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The Tory Lover by Sarah Orne Jewett
from Robert C. Sands,
Life and Correspondence of John Paul Jones.
New York, 1830. pp. 66-126,
covering Jones as captain of the Ranger, 1777-1778.
Sands's notes appear at the end of the selection, except that references to the appendices are removed since the appendices are not included here.
Jones repaired from Boston to Philadelphia, in the beginning of April, 1777. His suggestions as to the proper government of the navy, and his projects of annoying the enemy, were listened to with respectful attention. Whatever cause he conceived himself to have for complaining of the nominal rank assigned to him, the command which it was first resolved to give him, and that with which he was in the issue entrusted, were calculated to satisfy his sense of what was due to his deserts, and he expresses himself as being highly gratified. In his Journal, written for the king of France, he says: "The President assured Captain Jones that this matter of rank should be arranged at a future day, to his satisfaction, and in the mean time he should have a separate command, &c. Three ships were ordered to be fitted out in the eastern states, and Captain Jones was, by a resolve of Congress, directed to take his choice of them, 'until better provision could be made for him.'* Captain Jones spared no pains to execute this last scheme; but before it was well begun, he received an appointment from the marine and secret committee, to proceed to France in the French ship Amphitrite from New Hampshire, with a letter to the American Commissioners at Paris, containing orders to invest him immediately with the command of 'a fine ship,' (the Indian, built for America at Amsterdam,) 'as a reward for his zeal, and the important services he had performed, in vessels of little force.' His departure in the Amphitrite did not succeed, because the terms offered the French commander were not accepted." Speaking of this resolution of Congress, he says elsewhere, "This was generous indeed; and I shall feel the whole force of the obligation, to the last moment of my life."
In the memorandums and documents, in the compiler's possession, there is no further explanation of the causes which prevented Jones from embarking in the Amphitrite. By a letter from him, to an agent, directing the enlistment of seamen, dated May 23d, it appears that he lost no time in acting upon the appointment by the Marine Committee. The following are the official letters and instructions, with which he was furnished.
"Philadelphia, 9th May, 1777.
"This letter is intended to be delivered to you by John Paul Jones, Esq. an active and brave commander in our navy, who has already performed signal services in vessels of little force; and in reward for his zeal we have directed him to go on board the Amphitrite, a French ship of twenty guns, that brought in a valuable cargo of stores from Mons. Hostalez and Co. and with her to repair to France. He takes with him his commission, some officers and men, so that we hope he will, under that sanction, make some good prizes with the Amphitrite; but our design of sending him is, (with the approbation of Congress, that you may purchase one of those fine frigates that Mr. Deane writes us you can get, and invest him with the command thereof as soon as possible. We hope you may not delay this business one moment, but purchase, in such port or place in Europe as it can be done with most convenience and despatch, a fine fast-sailing frigate or larger ship. Direct Captain Jones where he must repair to, and he will take with him his officers and men towards manning her. You will assign him some good house or agent to supply him with every thing necessary to get the ship speedily and well equipped and manned -- somebody that will bestir themselves vigorously in the business, and never quit it until it is accomplished.
"If you have any plan or service to be performed in Europe by such a ship, that you think will be more for the interest and honour of the States than sending her out directly, Captain Jones is instructed to obey your orders; and, to save repetition, let him lay before you the instructions we have given him, and furnish you with a copy thereof. You can then judge what will be necessary for you to direct him in, and whatever you do will be approved, as it will undoubtedly tend to promote the public service of this country.
"You see by this step how much dependence Congress place in your advices; and you must make it a point not to disappoint Captain Jones' wishes and expectations on this occasion.
"We are, &c.
(Signed) "ROBERT MORRIS.
"RICHARD HENRY LEE.
"The Honourable Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, Esquires, Commissioners," &c.
IN MARINE COMMITTEE.
"Philadelphia, May 9th, 1777.
"JOHN PAUL JONES, Esq.
"Sir -- Congress have thought proper to authorize the Secret Committee to employ you on a voyage in the Amphitrite, from Portsmouth to Carolina and France, where it is expected you will be provided with a fine frigate; and as your present commission is for the command of a particular ship, we now send you a new one, whereby you are appointed a captain in our navy, and of course may command any ship in the service to which you are particularly ordered. You are to obey the orders of the Secret Committee, and we are, Sir, &c.
(Signed) "JOHN HANCOCK.
IN MARINE COMMITTEE.
"Philadelphia, September 6th, 1777.
"As soon as these instructions get to hand, you are to make immediate application to the proper persons to get your vessel victualled and fitted for sea with all expedition. When this is done, you are to proceed on a voyage to some convenient port in France; on your arrival there, apply to the agent, if any, in or near said port, for such supplies as you may stand in need of. You are at the same time to give immediate notice, by letter, to the Honourable Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee, Esquires, or any of them at Paris, of your arrival, requesting their instructions as to your further destination; which instructions you are to obey as far as it shall be in your power.
"You are to take particular notice, that whilst on the coast of France, or in a French port, you are, as much as you conveniently can, to keep your guns covered and concealed, and to make as little warlike appearance as possible. Wishing you, &c. &c.["]
Jones had recommended, in a letter to a member in Congress, that the Mellish should be converted into a ship of war; and the secret committee had passed a resolution to that effect; but the intention was abandoned in consequence of letters from him. On the 14th June, Congress resolved, "that the flag of the United States should be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." By another resolution, passed the same day, Jones was appointed to command the ship Ranger; on board of which he hoisted the national flag for the first time it was displayed on board of a man of war, as he had formerly hoisted the colonial one, in the Delaware.*
He began to fit out this vessel in July; but was not ready for sea before the 15th November following. She was scarcely half rigged when he took charge of her, and much difficulty was experienced in arming and equipping her. He wrote as follows to the Marine Committee on the 29th October. -- "With all my industry I could not get the single suit of sails completed, until the 20th current. Since that time the winds and weather have laid me under the necessity of continuing in port. At this time it blows a very heavy gale from the N. E. The ship with difficulty rides it out, with yards and top mast struck, and whole cables ahead. When it clears up, I expect the wind from the N. W. and shall not fail to embrace it, although I have not now a spare sail, nor materials to make one. Some of those I have are made of Hessings, (a coarse thin stuff.) I never before had so disagreeable a service to perform, as that which I have now accomplished, and of which another will claim the credit as well as the profit. However, in doing my utmost, I am sensible that I have done no more than my duty. I have now to acknowledge the honour of having received your orders of the 6th ultimo; and that I have before me the pleasing prospect of being the welcome messenger at Paris of the joyful and important news of Burgoyne's surrender. I have received despatches from the Council of Massachusetts, for the commissioners, by express. I shall, therefore, not go out of my course, unless I see a fair opportunity of distressing the enemy, and of rendering services to America."
Twenty-six guns were provided for the Ranger; but Jones wrote that he purposed to carry no more than 18 six pounders, as he thought the ship incapable of carrying a greater number so as to be serviceable. He complained that they were all three diameters of the bore too short. He found no difficulty in procuring men, but he was badly provided with stores, having only thirty gallons of rum for his whole crew. With this indifferent armament he sailed from Portsmouth on the first of November, and arrived at Nantes on the 2d December following. He found the Ranger very crank, owing to the improper quality of her ballast; which induced him on his arrival to shorten her lower masts, and ballast with lead. The following particulars of his cruise are given in his letter from Nantes to the Marine Committee. -- "After passing the Western Islands, I fell in with and brought to, a number of ships, but met with no English property, till within eighty leagues of Ushant. I then fell in with a fleet of ten sail with a strong convoy, bound up the channel; but notwithstanding my endeavours, I was unable to detach any of them from the convoy. I took two brigantines from Malaga with fruit for London. One of the prizes has arrived here. The other, I am now told, is in Quiberon Bay. I arrived here on the 2d current, without having met with any misfortune on the passage, though I met with some very severe weather. Besides the fleet already mentioned, I fell in with several ships in the night; so that I have had agreeable proofs of the active spirit both of my officers and men. Though they have not formerly been conversant in the management of ships of war, yet I am persuaded they will behave well, should I have an opportunity of bringing them to action, &c." He does not mention in this letter the particulars of his meeting with the Invincible; a ship of seventy-four guns, which was giving convoy to a few ships from Gibraltar. He speaks of the affair in his narrative for the king of France, as a "near rencounter;" and in his letter from the Texel, he says, "I could not help chasing the Invincible, by the way."
Determining to attend to the necessary alterations and equipment of the Ranger in person, his first act on arriving at Nantes was to write on the 5th December to the commissioners of Congress at Paris, -- Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee. The following is an extract from the letter:
"I yesterday, enclosed you copies of two letters which I wrote you previous to my departure from Portsmouth, together with a plan which I drew up at Philadelphia, on the regulation and equipment of our infant navy. It is my first and favourite wish to be employed in active and enterprising services, when there is a prospect of rendering acceptable services to America. The singular honour which Congress have done me by their generous acknowledgment of my past services, hath inspired me with sentiments of gratitude which I shall carry with me to my grave; and if a life of services devoted to America can be made instrumental in securing its independence, I shall regard the continuance of such approbation as an honour far superior to what kings even could bestow."
"I am ready to lay before you any orders, which I have received from Congress. At present I take the liberty of enclosing for your inspection a very honourable and unexpected appointment, &c." "I have always, since we have had ships of war, been persuaded that small squadrons could be employed to far better advantage on private expeditions, and would distress the enemy infinitely more than the same force could do, by cruising either jointly or separately. Were strict secrecy observed on our part, the enemy have many important places in such a defenceless situation, that they might be effectually surprised and attacked, with no very considerable force. We cannot yet fight their navy; as their numbers and force are so far superior to ours. Therefore it seems to be our most natural province to surprise their defenceless places; and thereby divert their attention, and draw it off from our coasts. But you see that my honourable correspondent is, and I know that many others are, of the same opinion."
The course here recommended by Jones was the only one which eventually was found feasible. He was soon summoned to Paris by the Commissioners, to consult with them upon the measures to be adopted for annoying the enemy. France was not yet in open hostility with England, nor had the commissioners been recognised as plenipotentiaries. Jones was directed to keep his guns as much concealed as possible while on the French coasts. He was destined to meet with a serious disappointment, in being obliged to assent to the transfer of the Indian, the "fine ship" of which he had expected to receive the command, and which was building at Amsterdam, to the French Government. Considering the irritability of his character, we do not find that he bore this miscarriage very ungraciously. Congress certainly had intended that he should take command of this vessel, or of one of equal force; and he made their resolution a ground for claiming the rank which such a command would have given him. But he submitted to parting with the Indian with tolerable good humour, as the extracts from his letters will show. This is mentioned, because he has been charged with writing to Congress "in no very modest terms." In his first despatch from Nantes to the marine committee, he says: "I understand, though I have yet received no letter, that the commissioners had provided for me one of the finest frigates that ever was built; calculated for thirty guns on one deck; and capable of carrying thirty-six pounders; but were under the necessity of giving her up, on account of some difficulties which they met with at court. Perhaps the news of our late successes may now put that court in a better humour. But my unfeigned thanks are equally due for the intention as for the act." Writing again to the same committee, on the 22d December, the day after he had received a request from the commissioners to attend them at Paris, he declared his intention to proceed to sea with the Ranger, without loss of time, should there be any delay in obtaining additional force. In his narrative for the king of France, corrected by himself, in speaking of the "assignment of the property of that famous frigate, the Indian," he has interlined, "with the consent of Captain Jones."
Writing to the Marine Committee subsequently, on the subject, he said: "Deeply sensible of the honour which Congress has conferred upon me, communicated in the orders of the Secret Committee to the commissioners, I can bear the disappointment with philosophy. Yet I confess I was rather hurt, when at Paris, I understood that the new frigate at Amsterdam had never been intended for me, before my appearance, but for the constructer."
After conferring with the commissioners on the various schemes he had to suggest, he returned to Nantes to complete the Ranger's equipments, and on the 16th of January 1788, he received from them their instructions as to his conduct on the cruise he proposed making. They were as follows, giving him almost unlimited discretion; which he was perfectly willing to assume, though it seems from one of his despatches that he did not understand the commissioners as "promising even to justify him, should he fail in any bold attempt."
