandon the ocean and seek happiness upon the plantation. Yet he seems not to have shared in his brother's estate; and when history next speaks of him, he was living in penury near Fredericksburg. The tempest of the American Revolution was then gathering strength, and the muttering thunders of its wrath were heard all over the land. These stirred the latent energies of the hero in the soul of Captain Paul. He had chosen America for his home, and he resolved to fight for its liberties. In homely garb, and bearing a kind word of recommendation from Doctor (afterward General) Hugh Mercer, of Fredericksburg, he traveled on foot to Philadelphia, appeared before the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress, and offered his services in the navy about to be created. For reasons never explained, he now affixed Jones to his name. The Committee had never heard of John Paul Jones. Silas Deane shook his head in distrust. John Langdon had heard of John Paul in the harbor of Portsmouth, but to him Jones was a myth. But Richard Henry Lee knew the young man and his history, and urged his suit. It was successful; and on the 22d of December, 1775, John Paul Jones was commissioned a lieutenant in the American navy, first on the list, his credentials bearing date the seventh of that month. The command of the sloop Providence was offered to Lieutenant Jones; but being unacquainted with such craft, he preferred service in a larger vessel with subordinate station. He became the first lieutenant of the Alfred, a clumsy merchant ship that had been purchased by Congress and transformed into a frigate, pierced for thirty guns, and manned by three hundred men. That vessel, with six others taken from the merchant service and armed, were all fitted out in the Delaware, and composed the fleet of Commodore Hopkins, the Commander-in-chief.
The Alfred was anchored off the foot of Walnut Street. On a brilliant morning, early in February, 1776, gay streamers were seen fluttering from every mast-head and spar on the river. At nine o'clock, a full-manned barge thrided its way among the floating ice to the Alfred, bearing the Commodore, who had chosen that vessel for his flag-ship. He was greeted by the thunders of artillery and the shouts of a multitude. When he reached the deck of the Alfred Captain Salstonstall gave a signal, and Lieutenant Jones, with his own hands, hoisted a new flag prepared for the occasion. It was of yellow silk, bearing the figure of a pine-tree, and the significant device of a rattlesnake, with the ominous words, "Don't tread on me!" By this act, John Paul Jones won the high honor of hoisting the first ensign ever displayed on board an American man-of-war. He was then in the twenty-ninth year of his age; and, as events afterward proved, he was far better qualified for Commander-in-chief of the navy than he in whose honor the cannons roared, and people shouted, and streamers fluttered, and a broad flag was thrown to the crisp breeze on that winter morning.
The primary object in fitting out that little squadron in the Delaware was the defense of the coast below, which, during the autumn of 1775, had been ravaged by Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia. He had been driven from Williamsburg, the capital, by the exasperated patriots, and in revenge he employed the little British flotilla which gave him shelter, in devastating the defenseless coast of lower Virginia. His crimes in that sphere of action culminated when, on the 1st of January, 1776, he laid the flourishing town of Norfolk in ashes. He depredated without fear of molestation by water, for ice had closed the Delaware before the American squadron was ready for sea. That frost-barrier was removed at the middle of February; and on the 17th of that month the Continental fleet left its anchorage at Reedy Island and sailed for the Bermudas, contrary, however, to the instructions of Congress, "to cruise off the southern coast." Two sloops from New Providence were captured, and their crews assured Commodore Hopkins that the forts of the island (Nassau and Montagu), where Nassau now stands, were very weak, and contained a large quantity of munitions of war. It was a tempting prize, and the Americans sought to secure it. Hopkins neglected proper strategy suggested by Jones, and the whole squadron appeared off the harbor on the 17th of March. The governor rallied the people to the defense of the fortress and town, and during that night he removed one hundred and sixty barrels of powder beyond the reach of the invaders. On the following morning the squadron entered the harbor, under the direction of Jones, who had been there in the merchant service. The people fled, and the governor and two other gentlemen were made prisoners. With these, and almost a hundred cannons and military stores, the fleet weighed anchor the same afternoon, and bore away for the New England coast. The governor was a valuable captive, and was afterward exchanged for Lord Stirling, of the Continental army, who was made prisoner at the battle near Brooklyn the following year.
When off Block Island, on its way to Narraganset Bay, the little fleet captured two small vessels, and soon afterward fell in with the British frigate Glasgow, of twenty-nine guns. Then occurred the first regular battle by vessels of the American navy. It was a running fight of several hours, during which the Alfred alone won any honor. The Glasgow escaped, and the damaged squadron, with its two prizes, ran into New London harbor. From thence it stole around to Narraganset Bay, and anchored in the river a little below Providence. Congress censured Hopkins for his disobedience of orders and inefficiency in the affair with the Glasgow, and in March, 1777, after a fair trial, he was dismissed from the service. Two other commanders in the squadron were tried for not aiding the Alfred. One was acquitted; the other was cashiered, and the command of his vessel (the Providence sloop-of-war, with twelve guns) was given to Jones. Commodore Hopkins had no blank commissions, and so he wrote the new appointment upon the back of Jones's commission, received from Congress. In that little craft our hero performed many brave exploits. For several weeks he cruised between Boston harbor and the Delaware; sometimes convoying American vessels bearing troops and provisions, and at others annoying the numerous British vessels that hovered along the New England coast. He sometimes had severe encounters, but by superior seamanship he managed to escape much harm, if he did not achieve victories.
Early in August, 1776, Jones received a captain's commission from Congress, and toward the close of the month he sailed in his little craft on a six weeks' cruise eastward. While far at sea, in the latitude of the Bermudas, he chased the Solebay frigate, supposing her to be an English merchantman. He came very near being captured himself, for at one time he was within pistol-shot of his stranger antagonist. With consummate skill he kept without the range of her heavy guns, and escaped uninjured. Soon afterward, while lying to off the Nova Scotia coast, and his men were fishing, the British frigate Milford came hearing down upon him. Jones immediately made sail, to try the relative speed of the vessels. Assured of the superiority of the Providence, he shortened sail and allowed the Milford to gain on him. The enemy commenced firing at long distances, and occasionally rounded to and discharged a broadside. This was kept up from ten in the morning until sunset, without damaging the Providence. "He excited my contempt so much," said Jones, in his dispatch to the Marine Committee, "by his continual firing at more than twice the proper distance, that when he rounded to to give a broadside, I ordered my marine officer to return the salute with only a single musket." Jones lost sight of the Milford at twilight, and the following day he ran into the harbor of Canso, dispersed the fishing vessels, destroyed the ships at the wharves, seized the tory flags, and then shot across Chedabucto Bay and made two descents, at different points, upon Madame Island, with the same destructive energy. After a cruise of forty-seven days, he entered Newport harbor, having captured sixteen prizes, destroyed many small vessels, and spread alarm all along the coasts of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.
While at the east, Captain Jones was informed that about a hundred American prisoners were at hard labor in the coal mines on Cape Breton. He now proposed an expedition for their liberation and the capture of the coal fleet, which would sail for New York in November. The plan was approved, and by order of Commodore Hopkins he sailed in command of the Alfred, on the 2d of November, accompanied by the Providence. He made several captures, and among them was an armed vessel laden with winter clothing for the British troops in Canada. This was an important prize; for when it arrived at Dartmouth, the destitute army under Washington was shivering on the banks of the Delaware. Jones failed in his humane endeavor to release the American prisoners, for the harbors of Cape Breton adjacent to the coal mines were frozen when he arrived. After alarming the people of Louisburg, destroying considerable property at Canso, and making his name a terror to the fishermen of Nova Scotia, he sailed for Boston with five prizes under convoy, and one hundred and fifty prisoners on board the Alfred. He fell in with the Milford, which gave chase and captured one of his prizes. With the others he reached Boston in safety on the 15th of December, having only two days' water and provisions left.
The temper and patriotism of Captain Jones were severely tried after his return from this successful cruise. Instead of being rewarded by promotion, he was mortified by degradation and injustice. Commodore Hopkins, then suffering the displeasure of Congress, though not yet deprived of his commission, was jealous of the rising fame of Jones, because it was deserved; and using his delegated power as commander-in-chief of the navy, he gave the command of the frigate Alfred to Captain Hinman, and ordered Jones back to the sloop Providence. In the arrangement of rank also, Jones was dishonored, by being placed eighteenth on the list of captains, when he was entitled, as senior lieutenant, to be the sixth. This was grievous injustice to a brave man, and his sensitive soul felt the indignity keenly; yet, unlike Arnold, who had been similarly treated, he did not allow his private resentments to rise superior to his public duties. He submitted, but not in silence. He wrote a spirited remonstrance to the Marine Committee, and that body commissioned him for a cruise in the Alfred with a small squadron in the Gulf of Mexico. Hopkins would not recognize the appointment. Jones was not to be foiled. He made a journey by land to Philadelphia, and in person explained his case and asked for justice before the Marine Committee. They antedated his commission as captain, but that did not open to him that coveted door of rank and promotion which he sought. His importunities were constant, but consistent, and finally the committee abandoned the Gulf expedition, ordered three large vessels to be purchased for the use of Congress, and authorized Jones to take command of either of the three which he might choose. There was much delay, and the subject of rank still greatly annoyed Jones. That annoyance aroused all the energies of his mind, and he wrote a series of letters to the Marine Committee, in which he manifested the most subtle statesmanship and administrative talent. He suggested many things concerning regulations in the navy, the relative rank of officers in comparison with the land service, the establishment of dock-yards, and the appointment of competent superintending commissioners, which showed a breadth of forecaste and wise prudence really astonishing. His suggestions received the most respectful attention, and his plans were generally adopted. The committee clearly perceived that they were dealing with no ordinary man, and that any neglect of such a character would be treason to the best interests of the country.
