Plate from Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers by J. Fenimore Cooper, 1846.
John Paul Jones
Few names connected with the American marine have so much claim to celebrity as that of the subject of this sketch. His services were of a character so bold and romantic, the means he employed were seemingly so inadequate to the ends he had in view, and his success, on one occasion in particular, was so very brilliant as to have given rise, on the part of his political and personal enemies, to much unmerited and bitter calumny, while his admirers and friends have been induced to lean a little too strongly to the side of eulogy and undiscriminating praise. As the matter of the life and character of this distinguished officer has been frequently the subject of comment in biographies, of more or less merit, within the last few years, and a great mass of evidence has been produced to remove the veil which was so long drawn before his early years, this is perhaps the time when an attempt may best be made to arrive at a just appreciation of the deeds of the officer, and the qualities of the man. In assuming this task, we shall avail ourselves of such of the best authenticated facts that offer, reasoning for ourselves on their results and principles.
There are no longer any doubts thrown over the birth and early life of Paul Jones. His grandfather was a regular gardener, in the neighborhood of Leith, of the name of Paul. His father, John Paul, was apprenticed to the same trade, and at the expiration of his indentures he entered into the service of Mr. Craik, of Arbigland,1 in which situation he passed the remainder of his days. We have the assertion of Jones himself, that there never existed any connection between the Earl of Selkirk and his father, as has been long and generally asserted; and we may add, the present head of that noble family has assured the writer of this article that the Pauls were never in the service of his grandfather.
John Paul, the gardener of Craik, of Arbigland, married Jean Macduff, the daughter of a small farmer in the parish of New Abbey. Seven children were the fruits of this connection, two of which died in infancy. John was the youngest of the remaining five. William, the eldest of the family, left Scotland at an early age, and finally married and settled in Fredericksburg, in Virginia. He was the principal cause of subsequently attracting his distinguished brother to America. The daughters were Elizabeth, Janet, and Mary Ann. The first never married; the second became the wife of a watchmaker in Dumfries, of the name of Taylor; and the third had two husbands, the first of whom was named Young, and the second Loudon. Several of the descendants of these sisters came to America where some of them are now living.
John, the fifth and youngest surviving child of this humble family, was born July 6th, 1747, at Arbigland, in the parish of Kirkbean, Scotland. His early education was such as marked his condition, in a country like the land of his birth. It was plain, substantial, and moral. The boy appears to have improved his limited opportunities, however, for while his taste, sentiments and language, in after-life, betray the exaggeration of an imperfect instruction, his handwriting, orthography, and principles, prove the essentials had not been neglected. Still, the acquirements he obtained at school could not have been great, for we find him regularly apprenticed to the sea at the age of twelve. His master was a Mr. Younger, a merchant in the American trade, and a resident of Whitehaven, a port at the entrance of the Solway, in the adjoining kingdom of England.
Thus far, there was nothing unusual in the career of the boy. He neither ran away to go to sea, nor did any thing to throw a tinge of romance around this period of his life. His first voyage was to America; with which country his personal connection may be said to have commenced at the age of thirteen. The vessel in which he sailed was the Friendship, of Whitehaven; Benson master and her destination the Rappahannock. Here he found his brother William established, and, while in port, young Paul became an inmate of his house.
Jones manifested great aptitude for his profession, and soon acquired all that portion of seamanship that is not dependent on experience and judgment; the last two being ever the work of time. The affairs of his master becoming embarrassed, however, the indentures were given up, and the lad was left to shift for himself at an age when counsel and government were the most necessary. It is a proof that young Paul was not a common youth, that there is no difficulty in tracing him through all this period of his humble career. As soon as left to his own exertions, he shipped as third mate in the King George, a slaver out of Whitehaven. This must have occurred about the year 1765, or when he was eighteen, as we find him, in 1766, the first mate of the Two Friends, of Kingston, Jamaica, a vessel in the same trade. It would seem that he made but two voyages to the coast of Africa; and his tender years, necessities, and the opinions of the day, may well prove his apology. The pursuit did not please him, and he left the Two Friends on her return, and sailed for Kirkcudbright as a passenger, in the John of that port. This circumstance proved of great importance to him, for the master and mate died of yellow fever, on the passage, when Mr. Paul assumed the direction, and carried the vessel safely to her haven. His reward was the command of the brig he had most probably been the means of saving; the vessel belonging to Currie, Beck & Co., of Kirkcudbright.
This must have occurred in the year 1767.2 Here, then, we find our hero, the son of an humble gardener, in command of a sea-going craft, at the early age of twenty, or at that of twenty-one, at the latest. Such preferment frequently occurs in cases where connections and patronage unite to push a youth forward; but never with the obscure and unpatronized, without the existence of a high degree of merit. We want no better evidence that Paul was discreet, intelligent, industrious and worthy of respect, at that period of his life, than this single fact; merchants never trusting their property out of their reach without sending their confidence along with it. The new master also discharged the duties of supercargo; additional proof of the early stability of his character.
Our young seaman sailed but two years in this employment. He left the service of the house which had given him first command, in consequence of its having dissolved partnership and having no further employment for him.
In our original sketch of Jones, it was stated that a prosecution for having caused the death of a certain Mungo Maxwell, while in command of the John, was probably connected with his quitting the employment of Currie, Beck & Co.; but the fact is denied by his friends, on seemingly good authority. As the occurrence was the foundation of much calumny against Jones, when, at a later day, the passions and interests of nations got to be connected with his character, it is necessary to relate the circumstances, which appear to have been as follows:
Jones had occasion to correct Maxwell, in the usual nautical mode, or by flogging. The punishment was probably severe, and it is equally probable that it was merited. The man, shortly after, shipped in another vessel, called the Barcelona Packet, where he died in the course of a week or two, after a few day of low spirits, accompanied by fever. This occurred in June, 1770. It would seem, however, that Maxwell complained to the authorities of Tobago, in which island the parties then were, of the flogging he had received from Capt. Paul, and that the latter was summoned to appear before the judge of the vice-admiralty court to answer. A certificate of the judge is extant, in which it is stated, that Maxwell's shoulders exhibited the proofs of severe flogging, but that he dismissed the complaint as frivolous, after a hearing. The certificate adds, that the deponent, the statement being in the form of an affidavit, carefully examined the back of Maxwell, and that he has no idea the man could have died in consequence of the flogging mentioned. Another affidavit, made by the master of the Barcelona Packet, establishes the other facts.
The later biographers of Jones have alluded to this subject, though not always in a way that is sustained by their own proofs. Sands, the best and most logical of them all, has fallen into a leading error in his account of this affair. He appears to think that Maxwell instituted a prosecution against his commander in England, confounding the facts altogether. Maxwell died long before he could have reached England, on his passage from Tobago, where he had been flogged, to one of the Leeward Islands; nor does it appear that he ever took any legal step in the matter, beyond the complaint laid before the vice-admiralty judge. That a prosecution for murder was menaced or instituted against Jones, is shown by one of his own letters. Capt. Mackenzie, on no visible authority, refers this prosecution to the envy of some of his neighbors and competitors of Kirkcudbright. There does not seem to be any conclusive reason, however, for supposing that the prosecution occurred anywhere but in the West Indies. It may have taken place in Great Britain, though the term "British jury," which Jones uses in connection with this affair, would apply as well to a colonial as to an English or Scottish jury. There was no trial, nor is it even certain, that there was even a formal prosecution at all; Jones' allusion to the subject being in the following words -viz.:
"I have enclosed you a copy of an affidavit, made before Governor Young by the judge of the court of vice-admiralty, at Tobago, by which you will see with how little reason my life has been thirsted after, and, which is much dearer to me, my honor, by maliciously loading my fair character with obloquy and vile asperations. I believe there are few who are hard-hearted enough to think I have not long since given the world every satisfaction in my power, being conscious of my innocence before Heaven, who will one day judge even my judges. I staked my honor, life, and fortunes for six long months on the verdict of a British jury, notwithstanding I was sensible of the general prejudices which ran against me; but, after all, none of my accusers had the courage to confront me. Yet I am willing to convince the world, if reason and facts will do it, that they have had no foundation for their harsh treatment," &c.
This language was probably used by a man who remained openly within reach of the law, for six months, inviting by his presence a legal investigation of charges that involved a felony, without any legal steps having been commenced. The precise facts are less importance, as it is now reasonably certain that Maxwell did not die in consequence of the flogging he received from Jones; for could a case have been made out against the latter, it is not probable it would have been abandoned altogether, when enmity was so active and prejudice so general. Nor is it material where this persecution was practiced, his subsequent career proving that our subject was by no means deserving of the character of an officer failing of humanity. The occurrence, notwithstanding, appears to have embittered several of the earlier years of Jones' life; to have made an impression against him in his native country, and to have contributed to induce him to abandon Scotland; his last visit to that country, except as an enemy, taking place in 1771. Jones left the employment of Currie, Beck & Co., April 1, 1771, and remained in Scotland until near the end of that year.
On quitting Scotland, Jones repaired to London, where he assumed the command of a ship called the Betsey, which was also engaged in the West India trade. In this vessel he remained until the year 1773, when he was induced to relinquish his command, in order to proceed to Virginia, where his brother William had recently died, and to whose estate he was an heir. This call upon his services and time was probably sudden and imperative, as he subsequently complains much of the losses he suffered, in consequence of having left his affairs in Tobago in the hands of careless or unfaithful agents. It would seem that Jones recovered about ten thousand dollars from the estate of his brother, though the commonwealth had already administered to it - a circumstance that probably did not at all contribute to increase the succession. All, or a portion of the money left in Tobago, was also recovered, so that our hero might now be said to be at ease in his circumstances.
At a later period in his life, Jones became a little remarkable for a display of poetic taste. This tendency, which can scarcely be said to have ever approached the "sacred fire," was seen even at this early day, for he subsequently spoke of his intention to devote the remainder of his days to calm contemplation and poetic ease, when he revisited Virginia. This feeling, quite probably, received some incentive from the discontent of a man who had not long before escaped from an inquiry that he deemed a persecution. It is certain that, while resident in Virginia, he assumed the name of Jones; calling himself John Paul Jones, instead of John Paul, which was his legal and proper appellation. The motive of this change of name, as well as the reason of the selection he made, are left to conjecture. It is probable the latter was purely arbitrary, as he does not appear to have had any near relatives or connections of the name of Jones. For the change itself, the most rational supposition is, that it was induced by his difficulties in connection with the affair of Mungo Maxwell. Sands thinks it may have come from a determination of founding a new race, when Jones transferred himself to a new country. Mackenzie fancies it may have proceeded from a wish to conceal his intended service against England, from the friends he had left in Scotland, or a desire to prevent his enemies from recognising him as a native of Great Britain, in the event of capture. Neither of these reasons is satisfactory. That of Sands is purely imaginary, and unlikely to occur to a man who does not seem to think of marrying at all. Those of Mackenzie are equally untenable, since the friends Jones left in Scotland were too humble in station to render it necessary, or useful, or probable. How could one born in the colonies be thought any safer in the event of capture, in 1775, than one born in Great Britain, allegiance being claimed from all its subjects alike, by the British crown? In a letter to Robert Morris, Jones says, "I conclude that Mr. Hewes has acquainted you with a very great misfortune which befell me some years ago, and which brought me to North America. I am under no concern, whatever, that this, or any other past circumstance of my life, will sink me in your opinion. Since human wisdom cannot secure us from accidents, it is the greatest effort of human wisdom to bear them well." This passage has induced Mr. Sands to think the "great misfortune" was some heavy mercantile loss. There is no evidence to show, nor is it at all probable, that Jones had then been in circumstances to justify his using such an expression as addressed to a man of Robert Morris' rank and extensive dealings; and it is far more rational to suppose that the word "accidents" has been loosely applied to the circumstances connected with Maxwell's death, than to any other event in Jones' life. If a "great misfortune" had any agency in bringing him to America, it was probably this event; and it may have induced him to change his name, in a moment of disgust, or of morbid resentment.
It is remarkable that there should still be a mystery connected with this change of name, in a man of Jones' celebrity. One of his near connections thinks that the new appellation was not assumed until he entered the American navy, and that it might have been taken in compliment to Gen. Wm. Jones, of North Carolina, who had been much his friend. This circumstance may have induced the selection of the name, though it scarcely seems sufficient to account for the change itself. It is probably now too late to hope to explain the mystery.
The year 1775, therefore, found Jones in every respect in a proper mood to seek service in the young marine that sprung up out of the events of the day. He offered his services, accordingly, and they were accepted. There is reason to think Jones had a real attachment to the colonies, as well as to the principles for which they contended; and it is certain that, having fairly cast his fortunes in them, he had just as good a moral right to maintain both as any native of the country. The obligations created by the mere accidents of birth, can never, in a moral, sense, justly be put in competition with the social ties that are deliberately formed in later life, and he is a traitor only who betrays by deceiving. The argument, that a native of England, established in America in 1775, had not the same moral right to resist parliamentary aggression as the subject born in the colonies, is like advancing a distinction between the social clams and duties of the man born in Yorkshire and those of the man born in London. By the English constitution, itself, the resident of the British capital had a right to oppose the aggressions which led to the American Revolution; and it was a right that did not extend to open revolt, merely, because the aggressions did not affect him in that direct and positive manner that alone justifies resistance to existing law under the plea of necessity. All attempts, then, to brand Jones as a pirate, and as having been peculiarly a traitor to his country, must rest on fallacies for their support; his case being substantially the same as those of Charles Lee, Gates, Montgomery, and a hundred others of merit and reputation; the difference of serving on the ocean, instead of serving on the land, and of being the means of carrying the war into the island of Great Britain itself, being the only reason why so much odium has been heaped on the one, while the others have virtually escaped.
Jones does not appear to have had any connection with the American Navy, until a short time before the passage of the law of December 22, 1775, which, in fact, gave it legal and efficient existence. By this law, a commander-in-chief, four captains, and thirteen lieutenants were appointed. The latter were classed as first, second, and third lieutenants, and of these the name of John Paul Jones takes rank of all others of the highest grade. His commission is said to have been dated the 7th of December, fifteen days before the passage of the law. This, in fact, made him the sixth in rank in the service; though other appointments were shortly after made, and the question of permanent rank was reserved for future consideration. Thus, in the following year, when independence had been declared, and the rank was regulated, we find Dudley Saltonstall, the oldest captain by the law of December, 1775, placed as the fourth on the list, and Abraham Whipple, the second, reduced as low as to be the twelfth. As respected himself, Jones subsequently complained of a similar mortification, though it would seem unjustly, as the whole matter was understood when the appointments were made. There was some hardship in his case, however, as two of those who were his junior lieutenants in 1775, were made captains above him in 1776. Still, it was in a revolution, related to original appointments, and every thing depended on the original understanding.
Jones was ordered to the Alfred 24, Commodore Hopkins' own vessel, as her first lieutenant. A sloop called the Providence was purchased, and he was offered the command of her, but declined it, in consequence of his ignorance of the mode of sailing such a craft. Jones always affirmed that he first hoisted the flag of the United Colonies, with his own hands, when Commodore Hopkins first visited the Alfred. This occurred on the Delaware, off Philadelphia; and the flag was the pine-tree and rattle-snake, the symbols then used by the colonies.
As a matter of course, Jones was in the expedition against New Providence. The squadron did not get out of the Delaware until the 17th February, 1776, lying frozen in, at Reedy Island, for six weeks. It is supposed that this circumstance enabled Capt. Barry to get to sea in the Lexington before it, though that brig was purchased and commissioned subsequently to the equipment of the vessels of Commodore Hopkins' squadron.
Jones was useful in piloting the vessels through some difficulties on the Bahama Banks, and seems to have enjoyed a consideration every way equal to his rank. In the action which occurred with the Glasgow 24, on the return of the squadron to America, he was stationed on the gun-deck of the Alfred, and had no other responsibility than was attached to the management of his battery. He states, himself, that the main-deck guns of the Alfred were so near the water as to have been useless in a good breeze. On this occasion, however, the wind was light, and nothing occurred to disturb the fire but the position of the vessel. Her wheel-rope was shot away, and, broaching to, the Alfred was sharply raked by the Glasgow, for some time, and must have been beaten but for the presence of the other vessels. As it was, the English ship got into Newport; a sufficient triumph of itself, when it is remembered that she had four or five enemies on her, two of which were but little her inferiors in force. On the 11th of April, Com. Hopkins carried his vessels into New London.
This was unquestionably Jones' first cruise, and the affair with the Glasgow was his first engagement. In that day slavers were not obliged to fight their way, or to run, as at present; and there is no evidence that our hero had ever before met an enemy. He must have been at sea two or three years, during the continuation of the war of 1756, but he nowhere speaks of any adventures with the French cruisers. As the squadron sailed on the 17th February, and got into New London on the 11th April, the cruise lasted only fifty-three days; though it may be deemed an adventurous one, when we recollect the power of England and the indifferent qualities of the vessels.
From New London, Commodore Hopkins carried all his vessels round to Providence, when the affair with the Glasgow resulted, as unfortunate military operations are very apt to do, in courts martial. Captain Hazard, of the Providence 12, the sloop Jones had once declined accepting, was cashiered, and Jones was appointed to succeed him. His orders were dated May 10th, 1776. There being no blanks, the order to take the Providence as her captain was written by Commodore Hopkins on the back of the commission Jones held from Congress, as a lieutenant. Being, at that time, certainly the oldest lieutenant in the navy, his right to the command could not well be questioned.