"Paris, January 16th, 1788.
"Sir -- As it is not in our power to procure you such a ship as you expected, we advise you, after equipping the Ranger in the best manner for the cruise you propose, that you proceed with her in the manner you shall judge best for distressing the enemies of the United States, by sea or otherwise, consistent with the laws of war, and the terms of your commission." [Directions here follow for sending prizes taken on the coast of France and Spain, into Bilboa or Coronge, unless the danger was too great, in which case they were to be sent to L'Orient or Bordeaux.] "If you make an attempt on the coast of Great Britain we advise you not to return immediately into the ports of France, unless forced by stress of weather, or the pursuit of the enemy; and in such case you can make the proper representation to the officers of the port, and acquaint us with your situation. We rely on your ability, as well as your zeal to serve the United States, and therefore do not give you particular in structions as to your operations. We must caution you against giving any cause of complaint to the subjects of France or Spain, or of other neutral powers; and recommend it to you to show them every proper mark of respect, and real civility, which may be in your power."
Mr. Arthur Lee did not approve of a part of these instructions, directing the sale of the prizes to be intrusted to other hands than those of the commercial agents. He expressed his want of confidence in Mr. Gourlade, one of the persons mentioned, at L'Orient, and did not sign the letter. Messrs. Franklin and Deane knew of nothing done by Gourlade, to impair their confidence in him. Agreeably to the suggestion of Jones, they addressed an intimation to the crew of the Ranger, promising, "in case of their good and gallant behaviour, to recommend them to Congress for a generous gratification, proportioned to their merits."
On the 10th of February, Jones says in his Journal to the king of France, "on receiving agreeable news of affairs in America, and the position of Lord Howe's fleet, he wrote a letter to Mr. Deane, one of the commissioners of Congress at Paris, containing the plan that was adopted for Count D'Estaing's expedition; which would have ended the war, had it been immediately pursued." He has been censured for assuming to himself the original merit of devising this important measure. It is certain, that he repeatedly makes the assertion that he furnished the outline of the project.* In a letter to M. De Sartine, the French minister of marine, written subsequently, he says:
"Had Count D'Estaing arrived in the Delaware a few days sooner, he might have made a most glorious and easy conquest. Many successful projects may be adopted from the hints which I had the honour to draw up; and if I can still furnish more, or execute any of these already furnished, so as to distress and humble the common enemy, it will afford me the truest pleasure." It may naturally be inferred, that the operations of Count D'Estaing's fleet was a subject discussed in the consultations held by Jones with the commissioners, on his first brief visit to Paris, though he does not intimate that any such conversation took place. It cannot be doubted, that he was peculiarly qualified to give important advice, from his accurate acquaintance with the localities of the Delaware, and the navigation of the waters in the vicinity of the scene selected for the intended operation. It will also not be doubted, that his advice would naturally be of a daring character, recommending bold measures as best calculated to lead to great results. There can be no reason for impeaching his veracity, when he affirms that he forwarded his plan to Mr. Deane at the time mentioned; nor does it appear that he exclusively arrogated the praise due to the wisdom with which the scheme was conceived. He put in a claim for his fair share of the honour; and there is no evidence against his title to it. No copy of the letter he speaks of is preserved among the papers and volumes which the compiler has in his possession. As secrecy was essential in effecting the proposed object, no mention is of course made of it in his general correspondence at the time. It failed, as is well known, from the delay which occurred, and which enabled Lord Howe to place his fleet and transports in safety.
From Nantes, Jones proceeded in the Ranger for Quiberon Bay, whither "he convoyed some American vessels, that desired to sail out under the protection of the French squadron in that road, commanded by Monsieur La Motte Picquet. From that brave officer, Captain Jones claimed and obtained the first salute the flag of America ever received. Some days afterwards, he claimed and obtained the same honour from Count D'Orvilliers. commander in chief of the fleet at Brest. Both these salutes preceded the publication of the treaty of alliance."*
This first salute was not obtained, however, without some diplomacy and negotiation, in which Jones showed both firmness and address. The following letters were written by him on the occasion.
"February 14th, 1778.
"I am extremely sorry to give you fresh trouble, but I think the Admiral's answer of yesterday requires an explanation. The haughty English return gun for gun to foreign officers of equal rank, and two less only to captains by flag-officers. It is true, my command at present is not important, yet, as the senior American officer at present in Europe, it is my duty to claim an equal return of respect to the flag of the United States that would be shown to any other flag whatever.
"I therefore take the liberty of enclosing an appointment, perhaps as respectable as any which the French Admiral can produce; besides which, I have others in my possession.
"If, however, he persists in refusing to return an equal salute, I will accept of two guns less, as I have not the rank of Admiral.
"It is my opinion, that he would return four less to a privateer or a merchant ship; therefore, as I have been honoured oftener than once with a chief command of ships of war, I cannot, in honour, accept of the same terms of respect.
"You will singularly oblige me by waiting upon the Admiral; and I ardently hope you will succeed in the application, else I shall be under a necessity of departing without coming into the bay. I have the honour to be, &c. &c.
"TO WILLIAM CARMICHAEL, Esq.
"N. B. -- Though thirteen guns is your greatest salute in America, yet if the French Admiral should prefer a greater number, he has his choice, on conditions."
Writing to Mr. Jonathan Williams on the following day, he says, "I propose to salute the Admiral in open day; that no evasion may afterwards be made." He wrote as follows to the Marine Committee, on the 22d February. "I am happy in having it in my power to congratulate you on my having seen the American flag, for the first time, recognised, in the fullest and completest manner by the flag of France. I was off their bay the 13th, and sent my boat in the next day, to know if the Admiral would return my salute. He answered that he would return to me, as the senior American continental officer in Europe, the same salute which he was authorized by his court to return to an Admiral of Holland, or of any other Republic, which was four guns less than the salute given. I hesitated at this; for I had demanded gun for gun. Therefore, I anchored in the entrance of the bay, at a distance from the French fleet; but after a very particular inquiry on the 14th, finding that he had really told the truth, I was induced to accept of his offer, the more so, as it was in fact an acknowledgment of American Independence. The wind being contrary, and blowing hard, it was after sunset before the Ranger got near enough to salute La Motte Picquet with thirteen guns; which he returned with nine. However, to put the matter beyond a doubt, I did not suffer the Independence to salute till next morning, when I sent the Admiral word that I should sail through his fleet in the brig, and would salute him in open day. He was exceedingly pleased, and returned the compliment also with nine guns."
"I have in contemplation several enterprises of some importance. * * * When an enemy thinks a design against him innprobable, he can always be surprised and attacked with advantage. It is true, I must run great risk; but no gallant action was ever performed without danger. Therefore, though I cannot ensure success, I will endeavour to deserve it."
Writing on the same date to the secret committee, thanking them for the flattering terms in which he had been recommended to the commissioners, and his services been spoken of, he enclosed an ode of a patriotic character, which had been written in France, begging that it might be laid before Congress, and intimating a hope that the author would be considered worthy of the attention of that body.. What notice that grave assembly took of the metrical effusion and its composer, does not appear.
He says that at this time "Count D'Orvilliers, through whom he communicated his idea for an expedition to America. to M. De Sartine, offered, on account of the smallness of his frigate, to procure for him a commission of Captain, in the Royal Navy of France, which he refused."
He sailed from Brest on the 10th April, on his first memorable cruise. The commissioners had no exact idea of his intentions. He "at first had thoughts of striking a blow on the south side of England; but being detained for some time by contrary and stormy winds at Brest, he abandoned that scheme." The most ample and interesting account of this cruise is given in his letter to the American Commissioners, written on the 27th May, from Brest. It is said to be confirmed, in all its details, by log-books in the possession of individuals in Scotland. It has been very frequently published, but its insertion entire is essential here.
"I have now to fulfil the promise made in my last, by giving you an account of my late expedition.
"I sailed from Brest the 10th of April; my plan was extensive, I therefore did not at the beginning wish to encumber myself with prisoners. On the 14th I took a brigantine between Scilly and Cape Clear, bound for Ostend, with a cargo of flaxseed for Ireland, sunk her, and proceeded into St. George's Channel.
"On the 17th I took the ship Lord Chatham, hound from London to Dublin, with a cargo consisting of porter, and a variety of merchandise, and almost within sight of her port; this ship I manned and ordered for Brest.
"Towards the evening of the day following, the weather had a promising appearance, and, the wind being favourable, I stood over from the Isle of Man with an intention to make a descent at Whitehaven; at ten I was off the harbour with a party of volunteers, and had every thing in readiness to land; but before eleven the wind greatly increased and shifted, so as to blow directly upon the shore; the sea increased of course, and it became impossible to effect a landing. This obliged me to carry all possible sail so as to clear the land, and to await a more favourable opportunity.
"On the 18th, in Glentinebay, on the south coast of Scotland, I met with a revenue wherry; it being the common practice of these vessels to board merchant ships, the Ranger then having no external appearance of war, it was expected that this rover would have come alongside; I was, however, mistaken, for though the men were at their quarters, yet this vessel outsailed the Ranger, and got clear in spite of a severe cannonade.
"The next morning, off the Mull of Galloway, I found myself so near a Scotch coasting schooner, loaded with barley, that I could not avoid sinking her. Understanding that there were ten or twelve sail of merchant ships, besides a Tender brigantine, with a number of impressed men on board, at anchor in Lochryan, in Scotland, I thought this an enterprise worthy my attention; but the wind, which at the first would have served equally well to have sailed in or out of the Loch, shifted in a hard squall, so as to blow almost directly in, with an appearance of bad weather. I was therefore obliged to abandon my project.
"Seeing a cutter off the lee-bow stearing for the Clyde, I gave chase, in hopes of cutting her off; but finding my endeavours ineffectual, I pursued no farther than the Rock of Ailsa. In the evening I fell in with a sloop from Dublin, which I sunk, to prevent intelligence.
"The next day, the 21st, being near Carrickfergus, a fishing-boat came off, which I detained. I saw a ship at anchor in the road, which I was informed by the fishermen was the British ship of war Drake, of twenty guns. I determined to attack her in the night; my plan was to overlay her cable, and to fall upon her bow, so as to have all her decks open and exposed to our musquetry, &c.; at the same time, it was my intention to have secured the enemy by grapplings, so that, had they cut their cables, they would not thereby have attained an advantage. The wind was high, and unfortunately the anchor was not let go so soon as the order was given, so that the Ranger was brought to upon the enemy's quarter at the distance of half a cable's length. We had made no warlike appearance, of course had given no alarm; this determined me to cut immediately, which might appear as if the cable had parted, and at the same time enable me, after making a tack out of the Loch, to return with the same prospect of advantage which I had at the first. I was, however, prevented from returning, as I with difficulty weathered the lighthouse on the lee-side of the Loch, and as the gale increased. The weather now became so very stormy and severe, and the sea ran so high, that I was obliged to take shelter under the south shore of Scotland.
"The 22d introduced fair weather, though the three kingdoms were, as far as the eye could reach, covered with snow. I now resolved once more to attempt Whitehaven; but the wind became very light, so that the ship would not in proper time approach so near as I had intended. At midnight I left the ship with two boats and thirty-one volunteers; when we reached the outer pier, the day began to dawn; I would not, however, abandon my enterprise, but despatched one boat under the direction of Mr. Hill and Lieutenant Wallingsford [Wallingford], with the necessary combustibles to set fire to the shipping on the north side of the harbour, while I went with the other party to attempt the south side. I was successful in scaling the walls and spiking up all the cannon on the first fort; finding the sentinels shut up in the guard-house, they were secured without being hurt. Having fixed sentinels, I now took with me one man only, (Mr. Green,) and spiked up all the cannon on the southern fort, distant from the other a quarter of a mile.
