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The Scottish Nation

JONES, PAUL, originally named John Paul, a remarkable naval adventurer, was born at Arbigland, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, July 6, 1747. His reputed father, John Paul, was gardener to Mr. Craik of Arbigland, to whom his mother was cook, and he is supposed to have been the son of that gentleman. He early evinced a predilection for the sea, and, at the age of twelve, when he had received but a limited education, he was bound apprentice as a sailor to a respectable merchant of Whitehaven. In 1760 he made his first voyage in the ship Friendship of that port, bound for the Rappahannock, Virginia, where his elder brother was established as a planter. On the expiry of his apprenticeship he obtained the command of a ship engaged in the slave-trade, but after some time quitted it in disgust. He returned to Scotland in 1768, as passenger in a vessel, the captain and mate of which died on the voyage. At the request of those on board, he took the command, and brought the vessel safe into port, for which service he was appointed by the owners master and supercargo. He had afterwards the command of the Betsy of London, and remained some time in the West Indies, engaged in commercial pursuits and speculations, whereby, it is said, he realised a considerable sum of money.

      In 1773 he went to Virginia to arrange the affairs of his brother, who had died intestate and childless, and, about the same time, he first assumed the name of Paul Jones, having settled as a regular colonist there. At the commencement of the American Revolution, he offered his services to Congress, and was appointed first lieutenant of the Alfred, on board of which ship, to use his own words, “he had the honour to hoist, with his own hands, the flag of freedom the first time it was displayed on the Delaware.” Soon after, he received a captain’s commission from the hands of the President, and on board the Providence, mounting twelve four-pounders, with a complement of seventy men, in the course of little more than a six weeks’ cruise from the Bermudas to the gut of Canzo, he took no less than sixteen prizes. In May 1777, he was ordered to France, in command of the Ranger sloop of war, with despatches to the American commissioners, Franklin, Deane, and Lee, who were directed to give him the command of the Indian, a fine frigate, built at Amsterdam, which, however, from motives of policy, was assigned over to the French king.

      Being invested by the American commissioners with discretionary powers to cruise where he pleased, Jones sailed, April 10, 1778, for the coast of Britain, and with his single ship, the Ranger, he kept the whole coast of Scotland, and part of that of England, for some time in a state of the greatest alarm. Making a descent at Whitehaven, he surprised the fort, and after spiking all the cannon, thirty-six in number, he retreated, setting fire to part of the shipping in his way. On the forenoon of the 22d April he landed with part of his crew at St. Mary’s Isle, on the Galloway coast, the residence of the earl of Selkirk, which was plundered by his followers, who, contrary to his orders, carried off the whole of the family plate. But he afterwards made the best reparation in his power by purchasing back the place, and restoring it to the earl. In the bay of Carrickfergus he had th good fortune to capture the Drake of twenty guns, after a desperate resistance, with which, and another prize, and two hundred prisoners of war, he returned to Brest, having been absent only 28 days.

      After many delays and disappointments, he obtained from the French government the command of the ship Duras of forty guns, on board of which he hoisted the American flag, changing its name to “Le Bon Homme Richard.” With a squadron of seven ships, he sailed from the road of St. Croix, August 14, 1779, and, after being deserted by four of them, he appeared, in September, in the Firth of Forth, opposite Leith, but was prevented, by a sudden change of wind, from either landing on the coast, or attacking the ships of war in the roads, which was evidently his first design. Having shortly after fallen in with the homeward-bound Baltic fleet, under convoy of his majesty’s ships the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, a desperate conflict ensued off Flamborough Head, September 23, when Jones was victorious, the Countess of Scarborough striking to the Pallas, and the Serapis to the Bon Homme Richard, which, after all hands had left her, sunk next morning. With his prizes he proceeded to the Texel, and exerted himself successfully in obtaining an exchange of prisoners with England.

      For this victory, the king of France presented him with a superb gold-hilted sword, bearing an appropriate inscription, and, through his minister, requested the permission of congress to invest him with the military order of Merit. About the end of 1780 Jones sailed for the United States, and, after a variety of escapes and rencontres, arrived in Philadelphia, February 18, 1781. On the recommendation of the American board of admiralty, a resolution of thanks was passed in congress for his zeal, prudence, and intrepidity; and, at the conclusion of the war, a gold medal was struck to commemorate his services. In November 1787 he sailed to Copenhagen, being charged with a mission to the court of Denmark, and, while there, was invited into the Russian service with the rank of rear-admiral. He took the command of a fleet stationed at the mouth of the Dnieper, destined to act against the Turkish squadron in the Black Sea, but being intrigued against at court, and denied the merit due to his services, he solicited permission to retire, and quitted Russia in August 1789, having previously received from the empress Catharine the order of St. Anne as a reward for his fidelity. He then went to Paris, where he sunk into neglect and poverty, and died July 18, 1792. All his operations were conducted with singular boldness and sagacity, and, notwithstanding the defective state of his education, he wrote with fluency, strength, and clearness, as is testified by his voluminous correspondence and memorials. He aimed at being “a poet as well as a hero,” and in his latter years, besides making a large collection of important documents relating to the public transactions in which he had been engaged, he wrote a copious memoir of his own adventurous and extraordinary life.

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