Jones had returned to Boston, and while waiting for the purchase of the three ships ordered by Congress, that body gave him an honorable proof of its confidence by ordering him to proceed to France in the French merchant ship Amphitrite (which had brought military stores to the colonists), with officers and men, to take charge of a large vessel to be purchased by the American commissioners in Paris. A highly flattering letter to the commissioners was given to him, which concluded with the injunction "not to disappoint Captain Jones's wishes" on that occasion. But the dream of glory which this commission awakened in his mind was soon dispelled. The commander of the Amphitrite made objections to taking Jones and his companions on board, and the project was abandoned for the time.
The summer was now advancing, and Captain Jones was restive in inaction, he importuned Congress to allow him to serve his adopted country in some capacity, and on the 14th of June that body, by special resolution, invested him with the command of the Ranger, a new ship built for the naval service at Portsmouth. At the same time it resolved that the national flag of the United States should be composed of "thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; and that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Captain Jones soon afterward raised the new ensign of the republic over the decks of the Ranger with his own hands, as he did the colonial flag on board the Alfred about eighteen months before. This was probably the first display of our national flag from the mast of a vessel belonging to the new-born empire.
Captain Jones was not really to depart until the 1st of November following, when, with a good crew, eighteen heavy guns, very little spare rigging for the ship or provisions for the men, and "only thirty gallons of rum" to drink on the voyage, he sailed from Portsmouth for France. He captured two prizes on the way, chased a fleet of ten sail for three days, and arrived safely at Nantes in December. He immediately forwarded the letter of the Marine Committee to the commissioners at Paris, covered by one from himself, in which he expressed an earnest desire to be useful to the American cause, and suggested the employment of single vessels, or squadrons of small size, and at great distances apart, as the most effective method for annoying the British. This was the mode of warfare which he afterward adopted while making his wonderful cruises in the northern waters. On the receipt of his letters, the commissioners invited Captain Jones to Paris, whither he went with joyous alacrity; for he had been informed that a large ship called the Indien, intended for his use, was almost completed at Amsterdam.
Early in 1776, Silas Deane, a delegate in Congress from Connecticut, and one of the earliest members of the Marine Committee, was sent on a secret mission to Paris, to sound the French government on the subject of extending aid in money, arms, and men to the revolted colonists. That aid was hoped for, not because a Bourbon king was suspected of love for a people struggling for freedom, but because the revolt, if sustained, would seriously damage England and benefit France, her ancient and abiding enemy. Deane's suit was quite successful, if abundant promises could be relied on. He was joined in December following by Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, as associate commissioners, and these were the men before whom Jones appeared. As yet, the French government had made no public avowal of its friendship for the colonists, and French duplicity was endeavoring to conceal the fact of its secret sympathy from English jealousy. But the concealment was gossamer-like, for the American commissioners were as free to act in Paris in carrying out measures against Great Britain as if they had been in Philadelphia; and they were in daily friendly intercourse with the Count de Vergennes, the French premier. This was well known to the British ministry.
The conference between the commissioners and Captain Jones was long, friendly, and important. But disappointment was again in his pathway to glory. The Indien had been sold to France, because the British minister at the Hague had warmly remonstrated against the equipment of that vessel for the "rebel" service in a Dutch port, and the government of Holland was unwilling then to give offense to England; so Jones departed for Nantes, to make a cruise in the Ranger until something better should offer. Before he left, he had a long conference with the French minister regarding the employment of a Gallic fleet under D'Estaing, then preparing to sail for America. Jones communicated a plan of operations in a letter to Silas Deane, which formed the basis of D'Estaing's instructions.
The time had now arrived when the French government could no longer conceal its intentions. On the 6th of February, 1778, a treaty of alliance between France and the newly-proclaimed republic was concluded at Paris; and eight days afterward the flag of the United States, displayed by the Ranger, was saluted by nine guns from the flag-ship of the French admiral Piquet. This was the third time that the American ensign had been specially honored in the hands of the Kirkcudbright sailor. The act now had great significance, for it was a virtual acknowledgment by a representative of a great European power, of the independence of the United States.
Early in April, 1778, Captain Jones sailed from the harbor of Brest for a cruise along the coasts of the British islands. He ran into St. George's Channel, capturing or destroying every vessel that fell in his way, and spreading the wildest alarm along the shores of Ireland, Wales, and the north of England. With a daring equaled only by his consummate nautical skill, he entered Belfast Lough on a windy night, to surprise and capture the British sloop-of-war Drake. The strong breeze freshened to a gale, and foiled the invader. He then crossed the broad channel, and on the evening of the 22d of April anchored the Ranger between the Isle of Man and White Haven. With two armed boats he then proceeded to avenge some of the burnings in America, by endeavoring to destroy the shipping in the harbor where he first put on the suit of a sailor-boy, nineteen years before. Again he was foiled, not by the winds, but by the extreme humanity of one of his officers and his men, and the treason of a private who seems to have volunteered in the expedition for that very purpose.
Jones commanded one of the boats, with fifteen men, and Lieutenant Wallingsford the other, with the same number. They left the Ranger at midnight, and just before dawn reached White Haven. Each boat was supplied with combustibles; and it was arranged to fire the vessels in the harbor (then more than two hundred in number) at separate points, and to apply the torch to the town. The port was guarded by two batteries, mounting fifteen pieces of artillery each. These Jones undertook to secure, while Wallingsford prepared for the conflagration. Jones scaled the breastworks of one of the forts at the dark moments before dawn, secured the sentinels, and spiked the guns without alarming the people. Then, with a single follower, he proceeded to the same duty at the other fort, a quarter of a mile distant, leaving his crew to fire the shipping on that side of the harbor. On his return, he found his plans all frustrated. Lieutenant Wallingsford thought it wrong to destroy the private property of the poor people, and the volunteers of Jones's immediate party had lost their fire, and could do nothing. The day had now dawned, and the deserter had alarmed the town. The people, panic-stricken, flew to the forts, but the spiked guns were powerless. Jones was exasperated to the last degree; and seizing a firebrand in a neighboring house, he kindled a flame on board one of the largest ships that lay in the midst of others. To make the destruction sure, he cast a barrel of tar upon the fire. The people, seeing the smoke, rushed toward the wharf, when Jones, with a pistol in each hand, and entirely unsupported, kept the multitude at bay until he got quietly into his boat, and under cover of the dense smoke that crept over the waters, escaped, with his companions, to the Ranger, without the sacrifice of a life or limb. It was a cruel attempt, and can not be justified even by the law of retaliation acknowledged in the bloody code of war. It was an act akin to the destruction of New London by Arnold, when the spires of his birth-place were almost in view. It was within sight of Paul's native shores, where a loved mother and sisters dwelt securely, and he could almost see the tall trees of Arbigland that sheltered him in childhood. In the town he sought to lay in ashes, were companions of his youth -- his friends and benefactors -- who would all have been involved in the common ruin. He pleaded the necessity of teaching the English "that not all their boasted navy could protect their own coasts," and to assure them that the scenes of distress which they had occasioned in America might soon be brought home to their own doors. That plea was a palliation, but it had no force with the people of White Haven. To them the name of John Paul Jones became the synonym of all wickedness, while David Freeman, the deserter, was called the saviour of White Haven.
