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John Paul Jones
Chapter XXV - 1789 - 17902


WHAT is more likely—though history is silent on the point—than that part of the gallant Admiral's stay in Holland was cheered by the company of the petite /'toiia" ? Mistress of her actions, why should she allow her lover to be SO near and not go to him? Despite the seeming delicacy of those wasp-waisted ladies, they thought nothing of travelling hundreds of miles on wobbly pillions, or in primitive vehicles, under conditions which would reduce us to a state bordering on nervous exhaustion. But we shall never know if Aime and her lover mused on the placid innocuousness of Dutch landscape, or met again, when the gardens of Paris blazed with the luxuriance of late May. This meeting was the beginning of the end. It is hard to deceive a woman who loves, and from the moment of their meeting, even when joy lent buoyancy to his step and the flush of excitement tinged his swarthy cheek, a presentiment of coming sorrow gripped Aime's heart in icy bands. She longed to have the opinion of the first doctor of the day: yet dreaded the verdict, as one hesitates to open the final chapter of a book, lest the ending shall be tragedy.

Putting her feelings aside, she insisted her lover should have a consultation. Paul was obliged to submit, and found himself in the hands of an old friend, Dr. Gourgcaud, who had been fleet-surgeon when he cruised as the Marquis dc Vaudreuil's guest on La Triomphant, in 1782-3. Jones was annoyed to learn that his lungs were permanently affected from the illness contracted in Russia, to which country he was forbidden to think of returning. Though the Rear-Admiral pleaded and argued, they were firm, bidding him consider his health before his duty to the Empress. He might remain in Paris during the summer—with precautions, but unless he went south during the cold weather they would not hold out any encouragement of his recovery. This was a crushing blow to a man of forty-three, brimming with ambition, just beginning to reap those laurels he so loved. He said little, and, with his usual fatalistic belief, shrugged his shoulders, and care fell from him.

The daily approaching crisis in French politics took his mind from himself, and he burned to be in the thick of the struggle, which, like a great cauldron, seethed almost at boiling-point, ready to overflow and scald the unwary. Always more or less in the public eye, from his unusual personality as well as from the unique position he occupied, Jones's return was noted by a most flattering article in the Point du jour, and, calling to thank the editor, Bertrand de Barère, the interview resulted in a lasting friendship. Bertrand de Barère, as to whose personality Macaulay expressed pronounced opinions, started life as an obscure country lawyer and ended as one of the leaders of the National Convention, where he amused himself by embellishing his speeches with thundering, guttural oaths in the Basque tongue, which no one but himself understood. Barère used to boast, when under the mellow influence of the flowing bowl, that his ancestors helped Hannibal in his conquests of Gaul, and were only deterred from taking Rome by the debauch of Capua. Jones found him interesting, as the acquaintance afforded a glimpse of the bourgeoise, a class with which he had never come in contact, and also enabled him to view French politics from a diametrically opposite standpoint. Ardent advocate of liberty as he had always been, Jones maintained his opinion that the establishment of a republic, similar to the United States, was impossible in France, from the fact of the adjoining countries being monarchical, the different temperament of the people, and the utterly dissimilar conditions prevailing. America was a country unhampered by precedent, France was honeycombed with ancient customs of which no one knew the origin, so lost were they in the dark ages; and to sweep a king from his throne, when a constitutional monarchy would serve better, would be an act of insanity. Jones argued that Louis XVI was the truly sincere friend of French liberty, and not responsible for the sins of his ancestors, disagreeing with Danton, who declared the King aided the American cause solely to annoy England. It must be admitted that the King's kindness to Jones undoubtedly biased his views more or less, and he had long arguments with Tom Paine, who told him that should Louis be deposed, France would not be the first nation to kill its sovereign, adding that he and Jones were descendants of those men who had made such things as Cromwell possible. But Jones stuck to his argument, retorting—

"What you say is true, Tom, but bear in mind that the French lack two essential elements of that situation: First, they have in Louis XVI no Charles I, and second, and most important, there isn't the making of one Cromwell in the whole group of them together."