The first service on which Jones was employed, after getting his vessel, was to transport certain troops to New York. Having done this with success, he returned to Rhode Island, hove out his sloop, and prepared her for more critical exploits. In June he was ready again for sea. He was now employed a few days in convoying military stores through the narrow waters about the eastern entrance of Long Island Sound; and, as this was done in the presence of an enemy of greatly superior force, it was an extremely delicate and arduous duty. He was frequently chased, and several times under fire, but always escaped by address and precaution. On one occasion he covered the retreat of a brig that was coming in from the West Indies, laden with military supplies for Washington, and which was hard pressed by the Cerberus frigate. By drawing the attention of the latter to himself, the brig escaped, and, proving a fast vessel, she was subsequently bought into the service, and called the Hampden.
It would seem that the spirit, enterprise and seamanship Jones displayed, during the fortnight he was thus employed, at once gave him a character in the navy; his boldness and success having passed into history, although no event of a brilliancy likely to attract the common attention occurred. This is a proof that semen appreciated what he had done.
In July, Jones sailed for Boston, always with convoy; then he proceeded to the Delaware. As this was the moment when Lord Howe's fleet was crowding the American waters, the service was particularly critical, but it was successfully performed. While at Philadelphia, Jones received his commission as captain, signed by John Hancock; it was dated August the 8th. This fact rests on his own assertion,3 though Mr. Sherburne has given a copy of a commission dated October 10th, which he appears to think was the true commission of Jones. In this he is probably right; new commissions, arranged according to the regulated rank, having doubtless been issued accordingly. It will be seen the Independence was declared a little before the arrival of the Providence at Philadelphia.
Hitherto, Jones had sailed under the orders of Com. Hopkins. He was now brought in immediate contact with the Marine Committee of Congress; and it is a proof of the estimation in which he was held, that the latter offered him the command of the Hampden, the vessel he had rescued from the Cerberus, by his own address. Jones, by this time, had got to understand the Providence, and he preferred remaining in her, now that he had her ready for immediate action, to accepting a vessel that had still to be equipped, though the latter was much the most considerable craft. The Providence mounted only twelve four-pounders, and she had a crew of seventy men.
The Marine Committee next ordered the Providence out on a cruise that was not to exceed three months, giving her commander roving orders. Jones sailed on the 12th of August, and went off Bermuda. Here he fell in with the Solebay, frigate, which vessel outsailed him on a wind, with a heavy sea going, and actually got within pistol shot of him, in spite of all his efforts. While closing, the frigate kept up a steady fire from her chase-guns. Jones saw that he must change his course, if he would escape; and, getting ready, he bore up, set his square-sail, studding-sails, &c., and went off before the wind, directly under the broadside of his enemy. This manoeuvre was a bold one, but its success must have been, in some measure, owing to a concurrence of favorable circumstances. There was a cross sea on, and the Solebay not anticipating any serious conflict with so inconsiderable an enemy, doubtless had her broadside guns secured; or, if either battery had been manned at all, it was probably on the weather side, the Providence having been a little to windward during most of the chase. Previously to putting his helm up, Jones edged gradually away, thus effecting his intention completely by surprise; the officers of the Solebay having reason to suppose they were gradually weathering on the chase, until they saw her going off dead before the wind. By the time the frigate could get her light sails set, the sloop was beyond the reach of grape, and her safety was insured, the Providence being unusually fast under her square canvas.
After this critical chase, which had some such reputation, though in a less degree, at the commencement of the war of the Revolution, as that of the Constitution possessed at the commencement of the war of 1812, the Providence went to the eastward. Off the Isle of Sable, she fell in with the Milford 32, which chased her, under fire, for nearly eight hours. Jones does not appear to have run the same risk on this occasion, as in the affair of the Solebay, though he evidently considered the adventure creditable to himself. In point of fact, he kept, most of the time, just without the drop of the enemy's shot, though there were moments when both vessels kept up a distant cannonade. If there was any particular merit on the part of the Americans, it was in the steadiness and judgment with which Jones estimated his own advantages, and the audacity with which he used them. Such experiments certainly give confidence to a marine, and increase its means of usefulness, by bringing the hazards a vessel is compelled to run, down to a just and accurate standard. Manoeuvering boldly, in face of a superior force, either on shore or afloat, is an evidence of high military confidence, and insomuch a pledge of both spirit and skill. The influence of both these little affairs must have been highly beneficial on the temper of the American navy.
The day succeeding the last chase, Jones went into Canseau, where he destroyed the English fishing establishment, burned several vessels, and shipped some men. He net went to Isle Madame, and made several descents of a similar character, displaying great activity and zeal. In the course of the cruise the Providence made sixteen prizes, besides destroying a great number of fishermen. She was out more than six weeks, reaching Providence, on her return, October 7th, 1776.
The representations of Capt. Jones induced Com. Hopkins to send an expedition against the colliers of Cape Breton, including the adjacent fisheries. The Alfred had not been out since her first cruise, and was lying in the river without a crew. That ship, the Hampden, and Providence were selected for the purpose, and the command of the whole was assigned to Jones. No better proof of the estimation in which he was held, or of the influence he had obtained by means of his character, is needed than this fact. The orders were dated October 22d, 1776, and were perfectly legal; for, though Congress regulated the rank on the 10th, Com. Hopkins continued at the head of the navy until the succeeding January, when his office was abolished.
Jones soon found he could not collect a sufficient number of men for the three vessels, and he came to a determination to sail with only the Alfred and Hampden. This arrangement was changed, however, in consequence of the Hampden's getting ashore, and her officers and people were transferred to the Providence. This occurred on the 27th October, and the two vessels were unable to get out until the 2d of November. As it was, Jones conceived he put to sea very short-handed; the Alfred mustering only 140 souls, whereas she had sailed from Philadelphia, the previous February, with 235.4
As this is the time at which the rank was regulated, though the circumstances do not seem to have yet been known in Rhode Island, it is proper to explain the influence the new arrangement had on the position of our subject. In the first appointments, Jones ranked as the senior first lieutenant of the navy. The fourth officer of the same grade was Mr. Hoysted Hacker, who was promoted to a command soon after Jones himself received his own advancement. Still, Capt. Jones ranked Capt. Hacker, and the latter had actually been appointed to command the Hampden, in the expedition to the eastward. This same officer was transferred to the Providence, and actually sailed as a subordinate to Jones on the 2d November, when, by the regulated rank established by a vote of Congress twenty-two days before, he was placed above him on the new list of captains. On that list appear the names of twenty-four captains. Of these, Jones ranks as the eighteenth, and Capt. Hacker as the sixteenth. It is not surprising that the former complained of such a change; though his arguments against the elevation of many respectable gentlemen who were placed over him, under original appointments, at the regular formation of the marine and after the declaration of independence, are by no means as strong.
The Alfred and Providence went to the eastward, as had been arranged, crossing the shoals. They passed many of the enemy's ships that were lying off Block Island, in the night, anchoring in Tarpaulin Cover for light to go over the shallow water. While lying in the Cove, a privateer was examined for deserters, four of which were found, and a few men were pressed, as Jones always maintained, in obedience to orders from Com. Hopkins. This affair, subsequently, gave Jones a good deal of trouble. He was sued by the owner of the privateer, the damages being laid at 10,000 [pounds]; Com. Hopkins declining to justify the act. This, for some time, was one o the many grievances of which Jones was in the habit of complaining, and quite probably with justice.
Off Louisburg, three prizes were made, one of which proved to be very valuable. It was a large store-ship, called the Mellish, conveying clothing to the British troops. The following night, the Providence parted company in a snow-storm. The two smaller prizes were now ordered in, but Jones continued his cruise, keeping the Mellish in company on account of her great importance to the American cause. A landing was made at Canseau, a good deal of injury done to the enemy, and the ships again put to sea. Off Louisburg, Jones took three colliers, out of a convoy, in a fog. Two days later, he captured a fine Letter of Marque, out of Liverpool. The Alfred was now full of prisoners, and, it being of great importance to secure the Mellish, Jones shaped his course for Boston. On the 7th December, he fell in with his old acquaintance, the Milford, and had another critical chase, in which he succeeded in covering the Mellish, though the Letter of Marque was recaptured, owing to a false manoeuvre of the prize-master. On the 15th, the Alfred went into Boston, the Mellish, for the sake of certainty, going to Dartmouth.
At Boston, Jones received an order from Com. Hopkins to transfer the Alfred to Capt. Hinman, who was his junior, on the regulated list, even, by two numbers. This was certainly a hard case, and cannot well be accounted for, except through the existence of prejudices against our hero. That Jones was the subject of many prejudices, throughout his life, is beyond a question; and it can scarcely be doubted that some of these feelings had their origin in faults of character. It is highly probable that he had some of the notions that the Englishman, or European, is known still to entertain toward the Americans, and which were much more general half-a-century since than they are to-day, the betrayal of which would not be very likely to make friends. It is undeniable that the Americans were an exceedingly provincial people in 1777; nor is the reproach entirely removed at the present time; and nothing is more natural than to hear men educated in a more advanced state of society, declaiming about defects that strike them unpleasantly; or nothing more natural than to find those strictures producing an active and blind resentment. Jones was unaided, too, by connections; even the delegates of Virginia appearing not to take the usual interest of the representative, in an unknown and unsupported stranger. His chief reliance seems to have been on Mr. Hewes, of the Marine Committee, and on Robert Morris; the latter of whom became his firm friend in the end.
Jones remonstrated against this appointment of Capt. Hinman, and succeeded in getting an order to place the Alfred, Columbus, Cabot, Hampden, and Providence under his own command, with directions to sail to the southward, with great discretionary powers. These orders produced no results; Com. Hopkins, according to Jones' account of the matter, throwing impediments in the way. It is probable, too, that in February, 1777, the country was not in a condition to fit out a military enterprise of so much importance; want of means being quite as instrumental in defeating Jones' hopes as want of will. There is, also, reason for thinking that Hopkins distrusted Jones' feelings as regards the country; the result most likely of some of his loose and indiscreet remarks.
Many of Jones' official letters, written during the cruises he had made, have been preserved, and aid in throwing light on his character. In general, they are plainly and respectably written, though they are not entirely free from the vaunting which was more in fashion formerly than it is to-day; and occasionally they betray an exaggerated and false taste. On the whole, however, they may be received as superior to the reports of most of the commanders of the age; many captains in even the regular marine of the mother country making reports essentially below those of Jones in sentiment, distinctness, and diction.
Hopkins having some of Jones' new squadron with himself, at Providence, and refusing to give them up, the latter made a journey to Philadelphia, in order to demand redress of Congress. He does not appear to have been regularly apprized of the regulated rank, until this occasion. A memorial, addressed to Congress, at a later day, and on the subject of rank, and his other grievances, was intemperate in language, and probably did his cause, which was tolerably strong in facts, no good. Speaking of the officers who were put above him on the list, he says - "Among those thirteen, there are individuals who can neither pretend to parts nor education, and with whom, as a private gentleman, I would disdain to associate." This is sufficiently vain-glorious, and downright rude. If he betrayed similar feelings while at Philadelphia, it is not surprising that his claims were slighted.
Jones had an explanation with Hancock on the subject of his rank, and left Philadelphia, soothed with assurances that his services were appreciated. He had the indiscretion, however, to let the commission, dated August 5th, 1776, pass out of his hands, and was never able to recover it. This commission, he afterward affirmed, was the first granted after the declaration of independence, and entitled him to be put at the head of the list of captains.5
By the journal of Congress, it would seem that a resolution was passed on the 15th March, 1777, directing that one of those ships that had been previously ordered to be purchased, should be given to "Capt. John Paul Jones, until better provision can be made for him." Referring to the dates of these different transactions, we are left to believe that this resolution was passed as some atonement for depriving our hero of his former command: that the project of sending him out with the vessels which Com. Hopkins detained, was subsequently formed, and a third means of employing this active officer was suggested after his visit to Philadelphia. It must be confessed, however, that much confusion exists in the dates of many of the events connected with the life of Jones, those connected with the resolutions of Congress, in particular, often appearing irreconcilable with known occurrences, unless we suppose that the passage of a resolution and its promulgation were by no means simultaneous. Thus it is that we find Jones expressing his surprise at the regulated rank, in April, 1777, though it as enacted in October, 1776.
The ship which was assigned to Jones, under the resolution just mentioned, was a vessel called the Ranger. She lay at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and wanted a great deal of work to fit her for sea. Her new captain immediately set about the necessary arrangements, when the third project alluded to was brought up, and he received fresh orders. The commissioners in Paris had ordered a very heavy frigate to be built in Holland, on account of government. This ship was, at first, called the Indien, and subsequently the South Carolina. She was one of the heaviest single-decked ships that had then ever been constructed, mounting Swedish thirty-sixes on her main deck. The idea was now to give this ship to Jones, and to send him out to join her, with a party of officers and men, in a French Letter of Marque, called the Amphitrite, that had recently arrived with stores from Europe. The arrangement contemplated that Jones should cruise in the Amphitrite, on his way out, and, as France was then at peace with England, this could only be effected by a transfer of property. Owing to some difficulty of this nature, the scheme fell through; and, in June, by another resolution, Jones was ordered to the Ranger again. This ship he commenced fitting for sea, though it required months to effect the object. While engaged in the negotiation about the Amphitrite, Jones received a third commission as a captain, from the Marine Committee, direct. The two preceding it had been commissions to command particular vessels, while the present made him, in general terms, a captain in the navy, by virtue of which he might command any vessel of the government. This was done because the committee did not know precisely what the commissioners in France had effected in the way of ships in Europe. The date of this last commission corresponded with that given under the regulated rank.
It is worthy of remark, that the very day Congress ordered Jones to the Ranger, it adopted the stars and stripes as the flag of the republic. This was June 14th, 1777. One of the first things Jones did, on reaching his ship, was to hoist this new ensign. He always claimed to have been the first man to hoist the flag of 1775, in a national ship, and the first man to show the present ensign on board a man-of-war. This may be true or not. There was a weakness about the character of the man that rendered him a little liable to self-delusions of this nature, and, while it is probable he was right as to the flag which was shown before Philadelphia, the town where Congress was sitting, it is by no means as reasonable to suppose that the first of the permanent flags was shown at a place as distant as Portsmouth. The circumstances are of no moment, except as they serve to betray a want of simplicity of character, that was rather a failing with the man, and his avidity for personal distinction of every sort.
The Ranger was not ready for sea before the 15th October. Even then her equipment was very imperfect, the vessel having but one suit of sails, and some of these were made of insufficient cloth. The ship was frigate built, like most of the sloops of that day, and was pierced for twenty-six guns; viz., eighteen below, and eight above. This number was furnished, but he rejected all but those for the main deck, mounting eighteen sixes. Even these guns he considered as three diameters of the bore too short. Of men he had enough, but his stores were very short, and it is a singular fact, that he could obtain but a barrel of rum for his whole crew. Under such difficulties, however, was the independence of this country obtained.
The Ranger sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for France, Nov. 1st, 1777. This was the first time Jones had left America, or the American waters, since his arrival in Virginia, after the death of his brother. He still went to Europe in expectation of obtaining the Dutch-built frigate, intending to cruise in her, with the Ranger in company. On the 2d Dec. the Ranger arrived at Nantes, having made two captures on the passage. She saw a convoy, but got nothing from it, and had a short chase with a two-decked ship. On all occasions, Jones represents his people, who were principally eastern men, as behaving well.
A severe disappointment awaited Jones on reaching France. Owing to the jealousy of England, the commissioners had found themselves under the necessity of transferring the ship building in Holland to the King of France; an arrangement which deprived them of all authority over her.6 Jones submitted to this defeat of his hopes with a moderation and good sense that are in his favor; thus proving, we think, that his many previous complaints were founded on just principles, in his own opinion at least, and not in querulousness of character, as has been sometimes alleged; for, in this case, the evil being unavoidable, he saw no good motive for quarrelling with fortune. He consoled himself with the knowledge that Congress thought him worthy of so important a trust, and says, "I can bear the disappointment with philosophy."
As soon as all hopes of getting another and better ship were abandoned, Jones took the Ranger round to Quiberon Bay, convoying some American vessels. Here he met the fleet of M. Le Motte Picquet, and opened a negotiation for a salute. His request was acceded to, and salutes were exchanged, not only with this distinguished officer, but, a few days later, with the Comte d'Orvillers, the commander-in-chief of the Brest fleet. In consequence of these proceedings, Jones claimed the honor of having received the first salute to the American flag, as he did that of having first hoisted the flag itself. It is certain he is mistaken as to the former of these claims, unless he means the particular flag adopted by Congress, June, 1777; for a serious difficulty occurred in consequence of a Dutch governor's having saluted an American vessel of war in the West Indies, the year previously. Still, the motive and the feeling were the same, and it was certainly a point gained to obtain a salute from a French commander-in-chief at the time mentioned.
While lying among the French ships, Jones seems to have had a good deal of communication with its flag officers. He even went so far as to submit certain plans to them for expeditions to America, a general war being now certain, and his projects show an active and fertile mind. These qualities, indeed, form the great and distinctive features of his character, one military scheme being no sooner disposed of than he turned his thoughts to another with untiring ingenuity.
