The Riverside Biographical Series
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The Riverside Biographical Series
1. ANDREW JACKSON, by W. G. BROWN.
2. JAMES B. EADS, by LOUIS HOW.
3. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, by PAUL E. MORE.
4. PETER COOPER, by R. W. RAYMOND.
5. THOMAS JEFFERSON, by H. C. MERWIN.
6. WILLIAM PENN, by GEORGE HODGES.
7. GENERAL GRANT, by WALTER ALLEN.
8. LEWIS AND CLARK, by WILLIAM R. LIGHTON.
9. JOHN MARSHALL, by JAMES B. THAYER.
10. ALEXANDER HAMILTON, by CHAS. A. CONANT.
11. WASHINGTON IRVING, by H. W. BOYNTON.
12. PAUL JONES, by HUTCHINS HAPGOOD.
13. STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS, by W. G. BROWN.
14. SAMUEL DE CHAMPLAIN, by H. D. SEDGWICK, Jr.
15. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, by HORACE E. SCUDDER.
Each about 140 pages, 16mo, with photogravure portrait, vols. 1-9, 75 cents; other subsequent vols., each 65 cents, net; School Edition, each, 50 cents, net.
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. BOSTON AND NEW YORK.
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BY HUTCHINS HAPGOOD
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1901
COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY HUTCHINS HAPGOOD
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published November, 1901
The amount of material bearing on Paul Jones is very large, and consists mainly of his extensive correspondence, published and unpublished, his journals, memoirs by his private secretary and several of his officers, published and unpublished impressions by his contemporaries, and a number of sketches and biographies, some of which contain rich collections of his letters and extracts from his journals. The biographies which I have found most useful are the "Life," by John Henry Sherburne, published in 1825, which is mainly a collection of Jones's correspondence; another volume, composed largely of extracts from his letters and journals, called the "Janette-Taylor Collection," published in 1830; the first and only extended narrative at once readable and impartial, by Alexander Slidell MacKenzie, published in 1845; and the recently published "Life" by Augustus C. Buell. To Mr. Buell's exhaustive work I am indebted for considerable original material not otherwise accessible to me. On the basis of the foregoing mass of material I have attempted, in a short sketch, to give merely an unbiased account of the man.
I. EARLY VOYAGES 1
II. CRUISES OF THE PROVIDENCE AND THE ALFRED 17
III. THE CRUISE OF THE RANGER 30
IV. EFFORTS IN FRANCE TO SECURE A COMMAND 44
V. THE FIGHT WITH THE SERAPIS 56
VI. DIPLOMACY AT THE TEXEL 70
VII. SOCIETY IN PARIS 80
VIII. PRIVATE AMBITION AND PUBLIC BUSINESS 91
IX. IN THE RUSSIAN SERVICE 108
X. LAST DAYS 118
The portrait is from the original by C. W. Peale, in Independence Hall
John Paul, known as Paul Jones, who sought restlessly for distinction all his life, was born the son of a peasant, in July, 1747, near the ocean on which he was to spend a large portion of his time. His father lived in Scotland, near the fishing hamlet of Arbigland, county of Kirkcudbright, on the north shore of Solway Firth, and made a living for the family of seven children by fishing and gardening. The mother, Jeanne Macduff, was the daughter of a Highlander, and in Paul Jones's blood the Scotch canniness and caution of his Lowland father was united with the wild love of physical action native to his mother's race.
Little is known of the early life of the fifth and famous child of the Scotch gardener. He went to the parish school, but not for long, for the sea called him at an early age. When he was twelve years old he could handle his fishing-boat like a veteran. His skill and daring were the talk of the village. One day James Younger, a ship-owning merchant from Whitehaven, then a principal seaport on the neighboring coast of England, visited Arbigland, in search of seamen for one of his vessels. It happened on that day that Paul Jones was out in his yawl when a severe squall arose. Mr. Younger and the villagers watched the boy bring his small sailing-boat straight against the northeaster into the harbor; and Mr. Younger expressed his surprise to Paul's father, who remarked: "That's my boy conning the boat, Mr. Younger. This isn't much of a squall for him." The result was that Mr. Younger took Paul back with him to Whitehaven, bound shipmaster's apprentice. A little while after that, Paul Jones made his first of a series of merchant-ship voyages to the colonies and the West Indies. He continued in Mr. Younger's employ for four years; when he was seventeen he made a round voyage to America as second mate, and was first mate a year later.