"On my return from this business, I naturally expected to see the fire of the ships on the north side, as well as to find my own party with every thing in readiness to set fire to the shipping on the south; instead of this, I found the boat under the direction of Mr. Hill and Mr. Wallingsford returned, and the party in some confusion, their light having burnt out at the instant when it became necessary.*
"By the strangest fatality, my own party were in the same situation, the candles being all burnt out. The day too came on apace, yet I would by no means retreat while any hopes of success remained. Having again placed sentinels, a light was obtained at a house disjoined from the town, and a fire was kindled in the steerage of a large ship, which was surrounded by at least a hundred and fifty others, chiefly from two to four hundred tons burthen, and lying side by side, aground, unsurrounded by the water.
"There were, besides, from seventy to a hundred large ships in the north arm of the harbour, aground, clear of the water, and divided from the rest only by a stone pier of a ship's height. I should have kindled fires in other places if the time had permitted; as it did not, our care was to prevent the one kindled from being easily extinguished. After some search, a barrel of tar was found, and poured into the flames, which now ascended from all the hatchways. The inhabitants began to appear in thousands, and individuals ran hastily towards us. I stood between them and the ship on fire, with a pistol in my hand, and ordered them to retire, which they did with precipitation. The flames had already caught the rigging, and began to ascend the main-mast; the sun was a full hour's march above the horizon, and as sleep no longer ruled the world, it was time to retire. We re-embarked without opposition, having released a number of prisoners, as our boats could not carry them. After all my people had embarked, I stood upon the pier for a considerable space, yet no person advanced: I saw all the eminences round the town covered with the amazed inhabitants.
"When we had rowed to a considerable distance from the shore, the English began to run in vast numbers to their forts; their disappointment may easily be imagined when they found, I suppose, at least thirty heavy cannon (the instruments of their vengeance) rendered useless. At length, however, they began to fire, having, as I apprehend, either brought down ships' guns, or used one or two cannon which lay on the beach at the foot of the walls, dismounted, and which had not been spiked. They fired with no direction, and the shot falling short of the boats, instead of doing us any damage, afforded some diversion; which my people could not help showing, by discharging their pistols, &c. in return of the salute. Had it been possible to have landed a few hours sooner, my success would have been complete. Not a single ship, out of more than two hundred, could possibly have escaped, and all the world would not have been able to save the town. What was done, however, is sufficient to show, that not all their boasted navy can protect their own coasts; and that the scenes of distress, which they have occasioned in America, may be soon brought home to their own door. One of my people was missing; and must, I fear, have fallen into the enemies' hands after our departure.* I was pleased that in this business we neither killed nor wounded any person. I brought off three prisoners as a sample.
"We now stood over for the Scotch shore; and I landed at noon at St. Mary's Isle, with one boat only, and a very small party. The motives which induced me to land there, are explained in the within copy of a letter which I have addressed to the Countess of Selkirk, dated the 8th instant.
"On the morning of the 24th, I was again off Carrickfergus, and would have gone in, had I not seen the Drake preparing to come out. It was very moderate, and the Drake's boat was sent out to reconnoitre the Ranger. As the boat advanced, I kept the ship's stern directly towards her; and though they had a spy-glass in the boat, they came on within hail, and along side. When the officer came on the quarter deck, he was greatly surprised to find himself a prisoner; although an express had arrived from Whitehaven the night before. I now understood, what I had before imagined, that the Drake came out in consequence of this information, with volunteers, against the Ranger. The officer told me also, that they had taken up the Ranger's anchor. The Drake was attended by five small vessels full of people, who were led by curiosity to see an engagement. But when they saw the Drake's boat at the Ranger's stern, they wisely put back.
"Alarm smokes now appeared in great abundance, extending along on both sides of the channel. The tide was unfavourable, so that the Drake worked out but slowly. This obliged me to run down several times, and to lay with courses up, and main-topsail to the mast. At length the Drake weathered the point, and having led her out to about mid-channel, I suffered her to come within hail. The Drake hoisted English colours, and at the same instant, the American stars were displayed on board the Ranger. I expected that preface had been now at an end, but the enemy soon after hailed, demanding what ship it was? I directed the master to answer, "the American Continental ship Ranger; that we waited for them, and desired that they would come on; the sun was now little more than an hour from setting, it was therefore time to begin." The Drake being astern of the Ranger, I ordered the helm up, and gave her the first broadside. The action was warm, close, and obstinate. It lasted an hour and four minutes, when the enemy called for quarters; her fore and main-topsail yards being both cut away, and down on the cap; the top-gallant yard and mizen-gaff both hanging up and down along the mast; the second ensign which they had hoisted shot away, and hanging on the quarter gallery in the water; the jib shot away, and hanging in the water; her sails and rigging entirely cut to pieces; her masts and yards all wounded, and her hull also very much galled. I lost only Lieutenant Wallingsford and one seaman, John Dougall, killed, and six wounded; among whom are the gunner, Mr. Falls, and Mr. Powers, a midshipman, who lost his arm. One of the wounded, Nathaniel Wills, is since dead: the rest will recover. The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded, was far greater. All the prisoners allow, that they came out with a number not less than a hundred and sixty men: and many of them affirm that they amounted to a hundred and ninety. The medium may, perhaps, be the most exact account; and by that it will appear that they lost in killed and wounded, forty-two men. The captain and lieutenant were among the wounded; the former, having received a musket ball in the head the minute before they called for quarters, lived, and was sensible some time after my people boarded the prize. The lieutenant survived two days. They were buried with the honours due to their rank, and with the respect due to their memory.
"The night and almost the whole day after the action being moderate, greatly facilitated the refitting of both ships. A large brigantine was so near the Drake in the afternoon, that I was obliged to bring her to. She belonged to Whitehaven, and was bound for Norway.
"I had thought of returning by the south channel; but the wind shifting, I determined to pass by the north, and round the west coast of Ireland. This brought me once more off Belfast Lough, on the evening after the engagement. It was now time to release the honest fishermen, whom I took up here on the 21st. And as the poor fellows had lost their boat, she having sunk in the late stormy weather, I was happy in having it in my power to give them the necessary sum to purchase every thing new which they had lost. I gave them also a good boat to transport themselves ashore; and sent with them two infirm men, on whom I bestowed the last guinea in my possession, to defray their travelling expenses to their proper home in Dublin. They took with them one of the Drake's sails, which would sufficiently explain what had happened to the volunteers. The grateful fishermen were in raptures; and expressed their joy in three huzzas as they passed the Ranger's quarter.
"I again met with contrary winds in the mouth of the North Channel, but nothing remarkable happened, till on the morning of the 5th, current, Ushant then bearing S. E. by S. distance fifteen leagues, when seeing a sail to leeward steering for the Channel, the wind being favourable for Brest, and the distance trifling, I resolved to give chase, having the Drake in tow. I informed them of my intentions, and ordered them to cast off. They cut the hawser. The Ranger in the chase went lasking between N. N. E. and N. N. W. It lasted an hour and ten minutes, when the chase was hailed and proved a Swede. I immediately hauled by the wind to the southward.
"After cutting the hawser, the Drake went from the wind for some time, then hauled close by the wind, steering from S. S. E. to S. S. W. as the wind permitted, so that when the Ranger spoke the chase, the Drake was scarcely perceptible. In the course of the day many large ships appeared, steering into the Channel, but the extraordinary evolutions of the Drake made it impossible for me to avail myself of these favourable circumstances. Towards noon it became very squally, the wind backed from the S. W. to the W. The Ranger had come up with the Drake, and was nearly abreast of her, though considerably to the leeward, when the wind shifted. The Drake was, however, kept by the wind, though, as I afterward understood, they knew the Ranger and saw the signal which she had hoisted. After various evolutions and signals in the night, I gave chase to a sail which appeared bearing S. S. W. the next morning at a great distance. The chase discovered no intention to speak with the Ranger; she was, however, at length brought to, and proved to be the Drake. -- I immediately put Lieutenant Simpson under suspension and arrest, for disobedience of my orders, dated the 26th ult. a copy whereof is here enclosed. On the 8th, both ships anchored safe in this Road, the Ranger having been absent only twenty-eight days."
The surprise produced in Great Britain by this daring and successful attempt upon her coasts, must have been as great as the latter was unexpected.* His objects were distinctly to strike some bold stroke, which should inspire fear of the American arms, to retaliate for the burning of towns and destruction of private property, to destroy as much public property as he could, and to secure a number of prisoners, as hostages for the better treatment of the captured Americans, who were suffering miserably in the jails and hulks of the enemy. He had wisely calculated on the effect of sudden measures, and the total security and contemptuous confidence of the people, of the fast-anchored isle. The unwarlike character of the inhabitants in the vicinity of the Frith, which had not been entered for centuries by the prow of an invader, rendered the chances of resistance to a brisk attack very small.* Still the extent of Jones' success can not fail to excite astonishment. It was one of the most impudent attacks since the time of the sea-kings, and it is no wonder that those whose eyes were so rudely opened to a discovery of their weakness, stigmatized it as inglorious, and its conductor as a pirate. It would be a piece of supererogation to offer any vindication of Jones, for doing his adopted country such good service, by the retaliatory descent upon Whitebaven. It was one which he alone could properly execute, from his thorough acquaintance with the localities. The sentimental disgust of those who censured him for availing himself of that very knowledge, and of "stifling his early associations," is natural enough. But war is not waged upon sentimental principles. A notion prevailed at the time that Jones' vessel was a privateer. He was in command of a United States vessel of war, fully commissioned; and if in performing his duty to the utmost, he conquered the repugnance he might have felt at making a hostile entry among the scenes of his infancy, the merit of his victories is but the more enhanced when he is considered as an officer. Praise too has been so generally awarded to him for the measures he afterwards took, to redeem the plate of the Countess of Selkirk and restore it to its owners, that it is unnecessary to apologize for a transaction which he has so satisfactorily explained. Other officers have enjoyed fair reputations, who made no such sacrifices to restore private property taken by those under their command. One of his first acts on returning to Brest, was to address the countess on the subject, in the well known letter, which we shall here insert. To be assured of its reaching the lady, he forwarded triplicates, one of which was enclosed open to Dr. Franklin, for his perusal. In the letter enclosing it, he says: "I cannot but feel myself hurt, by the dirty insinuation of the enemy, that my enterprise at Whitehaven was in consequence of a capital sum, paid me in hand by the court of France. They have more visits of the same kind to expect, if I am not deprived of the means of making them, and that too, without my having either a certainty, or a hope of gain."
"TO THE COUNTESS OF SELKIRK.
"Ranger, Brest, May 8th 1778.
"It cannot be too much lamented, that in the profession of arms, the officer of fine feeling and of real sensibility should be under the necessity of winking at any action of persons under his command, which his heart cannot approve; but the reflection is doubly severe, when he finds himself obliged, in appearance, to countenance such actions by his authority.
"This hard case was mine, when, on the 23d of April last, I landed on St. Mary's Isle. Knowing Lord Selkirk's interest with his king, and esteeming, as I do, his private character, I wished to make him the happy instrument of alleviating the horrors of hopeless captivity, when the brave are overpowered and made prisoners of war.
"It was, perhaps, fortunate for you, Madam, that he was from home; for it was my intention to have taken him on board the Ranger, and to have detained him until, through his means, a general and fair exchange of prisoners, as well in Europe as in America, had been effected.
"When I was informed, by some men whom I met at landing, that his lordship was absent, I walked back to my boat, determined to leave the island. By the way, however, some officers, who were with me, could not forbear expressing their discontent; observing that, in America, no delicacy was shown by the English, who took away all sorts of moveable property -- setting fire, not only to towns and to the houses of the rich, without distinction, but not even sparing the wretched hamlets and milch-cows of the poor and helpless, at the approach of an inclement winter. That party had been with me, the same morning, at Whitehaven; some complaisance, therefore, was their due. I had but a moment to think how I might gratify them, and at the same time do your ladyship the least injury. I charged the two officers to permit none of the seamen to enter the house, or to hurt any thing about it -- to treat you, Madam, with the utmost respect -- to accept of the plate which was offered -- and to come away without making a search, or demanding any thing else.
"I am induced to believe that I was punctually obeyed; since I am informed, that the plate which they brought away is far short of the quantity expressed in the inventory which accompanied it. I have gratified my men; and when the plate is sold, I shall become the purchaser, and will gratify my own feelings by restoring it to you, by such conveyance as you shall please to direct.