April 10th, 1778, the Ranger again went to sea alone, Jones having relinquished all hope of doing any thing, for the present at least, without achieving it with his own limited means. It is usual to ascribe more credit to the great cruise that succeeded than to this of the Ranger, and yet Jones probably never showed more of his real character than in the enterprise which he now undertook. We shall first relate the events as the occurred, and then give a summary of their character and importance.
On the 14th, the Ranger took a vessel, loaded with flaxseed, and bound to Ireland. This prize secured, she shaped her course for St. George's Channel. Off Dublin she captured a London ship. The weather being favorable, Jones now determined to make a descent at Whitehaven, the place out of which he first sailed, in order to destroy the shipping by fire. With this view, on the evening of the 18th, he was off the port, and, about ten at night, he was on the point of landing himself at the head of a party of volunteers, when the wind shifted, and began to blow so fresh, directly on shore, as to render the descent impracticable. The ship made sail to claw off the land.
The next day the Ranger chased a revenue wherry unsuccessfully, and, though the ship was disguised as a merchantman, it is thought the crew of the boat suspected her of being an enemy. It could not well be otherwise, indeed, since Jones, in his desire to get the boat, kept up a smart fire on her for some time. The next morning he found himself so near a coaster as to be compelled to sink her, in order to prevent the discovery of his presence. Another attempt inshore was abandoned, the same day, on account of the state of the wind.
All this time Jones was close in with the land, visible from the shore, and looking into the different bays and roadsteads as he passed along the coast. One cutter he chased into the Clyde, going as high as the Rock of Ailsa, and he sunk a Dublin sloop, to prevent intelligence.
On the 20th, the Ranger was off Carrickfergus, and detained a fishing-boat that came alongside. A ship was at anchor in the road, which the prisoners said was the Drake, Capt. Burden, a vessel of about the size, armament and metal of the Ranger; though she is said to have carried two more guns. This was just such an opportunity as Jones wanted, and though he was alone on an enemy's coast, and might be said to be fighting with a halter around his neck, he at once resolved to attack his enemy at anchor, as soon as it was dark. That night, therefore, the Ranger stood in, with a strong breeze, with the intention of laying the Drake athwart hawse, grappling, and fighting it out. Owing to the darkness, however, and the anchor's hanging, the Ranger brought up about half a cable's length on the Drake's quarter, instead of the position desired, and Jones at once saw the expediency of abandoning the design. He ordered the cable cut, on the instant, so as to give the appearance of its having parted in snubbing, made sail, and began to beat out of the loch. As no warlike demonstration had yet been made, singular as it may seem, this was done without molestation from the Drake. It was Jones' intention to work to windward, and to renew the attempt the same night, but it blew so fresh that he was glad to get an offing on any terms. The wind increased to a gale, and he stood over toward the coast of Scotland to find a lee.
As soon as the weather moderated, Jones determined to renew the attempt on Whitehaven. On the night of the 22d he got off that port again, though not as close in as he wished, in consequence of the lightness of the wind. At midnight he left the ship, having with him, in two boats, thirty-one volunteers. Day began to dawn just as the party reached the outer pier. Jones now divided his men. One party was sent, under Lieut. Wallingford, to set fire to the shipping on the north side of the harbor, while he went himself with the other to do the same on the south. There was a small fort on Jones' side, with a few men in it as a guard. He scaled the walls, found the men in the guard-house, where he secured them, and spiked the guns. Jones now took a single officer and went a distance of a quarter of a mile to another battery, the guns of which he also spiked.
On his return from the distant battery, Jones expected to find the ships on fire. So far from this, however, nothing material had been done. Mr. Wallingford had altogether abandoned his portion of the enterprise, the candle on which he relied having burnt out just as it was time to use it. The same accident had occurred on his own side of the harbor also. It was now broad daylight, and the alarm had been given, but Jones would not abandon his design. A candle was procured from a house, and a fire was kindled in the steerage of a large ship. As this vessel lay surrounded by a hundred and fifty or two hundred other craft, all high and dry, the tide being out, there is no question that a good fire, fairly kindled, would have destroyed the whole.
The great object of Jones was now to repair the loss of time. The sun had risen, and the people of the place were already in motion, though confused and in alarm. The fire burnt but slowly, and search was made for combustibles to aid it. At length a barrel of tar was found and poured upon the flames. Jones then collected his men, and ordered them to embark from the end of the pier. By this time the inhabitants of the place were out in thousands, and some of the men ran towards the pier. Jones met the last with a presented pistol, ordering them off, at the risk of their lives. Such was the influence of courage and steadiness, that these men retreated, leaving the pier in possession of this handful of enemies. As the flames now burst out of the steerage and began to ascend the rigging, and the sun had been up an hour, Jones thought it prudent to retire. He had remained some time on the pier all alone, and embarked without molestation, though the eminences around were covered with spectators.
The boats retired without difficulty. Attempts were made to fire on them from the batteries, but the guns were all spiked. One or two pieces, however, had escaped, or as Jones believed, ship's guns were dragged down upon the pier, and began to play upon the adventurers without effect. No person was injured in the affair, and only one man was missing. This person is supposed to have deserted, and to have given the alarm; such a man coming to several houses with the news that a ship had been set on fire. Nor was any material damage done to the shipping, the people of the place succeeding in extinguishing the flames, before they reached the other vessels. Jones took three prisoners, whom he brought off as a sort of trophy.
The same day the Ranger crossed the Solway, and made a landing at St. Mary's Isle, where is the seat of the Earls of Selkirk. Jones had but a single boat on this occasion, and he landed again in person. His object was to seize Lord Selkirk, fancying that a prisoner of his rank might be useful in affecting the treatment of the Americans, who were then in the English prisons. Ascertaining, soon after he landed, that Lord Selkirk as not at home, Jones returned to his boat. But the men complained of being again disappointed, and, after some discussion, their captain assented that they might go to the house and ask for plate. They were limited to accepting such as was offered. The truth is not to be concealed, that an officer was at the head of this party, but many of the officers of that period were men taken from trading vessels, and were actuated by motives that were little honorable to them. Lady Selkirk received the officers of this party herself, none of the men being suffered to enter the house. Some plate, valued at about 100[pounds],7 was delivered, and the party retired, doing no other harm.
In the present day, such an act would be entirely unjustifiable. No American officer would dare to be guilty of it openly; and it is to be hoped no one would wish to do it at all. Acts very similar to it, however, have been committed on our own coasts within the last thirty years, if not with the connivance of officers, at least in their presence. If we go back a century earlier, it was the common mode of warfare of the Drakes and other commanders of the English service. As it was, Jones was sensible of its unworthiness, and he subsequently purchased the plate and restored it to its owner. Owing to the difficulties of communication, nearly or quite ten years elapsed before Lord Selkirk actually recovered his property, but he acknowledges that he got it at last, and expressed his satisfaction with the course pursued by Jones.
A letter written by Jones to Lady Selkirk, on this occasion, has been often published, and has been greatly praised. It has much of the exaggerated and false taste of the writer, while it shows creditable sentiments. Its great fault is a want of simplicity, a defect that seems to have pervaded Jones' character. That Jones committed a fault in allowing the plunder at all is undeniable, though he seems to have yielded solely to a temporary expedient, reserving to himself the intention to repair the wrong at the earliest occasion. Sordid he was not; and admitting the redemption to have been an after-thought even, there is no reason for believing that he was any way influenced by a wish to make money. With such an end in view, a man of his enterprise would scarcely have limited his efforts to accepting the little plate that was offered. He would have stripped the house.
The landing at St. Mary's Isle occurred on the 23d April, and the following morning the Ranger once more appeared off Carrickfergus, where Jones saw symptoms that the Drake was preparing to come out. That the character of the American ship was not known, however, is clear from the fact that the Drake sent a boat out to reconnoitre. This boat was decoyed alongside, and her officer and crew captured. From his prisoners Jones ascertained that intelligence of what had occurred at Whitehaven reached Carrickfergus the previous night, and no doubt was entertained that the ship which had appeared off the one place was the vessel that had made the attempt on the Drake in the other. The latter vessel had weighed the lost anchor of the Ranger; and it was now ascertained that she had received many volunteers on board, and was coming out in quest of her enemy. The only doubt, therefore, which could exist among the English was whether the vessel now in the offing was the same as that which had made the two previous attempts.
When the Drake got under way, she was accompanied by several boats filled with persons who were disposed to be witnesses of the action. Jones hove-to and waited for his enemy, amid a scene that might well have disturbed the self-confidence of a man of less fortitude. He was the narrow waters of the most powerful naval power on earth, with the three kingdoms in plain view. Alarm smokes were raised on each side of the channel, in great numbers, showing that his foes were up and doing. He had already given occasion for extraordinary activity, and an enemy that had enjoyed time to get perfectly ready, and which, to say the least, was always his equal in force, was coming out from her moorings purposely to engage him. This, according to a favorite expression of Jones himself, was literally going into "harm's way."
The tide was not favorable, and the English ship came out very slowly. The Ranger's drift was to windward, and her helm was put up several times, in order to run down toward her enemy, when she would throw her main-top-sail aback, and lie with her courses in the brails. As soon as the amateurs ascertained that the boat which was towing astern of the strange ship was that sent out by the Drake, they all bore up and ran back into the loch. At length, long after the turn of the day, the English ship succeeded in weathering the headland, and was enabled to lay a straight course into the offing. She now set her colors, and the Ranger showed what it was then the fashion of England to call the "rebel flag." Jones filled and stood off the land, under easy canvas, to lead his enemy out mid-channel. The Drake followed, gradually closing, until she got within hail.
Jones had a length gained his point, and was in momentary expectation of commencing an action with an enemy's ship of equal force. While he awaited her fire, he was hailed, with a demand to know who and what he was. The answer was given by the master, under Jones' direction - "This is the American continental ship Ranger," he said; "we wait for you, and beg you will come on. The sun is little more than an hour high, and it is time to begin." This cool invitation was scarcely given before the Ranger fell broad off and delivered her fire. The Drake answered this attack, the two ships closing and running off before a light wind. It was soon apparent that the Ranger was getting the best of it; her adversary's spars and sails beginning to suffer. Still the action was animated and well maintained for just one hour and four minutes, when the Drake called out for quarter; her ensign having been previously shot away.
This battle was fairly fought, side by side, and the victory not only gallantly but neatly won. Jones states, in his account of the cruise, that no one on board the Drake placed her people, including the volunteers, at less than one hundred and sixty, while some admitted there must have been one hundred and ninety souls on board. He estimated the loss of the Drake, in killed and wounded, at forty-two, though this exceeds the English statement by nearly half. The volunteers must have rendered the official account of the English very problematical, and there was somewhat of conjecture in that of Jones. Captain Burden fell by a musket-shot in the head, though he was found alive on taking possession of the prize. The English first lieutenant, also, was mortally wounded. The Drake's fore and main-topsail-yards were both down on the cap - main-top-gallant yard and gaff were hanging up and down, the jib was in the water, and, otherwise, the ship had sustained much injury aloft.
The Ranger suffered far less. She had two men killed and six wounded. Mr. Wallingford, the lieutenant who landed at Whitehaven, was one of the former, and a seaman among the wounded subsequently died. The gunner was hurt, and Mr. Powers, a midshipman, lost an arm. Jones remarks, in one of his letters, that he gave the dead a "spacious grave."
The weather continued good, and the repairs proceeded actively. At first Jones intended to steer the direct course for France, but the wind coming foul, he changed his purpose, and passed up channel again. The evening the of the 25th, or that of the day after the engagement, the two ships were off the bay of Belfast, once more, and here Jones dismissed the fishermen he had taken. He gave them a boat, money, and other necessaries, and lent them a sail of the Drake's, as a hint to those ashore concerning the fate of that vessel
On the 8th of May, the Ranger, with the Drake in company, arrived safely at Brest. Some bad weather had been encountered on the passage, but no event worthy of being mentioned occurred, unless it be that Jones felt himself bound to arrest his first lieutenant, Simpson, for disobedience of orders, in managing the prize. This affair gave him a good deal of trouble subsequently, though nothing of serious moment grew out of it. The Ranger appears to have been well manned but badly officered, as would be likely to happen with a vessel fitted in an eastern American port, at that early day.
A great sensation was produced by this cruise of the Ranger. It lasted but twenty-eight days; only one week passed between the arrival off the Isle of Man and the action with the Drake. Every hour of this time was passed in ceaseless activity. One enterprise was no sooner ended than another was begun. The reader has only to cast an eye at the map, to understand the boldness with which the ship moved. Her audacity probably caused her impunity, for there was scarcely a more critical position, as to mere localities, in the narrow seas, than that into which Jones carried her. It is true, he knew every foot of the way, but he must have known the dangers of his path, as well as its disadvantages. The attempt on Whitehaven betokened a military mind, though it would scarcely be justified under any other principles of hostility than those so much in vogue with the English themselves. It was merited retaliation, and only failed through the incompetence of subordinates. Throughout the whole of this cruise, indeed, Jones displayed the highest species of courage; that of justly appreciating his own resources, and of not exaggerating dangers, a union of spirit and judgment that ever produces the best commanders.
Jones has been censured for having selected the region of his birth as the scene of his exploits. While it has been admitted that he had a perfect moral and political right to espouse the cause of his adopted country, it has been urged that he ought to have refrained from selecting, as the scene of his exploits, the very port out of which he had formerly sailed. We apprehend that this is the reasoning of a sickly and superficial sentimentality, rather than of healthful sentiment. Had he captured and destroyed fifty sail belonging to Whitehaven, at sea, nothing would have been thought of the occurrence; but to destroy the same, or any other number, in their port is ranked as an error, and by some it is classed with crimes! Others have even fancied that a desire to revenge himself for imaginary wrongs led him to the coast of Scotland, and to Whitehaven, and that, under the pretence of serving public interests, he was, in truth, avenging private griefs. A calm consideration of the facts will show the injustice of these charges.
Jones was ordered to France. He was ordered to cruise against England, on the English coast. In this latter particular, he followed the precedents of Wickes and Conyngham. In selecting the scene of his exploits, he went into a sea with which he was familiar, an immense advantage of itself, and one, in a military point of view, he would have been censurable for neglecting, under the circumstances. If it were justifiable to retaliate for the enemy's burnings, it was proper to do so under the greatest advantages, and at the least risk to those employed on the service, and this could be done but by the greatest intimacy with the localities. To say that an officer is not to turn his knowledge to account in this way, because it was acquired under the sanction of ordinary intercourse and a state of peace, is like saying that Jones should not use the knowledge of navigation acquired in an English school to the injury of an English vessel. If he had a right to bear arms at all, in such a contest, he had a perfect right to use all the means practiced in civilized warfare, in effecting his objects.
That private feelings were kept out of view, in this short but brilliant cruise, is seen from the fact that no injury was done, or attempted on shore, when the means offered. It would have been as easy to set fire to the house, on St. Mary's Isle, as to carry off the plate. The shipping alone was fired at Whitehaven, and generally the conduct of Jones showed a spirit of generous hostility, rather than one of vindictive resentment. In a civil war, men must thus use the local information acquired in youth, or neglect their duties. No class of warriors do this more than sailors, who constantly avail themselves of knowledge obtained in the confidence of friendly intercourse to harass their enemies. It is proper to add that the letter of Jones to Lady Selkirk, apologizing for taking the plate, was dated the day the Ranger anchored at Brest.
The cruise of the Ranger brought Jones much reputation. Still he had many causes of complaint, being greatly in want of funds. His difficulties were, in truth, the difficulties of the country and the times, rather than of any intention to harass him. He was fortunate enough to make many important friends, and was much caressed in the naval circles of Brest. His recent success gave a species of authority to his bold opinions, and it was not long ere various schemes were entertained for employing him on other expeditions against the enemy. The Duc de Chartres, afterward the celebrated Egalite, interested himself to obtain the Indien, still, for Jones, the ship being then at the disposal of the King of France. All Jones' projects had a far-sighted reach, as was shown in his wish to burn the shipping at Whitehaven, which he says would have greatly distressed Ireland for coal. Some of his schemes were directed to convoys, others to the destruction of shipping, and some again to descents on the coast. Even Franklin entertained the hope of getting possession of the Indien for him, after all; a plan for which was actually arranged with the French Minister of Marine. An exchange of prisoners was agreed on, with a view to man the vessel, one of the important results which attended the late cruise. It is an evidence how much the public appreciated that cruise, that the Prince of Nassau, an officer who subsequently caused Jones much trouble, had an idea of sailing under his orders.
The breaking out of the war between England and France defeated many of Jones' hopes, though it rendered the connection of the Americans with the latter country much more simple than it had been. Holland objected to giving up the Indien, and thus put an end to all his expectations from that quarter. To increase his vexations, the difficulty with his first lieutenant remained unsettled, notwithstanding his own efforts to obtain a court-martial, it being the opinion of the commissioners and others, that Jones had himself released his subordinate from arrest in a way that precluded a trial. This matter terminated by Simpson's sailing for America, in command of the Ranger, leaving Jones in France to push his projects of higher aim.
For some time, Jones expected to receive different frigates from the French Minister, which were to serve under the American flag. Many difficulties arose to disappoint him, until all the various plans were concluded by the scheme actually adopted. As this enterprise was connected with the great action of Jones' life, it is necessary to explain it a little in detail.