Paul left Mr. Younger's service in 1766 and acquired a sixth interest in a ship called King George's Packet, in which he went, as first mate, to the West Indies. The business instinct, always strong in him, received some satisfaction during this voyage by the transportation of blacks from Africa to Jamaica, where they were sold as slaves. The slave-trade was not regarded at that time as dishonorable, but Jones's eagerness to engage in "any private enterprise"—a phrase constantly used by him—was not accompanied by any keen moral sensitiveness. He was always in pursuit of private gain or immediate or posthumous honor, and his grand sentiments, of which he had many, were largely histrionic in type. After one more voyage he gave up the slave-trading business, probably because he realized that no real advancement lay in that line.
On the John O'Gaunt, in which Jones shipped for England, after leaving Jamaica, the captain, mate, and all but five of the crew died of yellow fever, and the ship was taken by Paul into Whitehaven. For this he received a share in the cargo, and in 1768, when he was twenty-one years old, the owners of the John (a merchantman sailing from the same port) gave him command, and in her he made several voyages to America. Life on a merchantman is rough enough to-day, and was still rougher at that time. To maintain discipline at sea requires a strong hand and a not too gentle tongue, and Jones was fully equipped in these necessaries. During the third voyage of the John, when fever had greatly reduced the crew, Mungo Maxwell, a Jamaica mulatto, became mutinous, and Jones knocked him down with a belaying pin. Jones satisfactorily cleared himself of the resulting charge of murder, and gave, during the trial, one of the earliest evidences of his power to express himself almost as clearly and strongly in speech as in action.
Up to this time in Paul's career there are two facts which stand out definitely: one, that his rough life, in association with common seamen from the time that he was twelve years old, and his lack of previous education, made difficult his becoming what he ardently desired to be,—a cultivated gentleman. Stories told of his impulsive roughness in later life, such as the quaint ones of how he used to kick his lieutenants and then invite them to dinner, are probable enough. It is even more clear, however, that in some way he had educated himself, not only in seamanship and navigation, but also in naval history and in the French and Spanish languages, to a considerable degree. On a voyage his habit was to study late at night, and on shore, instead of carousing with his associates, to hunt out the most distinguished person he could find, or otherwise to improve his condition. His passion for acquisition was enormous, but his early education was so deficient that his handwriting always remained that of a schoolboy. He dictated many of his innumerable letters, particularly those in French, which language he spoke incorrectly but fluently.
It was during Paul's last voyage as captain of a merchantman that the event took place which determined him to change his name and to live in America. Several years previously his brother, who had been adopted by a Virginia planter named Jones, had come at the death of the latter into possession of the property, and Captain Paul was named as next in succession. In 1773, when the captain reached the Rappahannock during his final merchant voyage, he found his brother dying, and, in accordance with the terms of old Jones's will, he took the name by which he is famous and became the owner of the plantation. He consequently gave up his sea life and settled down to "calm contemplation and poetic ease," as he expressed it at a later period.
But Jones was very far from being contemplative, although he certainly was rather fond of inflated poetry, and even as a planter, surrounded by his acres and his slaves, there is no evidence that he led a lazy life. He seems to have been partly occupied in continuing the important acquaintances he had made at the intervals between his voyages and in watching the progress of events leading to war with England. Jones was given to gallantry, and while on the plantation he carried on the social affairs which he afterwards continued, as recognized hero and chevalier of France, on a magnificent scale. He resisted, as he did all through his life, any benevolent efforts on the part of the colonial dames to marry him off, and as the war grew nearer his activity in promoting it grew greater. He made frequent visits to his patriot friends, met, besides Joseph Hewes, whom he had already known, Thomas Jefferson, Philip Livingston, Colonel Washington and the Lees, and was later, if not at this time, in an intimate official relation with Robert and Gouverneur Morris. In Jones's intercourse with these men he showed himself one of the most fiery of Whigs. In a letter to Joseph Hewes written in 1774, he tells how a British officer made a remark reflecting on the virtue of colonial women. "I at once knocked Mr. Parker down," he adds, in a style that suggests the straightforward character of his official reports.