Firm as Paul was in his defence of the King, he could not condone the monarch's weakness on the "Day of daggers" (February 28, 1791). He said: "Up to that time I had been able to find reason for the King's gentleness. But this was not gentle. It was weak. From that hour 1 pitied the poor man, beset by situations to which nature had made him unequal. Then or never was the time for grapeshot. Then, and then only, did my heart turn against the populace. For once I wished I might be in command of the thirty cannon that were packed in the courtyard, with trained men standing ready to work them. Some slaughter would have been necessary, but it would have been a slaughter of scoundrels."

As to Lafayette, who played such a prominent part in the public life of the hour, Jones, though a firm friend, shared the universal opinion of his contemporaries that the tremendous responsibilities of the political upheaval were more than he was capable of controlling, and that he had let loose more "dogs of war" than could be called to heel at his whistle.

Lafayette was occupied morning and night with his duties in the National Guard, and Jones attended all the debates, where political questions were discussed with a vigour and impassioned eloquence possible only among the Latin races.

Improved in health, Paul enjoyed life to its fullest extent in the society he loved best. The more one realises the stupendous amount of manual labour involved in the indefatigable correspondence with scattered friends, the projects, memorials and plans which he drew up, in a time when mechanical devices for writing were unheard of, and sees the reams of paper covered in his neat script, the more easily one understands that cramped fingers and weakened eyesight must have been the inevitable result. He wrote congratulating Potemkin on his Russian success; proposed to Gouverneur Morris plans for the attack on India, should Russia and England declare war, and was never, for an instant, idle or without project for his employment.

There have been many comments on Paul's seeming weakness for sending his bust to his friends; this Baron Grimm, the greatest gossip of his day, explains, completely refuting the supposition that the bust was first taken at his own wish. Touching on the social success of the returned hero in 1780, on his having been "applauded with transport at all the public places where he has shown himself, and particularly at the opera," he alludes to the remarkable fact "that this brave corsair, who had given multiplied proofs of possessing a soul the most firm and courage the most determined, is at the same time the most feeling and mild man in the world, has made a great many verses full of elegance and softness, the sort of poetry which appears most congenial to his taste being the elegy and the pastoral. The Lodge of the Nine Sisters, of which he is a member, have employed M. Houdon to take his bust. This resemblance is a new masterpiece worthy of the chisel which appears destined to consecrate to immortality illustrious men of all kinds."

In February, 1791, Jones requested the Empress Catherine to cancel his leave, "if she had no further use for his services." He asked Jefferson to obtain permission from Congress to wear the Order of St. Anne, with which his bust had been decorated. There were, in Russia, five orders of knighthood three founded by Peter the Great, and two, St. George and St. Vladimir, by Catherine II. St. Anne was a Holstein Order, conferred by the Grand Duke Paul, as Duke of Holstein; only the Russian decorations being conferred by the Empress personally.

To Baron Grimm Jones sent a copy of his bust, and the particulars of a new development in ship-building, submitted by the inventor, who claimed the advantages of separate beds or hammocks for the crew, less smoke in action, better ventilation, and a host of smaller details. Jones desired that this might be brought to the notice of the Empress, as it would be useful to Russia. He asked Grimm to learn the intentions of the Empress regarding himself; but Catherine, while using Grimm as a compiler of backstairs gossip, did not consider him a necessary factor in affairs of state, and informed him curtly: "If peace (lid not take place she would let M. Paul Jones know her intentions respecting himself, and would not choose him as the medium of her correspondence with Paul Jones."

It is interesting just at this moment to pause, wondering what the ultimate destiny of this man would have been had he lived through the great Revolution, until Napoleon raised France to the apex of her military glory. When, years later, the news of Trafalgar was brought to Napoleon, he gloomily asked Berthier: "How old was Paul Jones when he died?" and on being told about forty-five Berthier was not sure—said: "Then he did not fulfil his destiny. Had he lived to this time France might have had an admiral," and, again, he said: "Our admirals are always talking about pelagic conditions and ulterior objects, as if there was any condition or any object in war except to get in contact with the enemy and destroy him. That was Paul Jones's view of the conditions and objects of naval warfare. It was also Nelson's. It is a pity they could not have been matched somewhere with fairly equal force."