M. Le Ray, a banker of Paris much connected with America, and who, from owning the estate of Chaumont, was styled Le Ray de Chaumont, had taken an active part in Jones' plans. Under his direction, an arrangement, or concordat, to the following effect was made. The French officers employed were to receive American commissions for the cruise, and rank and command were to be according to seniority. This provision left Jones at the head of the squadron, he being the oldest American captain connected with the expedition. Succession was provided for, with the exception of the command of the Cerf, a cutter, the first lieutenant of which craft was to succeed his own captain, in the event of his removal or loss. The distribution of prize money was to be in the proportions regulated by the laws of the two countries, respectively, and the prizes were to be sent in to the order of M. Le Ray.
In addition to the express provisions of this concordat, which was signed by all the commanders and M. Le Ray, it was understood that the latter, as apparent agent of the King of France, should furnish certain vessels, which were to revert to their former owners after the cruise, and that the American commissioners were to order the Alliance, a new frigate which had recently come to Europe, to join the squadron.
There is still something mysterious about the character of this celebrated expedition. There is no doubt that Jones believed that he was to be fairly employed as a naval captain of an allied power, in command against the common enemy, in conformity with the ordinary practice on such occasions; but it is by no means certain that this was his real position. It is true, that the commissioners gave legality to the enterprise, but there are certain reasons for thinking that private cupidity may have had more connection with it than is usual with public measures. Intrigue was so common and so elaborate in France, that one is hardly safe in forming any precise opinion under the circumstances, though nothing is more apparent than the fact that Jones' squadron was not composed of ships of war belonging to France, united with ships of war belonging to America, in order to carry out the purposes of ordinary warfare. Still, most of the expense appears to have been borne by the French government, and joint orders were received from the public functionaries of the two countries. Jones had a strong distaste for the concordat, which probably gave the whole affair too much of the character of a privateering compact, and he subsequently declared that he would not have signed it, had it not been presented at the last moment, by M. Le Ray, himself, under circumstances that rendered a refusal difficult.
Under the arrangement made, a squadron was finally, though very imperfectly, equipped. It contained five vessels, or three frigates, a brig, and a cutter. The ships were the Duke of Duras, the Alliance, and the Pallas; the brig was called the Vengeance, and the cutter the Cerf, or Stag. Of all these crafts, but two were regularly constructed for war, the Alliance 32, and the Stag 12. The Alliance was an exceedingly fast America-built ship of the class of large thirty-twos. All the other vessels were French.
After all his delays and disappointments, Jones could get no better vessel for his own pennant than the Duc de Duras, and Indiaman, then fourteen years old. She proved in the end to be both dull and rotten, though she was purchased as fast and sound. She was a long, single-decked ship, and was pierced for twenty-eight guns on her main-deck. Her armament was intended for eighteens. This would have placed her about on a level, as to force, with the English thirty-eights of that day, supposing that she carried ten or twelve light guns on her quarter-deck and forecastle. The eighteens were yet to be cast, however, and failing to appear, Jones put twelves in their places. To supply this material deficiency, he caused twelve ports to be cut in the gun-room, or below, where he mounted six eighteens, intending to fight them all on one side in smooth water. Eight nines and sixes were placed above, making a total armament of forty-two guns; or of twenty-four in broadside, supposing the six eighteens to be fought together. Three hundred and eighty souls composed her crew. The last was a motley set, including natives of nearly every known maritime Christian nation, and having no less than one hundred and thirty of them enlisted in the character of soldiers.
The Alliance had an ordinary American crew, while the other vessels appear to have been purely French. To render the whole more incongruous, however, the Alliance had a Frenchman for a captain; a person of the name of Landais, whom Congress had appointed in compliment to its new ally. M. Landais had been educated in the navy of his native country, but had left it in consequence of an irascible temper, that was constantly getting him into trouble, and which proved to be of great disservice to this expedition in the end. Some persons even called his sanity in question.
Jones found a few native Americans of whom to make sea officers and petty officers for the Duc de Duras, but he mentions in one of his statements that altogether they did not exceed thirty. He changed the name of his vessel, however, to the Goodman Richard, or le Bon Homme Richard, in compliment to Franklin, as near an approach to nationality as that circumstance would well allow.
This motley squadron sailed from Groix, June 19th, 1779, or more than a year after Jones' return from his cruise in the Ranger. All that precious time had been wasted in endeavoring to obtain a command. The first object was to convoy some vessels southward, which duty was successfully performed. An accident occurred, however, by means of which the Alliance ran into the Richard, injuring both vessels so much as to render it necessary to return to port. The vessels separated, by order, to do this, leaving the Richard alone for a day or two. While thus situated, two English cruisers were made, and Jones offered battle, but it is supposed the enemy mistook him for a ship of the line, as they carried a press of canvas to escape. The occurrence is of no importance, except to show that the people of the Richard were ready to fight; Jones praising the alacrity they manifested.
The rottenness of the old Indiaman does not appear to have been discovered until after she got back to the roads of Groix, in order to be repaired. While the work was in progress, a court-martial sat, and broke the first lieutenant of the Richard. About this time, a cartel arrived at Nantes, bringing in more than a hundred exchanged American seamen, from Mill prison. A short time before this exchange was made, Mr. Richard Dale, late a master's mate of the US brig Lexington, had made his escape from the same prison, and had joined Jones in his old capacity. This gentleman, a native of Virginia, and subsequently the well-known naval captain of his name, and was now made first lieutenant of the Richard by Jones, who had blank commissions by him. The men of the cartel were applied to, and many of them entered, thus giving the Richard a respectable body of Americans to help to sustain the honor of the flag she wore. Among the exchanged prisoners were two gentlemen of the name of Lunt, both natives of New Hampshire, and distant relatives. Henry Lunt was made second lieutenant of the Richard, while Cutting Lunt, his kinsman, is sometimes called the third lieutenant, and sometimes the master. Both these officers were respectable men, and appear to have given Jones satisfaction, until adverse circumstances deprived him of their services. In consequence of this arrangement, it is believed that every quarter-deck sea-officer of the Richard was a native American, Jones himself and one midshipman excepted.
It is proof of the native goodness of Jones' heart, that, while lying at l'Orient, surrounded by perplexities, he sent a bill for 30 [pounds] to his relatives in Scotland. This was not his only remittance, by several; and, as money was far from being plenty with him in that day, they show the strength of his affections, and his desire to serve his sisters.
When all was ready to go out again, two privateers, the Monsieur and the Grandeville, put themselves under Jones' orders, raising his force to seven sail. As the Monieur was frigate-built, and carried forty guns, her junction was thought a matter of no slight importance.
On the 10th August, Jones issued some general orders to his captains, laying great stress on the point of not parting company; the commonest of all embarrassments with an irregular force at sea. The Richard had not proved a fast ship; the Pallas, a light 20 gun ship, was decidedly dull, having also been built for a merchantman; the Vengeance was barely respectable, while the Cerf was every way a noble cutter, though of trifling force. The Alliance, one of the fastest ships that ever floated, had been badly ballasted by Mons. Landais, on some philosophical principles of his own, and lost her qualities for that cruise. Such, then, was the character of the force, with which Jones once more ventured into the narrow seas, in quest of glory.
The orders under which Jones sailed on his next and most remarkable cruise, directed him to go to the westward of Scilly, and to pass the west coast of Ireland, doubling the extremity of Scotland, and remaining some time on the Dogger Bank. By returning to this port of departure, this would have been making the complete circuit of Great Britain and Ireland, most of the time keeping the land aboard. The instructions, however, ordered him to put into the Texel for further orders. It was understood that this last destination was pointed out in the hope of putting the Indien under Jones, that ship still remaining in Holland, in a species of political durance. She was not released, until England declared war against Holland, when the arrangement was made with South Carolina, as already mentioned.
The squadron left the roads of Groix, the second time, early on the morning of August 15th, 1779. One day out, it recaptured a large Dutch ship, laden with French property. In consequence of some misunderstanding with the commander of the Monsieur, which grew out of the disposition of this prize, that ship separated from the other vessels, which saw her no more. The Monsieur was subsequently captured by the enemy, and, as is believed, on this cruise. On the 20th, a brig, from Limerick to London, was taken, and ordered in.
The 23d, the squadron was off Cape Clear, having doubled Scilly, and passed up the west coast of England, in the intervening time. Here it fell calm, and Jones sent several of the Richard's boats to seize a brig that was lying some distance to the north-west. As evening approached, he found it necessary to place his own barge in the water, containing a cockswain and six men, to keep the ship's head off shore. The brig was captured, and towed toward the squadron. Just at this moment, the men in the barge cut the tow-line, and pulled for the shore. Several shots were fired at the fugitives, but without effect. Seeing this, Mr. Cutting Lunt, who appears to have been the prize, took four soldiers in a boat, a pursued the deserters, becoming lost in a fog. The Richard fired guns, as signals to the master, but he never returned. Counting himself, there were seventeen person in his boat, making a total loss to the Richard, including the fugitives, of twenty-four men. It is now known that, on the morning of the 23d, (civil time,) the seven men landed at Ballinskellix, in the county of Kerry, and that the other boat landed at the same place, the same day, about one, in pursuit. Mr. Lunt and his people were arrested, and sent to Mill prison. Jones intimates that he understood his master died in that place of confinement, but, in this, he was misinformed. Mr. Lunt was liberated, in the course of a year or two, and was subsequently lost at sea. This was Cutting Lunt, it will be remembered; his kinsman, Henry Lunt, still remaining in the ship, as her second lieutenant. Through the reports of the deserters and prisoners, the character of the squadron, which was plainly visible as soon as the fog dispersed, became known on shore, and its presence created great uneasiness. The linen ships were supposed to be Jones' object, and precautions were taken accordingly. It is worthy of remark, that Jones states, the master saw the Cerf, inshore, whither she had been sent to reconnoitre, and to look for the missing boats, but the cutter showed English colors, and fired at the boat, which induced Mr. Lunt to land, as a last resort. To add to the misfortune, the cutter herself got separated in the fog, and did not rejoin the squadron.
It was at this time, that Jones had a serious quarrel with his second in command, M. Landais. Insubordination soon began seriously to show itself; the conduct of the Cerf being very unaccountable. She went back to France. It is probable that the loss of so many men induced the French officers to distrust the fidelity of the Richard's crew; and it is known that this distrust influenced the conduct of the Pallas, on a most trying occasion, a few weeks later. On the 26th, the Grandeville was sent in, with a prize. This reduced the force of the squadron to four vessels, viz., the Richard, Alliance, Pallas, and Vengeance.
It was the intention of Jones to remain a week longer off Cape Clear, but Capt. Landais seemed so apprehensive of the approach of a superior force, that he yielded to the opinion of his subordinate. On the 26th, it blowed fresh; the commodore accordingly made the signal to stand to the northward, the Alliance parting company the same night. On the 31st, the Richard, Pallas, and Vengeance, were off Cape Wrath, the northwestern extremity of the island of Great Britain, where the former captured a heavy Letter-of-Marque, of twenty-two guns, laden with naval stores for the enemy's vessels on the American lakes. While this ship was chasing, the Alliance hove in sight, and joined in the chase, having another Letter-of-Marque in company, a prize. These two ships were manned from the Alliance, at Landais' request; and the latter sent them into Norway, contrary to orders, where both were restored to the English by the Danish government. On the night of the 8th, the Alliance again parted company, in a gale of wind.
Jones kept well off the land, the weather being thick, and the wind foul. On the 13th, however, the Cheviot Hills, in the south-eastern part of Scotland, became visible, and the commodore now seriously set about the execution of some of his larger plans. His intention was to land at Leith, the port of Edinburgh itself, and, not only to lay the place under contribution, but to seize the shipping he might find in the Forth. He had hopes that even the Scottish capital might be frightened into a temporary submission. This was a highly characteristic project, and one worthy of the military audacity of the man. Its great merit, in addition to its boldness and importance, was its strong probability of success. The late Com. Dale, who was to act a most important part in the enterprise, and who was a man of singular simplicity and moderation of character and temperament, assured the writer that he never could see any reason why the attack should have been defeated, beyond the obstacle that actually arose. Jones himself intimates that his two colleagues, present, (for so he bitterly styled his captains, in consequence of the terms of the concordat,) threw cold water on his views, until he pointed out to them the probable amount of the contributions of two such places as Leith and Edinburgh. A delay occurred, moreover, in consequence of the momentary absence of the Pallas and Vengeance, which vessels had given chase to the southward, a circumstance that compelled the Richard to quit the Forth, after she had entered it alone, and this at a moment when she might have secured a twenty-gun ship and two cutters, all of which were lying in Leith roads, unsuspicious of danger; though it would have compelled him to abandon the other and principal objects of the attempt. In order to join his consorts, and consult his captains, therefore, Jones was compelled to quit the Forth, after having once entered it. It appears he had found a man ready to give him information, but the golden opportunity was lost, in consequence of the doubts and misgivings of his subordinates.
Still Jones determined to make the attempt. On the 15th, the Richard, Pallas, and Vengeance, entered the Forth in company, turning up with the tide, against a head wind. By this time the alarm had been given on shore, and guns were mounted at Leith, to receive the strangers. A cutter had been watching the squadron for several hours, also; but Jones deemed all this immaterial. The ships had got up as high as Inchkeith, the island which shelters the roads seaward, the boats were in the water and manned. Mr. Dale, who was to superintend and command the maritime part of the debarkation, had received his instructions, and was on the point of descending into his boat, when a squall struck the ships, and induced an order to take the people from the boats, to clue up and clue down. Jones held on against the wind as long as he found it possible, but, the squall turning to a gale, he was compelled to bear up before it, and was driven out of the Frith again, at a much faster rate than he had entered it. The gale was short, but so severe that one of the prizes in company foundered. It moderated in the afternoon, but Jones having plainly seen the cutter watching him, conceived it too late to hope for a surprise, his only rational ground for expecting success.
It is a proof how much doubt existed concerning the true character of Jones' vessels, among the people on shore, that a member of parliament sent off, to the Richard, a messenger, to ask for powder and shot; stating that he had heard Paul Jones was on the coast, and that he wished to be ready for him. A barrel of powder was sent in answer, but the "honorable gentleman" was told the vessel had no shot of the size he requested. On this occasion, the ships were seen turning up the Forth, as they stood in quite near to the north shore, and, it being Sunday, thousands were out viewing the scene, which caused a great clamor, and made a deep impression.8
Jones had now fresh projects to annoy the enemy; designs on Hull or Newcastle, as is thought. His captains, however, refused to sustain him, and he was reluctantly obliged to abandon his plans. His object was glory; theirs appears to have been profit. It ought to be mentioned, that all the young officers sustained the commodore, and professed a readiness to follow wherever he would lead. Jones had a respect for the opinion of Capt. Cottineau, of the Pallas, and it is believed he yielded more to his persuasions than to those of all the rest of his commanders. This officer seemed to think any delay of moment would bring a superior force against them. The commodore viewed the matter more coolly, well knowing that the transmission of intelligence, and the collection of three or four vessels, was a matter that required some little time.
Between the 17th and 21st, many collier and coasters were captured. Most of them were sunk, though one or two were released, and a sloop was ransomed by the Pallas, contrary to orders. On the latter day, the ships were off Flamborough Head, where the Pallas chased to the north-east, leaving the Richard and Vengeance in pursuit of vessels in a directly opposite quarter. Jones overtook and sunk a collier, late in the afternoon. Several craft then hove in sight, and one was chased ashore. Soon after, a brig from Holland was captured, and, at daylight, next morning, a considerable fleet was seen inshore, which kept aloof, on account of the appearance of the Bon Homme Richard. Finding it impossible to decoy them out, Jones used some artifices to delude a pilot, and two boats came alongside. The pilots were deceived, and gave Jones all the information they possessed.
As it was now impracticable to bring the shipping out of the Humber, on account of the state of the wind and tide, and the Pallas not being in sight, the commodore turned his attention to looking for his consorts. He hauled off the land, therefore, making the best of his way back to Flamborough Head, after passing several hours in endeavoring to entice the ships out of the Humber.
In the course of the night of the 22d, two ships were seen, and chased for several hours, when, finding himself near them, Jones hove-to, about three in the morning, waiting for light. When the day returned, the strangers were found to be the Pallas and the Alliance; the latter of which had not been seen since she parted company off Cape Wrath.
After communicating with his consorts, Jones chased a brig that was lying-to to windward. About meridian, however, a large ship was observed coming round Flamborough Head, when Mr. Henry Lunt, the second lieutenant of the Richard, was thrown into one of the pilot boats, with fifteen men, and ordered to seize the brig, while the Richard made sail toward the strange ship. Soon after, a fleet of forty-one sail was seen stretching out from behind the Head, bearing NNE from the Richard. The wind was light at the southward, and these vessels were a convoy from the Baltic, turning down the North Sea, towards the Straits of Dover, bound to London. This placed Jones to windward and a little in shore, if the projection of the headland be excepted.
As soon as the commodore ascertained that he was in the vicinity of this fleet, he made a signal of recall to the pilot boat, and another of a general chase to his squadron. The first was probably unseen or disregarded, for it was not obeyed: and the officer and men in the pilot boat remained out of their vessel during most of the trying scenes of that eventful day. As twenty-four officers and men had been captured, or had deserted, off Cape Clear, these sixteen increased the number of absentees to forty; if to these we add some who had been sent away in prizes, the crew of the Richard, which consisted of but three hundred and eighty, all told, the day she sailed, was now diminished to little more than three hundred souls, of whom a large proportion were the quasi marines, or soldiers, who had entered for the cruise.