Although dueling was at that time the conventional method of settling affairs of that nature, no personal encounter resulted between Jones and Mr. Parker. Jones, indeed, did not seem averse to such an issue, for he sent a friend to propose pistols, with which he was a crack shot. It is nevertheless a striking fact that Paul Jones, the desperate fighter, who was certainly as brave as any one, and was often placed in favorable situations for such settlements, never fought a duel. Add to this that his temper was quick and passionate, and that he had to the full the high-flown sentiments of honor of the time, and the fact seems all the more remarkable. The truth is that Jones was as cautious as he was brave. He acted sometimes impulsively, but reflection quickly came, and he never manifested a dare-devil desire to put his life unnecessarily in danger. When there was anything to be gained by exposing his person, he did it with the utmost coolness, but he consistently refused to put himself at a disadvantage. When, on at least one occasion, he was challenged to fight with swords, with which he was only moderately skillful, he demanded pistols. Fame was Jones's end, and he knew that premature death was inconsistent with that consummation.
Although Jones was, at the time, in financial difficulties, he no doubt welcomed the outbreak of the war. Service in the cause of the colonies could not be remunerative, and Jones knew it. A privateering command would have paid better than a regular commission, but Jones constantly refused such an appointment; and yet he has been called buccaneer and pirate by many who have written about him, including as recent writers as Rudyard Kipling, John Morley, and Theodore Roosevelt. Nor is it likely that a feeling of patriotism led Jones to serve the colonies against his native land. The reason lay in his overpowering desire of action. He saw in the service of the colonies an opportunity to employ his energies on a larger and more glorious scale than in any other way. Service in the British navy in an important capacity was impossible for a man with no family or position. Jones accordingly went in for the highest prize within his reach, and with the instinct of the true sportsman served well the side he had for the time espoused.
Soon after the battle of Lexington Jones wrote a letter to Joseph Hewes, sending copies to Jefferson, Robert Morris, and Livingston. "I cannot conceive of submission to complete slavery. Therefore only war is in sight.... I beg you to keep my name in your memory when the Congress shall assemble again, and ... to call upon me in any capacity which your knowledge of my seafaring experience and your opinion of my qualifications may dictate." Soon after Congress met, a Marine Committee, Robert Morris, chairman, was appointed, and Jones was requested to report on the "proper qualifications of naval officers and the kind of armed vessels most desirable for the service of the United States, keeping in view the limited resources of the Congress." He was also asked to serve on a committee to report upon the availability of the vessels at the disposal of Congress. Jones was practically the head of this committee, and showed the utmost industry and efficiency in selecting, arming, and preparing for sea the unimportant vessels within the disposition of the government.
At the beginning of the war there was no American navy. Some of the colonies had, indeed, fitted out merchant vessels with armaments, to resist the aggressions of the British on their coasts, and in several instances the cruisers of the enemy had been captured while in port by armed citizens. The colonial government had empowered Washington, as commander in chief, to commission some of these improvised war vessels of the colonies to attack, in the service of the "continent," the transports and small cruisers of the British, in order to secure powder for the Continental army. It was not, however, until October of 1775 that the first official attempt towards the formation of a continental, as opposed to a colonial, navy, was made. The large merchant marine put at the disposal of the new government many excellent seamen and skippers and a good number of ships, few of them, however, adapted for war. To build regular warships on a large scale was impossible for a nation so badly in need of funds. It was almost equally difficult to secure officers trained in naval matters, for the marine captains, although as a rule good seamen, were utterly lacking in naval knowledge and the principles of organization.