Jones now resolved to visit the scenes of his boyhood -- not to embrace mother and sisters, and, in friendly intercourse with neighbors, recall the pleasures of early youth; but to impress his friends and his enemies with a sense of his power, and to benefit his adopted country by securing a notable prisoner for exchange. The Earl of Selkirk, his father's early friend, was the intended victim. His beautiful mansion stood embowered upon a wooded promontory that penetrated the Dee, known as St. Mary's Isle, and near the town of Kirkcudbright. The Ranger boldly anchored in the channel of the Solway at noon-day, and, with a single boat and a few followers, Jones proceeded to attempt the capture of the Earl. On landing, he was informed by some laborers that his lordship was absent from home. In disappointment, Jones ordered his men back to the boat, when Simpson, his lieutenant, a large and fiery man, proposed carrying off the plate of the Earl, in imitation of the English on the American coasts. The generous soul of the commander was shocked at the idea of petty plunder like that. There seemed to be dignity -- encouraged by the usages of war -- in burning a fleet or destroying a town, but sordid meanness was involved in the robbery of an innocent family of its paltry silver. And then old associations came crowding upon his memory, and quickened the pulses of his heart. He was standing beneath the very oaks and chestnuts that sheltered him in boyhood's pastimes; and from the hand of Lady Selkirk he had, in early youth, received nothing but kindness. He could not do it; and again he ordered his men to the boat. Simpson hotly expostulated, and the menacing murmurs of the seamen, who longed for prize-money, made Jones perceive it to be expedient to yield. He ordered the business to be done as delicately and expeditiously as possible. While they were gone, the commander paced the green sward beneath those old familiar trees, and there formed that plan of justice which he afterward faithfully executed. When the prizes of the Ranger were sold, Jones bought the plate of the Earl of Selkirk, and restored it safely to the owner, accompanied by a letter to his lady replete with the noblest sentiments of chivalric honor. The Earl publicly acknowledged the act; and yet writers have been base enough to blazon the robbery on the page of history, but artfully to conceal the fact of restoration.
Jones's descent upon St. Mary's Isle spread great terror throughout the neighborhood, and the frightened burghers of Kirkcudbright dragged a venerable twenty-four-pound cannon to the beach at twilight, and kept it pointed all night long, with deadly intent, upon what they supposed to be the hull of the dreaded cruiser. Dawn revealed the fact that the hated object was an innocent rock, and that the Ranger had departed from the Frith. She was then far away in the Irish sea, and at sunset the next evening was battling manfully with the English sloop-of-war Drake, off Carrickfergus. After a bloody contest of an hour and a quarter the British ship struck its colors. With his prize, and two hundred prisoners, Jones sailed around the north of Ireland and down its western coast, in search of adventures. He entered the harbor of Brest on the 8th of May, and there he wrote his extraordinary letter to Lady Selkirk. Jones's cruise taught England the useful lesson that her marauding policy was a bad one, for the Americans possessed the will and the power for ample retaliation. The gallantry and daring of the brave captain found a responsive eulogy in the heart of every Frenchman, and throughout the kingdom his name was an equivalent for brilliant heroism. Yet at this full meridian of coveted glory, a cloud of disappointment appeared. The American commissioners at Paris praised Jones to his heart's content, and he drew upon them for something more substantial, to pay the expenses of his crew and prisoners, and to refit the Ranger and Drake for sea. The Continental treasury and credit were then both low. The commissioners had a meagre bank account, and Jones's draft was dishonored. For more than a month he was in great distress; when wealthy private friends relieved him, and he prepared for another cruise. Almost every hour he conceived new enterprises, all directed against the British Isles. In the mean while, a brilliant sun-ray of glory burst upon his path. The Indien, built at Amsterdam, was now the property of the French government. England and France had not yet declared war against each other, and that vessel, useless to the French government, was offered to Jones. Franklin wrote that she would be fitted out at Brest, and would sail under the colors of the United States. The French Minister of Marine invited Jones to Paris to complete the arrangements, and with a joyful heart he hastened thither, but to grasp another apple of Sodom. The war decree went forth. France needed all her vessels, and Jones could not he placed in command of so fine a ship as the Indien, in the French service, without producing great murmurs among the naval officers of the kingdom. There was a double disappointment in this, for, in expectation of having command of a larger vessel, Jones had relinquished that of the Ranger. During the summer and autumn of 1778 that brave officer was upon the soil of France without a ship, instead of being upon the quarter-deck of a man-of-war, commensurate in its appointments with his merits and skill.
Jones could never brook inaction. He at last became disgusted and half starved with the innutritious aliment of official promises. He complained, remonstrated, denounced the French Minister of Marine, and finally wrote a direct appeal to the king. He could have had employment in large ships as a privateer, but he refused all offers of the kind, because, as he expressed it, he was "a servant of the Imperial Republic of America, honored with the friendship of Congress, and could not serve either himself or his best friends in any private capacity." Dr. Franklin, who was always the firm friend of Jones, urged his suit for employment, at the French court, and received assurances that a fine ship should be purchased immediately for the use of Jones. Relying upon this promise the captain's letter was not handed to the king, and the impatient sailor was directed to go to L'Orient, and choose a vessel from among a number there. He asked for a fast-sailing ship, for he "expected to go in harm's way." Day after day and week after week he waited for official orders to purchase, until he became almost frantic with desire, and heart-sick with hopes deferred. One day, while in a coffeehouse at L'Orient, he picked up a copy of Poor Richard's Almanac, the production of Dr. Franklin. His eye rested upon the maxim, "If you would have your business done, go; if not, send." It was an electric spark, which kindled new and burning resolutions in the breast of the chafed hero, and he resolved to "go" to court, and not to "send" any more letters. He soon stood in the presence, first of the Minister of Marine, and then of the king himself. His appeal was listened to with respect, and his importunities were heeded, for the sagacious ministry perceived that Jones might be exceedingly useful to France by annoying the English. The Duc de Duras, a ship of forty guns, was immediately purchased at L'Orient, and in compliment to Dr. Franklin, and commemorative of the influence of his maxim, Jones named the vessel Bon Homme Richard. It was a half wornout merchant ship, quite unseaworthy, and inadequate to the service in which it was to be engaged. But Jones was glad to find employment in any public vessel, for he could not endure the corrosion of the rust of inaction.
A little squadron of three vessels besides the Richard was soon in readiness at L'Orient, each ship bearing the American colors. The crews were mostly Frenchmen, except that of Jones's flag-ship, which consisted of about four hundred. It was a medley of representatives of almost every nation of Europe, and even some Malays, while the number of Americans did not exceed eighty. When the squadron was almost ready for departure, the American frigate Alliance arrived with Lafayette, and at Jones's request, that vessel was added to his little fleet. It proved an unfortunate alliance, for Landais, her commander, was a bad man, and greatly injured the service. Jones could not foresee trouble, for he was unwarned; and he was preparing to weigh anchor, and proceed toward the British waters, when he was delighted by the intelligence that Lafayette, charmed by the narratives of the Commodore's exploits, had asked and obtained leave to accompany the expedition with seven hundred land troops. It was further announced to Jones that the chief object of the cruise would be the destruction of Liverpool, and other large seaport towns of Great Britain. It was precisely such an enterprise as he then coveted, and visions of glory and renown cheered his spirit. Suddenly the political kaleidoscope turned again. Information had reached the French court that Spain was about to join the alliance against Great Britain, and an invasion of England, for the purpose of general conquest, was to be the next important move of the Continental chess-players. Lafayette would be needed on that more extended field of operations, and the expedition against Liverpool was abandoned. Again disappointed and mortified, Jones was ordered to cruise in the Bay of Biscay, as a sort of coast-guard for France. Then he first experienced the evils of a connection with Landais; and after a short cruise he returned to L'Orient, barren of any special honors in his vocation.
The French government and the American commissioners were now as anxious for Commodore Jones to be afloat as he was for adventure, for war was progressing vigorously. On the 14th of August, 1779, the Commodore left L'Orient with a squadron of seven sail, on a cruise off the coasts of Great Britain. He was not out of sight of land before Landais became disobedient and insolent. There was a fine field for valorous achievements before the little fleet, but the insubordination of the commander of the Alliance, and its unhealthy influence upon others, crippled its energies and greatly impaired its usefulness. A heavy storm scattered the squadron. The Bon Homme Richard and Alliance, with two smaller vessels, after taking some prizes off the English and Irish coasts, were joined at Cape Wrath, on the northern shores of Scotland. Doubling the headlands beyond, they sailed through Pentland Frith, between the north of Scotland and the Orkneys, and early in September spread great alarm along the eastern coast of Jones's native country. He finally entered the Frith of Forth, with the intention of capturing some shipping at Leith, menacing the town with the torch, and demanding a heavy ransom "toward the reimbursement," as Jones said, "which Britain owed to the much-injured citizens of the United States." Late in the afternoon of the 16th of September the little squadron of four vessels was distinctly seen from Edinburgh Castle. The wildest alarm soon spread along each bank of the Forth, for Jones was regarded as a pirate as savage and cruel as any old Scandinavian sea-king. He prepared a message to the magistrates of Leith. demanding a heavy contribution, and threatening the town with instant destruction if a favorable answer should not be given in half an hour. Early the next morning the Bon Homme Richard appeared, bearing directly toward Kirkcaldy, on the northern shore. The people believed that he was coming to plunder and destroy; and, at their earnest solicitation, the minister of the town, an eccentric, and not always a very reverential man, led his flock to the beach, and kneeling down, thus prayed for deliverance from the approaching cruiser:"Now, deer Laird, dinna ye think it a shame for ye to send this vile piret to rob our folk o' Kirkcaldy, for ye ken they're poor enow already, and hae naething to spare. The wa the ween blaws, he'll be here in a jiffie, and wha kens what he may do? He's nae too guid for ony thing. Mickle's the mischief he's dune already. He'll burn their hooses, tak their very claes, and tirl them to the sark; and, waes me! wha kens but the bluidy villain may tak their lives! The puir weemen are maist frightened out o' their wits, and the bairns skirling after them. I canna thol't it! I canna thol't it! I hae been lang a faithfu' servant to ye, Laird; but gin ye dinna turn the ween aboot, and blaw the scoundrel out o' our gate, I'll na staur a fit, but will just sit here till the tide comes. Sae, tak yere wull o't."
