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Significant Scots
John Paul Jones


John Paul Jones John Paul was born at Arbigland, Kirkbean, Kirkcudbright, Scotland, 6 July 1747. Apprenticed to a merchant at age 13, he went to sea in the brig Friendship to learn the art of seamanship. At 21, he received his first command, the brig John.
After several successful years as a merchant skipper in the West Indies trade, John Paul emigrated to the British colonies in North America and there added "Jones" to his name. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Jones was in Virginia. He cast his lot with the rebels, and on 7 December 1775, he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Continental Navy, serving aboard Esek Hopkins' flagship Alfred.
As First Lieutenant in Alfred, he was the first to hoist the Grand Union flag on a Continental warship. On 1 November 1777, he commanded the Ranger, sailing for France. Sailing into Quiberon Bay, France, 14 February 1778, Jones and Admiral La Motte Piquet changed gun salutes — the first time that the Stars and Stripes, the flag of the new nation, was officially recognized by a foreign government.
Early in 1779, the French King gave Jones an ancient East Indiaman Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted, repaired, and renamed Bon Homme Richard as a compliment to his patron Benjamin Franklin. Commanding four other ships and two French privateers, he sailed 14 August 1779 to raid English shipping.
 
On 23 September 1779, his ship engaged the HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Famborough Head, England. Richard was blasted in the initial broadside the two ships exchanged, loosing much of her firepower and many of her gunners. Captain Richard Pearson, commanding Serapis, called out to Jones, asking if he surrendered. Jones' reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!"
It was a bloody battle with the two ship literally locked in combat. Sharpshooting Marines and seamen in Richard's tops raked Serapis with gunfire, clearing the weather decks. Jones and his crew tenaciously fought on , even though their ship was sinking beneath them. Finally, Capt. Pearson tore down his colors and Serapis surrendered.
Bon Homme Richard sunk the next day and Jones was forced to transfer to Serapis.
After the American Revolution, Jones served as a Rear Admiral in the service of Empress Catherine of Russia, but returned to Paris in 1790. He died in Paris at the age of 45 on 18 July 1792. He was buried in St. Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.
John Paul Jones were laid to rest in the crypt of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis In 1845, Col. John H. Sherburne began a campaign to return Jones' remains to the United States. He wrote Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft and requested the body be brought home aboard a ship of the Mediterrean Squadron. Six years later, preliminary arrangements were made, but the plans fell through when several of Jones' Scottish relatives objected. Had they not, another problem would have arisen. Jones was in an unmarked grave and no one knew exactly where that was.
American Ambassador Horace Porter began a systematic search for it in 1899. The burial place and Jones' body was discovered in April 1905. President Theodore Roosevelt sent four cruisers to bring it back to the U.S., and these ships were escorted up the Chesapeake Bay by seven battleships.
On 26 January 1913, the remains of John Paul Jones were laid to rest in the crypt of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md. Today, a Marine honor guard stands duty whenever the crypt is open to the public. Public visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

JONES, PAUL, (originally John Paul,) a nautical genius of no ordinary character and endowments, was born at Arbigland, in the parish of Kirkbean, and stewartry of Kirkcudbright, in the month of July, 1747. He was the reputed son of John Paul, who acted as gardener to Mr Craik of Arbigland, by his wife, who had been cook to the same gentleman. It was generally believed, however, that Mr Craik was the real father of this extraordinary adventurer. The education of Paul Jones—to use the name which he assumed in after life —was in no respect different from that usually given in Scotland to boys of his rank; and it is not recorded that he showed any symptoms, while at school, of that capacity by which he was undoubtedly distinguished in advanced life. From his earliest years he manifested a decided predilection for a seafaring life, and at the age of twelve, was apprenticed as a mariner to a Mr Young, a respectable merchant in Whitehaven, whence he made his first voyage in 1760, in the ship Friendship of that port, under the care of a captain Benson, for the Rappahannoc, Virginia. Living on the shore of the Solway, all the amusements and ideas of young Paul seem to have been from his very cradle maritime. While yet a mere child he hoisted his mimic flag, rendezvoused his tiny fleet, and gave forth his orders to his imaginary captains, with all the consequence of a veteran commander. The town of Dumfries was at this period deeply engaged in American trade, particularly in importing tobacco, and the Nith being too shallow to float the larger vessels up to the town, their cargoes were discharged at Carse-thorn, on the Galloway coast, where the subject of this memoir was a daily observer of their operations, and not