"Had the earl been on board the Ranger the following evening, he would have seen the awful pomp and dreadful carnage of a sea engagement; both affording ample subject for the pencil, as well as melancholy reflection to the contemplative mind. Humanity starts back from such scenes of horror, and cannot sufficiently execrate the vile promoters of this detestable war.
"For they, 'twas they unsheath'd the ruthless blade,
And Heaven shall ask the havoc it has made."
"The British ship of war Drake, mounting twenty guns, with more than her full complement of officers and men, was our opponent. The ships met, and the advantage was disputed with great fortitude on each side, for an hour and four minutes, when the gallant commander of the Drake fell, and victory declared in favour of the Ranger. The amiable lieutenant lay mortally wounded, besides near forty of the inferior officers and crew killed and wounded; a melancholy demonstration of the uncertainty of human prospects, and of the sad reverse of fortune which an hour can produce. I buried them in a spacious grave, with the honours due to the memory of the brave.
"Though I have drawn my sword in the present generous struggle for the rights of men, yet I am not in arms as an American, nor am I in pursuit of riches. My fortune is liberal enough, having no wife nor family, and having lived long enough to know that riches cannot ensure happiness. I profess myself a citizen of the world, totally unfettered by the little, mean distinctions of climate or of country, which diminish the benevolence of the heart and set bounds to philanthropy. Before this war was begun, I had, at an early time of life, withdrawn from sea service, in favour of "calm contemplation and poetic ease." I have sacrificed not only my favourite scheme of life, but the softer affections of the heart, and my prospects of domestic happiness, and I am ready to sacrifice my life also, with cheerfulness, if that forfeiture could restore peace and good will among mankind.
"As the feelings of your gentle bosom cannot but be congenial with mine, let me entreat you, Madam, to use your persuasive art, with your husband's, to endeavour to stop this cruel and destructive war, in which Britain never can succeed. Heaven can never countenance the barbarous and unmanly practice of the Britons in America, which savages would blush at, and which, if not discontinued, will soon be retaliated on Britian by a justly enraged people. Should you fail in this, (for I ant persuaded that you will attempt it, and who can resist the power of such an advocate?) your endeavours to effect a general exchange of prisoners will be an act of humanity which will afford you golden feelings on a death-bed.
"I hope this cruel contest will soon be closed; but should it continue, I wage no war with the fair. I acknowledge their force, and bend before it with submission. Let not, therefore, the amiable Countess of Selkirk regard me as an enemy; I am ambitious of her esteem and friendship, and would do anything, consistent with my duty, to merit it.
"The honour of a line from your hand in answer to this, will lay me under a singular obligation; and if I can render you any acceptable service in France or elsewhere, I hope you see into my character so far as to command me without the least grain of reserve.
"I wish to know exactly the behaviour of my people, as I am determined to punish them if they have exceeded their liberty. I have the honour to be, with much esteem and with profound respect, Madam, &c. &c.
"JOHN PAUL JONES."
As very general publicity was given to this epistle, it is rather surprising to find in Mr. Gouldsborough's Naval Chronicle, which was printed in 1824, the following loose and unexplained notice of the affair. "It is said that Captain Jones, finding him, (the earl of Selkirk,) absent, took the family plate, and retired, without offering any other violence to the castle or its inhabitants." It is a pity, that, when every English writer of later years has done justice to Jones, so far as relates to his conduct in this matter, an American work should be in the hands of any of our young officers, which might possibly mislead them, when arraying in the mind's eye the characters of those whose deeds are our country's inheritance, and whose examples they may desire to emulate.
Dr. Franklin wrote to Jones, on receiving the copy of the letter forwarded to him, that "it. was a gallant letter, which must give her ladyship a high opinion of his generosity, and nobleness of mind." The sage knew that it was in character; and that the romance of the style, as well as its partial inflation, being unaffected, would not injure the effect it was intended to produce. The subsequent history of this plate is briefly as follows. Lord Selkirk wrote a letter in reply to that addressed by Jones to his Countess, intimating that he would accept of its return, if made by order of Congress, but not if redeemed by individual generosity. The letter was detained several months at London, in the general post-office, and returned to the Earl, who requested a gentleman to communicate the cause of its miscarriage and its tenor, orally, to Doctor Franklin. The Doctor immediately informed Jones, of the substance of this communication. It was not until the beginning of 1780, that the latter was enabled to get the property he was determined to restore, into his possession. It had fallen into the hands of the prize agents, from whom it was obtained with considerable difficulty;* and not till after several valuations, and until it cost him who redeemed it, more, as he intimates, than it was intrinsically worth; though he carefully avoids mentioning that circumstance in his second letter to the Countess.
When he had succeeded in effecting this object, he wrote again to the Countess of Selkirk; but his voyage to America, and other circumstances, retarded its delivery until 1784. It was eventually returned in the same condition in which it had been removed, and a letter from Lord Selkirk acknowledged in terms satisfactory, though formal, the unwearied pains which Captain Jones had taken to procure its restoration. The correspondence on this subject will be found in the note.*
The copy of the order given to Lieutenant Simpson when the latter was put in charge of the Drake, for disobeying which he was put under arrest, as is mentioned in the letter to the Plenipotentiaries, is said in the copy of that letter, certified from the office of the secretary of Congress, to be missing. It is intimated, upon what authority does not appear, that Simpson had been insubordinate from the beginning; that he excited the men to discontent; and that frequent disagreements had taken place between him and his commander. It is also plausibly suggested that when the Ranger left Portsmouth, he expected to be in command of her on her arriving at France, where a large ship had been promised to Jones. There is every reason to believe that Simpson was little inclined to submit to that discipline, for which Jones was so stern and rigid an advocate. He is probably referred to as the wise officer, who objected to burning poor people's houses." On the night when Jones made his second attempt to take the Drake while at anchor, he relates in his Journal for the king of France, that "the Lieutenant having held up to the crew, that being Americans, fighting for liberty, the voice of the people should be taken, before the Captain's orders were obeyed, they rose in mutiny; and Captain Jones was in the utmost danger of being killed or thrown overboard." He adds that this danger was averted, by an accidental circumstance, -- the capture of the Drake's boat; upon which trifling success, the "voice of the people" was no longer against fighting. The contemptuous neglect of Jones' written instructions, and refusal to obey his signal, certainly authorized the measure of Simpson's arrest, had no other cause of offence been given. Had he obeyed orders, and not separated from the Ranger, while she was in chase of several large ships, other prizes would probably have been taken. It was by accident that Jones fell in with the Drake, and the intentions of his wandering lieutenant cannot be known. The manner in which he was suffered to act on his return to Brest, and finally allowed to return to America without having ever made a formal apology, was a source, among a thousand other mortifications, of just complaint on the part of the commander.
Indeed, no more disagreeable task can well be imagined, than to collect from the correspondence of Jones the great and petty vexations and series of disappointments to which he was subjected for many months after returning from this brilliant voyage. We shall endeavour to avoid what is superfluous in detail; presenting enough to show the tedious and exasperating character of the difficulties with which he met, and the characteristic manner in which he remonstrated, endured, and persevered. We are much mistaken if it will not appear, that in most cases where he was petulant, it was scarcely in human nature to be otherwise. It was not in that of Washington himself; who, though no money had been supplied to them, often threw censure upon the contractors, when his army was suffering around him. It will also appear, that when Jones made unadvised charges, he was ready to retract them; that he was willing to sacrifice his own interest altogether; and to yield that of which he was most tenacious, rank and authority, rather than not be employed in rendering service to the cause in which he was engaged.
Not only his services, but the political crisis at which they were rendered, entitled him to expect every encouragement and assistance, which either the American commissioners or the court of France could render him. The former had been in fact acknowledged as Plenipotentiaries more than a month previous. Though no declaration of war between France and England had been solemnly published, war was inevitable, The French Ambassador had been ordered to leave London, and several naval rencontres had in fact taken place; forerunners of the celebrated one between the Arethusa and La Belle Poule. The squadron of D'Estaing was ready for sea. The news of the result of Jones' expedition was at such a moment gratifying and inspiring to the French court. He had praises and promises in profusion. But he found himself immediately under the pressure of painful embarrassments, which these could not remove. In the conclusion of his letter to the commissioners, on the 27th of May, he says:
"Could I suppose that my letters of the 9th and 16th current, (the first advising you of my arrival, and giving reference to the events of my expedition; the last advising you of my draft in favour of Monsieur Bersolle, for 24,000 livres, and assigning reasons for that demand,) had not made due appearance, I would hereafter, as I do now, enclose copies. Three posts have already arrived here from Paris, since Compte d'Orvilliers showed me the answer which he received from the minister, to the letter which enclosed mine to you. Yet you remain silent. M. Bersolle has this moment informed me of the fate of my bills; the more extraordinary, as I have not yet made use of your letter of credit of the 10th of January last, whereby I then seemed entitled to call for half the amount of my last draft, and I did not expect to be thought extravagant, when, on the 16th current I doubled that demand. Could this indignity be kept secret I should disregard it; and, though it is already public in Brest, and in the fleet, as it affects only my private credit I will not complain. I cannot, however, be silent, when I find the public credit involved in the same disgrace. I conceive this might have been prevented. To make me completely wretched, Monsieur Bersolle has told me that he now stops his hand, not only of the necessary articles to refit the ship, but also of the daily provisions. I know not where to find to-morrow's dinner for the great number of mouths that depend on me for food. Are then the continental ships of war to depend on the sale of their prizes for a daily dinner for their men? 'Publish it not in Gath!'
"My officers, as well as men, want clothes, and the prizes are precluded from being sold before further [father] orders arrive from the minister. I will ask you, gentlemen, if I have deserved all this? Whoever calls himself an American ought to be protected here. I am unwilling to think that you have intentionally involved me in this sad dilemma, at a time when I ought to expect some enjoyment. Therefore I have, as formerly, the honour to be, with due esteem and respect, gentlemen, yours, &c."
It is to [be] observed that before Jones left America, as he mentions in a subsequent letter, he was more than 1500 in advance for the public service,* exclusive of his own investment in fitting out the Ranger, and had never received any compensation. He was, however, left, such was the inability of the commissioners to afford him relief, for more than a month, with "two hundred prisoners of war, a number of sick and wounded, and a ship, after a severe engagement, in want of stores and provisions," to depend upon his own resources. "Yet," he says in his journal for the king, "during that time, by his personal credit with Count D'Orvilliers, the Duke de Chartres, and the Intendant of Brest, he fed his people and prisoners, cured his wounded, and refitted both the Ranger and Drake for sea." During the same period he had also to contend with the formal delays or personal cupidity of the prize agents, and to suppress the discontents among the crew, who were naturally impatient under privation and misery when they had looked for their wages and prize money. These discontents were further aggravated by Lieutenant Simpson, who,* "while under arrest on board the Drake, had constant intercourse with the crew, who thereby became so insolent as to refuse duty, and go all hands below, repeatedly, before the Captain's face. It was impossible to trifle at that time, as Count D'Orvilliers had assured Captain Jones, that unless he could get the Drake ready to transport the prisoners to America before orders arrived from court, they would in all probability be given up without an exchange, to avoid immediate war with England.* It therefore, became impossible to suffer the lieutenant to remain any longer among them. Captain Jones had him removed to the ship called the Admiral, where the French confine even the first officers in the service. He had there a good chamber to himself, and liberty to walk the deck. The lieutenant endeavoured to desert out of the Admiral, and behaved so extravagant, that Count D'Orvilliers, without the knowledge of Captain Jones, ordered him to the prison of the port, where he also had a good chamber; and Captain Jones paid his expenses out of his own pocket." What rendered the dishonour of his draft peculiarly vexatious, independent of the distress to which it exposed him, and the fact that in January preceding he had been furnished with a bill of credit on Jonathan Williams for five hundred louis d'ors, signed by the three commissioners, was the circumstance that he had, under the sanction of the Marine Committee, before leaving Portsmouth, made himself accountable to his crew for the regular payment of their wages. Mr. Arthur Lee is charged with knowing this to be the case, and with not communicating it, when the bill was presented for payment.