Jones now crossed royal yards and made sail for the convoy. He had intelligence of this fleet, and knew that it was under the charge of Capt. Pearson, of the Serapis 44, who had the Countess of Scarborough 20, Capt. Piercy, in company. As the scene we are about to relate is one memorable in naval annals, it may be well to mention the force of the vessels engaged.
That of the Richard has been already given. The Pallas mounted thirty guns, of light calibre, and was perhaps more than a third heavier than the Scarborough, the vessel she subsequently engaged. The Alliance was a large thirty-two, mounting forty guns, mostly twelve pounders. She had a full, but indifferent crew of about 300 souls, when she left the Roads of Groix, of which near, if not quite, fifty were absent in prizes. Of the Vengeance, which had no part in the events of the day, it is unnecessary to speak.
On the part of the enemy, many of the convoy were armed, and, by acting in concert, they might have given a good deal of occupation to the Pallas and Vengeance, while the two men-of-war fought the Richard and Alliance. As it was, however, all of these ships sought safety in flight. The Serapis was a new vessel, that both sailed and worked well, of a class that was then a good deal used in the North Sea, Baltic, and the narrow waters generally; and which was sometimes brought into the line, in battles between the short ships that were much preferred, in that day, in all the seas mentioned. She was a 44, on two decks; having an armament below of 20 eighteens; one of 20 nines, on the upper gun-deck; and one of 10 sixes, on her quarter-deck and forecastle. This is believed to have been her real force, though Jones speaks of her, in one place, as having been pierced for 56 instead of 50 guns. The former was the usual force of what was called a fifty-gun ship, or a vessel like the Leander, which assailed the Chesapeake in 1807. Sands, the most original writer of authority on the subject of Paul Jones, or of any reasoning powers of much weight, infers from some of his calculations and information that the Serapis had 400 souls on board her at the commencement of the action which is now to be related. The English accounts state her crew to have been 320; a number that is quite sufficient for her metal and spars, and which is more in conformity with the practice of the English marine. The Indiamen, stated by Sands to have been obtained by Capt. Pearson, in Copenhagen, may have been 15 Lascars, who are known to have been on board, and to have been included in the 320 souls. It is not probable that the crews of the Richard and Serapis differed a dozen in number. The Countess of Scarborough was a hired ship in the British navy, differing in no respect from a regular man-of-war, except in the circumstance that she belonged to a private owner instead of the king. This was not unusual in that marine, the circumstance being rather in favor of the qualities of the vessel, since the admiralty, on the coast of England, would not be likely to hire any but a good ship. Her officers and people belonged to the navy, as a matter of course. There is a trifling discrepancy as to the force of the Scarborough, though the point is of no great moment, under the circumstances. Jones stated that she was a ship mounting 24 guns on one deck, while other accounts give her armament as 22 guns in all. She probably had a crew of from 120 to 150 men.
As soon as the leading English vessels saw that strangers, and probably enemies, were to the southward, and to windward, they gave the alarm, by firing guns, letting fly their top-gallant sheets, tacking together, and making the best of their way in toward the land again. At this moment the men-of-war were astern, with a view to keep the convoy in its place; and being near the shore, the authorities of Scarborough had sent a boat off to the Serapis, to apprise her commander of the presence of Paul Jones' fleet. By these means, the two senior officers were fully aware with whom they had to contend. Capt. Pearson fired two guns, and showed the proper signals, in order to call in his leading ships, but, as is very customary with merchant vessels, the warning and order were unattended to, until the danger was seen to be pressing. While the merchantmen were gathered in behind the Head, or ran off to leeward, the Serapis signaled the Scarborough to follow, and stood gallantly out to sea, on the starboard tack, hugging the wind.
Jones now threw out a signal to his own vessels to form the line of battle. The Alliance, which ought to have dropped in astern of the Richard, paid no attention to this order, though she approached the enemy to reconnoitre. In passing the Pallas, Capt. Landais remarked that if the larger of the enemy's ships proved to be a fifty-gun ship, all they had to do was to endeavor to escape! This was not the best possible disposition with which to commence the action. Soon after the Pallas spoke the Richard, and asked for orders. Jones directed her to lead toward the enemy, but the order was not obeyed, as will be seen by what followed.
The wind being light, several hours passed before the different evolutions mentioned could be carried into execution. As soon as Capt. Pearson found himself outside of all his convoy, and the latter out of danger, he tacked in shore, with a view to cover the merchantmen. This change of course induced Jones to ware and carry sail, with a view to cut him off from the land. By this time it was evening, and this sudden change of course, on the part of the Serapis, seems to have given rise to a distrust, on the part of Capt. Cottineau, of the Pallas, concerning the control she was under. There were so many disaffected men in the Richard, English and other Europeans, that the security of the ship appears to have been a matter of doubt among all the other vessels. When those on board the Pallas, therefore, perceived the Richard crowding sail inshore, they believed Jones was killed by his own people, and that the mutineers had run away with the ship, intending to carry her into a British port. With this impression, Capt. Cottineau hauled his wind, tacked, and laid the Pallas' head off shore. In consequence of this manoeuvre, and the Vengeance's being far astern, nothing like a line was formed on this occasion.
Jones' object was to cut his enemy off from the land. Keeping this in view, he pressed down in the Richard, regardless of his consorts, passing the Alliance lying-to, out of gun-shot, on the weather quarter of the principal English ship. It was now dark, but Jones watched his enemy with a night-glass, and perceiving that he could cut off the Serapis from getting under the guns of Scarborough Castle, he continued to approach the Englishman under a press of sail. Soon after the Pallas wore round and followed. The Vengeance had directions to order the pilot-boat back, and then to pick up the convoy; but as these last were inshore, and tolerably safe, she seems to have done little, or nothing. In the action that ensued, she took no part whatever.
It was half-past seven, or eight o'clock, when the Richard and Serapis drew near to each other. The former was to windward, both vessel being on the larboard tack. The Serapis hailed, demanding "What ship is that?" "I can't hear what you say," was returned from the Richard. "What ship is that?" repeated the Englishman - "answer immediately, or I shall be under the necessity of firing into you." The Richard now delivered her broadside, which was returned from the Serapis so promptly as to render the two discharges nearly simultaneous. In an instant, the two ships were enveloped in smoke and darkness. The Richard backed her topsails, in order to deaden her way and keep her station to windward. She then filled, and passed ahead of the Serapis, crossing her bows, becalming the Serapis partially. The latter was a short ship, and worked quick. She was, moreover, a good sailer, and Capt. Pearson keeping his luff, as soon as his canvas filled again, he came up on the weather quarter of Jones, taking the wind out of his sails; both vessels fighting the other broadsides, or using the starboard guns of the Serapis and the larboard of the Richard. It will be remembered that the Richard had six eighteens mounted in her gun-room. As the water was smooth, Jones relied greatly on the service of this battery, which, in fact, was his principal dependence with an adversary like the Serapis. Unfortunately two of these old, defective pieces burst at the first discharge, blowing up the main-deck above them, beside killing and wounding any men. The alarm was so great as to destroy all confidence in these guns, which made but eight discharges in all, when their crews abandoned them. This, in addition to the actual damage done, was a most serious disadvantage. It reduced the Richard's armament at once to 32 guns, or, as some authorities say, to 34; leaving her with the metal of a 32 gun frigate, to contend with a full-manned and full-armed 44. The combat, now, was in fact between an eighteen-pounder and twelve-pounder ship; an inequality of metal, to say nothing of that in guns, that seemed to render the chance of the Richard nearly hopeless.
Half an hour was consumed in these preliminary evolutions, the wind being light, and the vessels nearly stationary a part of the time. When the Richard first approached her adversary, it will be remembered she was quite alone, the Vengeance having been left leagues behind, the Alliance lying-to, out of gun-shot, to windward, and the Pallas not bearing up until her commander had ascertained there was no mutiny on board the commodore, by seeing him commence the action. All this time the Countess of Scarborough was coming up, and she now closed so near as to be able to assist her consort. The Americans affirm that this ship did fire at least one raking broadside at the Richard, doing her some injury. On the other hand, Capt. Piercy, her commander, states that he was afraid to engage, as the smoke and obscurity rendered it impossible for him to tell friend from enemy. It is possible that both accounts are true, Capt. Piercy meaning merely to excuse his subsequent course after having fired once or twice at the Richard. At all events, the connection of this vessel with the battle between the two principal ships must have been very trifling, as she soon edged away to a distance, and, after exchanging a distant broadside or two with the Alliance, she was brought to close action by the Pallas, which ship compelled her to strike, after a creditable resistance of an hour's duration. This vessel fully occupied the Pallas, first in engaging her, then in securing the prisoners, until after the conflict terminated.
When the Serapis came up on the weather quarter of the Richard, as has been mentioned, she kept her luff, passing slowly by, until she found herself so far ahead and to windward, as to induce Capt. Pearson to think he could fall broad off, cross the Richard's fore foot, and rake her. This manoeuvre was attempted, but finding there was not room to effect her purpose, the Serapis came to the wind again, as fast as she could, in order to prevent going foul. This uncertain movement brought the two ships in a line, the Serapis leading. It so far deadened the way of the English ship, that the Richard ran into her, on her weather quarter. In this situation neither vessel could fire, nor could either crew board, the collision being necessarily gentle, and nothing touching but the jib-boom of the American. In this state the two vessels remained a minute or two.
While in this singular position, the firing having entirely ceased, and it being quite dark, a voice from the Serapis demanded of the Richard, if she had struck. Jones answered promptly, "I have not yet begun to fight." As the ships had now been engaged nearly, or quite, an hour, this was not very encouraging, certainly, to the Englishman's hope of victory, though he immediately set about endeavoring to secure it. The yards of the Serapis were trimmed on the larboard tack, and her sails were full as the Richard touched her; the latter ship bracing all aback, the two vessels soon parted. As soon as Jones thought he had room, he filled on the other tack, and drew ahead again. The Serapis, however, most probably with a view of passing close athwart, either the Richard's fore foot or stern, luffed into the wind, laid all aback forward, and keeping her helm down while she shivered after sails, she attempted to break round off on her heel. At this moment, Jones seeing his enemy coming down, thought he might lay him athwart hawse, and drew ahead with that object. In the smoke and obscurity, the moon not having yet risen, each party miscalculated his distance, and just before the Serapis had begun to come up on the other tack, her jib-boom passed in over the Richard's poop, getting foul of the mizzen rigging. Jones was perfectly satisfied, by this time, that he had no chance in a cannonade, and gladly seized the opportunity of grappling. He had sent the acting master for a hawser as soon as he perceived what was likely to occur, but it not arriving in time, with his own hands he lashed the enemy's bowsprit to the Richard's mizzen-mast, by means of the Serapis' rigging that had been shot away, and which was hanging loose beneath the spar. Other fastenings soon made all secure.9
The wind being light, the movements of the two vessels were slow in proportion. It was owing to this circumstance, and to the fact that the Serapis was just beginning to gather way as she came foul, that the collision itself did little damage. As soon as Capt. Pearson perceived he was foul, he dropped an anchor under foot, in the hope that the Richard would drift clear of him. The fastenings having been already made, this result was not obtained; and the ships tending to the tide, which was now in the same direction with the wind, the latter brought the stern of the Serapis close in, alongside of the bows of the Richard. In this position the ships became so interlocked, by means of their spars, spare anchors, and other protruding objects, for the moment, as to become inseparable.
As the stern of the Serapis swung round, her lower deck ports were lowered, in order to prevent being boarded. The ships' sides touching, or at least being so close as to prevent the ports from being opened again, the guns were fired inboard, blowing away the lids. This was renewing the action, under circumstances which, in ordinary cases, would have soon brought it to a termination. Wherever a gun bore, it necessarily cleared all before it, and, in reloading, the rammers were frequently passed into hostile port, in order to be entered into the muzzles of their proper guns. It is evident that such a conflict could be maintained only under very extraordinary circumstances.
The eighteens of the Serapis soon destroyed every thing within their range, nor was it long before the main-deck guns of the Richard were, in a great measure, silenced. A considerable number of the men who had been at the eighteens of the Richard's gun-room, had remained below after their pieces were abandoned, but the heavy fire of the Serapis' lower guns soon start them up, and joining some of those who had been driven away from the twelves, they got upon the forecastle. As the Richard was a longer ship than the Serapis, this point was comparatively safe, and thence a fire of musketry was kept up on the enemy's tops and decks. These men, also, threw grenades. The tops, too, were not idle, but kept up a smart fire of muskets, and the men began to resort to grenades also.
In this stage of the action, the Serapis had the cannonading nearly to herself. All her guns, with the exception of those on the quarter-deck and forecastle, appear to have been worked, while, on the part of the Richard, the fire was reduced to two nines on the quarter-deck, two or three of the twelves, and the musketry. The consequences were, that the Richard was nearly torn to pieces below, while the upper pat of the Serapis was deserted, with the exception of a few officers. Capt. Pearson himself appears to have sent his people from the quarter-deck guns. An advantage of this sort, once gained, was easily maintained, rendering it virtually impossible for the losing party to recover the ground it had lost.
The moon rose abut the time the ships came foul. Until this occurred, the Alliance had not been near the principal combatants. She now passed some distance to leeward, and crossed the bows of the Richard and the stern of the Serapis, firing at such a distance as rendered it impossible for her to make sure of her enemy, even if she knew which was which. As soon as her guns ceased to bear, she up helm, and ran a considerable distance farther to leeward, hovering about until the Scarborough submitted. Capt. Landais now spoke the Pallas, when Capt. Cottineau begged him to go to the assistance of the Richard, offering, at the same time, to go himself if the Alliance would take charge of his prize. All these facts appear under oath in the course of the controversy which grew out of the events of this memorable night.
Ashamed to remain idle at such a moment, and in the face of such remonstrances, Capt. Landais hauled up, under very easy canvas, however, for the two combatants, and making a couple of stretches under his topsails, he passed the bows of the Serapis and stern of the Richard, opening with grape, the last shot to be used under such circumstances; then keeping away a little, he certainly fired into the Richard's larboard quarter, or that most distant from the enemy. Some of the witnesses even affirm that this fire was maintained until the Alliance had actually passed the Richard's beam, on her way to leeward.
These movements of the Alliance induced Sands aptly to term that frigate the comet of this bloody system. It is difficult to account for her evolutions, without supposing treachery, or insanity, on the part of her commander. For the latter supposition there are some grounds, his subsequent deportment inducing the government to put him out of employment, as a man at least partially deranged. Still it is difficult to suppose the officers would allow their men to fire into the Richard's quarter, as mentioned, unless they mistook the ship. On the other hand, it is affirmed by the witnesses that three lanterns were shown on the off side of the Richard, the regular signal of reconnoisance; that fifty voices called out, begging their friends to cease firing, and this, too, when so near that the remonstrances must have been heard. By direction of Jones, an officer hailed, too, and ordered Landais to lay the enemy aboard. A question was then put to ascertain whether the order was understood, and an answer was given in the affirmative.
The effect of this transit of the Alliance was very disastrous to the Richard. Her fire dismounted a gun or two on board the latter ship, extinguished several lanterns, did a good deal of mischief aloft, and induced many of the people to desert their quarters, under the impression that the English on board the Alliance had got possession of the ship, and were aiding the enemy. It is, indeed, an important feature in the peculiarities of this remarkable cruise, nd one that greatly enhances the merit of the man who used such discordant materials, that the two principal vessels distrusted each other's ability to look down revolt, and were distrusted by all the rest, on account of the same supposed insecurity. It may be added as one of the difficulties in explaining Capt. Landais' conduct, that the moon had now been up some time, and that it was very easy to distinguish the ships by their off sides; that of the Serapis having two yellow streaks, dotted as usual with ports, while the Richard was all black.
Not satisfied with what he had done, Capt. Landais shortly after made his re-appearance, approaching the Richard on her of side, running athwart her bows this time, and crossing the stern of her antagonist. On this occasion, it is affirmed, her fire commenced when there was no possibility of reaching the Serapis, unless it were through the Richard; and her fire, of grape especially, was particularly destructive to the men collected on the Richard's forecastle. At this spot alone, ten or twelve men appear to have been killed or wounded, at a moment when the fire of the Serapis could not possibly injure them. Among those slain, was a midshipman of the name of Caswell, who affirmed with his dying breath that he had between hit by the shot of the Alliance. After this last exploit, Capt. Landais seemed satisfied with his own efforts, and appeared no more.
While these erratic movements were in course of execution by the Alliance and her eccentric, if not insane, commander, the two ships engaged lay canopied by smoke, a scene of fierce contention, and of accumulated dangers. The alarm of fire was succeeded by reports that the Richard was sinking. To these sources of apprehension, soon followed that of the dread of a rising within. The accession of water in the hold induced the master-at-arms to release the English prisoners on board, who were more than a hundred in number. As if this were not enough, the ships began to take fire from the explosions of the guns and grenades, and the combatants were frequently called from their quarters, in order to extinguish the flames. Capt. Pearson states, that the Serapis was on fire no less than twelve times, while the ships lay grappled; and, as to the Richard, in addition to several accidents of this nature that were promptly suppressed, for the last hour she was burning the whole time, the flames having got within her ceilings.
Jones was not a little astonished to see more than a hundred English mariners rushing up from below, at a moment when a heavy ship of their country was lashed alongside, and deliberately pouring her fire into his own vessel. Such a circumstance might have proved fatal, with a man less resolute and self-possessed. Lieut. Dale had been below, in person, to ascertain the state of the hold, and it was found that several heavy shot had struck beneath the water line, and that the danger from that source was in truth serious. Profiting by the alarm that prevailed among the prisoners, the commodore set the Englishmen at work at the pumps, where they toiled with commendable zeal near an hour! Had they been so disposed, or cool, most of them might have escaped on board the Serapis.