In this state of affairs Paul Jones proved a very useful man. He was not only a thorough seaman, but had studied the art of naval warfare, was in some respects ahead of his time in his ideas of armament, and was familiar with the organization and history of the British navy. In the early development of our navy he played, therefore, an important part, not only in equipping and arming ships for immediate service, and in determining upon the most effective and practicable kind of vessels to be built, but also in laying before the committee a statement of the necessary requirements for naval officers.
To the request of Congress for reports, Jones answered with two remarkable documents. One was a long, logical argument in favor of swift frigates of a certain size, rather than ships of the line, and showed thorough knowledge, not only of naval construction and cost of building, but also of the general international situation, and the best method of conducting the war on the sea. On the latter point he wrote: "Keeping such a squadron in British waters, alarming their coasts, intercepting their trade, and descending now and then upon their least protected ports, is the only way that we, with our slender resources, can sensibly affect our enemy by sea-warfare." This is an exact outline of the policy which Jones and other United States captains actually carried out.
Jones also made the statement, wonderfully foreshadowing his own exploits and their effect, that, "the capture ... of one or two of their crack frigates would raise us more in the estimation of Europe, where we now most of all need countenance, than could the defeat or even capture of one of their armies on the land here in America. And at the same time it would fill all England with dismay. If we show to the world that we can beat them afloat with an equal force, ship to ship, it will be more than anyone else has been able to do in modern times, and it will create a great and most desirable sentiment of respect and favor towards us on the continent of Europe, where really, I think, the question of our fate must ultimately be determined.
"Beyond this, if by exceedingly desperate fighting, one of our ships shall conquer one of theirs of markedly superior force, we shall be hailed as the pioneers of a new power on the sea, with untold prospects of development, and the prestige if not the substance of English dominion over the ocean will be forever broken. Happy, indeed, will be the lot of the American captain upon whom fortune shall confer the honor of fighting that battle!"
Jones was that happy captain, for both the events mentioned as highly desirable he brought to pass.
In the report on the qualifications of naval officers Jones showed himself to be quite abreast of our own times in the philosophy of naval organization, and, moreover, possessed of a pen quite capable of expressing, always with clearness and dignity and sometimes with elegance, the full maturity of his thought. George Washington, one of whose great qualities was the power to know men, read this report of Jones and said: "Mr. Jones is clearly not only a master mariner within the scope of the art of navigation, but he also holds a strong and profound sense of the political and military weight of command on the sea. His powers of usefulness are great and must be constantly kept in view."
Jones was appointed first lieutenant in the navy on the 22d of December, 1775. He was sixth on the list of appointees, the other five being made captains. Subsequent events showed that Jones would have been the best man for the first place. He thought so himself, but hastened on board his ship to serve as lieutenant, and was the first man who ever hoisted the American flag on a man-of-war,—a spectacular trifle that gave him much pleasure.
CRUISES OF THE PROVIDENCE AND THE ALFRED
The infant squadron of the United States, under the command of Ezek Hopkins, consisting of the Alfred, of which Jones was the first lieutenant, the Columbus, the Andria Doria, and the Cabot, sailed in February, 1776, against Fort Nassau, New Providence Island, in the Bahamas. The only vessel of any force in the squadron was the Alfred, an East Indiaman, which Jones had armed with twenty-four nine-pounders on the gun-deck, and six six-pounders on the quarter-deck. The only officer in the fleet who, with the exception of Jones, ever showed any ability was Nicholas Biddle of the Doria. The expedition, consequently, was sufficiently inglorious. A barren descent was made on New Providence Island, and later the fleet was engaged with the British sloop of war Glasgow, which, in spite of the odds against her, seems to have had the best of the encounter. Jones was stationed between decks to command the Alfred's first battery, which he trained on the enemy with his usual efficiency. He says in his journal what was evidently true: "Mr. Jones, therefore, did his duty; and as he had no direction whatever, either of the general disposition of the squadron, or the sails and helm of the Alfred, he can stand charged with no part of the disgrace of that night."