In the midst of all these trials of temper, as well as of fortitude and patriotism, Jones was longing to be again employed in active service and in acquiring renown; and was projecting high schemes for annoying the enemy. The friendly assistance of the Compte D'Orvilliers, commander-in-chief at Brest, and his chaplain, Father John, who seems to have rendered Jones many services, with the countenance of the Duc de Chartres, and his reliance upon the good faith and practical wisdom of Franklin, contributed to alleviate his anxieties. The situation of the American Commissioners, at this time, (Messrs. Franklin, A. Lee, and Adams, Mr. Deane having been recalled) is well known. Their authority was limited, and the funds subject to their control were still more so. On the 25th May, they wrote to Mr. Jonathan Williams, at Nantes, whom they had appointed commercial agent, as follows: "the necessities of our country demand the utmost frugality, which can never be obtained without the utmost simplicity in the management of her affairs; and as Congress have authorized Mr. W. Lee to superintend the commercial affairs in general, and he has appointed Mr. Schweighauser, and as your authority is under the commissioners at Paris only, we think it prudent and necessary to revoke, &c. all the powers and authorities heretofore granted to you, &c. to the end that hereafter the management of the affairs, commercial and maritime, of America, may be under one sole direction, that of Mr. Schweighauser, within his district." "We shall this day acquaint Captain Jones how far it is in our power to comply with his desires, and in what manner.["]*
Such was the position in which Jones found himself, after his return to Brest. In citing such extracts from his correspondence, as explain the multifarious difficulties and projects of this period, there seems to be but one mode of avoiding confusion, which is to preserve chronological order. His first object was to make provision for the seamen. In mentioning to the commissioners in his letter of May 16th, that he had drawn for the 24,000 livres, he says: "I mean to distribute it among the officers and crew, to whom I owe my late success. It is but reasonable that they should be furnished with the means of procuring little necessaries and comforts of life for themselves; and the interests of the service, as well as the claims of humanity and justice, plead in behalf of their wives and helpless families, who are now unprovided in America, and will naturally expect a supply of clothing, &c. by the Drake." It is creditable to his humanity, that the next point which he pressed most earnestly upon the commissioners, was the propriety of treating the prisoners with kindness and attention. He was altogether averse to releasing them, particularly the seamen, without an exchange. In forwarding, afterwards, their memorial he says: "The fellow who holds the rod over their wretched heads, has menaced them, 'if they dare to complain,' and would have intercepted their memorial, had I not prevented it. This RIOU is the scoundrel who, by his falsehood, promoted discord in the Ranger, and got the deluded people to appoint him their particular agent. Before that time he never could call twenty louis his own, and he is now too rich for his former profession of King's interpreter. He does not deny that he is a scoundrel, for so I have called him more than once before witnesses, and so every person of sense thinks him at Brest. If the exchange of prisoners does not take place immediately, I conceive it would be the most eligible method to have the people on board the Patience landed. They are convinced, that if you should think fit to return them an answer, it will never come to their hands through the means of any person who calls himself an agent at Brest, and they having full confidence in the honour and humanity of Father John, professor of English, and chaplain to Compte D'Orvilliers at Brest, have desired me to inform you, that through that gentleman they beg you to favour them with an answer. In granting their request you will confer a very singular obligation on me."
On the 27th May, Franklin wrote to Jones as follows: "Dear Sir, I received your's of the 18th, inclosing one for the Countess of Selkirk, which I forward this day, via Holland. It is a gallant letter, and must give her ladyship a high and just opinion of your gallantry and nobleness of mind. The dirty insinuation you mention, is of a piece with many others from the same quarter, the natural produce of base minds; who, feeling no other motive in their own breasts, but sordid self. interest, imagine no other motive can exist in others, and therefore, it is to that alone, they ascribe the most praiseworthy actions.*
"The Jersey privateers do us a great deal of mischief by intercepting our supplies. It has been mentioned to me, that your small vessel, commanded by so brave an officer, might render great service, by following them where greater ships dare not venture their bottoms; or, being accompanied and supported by some frigates from Brest, at a proper distance, might draw them out and then take them. I wish you to consider of this, as it comes from high authority, and that you would immediately think of it, and let me know when your ship will be ready. I have written to England about the exchange of your prisoners. I congratulate you most cordially on your late success, and wish for a continuance and increase of the honour you have acquired."
While the matter and manner of the beginning of this letter were well calculated to give Jones pleasure, his own phraseology being nearly echoed, it afforded no prospect of immediate relief. No mention is made of the draft; and the service proposed was not of such a character as was particularly calculated to gratify the appetite of any ambitious commander, just flushed with success; much less that of Jones, who would thus have been made subservient to the objects of others, who would reap the glory, while he was playing the humbler part of hunting out game for them. In his reply, however, he declares his readiness to comply, while he intimates very plainly his longing for more dignified employment. This is not unskilfully introduced. The letter, dated June 1st, is as follows.
"HIS EXCELLENCY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
"Honoured and dear Sir -- Accept my grateful thanks for your much esteemed favour of 27th ult. Such a mark of your good opinion and approbation, really affords me the most heartfelt satisfaction. It shall always be my ambition to do my duty, as far as my judgment and small abilities enable me; -- but you will see by the within papers, that my roses are not without thorns; and, perhaps, it will seem romance that I have succeeded, which I am sure I should not have done, had I not been my own counsellor.
"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to render essential services to America, in any measure which you may find expedient. Should I be able to lead my present crew, it can be done only by the seldom failing bait for sordid minds, great views of interest.
"If in bringing about the plan you propose, I may take the liberty to assure them of the protection of the French flag, in the channel, against enemies of superior force, with the free liberty to attack, and take under that sanction, such of the enemy's ships of war, or rnerchantmen, as may be met with, of equal or inferior force, perhaps I may succeed and gain them over by that means, nor will it be necessary to tell them our real object.
"If I am not at liberty to give them such assurances, and their home-sickness should continue, I could wish that such officers as may appear dangerously ill, might have liberty to lay down their commissions and warrants, and that others may be given to men of stronger nerves, who would be too proud to think themselves servants by the year. I believe many such may be found among American subjects in France.
"If it should be consistent to order the Boston frigate here from Bourdeaux, perhaps such exchanges might be made, as would be for the interest and harmony of the service; and we might perhaps be able to assemble a sufficient number of officers to form a court.
"The Due de Chartres has shown me sundry attentions, and expressed his inclination to facilitate my obtaining the ship built at Amsterdam. I believe I could easily obtain letters to the same effect, from the principal people here, but shall take no step without your approbation. If the prisoners should be exchanged in Europe, I believe it would be possible to man that ship with Americans. I could have manned two such with French volunteers since I arrived.
"The Ranger is crank, sails slow, and is of a trifling force. Most of the enemy's cruisers are more than a match, yet I mean not to complain. I demand nothing; and although I know that it was the intention of Congress to give me that ship, I am now ready to go wherever the service calls me.
"If two or three fast sailing ships could be collected, there is a great choice of private enterprises, some of which might succeed, and add more to the interest and honour of America, than cruising with twice the force. It appears to me to be the province of our infant navy to surprise, and spread alarms with fast sailing ships. When we grow stronger, we can meet their fleets, and dispute with them the sovereignty of the ocean. These are my private sentiments, and are therefore submitted with the utmost diffidence to your superior understanding.
"Both the Ranger and the Drake were so much disabled, that they needed to be entirely new rigged. We, however, made shift from the wreck of both ships, to rig the Drake, which is now completed. The Ranger's late rigging was twice laid and much too thick and heavy. The refitting her shall be continued with unremitting application." He thus complains of the detention of the captors' part of one of the Ranger's prizes by Mr. Delap, a nominal sub-prize agent, and of the sacrifice of another prize at Nantes. Half the proceeds of the latter was all the prize money yet received. In a postscript he says: "The written papers I send you in confidence; leaving it to you to show them or not to such persons as you may think proper."
These inclosures contained plans for various expeditions. "Three very fast sailing frigates, with one or two tenders, might enter the Irish channel and burn at Whitehaven from two to three hundred ships, besides the town, which contains 50,000 inhabitants; this would render it difficult, if not impossible to supply Ireland with coal the ensuing winter.
"The same force would be sufficient to take the bank of Ayr in Scotland, and to destroy the town: or perhaps, the whole shipping in the Clyde, with the towns and stores of Greenock and Port Glasgow, provided no alarm was first given at other places. The fishery at Cambletown is an object worthy attention and in some of the ports of Ireland, ships may perhaps be found worth from 150,000 to 200,000 livres each."
As the preparations for these enterprises would require time, he suggested that immediately, with an inferior force, the east and north coasts of England and Scotland might be alarmed, several towns burned or laid under contribution, and the coal shipping of Newcastle destroyed. If these plans should be thought inexpedient, the enemy's West India or Baltic fleets, or Hudson Bay ships might be intercepted, or the Greenland fishery destroyed; all of which, he says, "were capital objects."
If none of these projects were very magnificent, Jones would have had the sole conduct of them; and he felt himself able to effect them with a comparatively small force; on which account he must have preferred the least brilliant, to acting in the subordinate capacity proposed to him.
The letter addressed by the commissioners to Jones, on the 25th of May, referred to in their letter to Mr. Jonathan Williams, of the same date, is not among any of the published documents or manuscripts before the compiler. In it, according to their letter to Mr. Williams, they "acquainted Captain Jones how far it was in their power to comply with his desires, and in what manner." He thus wrote in reply, on the 3d June.
"Your letter of the 25th ult. I received by yesterday's post. I frankly ask your pardon for the undue liberty I took the 16th ult. when I ventured to sign a draft upon you for the purpose of supplying the people under my command with necessary clothing, &c.; and I promise you never to be guilty of the like offence again. I hope you do not, however, mean to impute to me a desire to receive 'presents of the public money;' or even to touch a dollar of it, for any private purpose of my own. On the contrary, I need not now assert, that I stepped forth at the beginning, from nobler motives. My accounts, before I left America, testify that I am more than fifteen hundred pounds in advance for the public service, exclusive of any concern with the Ranger; and as for wages, I never received any. Had I not previously determined to keep the prisoners here, they would have been sent away in the Drake, long before now. My embarrassed situation will, in the eyes of candour, apologize for my not sending you a more early information of the particulars of my cruise, and of the prizes which I have made. On my passage from America I took two brigantines, both from Malaga for England. The one arrived safe at Nantes; and being sold by Messrs. Morris and Williams, the captors' part was paid to them. The other arrived at Bourdeaux, and was, I understand, sold by Mr. J. H. Delap, who, though he had my orders to remit the captors' part immediately, into the hands of Mr. Williams of Nantes, yet still retains it in his own hands. On my late expedition, three prizes were sunk. The ship Lord Chatham was sent here (to Brest) to remain under the care of the Intendant. She now remains in the port, locked and nailed up under a guard. The ship of war Drake, with her stores on board, and the brigantine Patience in ballast, are with the Ranger at anchor in the Road. M. de Sartine can inform you that the sales of the prizes are precluded, until he sends further orders here. Had it been otherwise, I cannot see how you could suppose that I had created agents to dispose of the public property. And yet if I had done this, perhaps my public wants would justify me.
"The rules whereby Congress have been pleased to command me to regulate my conduct in the navy, authorize me to issue my warrant to the agent, &c. and I humbly conceive that it is his province to furnish me with an estimate of the amount of expenses. If you wish for an estimate from me, unacquainted as I am with prizes, besides the delay, it may be very far from exact.
"When you determined to change the continental agent, I could wish you had sent that information in a letter to meet me here on my arrival, as I had advised you of my intention to return to Brest. All disagreeable altercation might then have been avoided. My situation is not now mended by your last, the gentleman you mention being at Nantes, and no person appearing in his behalf at Brest.
"A space of sixteen months is now elapsed, since Congress thought of me, and placed under my command seven times my present force, leaving me at full liberty, how, and where to apply it. And if I am not now capable of supporting the internal government of a single sloop of war, I wish that some person more deserving had my place, and I in America to answer for my misconduct. I have 'well considered,' and yet I shall persist in justifying the steps I have taken, and to which you allude. * *
"If you are in possession of any resolution of Congress, which will authorize me to send Lieutenant Simpson to America, &c. I should be obliged to you for a copy of it."