While the minister was praying the white caps began to dot the Frith. A heavy gale swept over the waters, and Jones was compelled to abandon his enterprise, and put to sea. The summons for the magistrates of Leith was never delivered; and the good people of Kirkcaldy always regarded that timely gale as an answer to the earnest prayer of Mr. Shirra. In after years, when complimented for the power of that appeal, the old minister would humbly say, "I prayed -- the Laird sent the weend But the Providence that protected the people of Leith and the neighborhood did not shield the convoy of the Baltic fleet from Jones's wrath, less than a week afterward. Leaving the Forth, he cruised off the mouth of the Humber and the adjacent coasts, and destroyed many coal vessels bound for London. On the morning of the 23d of September he unfortunately fell in with the Alliance, with which he had parted company a few days before. His squadron then consisted of that vessel, his own, and the Pallas and Vengeance. He had been anxiously watching for the Baltic fleet; and on the afternoon of that day it appeared off Flamborough-Head, forty sail in number, and convoyed by the new ship Serapis, mounting forty-four guns, and the Countess of Scarborough, of twenty guns. The apparition of the American squadron in the northern horizon caused much alarm and confusion in that merchant fleet, and Jones hastened to profit by it. Again the perverse Landais was his evil genius. When Jones signaled the squadron to form a line of battle for attack, Landais refused compliance. Jones then pressed sail on the Richard, and made chase, followed by the Pallas and Vengeance. The canvas of all was but slightly bent by the gentle land-breeze at sunset, which scarcely dimpled the smooth bosom of Bridlington Bay. When the English perceived escape to be quite impossible, their two armed vessels prepared for action. Slowly the Bon Homme Richard and Serapis approached each other, and at twilight they were not yet within the reach of each other's guns. They were so near the land that hundreds of people, who had collected on the shores, saw the marine duelists approach for conflict.
For a little while the pall of night lay black upon the land and water. All was darkness and silence; and the excited, half-breathless spectators on the shore saw no signs of the lightning and the thunder that were soon to burst from the brooding gloom in the east. Then the golden disc of a full moon arose above the arc of the North Sea, away toward the shores of Denmark, and upon the shimmering curtain of pale light around it the forms of the two hostile vessels, black as ravens, were sharply penciled. Slowly they approached each other, like dioramic figures. Up went the red ensign of the British navy, instead of the cross of St. George, and was nailed to the flag-staff of the Serapis. Sluggishly in the gentle breeze fluttered the stripes and stars over the Richard, as she rounded to on the larboard quarter of her antagonist, within pistol-shot distance. A glitter and a glare flashed over the dark waters as the lower deck ports of the Serapis were triced up, and displayed two complete batteries, and a well-armed spar deck, all lighted and cleared for action. The Richard displayed her heavy guns at the same time, when the English commander hailed, "What ship is that?" Jones hurled an eighteen-pound shot in reply, that went crashing through a port of the Serapis and splintered a gun-carriage on the leeside of her lower deck. The tempest-cloud was now riven, and the lightning and the thunder of two heavy broadsides flashed and boomed over the smooth waters. Thus was begun one of the most terrible sea-fights recorded by history.
The Richard had a gun-room battery on her lower deck, of six old eighteen pounders, which had served faithfully in the French navy for thirty years. At the first discharge two of them were bursted, killing almost every man in the gun-room, and partially demolishing the deck above, while the heavy round-shot of the Serapis made severe breaches in the decaying timbers of the old vessel. Jones instantly ordered his lower deck ports to be closed, and that battery was abandoned. The firing was incessant, and each ship strove earnestly to gain an advantage, in position, over the other. There was not wind enough to aid skillful seamanship, and in a few minutes the Richard ran into the Serapis on her larboard quarter, and their spars and rigging became entangled. The great guns of the combatants were now almost useless, and Jones, at the head of his Americans, attempted to board the enemy. After a sharp and close contest on the quarter-deck, he was repulsed, and Captain Pearson, of the Serapis, who could not see the American flag in the midst of the smoke, cried out, "Has your ship struck?" Jones instantly replied, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
The vessels now separated, and Jones made an attempt to lay the Richard athwart the hawse of the Serapis. He failed, and a moment afterward the two ships lay broadside to broadside, the muzzles of their guns touching each other. The Serapis was much the better sailer, and Jones's hope of success was in his present position, so he lashed the ships together, and in that close embrace they poured their terrible volleys into each other with awful effect. It was now half-past eight in the evening, and the conflict had raged for an hour. It grew more furious as the flow of blood increased; and from deck to deck of the entangled vessels the combatants rushed madly, fighting like demons with pike, and pistol, and cutlass. Jones seemed almost omnipresent -- now directing the gunners, now urging the musketeers in the tops to vigorous action, and at times engaged in the thickest of a terrible hand-to-hand fight. The Richard and her crew suffered terribly, yet they fought on. She had been pierced by several eighteen-pound balls below water, and leaked badly; yet her pumps were untouched, and the warning voice of her carpenter was unheeded.
A new enemy now appeared. When the Richard gave chase to the Serapis, and the Pallas bore down upon the Countess of Scarborough, Landais placed the Alliance at a safe distance, and with the seeming disinterestedness of an umpire he looked calmly on when the unequal contest began. When it had raged for about two hours, and the moon had ascended high enough in the unclouded sky to flood the vessels and the sea with light and make their condition clear, he ran down toward the grappled ships under easy sail, fired a broadside into the Richard's quarter, and killed several of her men. As he ranged past her larboard he gave another raking fire, with fatal effect; and thus he continued pouring death upon that crippled, shattered, sinking ship, while her signal-lights of recognition were in full view, and despairing voices from her deck shouted supplications, in God's name, for him to forbear, for he was bruising the wrong vessel. It was the right ship for him. He made no mistake, but was practicing foulest villainy -- blackest treason. He hoped to kill Jones, make an easy prize of the Serapis, and gain all the honors of a great victory. There was a God of justice who defended the right, and the miscreant failed. The courage of Jones quailed not in that dreadful hour, nor were his wonderful efforts slackened, though the guns of the Alliance had swept many of a fine corps of marines from the Richard's poop, and had aided the enemy in silencing every one of his great guns except two nine-pounders on the quarter-deck. Soon the commander there was badly wounded, and his men were scattered. Jones took his place, collected a few brave fellows, and shifted one of the larboard guns to a proper position. These were the only cannons fired from the Richard during the remainder of the action. They swept the deck of the Serapis with grape and cannister shot, and against her main-mast double-headed shot were hurled with destructive effect. The marines in the tops of the Richard soon killed or dispersed those of the enemy, and they cast hand-grenades with such energy and success, that the Serapis was set on fire in a dozen different places at the same time. One of the grenades ignited some cartridges, and the explosion killed twenty men, and maimed as many more.
In the midst of the appalling scene, when both ships were on fire, the wounded carpenter of the Richard said she must sink. The frightened gunner ran aft to pull down the American flag, but a round shot had carried away the ensign-yard an hour before. Then the gunner cried "Quarter! for God's sake quarter! Our ship is sinking!" He continued his cries until Jones silenced him by hurling a discharged pistol at his head, which fractured his skull, and sent him headlong down the hatchway.
"Do you call for quarter?" shouted Captain Pearson to Jones.
"Never!" responded the lion-hearted Commodore.
"Then I'll give none," replied Pearson, and immediately sent a party to board the Richard. They were met at the rail by Jones, with pike in hand, and supposing he had many like him at his back, the enemy retreated. At that moment there was the sound of many feet rushing to the upper deck of the Richard. The master-at-arms, influenced by either treachery or humanity, had released all the prisoners on board. One of them had escaped to the Serapis, and informed the commander of the utterly crippled condition of the Richard. Encouraged by the intelligence, Pearson renewed the battle with increased vigor. The situation of Jones was now extremely critical. His ship was sinking; his heavy guns were all silenced, except where he was fighting; one of his own squadron was treacherously sailing round and raking his shattered vessel with deadly broadsides; some of his officers were determined on surrendering; others were crying for quarter; and a large number of prisoners were free to do as they pleased. Nothing ever appeared more hopeless than his prospect of success. But he had resources within himself, at such an hour, possessed by few men. He saw the affright of the prisoners at the idea of sinking, and ordered them to the pumps to save their lives. As he expected, the first law of nature overcame their desire for liberty and duty to their king. They obeyed, and did not attempt to take advantage of the few efficient men left of the Richard.