The precise situations of the two vessels, and of the Richard in particular, are worthy of a passing remark. As for the Serapis, her injuries were far from great. She had suffered from the fire of her opponent at the commencement of the fight, it is true, but the bursting of the Richard's eighteens, and her own superior working and better sailing had given her such essential advantages as, added to her heavier fire, must have long before decided the affair in her favor, but for the circumstance of the two vessels getting foul of each other. The quiet determination of Jones not to give up, might have protracted the engagement longer than usual, but it could hardly have averted the result. The vessels were no sooner square alongside, however, than the English ship's heavy guns swept away every thing in their front. This superiority in the way of artillery could not be overcome, and continued to the close of the engagement. Under any thing like ordinary circumstances, this ascendancy must have given the victory to the English, but Jones was a man calculated by nature, and his habits of thinking, to take refuge against a defeat in extraordinary circumstances. He had succeeded in driving the enemy from above board, and was, in this stage of the action, diligently working two nine-pounders, in the hope of cutting away the Serapis' main-mast. Had he succeeded in this effort, no doubt he would have cut the lashings, and, obtaining a more favorable position on the bow or quarter of his enemy, settled the matter with his main-deck battery. Still, it required many shot, of the weight of his, to bring down so large a spar, with most of its rigging standing, and in smooth water. No one knows what would have been the result, but for the coolness and judgment of a seaman, who belonged to the main-top. As the English had been cleared out of their tops by the greater fire of the Richard's musketry, this man lay out on the main-yard, until he found himself at the sheet-block. Here he placed a bucket of grenades, and began deliberately to throw them upon the Serapis' decks, wherever he saw two or three men collected. Finding no one on the quarter-deck, or forecastle, to annoy, he tossed his grenades into the hatches, where they produced considerable confusion and injury. At length, he succeeded in getting one or two down upon the lower gun-deck, where one of them set fire to some loose powder. It appears that the powder boys had laid a row of cartridges on the off side of this deck, in readiness for use, no shot entering from the Richard to molest. To this act of gross negligence, Capt. Pearson probably owed the loss of his ship. The lower gundeck of the Serapis had been perfectly safe from all annoyance, from the moment the ships got foul, no gun of the Richard's bearing on it, while the deck above protected it effectually from musketry. To this security, it is probable, the dire catastrophe which succeeded was owing. The powder that ignited set fire to these uncovered cartridges, and the explosion extended from the main-mast aft. It silenced every gun in that part of the ship, and indeed nearly striped them of their crews. More than twenty men were killed outright, leaving on many of them nothing but the waistbands of their duck trowsers, and the collars and wristbands of their shirts. Quite sixty of the Serapis' people must have been placed hors de combat, in a moment, by this fell assault. The reader may imagine its effects on a lower gun-deck, choked with smoke, with the ship on fire, amid the shrieks and groans of the living sufferers.
It is now known that the English would have struck, soon after this accident occurred, had not the master of the London Letter of Marque, captured off Cape Wrath, passed out of a port of the Richard into one of the Serapis' and announced that the American ship was in a still worse situation, having actually released her prisoners, as she was on the point of sinking. About this time, too, another incident occurred, that aided in sustaining the hopes of Capt. Pearson. Two or three of the warrant officers of the Richard, when they found the ship in danger of sinking, had looked in vain for Jones, and Mr. Dale being below at the moment, examining into the state of the pumps, they determined that it was their duty to strike the colors, in order to save the lives of the survivors. Luckily, the ensign had been shot away, and the gunner, who had run up on the poop to lower it, called out for quarter. Hearing this, Capt. Pearson demanded if the Richard had struck. Jones answered for himself in the negative, but in such a way that he was not either heard or understood, and the English actually mustered a party of boarders to take possession of their prize. As this was giving Jones' men a better chance with their muskets, the English were soon driven below again, with loss. Some of the latter, however, appeared on the sides of the Richard.
These reverses turned the tide of battle in favor of the Americans. The latter got a gun or two more at work, and, while the fire of their adversaries was sensibly diminishing, their own began to increase. The spirit of the Englishman drooped, and he finally hauled down his colors with his own hands, after the ships had been lashed together nearly, if not quite, two hours and a half. The main-yard of the Serapis was hanging a-cock-bill, the brace being shot away, and the brace pendant within reach. Lieut. Dale seized the latter and swung himself over upon the quarter-deck of the Serapis. Here he found Capt. Pearson quite alone, and received his submission. At this instant, the first lieutenant of the English ship came up from below, and inquired if the if the Richard had struck, her fire having now entirely ceased. Mr. Dale explained to this officer how the case stood, when, finding his own commander confirmed it, the lieutenant offered to go below, and to stop the guns that were still at work in the Serapis. Mr. Dale objected, however, and these two officers were immediately passed over to the quarter-deck of the Richard. A party of officers and men had followed Mr. Dale from his own ship, and one of them, a Mr. Mayrant, of South Carolina, one of the Richard's midshipmen, was actually run through the thigh by a boarding spike; the blow coming from a party of boarders stationed on the main-deck. This was the last blood spilt on the occasion, the firing being stopped immediately aftward.
Thus ended the renowned conflict between the Serapis and the Bon Homme Richard; one of the most remarkable of naval annals, in some of its features, though far from being as comparatively bloody, or as well fought in others, as many that may be cited. Com. Dale, who was familiar with the facts, always placed the combat between the Trumbull and Watt, before that between these two ships, in the way of a cannonade; nor was there much difference in the comparative loss of the English vessels, the Watt having about half her crew killed and wounded, which was not far from the casualties of the Serapis. Still, this battle must ever stand alone, in a few of its leading incidents. There is no other instance on record of two vessels, carrying such batteries, remaining foul of each other for so long a period. It could have happened in this case, only, through the circumstances that the Richard had the combat nearly all to herself above board, while the Serapis was tearing her to pieces below decks. The respective combatants were, in truth, out of the range of each other's fire, in a great degree; else would the struggle have been brought to a termination in a very few minutes. The party that was first silenced must have soon submitted; and, as that was virtually the American ship, the victory would have belonged to the English, in any other circumstances than those which actually occurred. As for the cannonading that Jones kept up for more than an hour on the main-mast of the Serapis, it could have had no material influence on the result, since the mast stood until the ship had struck, coming down just as the two vessels separated.
An examination into the injuries sustained by the respective combatants, proves the truth of the foregoing theory. As for the Richard, she had suffered a good deal during the first hour, or before the vessels closed, receiving several heavy shot between wind and water. Some shot, too, it would seem to be certain, were received in the same awkward places, from the it would seem to be certain, were received in the same awkward places, from the fire of the Alliance, after the ships had grappled. But, the most extraordinary part of her injuries were those which were found from the main-mast aft, below the quarter-deck. Perhaps no vessel ever suffered in a degree approaching that in which the Richard suffered in this part of her. Her side was almost destroyed by the guns of the Serapis, and nothing prevented the quarter-deck, main-deck and poop from literally falling down upon the lower-deck, but a few top-timbers and upper futtocks that had fortunately escaped. This left Jones and his companions fighting on a sort of stage, upheld by stanchions that were liable at any moment to be carried away. Nothing, indeed, saved these supports, or the men on the deck above them, but the fact that they were all so near the enemy's guns, that the latter could not be trained, or elevated sufficiently high to hit them. It was the opinion of Com. Dale that the shot of the Serapis, for the last hour of the action, must have passed in at one side of the Richard, in this part of the ship, and out at the other, without touching any thing, the previous fire having so effectually cleared the road!
The loss of men, in each ship, was fearfully great, and singularly equal. A muster-roll of the Richard has been preserved, which shows that, out of 227 souls on board when the ship sailed, exclusively of the soldiers, or marines, 83 were killed, or wounded. As many of these 227 persons were not in the action, while a few do not appear on this roll, who were on board, by placing the whole number of this portion of the crew at 200, we shall not be far out of the way. About 120 of the soldiers were in the combat, and this proportion would make such an additional loss, as to raise the whole number to 132. These soldiers, however, suffered in the commencement of the action more than the rest of the people, more especially a party of them that had been stationed on the poop; and, the reports of the day making the loss of the Richard 150 altogether, we are inclined to believe it was not far from the truth. This was very near one half of all the men she had engaged.
On the part of the English, Capt. Pearson reported 117 casualties, admitting, however, that there were many more. Jones thought his own loss less than that of the Serapis, and there is reason to think it may have been so, in a trifling degree. It is probable something like one half of all the combatants suffered in this bloody affair, which is a very unusual number for any battle, whether by sea or land. Many of those who suffered by the two explosions - that the Richard's eighteens, and that the Serapis' cartridges - died of their injuries.
To return to the state of the two vessels, and the events of the night: Jones no sooner found himself in possession of his prize, than he ordered the lashings cut in order to separate the vessels. This was done without much difficulty, the wind and tide, in a few minutes, carrying the Richard clear of her late antagonist. The Serapis was hailed, and ordered to follow the commodore. In order to do this, her head-yards were braced sharp aback, to cause the vessel to pay off, her main-mast having come down, nearly by the board, bringing with it the mizzen top-mast. The wreck was cleared, but the ship still refused to answer her helm. Excited by this singular state of things, Mr. Dale sprang from a seat he had taken, and fell his length upon deck. He had been wounded n the foot, and now ascertained for the first time that he was unable to walk. Luckily, Mr. Lunt, with the pilot boat, had come alongside, as soon as the firing ceased, and was ready to take his place. The fact being communicated to this officer that the Serapis was anchored, the cable was cut, and Jones' orders obeyed. It is proper to add that the party in the pilot boat were of great service, as soon as the got on board again.
The vessels of the squadron now collected together, and fresh men were obtained from her consorts, to attend to the critical wants of the Richard. That ship, it will be remembered, was not only on fire, but sinking. Gangs of hands were obtained from the other vessels, to work the pumps, as well as to assist in extinguishing the flames, and the night passed in strenuous efforts to effect their purposes. So critical was the condition of the vessel, however, that many men threw themselves into the water, and swam to the nearest ship, under an apprehension that the Richard might at any moment be blown up. In the course of this eventful night, too, eight or ten Englishmen, who had formed a part of Jones' own crew, stole a boat from the Serapis, and deserted, landing at Scarborough. Despair of ever being able to escape into a neutral or friendly port, was doubtless their motive; and, in the circumstances, the reader can see the vast disadvantages under which Jones had achieved his success. A careful attention to all the difficulties, as well as dangers, that that surrounded him, is necessary to a just appreciation of the character of our subject, whose exploits would have been deemed illustrious, if accomplished with means as perfect as those usually at the disposal of commanders in well established and regular marines. It is not to be forgotten, moreover, that Jones was personally so obnoxious to the anger of the English, as to render it certain that his treatment would be of the severest nature, in the event of his capture, if, indeed, he were allowed to escape with life. It was surely enough to meet an equal force of English seamen, on the high seas, favored by all the aids of perfect equipments and good vessels; but, here, a desperate battle had been fought in sight of the English coast, against an enemy of means to render success doubtful, and with a reasonable probability that even victory might be the means of destroying the conqueror.
Many a man will face death manfully, when he presents himself in the form of a declared enemy, in open fight, who will manifest a want of the highest moral qualities which distinguish true courage, when driven to a just appreciation of the risks of an unseen source of alarm. It is this cool discrimination between real and imaginary difficulties and dangers, which distinguishes the truly great commander from him who is suited only to the emergencies of every-day service; and when, as in the case of Jones, this ability to discriminate, and to resist unnecessary alarms, is blended with the high military quality of knowing when to attempt more than the calculations of a severe prudence will justify, we find the characteristics of the great land or sea captain.
Daylight afforded an opportunity of making a full survey of the miserable plight in which the Richard had been left by the battle. A survey was held, and it was soon decided that any attempt to carry the ship in was hopeless. It may be questioned if she could have been kept from sinking in smooth water, so many and serious were the shot-holes; though, after getting the powder on deck by way of security, and contending against them until ten next morning, the flames were got under. The fire had been working insidiously within the ceiling, or this advantage, immaterial as it proved in the end, could not have been gained. It was determined, after a consultation, to remove the wounded, and to abandon the ship. Jones came to this decision with the greatest reluctance, for he had a strong and natural desire to carry into port all the evidence of the struggle in which he had been engaged; but his own judgment confirmed the opinions of his officers, and he reluctantly gave the order to commence the necessary duty.
The morning of the 24th, or that of the day which succeeded the battle, was foggy, and no view of the sea was had until near noon. Then it cleared away, and the eye could command a long range of the English coast, as well as of the waters of the offing. Not a sail of any sort was visible, with the exception of those of the squadron and its prizes. So completely had the audace of Jones, to use an expressive French term that has no precise English translation, daunted the enemy, that his whole coast appeared to be temporarily under a blockade.
The two pilot boats were very serviceable in their receiving the wounded. After toiling at the pumps all the 24th and the succeeding night, the Richard was left in the forenoon of the 25th, the water being then as high as the lower deck. About ten, she settled slowly into the water, the poop and mizen-mast being the last that was ever seen of the old Duc de Duras, a ship whose reputation will probably live in naval annals as long as books are written and men continue to read.
Jones now erected jury-masts in the Serapis, and endeavored to get into the Texel, his port of destination. So helpless was the principal prize, however, that she was blown about until the 6th October, before this object could be effected. With a presentiment of what would have been best, Jones himself strongly desired to go into Dunkirk, for which port the wind was fair, where he would have been under French protection; but the concordat emboldened his captains to remonstrate, and they proceeded to Holland.
The arrival of the soi-disant American squadron in a neutral country, accompanied by two British men-of-war, as prizes, gave rise to a great political commotion. The people of the Dutch nation were opposed to the English, and in favor of America, but the government, or its executive at least, and the aristocracy, as a matter of course, felt differently. We shall not weary the reader with the details of all that occurred. It will be sufficient to say, that it was found necessary to hoist French flags in most of the ships, and to put the prizes even under the protection of the Grand Monarque [presumably the king of France]. Jones, for a time, got rid of Landais, who was sent for to Paris, and he transferred himself and his favorite officers to the Alliance. The vessel, the only real American ship in the squadron, continued to keep the stars and stripes flying. At one time matters proceeded so far, however, that ships of the line menaced the frigate with forcing her out to sea, where thirty or forty English cruisers were in waiting for her, if she did not lower the as yet unacknowledged ensign. All this Jones withstood, and he actually braved the authorities of Holland, under these critical circumstances, rather than discredit the flag of the country he legitimately served. A French commission was offered to himself, but he declined receiving it, always affirming that he was the senior American sea-captain in Europe, and he claimed all the honors and rights of his rank. His prizes and prisoners were taken from him, in virtue of the concordat, and through orders from Dr. Franklin, but the Alliance was an American ship, and American she should continue as long as she remained under his orders!
At length, after two months of wrangling and mortification, Jones prepared to sail. He had been joined by the celebrated Capt. Conyngham, who went passenger in his ship for France. He left the Texel on the 27th December, and a letter written by himself, just as he discharged the pilot, stated that he was fairly outside, with a fair wind, and his best American ensign flying. The last was triumph indeed, and one of which he was justly proud.
The run of the Alliance from the Texel, through the British Channel, while so closely watched, has been much vaunted in certain publications, and Jones himself seemed proud of it. It is probable that its merits were the judgment and boldness with which the passage was planned and executed. Com. Dale, a man totally without exaggeration, spoke of it as a bold experiment, that succeeded perfectly because it was unexpected. The enemy, no doubt, looked for the ship to the northward, never dreaming that she would run the gantlet at the Straits of Dover.
Jones hugged the shoals as he came out, and kept well to windward of all the blockading English vessels. In passing Dover he had to go in sight of the shipping in the Downs. As the wind held to the eastward, this he did at little risk. He was equally successful at the Isle of Wight, a fleet lying at Spithead; and several times he eluded heavy cruisers, by going well to the eastward of them. The Alliance went into Corunna, to avoid a gale. Thence she sailed for France, arriving in the roads of Groix on the 10th of February. This was the only cruise Jones ever made in the Alliance. Capt. Landais had injured the sailing of the ship, by the manner in which he stowed the ballast, and this it was that induced her present commander to go in so early, else might he have made a cruise as brilliant as any that had preceded it. It is matter of great regret that Jones never could get to sea in a vessel worthy of his qualities as a commander. The Ranger was dull and crank; the Alfred was no better; the Providence was of no force, and the reader has just seen what might be expected from the Richard. The Alliance was an excellent ship of her class, though not very heavy; but, just as accident threw her in Jones' way, he was compelled to carry her into port, where she was taken from him.
The history of Jones' life, after he joined the navy, with the exception of the short intervals he was at sea, is a continued narrative of solicitations for commands, or service, and of as continual disappointments. During the whole war, and he sailed in the first squadron, Jones was actually at sea a little short of a year. The remainder of his seven years of service was employed in struggling for employment, or in preparing the imperfect equipments with which he sailed. Could such a man have passed even half his time on board efficient and fast cruisers, on the high seas, we may form some estimate of what he would have effected, by the exploits he actually achieved. By the capture of the Serapis, and the character of his last cruise generally, Jones acquired a great reputation, though it did little for him, in the way of obtaining commands suitable to his rank and services.