The change of commercial agents seems to have been peculiarly disagreeable to Jones, on several accounts. He paid no attention to two letters from Mr. Schweighauser, at Nantes, (who had been appointed agent within a certain district by Mr. W. Lee,) until he had been officially directed to recognise him by the commissioners. He then wrote to him as follows, obviously under an irritation of feeling.
"Brest, 4th June, 1778.
"SIR --Your letter of the 12th ult. duly appeared; but as the purport of it seemed rather to intimate your desire to sell my prizes at a distance, than to manifest your inclination to furnish the daily supplies of provisions for my people and prisoners, and the stores and provision of every kind, necessary to refit the continental ship Ranger, after an obstinate engagement, I thought it required no answer; especially as I had no letter from the commissioners on the subject; and had the commissioners still remained silent, neither could I have given a satisfactory answer to your last of 31st ult. which has this moment come to my hand. That letter, Sir, seems in the same strain with the former; but some part of it, I freely confess, is above my language or comprehension, when you express yourself thus: "That I may take the necessary measures to assure us the propriety of these captures.'* As I am not charged with having infringed the laws of government, I think your postscript might have been spared.
"In a word, if you consider yourself the agent or instrument for victualling and repairing the ships of war of the American navy, as I came here in distress the 8th ult. in want of provisions, with a number of wounded men and prisoners, you have not done your duty; as you have not, to this hour, given or offered me any assistance; whereby you have occasioned a loss of money and time to the United States. It was your duty to have appeared on the spot, and to have ministered to our wants. If, on the contrary, as I rather think, you consider yourself only as the instrument for selling the continental part of prizes, yet in this case, too, you have not done your duty. It was your duty to have appeared at Brest, to have taken care of the public property, and to have brought on the sales; whereas some of it may now be perishing, through your absence and neglect. I have been thus explicit, that you may not henceforth misunderstand me; and that, so far as we may be connected, we may henceforth co-operate for the public good of the American United States."
On the 1st of June, the same day on which Jones had written to Franklin, in reply to a letter suggesting enterprises of an humbler character, that real friend of his, who best understood his genius and his temperament, communicated to him intelligence calculated to awaken higher hopes, and to console him for all his mortifications. His pride was gratified, and he was at liberty to indulge in dreams of glory. This was all; for he was destined to endure a new and long series of disappointments. The letter of Franklin was as follows:
"I have the pleasure of informing you, that it is proposed to give you the command of the great ship we have built at Amsterdam. By what you wrote to us formerly, I have ventured to say in your behalf, that this proposition would be agreeable to you. You will immediately let me know your resolution; which, that you may be more clear in taking, I must inform you of some circumstances. She is at present the property of the king; but as there is no war yet declared, you will have the commission and flag of the States, and act under their orders and laws. The Prince de Nassau will make the cruise with you. She is to be brought here under cover as a French merchantman, to be equipped and manned in France. We hope to exchange your prisoners for as many American sailors; but if that fails, you have your present crew to be made up here with other nations and French. The other commissioners are not acquainted with this proposition as yet; and you see by the nature of it, that [it] is necessary to be kept a secret till we have got the vessel here, for fear of difficulties in Holland, and interception; you will therefore direct your answer to me alone. It being desired that the affair should rest between you and me, perhaps it may be best for you to take a trip up here to concert matters, if in general you approve the idea.
"I was much pleased with reading your journal, which we received yesterday."
Jones wrote in reply, on the 6th, as follows: "Your much esteemed favour lays me under a most singular obligation. I cannot but be deeply sensible of the honour conferred upon me by the proposition; and I really think it affords a very fair prospect of success. In a few days, the return of a letter from Mr. Schweighauser will, I hope, enable me to leave affairs here, so as to attend you at Paris. I shall be happy in all opportunities to prove, by my conduct, how much I wish to merit your confidence, and that of the Prince."
On the 10th June, Franklin again wrote to Jones, confirming his expectations of receiving the promised command.
Passy, June 10th, 1778.
"I received your's of 1st instant, with the papers enclosed, which I have shown to the other commissioners, but have not yet had their opinion of them; only I know that they had before (in consideration of the disposition and uneasiness of your people) expressed an inclination to order your ship directly back to America. You will judge from what follows, whether it will not be advisable for you to propose their sending her back with her people, and under some other command. In consequence of the high opinion the Minister of the Marine has of your conduct and bravery, it is now settled (observe, that is to be a secret between us, I being expressly enjoined not to communicate it to any other person,) that you are to have the frigate from Holland, which actually belongs to government, and will be furnished with as many good French seamen as you shall require. But you are to act under Congress commission. As you may like to have a number.of Americans, and your own are home-sick, it is proposed to give you as many as you can engage out of two hundred prisoners, which the ministry of Britain have at length agreed to give us in exchange for those you have in your hands. They propose to make the exchange at Calais, where they are to bring the Americans. Nothing is wanting to this but a list of yours, containing their names and rank; immediately on the receipt of which an equal number are to be prepared, and sent in a ship at that port, where your's are to meet them.
"If by this means you can get a good new crew, I think it would be best that you are quite free of the old; for a mixture might introduce the infection of that sickness you complain of. But this may be left to your own discretion. Perhaps we shall join you with the Providence, Captain Whipple, a new continental ship of 30 guns, which, in coming out of the river of Providence, gave the two frigates that were posted to intercept her each of them so heavy a dose of her 18 and 12 pounders, that they had not the courage, or were not able, to pursue her. It seems to be desired that you will step up to Versailles, (where one will meet you,) in order to such a settlement of matters and plans with those who have the direction as cannot well be done by letter. I wish it may be convenient to you to do it immediately.
"The project of giving you the command of this ship pleases me the more, as it is a probable opening to the higher preferment you so justly merit."
It will be observed that this negotiation of Franklin with the French ministry, was unknown to Messrs. Lee and Adams. It seems, too, not to have been communicated to them before the 16th, that Jones was to have command of the frigate at Amsterdam; as we find a letter from them addressed to him on that day,* signed by all the commissioners, directing him to make preparations for a voyage to America with all despatch, in the ship then under his command, containing various instructions, formal, and in the nature of suggestions, and advising him to keep his destination secret. It could not have been intended by Franklin and Sartine, that he should return in the Ranger, as the subsequent correspondence will show. Jones stood likewise too high in importance, to be despatched home in that vessel. He had previously been in direct correspondence with M. De Sartine. On the 31st March previous, he had written to him from Brest, enclosing a copy of the letter from the secret committee of Congress, with other documents; acknowledging the attentions and favours he had received from Admiral Compte D'Orvilliers, M. De la Porte, M. la Motte Picquet, and every other officer of distinction in the port; and adverting to a project of his, communicated to the minister through the admiral, the nature of which he does not specify. There can be no doubt that the minister wished to secure the services of Jones, and to retain him in readiness to execute whatever enterprise events might indicate as best suited to his daring spirit and practical skill. His late successes had made an impression which had a specific value; and the offer of the Prince of Nassau to serve under him, is a sufficient proof of the estimation in which he was held at Court. Under the then existing circumstances, it would have been a loss to send him to America, with a small force, merely as a bearer of despatches, with the precarious chance of making a few stray prizes, or striking unimportant blows. Yet, notwithstanding that after the withdrawal of the ambassadors, the nations felt that hostilities must ensue, political considerations withheld either from being the first to acknowledge its belligerent attitude. The affair on the 17th June, between the Belle Poule and the Arethusa, and the capture on the same and the following day, by the English, of the Licorne and Pallas frigates, in which each party charged the other of being the aggressor, brought matters nearer to a crisis. The engagements between the fleets under Keppel and D'Orvilliers followed, and it soon became no longer necessary to moot questions of national law, as to the disposition of prisoners brought into French ports by American cruisers.*
Previous to leaving Brest for Versailles, Jones says in his Journal for the king, that "finding the lieutenant appeared snore reasonable than formerly, he took his parole in writing, not to serve again in the navy before he was acquitted by a court-martial, and set him at liberty. A day or two afterwards, the commissioners thought fit to interfere respecting the lieutenant of the Ranger, which, it is presumed, they had no authority to do, as it laid the axe to the root of subordination."
He proceeds to say, that "having the prisoners still under his care, the prizes being unsold, and the crew naked, Captain Jones, having completely refitted the Ranger, had no immediate business at Brest; and therefore went privately up to Versailles, on the invitation of the Court." On the 16th June, he addressed the following letter to the commissioners, from Passy.
"At the time when I took Lieutenant Simpson's parole, I did not expect to have been so long absent from America; but as circumstances have now rendered the time of my return less certain, I am willing to let the dispute between us drop for ever, by giving up that parole, which will entitle him to command the Ranger. I have no malice, and if I have done him any injury, this will be making him all the present satisfaction in my power. If on the contrary, he has injured me, I will trust to himself for an acknowledgment."
On the 29th Jones wrote to the commanding officers of the Ranger, informing them that he had obtained permission from the French ministry, to dispose of the prizes to the best advantage, without their being subject to any expense in the admiralty courts, and had made other arrangements for the advantage of the captors. "It shall be my care to get the prisoners exchanged as soon as possible, to realize our prizes, and to obtain leave to return on a cruise to America. All this I believe I shall very soon be able to effect, and therefore you may publish it in the ship, for the general happiness and satisfaction. There will, I am persuaded, be nothing to interfere with our proceeding to America, unless the Ranger should be previously employed as a cartel, in the approaching exchange of prisoners. This may or may not happen; and as it will be a work of little time, and of no danger, it cannot but be agreeable to the feelings of humanity. It might, I think, be accomplished, before the prizes can be realized. I only wait here for the list of the prisoners which I wrote for some time ago, and which I hope will be very exact." He then gives instructions as to details, and among others, requests that certain articles, including the plate, should be carefully stored and reserved, until his return to Brest.
On the 4th of July, he wrote to the commissioners as follows:
"When Congress thought proper to order me to France, it was proposed that the Ranger should remain under my direction, and be commanded by a lieutenant. And as the French ministry have now in contemplation plans which promise honour to the American flag, the Ranger might be very useful to assist in carrying them into execution. Lieutenant Simpson has certainly behaved amiss; yet I can forgive, as well as resent; and upon his making a proper concession, I will, with your approbation, not only forgive the past, but leave him the command of the Ranger. By this means, and by some little promotions and attentions, that may be consistent, I hope to be able to satisfy the Ranger's crew, so that they will postpone their return as long as the service may require."
Whatever may have been the private conferences between Franklin and the French minister, the object which the commissioners had in view in common, was plainly to pacify the crew of the Ranger, to retain as many of her able seamen as were willing to serve, and to send her home after the exchange of prisoners. On the 16th June, Franklin had written to Mr. David Hartley, in consequence of advices from him that the British ministry had agreed to an exchange of prisoners, proposing the manner of effecting it, and offering the solemn engagement of the commissioners, that if the British government would give up all their prisoners at once, a number of British sailors equal to the surplus should be delivered to Lord Howe in America, or to his order, as soon as the agreement should arrive there.* These arrangements would naturally occupy some little time; and meanwhile the crew of the Ranger were, as Jones says, "naked," and discontented.
The very event which arrayed the fleets of France and England against each other, deprived Jones of the command of the "great ship" at Amsterdam. He says in his Journal for the king: "the action of the Belle Poule, which began the war between France and England, deranged the plan in contemplation, and greatly interfered with the views of court respecting Captain Jones. It was understood the States of Holland made great difficulty, respecting the Indien, that still remained at Amsterdam. Captain Jones offered to give up the project, and return to the Ranger. To prevent this, the minister wrote a letter to the commissioners, requesting their permission for Captain Jones to remain for a time in Europe, where he would be honourably employed to promote the common cause."