Suddenly, now, the flames began to creep up the rigging of the Serapis, and in their glare, and the full light of the moon, Jones saw that her mainmast had been hewn almost asunder by his double-headed shots. He immediately renewed the assault at that point, and the tall mast reeled. Captain Pearson perceived his danger, and lacking the courage and obstinacy of Jones in the moment of great peril, he struck his flag, and surrendered to his really weaker foe. "It is painful," he said, in a surly manner, to Jones, "to deliver up my sword to a man who has fought with a halter around his neck." Jones preserved his temper, and courteously replied, as he returned the weapon: "Sir, you have fought like a hero; and I make no doubt but your sovereign will reward you in the most ample manner." Even so it happened, for knighthood awaited Captain Pearson, at the hands of King George the Third, because of his bravery on that occasion. It is said that when Jones was told of the honor conferred upon his antagonist, he remarked: "Well, he deserves it; and if I fall in with him again, I will make a lord of him
For almost three hours the battle had raged with unabated fury, and fire was now rapidly consuming both ships. All hands were at once employed in extinguishing the flames. Soon after the English commander went on board the Richard the vessels were disengaged. The entangled spars and rigging had kept the hewn mast of the Serapis from falling; now it went down, with a terrible crash, carrying with it the mizen topmast. The Richard was damaged past recovery. Jones said, in his report, "The rudder was cut entirely off, the stern-frame and transoms were almost cut entirely away, and the timbers by the lower deck, especially from the mainmast toward the stern, being greatly decayed with age, were mangled beyond my power of description; and a person must have been an eye-witness to form a just idea of the tremendous scene of carnage, wreck, and ruin which every where appeared." Prisoners and men were all transferred to the Serapis, and on the evening of the 25th, the wreck of the Bon Homme Richard went down into the deep valleys of the North Sea.
The Baltic fleet had escaped behind Flamborough-Head during the fight, because the Alliance and Vengeance were remiss in duty; but the Countess of Scarborough had surrendered to the Pallas after an hour's conflict, notwithstanding the wicked Landais had poured some deadly shots into that victor also, during the fight, and killed several of her men. After tossing about on the North Sea for ten days, Jones ran into the Texel with his little squadron and prizes, a few hours before eleven English ships of war, that had been sent after him, appeared in the offing.
The victory of the Richard over the Serapis, and the other extraordinary exploits of Jones during his remarkable cruise, caused a burst of applause wherever the facts were known. He was received at Amsterdam with the wildest enthusiasm. Crowds pressed around him with huzzas and compliments wherever he appeared. The cautious Franklin, who always took enthusiasm by the throat when it tempted him to toss up his cocked hat, wrote to him from Passy: "For some days after the arrival of your express, scarce any thing was talked of at Paris and Versailles but your cool conduct, and persevering bravery during that terrible conflict. You may believe that the impression on my mind was not less strong than that of others; but I do not choose to say in a letter to your self all I think on such an occasion." The English Ministers were, of course, terribly enraged; but its liberal press and its best statesmen spoke out manly applause; and the epithet "Pirate," applied to Jones by the Premier, and echoed by Sir Joseph Yorke, the British Minister at the Hague, was hissed with scorn by every generous man. The French King gave him a flattering reception at court, and a few months afterward presented him with an elegant gold-mounted sword, upon which, in the midst of blended emblems of France and America, was the honorable inscription: VINDICATI MARIS LUDOVICUS XVI., REMUNERATOR STRENCO VINDICI -- "Louis XVI. rewarder of the valiant assertor of the freedom of the Sea." In America his name and deeds were uttered by every tongue, and eight years afterward -- tardy justice it is true -- the American Congress gave him a gold medal in commemoration of his great victory.
We need not dwell upon the important political events which were hastened by Jones's taking refuge in a Dutch port while Holland was at peace with England, for it is a record of history that the rupture between those two governments was accelerated by that act. Nor will we stop to view the course of Landais, whom we may meet in the Western hemisphere in after years; nor follow the brave Commodore through all his vexatious, until he was deprived of the command of the trophy of his valor, the Serapis, and transferred to that of the Alliance, to subserve the interests of wily diplomatists, and, without a squadron, reduced to the mortifying alternative of being driven from the Texel or battered by the cannons of a Dutch fort. While awaiting a fair wind to leave that "purgatory," as he called it, Jones received from the French Minister of Marine, through a peer of France, an offer of a commission to command the Alliance as a privateer, under the French colors. The indignation of the high-souled Commodore at this proposal was boundless. He regarded it as a premeditated insult, and refused it with the haughtiest disdain. "It is a matter of the highest astonishment," he said, in his letter of refusal to the Duke, "that after so many compliments and fair professions, the court should offer the present insult to my understanding, and suppose me capable of disgracing my present commission." To Dr. Franklin, in whose care he sent the epistle, he wrote: "I hope the within copy of my letter to the Duc de la Vauguyon will meet your approbation; for I am persuaded that it never could be your intention or wish that I should he made the tool of any great rascal whatever, or that the commission of America should he overlaid by the dirty piece of parchment which I have this day rejected! They have played upon my good-humor too long already, but the spell is at last dissolved. They would play me with the assurances of the personal and particular esteem of the king, to induce me to do what would render me contemptible even in the eyes of my own servants. Accustomed to speak untruths themselves, they would also have me to give under my hand that I am a liar and a scoundrel. They are mistaken; and I would tell them, what you did to your naughty servant: 'We have too contemptible an opinion of each other's understanding to live together!'" These were the indignant expressions of a noble nature -- the words of a man who had become painfully acquainted with the hollowness of Bourbon professions, and the false honor of Bourbon satellites. His letter brought an obsequious apology, and many sweet words, which softened Jones's anger, but did not deceive his judgment. He, however, changed the resolution he had made of returning to America; and at the close of December he was in the British waters, making even heavy line-of-battle ships tremble at his presence, for he was regarded as
"A malignant comet, bearing in its tail
Death, famine, earthquakes, pestilence and ruin.
But the Alliance was a poor sailer; and after a short and fruitless cruise, Jones anchored in the harbor of L'Orient. There he found the Serapis, and at once he solicited Dr. Franklin to buy her for the American service, and to have the damaged Alliance thoroughly repaired. The Minister of Congress had no power, either in instructions or money, to comply. Jones was troubled, for he was anxious to he on a cruise with a squadron, or at least in a worthy ship. Ostensibly to urge the sale of his prizes, but chiefly for the purpose of seeking aid from the French government in accomplishing what Franklin could not authorize, he appeared at court, where he was graciously received by the king, flattered by the great, and caressed by the fair. He had the pardonable vanity of loving praise and personal honors, and while he despised the courtiers who hovered around royalty, he was not unwilling to partake of the pleasure, at times, of basking in the sunlight of kingly favor. His stay in Paris was not long, but it was sufficiently protracted to allow his evil genius, Landais, and an influential American, who seemed to delight in intriguing against Dr. Franklin, to work great mischief at L'Orient. The officers of the Alliance were in a state of mutiny on Jones's return, and had chosen Landais as their commander. Jones was not much chagrined, however, for he saw in this movement a chance for him yet to have command of the Serapis, to carry stores and arms from France to the United States; and he did not very warmly second the efforts of Dr. Franklin and the French government to arrest Landais, and prevent his sailing.
Landais departed in the Alliance, and Jones was soon afterward placed in command of the Ariel, another vessel laden with arms and munitions of war for the army under Washington. After great delay, he left L'Orient early in October, and thirty hours later he encountered a terrible gale. The Ariel was dismantled by the wind, and reduced to a mere hull, with nothing but her bowsprit left, and in that condition she was held by anchors to the windward of the reef off Penmarque Point for sixty hours. Jones then worked her into L'Orient without the loss of a man. There again he plied Dr. Franklin and several French magnates with letters concerning the command of a larger ship, service in the British waters, and prize-money: but he was ordered to America, with dispatches for Congress (the arms were so much damaged in the gale that they were not sent), and early in December he was ready to sail. He gave a splendid entertainment on board, put to sea, and arrived at Philadelphia on the 18th of February, 1781, after an absence of more than three years. On the voyage he fought and conquered an English armed vessel, but he was compelled to write in his journal: "The English captain may properly be called a knave, because, after he had surrendered his ship, begged for and obtained quarter, he basely ran away, contrary to the laws of naval war, and the practice of civilized nations." This reminds us of the complaint of a British officer, that Marion would "not fight like a gentleman or Christian."