unfrequently ventured to challenge the modes of procedure followed by experienced seamen. Here, too, he had early and abundant opportunities of becoming acquainted with the colonists engaged in that traffic, whose bold and liberal sentiments seem, at a very early period of his life, to have made the New World, as he afterwards expressed himself, "the country of his fond election." These early impressions were doubtless aided by the circumstance of an elder brother having settled there, and being in the full enjoyment of the peace and the plenty with which, so long as the states were submissive colonies of Great Britain, it was universally admitted the inhabitants were generally blessed. With this brother he made his abode during the time his ship was in the Rappahannoc on his first voyage, and most probably on his subsequent voyages; which could not fail in some degree to have attached him to the country, though he had been devoid of any prepossessions in its favour. The early indications of genius, which we have noticed above, were fully supported in his new station. His singular intelligence and propriety of conduct excited the wonder, and, in some degree, the respect of his ship-mates, at the same time that they gained him the esteem and the confidence of his employer, who promised to give him the proof of his approbation by appointing him to the command of one of his ships. Unfortunately for both parties, untoward circumstances prevented the master from having it in his power to pay this substantial tribute of respect to the merits of his faithful apprentice, whose time having expired, he entered to the command of a slave ship, and made several voyages to the coast of Africa in prosecution of that disgraceful traffic. How long he continued in this trade his biographers have not told us; but to his honour they have stated that he felt disgusted with the employment, and at length "confined his services to the command of vessels engaged in a more reputable and legitimate commerce." In the year 1773, the death of his brother in Virginia, without having left any children, called him over to that country to look after the settlement of his affairs, on which occasion, all his transatlantic predilections being revived, he resolved to withdraw from the dangers and the vicissitudes of a seafaring life, to settle in the colony, and to devote the remainder of his days to the peaceful pursuits of rural industry and philosophic retirement.

There is nothing more curious in the history of the human mind than that satiety and languor which so frequently come over the most active spirits. Cowley often had thoughts of burying himself in the woods of America, where he fancied he would be happy, in seclusion from all intercourse with the busy and bustling portions of society: Cromwell, with all his unconquerable daring and unquenchable activity--and Hambden, one of the brightest, the boldest, and the most disinterested spirits that have adorned any age or country, despairing of the state of political affairs in their native land, sought to escape their uneasy sensations, and to secure religious peace and happiness, by the same expedient. Akin, perhaps, to these cases was that of Paul Jones, whose mind seems from the first to have been replete with lofty aspirations, fitting him for greatness, while his connexions in his own country were of a nature to prevent his ever gratifying them. We can easily conceive this bold and enthusiastic man sensible of the superiority of his powers above those of most other men, but fretting at the cold obstructions which were put before him, by the rules and habits of society in his own country, and also perhaps at the notoriety of his ignoble origin; therefore preferring to lose himself in an American forest, where, if he did not gain any distinction, he would not at least be esteemed as lower than his personal merit warranted. Had the colonies been in a state of tranquillity, Jones would probably have spent the remainder of his days as a simple colonist, or perhaps gone back to sea, to escape the monotony of a life but little suited to his faculties. The country, however, was now in a state of high effervescence, which was every day increasing, and which called forth the energies, such as they were, of every individual among them, either on the one side or the other. Great dissatisfaction had for a long period been prevalent respecting the measures of the British government in reference to the colonies, and in the speculations of the colonists with regard to the steps necessary to be taken for counteracting these measures, Jones found the tedium of his retirement wonderfully relieved. Open resistance was no sooner proposed, than he found that he had mistaken the natural bent of his genius, which was much more turned towards action than solitary speculation; and when Congress, in the close of the year 1775, began to equip a naval force to assist in asserting American independence, he stepped boldly forward to offer his service. He was at once appointed to be first lieutenant aboard the Alfred, one of the only two ships belonging to the Congress; and in that capacity hoisted with his own hands for the first time the flag of independent America. In the course of a few months, by his activity and success, he gained the entire confidence of the marine committee, and from the hands of the president received a captain’s commission. In the end of the year 1777, he was sent to France, in command