The embryo schemes agitated between Jones, Franklin, and the Minister, whatever they may have been, were abandoned, as well as the command of the Indien. In reply to the request of the latter, above alluded to, the commissioners acquiesced, in the following terms. "We readily consent that he should be at your excellency's disposition; and shall be happy if his services may be in any respect useful to the designs your excellency may have in contemplation."
On the 17th July, a few days after, Jones wrote himself, to make his acknowledgements to the minister. He speaks of his return in the Ranger as a thing in immediate contemplation. It is obvious that he desired to quicken the movements of the minister, and to induce him to prevent his departure by conferring a real appointment, in lieu of holding out shadowy and changeful promises.
"Passy, July 17th, 1778.
"M. DE SARTINE,
"My Lord -- I should be ungrateful did I not return my thanks for your kind and generous intentions in my favour. My greatest ambition would be to merit your future approbation, by my services against the common enemy of France and America. Had your first plan taken effect, the most pleasing prospect of success would have been before me. But that now seems a distant object.
"I have no doubt, that many projects might be formed from the hints which I had the honour of sending lately for your inspection: had I been intrusted with the chief command, I would have held myself responsible for consequences.
"I am bound in honour to communicate faithfully to Congress the generous offer which the King now makes, of lending the Epervier in the meantime to be employed under my command, under the flag of America. I would thankfully have accepted this offer, the moment it was communicated to me, had no difficulties occurred on account of the situation of the American funds. I have now under my command a ship bound to America. On my arrival there, from the former confidence of Congress, I have reason to expect an immediate removal into one of their best ships. I have reason to expect the chief command of the first squadron destined for an expedition, having in my possession several similar appointments; and when Congress see fit to appoint admirals, I have assurance that my name will not be forgot. These are flattering prospects to a man who has drawn his sword only upon principles of philanthropy, and in support of the dignity of human nature. But as I prefer a solid to a shining reputation, a useful to a splendid command, I hold myself ready, with the approbation of the commissioners, to be governed by you in any measures that may tend to distress and humble the common enemy."
The offer of the Epervier, for the reasons assigned by Jones, was little more than a compliment. The ratifications of the treaties between the United States and France, were exchanged on the same day on which the foregoing letter was written. War had not even yet been formally declared, but had in fact begun at sea, with large preparations on both sides. A violent impress had been made in England among the crews of merchantmen, and France required all her own seamen. The commissioners, or more properly, the plenipotentiaries, found great difficulty in procuring loans, even in small amounts, and were apprehensive that they would not be able to meet the drafts of Congress for the interest of certificates. In their letter to the President of Congress, communicating this intelligence, they mentioned that the only two commercial agents in France, were Mr. John Bonfield of Bordeaux, and Mr. J. D. Schweighauser at Nantes, both appointed by Mr. William Lee; and recommended the appointment of consuls.*
Negotiations on various points, growing out of the treaties, the intimation that England would recognise the independence of America, provided the latter would make a separate peace, and the immediate necessity of procuring funds, at this time fully occupied the attention of the commissioners. M. de Sartine entertained one of the numerous projects which Jones had submitted to him, either to appease his impatience, or with the real intention of carrying it into execution. This was the capture or destruction of the Baltic fleet. He says, in his Journal for the king of France, "for this object three frigates and two cutters were destined; and Captain Jones appointed to command the whole. One of the frigates lay at Brest, which he was to command in person, and join the other two, and the cutter at St. Malo. Two days before Captain Jones returned to Brest, Count D'Orvilliers having returned from his first cruise and the battle of Ushant, had given the command of the frigate in question to a French officer. The Minister of the Marine, finding many difficulties he had not foreseen, from the cabals of French officers for commands, sent orders for the frigates and cutters to proceed from St. Malo, under the command of the senior captain, against the Baltic fleet. That force sailed round the east of England, north of Scotland, and west of Ireland, without having succeeded."
So confident was he that he would be employed in this expedition, that he made inquiries for a chaplain. The qualifications he desired to find in such an officer, he thus mentions in writing to a friend: "I should wish him to be a man of reading and letters, who understands, speaks, and writes the French and English with elegance and propriety. For political reasons, it would be well if he were a clergyman of the Protestant profession, whose sanctity of manners, and happy natural principles would diffuse unanimity and cheerfulness through the ship; and if to these essentials were added the talent of writing fast, and in fair characters, such a man would necessarily be worthy the highest confidence, and might, therefore, assure himself of a place at my table, the regulations whereof should be entirely under his direction." On the 6th August, he also wrote to General Washington informing him of his reasons for continuing in service in Europe, and begging his acceptance of two epaulettes, which he had expected to deliver himself, and which Mr. Williams had undertaken to forward.*
On the 10th August, Jones left Passy for Brest, in the anticipation of receiving this command, and was disappointed in the manner he has mentioned. It may readily be supposed, that he was not in the best possible humour to brook what he conceived to be a downright indignity offered to himself. Yet such he had to encounter. It will be recollected that on the 16th June, he had offered to give tip the parole of Lieutenant Simpson, and on the 4th July, had consented to let him take command of the ship. The lieutenant was not backward in accepting these concessions, and it appears he went much farther. Jones says, "he took command of the Ranger, without accepting the captain's proposal, or having his parole given up. On the contrary, it seemed afterwards he rather gave out that Captain Jones had been called to account by the commissioners, and turned out to make way for him!" He wrote to the commissioners on this subject, in these terms.
"Brest, August 15th, 1778.
"I have been five days in this place since my return from Passy, during which time I have neither seen nor heard from Lieutenant Simpson; but Mr. Hill, who was last winter at Passy, and who sailed with me from Nantes, informs me truly, that it is generally reported in the Ranger, and of course throughout the French fleet, and on shore, that I am turned out of the service; that you, gentlemen, have given Mr. Simpson my place, with a captain's commission, and that my letter to you of the 16th July was involuntary on my part, and in obedience only to your orders.
"That these reports prevail, is not an idle conjecture, but a melancholy fact. Therefore I beseech you; I demand of you to afford me redress -- redress by a court martial; to form which we have now, with the assistance of Captain Hinman, Captain Read, as also them at Nantes, a sufficient number of officers in France, exclusive of myself. The Providence and Britain are expected here very soon from Nantes, and I am certain that they neither can nor will again depart, before my friend Captain Hinman can come down here; and it is his unquestioned right to succeed me in the Ranger.
"I have faithfully and personally supported and fought the dignified cause of human nature, ever since the American banners first waved on the Delaware and on the ocean. This I did when that man did not call himself a republican, but left the continent, and served its enemies; and this I did when this man appeared backward, and did not support me as he ought.
"I conclude by requesting you to call before you, and examine for your own satisfaction, Mr. Edward Meyers, who is now at the house of the Swedish Ambassador, and who, having been with me as a volunteer, can and will, I am persuaded, represent to you the conduct of the officers and men towards me, both before I left Brest, and afterwards in the Irish channel, as well as my conduct towards them. I have the honour to be, &c. &c[.]
"Their Excellencies the American Plenipotentiaries."
On the 18th August, he wrote to Captain Abraham Whipple, then at Brest, requesting that a court martial might be summoned for the trial of Simpson; and the commissioners gave directions to the same effect, provided there was a sufficient number of officers to constitute one. At the same time they directed that no change should take place in the command of the Ranger, until the trial should be over, nor then, should the lieutenant be acquitted. Captain Whipple in a letter to Tones, explained the impossibility of calling a court, as Captain Hinman, who expected a court of inquiry into his own conduct, on his return to America, declined sitting. He also added that in his opinion Jones had given up the parole of Simpson, in the most ample manner, without asking for concessions, and that the commissioners understood it in the same light.* The unimpassioned reader will probably coincide in opinion with Captain Whipple. But under the pressure of so many disappointments, and finding himself without any ship at all, the reports which fell upon the ear of Jones as to the lieutenant's misstatements of what had been magnanimity on his part, would have stung to anger one of a far less hasty temper. The seemingly insulting triumph of Simpson was neither quietly to be endured, nor soon forgotten.
It did not enter into Jones' sense of what was due to his rank and self respect, to seek satisfaction to the injury of the service, from one whom he conceived he had laid under unmerited obligations. Lieutenant Simpson sailed in the Ranger for America. On the 30th August, the Captain's friend Mr. Williams, writing to him from Nantes in relation to the pending sale of the Drake, said: "I am sorry your affair with Lieutenant Simpson was not settled with mutual satisfaction. If he was not gone, I should answer his charge of falsehood with the following paragraph of his own letter to me, of the 1st August, to mine, which you say he calls false, viz: 'I recollect my telling you when at Brest, that if Captain Jones had condescended to have made any inquiry, or permitted me to speak to him on the matter of my confinement, I was ready to give him any satisfaction consonant to truth.' It is strange he should recollect this when he wrote me the letter, and forget it again when he told Mr. Hill it was false. Lieutenant Simpson's letter to me is in very respectful terms, and I wrote him a letter of thanks in return. He desired me in it to present his respects to you, and to tell you that 'your recommendation to the commissioners, which I mentioned, would, with any services you had done him, be ever remembered with gratitude. This gave me great pleasure, &c.'" The Providence, Boston, and Ranger, arrived safe in America, having taking two or three merchant vessels. Lieutenant Simpson was not afterwards employed in the continental service. In February following, the commissioners addressed a letter to Jones, stating, that as his separation from the Ranger, and the appointment of Lieutenant Simpson to the command of her would be liable to misinterpretations, they certified that his leaving her was by their consent, at the express request of M. de Sartine, who informed them that he had occasion to employ Jones in some public service; that Simpson was appointed to the command by the consent of Jones, who had released him from the arrest he had placed him under; that Jones' rank in the navy was not prejudiced by his leaving the Ranger; and that his commission remained in full force. It seemed proper, having given the letters of Jones on this subject, to lay the whole statement before the reader, who, we fear will have found it rather tedious.
We should not have omitted to mention, that as it was one of the first, so it was one of the constant subjects of application to the commissioners by Jones, to procure from them a strong recommendation to Congress on behalf of the men who served under him in the Ranger, and of those in particular who landed with him at Whitehaven. On the day he left Passy, they addressed a letter to him, informing him that they had complied with his request.
* "IN CONGRESS, March 15, 1777.
"Resolved, That Daniel Waters, and Samuel Tucker, be appointed Captains in the Navy of the United States, and that they have the command of two of the three ships ordered to be purchased. And that the command of the other ship be given to Captain John Paul Jones, until better provision can be made for him."
The resolutions of the Marine Committee, authorizing Jones to make his election of the three ships, as soon as the purchase should be made, and to fit out the one he might select for sea, are to the effect stated in his journal.
* Narrative for the king of France.
* Jones did not soon surmount the disappointment occasioned by this misunderstanding on the part of his officers. In a memorial to Congress, he says, "My first object was to secure an exchange of prisoners in Europe, and my second to put an end, by one good fire in England of shipping, to all the burnings in America. I succeeded in the first, even by means far more glorious than my most flattering ideas had expected when I left France. In the second, I endeavoured to deserve success; but a wise officer of mine observed, that 'it was a rash thing, and that nothing could be got by burning poor people's property.' I must, however, do him the justice to mention his acknowledgment, that he had no turn for enterprise; and I must also do equal justice to my former officers in the Providence and the Alfred, by declaring, that had they been with me in the Ranger, two hundred and fifty, or three hundred sail of large ships at Whitehaven would have been laid in ashes."
* In the Ranger's log-book this man is named David Smith. He is probably the same person who, under the name of Freeman, gave information at several houses in a street adjoining the piers, that fire had been set to a ship, and afterwards other information that appears substantially correct. He must have remained on shore voluntarily. Note in the Edinburgh Life.
* It would seem, however, from the following extract from London papers of the 22d February, 1778, that Jones excited some attention in England, before his descent upon Whitehaven. Perhaps the date may be erroneous as to the year.
"Paul Jones is about thirty-six years of age, of a middling stature, well proportioned, with an agreeable countenance; his conversation shows him a man of talents, and that he has got a liberal education. His letters in foreign Gazettes show he can fight with the pen as well as the sword. The famous Captain Cunningham is with him, who escaped out of an English prison."