Jones was received at Philadelphia with every demonstration of respect, and twenty-four hours after his arrival he was summoned before the Board of Admiralty, to give information concerning the tardy arrival of the Alliance, and other vessels, that were to bring French arms and stores. Much to his satisfaction, he found Landais in utter disgrace, and himself high in favor with Congress. Before he left France, he was intrusted by the king with a small packet for Luzerne, the French Minister at Philadelphia. It contained the cross of the Military Order of Merit, to be given to Jones if Congress should consent. While he was preparing his answers for the Board of Admiralty, Congress resolved that his capture of the Serapis "was attended with circumstances so brilliant as to excite general applause and admiration." It was also resolved --"That the Minister Plenipotentiary of these United States at the court of Versailles communicate to his Most Christian Majesty the high satisfaction Congress has received from the conduct and gallant behavior of Captain John Paul Jones, which have merited the attention and approbation of his Most Christian Majesty; and that his Majesty's offer of adorning Captain Jones with a cross of Military Merit is highly acceptable to Congress."A few days afterward, M. Luzerne gave a splendid entertainment to the members of Congress and the most distinguished citizens of Philadelphia; and in their presence he, in the name of his king, knighted our hero, and invested him with the decoration of the Military Order of Merit. That was an hour of proud triumph to Jones, and he felt remunerated for many vexatious and disappointments. Although he was a Republican in sentiment, to his heart's core, his vanity was always delighted with the title of Chevalier, which his knighthood gave him, and in all the vicissitudes of after-life he wore that badge of honor. A few weeks later, on the adoption of the report of the Board of Admiralty by Congress, Jones was further honored by a resolution that thanks should be given him "for the zeal, prudence, and intrepidity with which he hath supported the honor of the American flag."
In June following, Jones was appointed commander of the new ship-of-the-line America, then in progress of construction at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was the largest ever owned by Congress, and Jones felt that he was thus virtually made chief captain in the navy, with the implied relative rank of rear admiral. He was satisfied that Congress had done what it could in his favor, and he left Philadelphia for Portsmouth with delight. On his way he visited the camp of Washington, in Westchester County, near the Hudson, and was cordially received by the Commander-in-chief. Jones displayed his decoration at his button-hole, and Washington courteously suggested that it might offend some of the staid New England people. The Commodore tucked his jewel beneath his waistcoat, and hastened to Portsmouth, only to experience more vexatious delays and severe disappointments. The work on the America was progressing at a snail's pace, and months rolled away before she was ready to be launched. The day when that event would take place had almost arrived, when a French squadron that was to convey a part of Rochambeau's army to the West Indies entered Boston harbor in a storm, and one of the finest of the vessels was stranded and lost. The beams of peace were now glimmering in the eastern horizon, and the America might not be wanted for active service. So Congress embraced the opportunity to testify to France its gratitude for its alliance, and at once presented that fine new ship to the king. Jones was greatly disappointed, yet he manifested a thoroughly patriotic spirit. On the 5th of November, 1782, he displayed the French and American flags over the stern of the America, launched her into the waters of Portsmouth harbor, and the next morning formally delivered her into the keeping of her future commander.
The dream of glory which had so often flitted before the vision of the brave Chevalier now vanished again, and he obtained permission to accompany the French fleet to the West Indies as a volunteer. After an absence of several months he returned to Philadelphia, sick and dispirited, but was soon restored to vigor under the soothing care of the Moravian Sisters of Bethlehem. In the autumn following he sailed for France in a packet-ship, with authority from Congress to obtain all prize-money to which himself and those who had served under him were entitled. His proceedings in the matter were to be under the direct supervision of the American Minister at the French court. The packet was driven by a gale into Plymouth harbor, but the preliminary treaty of peace having been signed before his arrival, the "pirate" was allowed to journey to London, and from thence to Paris, without molestation. No doubt many in England would have been glad to award him the fate of Captain Kidd at Execution-dock.
With his usual zeal and perseverance Jones prosecuted the business of his mission, in the midst of many vexatious and disappointments, and finally brought it to a close, and found himself with money in both pockets, early in the autumn of 1785. Although accused of exacting excessive commissions for services as agent in procuring the prize-money, his accounts were approved by Mr. Jefferson (then American Minister in France), and subsequently by Congress~ He had some difficulty with the Board of Treasury concerning them, but that Commission concluded to allow his claims, inasmuch as he had received and spent the money.
The Chevalier now became quite a "lion" with the great and fair in the French metropolis, and he reveled in ease and honors with a delight quite inconsistent with his republican professions. For a time he was completely intoxicated by flattery and the free use of money, and the dream lasted almost as long as his purse remained plethoric. He played the courtier and the lover with equal fondness, until, in the presence of a great practical man, king and ministers were suddenly forgotten. That man was Ledyard, the eminent American traveler. He had conceived a magnificent scheme of traffic in furs between the Pacific coast of North America and China, and he proposed a partnership with Jones. The Chevalier saw a glorious harvest of gain and adventure in the enterprise, and heartily entered into the plan. It was found impossible to secure the co-operation of capitalists to a sufficient extent, and after considerable progress had been made, the enterprise was abandoned. That rich field of commerce was left for John Jacob Astor and others to occupy, a quarter of a century later.
The magic spell of royal enchantment being now broken, Jones started for Copenhagen, to attempt the settlement of some accounts with the Danish government in relation to prize-money; but his funds failed when he had proceeded as far as Brussels, and he turned back. In the summer of 1787 he visited the United States, when he procured the final settlement of his accounts, and busied himself for some time in planning various schemes for the good of his adopted country. Among others, he submitted to Mr. Jay, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, a plan for releasing many American seamen who had been captured by Algerine corsairs, and were suffering the horrors of barbarian slavery on the African coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He asked for authority to execute his plans; but the government, then in the midst of great political and financial entanglements, could not second his benevolent efforts. After a little affray in the streets of New York with his old enemy Landais, Jones sailed for Europe, bearing to Mr. Jefferson dispatches of much importance to himself. One was an order to procure the gold medal which Congress had awarded to the Chevalier; and another contained instructions for Mr. Jefferson to employ Commodore Jones, or some other person, to prosecute certain claims for prize-money at the court of Denmark.
Jones passed several days with Mr. Adams in London, and then hastened to Paris. On the evening of the day of his arrival he had an interview with Mr. Jefferson; and he left the presence of the minister with his mind filled with a more brilliant vision of glory than his ambition had ever ventured to aspire to. The Empress of Russia was then waging war against the Turks, and her fleet in the Black Sea had met with some severe reverses. The Russian minister at the French court at once intimated to Mr. Jefferson his earnest desire to procure the services of the Chevalier for his royal mistress. He had written to his government, that "If her Imperial Majesty should confide to Commodore Jones the chief command of her fleet on the Black Sea, with carte blanche, he would answer for it, that in less than a year Jones would make Constantinople tremble.' This intimation Mr. Jefferson communicated to the Chevalier, and his imagination was fired by the prospect of glory, wealth, and honor that awaited him. But having learned, by sad experience, some of the subtle arts of diplomacy, he concealed his emotions. When the Russian minister sounded him on the subject he was coy, and pretended to be indifferent, while he was burning with impatience to grasp the coveted prize. A few days afterward he received his credentials from Mr. Jefferson to visit the court of Denmark on the subject of prize-money; but on the morning of his departure he took the precaution to breakfast with a Polish friend, where he was sure to meet the Russian minister, who held that golden apple he so much desired.
The Chevalier was cordially welcomed at the Danish court. He supped with the royal family and threescore of guests, flirted with the Princess Royal, who honored him with her smiles, and received the homage of the assembled grandees. But when he attempted to enter upon the business of his mission he found many difficulties, and he finally made a formal abandonment of the negotiations. On the same day he received a patent from the king for an annual pension of fifteen hundred crowns. as an acknowledgment "for the respect he had shown for the Danish flag while he had command in the European seas." The coincidence was unfortunate, and the enemies of the Chevalier openly charged him with receiving a bribe. The patent proved to be a worthless piece of parchment, for Jones never received a thaler from the king. The true reason for his suspending the negotiations, doubtless, was the fact that the Russian minister at Copenhagen had made a direct proposition to Jones to enter the naval service of Catharine with the relative rank and pay of a major-general, herequested the Chevalier to repair immediately to St. Petersburg to receive from the Empress his commission, and instructions to take command on the Black Sea, under the directions of Prince Potemkin, then with a large army in southern Russia. Although the Chevalier aspired to the rank of rear-admiral, and did not like to be second in command, yet he accepted the proposition; and with a thousand ducats in his pocket, placed there by the Russian minister to defray the expenses of his journey, he set out for the Romanoff court, by way of Sweden, in mid-April, 1788.
Having remained a single day in Stockholm, Jones went to Gresholm to embark; but there was too much ice in the Gulf of Bothnia to allow him to cross it, or even to reach the Aland Islands in the Channel. Impatient to receive the awaiting honors, and believing Catharine to be as anxious as himself for the interview, he resolved to attempt doubling the southern points of the ice-field in the open Baltic. For that purpose he hired an open passage-boat about thirty feet in length, and a smaller one as a tender. His boatmen were not aware of his intentions until they were opposite Stockholm at twilight, when they refused to venture. With a pistol in each hand, the Chevalier declared he would shoot the first man who should dare to disobey his orders, and they complied. All that night they had a pleasant voyage, and early the next morning they saw the far distant shores of Finland marking a dim, irregular line upon the horizon. All that day they skirted along the ice with a strong wind from the Swedish shore. During the succeeding night it increased to a gale. In the gloom the small boat was swamped, and the two men in it were rescued from drowning with great difficulty. Jones's courage never forsook him in the hour of danger. All night long he sat at the stern as coxswain, and watched his little compass calmly by the light of a carriage lantern. On the fourth day of the voyage they entered the Finland gulf and arrived at Revel in safety.