of the Ranger, a new sloop of war, with despatches containing an account of the victory obtained by the colonists at Saratoga. As a reward for the important services he had already rendered to the Americans, it was ordered that he should be promoted to the command of the Indian, a fine frigate built for the Congress at Amsterdam, the Ranger, at the same time, acting under his orders; but the American commissioners at Paris, from motives of policy, assigned the Indian over to the king of France. Captain Jones, of course, remained in command of the Ranger, with which he convoyed a fleet of merchant-men to Quiberon Bay, and there, from the French commandant, received the first salute that had ever been given to the American flag. Highly indignant at the resolution taken by the British governments to treat every colonist who supported Congress in their aims at independence as traitors, and emulous of the exploits of some British seamen on the American coast, Jones soon after entered the Irish channel, and on the night of the 22nd of April came to anchor in the Solway firth, almost in sight of the trees which sheltered his native cottage. The place must have awakened many strange associations; but they were of no friendly import. With thirty-one volunteers, he sailed in two row boats for the English side of the firth, with intent to burn the shipping (upwards of two hundred sail) in the harbour of Whitehaven. This bold and hazardous project he had certainly executed, if the receding tide had not retarded his progress so much, that the day began to dawn before he reached the shore; as it was, he could scarcely have failed had he been seconded by his followers. The smaller of the boats he sent to the north of the port, to set fire to the ships, whilst he himself passed southwards to secure the fort. The morning was cold, and the sentinels, suspecting nothing less than the approach of an enemy, were in the guard-room; a circumstance of which Jones knew well how to take advantage. Climbing up by the shoulders of one of his men, he crept through one of the embrasures, and was promptly followed by all his company. Making fast the door of the guard-room, he spiked every gun on the fort, thirty-six in number, and, without having hurt a single individual, proceeded to join the party who had it in charge to burn the ships. A false alarm had deterred this party from executing their orders. Jones, however, proceeded to fire the ships within his reach; but the inhabitants were by this time alarmed, and hasting to the protection of the port; and he was compelled with his small party to retreat, after having set fire to three ships, one of which only was totally destroyed. This achievement cannot be denied the praise of singular daring; yet there is something so unnatural in making war upon one’s native land, and especially one’s native city, improving all the knowledge and the associations of early years for the purposes of destruction, that every generous mind revolts at the idea, and cannot award the praise which, it may be admitted, would otherwise be due to the undertaking. But this attempt was only the first exploit which signalized the 22nd of April. Early in the forenoon, he landed with a part of his crew at St Mary’s Isle, on the Galloway coast, the beautiful residence of the earl of Selkirk, whom he hoped to have surprised, and carried off a prisoner to America, that he might serve as a hostage for the security of such of the colonists as should fall into the hands of the British. Happily for his lordship, he was not at home, and Jones, as he approached the house, and learned that there were only ladies within it, wished to return to his ship without farther procedure; but his followers had no such exalted ideas. In venturing upon an undertaking so hazardous, they were influenced by the hope of plunder, which, being now in view, they refused to relinquish. He succeeded, however, so far, that they agreed to offer no violence to any one, that they should not enter the house, and that the officers, having made their demand, should accept of what might be put into their hands without further inquiry. These stipulations were punctually fulfilled; but the inmates of the house were not aware of them, and, terrified for their lives, were glad to redeem them by delivering up the whole family plate, which was carried off in triumph by the sailors, who neither understood nor cared for the discredit, which it brought upon their intrepid commander and the cause they served. The circumstance was, as he probably foresaw, improved with great effect to his disadvantage. To heighten the odium of the affair, it was industriously but most falsely given out that the father of Jones had been gardener to the earl of Selkirk, and that it was from this circumstance he had learned all the localities of the estate, which enabled him to commit the robbery without danger either to himself or his marauding crew. Not one of Jones’s relations had ever been in the service of lord Selkirk; and he showed that he had a spirit far above the meanness imputed to him, by buying the whole of the articles from the captors, who claimed them as their right by the usages of war, and, at a subsequent period, restoring them, in their original packages, to the noble owner. In a correspondence which was carried on between Jones and lady Selkirk relative to the affair, her ladyship most gratefully acknowledged the generosity and the integrity of his character.

