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John Paul Jones
Chapter IX - 1777 - 1778


IT is indisputably to his previous acquaintance with the Duc de Chartres that Paul Jones owed his entre and much of his success in French society, for where a prince of the blood leads, others soon follow. The most impartial historian has been unable to find excuses for de Chartres, profligate that he was, spend- thrift, and master of vice of every description, whose path was always downward. Even the descendants of those men whom the Regent scathingly called his roués—a name of greater contempt and infamy than in our day—turned from him with loathing.

The unnameable orgies of the regence were repeated, with additions undreamed of by the former revellers. The very Citizens of Paris shuddered in disgust at the tales which Crept out—no one knew just how—of saturnalia and licence inconceivable. in 1783 this prince built for himself, in the lovely Parc Monceau, a. pavilion later known as "la foüe le Chartes," which became a theatre for the enactment of those abominable revels. Another cause of his extreme unpopularity with the citizens was the plan lie carried out of disfiguring the Palais Royal with cheap and hideous booths, known as baraques. In vain his neighbours protested, for it spoilt their view of the old garden; but the prospect of the rents he would draw so appealed to Monseigneur that he proceeded unmoved.

The gardens under his rule were constantly being changed and replanted; he even vent to the expense of building an underground circus, which was later destroyed by fire.

De Chartres was married to Marie Adelaide de Bourbon Penthièvrc, the richest heiress in France, whose fortune he could not spend fast enough. So terrible were his extravagances that legal steps had to he taken to prevent him ruining her and their family. In 1790 the Duchesse told Gouverneur Morris, then American Minister, that the Due's treasurer did not pay her regularly every month, and if it continued she would separate from her husband. Her father, the Due de Penthièvre, tried by every means to bring his son-in-law to reason, and to avoid the open scandal such a separation would cause in consequence of their high rank. It was useless de Chartres, now Duc d'Orléans, would listen to no one, and a lawsuit was commenced which lasted till 1793. Mme. de 'lourzel asserts that his hatred of the Princesse de Lamballe dates from this moment, as he believed her to have been instrumental in bringing about the separation which deprived him of the control of his wife's purse.

D'Orléans was intensely disliked by the King and Queen, and history accuses him of wasting the Duchesse's money on the leaders of the sans-collutes and most rabid revolutionaries, by whose help he hoped to bring about the speedy downfall of the royal family. There were persons living at the time who swore to having seen him in disguise at the fall of the Bastille, and at Versailles on the night of October 6th. But on July 12, 1789, when the Prince de Lambesec and his German soldiers charged the mob in the Tuileries Gardens, and the partisans of d'Orléans and Necker carried busts of these worthies through the streets, crying, " Vive Ie Due d'Orlcans! Vive Necker!" the Duc, though accused of encouraging his followers by his presence, is able to prove an alibi. That beautiful and notorious lady, Grace Dalrymple Elliot, who was the Duc's chere amiee, begins her interesting memoir—

"In the year 1789, July 12th, which was on a Sunday, I went with the Due d'Orléans, Prince Louis d'Aremberg, and others whose names I do not recollect, to fish and dine at the Due's château of Raincy, in the forest of Bondy, near Paris." As the party, after a long and, it is to be hoped, happy day in the country, returned to Paris at eleven in the evening, the Due's actions seem satisfactorily accounted for. His connivance in the fiendish murder of the Princesse de Lamballe is said to be due to the fact that, on her death, the immense fortune of which she was possessed reverted to him; and he was dining with his mistress, Mme. de Bouffon, at the Palais Royale, quite undisturbed by the horrors of the September massacres, when the mob stuck the pike bearing the beautiful head up to his window. D'Orléans looked calmly out and said, "Oh, it is de LamhaIle' head, I know it by the long hair," and, reseating himself, went comfortably on with his repast.

The Duc was a man who had no sense of shame about anything, and openly gave his mistress, Mme. de Genus, apartments in the Palais Royal, and appointed her to the post of governess to his children, despite the objections of the Duchesse. To such an extent did the artful lady get her charges under her influence that they refused to leave her and go to their mother, to the untold sorrow of the latter. D'Orleans is described as a pleasant companion and master of the art of pleasing—when it was to his advantage— and it suited him to help the Americans' cause, for he had his own chestnuts to pull out of the fire. A man who will foment anarchy and revolution in his own country has very little of the true spirit of patriotism, and this, with the callous way he broke his wife's heart and estranged her children from her, inclines one to believe the many discreditable stories so freely told, and feel more than glad that the fate to which he doomed his unoffending cousin became his, when, amid groans and hisses, "Egalité" ascended the guillotine.

In 1778 he had not reached the stage where he was prepared to declare himself so openly, and, though persona non grata at the Court, could and did help Paul Jones to the best of his ability. He also presented him to the Duchess, who became a staunch friend, and aided the Americans with large sums of money.