Paul, during the last year and a half of his life, was in indifferent health, which, combined with the unsettled condition of politics, restrained him from taking active steps to obtain employment for his services. There was a terrible tension in the very air, the precursor of the swift-coming storm, which kept every nerve on the alert, ready to spring from danger at the sound of the tocsin. Paul's wonderful adaptability fitted him for any office to which he could have been appointed, and his political friendships brought him continuously in touch with the men in whose hands lay the destinies of France. The brilliant Treatise on the Existing State o/ the French Navy, though published anonymously, was instantly attributed to Jones, who, in December, 1791, was presented at Court in his rank of Russian Admiral. In the letter telling Lafayette of this he speaks of some fur linings, brought from Russia," which he hoped his Majesty would accept. These were a pelisse of spotless ermine and a mantle of sea-otter given him by General Suwarrow. The unsettled claims for payment of the Bonhomme Richard's crew, which he had advanced and never received, occupied him continually. Undeniably all these incessant projects and worries sadly affected his health, when he should have been quiet and untroubled, and, added to his restless temperament, augmented the jaundice from which he was beginning to suffer.

With what pleasure he would have received the news that Congress had commissioned him, the 1st of June, 1792, as admiral, to take command of a squadron, sent to bring that graceless old heathen, the Dey of Algiers, to reason and to liberate the Christian captives. It was his favourite project, but death spared him the disappointment of knowing that his adopted country, impoverished by war, was unable, when the time came, to raise the million dollars needed to equip the expedition. When Mr. Pinkham, the new American Minister to the Court of St. James, arrived, bringing the commission, Paul was far beyond all these worldly honours. The dwindling sands of life had ceased.

As always, his last days were full of action, hurrying to and fro, and endless visitors at his appartement in the Rue de Tournon near the Luxembourg, where he kept open house and we find the names of great and small in the political mêlée, the Duc d'Orléans among the number.

When too ill to go abroad Paul spent the warm July afternoons lounging in a hammock, "which Mme. de Telusson caused to be rigged in the garden of the Admiral's lodgings, a genuine sailor's hammock, swung low to the ground with long cords stretching clear across the little garden. In this hammock the Admiral would pass the afternoons when the sun had retired behind the shade of the houses opposite; and Mme. de Telusson would sit by him, gently swinging the hammock. In this way the stricken hero found some relief from the pains that devoured him."

A stranger to illness, he never doubted his recovery those near him were not so hopeful. He had abandoned the idea of returning to Russia, and, had he lived, planned to enter the French service, where high rank awaited him. Jones attended a sitting of the National Assembly on Wednesday, July 11th, and was to have spoken on the reorganisation of the French navy, but, when the time came, begged to be excused on account of his health, as to have been heard in that vast chamber would have necessitated him raising his voice to a pitch which brought on the terrible attacks of coughing so weakening to him. After the spirited seance concluded, Jones joined Cambon, Barère, and other members of the Central Jacobin Club for supper at the Cale' Timon.

The following speech, alleged to have been recorded by Capelle, but found in none of the standard works, is quoted by Buell with no reference to the whereabouts of the original, and is a most astounding jumble of phrases to have fallen from the lips of Paul Jones, whose enmity to England disappeared long since, and who was, above all, self-contained and a diplomat to the tips of his fingers, and never known to give way to such outbursts—

"At this, which proved to be his last, supper all were delighted at the apparent mending of the Chevalier's health. Barre and Philippe were particularly cheered by his showing of health and recuperating energy.

They toasted him as the coming Admiral of France. But he parried all their compliments politely, and finally said—

Gentlemen, pardon me, but let me say that this is no time for jest or raillery, no matter how well meant or how gentle. You all know my sentiments. I do not approve, I cannot in conscience approve, all that you have done, are doing, and, alas! intend yet to do. But I feel that I ought to take advantage of this—perhaps my last—opportunity to define clearly my attitude.