But these exploits on shore did not exhaust the good fortune of Jones. The very next day, in the bay of Carrick Fergus, he fell in with the Drake, a king’s ship of twenty guns, and after a desperate resistance, in which the English captain and his first lieutenant were both killed, made her his prize, with which, and another large ship, he returned to Brest, after an absence of twenty-eight days. In this short period, besides destroying a number of valuable ships, he had thrown the coasts both of Scotland and Ireland into the deepest consternation. This cruise, short as it was, occasioned the British government immense sums of money for the fortification of harbours, and it was the ostensible cause of embodying the Irish volunteers, a measure of which we have yet only a few of the consequences.

Notwithstanding the brilliant success that had attended his exertions, Jones was now subjected to no small degree of mortification. As a token of good-will to the United States, the French ministry had promised to furnish him with a ship, aboard of which he was to hoist the American flag; but after multiplied applications, and a number of written memorials, the engagement seemed to be forgotten or disregarded. Wearied out with the delays and apologies which he was daily receiving, Jones set out for Paris to make his application to the French ministry in person, in consequence of which he obtained the command of the Duras, a ship of forty guns, the name of which, in compliment to a saying of poor Richard, "If you would have your business done, come yourself," he changed to Le bon homme Richard. In this vessel, badly manned and poorly furnished, Jones sailed with a little squadron, to which he acted as commodore. This squadron consisted of the Alliance, of thirty-six guns, the Pallas of thirty-two, the Serf of eighteen, the Vengeance of twelve, and two privateers, who were promised their share of the prizes that might be made. Having taken a number of prizes, the Alliance, the Serf, and the privateers deserted him, in order to pursue their own plans singly. The courage and skill of the commodore, however, did not forsake him, and after again alarming the coasts of Ireland, he sailed by the North Sea round to Leith, in the roads of which he appeared with his own ship, the Richard, accompanied by the Pallas and the Vengeance, in the month of September, evidently determined to seize upon the guard ship and two cutters that lay in the roads, and to lay Leith and perhaps the city of Edinburgh under contribution. The wind, however, which was fair when he made his appearance, shifted during the night, and the next day he continued working up the firth with great labour and slow progress. While he was thus employed, a boat from the shore, sent out by an official character, who mistook his ships for British, informed Jones that he was greatly afraid of a visit from that desperate buccaneer Paul Jones, and begging that he would send him some powder and shot. Highly amused with his mistake, the good-humoured republican sent him a barrel of gunpowder, with a civil answer to quiet his fears, and a modest apology for not including shot in the present he had sent him. In the mean time he relaxed nothing in his exertions to come at the ships of war in the roads, and other two tacks would have laid him along side of them, when a sudden gale of wind sweeping down the firth sunk one of his prizes, and carried his squadron irresistibly out to sea. The captains of the Pallas and Vengeance were so much dejected at this accident, that they could not be prevailed upon to renew the attempt. His little squadron shortly after fell in with the homeward-bound Baltic fleet, under convoy of his majesty’s ships the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough. A desperate engagement ensued, in which Jones displayed the most consummate skill, dauntless intrepidity, and perfect presence of mind. The battle was obstinately contested; but the Countess of Scarborough was at last obliged to strike to the Palms, and the Serapis to the Bon Homme Richard, which was so shattered in the action, that next morning, after all hands had left her, she went to the bottom. Though the Serapis was nearly in the same condition, Jones hoisted his flag aboard of her, and under jury masts, with some difficulty, steered her along with his other prizes into the Texel. He now used all his influence with the French court to have his prisoners exchanged against American prisoners in England, in which he had the pleasure of succeeding to the utmost of his wishes, receiving, in a short time after, a letter from Benjamin Franklin, the American minister at Paris, which informed him, "that he (Franklin) had just completed the noble work, which he (Jones) had so nobly begun, by giving liberty to all the Americans that then languished in England." The French ambassador at the Hague was at the same time ordered to communicate to commodore Jones, the high sense which his majesty, the king of France, entertained of his merits, and the personal esteem he bore for his character, and, especially, for his disinterested humanity.