Having well rewarded his boatmen and provided for their return, Jones pressed forward toward the Neva, and arrived at the Russian capital on the evening of the 4th of May. There, unexpected honors were prepared for him. Nobles, statesmen, and foreign ministers crowded to see him, and pay homage to his genius and fame. Their admiration had been increased by his last daring adventure in the Baltic, and the court was enthusiastic in its reception of the hero. Catharine invited him to a private audience; and two days after his arrival, he was publicly presented by Count Segur, the French embassador, to the Empress, who sat in state in the midst of many of the nobility of both sexes, and the imperial guards. His reception was all that his heart could desire, and his happiness was made complete by receiving the coveted commission of rear-admiral in the Russian navy. That appointment excited the jealousy of other foreign officers in the service of the Empress, and thirty commissioned Englishmen threatened to resign rather than be associated with that "English pirate and smuggler." Their bluster was disregarded, and on the 7th of May the Chevalier left St. Petersburg for the head-quarters of Prince Potemkin, bearing a letter from the Empress to that functionary, and having his pockets well filled with ducats to defray the expenses of his journey.
Potemkin was proud and haughty; so was Jones. Yet they met with a determination to be pleased with each other, and all would have went well had not the jealousy of other foreign officers, whom Jones superseded, caused trouble. The Chevalier's worst enemy was the Prince of Nassau, Liègen, a needy adventurer with very moderate talents, but whom Potemkin delighted to honor. The prince was then preparing for an important movement against the Turks. One of the keys to power in the Black Sea was the strongly fortified town of Oczakow, at the junction of the Dneiper and Bog, then in possession of the Mussulmans. Potemkin had determined to attack it by land and water. The Russian navy capable of operating in the Liman, at the mouth of the Dneiper, consisted of the line-of-battle ship Wolodomer and other smaller vessels, and a flotilla of gun-boats. Jones was placed in command of the fleet, and Nassau of the flotilla. By great efforts Potemkin had effected an apparently friendly relation between the different commanders; and at about the middle of June, while the army was concentrating in front of Oczakow, he ordered an attack to be made upon the Turkish fleet. In the engagement that ensued, Jones displayed the greatest skill and valor, and the victory achieved would have been far more decisive if he had been the sole commander. On the 1st of July, the siege was commenced upon the doomed town by the combined land and naval forces. Having placed his flag-ship in proper position, Jones entered an armed boat and dashed like a furious rocket into the midst of some Turkish galleys within gunshot distance of the enemy's flotilla and the heavy guns of the batteries of Oczakow. With that fearless energy which always marked him in the hour of great peril, the Admiral led his men to quick and complete victory over two of the galleys, one of which belonged to the Capitan Pacha. The Turks were utterly dismayed by his mad courage, which seemed as indifferent to danger as if inspired by their own dark fatalism. They shrank in terror at his approach. In the midst of an incessant cannonade he fired four other galleys, and then returned to the Wolodomer with fifty-two prisoners, without losing a man. Nassau, in the mean while, who had participated in the fight, had hastened to the headquarters of Potemkin to tell of the brilliant victory and to magnify his own exploits. When the rewards for valor were distributed, Rear-admiral Jones received the decoration of the order of St. Anne, the gratuity of a year's pay, and a gold-mounted sword. Nassau, Potemkin's favorite, was decorated with the higher military order of St. George, and enriched by the gift of a valuable estate having almost four thousand serfs upon it. The Admiral was dissatisfied, and was not slow in making his feelings known to Potemkin. He also ventured, during some subsequent naval operations, to express his opinions freely concerning proposed measures, forgetting that he was dealing with a man who was really the Czar of Russia in power, for he was the acknowledged master of the Empress. His enemies, who concealed their real feelings from Potemkin, were at the same time busy at the ear of the prince with plausible stories concerning Jones's ambition and independence. They even told him that the Admiral had ridiculed his operations on land in the siege of Oczakow, and was endeavoring to win officers to his interest, so as to supersede Potemkin. While the prince was irritated by these reports, Jones happened, injudiciously, to object to some order from head-quarters, and in his frank manner, as if addressing a French or American officer of equal rank with whom he was co-operating, he concluded a note to Potemkin with these words: "Every man who thinks, is master of his own opinion; this is mine." Potemkin was not in the habit of allowing any body to have an opinion but himself; and the practical commentary upon that unfortunate text, which Jones was compelled to read, was the arrival of Admiral Mordwinoff the following day with orders to take command of all the naval forces, and bearing the following significant note to the Chevalier from the offended prince: "According to the special desire of her Imperial Majesty, your service is fixed in the northern seas; and as this squadron and flotilla are placed by me under the orders of Vice-admiral Mordwinoff your excellency may, in consequence, proceed on the voyage directed, especially as the squadron in the Liman can not now, on account of the advanced season, be united with that of Sevastopol."
Jones well knew that remonstrance would be in vain, and that a multiplicity of words would make his case worse; so, after procuring from Potemkin a complimentary letter to the Empress, and assurances of his friendship, the Admiral departed for St. Petersburg, where he arrived at near the close of December. In the mean while, Oczakow had been stormed at a time of extreme cold; the Turks had become panic-stricken; the town and fortresses had surrendered, and thirty thousand persons, without distinction of age or sex, had been cruelly massacred by order of Potemkin. When Jones heard of it, he rejoiced that he had been spared participation in a scene of such foul inhumanity; and he was further comforted by the intelligence that his successor had been guilty of many gross blunders in the management of the fleet and flotilla, and was in utter disgrace with the haughty Potemkin.
Jones obtained an interview with the Empress on the day after his arrival, and asked for employment. She was gracious in her manner, but told him he must wait for the arrival of Potemkin. The impatient Admiral employed the seven weeks' delay in forming projects for his future course. He laid plans before Catharine for extending her commercial relations with Christendom, and for pushing her conquests in the direction of Constantinople -- the goal of Russian ambition even to this day. These plans were submitted to Potemkin, on his arrival, and were dismissed with a compliment. The Admiral soon perceived that his popularity at court was waning. Slanders of every kind had been circulated by the English in the Russian capital during his absence, and he had no means at hand for refuting them except simple denials. The jealousies of other foreigners aided in poisoning the mind of the Empress, and at length (as was afterward proven) a person high in esteem at court bribed a worthless woman to accuse the Admiral of the crime of having made an indecent assault upon her daughter. Already invitations for him to dine at court had become less and less frequent. Now his name was stricken from the list of guests; and when, early in April, he went to pay his respects to the Empress, he was unceremoniously driven away. His friends suddenly abandoned him. Every door was shut against him. People avoided speaking to him in the streets. His servants left him; and in that capital where, only a year before, he had been courted and honored by all ranks, he had but one solitary friend, who shut his ears to the voice of malice and falsehood. That friend was Count Segur, the French Embassador, who knew him well and felt certain of his innocence. He was not that real enemy, a passive friend, but exerted himself continually and successfully in disabusing the mind of Catharine and procuring the restoration of the brave Admiral to her favor.
New projects now revolved in the teeming brain of Jones. New visions of glory appeared in his dim future, and he again dreamed of honors to be won as commander of the Russian navy in the Black Sea. But envy and malice never sleep, and are ever busy. English influence was potential at the Russian court. The Empress was convinced of the innocence of Jones, but she deemed it expedient not to give him employment that might alienate the allegiance of other foreign officers. Instead of giving the Admiral a commission for active service, she furnished him with a furlough for two years, and a passport to leave the country. His aircastles, built upon the unsubstantial foundations of royal favor, disappeared in a moment. There was no alternative, for the occupant of the throne of Peter never allows reason to dispute with the imperial will. So, toward the close of August, 1789, John Paul Jones left the Russian capital forever; comforted somewhat by the knowledge that his salary was to be continued during his absence. Count Segur took special pains to give a favorable construction to the Admiral's absence from Russia, both at St. Petersburg and at Paris; and M. Genet, who afterward became conspicuous as the Embassador of the French Republic to the United States, was ever his warm and active friend. The caprices of Catharine and the favoritism exercised by Potemkin were so well known throughout Europe, that the leave of absence given to Jones did not affect his character unfavorably. He was soon made aware of the fact; for all the way from the borders of Russia, he was every where treated with the distinction due to his rank and services.