Whatever you do now, France does. If you kill my good friend the King, France kills him; because, as things are now ordered, the group of which a great majority is present here, is France. Louis XIV once said " I am the state." You can say that you are the state with more truth.

My relations to the people across the Channel are known to us all. Their enemies must be my friends everywhere; those whom they hate I must love. As all here know, as all France knows, the progress of the French people towards liberty, and the promises that progress gives of new strength and a new might to the French nation, fill the rulers of England with alarm and resentment. The day when this alarm will turn to hostility and this resentment be expressed by blows is not far off."

It is the beginning of this paragraph which, even if taken as a purely political bit of oratory, seems so impossible. That a man of Jones's conservative nature and well-controlled temperament should launch forth into such clap-trap appeals for popularity is utterly at variance with his behaviour through life. ']'here being no phonographs ready to record his words verbatim, and the brain of the scribe—in all probability—over-excited by the conviviality of the meal, one must allow for exaggeration. The Admiral never saw a report of the speech, and undoubtedly local colour crept in unawares.

"'When that day comes, if I am able to stand a deck,' the speech continues, ' I shall make no point of rank,'" an absurdity when it is well known that although Paul had no desire for money he stuck tenaciously to little woridlinesses like these. "' I shall raise no question of political opinion. I shall only ask France to tell me how I can best serve her cause.

You have brought back to my ears the sound of many voices giving forth the lusty cheers of courage in combat. Some of those faces were of American mould; but more were the faces of Frenchmen. Some of those voices sounded in my native tongue, but more in the language of France. The Ricith7d's crew was, as you know, considerably more than half Frenchmen.

I cannot be immodest enough to say that I found it easy to teach them the art of conquering Englishmen. But I trust you will not think me vainglorious, in that combat, I at least did what, unfortunately if I say that fortunately, some French officers have not of late years done, I simply let my Frenchmen fight their battle out.

"Now, I promise you that, if I live, in whatever station France may call me to lead her sons, I shall always, as I have done when meeting the English or any other foe, let my Frenchmen fight their battle out.'"

There is much more in the same strain of florid oratory which makes one certain that the gallant Paul has been too freely translated.

The following Sunday Gouverneur Morris visited Paul Jones at his house, 42 Rue de Tournon, in the afternoon.

Found the Admiral lying in a hammock, stretched in the little garden in the rear of his lodgings. Mme. T. and two young ladies were with him. He was extremely cheerful, and seemed better than for a long time previously. He did not cough much, and talked a good deal. Wonderfully interesting! Promised to lunch with me next day. Took my leave about five o'clock, and the ladies accompanied me. . . . Mme. de T. was most charming, and was in high spirits at the evident improvement of the Admiral's health."

On the afternoon of the i8th of July, 1792, Paul Jones drew up his will and, assisted by Gouverneur Morris, made an inventory of his goods, but no one dreamed that the end was so near. Simply, and unostentatiously as he had lived, his spirit left the ambitious, tired body. Alone and self-reliant, Paul Jones breathed his last. . . . No tears fell from tender eyes, no loving fingers closed the heavy lids. .
Colonel Blackden wrote a simple and brief letter announcing his death to Mrs. Taylor of Dumfries, his eldest sister—

Great Titchfield Street, London, August 9.

Your brother, Admiral Jones, was not in good health for about a year, but had not been so unwell as to keep the house. For two months past he began to lose his appetite, to grow yellow, and show signs of the jaundice; for this he took medicine, and seemed to grow better; but about ten days before his death his legs began to swell, which increased upwards, so that two days before his exit he could not button his waistcoat, and had great difficulty in breathing. I visited him every day, and, beginning to be apprehensive of his danger, desired him to settle his affairs; but this he put off till the afternoon of his death, when he was prevailed upon to send for a notaire, and made his will. Mr. Beaupoil and myself witnessed it about eight o'clock in the evening, and left him sitting in a chair. A few minutes after we retired he walked into his chamber, and laid himself upon his face on the bed-side, with his feet on the floor; after the Queen's physician arrived they went into the room and found him in that position, and upon taking him up they found he had expired.