Jones now took the command of the Alliance, the captain of which had been summoned to Paris to answer for his insubordination, in deserting the commodore on the coast of Ireland; but his situation was now perilous in the extreme. Summoned to deliver him up to the vengeance of the English government as a pirate and a rebel, the Dutch were constrained to order him out to sea, where an English squadron was watching to intercept him. From this dilemma he could have been saved by accepting of a commission from the king of France, whose ambassador earnestly pressed him to adopt that alternative; but he thought himself bound in honour to decline the offer, and determined, at whatever hazard, to abide by and support the flag of the country which he had, upon the maturest reflection, adopted. "Fortune favours the brave" is a maxim we see every day exemplified. Jones weighed anchor and escaped through the straits of Dover, almost under the eyes of the English men-of-war, all of which had strict orders to secure him, and were, besides, inflamed against him in a high degree from the repeated defeats that British ships had sustained at his hands.

Towards the close of the year 1780, he sailed with important despatches for America in the ship Ariel, and by the way meeting an English ship of twenty guns, engaged her, and with his usual gallantry made her his prize. The king of France had, previously to this, testified his approbation of Jones’s services, by presenting him with a superb gold-hilted sword; and a letter from the French minister, M. de Sartine, was now transmitted to the president of the United States, requesting liberty "to decorate that brave officer with the cross of the order of military merit." The letter was laid before Congress, and, a law acceding to the proposal being passed on the 27th of February, he was formally invested by the chevalier de la Luzerne, at a public fete given to the members of that body. Congress, in the month of April following, on the report of a committee, passed a vote of thanks to the chevalier John Paul Jones, "for the zeal, prudence, and intrepidity, with which he had sustained the honour of the American flag, for his bold and successful enterprises to redeem from captivity those citizens of America who had fallen under the power of the enemy, and in general for the good conduct and eminent services by which he had added lustre to his character and to the arms of America." No farther opportunity for distinguishing himself occurred during the war; but, after its conclusion, Congress, as an expression of gratitude, had a gold medal struck with appropriate devices to perpetuate the memory of his valour, and the singular services he had performed for the States.