A number of courts-martial resulted from this inept affair and from other initial mistakes. Captain Hazard of the Providence, a sloop of war of fourteen guns and 103 men, was dismissed from the service, and Jones was put in command of the ship. "This proves," said Jones, "that Mr. Jones did his duty on the Providence expedition."
Jones continued to do his duty by making a number of energetic descents on the enemy's shipping. His method was to hunt out the merchant vessels in harbor, whence they could not escape, rather than to search for them on the open sea. In June, 1776, he cruised in the Providence from Bermuda to the Banks of Newfoundland, a region infested with the war vessels of the British, captured sixteen vessels, made an attack on Canso, Nova Scotia, thereby releasing several American prisoners, burned three vessels belonging to the Cape Breton fishery, and in a descent on the Isle of Madame destroyed several fishing smacks. He twice escaped, through superior seamanship, from heavy English frigates. One of these strong frigates, the Milford, continued to fire from a great distance, after the little Providence was out of danger. Of this Jones wrote: "He excited my contempt so much, by his continued firing, at more than twice the proper distance, that when he rounded to, to give his broadside, I ordered my marine officer to return the salute with only a single musket."
While Jones was on this cruise his plantation was ravaged by the British—buildings burned, live stock destroyed, and slaves carried off. He was dependent upon the income from this estate, having drawn up to that time only L50 from the government, not for pay, but for the expense of enlisting seamen. On his return to port he wrote to Mr. Hewes: "It thus appears that I have no fortune left but my sword, and no prospect except that of getting alongside the enemy."
It was during the same cruise that Jones, by the act of Congress of October 10, 1776, was made captain in the United States navy, an appointment that brought him more bitterness of spirit than pleasure, for he was only number eighteen in the list of appointees. This was an injustice which Jones never forgot, and to which he referred at intervals all through his life. He thought he ought to have been not lower than sixth in rank, because, by the law of the previous year, there were only five captains ahead of him. In the mean time, too, he had done good service, while the new captains ranking above him were untried. It was no doubt an instance of political influence outweighing practical service, and Jones was entitled to feel aggrieved,—a privilege he was not likely to forego. Rank was to him a passion, not merely because it would enable him to be more effective, but for its own sake. He liked all the signs of display,—busts, epaulets, medals, marks of honor of all kinds. "How near to the heart," he wrote, "of every military officer is rank, which opens the door to glory!"
In regard to this appointment he wrote Thomas Jefferson a bitter and sarcastic letter. He attributed the injustice to the desire of John Adams to create captains from among the "respectable skippers" of New England. "If their fate," he wrote, "shall be like that of his share in the first five captains last year, I can only say that Mr. Adams has probably provided for a greater number of courts-martial than of naval victories! You are well aware, honored sir, that I have no family connections at my back, but rest my case wholly on what I do. As I survey the list of twelve captains who have been newly jumped over me by the act of October 10th, I cannot help seeing that all but three are persons of high family connection in the bailiwick of Mr. Adams!"
He wrote, at this time and later, many vehement letters about these "skippers." To Joseph Hewes: "There are characters among the thirteen on the list who are truly contemptible—with such, as a private gentleman, I would disdain to sit down—I would disdain to be acquainted.... Until they give proof of their superior ability, I never shall acknowledge them as my senior officers—I never will act under their command." He wrote to Robert Morris: " ... Nor will I ever draw my sword under the command of any man who was not in the service as early as myself, unless he hath merited a preference by his superior services or abilities." In these and similar remarks, Jones did not show that sense of absolute subordination which he had said, in his report on the qualifications of naval officers, was of prime importance, and which he strenuously demanded from his inferiors in rank. He was always jealous of any superior in his own line, but, fortunately, after his first cruise, he was always the ranking officer on his ship.