* The worthy and cautious citizens of Aberdeen were the only persons greatly alarmed on this occasion. In the Scots Magazine for May, 1778, we find the following paragraph: --
"On receiving at Aberdeen intelligence of the plunder of Lord Selkirk's house and the landing at Whitehaven, a hand-bill was circulated by order of the Magistrates, to set on foot an association of the inhabitants for defence, and in a few days 120 were enrolled." The affair never went farther. Another American vessel, which landed a party, and plundered the house of Mr. Gordon, near Banff, must have quickened their apprehensions; but no alarm was seriously felt till the squadron of Paul Jones appeared in the frith of Forth. Even then the panic was short-lived.
Note in the Edinburgh life.
* A few weeks after his arrival at Brest, he wrote to M. Schweighauser, commercial agent for the commissioners at Nantes, and to the Intendant of Marine at Brest, desiring that the plate, with some baggage and other articles specified should be reserved, and not deposited in the public stores. The request was not complied with. On the 10th of February 1779, the commissioners directed that it should be given up. It would appear by a note from Jones sent a few days after to M. Schweighauser, that he was to settle with him for seventeen twentieths of the captors' moiety of its value. This correspondence would swell this volume unnecessarily. Jones says, in a note to Mr. Williams, that the plate was very old, and the fashion of it not worth a straw, especially in France, where none such was used.
* "L'Orient, March 1st, 1780.
"THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE COUNTESS OF SELKIRK, &c. &c. ST. MARY'S ISLE, SCOTLAND.
"It is now ten or eleven months since his Excellency Benjamin Franklin, Esq. Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States of America at the Court of France, communicated to me a message from the earl, your husband, in a letter to his friend, Mr. Alexander, at Paris, in substance as follows: -- That be, the earl of Selkirk, had written an answer to the letter that I had the honour to write to your ladyship in May, 1778, from Brest, respecting your plate; which answer, after being detained for several months at London, in the general post-office, had been returned to Scotland. He, therefore, wished Mr. Alexander to inform the concerned, that if the plate was to be restored by Congress, or by any public body, it would be accepted, &c.; but if, through the generosity of an individual, his delicacy would scruple to receive it, &c.
"The true reason why I have not written to you since I received the above information, has been, because the plate is but now come into my possession from the public agents; and I have, besides, been, for the greatest part of the time, absent from this kingdom.
"I have now the satisfaction to inform you, that Congress has relinquished their real or supposed interest in the plate, and, for my own part, I scorn to add to my fortune by such an acquisition. As for the part claimed by the few men who landed with me on St. Mary's Isle, it is of little consequence, and they are already satisfied. Thus you see, Madam, that the earl's objection is removed.
"The plate is lodged here, in the hands of Messrs. Gourlade and Moylan, who hold it at your disposal, and will forward it agreeable to your orders, by land or by water, to Holland, Ostend, or any other port you think proper.
"I shall be happy, by my conduct through life, to merit the good opinion of the Earl and Countess of Selkirk; for I am, with great esteem and profound respect, Madam, your ladyship's most obedient and most humble servant.
"Paris, September 24th, 1784.
"TO CAPTAIN PAUL JONES, PARIS.
"SIR -- M. the Count de Vergennes has delivered to me the letter which you had written to him, to ask his permission to transport by land from L'Orient to Calais, the plate of Lady Selkirk, which you had permitted to be taken by your people during the last war, and which you afterward purchased to return to her ladyship.
"That action, Sir, is worthy of the reputation which you acquired by your conduct, and proves that true valour perfectly agrees with humanity and generosity.
"It gives me pleasure to concur in the execution of this honourable proceeding.
"I have, therefore, given orders to the Farmers General to permit the transportation of the plate from L'Orient to Calais, free of duty, and you may write to your correspondent at L'Orient to deliver it to the director of the posts, who will take upon himself the care of having it transported to Calais, and to fulfil all the necessary formalities.
"I have the honour to be, &c.
"Paris, November 8th, 1784.
"THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE COUNTESS OF SELKIRK.
"MADAM -- Since the moment when I found myself under the necessity to permit my men to demand and carry off your family plate, it has been my constant intention to restore it to you, and I wrote to you to that effect from Brest, the moment I had arrived there from my expedition in the Irish Sea.
"By the letter which I had the honour to write to Lord Selkirk, the 12th of February last, which will accompany this, I have explained the difficulties that prevented the plate from being restored until that time. I had expectation, all the last summer, that opportunities would have offered to send it by sea from L'Orient to London; but being disappointed, I applied to government for leave to transport it through the kingdom by land, and the Duke of Dorset has been so obliging as to write to the custom-house at Dover, requesting them to let it pass to London, without being opened. It is now arrived here, and will be forwarded immediately to your sister in London, under the lead that has been affixed to the case that contains it, by the Farmers General at L'Orient, and the seal of the Duke of Dorset, that has been affixed to it here. The charges to London are paid, and I have directed it to be delivered at the house of your sister.
"I could have wished to have ended this delicate business by delivering the plate to you at St. Mary's Isle, in Scotland; but I conform to the arrangement made between Lord Selkirk and Mr. Alexander, because I have no person in London whom I can charge with the transportation of the plate from thence. Enclosed is the inventory that I have just received from Mr. Nesbitt, from L'Orient, which I presume you will find to correspond with the one he sent last year to Lord Dare, and with the articles which you put into the hands of my men.
"I am, Madam, with sentiments of the highest respect,
"Your Ladyship's most obedient
"And most humble servant,
"Paris, February 12th, 1784.
"I have just received a letter from Mr. Nesbitt, dated at L'Orient the 4th instant, mentioning a letter to him from your son, Lord Dare, on the subject of the plate that was taken from your house by some of my people when I commanded the Ranger, and has been for a long time past in Mr. Nesbitt's care. A short time before I left France to return to America, Mr. W. Alexander wrote me from Paris to L'Orient, that he had, at my request, seen and conversed with your Lordship in England respecting the plate. He said you had agreed that I should restore it, and that it might be forwarded to the care of your sister-in-law, the Countess of Morton, in London. In consequence, I now send orders to Mr. Nesbitt to forward the plate immediately to her care. When I received Mr. Alexander's letter, there was no cartel or other vessel at L'Orient, that I could trust with a charge of so delicate a nature as your plate, and I had great reason to expect I should return to France within six months after I embarked for America; but circumstances in America prevented my returning to Europe during the war, though I had constant expectation of it. The long delay that has happened to the restoration of your plate has given me much concern, and I now feel a proportionate pleasure in fulfilling what was my first intention. My motive for landing at your estate in Scotland was to take you as a hostage for the lives and liberty of a number of the citizens of America, who had been taken in war on the ocean, and committed to British prisons, under an act of parliament, as traitors, pirates, and felons. You observed to Mr. Alexander, that 'my idea was a mistaken one, because you were not (as I had supposed) in favour with the British ministry, who knew that you favoured the cause of liberty.' On that account, I am glad that you were absent from your estate when I landed there, as I bore no personal enmity, but the contrary, towards you. I afterwards had the happiness to redeem my fellow-citizens from Britain, by means far more glorious than through the medium of any single hostage.
"As I have endeavoured to serve the cause of liberty, through every stage of the American revolution, and sacrificed to it my private ease, a part of my fortune, and some of my blood, I could have no selfish motive in permitting my people to demand and carry off your plate. My sole inducement was to turn their attention and stop their rage from breaking out, and retaliating on your house and effects the too wanton burnings and desolation that had been committed against their relations and fellow-citizens in America by the British; of which, I assure you, you would have felt the severe consequences had I not fallen on an expedient to prevent it, and hurried my people away before they had time for further reflection. As you were so obliging as to say to Mr. Alexander, that 'my people behaved with great decency at your house,' I ask the favour of you to announce that circumstance to the public. I am, my lord, wishing you always perfect freedom and happiness, &c. &c.
"London, August 4th, 1789.
"MONSIEUR LE CHEVALIER PAUL JONES, A PARIS.
"SIR, -- I received the letter you wrote to me at the time you sent off my plate, in order for restoring it. Had I known where to direct a letter to you, at the time it arrived in Scotland, I would then have wrote to you; but not knowing it, nor finding that any of my acquaintance at Edinburgh knew it, I was obliged to delay writing till I came here; when, by means of a gentleman connected with America, I was told M. le Grand was your banker at Paris, and would take proper care of a letter for you; therefore, I enclose this to him.
"Notwithstanding all the precautions you took for the easy and uninterrupted conveyance of the plate, yet it met with considerable delays: first at Calais, next at Dover, then at London; however, it at last arrived at Dumfries, and I dare say quite safe, though as yet I have not seen it, being then at Edinburgh.
"I intended to have put an article in the newspapers about your having returned it; but before I was informed of its being arrived, some of your friends, I suppose, had put it in the Dumfries newspaper, whence it was immediately copied into the Edinburgh papers, and thence into the London ones. Since that time, I have mentioned it to many people of fashion; and, on all occasions, Sir, both now and formerly, I have done you the justice to tell, that you made an offer of returning the plate very soon after your return to Brest; and, although you yourself was not at my house, but remained at the shore with your boat, that yet you had your officers and men in such extraordinary good discipline, that your having given them the strictest orders to behave well, to do no injury of any kind, to make no search, but only to bring off what plate was given them; that in reality they did exactly as ordered, and that not one man offered to stir from his post on the outside of the house, nor entered the doors, nor said an uncivil word; that the two officers staid not a quarter of an hour in the parlour and butler's pantry, while the butler got the plate together, behaved politely, and asked for nothing but the plate, and instantly marched their men off in regular order, and that both officers and men behaved in all respects so well, that it would have done credit to the best disciplined troops whatever.
"Some of the English newspapers, at that time, having put in confused accounts of your expedition to Whitehaven and Scotland, I ordered a proper one of what happened in Scotland to be put in the London newspapers, by a gentleman who was then at my house, by which the good conduct and civil behaviour of your officers and men was done justice to, and attributed to your order, and the good discipline you maintained over your people.
"I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
* Journal for the King of France.
* A letter on this subject was addressed to M. de Sartine, on the 14th May, by the commissioners, immediately on the receipt of the news that Captain Jones had brought in 200 prisoners. They inquired the opinion of the minister as to what disposition would be made of the prisoners, France being yet nominally a neutral power. The letter will be found in Mr. Sparks' Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. I. p. 392.
* Diplomatic Correspondence, I. 397.
* He refers to the misrepresentations of the English papers, mentioned in a letter of Jones already introduced.
* As we cannot suppose that Jones would have condescended to a vulgar sneer, it is obvious that he was too much vexed to perceive that M. Schweighauser, who thought in one language, while writing in another, and whose letters in English are curiously inaccurate, meant to use the harmless word property, instead of that which gave so much offence.
* Diplomatic Correspondence, I. 398.
* On accidentally looking for a date into the newspaper historian Bissett, whose compilation our wise booksellers, for lack of a better, bind up with Hume and Smollet, I find an amusing notice of Jones and his adventures. "The American privateers," says this plunderer of old gazettes, "trusting to the alliance with France, came this year to the coast of Europe, and committed various depredations. The most daring commander of these ships, was the noted adventurer Paul Jones. This person had been gardener to the Earl of Selkirk, at a seat near Kircudbright, on the southwest coast of Scotland. Leaving his employment abruptly, on account of some umbrage which he had conceived against the family, he had betaken himself to sea; and by professional skill, together with intrepid boldness, arrived at the appointment which he then held. Directing his efforts against the coasts with which he was best acquainted, he landed at Whitehaven in Cumberland, and set fire to a ship in the harbour, with the intention of burning the town; but was driven away by the inhabitants. From thence he proceeded over Solway Frith, to the seat of Lord Selkirk, and pillaged the house of all the plate, jewels, and other valuable effects, &c." The veracious historian says nothing of the capture of the Drake, as a matter of course. Candour, however, must confess that there are fewer mistatements in the foregoing paragraph, than in many others of equal length, which might be selected from the same work.
* Diplomatic Correspondence, I. 400.
* Diplomatic Correspondence, I. 407.
* I find these letters, in the life published by Murray in 1825.
* Diplomatic Correspondence, I. 400.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.
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