Paul Jones was unquestionably at this moment the most sought-after man in Paris, and it is amusing to what an extent women of all ranks were attracted by a personality which was an indescribable blending of tamed pirate and man of fashion. They swarmed around him like bees around honey, for his very appearance breathed untold romance as he gazed into those melting blue, brown, or grey eyes, in whose company he found himself at the moment, with a fervour that set hearts beating unevenly. Had the success of his mission to France depended solely on the efforts of women, unquestionably he would have accomplished his ends in less time; as it was he owed more to the kindness of the Duchesse de Chartres than his intense gratitude could ever repay. Interested in such an unusual type of man, the Duchess on all occasions used to treat him with the utmost graciousness, and nicknamed him—as it was her habit to do with those she liked—the "Chevalier sans titre de la rner."

But it must not be supposed, even with the aid and patronage of this very charming lady, everything went smoothly. To begin with, there was wrangling among the Commissioners from the United States. Dr. Franklin wished to keep Paul Jones in Europe, while Lee, who hated and feared him, was bent on getting him on the other side of the Atlantic at the first opportunity. Silas Deane, the third Commissioner, was a non-entity, with little voice in the matter. Lee was playing the traitor, and employing "two British spies " as his private secretaries, so that all the intentions of the new republic were at once known in London. Lee feared Jones, and knew how little mercy he could expect from the fiery captain if his treachery was discovered; therefore, the sooner he got Paul out of his way the better. It would be interesting to know why Lee, a man blessed with the world's goods, played this part. It could not be said gain was the motive for his treachery to a cause he championed of his own free will from the first. But he did not wish Jones to remain in Europe. However, Dr. Franklin held the controlling vote; he thundered forth his orders that Paul Jones was to stay in France, and Paul stayed.

It was the crisis in his life, for had not the good doctor carried his point, Paul most probably would have been relegated to the rank of captain in an infant and unformed navy where, lacking that political influence without which little was possible, obscurity might have been his portion instead of the brilliant rank he so deservedly won.

It was understood that on his arrival in France Jones was to he given command of the lndien, a frigate for which he had prepared the plans in 1775. These the Marine Committee had approved, and Silas Deane contracted for the frigate to be laid down at Amsterdam the following year. As Holland maintained a neutral policy towards the rest of Europe, the frigate was supposedly intended for the East India Company, and built under the supervision of Captain Gillon, he being directed by Charles Frederick Dumas, the secret agent of the United States, through whose hankers all hills were paid. The Indien was frigate built, with an extreme length over all of 154 feet; her complement of officers and men numbered four hundred. "She was forty or fifty per cent. more powerful than any regular frigate then afloat; the equal, in fact, of any forty-four gun ship on the two decks in that period, and little inferior to most ships of fifty guns."

By order of the Marine Committee, Jones was to assume command of the ship on his arrival. What was his surprise then, to learn, on reaching Paris, that the ship had been sold to the King of France for a price that covered the expenses of her construction! He was dumbfounded, and demanded the reason of this forced sale.

The Indien had been launched, and ready to proceed to 1'Orient to receive her guns, when, like a bolt out of the blue, Sir Joseph Yorke, Minister to the Netherlands, reported to the States-General that she was an American ship of war, that her building had been carried on under false pretences, and demanding that she should be detained in Dutch waters for " meditated breach of neutrality." All concerned in the venture were amazed at the betrayal of the well-kept secret, until Jones, to whom it was a matter of vital interest, found they had been betrayed to King George's government by Lee's private "secretary," Thornton. So complete was the evidence of this piece of treachery, that copies of the most secret letters and documents, proving beyond a doubt the purpose for which the Indien was intended, had been furnished, How Dr. Franklin ever managed to restrain Paul Jones from falling upon Lee, and rending him limb from limb as the price of his treachery, is not related. But there was a terrible scene.

Furious as Jones felt, at Dr. Franklin's wish he went to Amsterdam to see the ship. Dark-eyed and swarthy, he looked what he claimed to be, a Spanish officer, wishing to inspect the Indien and report on it to his master, the King of Spain, with the probability of purchasing, if satisfactory. His fluent Spanish stood him in good stead, and he was able to make such observations as he would, without any one dreaming that the redoubtable Paul Jones was at large among the unprotected citizens of Amsterdam. So well was the secret kept, that Dumas was the only person to whom he revealed his identity, and not one of Lee's spies got an inkling of the plan. This trip occupied nearly two months, and Jones returned to Franklin with the assurance that during the existing neutrality between England and Holland it would be idle to waste time in trying to get possession of the ship, even though it were the property of the French government.

In refutation of the assertion that Jones behaved violently over his disappointment in losing the Indien, his own letter is worth quoting.

"I understood," he wrote to the Marine Committee, in his first despatches from Nantes, "though I have yet received no letter, that the commissioners had provided for me one of the finest frigates that ever was built, calculated for thirty guns on one deck, and capable of carrying thirty six-pounders; but were under the necessity of giving her up, on account of Some difficulties which they met with at Court. Perhaps the news of our late successes may now put that court in a better humour. But my unfeigned thanks are equally due for that intention."

