William Jones was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1760. Apprenticed in a shipyard, during the American War of Independence he saw combat in the battles of Trenton and Princeton and later served at sea. In the decades that followed the war he was a successful merchant in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Philadelphia. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1800 and was offered the office of Secretary of the Navy in 1801, but declined and remained in Congress to the end of his term in 1803.
With the War of 1812 raging, William Jones became Secretary of the Navy in January 1814. His policies contributed greatly to American success on the Great Lakes and to a strategy of coastal defense and commerce raiding on the high seas. In late 1814, near the end of his term, he made recommendations on the reorganization of the Navy Department. These led to the establishment of the Board of Commissioners system which operated from 1815 until 1842.
During much of 1813 and into 1814, Jones also served as acting Secretary of the Treasury and in 1816 was appointed President of the Second Bank of the United States. He returned to commerical pursuits in 1819. William Jones died in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on 6 September 1831.
The destroyer USS William Jones (DD-308), 1920-1932, was named in honor of Secretary of the Navy William Jones.
This page features our only images of William Jones.