In the year 1787, the chevalier Jones, being charged with a mission to the court of Denmark, sailed for that country in the month of November, and passing through Paris on his way, he was strongly solicited by the agents of Russia to take the command of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. This he declined, but he was scarce arrived at Copenhagen, when the empress Catharine, sent him, by a special messenger, an urgent invitation to visit St Petersburg. After what he had performed, it would have been strange if the chevalier Jones had not felt some reluctance to enter into the service of Russia, where every maxim by which he had been guided during his exertions for liberty behoved to be reversed, and where, instead of being directed by the united voice of an intelligent people, he must regulate his conduct by the single will of a despot. It is one of the greatest evils of despotism, that the despot, once established, has the means of corrupting and enslaving even the most generous minds. The chevalier Jones saw many reasons for declining to enter into the service of Catharine; but, flattered by her attention and kind offers, he thought he could not do less than to wait upon and thank her in person for her friendly intentions. For this purpose he set out instantly from Copenhagen, by the way of Sweden, but at Gushelham found the gulf of Bothnia blocked up by the ice. After making several unsuccessful attempts to reach Finland by the islands, he conceived a plan for effecting his progress by doubling the ice to the southward. With this view he sailed from Gushelham in a boat thirty feet long, followed by a smaller one that might be hauled over the ice, but told none of those who accompanied him what were his intentions. Having set out early in the morning, he had by the evening got nearly opposite Stockholm, when, instead of landing as the boatmen expected, he drew out a pair of pistols and ordered them to proceed in the direction he had previously determined upon. Resistance with a man of the chevalier’s character was probably judged by the simple boatmen to be in vain; and following his orders, with a fair wind they expected to reach the coast of Finland by the morning. An impenetrable bar of ice, however, defied all their efforts, nor from the state of the weather was it possible for them to return. Their only resource was to sail for the gulf of Finland, which they did, steering at night by a pocket compass, lighted by the lamp of the chevalier’s carriage, and in four days, having lost the smaller of their boats, landed at Revel in Livonia. The chevalier hasted from Revel to St Petersburg, where he met with a most gracious reception, and, unable any longer to hold out against the kind wishes of the empress, entered into her service, without any stipulations but that he should not be at any time condemned without being heard. Invested with the rank of rear-admiral, he proceeded without delay to take the command of a fleet stationed at the Liman or mouth of the Dnieper, destined to oppose the Turkish fleet under the capitan Pacha. He hoisted his flag as commander of this fleet on the 26th of May, 1788, on board the Vlodimer, and was supported by a flotilla under the prince of Nassau, and a number of land troops under prince Potemkin. Throughout this campaign, though it produced little that is worthy of the notice of the historian, the chevalier Jones had many opportunities of displaying his professional skill and the singular intrepidity of his character; but mean jealousy and the malignant caballing of heartless and narrow-minded courtiers, denied him the well-earned praise that was due to his services. He was, however, on his return to St Petersburg, as an acknowledgment of his fidelity, invested with the order of St Anne, and informed, that in a short time he would be called to perform a part in services of much greater importance. He had seen enough of the Russians, however, and disgusted with the sordid selfishness and the low sensuality that reigned in the court of Catharine, took leave of her dominions, in the month of August, 1789. The remainder of his days he spent partly in Holland and partly in France, devoting his leisure hours to the arrangement of his affairs, and to the preparation of papers which might exhibit his character and his services in their true light to posterity. He also made a large collection of important documents relating to the public transactions in which he had been engaged, which will be at some future day, it is to be hoped, given to enrich the history of the important period in which he lived. He was seized with water in the chest, and died at Paris in the month of July, 1792. As the laws relative to the interment of calvinists or heretics were not then abolished in France, application was made to the national assembly, which gave free liberty for his being buried with all public honours, and ordered a deputation of their number to attend, one of whom pronounced an elegant eulogium upon his character over his grave. He left among his papers a copious memoir of his life written with his own hand, which his friends, it has been said, had it in contemplation to publish. We cannot doubt but that its publication would add to the history of that important era many valuable notices, and be hailed by the public as a most valuable contribution to the general stock of literature. From the brief sketch of his life which we have given, the reader will be at no loss to appreciate the character of Paul Jones, which, in his own country, has been misrepresented by prejudice. That he was a naval genius of the first order, his actions abundantly demonstrated. He was the man who first flung upon the winds the flag of the United States; and he graced it by a succession of victories, all of which were relatively of the most splendid character. Unlike the vaunted achievements of single ships belonging to the same nation in the late war, every one of which possessed a vast superiority of men and of metal, Jones accomplished his purposes with means, to all appearance, inadequate to the end, his ships being often half rotten, only half provided in necessaries, and his sailors of the most motley description. In every battle which he fought, superior skill and bravery were the evident sources of victory. Nor can the circumstance which has been so often urged against him, that of turning his arms against his native country, detract, in the smallest degree, from his merit. He was, be it remembered, at the commencement of the war, a regular colonist of America, and was, therefore, no more liable to this charge, than was any other individual out of all the thousands who at first took up arms against Great Britain, and eventually constituted the American republic. Less, however, can be said, for his entering the service of Russia, which was discreditable to his generosity and love of freedom.


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