"His disorder had terminated in dropsy of the breast. His body was put into a leaden coffin on the 20th, that in case the United States, whom he had so essentially served, and with so much honour to himself, should claim his remains they might be more easily removed. This is all, Madame, that I can say concerning his illness and death."

The final discovery of the Admiral's body by the untiring efforts of the American Embassy in Paris, and its exhumation in i9o5, after lying hidden for one hundred and thirteen years in the abandoned cemetery of St. Louis; its removal to America under escort of a naval squadron, and subsequent burial with much ceremony at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, are all too recent events to need description. There had been several half-hearted efforts previously by the American Government to find and remove the remains, but they all failed from one cause or another.

It seems a remarkable omission that a man so famous as Paul Jones, who was followed to his grave by a deputation from the National Assembly and by many of the leading men of France, should have been buried without any name-plate or other distinguishing mark on the leaden coffin. This omission is all the more remarkable since a leaden coffin was used "in case the United States, whom he had so essentially served, and with so much honour to himself, should claim his remains, they might be more easily removed." And there are those who whisper that the body, exhumed and taken away with so much ceremony and care, is not that of the founder of the American Navy.

The American Minister, Gouverneur Morris, writing to Robert Morris, says-

"Before I quit Paul Jones I must tell you that some people here who like rare shows wished him to have a pompous funeral, and I was applied to on the subject; but as I had no right to spend money on such follies, either the money of his heirs or that of the United States, I desired that he might be buried in a private and economical manner. I have since had reason to he glad that I did not agree to waste money, of which he had no great abundance, and for which his relatives entertained a tender regard."

Why this absurd and niggardly desire when Morris, of all men, knew that his friend left a considerable sum of money at his banker's, and an estate eventually realising £12,000? One might even go to the length of thinking that in the event of so distinguished a man as the Chevalier Admiral Paul Jones having died in poor circumstances, his friend could have taxed the obligations of friendship to the extent of seeing him buried in a manner appropriate to his worldly rank. Was there, in Morris's heart, that latent gleam of jealousy of the "foreigner" from which Paul seemed ever doomed to suffer? The French wished to place him in the Pantheon to sleep among the heroes of their nation; why, then, was he buried in the cemetery for foreign Protestants with "no priest, no service," and a simple volley of musketry fired over his grave?

The AIonilcu7 in its official report of the National Assembly records that a letter was received on the subject, from Colonel Blackden-

"MR. PRESIDENT,
"I announce to you that Admiral Paul Jones died last evening in Paris; that the American Minister has ordered the person at whose house the Admiral died to cause him to be buried in the most private manner, and at the least possible expense! !

This person, on account of the formalities still existing relative to Protestants, found it necessary to apply to a Commissary. He has done it, and M. Simoneau, the Commissary, expresses his astonishment at the order given by the Minister, and says that a man who has rendered such signal services to France and America ought to have a public funeral. 11c adds that if America will not pay the expense he will pay it himself. The friends of the Admiral wait the orders of the Assembly respecting the mode of interment.

"S. BLACKDEN. "(Late Colonel in the Service of /he United States.)"

A curious old law still existed which allowed foreign Protestants to be buried free of expense, and this was to be taken advantage of to bury, as a pauper, a man whose name had rung through two worlds... The generous M. Simoneau, brother of the Mayor of Etampes, actually paid the expenses of the pitiful burial, which arnounted to 462 francs, and the great Paul Jones was laid to his final rest through the kindness and charity of a total stranger! The Dutch Pastor, Paul Henri Marron, delivered the funeral oration, a florid bit of oratory highly complimentary to the dead; the speaker declaring the fame of the brave outlives him, his portion is immortality."