Our hero have obtained some little circulation in Parisian society, by his capture of the Drake, though there is surprisingly little sympathy with any nautical exploits in general, in the brilliant capital of France. But the exploits of the Bon Homme Richard overcame this apathy toward the things of the sea, and Jones became a lion, at once, in the great centre of European civilizations. It would be idle to deny that this flattery and these attentions had an influence on his character. New habits and tastes were created, habits and tastes totally in opposition to those he had formed in youth; and these are changes that rarely come late in life altogether free from exaggeration. The correspondence of Jones, which was very active, and in the end became quite voluminous, proves, while his mind, manners and opinions were in several respects improved by this change of situation, that they suffered in others. He appears to have had an early predilection for poetry, and he seems to have now indulged it with some freedom in making indifferent rhymes on various ladies. Some of his biographers have placed his effusions on a level with those of the ordinary vers de société, then so much in vogue; but they seem to forget that these were very indifferent rhymes also. In that gay and profligate society to which he was admitted, it was scarcely possible that a bachelor of Jones' temperament should altogether escape the darts of love. His name has been connected with that of a certain Delia, also with that of a certain Madame T---, and also with that of a lady of the name of Lavendahl. This Madame T--- is said to have been natural daughter of Louis XV, a circumstance that may, or may not, infer rank in society. The attachment to the last, however, has been thought a mere platonic friendship. Some pains have been taken to show that these were ladies of high rank, but a mere title is not now, nor was it in 1779, any proof of a high social condition in France, unless the rank were as high as that of a duchesse. That Jones was a lion in Paris, is a fact beyond question, but much exaggeration has accompanied the accounts of his reception. His return occurred in the midst of an exciting war, and it is scarcely possible that his exploits should be overlooked by the government, or the beau monde, but they were far from occupying either, in the manner that has been mentioned by certain of his panegyrists.
After a visit to Paris, he returned to the coast, where new difficulties arose with Landais. By a decision of one of the commissioners, that officer was restored to the command of the Alliance, and the quarrel was renewed. But the brevity of this sketch will not permit us to give an account of all the discussions in which Jones was engaged, either with his superiors or with his subordinates. It is difficult to believe that there was not some fault in the temperament of the man, although it must be admitted that he served under great disadvantages, and never had justice done to his talents or his deeds in the commands he received. The end of this new source of contempt was Landais putting Jones' own officers, Dale and others, ashore, and sailing for America, where he was laid on the shelf himself, and his ship was given to Barry.
The immediate nautical service on hand was to get several hundred tons of military stores to America. With this duty Jones had been intrusted, and he now begged hard that his prize, the Serapis, might be borrowed for that purpose. He doubtless wished to show the ship in this country, as his plan was to arm her en flute merely, and to give her convoy by a twenty-gun ship, called the Ariel, which the French government had consented to lend the Americans. On reaching America, he hoped to get up a new expedition, with the Serapis for his own pennant.
This arrangement could not be made, however, and Jones was compelled to receive smaller favors. As a little consolation, and one to which he was far from being indifferent, the King of France sent him, about this time, (June, 1780,) the cross of military merit, which he was to carry to the French minister in America, who had instructions to confer it on him on some suitable occasion. At the same time, he was informed that Louis XVI had directed a handsome sword to be made, with suitable inscriptions, which should be forwarded to him as soon as possible. This was grateful intelligence to a man so sensitive on the subject of the opinions of others, and doubtless was received as some atonement for his many disappointments.
By the beginning of September, Jones was ready to sail for America, in the Ariel. He had got together as many of his old Richard's as possible for a crew, and had crammed the vessel in every practicable place with stores. He lay a month in the roads of Groix, however, with a foul wind. On the 8th October, he went to sea, but met a gale that very night, in which his ship was nearly lost. He was obliged to anchor at no great distance to windward of the Penmarks, where the Ariel rolled her lower yard-arms into the water. She could not be kept head to sea wit the anchors down, but fell off with a constant drift. Cutting away the fore-mast relieved her, but now she pitched the heel of the main-mast out of the step, and it became necessary to cut away that spar, to save the ship. This brought down the mizen-mast, as a matter of course, when the vessel became easier. For two days and near three nights did the Ariel continue in her crazy berth, anchored in the open ocean, with one of the most dangerous ledges of rocks known, a short distance under her lee, when she was relieved by a shift of wind. Jury-masts were erected, and the vessel got back to the roads from which she had sailed.
In speaking of this gale, in a letter to one of his female friends, Jones quaintly remarks, "I know not why Neptune was in such anger, unless he thought it an affront in me to appear on his ocean with so insignificant a force." It is in this same letter that he makes the manly and high-toned remark, apropos of some imputed dislike of a certain English lady, "The English nation may hate me, but I will force them to esteem me too."
In the gale Jones was supported by his officers. Dale and Henry Lunt were with him, as indeed were most of the officers of the Richard who survived the action, and the risks of this gale were thought to equal those of their bloody encounter with the Serapis. Dale spoke of this time as one of the most, if not the most, serious he had met with in the course of his service, and extolled the coolness and seamanship of Jones as being of the highest order. The latter, indeed, was a quick, ready seaman, never hesitating with doubts or ignorance.
It is worthy of being mentioned, that while lying at Groix, repairing damages, a difficulty occurred between Jones and Truxtun, about the right of the latter to wear a pennant in his ship; he being then in command of a private armed vessel. It appears Truxtun hoisted a broad pennant, and this at a time when he had no right to wear a narrow one, Congress having passed a law denying this privilege to private vessels. These fiery spirits were just suited to meet in such a conflict, and it is only surprising Jones did not send a force to lower Truxtun's emblem for him. His desire to prevent scandalous scenes in a French port alone prevented it.
Jones did not get out again until the 18th December, when he made the best of his way to America. The Ariel appears to have made the southern passage. In lat. 26, N. and long. 59, she made an English frigate-built ship, that had greatly the superiority over her in sailing. Jones, according to his own account of the matter, rather wished to avoid this vessel, his own ship being deep and much burdened, his crew a good deal disaffected, and the stranger seeming the heaviest. After passing a night in a vain attempt to elude him, he was found so near the next day as to render an action inevitable, should the stranger, now believed to be an enemy, see fit to seek it. Under the circumstances, therefore, Jones thought it prudent to clear ship. The stranger chased, the Ariel keeping him astern, in a way to prevent him closing until after nightfall. As the day declined, the Ariel occasionally fired a light gun at the ship astern, crowding sail, as if anxious to escape. By this time, however, Jones was satisfied he should have to contend with a vessel not much, if any, heavier than his own, and he shortened sail, to allow the stranger to close. Both ships set English colors, and as they drew near, the Ariel hauled up compelling the stranger to pass under her lee, both vessels at quarters, with the batteries lighted up. In this situation, each evidently afraid of the other, a conversation commenced that lasted an hour. Jones asked for news from America, which the stranger freely communicated. He said his ship was American built, and had been lately captured from the Americans and put into the English service. Her name was stated to be the Triumph, and that of her commander Pindar. Jones now ordered this Mr. Pindar to lower a boat and come on board. A refusal brought on an action, which lasted a few minutes, when the stranger struck. The fire of the Ariel was very animated, that of the soi-disant Triumph very feeble. The latter called out for quarter, saying half his people were killed. The Ariel ceased firing, and as she had passed to leeward before she commenced firing, the stranger drew ahead and tacked, passing to windward in spite of the chasing fire of her enemy.
Jones was greatly indignant at this escape. He always considered, or affected to consider, the Triumph a king's ship of equal force, though she was probably nothing more than a light armed and weakly manned Letter-of-Marque. By some it has even has even been imagined the Triumph was an American, who supposed he was actually engaged with an English vessel of war. Different writers have spoken of this rencontre as a handsome victory; but Com. Dale, a man whose nature seemed invulnerable to the attempts of any exaggerated feeling, believed the Ariel's foe was an English Letter-of-Marque, and attributed her escape to the cleverness of her manoeuvres. That her commander violated the laws of war, and those of morality, is beyond a question.
Shortly after this affair, Jones discovered a plot among the English of his crew to seize the ship, and twenty of the most dangerous of the mutineers were confined. It was not found necessary, however, to execute any of them at sea, and the ship reached Philadelphia, on February 18th, 1781, making Jones' absence from the country a little exceeding three years and three months.
Notwithstanding certain unpleasant embarrassments awaited Jones, on his return to America, after the brilliant scenes in which he had been an actor, he had no reason to complain of his reception. Landais had actually been dismissed as insane, and this, too, principally on the testimony of Mr. Lee, the commissioner who had reinstated him in the command of the Alliance; a circumstances that, of itself, settled several of the unpleasant points that had been in dispute. But the delay in shipping the stores had produced much inconvenience to the army, and Congress appointed a committee formally to inquire into the cause. The result was favorable to Jones, and the committee reported resolutions, that were adopted, expressive of the sense Congress entertained of Jones' service, and of the gratification it afforded that body to know the King of France intended to confer on him the order of military merit. In consequence of this resolution, the French minister gave a fête, and, in presence of all the principal persons of the place, conferred on Jones the cross of the order. In the course of the examinations that were made by Congress, forty-seven interrogatories were put to Jones, and it is worthy of remark, that his answers were of a nature to do credit to both is principles and his head. This affair disposed of, nothing but the grateful respect which followed success, awaited our hero, who justly filled a high place in the public estimation. The thanks of Congress were solemnly voted to him, as his due.
A question now seriously arose in Congress, on the subject of making Jones a rear-admiral. He had earnestly remonstrated about the rank given him when the regulated list of captains was made out, and there was an éclat about his renown, that gave a weight to his representations. Remonstrances from the older captains, however, prevented any resolution from passing on this question, and Jones was finally rewarded by a unanimous election, by ballot, in Congress, appointing him to command of the America 74, a ship then on the stocks. As this was much the most considerable trust of the sort within the gift of the government, it speaks in clear language the estimation in which he was held.
The America was far from being ready to launch, however. Still Jones was greatly gratified with the compliment. He even inferred that it placed him highest in rank in the navy, the law regulating comparative rank with the army, saying that a captain of a ship of more than forty guns should rank with a colonel, while those of forty guns ranked only with lieutenants-colonel; and the America being the only ship that carried or rated more than forty guns, he jumped to the conclusion that he out-ranked the eight or ten captains above him, whose commissions had higher numbers than his own. It is probable this reasoning would have given way before inquiry. A captain in command of a squadron, now, ranks temporarily with a brigadier-general. The youngest captain on the list may hold this trust, yet, when he lowers his pennant, or even when he meets his senior in service, though in command of a single ship, the date or number of the commission determines the relative rank of the parties.
It is worthy of remark that Jones, before he quitted Philadelphia, exhibited his personal accounts, by which it appeared that he had not yet received one dollar of pay, and this for nearly five years' service; proof of itself that he had not yet received one dollar of pay, and this for nearly five years' service; proof of itself that he was not without private funds, and did not enter the navy a mere adventurer. On the contrary, he is said to have advanced considerable sums to government, and in the end to have been a loser by his advances. But who was not, that had money to lose, and who sustained the cause that triumphed in that arduous struggle?
It would be useless here to follow Jones, step by step, in connection with his new command. He joined the ship in the strong hope of having her at sea in a few months; but this far exceeded the means of the country. As he traveled toward Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where the America was on the stocks, he wore his cross of the order of Military Merit, which did well enough at head quarters, when he paid a visit to Washington. There, however, it was hinted to him he had better lay it aside on entering the New England states, a portion of the country in which personal distinctions were, and are peculiarly offensive to the people. One cannot object to this particular instance of the feeling, for the citizen of a nation that rejects such rewards in its own political system, ought to have too much self-respect to accept them from a foreign state; but an affection of humility, rather than its reality, forms a part of the social faith of this section of the republic. Thus it is that we see the manly practice of self-nomination frowned on, while nowhere else are lower arts practiced to obtain nominations by others than among these fastidious observers of a proud political modesty. Exaggerations, whether in religion, morals, manners, speech, or appearance, always result in this; the simplicity of truth being as far removed from the acting they induce, as virtue is remote from vice. Nothing in nature can be violated with impunity, her laws never failing to vindicate their ascendancy in some shape or other.
Jones reached Portsmouth, at the close of August, 1781. The duty of superintending a vessel on the stocks, in the height of a war, was particularly irksome to a man of his temperament, and Portsmouth was a place very different from Paris. He was more than a year thus engaged, during most of which time he did not quit his post. In the course of the summer of 1782, however, the French lost a ship called the Magnifique, in the harbor of Boston, and Congress determined to present the America to the King of France, as a substitute. This deprived Jones of his command, just as he was about to realize something from all his labors. Fortune had ordered that he was never to get a good ship under the American flag, and that all his exploits were to derive their lustre more from his own military qualities than from the means employed.
November 5th, 1781, the America was launched; the same day Jones transferred her to the French officer who was directed to receive her. At the time he did this, he believed he was to be employed on a second expedition. He expected, indeed, to get his old flame, the Indien, which was called the South Carolina, and was lying at Philadelphia. Her arrangement with South Carolina was nearly up, and Congress had claims, by means of which it was hoped she might yet be transferred to her original owners. Matters went so far that Com. Gillan, who commanded the ship, was arrested; but the vessel got to sea under Capt. Joyner, and was captured by three English frigates, a few hours out; not without suspicions of collusion with the enemy.
There were now no means of employing Jones afloat, and he got permission to make a cruise in the French fleet, for the purpose of acquiring some knowledge of a fleet. He sailed in the Triomphante, the flag-ship of M. de Vaudreuil. M. de Viomenil, with a large military suite, was on board, and sixty officers dines together every day. It is characteristic of Jones, that he should mention that the French general was put into the larboard state-room, while he himself occupied the starboard! This might have been done on account of his being a stranger, and strictly a guest; or it might have been done because M. de Viomenil knew nothing of naval etiquette on such points, while Jones attached great importance to it.
This cruise doubtless furnished many new ideas to a man like Jones, but its military incidents were not worthy of being recorded. Peace was made in April, 1783, and Jones left the fleet at Cape François, reaching Philadelphia, May 18th. His health was not good, and he passed the summer at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the benefit of a cold bath. He now had a project of retiring to a farm, but, it is probable, the quiet, dull condition of the country, under the reaction of peace, did not suit him, for he applied to Congress for a commission as agent to look after the prizes made on his great cruise, particularly those which had been given up to the English by the Danes. Armed with such authority, he sailed for France, November 10th, in the Washington, late General Monk, the ship Barney had so gallantly taken in the Hyder Ally, and which he then commanded. This vessel was the last relic of the navy of the Revolution, being the only vessel then owned by the government, or at least employed. Jones landed at Dover, from which place he proceeded to London, and thence to Paris, making the whole journey in five days; tolerable proof he did not relish the country. Had he been known, it is by no means probable that he would have escaped without insult, for no man had ever alarmed the English coast so thoroughly in these later ties. Nevertheless, he is said to have appeared on 'Change, while in London, and to have been recognised. He also went to one of the theatres, though a face must be much known to make that a very hazardous thing.
Jones was two years engaged in settling his prize questions in France. This was done after a great deal of vexation, and his active mind hen turned to a voyage of commercial enterprise, that included the North-west Coast, Japan, the Sandwich Islands, and the ends of the earth, in its plans. The celebrated Ledyard was to be his supercargo, and Jones commander-in-chief. Discovery, science, and honor, were to be united with profit, and the whole was to have a character of high motives. Like so many others of our hero's projects, this also failed for want of means.
In 1787, Jones determined to go to Denmark, to push his demands on that government in person. He had actually got as far as Brussels, when he was unexpectedly called to America, in consequence of some new difficulty connected with his compensation. The new constitution was not yet framed, and the affairs of the confederation presented embarrassments at every turn to all the public servants. This visit to America was made in the spring, and Jones remained in this country until autumn. October 18, 1787, Congress voted him a gold medal, in honor of his services while at the head of the squadron of the concordat. A letter to the King of France, in his favor, was also written by that body; one of the highest honors it ever paid a citizen. It is singular that Jones, on his return to Europe, manifested an apprehension of being seized by some of the English ships, though a general peace prevailed, and it is not easy to see under what pretence such an outrage could have been committed. It would have been just as legal to arrest Washington, had he been found on the high seas. There was certainly no love between the parties, and England, in that day, did many lawless things; but it may be questioned if she would have presumed to go as far as this. Jones did not quit America, until November 11th, 1787, which was the last day he ever had his foot on the western continent.
In January, 1788, Jones received some new credentials for Denmark, and shortly after he proceeded to Copenhagen. He is known to have been in hat capital early in March. Previously to quitting Paris, some proposals had been made to Jones to enter into the service of Russia, which were now renewed, through Baron Kreudener, Catherine's minister in Denmark. In April, our hero, in consequence of the negotiations which had commenced on this subject, determined to go to St. Petersburg. As regards his application to the Danish Court, it resulted in fair promises. The demand amounted to 50,000 [pounds] sterling, and Jones was put off with fine speeches and personal compliments, and had a patent sent after him, entitling him to a pension of 1500 Danish crowns, in consideration of "the respect he had shown to the Danish flag, while he had commanded in the North Seas." It seems to us impossible to understand this as any other than a direct bribe, ingeniously covered up, to induce Jones not to press his demands. The agent who is sent to recover claims, in which others are interested, cannot accept compensation for himself, unless it include the interests of all the parties concerned. Jones himself did not, at first, seem to know in what light he was to view this pension, and for several years he did not ask for the money. The arrears were inventoried in his will, though it appears nothing was ever paid on them. Nothing was ever received, either, for the prizes. It must be confessed, Denmark paid her debts at a cheap rate.