While at Warsaw, Admiral Jones became personally acquainted with the noble Kosciuszcko, who was then deeply engaged in preparations to cast off from the neck of unhappy Poland the yoke of Russian oppression. With that patriot, the Chevalier conferred on the subject of his entering the navy of Sweden against Russia; an event which Catharine seemed to apprehend. The Rear-admiral had been taught, by bitter experience, that in the battle of public life under monarchies, "Every man for himself" was the general rule of action; and, while he would never have raised his arm against France or the United States, he was willing to win honor and emolument for himself under any Continental flag but that of the Crescent. He never entered the Swedish navy, however; and a little later the treachery of Prussia caused the dreadful event in Polish history which elicited from the pen of Campbell the burning words:
"Hope for a season bade the world farewell!
And Freedom shrieked when Kosciuszcko fell!"
The active life of Admiral Jones was now drawing to a close, and his brilliant and destructive onslaught upon the Turkish galleys remained his last notable exploit in his profession. For a time he enjoyed a season of leisure at Amsterdam, and engaged in his favorite pastime of letter-writing. Of all his epistles written at that time, none were more creditable to his head and heart than one which he addressed to Mrs. Taylor, his eldest sister. His mother had been long dead, and only two of his immediate family remained. He yearned to visit them, but a fear of personal violence at the hands of the people of Great Britain, who had been taught to hate him as a monster of cruelty, kept him from their warm embraces. In his letter he expressed an earnest desire to be useful to his sisters and their children; wished he "had a fortune to offer to each of them;" and, concerning his orphan nieces he said, "I desire particularly to be useful to the two young women, who have a double claim to my regard, as they have lost their father."
Toward the close of April, 1790, Admiral Jones visited London to close the business of a speculation in which he had been engaged with Dr. Bancroft, and received, as his share of the operations, about sixteen thousand dollars in notes and money. He remained there only long enough to transact his business, and then hurried to Paris. In July, he addressed a long vindicatory letter to Prince Potemkin, the chief object of which seemed to be to procure the coveted decoration of the Order of St. George, to which his exploits while in command of the fleet before Oczakow fairly entitled him. At the same time, he called Potemkin's attention to some new naval projects; hinted at the probability of Catharine's favorite becoming a Sovereign of Europe; and begged him to accept a copy of the gold medal awarded to the Chevalier by the American Congress. Jones was anxious to return to the Russian navy, and he thus cautiously sought to accomplish his object through the good-will of the all-potent Prince. But Potemkin never favored the Admiral with a reply, and he remained in comparative inaction until the following spring, when he made a direct application to the Empress to be recalled to her service. Catharine was as silent as Potemkin, until, through Baron Grimm, her secret agent in Paris, Jones submitted some promising improvements in naval construction, and asked for employment. Then Catharine replied, that a general peace in Europe appeared probable, and that when she needed the services of Rear-admiral Jones she would communicate directly with him. Now faded away his last ray of hope of ever again walking the quarter-deck of a Russian man-of-war, and the disappointed Admiral dismissed Catharine and all her retinue from the sphere of his aspirations.
Long exposure to peculiar hardships in various climates, and the chafing of a hot and restless spirit in a delicate body, had implanted in the system of Admiral Jones seeds of disease which now rapidly germinated. The fatal shears of Antropos clipped the wings of his ambition for glory in battle, and he began to contemplate higher and holier things. The lion and the bear of his passions quietly lay down with the lamb of his affections, and the young child of purest emotions led them where it pleased. Reminiscences of early years wove a web of melancholy delight around his whole being, and he yearned for the love of his family and friends. As the splendor of earthly magnificence paled before the light of true appreciation, his soul turned with tenderness to the mild radiance which beamed from a higher sphere. His letters to his eldest sister at this time were full of pleasant thoughts, and kindly, religious sentiments. A coldness between his sisters troubled him. "My grief is inexpressible," he wrote, "that two sisters, whose happiness is so interesting to me, do not live together in that mutual tenderness and affection which would do so much honor to themselves, and to the memory of their worthy relations. Permit me to recommend to your serious study and application Pope's 'Universal Prayer.' You will find more morality in that little piece than in many volumes that have been written by great divines:
"Teach me to feel another's woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show
That mercy show to me!"
Sometimes his disease would abate, and hopes of returning health would cheer him. Then would come yearnings for the path of human glory. Ambition made many cartoons of new plans, and he contemplated a ceremonial visit at the Court at Versailles. But the tempest of that great Revolution which soon swept away the throne, all royalty, and the flower of the aristocracy of France, was then gathering strength, and he never saw the face of Louis XVI. again. Then his sympathies were greatly excited in behalf of captive Americans among the Algerines; and he urged Mr. Jefferson, then Secretary of State, to induce his government to take measures for their immediate ransom. His stirring petition was heeded, but he did not live to see its fruits. His disease made rapid progress, Yet his mind retained its vigor, and he kept up an extensive correspondence until the spring of 1792, when his vitality rapidly failed. Early in the summer his malady assumed the fatal form of dropsy in the chest. The Queen's physician attended him, and a few kind friends cheered his last hours. Among these were Governeur Morris (then United States Minister at the Court of Versailles), Colonel Blackden, and Beaupoil, a French officer, who greatly admired the character of Jones.
Colonel Blackden at last assumed the office of friendly adviser, and performed the painful and delicate duty of urging the Admiral to settle his worldly affairs and prepare for death. On the 18th of July Jones made a schedule of all his property. Two notaries were then sent for, and Governeur Morris proceeded to draw the last Will of the dying man, according to the invalid's own dictation. His veneration for titles, which had been one of the weaknesses of his character, disappeared, and in a clear voice he directed his friend to write: "Before the undersigned, notaries at Paris, appeared John Paul Jones, citizen of the United States of America, resident at Paris, lodged in the street of Tournon, No. 42, at the house of M. Dorbergue, hussier audiancier of the tribunal of the third arrondissement, found in a parlor in the first story above the floor, lighted by two windows, opening in the said street of Tournon, sitting in an arm-chair, sick in body, but sound of mind, memory, and understanding, as it appeared to the undersigned notaries, by his discourse and conversation, who in view of his death has made, dictated, and worded, to the undersigned notaries, his testament as follows:" Then he proceeded to bequeath all his property, amounting, probably, to about thirty thousand dollars, to his two sisters and their children, and made Robert Morris of Philadelphia (the great financier of the Revolution) his sole testamentary executor. He signed his Will at about eight o'clock in the evening, when his friends, after witnessing it, withdrew, leaving him still seated in his "armchair." His physician arrived soon afterward. The arm-chair was vacant, and the little parlor was deserted. On entering the adjoining bedroom he found there the lifeless body of his patient, the face upon the bedside and the feet resting upon the floor. A few hours after his spirit had departed, a commission arrived from the Government of the United States, appointing him its agent to treat with the Regency of Algiers for the ransom of all captive Americans. How the sight of it would have soothed his pillow in his dying hour!
When the death of Admiral Jones was made known in the National Assembly of France, that body passed complimentary resolutions, and decreed that twelve of its members should appear in the funeral procession. Two days after his death his body was placed in a leaden coffin, in order that it might be conveniently taken to the United States, or Russia, if either government should claim it. It was followed to the tomb by quite a large concourse of citizens, and the stipulated deputation of the National Assembly. The funeral obsequies were performed at the serene and solemn hour of twilight, and the ceremonies were concluded by a funeral oration pronounced by M. Marron, a French Protestant clergyman, who said: "Legislators! citizens! soldiers! brethren! and Frenchmen! We have just returned to the earth the remains of an illustrious stranger, one of the first champions of the liberty of America; of that liberty which so gloriously ushered in our own. The Semiramis of the North had drawn him under her standard, but Paul Jones could not long breathe the pestilential air of despotism; he preferred the sweets of private life in France, now free, to the éclat of title and honors, which, from an usurped throne, were lavished upon him by Catharine. But the fame of the great man survives; his portion is immortality. And what more flattering homage can we offer to the manes of Paul Jones, than to swear on his tomb to live or to die free? Let this be the vow and watchword of every Frenchman!
"Let neither tyrants nor their satellites ever pollute this sacred earth! May the ashes of the great man, too soon lost to humanity, enjoy here an undisturbed repose! May his example teach posterity the efforts which noble souls are capable of making, when stimulated by hatred to oppression.
"Friends and brethren! a noble emulation brightens in your looks; your time is precious; your country is in danger! Who among us would not shed the last drop of his blood to save it? Identify yourselves with the glory of Paul Jones, in imitating his contempt for danger, his devotion to his country, and the noble heroism which, after having astonished the present age, will continue to call forth the veneration of ages to come!"
In this manner, and in the midst of the terrible waves of a bloody Revolution then surging fearfully over Paris, the son of the humble gardener of Arbigland was hidden away from mortal vision, at the age of forty-five years. Neither the government of the United States nor that of Russia ever claimed his remains for burial or monumental honor, and the place of his sepulchre is unknown to the present generation!
See Pictorial History of England during the reign of George the Third, vol. 1. p. 897.
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This anonymous essay, "John Paul Jones," appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine v. 11; number 62 (JULY, 1855) 115-170. The illustrations also are not attributed. If you find errors or would like to contribute annotations to this article, please contact the site manager.
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Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College
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