Though America forgot him, in the hearts of his French friends Paul held a place not to be usurped by another. On the Sunday following his death Barère delivered from the steps of the Palais de justice one of his celebrated " Sermons to the People" on the "Freedom of the Sea," in which he eulogised the gallant Paul Jones in the highest terms, and during the next decade memoirs of him were constantly published at Paris. His personal belongings, decorations and uniforms were taken charge of by Mrs. Taylor, the sister who came from Scotland for this purpose. The golden sword given him by Louis XVI, of which he was so justly proud, he bequeathed to "Dick" Dale, who, he said, had done more than any one to help him win it. Of the beautiful and broken-hearted Aime there is no word, but her welfare had been his care long ago.

There is much thoughtfulness evinced for those dependent on him, to whom he left his property. Through the busy years of his life he kept up a correspondence with the two married sisters, endeavouring to mediate in their incessant quarrels. He frequently sent them money, and this was undoubtedly the reason for their persistence in keeping warm the slight tie of relationship, for, as they had not met for some twenty years, their interests could have had little in common.

Paul Jones undoubtedly deserves to rank as one of the remarkable men of an age which saw the final disappearance of the feudal system and the birth of an era devoted to those "Rights of Man" of which he was so ardent a champion. Had he entered the British navy his rise would have been steady and rapid, for as a sea-fighter he was unsurpassed in resourceful daring; never did he know defeat, or, it is alleged, was he wounded. His victories were the more remarkable from the poor means with which he gained them, and were won single-handed, unsupported by his squadron, won by sheer fighting, and owed nothing to manuvre or stratagem. It is better for his undimmed glory that he never lived to become Admiral of the fleet of Republican France, for, fight- ing as he would have been obliged to fight with the preponderance of his crew Frenchmen—and none of his sturdy "Yankee bullies" to fall back upon—could lie have held his own when lie measured swords against Nelson, as he would have been called to do? Could lie, by the magnetism of his personality, the force of his inflexible will, have inspired these Frenchmen to fight as they had once fought on the .Bonhomme Richard.

He was a man without a country, inasmuch as, though he fought, and fought loyally for the banner lie upheld, his love of active service predominated over all else. When he told Lady Selkirk: "I am not in arms as an American. . . . I profess myself a citizen of the world, totally unfettered by the little, mean distinctions of climate or country," he expressed those sentiments which, above all, animated him. He was unfettered by the little, mean distinctions of climate or country," but he had not forgotten his native land to the extent of indifference to the opinions of his Compatriots, for he once said The English nation may hate me, but I will force them to esteem me too."

He believed firmly in Nelson's dictum that "a naval officer, unlike a military commander, can have no fixed plans. He must always be ready for the chance. It may come to-morrow, or next week, or next year, or never; but he must be always ready." He was prepared for what might happen, and among his papers was found a complete and exhaustive list of every ship in the English navy, down to the most insignificant detail. With this he could not be taken by surprise as to the strength of his opponent. There was much speculation as to the manner in which he obtained such a document, but since 1770 Paul had been a Freemason, and to such an one nothing is denied by his brothers. While in France, where Freemasonry was, for the moment, the fashionable whim, this universal brotherhood unlocked for him many a secret door. It was so very much the cult of the hour that there were lodges to which women belonged as well as men, and the initiation of the beautiful Princesse de Lamballe as Gande Maitresse of the Mere Loge Ecossais d'Adoption was the occasion of much festivity and a flowery poem in honour of the event.

His faults were those of too keen a love for glory, too great an intolerance of those who had light regard for their word of honour, too bitter a contempt for such as put gain before the welfare of their country.

He formed many friendships with men and with the women of the hour; his love for Aimée de Telusson was ardent and chivalrous, and yet these friendships ---these ties--were as frail as the web of the spider when ambition balanced the scales.

There was no hesitation for him, destiny ordered his to be a life of ambition, full of turbulent emotions, gratified achievements, never-ending hope and inspiration. . Can he not he aptly described in the words-

Jealous in honour; sudden and quick in quarrel
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth "?


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