In another letter he says, " Deeply sensible of the honour which Congress has conferred upon me, communicated in the orders of the secret committee to the commissioners, I can bear the disappointment with philosophy. Yet I confess I was rather hurt when, at Paris, I understood that the new frigate at Amsterdam had never been intended for me, before my appearance, but for the constructor."

After some delay, Franklin verbally ordered him to join the Ranger, where, on arrival, he found enough to keep him busy, as the crew of the good ship was in a state verging upon mutiny, having been stirred up and worked upon by the first Lieutenant Simpson, described as "a brave man, and for his calibre a good officer, a thoroughbred Yankee sailor, but a man of less brain than ambition." He had convinced the crew that Jones was permanently detached from the Ranger, that orders to sail from home were expected, and he, Simpson, was to be in command; with a lot more misinformation. It is said of Jones, "that the crew used to get crazy about him when he was with them and talking to them, and it was only when his back was turned that any one could wean them away from him;" and the master hand of Lee was at the bottom of this, with the assistance of those "private secretaries," Thornton and Hezckiah Ford.

Jones was a man of action:' he sent instantly for the disturbing Mr. Simpson.

"I command this ship, Mr. Simpson," he said, "by virtue of the resolution of Congress, dated June 14th last. But I will urge none of these considerations upon you in your present attitude. So far as you are concerned, I will say only that I command this ship by virtue of the fact that I am personally the best man aboard—a fact which I shall cheerfully demonstrate to you at your pleasure! And I wish you to signify your pleasure to me here and now!"

Mr. Simpson instantly decided that he had been sadly misunderstood, and that he wished for nothing better than to serve loyally under his commander as he had always been proud to do. His Yankee caution warned him that it was better to be "a living donkey than a dead lion," and that he had no wish to be a human target. The apology served Jones, who, with his customary good nature, "commanded him to join him, as he was going ashore to dine with the commandant of the Brest dockyard," assuring him that the French officers would gladly welcome an additional guest.

Jones returned from Holland in March 1778, but did not sail for his cruise in the Ranger, until April 10th. In the interval he had the good fortune to be constantly in the company of the Due and Duchesse de Chartres, who were in residence at Brest. The day previous to the Ranger's sailing, April 9th, the Duchesse paid him the unusual compliment of giving a dinner in his honour; at which, beside the household and retinue of their rank, many distinguished officers of both services were present, naturally leading the conversation to naval affairs.

In this Paul took a passive part until d'Orvillers brought up the great French battle off Malaga, in which the Comte de Toulouse fought the allied English and Dutch fleets. That he did not pursue, when they ran for Gibraltar, d'Orvillers made the subject of adverse comment on de Toulouse. Speaking for the first time, Jones politely but decidedly differed with d'Orviller's opinion. If one of the fallen angels had appeared in that distinguished assembly unannounced, the effect could not have been more startling; for, in their secret souls, most of these elegant courtiers had considered Jones as an ordinary "Yankee skipper," a man of good address, gifted with more savoir faire than the average adventurer, but never thought of him as a man of education or a profound student of history. They did not know that naval history was his dearest hobby, and from the days of Noah's ark and the rudimentary coracle to the latest ship of war he was master of his subject.

Without a suspicion of the surprise caused by his remarks, he proceeded to explain technically his grounds for difference of opinion in language showing his complete familiarity with the strategical value of the manoeuvres of de Toulouse's fleet, and gave, off-hand, the armament of every ship in his command. It is an indisputable fact that he was the only man present who could have furnished this information, for the French navy was, fundamentally, an aristocratic organisation, to enter which certain degrees of nobility and hereditary honours were indispensable, often to the detriment of the service. He proved to them that his grasp of the political importance of the battle, and its effect on the war of the Spanish Succession, was not inferior to his technical knowledge; and, it may be said, from this moment Paul Jones's French acquaintances took him seriously, accepting him for the man of refinement and culture that he was, and let their half contemptuous picture of pirate and filibuster fade from their minds. They began, in a measure, to understand something of his complex character.

The Duchesse, in whom the Chinese trait of ancestor worship was strongly developed, 'delighted beyond everything in the history of her grandfather whom Paul so flatteringly defended. She expressed her pleasure graciously, giving an order to one of her attendants. A few minutes later a case was brought to her, which she opened, taking from it a richly jewelled watch of exquisite Louis XV design, which she smilingly handed to him, with the explanation that it had belonged to her grandfather, who always wore it. For once in his life Paul Jones was so taken aback as to be almost at a loss for suitable words in which to thank the royal lady, so unexpected was the gift. But he overcame his momentary embarrassment, thanking the beautiful Duchesse who had so honoured him, adding, with a deep bow, as he placed the wonderful jewelled toy close to his ambitious heart—

"May it please your Royal Highness, if fortune should favour me at sea, I will some day lay an English frigate at your feet."


 


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