Jones had been well received at all the courts where he presented himself. Immediately on his arrival at St. Petersburg, Catherine made him a rear-admiral. His passage across the Gulf of Finland had been perilous and romantic, and threw an éclât around his approach, that was not unsuited to his established character. He reached St. Petersburg, April 23d, (old style,) and he left it to join Prince Potemkin, in the Black Sea, on the 7th May, with his new commission in his pocket. His reception by Potemkin was flattering, but our admiral did not conceal from himself that his brother flag-officers felt any thing but joy at seeing him. The cabals against him commenced the first hour of his arrival, nor do they appear to have ceased until the day of his departure. The motley force assembled under the Imperial flag, included officers of many different nations, some of whom much affected superiority over one whom the English, in particular, took every occasion to malign.
The history of Jones' service under the Russian flag is a revolting account of intrigues, bad management, and disappointment. The operations were far from trifling in their extent, and there were several engagements, in all of which the Turks suffered, but nothing was effected of the brilliant and decisive character that marked the proper exploits of Paul Jones. Such a man ought not to have served under a chief like Potemkin, for nothing is more certain than that, in any glory, the favorite would seize the lion's share. Still Jones distinguished himself on more than one occasion, though our limits will not admit of entering into details. In one or two actions he was much exposed, and manifested high personal resolution; perhaps as much so as on any other occasions of his life.
It has been seen that Jones left St. Petersburg, May, 1788; in December he had returned, virtually in disgrace. This event has often been ascribed to the enmity of the English officers in the Russian marine; never to any official act of Jones himself. It was, in truth, owing to the personal displeasure of Potemkin, one with whom a man of our rear-admiral's disposition would not be likely long to agree. Catherine received Jones favorably, as to appearances at least, and, for a short time, he had hopes of being again employed.
But the enemies of Jones had determined to get rid of him, and it is believed they resorted to an infamous expedient to effect his ruin in the estimation of the empress. A girl who entered his apartment, to sell some light articles, charged him with an attempt to violate her person. Inquiry subsequently gave reason to believe the whole thing a trick, and Jones always protested his entire innocence; but sufficient clamor was made to render his further sojourn in Russia, for the moment at least, unpleasant. Catherine was evidently satisfied that injustice had been done him, but she did not care to offend Potemkin. Jones was permitted to travel, retaining his rank and appointments. His furlough, which Jones himself, oddly enough, more than once calls his "parole," extended to two years, but was doubtless meant to be unlimited in its effect. Catherine had previously conferred on him the ribbon of St. Anne.
Jones left St. Petersburg, in July, 1789, after a residence of about fifteen months in Russia. He traveled south, by Warsaw, where he remained some time, after which he visited Holland. About this time his constitution began sensibly to give way. It is probable that the disappointments he had met with in the north preyed upon his feelings, his enemies being as active as ever in circulating stories to his disadvantage. His finances were impaired, too, and he appears to think that his pecuniary compensation from Russia had been light. Now it was that he would gladly have received the arrears of his pension from Denmark, a pension that certainly he ought never to have seemed to accept. In his justification, however, he says that both Jefferson and Morris advised him to profit by the liberality of the Danish Court; but, in all cases, a man should decide for himself in a matter touching his own honor. Others frequently give advice, that they would reject in their own acts.
In 1790, Jones was at Paris, well received by his friends; but no longer a lion, or a subject of public attention. He manifested strong interest in his Scottish relations this season, and speaks of the education of his nephews and nieces. But it is to the credit of Jones, that, throughout his whole career, and while most flattered with the attentions of the great, he never forgot to be affectionate and kind to his sisters. It was a blank year to him, however, his time being mostly occupied in endeavoring so to settle his affairs as to procure funds. In March, 1791, he addressed the empress, stating that his "parole" had nearly expired, and desiring to be ordered to return. All his letters and communications show that his spirit was a good deal broken, and the elasticity of his mind partially gone. He still thought of and reasoned about ships, but it was no longer with the fire and earnestness of his youth. The evens in progress at Paris may have had some influence on him, though nowhere does he speak of them in his letters. His silence, in this respect, is even remarkable.
The new American Constitution went into operation in 1789; and Jones rightly enough predicted that this event would produce a regular and permanent marine. His hopes, however, outstripped the facts; the results which he hoped would affect himself, and that soon, occurring several years later. He expected, and with reason, so far as his claims were concerned, to be commissioned an admiral in the new marine; but he did not live to see the marine itself established. One ray of satisfaction, however, gleamed on his last days, the government of Washington giving him reason to expect a diplomatic appointment, to arrange certain difficulties with some of the Barbary powers. The appointment came shortly after Jones was laid in his grave; proving beyond a question that he possessed the confidence of some of the wisest and best men of America, as long as he lived.
Jones' health had been impaired for some years. The form which his disease assumed - jaundice - renders it probable that the state of his mind affected his health. Dropsy supervened, and in July, 1792, he was thought so ill, as to send for Mr. Morris, and other friends, in order to make his will. For two days he was so much swollen as not to be able to button his vest; this it was that induced him to make his will. It was signed about eight o'clock, in the evening of the 18th, and he was then left, seated in his chair, by the friends who had witnessed it. Shortly after, he walked into his bed-room, by himself. It was not long before his physician came to see him. The bed-room was entered, and Jones was found lying on his face, on the bed, with his feet on the floor, quite dead.
The death of Jones was honorably noticed in France. The National Assembly sent a deputation of twelve of its members to attend the funeral, and other honors were shown his remains. He was interred in a cemetery that no longer exists, but which then was used, near la Barriere du Combat, for the interment of Protestants. It is probable that no traces of his grave could now be found.
The estate left by Jones was respectable, though far from large. Still he could not be said to have died in poverty; though so much of his estate was in claims, that he often wanted money. Among other assets mentioned in his will were $9000 of stock in the Bank of North America, with sundry unclaimed dividends. On the supposition that two years of dividends were due, this item alone must have amounted, with the premium, to something like 2000 [pounds] sterling. He bequeathed all he owned to his two sisters, and their children.10
There can be no question that Paul Jones was a great man. By this we mean far more than an enterprising and dashing seaman. The success which attended exploits effected by very insufficient means, forms the least portion of his claims to the character. His mind aimed at high objects, and kept an even pace with his elevated views. We have only to fancy such a man at the head of a force like that with which Nelson achieved the victory of the Nile - twelve as perfect and well commanded two-decked ships as probably ever sailed in company - in order to get some idea of what he would have done with them, having a peerage or Westminster Abbey in the perspective. No sea captain, of whom the world possesses any well authenticated account, ever attempted projects as bold s those of Jones, or which discovered more of the distinctive qualities of a great mind, if the character of his enemy be kept in view, as well as his own limited and imperfect means. The battle between the Serapis and the Richard had some extraordinary peculiarities, beyond a question, and yet, as a victory, it has been often surpassed. The peculiarities belong strictly to Jones; but we think his offering battle to the Drake, alone in his sloop, in the centre of the Irish Channel, with enemies before, behind, and on each side of him, an act of higher moral courage than the attack on the Serapis. Landais' extraordinary conduct could not have been foreseen, and it was only when Jones found himself reduced to an emergency in this last affair, that he came out in his character of indomitable resolution. But all the cruises of the man indicated forethought, intrepidity, and resources. Certainly, no sea captain under the American flag, Preble excepted, has ever yet equaled him, in these particulars.
That Jones had many defects of character is certain. They arose in part from temperament, and in part from education. His constant declarations of the delicacy of his sentiments, and of the disinterestedness of his services, though true in the main, were in a taste that higher associations in youth would probably have corrected. There was, however, a loftiness of feeling about him, that disinclined him equally to meanness and vulgarity; and as for the coarseness of language and deportment that too much characterized the habits of the sea, in his time, he appears never to have yielded to them. All this was well in itself, and did him credit; but it would have been better had he spoken less frequently of his exemption from such failings, and not have alluded to them so often in his remarks on others.
There was something in the personal character of Jones that weakened his hold on his contemporaries, though it does not appear to have ever produced a want of confidence in his services or probity. Com. Dale used to mention him with respect, and even with attachment; often calling him Paul, with a degree of affection that spoke well for both parties. Still, it is not to be concealed that a species of indefinite distrust clouded his reputation even in America, until the industry of his biographers, by means of indisputable documents and his own voluminous correspondence, succeeded in placing him before the public in a light too unequivocally respectable to leave any reasonable doubts that public sentiment had silently done him injustice. The power of England, in the way of opinion, has always been great in this country, and it is probable the discredit that nation threw on the reputation of Jones, produced an influence, more visible in its results than in its workings, on his standing even with those he had so well served.
Notwithstanding the many proofs unfurnished by himself, of a weakness on the subject of personal consideration, Jones gave some proofs of a high feeling of self-respect. His cards bore the simple, but proud name of "Paul Jones," without any titles or official rank and reputation drew accurate distinctions between his real character and career, and those which were so assiduously imputed to him by Grub Street writers. The Duke of Dorset, the English ambassador at Paris, freely received him, and he is said to have lived on terms of intimacy with Lord Wemys Admiral Digby, and others of like condition.
In person, Jones was of the middle stature, with a complexion that was colorless, and with a skin that showed the exposure of the seas. He was well formed and active. His contemporaries have described him as quiet and unpresuming in his manners, and of rather retiring deportment. The enthusiasm which ran in so deep a current in his heart, was not of the obtrusive sort; nor was it apt to appear until circumstances arose to call it into action; then, it seemed to absorb all the other properties of his being. Glory, he constantly avowed, was his aim, and there is reason to think he did not mistake his own motives in this particular. It is perhaps to be regretted that his love of glory was so closely connected with his personal vanity; but even this is better than the glory which is sought as an instrument of ruthless power.
If an author may be permitted to quote from himself, we shall conclude this sketch by adding what we have already said, by way of summary, of this remarkable man, in a note to the first edition of the History of the United States Navy, viz.: "In battle, Paul Jones was brave; in enterprise, hardy and original; in victory, mild and generous; in motives, much disposed to disinterestedness, though ambitious of renown and covetous of distinction; in his pecuniary relations, liberal; in his affections, natural and sincere; and in his temper, except in those cases which assailed his reputation, just and forgiving." That these good qualities were without alloy, it would be presumptuous to assert; but it appears certain that his defects were relieved by high proofs of greatness, and that his deeds were no more than the proper results of the impulses, talents, and native instincts of the man.
1 Craik, of Arbigland, was a man of extensive scientific and literary attainments, as well as of large fortune. It may have interest with the American reader, to learn that Washington's friend and physician, Dr. James Craik, was a natural son of this gentleman.
2 Since the appearance of this sketch in Graham's Magazine, authentic information has been communicated to the writer on various points, which has induced him to vary a little from his original statements.
3 It is proper to say, that the late Miss Jeanette Taylor, Jones' niece, a woman of intelligence and character, assured the writer that she once possessed the commission of her uncle, that was dated August 8th, but had given it away as containing an autograph signature of Hancock. The fact is of no material moment, the rank having been regulated only in October.
4 Clarke, Mackenzie, and various other writers give the Alfred and Columbus, each, 300 men, on the expedition against New Providence; crews altogether disproportioned to the sizes of the ships. Jones' own authority is used for what we say.
6 The Indien was subsequently hired to the State of South Carolina, and had her name changed to that of the state. The negotiation was carried on through the agency of the Chevalier de Luxembourg. In his History of the Navy, the writer mentions his belief that this Chevalier de Luxembourg was not a sovereign prince, as has been supposed, but a member of the House of Montmorency. In an Acte de famille of this illustrious house, which was made in this century, we find these words - viz.:
"1731. The Duke of Chatilon had but one son, Charles Paul Sigismund, known by the name of Duke of Bouteville; who had an only son, Charles Anne de Montmorency-Luxembourg, Duke of Olonne. The Duke of Olonne had two sons, of which one, known as the Chevalier de Luxembourg, is dead without issue."
There is no question that this Chevalier de Luxembourg is the person who hired the Indien to the State of South Carolina, on shares. As the ship had been given to the king, may not this have been a secret experiment in royal privateering?
7 The connection of Jones, already mentioned, affirms that the value of the plate taken was more than $5000. Our information was obtained from the present head of the house of Selkirk. Which is right, it is impossible to say, though it strikes us that the smaller sum is most likely to be the true one. If Jones actually paid 1000 [pounds] sterling out of his own pocket, to redeem this plate, as Miss Taylor seems to think, it greatly enhances the merit of his sacrifices.
8 The Edinburgh Review, in an article on Cooper's History of the Navy, which has been pretty effectually answered, gives its readers reason to suppose that Jones' appearance on the coast produced no uneasiness. Sir Walter Scott told the writer he well remembered the feeling excited by this event, and that it was widespread and general. As Scott was born in 1769, his recollection might be relied on.
9 Capt. Mackenzie, in his life of Paul Jones, has the following, in a note, p. 183, vol. 1, viz.: "As considerable difference will be observable between the account of this battle, given in Mr. Cooper's Naval History, and the above, (meaning his own account of the action,) it is proper to state that Mr. Cooper has followed Mr. Dale's description of the manoeuvres antecedent to the ship's being grappled; whilst in the present account more reliance has been placed on those of the two commanders who directed the evolutions. Mr. Dale was stationed on the Richard's main-deck, in a comparatively unfavorable position for observing the manoeuvres. The evolution of box-hauling his ship, ascribed by Mr. Cooper to Capt. Pearson, would, under the circumstances, have been highly unseamanlike."
In answer to this, the writer has to say, that he nowhere finds any reason for thinking that either of the commanders contradicts his account; and as the late Com. Dale, in a long personal interview, minutely described all the manoeuvres of the two vessels, as he has here given them, he feels bound to believe him. The argument that Mr. Dale could not see what he described, is fallacious, since an officer in command of a gun-deck, finding no enemy on either beam, would naturally look for him, and by putting his head out of a forward port, Mr. Dale might have got a better view of the Serapis than any above him. But Com. Dale states a thing distinctly and affirmatively, and with such a witness, the writer feels bound much more to respect his direct assertions, than any of the very extraordinary theories in history, of which Capt. Mackenzie has been the propagator. The manoeuvres were probably discussed, too, between the young officers, after the surrender of the Serapis. The writer dissents, also, to Capt. Mackenzie's views of seamanship. Bringing ships round before the wind, in the manner described, was far more practised in 1779 than it is to-day. It was more practised with the short ships of the narrow seas than with any other. The river vessels, in particular, frequently did it twenty or thirty times in a single trip up the Thames, or into the Nore. The writer has seen it done himself a hundred times in those waters. Many reasons may have induced Capt. Pearson to practice what, with a Baltic and London ship, must have been a common manoeuvre, especially with a master on board who was doubtless a channel pilot. He might have wished at first to preserve the weather-gage; he might not have desired to take the room necessary to ware with his helm hard-a-weather, or might have attempted to tack, and failing on account of the lightness of the wind, or the want of sufficient headway, brought his ship round as described For the writer, it is sufficient that a seaman and a moralist like Richard Dale has deliberately told him in detail, that this manoeuvre was practiced, to upset the vague conjectures of a historian of the calibre of Capt. Mackenzie. A published statement from Com. Dale is given by another writer, in which that truth-loving and truth-telling old officer is made to say, "The Serapis wore short round on her heel, and her jib-boom ran into the mizzen rigging of the Bon Homme Richard." This is giving in brief what he gave to the writer in detail.
10 Those who take an interest in such details, may be pleased to know that the heirs of Paul Jones realized about $40,000 from his estate, though much of it was lost. Among other assets, was the sword presented to him Louis XVI. This sword is said to have cost 500 louis d'or, or near $2400. As there has been some controversy respecting it, growing out of a hasty and ill-considered statement of Capt. Mackenzie's, we will give the history of the transaction, as it has been communicated to us by Miss Janette Taylor, Jones' niece, in part, and in part ascertained from other sources.
Jones made no bequest of the sword, which became the property of his ten heirs. It was sent to Scotland, where it was a bone of contention, and was the cause of an unpleasant legal proceeding between Mrs. Taylor and a brother-in-law. At last it was determined to present the sword to Robert Morris, as a testimonial of his services to its original owner. How it passed from Mr. Morris to Com. Barry is a disputed point. Capt. Mackenzie has said it was presented to the navy, to be worn by its senior officer; but this cannot have been true, without making Barry unfaithful to his trust, and without any visible reason, as he undoubtedly bequeathed it to Dale, in his will; Dale, who never was the senior officer of the navy, and who was not in the navy at all when the bequest was made. Mr. Morris, in the letter acknowledging the gift, remarks, that, being a civilian, he had given the sword, not to the navy, but to a naval officer. Nothing is said of any conditions. Barry bequeathed it to Dale, as the man of all others - Jones' family excepted - who had the best right to it, and it is now the property of his son, Capt. Montgomery Dale, of the navy. It is not our intention to express any opinion on the subject of the person who has now the best moral right to use this sword, though we think the legal right of Capt. Dale is indisputable.
Source: Cooper, James Fenimore. Lives of Distinguished American Naval Officers. vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1846): 1-112.