Jones protested, however, without avail, but on the 4th of November, 1776, he was put in command of the Alfred, and with the Providence in company made a cruise of about a month, captured seven merchant ships of the enemy, several of them carrying valuable supplies to the army, and again cleverly avoided the superior British frigates. Complaining of the action of the Providence, "which gave him the slip in the night," as he put it, Jones wrote Hewes: "If such doings are permitted, the navy will never rise above contempt!... the aforesaid noble captain doth not understand the first case of plain Trigonometry." On the subject of the navy he wrote Robert Morris, at a later period: "The navy is in a wretched condition. It wants a man of ability at its head who could bring on a purgation, and distinguish between the abilities of a gentleman and those of a mere sailor or boatswain's mate." In still another letter: "If my feeble voice is heard when I return to Philadelphia, our navy matters will assume a better face." Again, as late as 1782, he wrote Captain O'Neill: "I am altogether in the dark about what has been done to reestablish the credit of our marine. In the course of near seven years' service I have continually suggested what has occurred to me as most likely to promote its honor and render it serviceable; but my voice has been like a cry in the wilderness."
After his return from the cruise in the Alfred, Jones served on the Board of Advice to the Marine Committee, and was very useful in many ways. He urged strongly the necessity of making a cruise in European waters for the sake of moral prestige,—he, of course, to be in command of the squadron. His energy and dashing character made a strong impression on Lafayette, who was then in the country, and who heartily supported Jones in the projected scheme. Lafayette was one of the strongest advocates for an alliance between the colonies and France, and believed that a fleet fitted out in French ports under the United States flag would not only help out the weak colonial navy, but would precipitate war between England and France. He wrote a letter to General Washington strongly recommending Jones as leader of such an undertaking. About the same time Jones had an interview with Washington to appeal against what he deemed another injustice. The Trumbull, one of the fine new frigates just completed and built in accordance with Jones's recommendations, was placed under the command of Captain Saltonstall, who had been captain of the Alfred when Jones was first lieutenant of the same ship, and against whom the latter had made charges of incompetence. Jones did not get the Trumbull, but the interview was probably instrumental in procuring an order from the Marine Committee for Jones to enlist seamen for a European cruise. On June 14, 1777, Congress appointed him to the command of the sloop of war Ranger, eighteen guns, and on the same day the permanent flag of the United States was determined upon. Jones, as usual, saw his spectacular opportunity and said: "That flag and I are twins; born the same hour from the same womb of destiny. We cannot be parted in life or in death. So long as we can float, we shall float together. If we must sink, we shall go down as one!"
Jones, with the Ranger, sailed for France under the Stars and Stripes November 1, 1777, bearing with him dispatches to the American commissioners, the news of Burgoyne's surrender, and instructions from the Marine Committee to the commissioners to invest him with a fine swift-sailing frigate. On his arrival at Nantes he immediately sent to the commissioners—Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee—a letter developing his general scheme of annoying the enemy. "It seems to be our most natural province," he wrote, "to surprise their defenseless places, and thereby divert their attention and draw it from our own coasts."
It had been the intention of the commissioners to give Jones the Indien, a fine strong frigate building secretly at Amsterdam. But this proved to be one more of Jones's many disappointments, for the British minister to the Netherlands discovered the destination of the vessel and protested to the States-General. The result was that the commissioners were forced to sell the ship to France, to keep her out of the hands of England, and Jones was compelled to make his invasion in the Ranger.
While proceeding in this little sloop to L'Orient, for the purpose of fitting her out, he met the great French fleet and demanded and obtained the first salute ever given the United States flag by the war vessels of a foreign power. He wrote to the Marine Committee triumphantly: "I am happy in having it in my power to congratulate you on my having seen the American flag, for the first time, recognized in the fullest and completest manner by the flag of France.... It was in fact an acknowledgment of American independence." As the secret treaty between France and the United States was signed about that time, it perhaps needed less than the pertinacity of Paul Jones to extract a salute from the imperial fleet. Shortly before sailing on his first famous cruise, the restless man sent Silas Deane a letter proposing a plan of operations for the French fleet in the coming war with England. The scheme was for the superior French fleet to attack the English fleet under Lord Howe, and destroy it or block it up in the Delaware. Jones said in his journal that the plan, which was adopted, would have succeeded if it had been put in immediate execution, and complained because the credit of the scheme had been given to others.
This was only one of the bits of business which the energetic Jones transacted before he sailed in the Ranger to harass England. He wrote, as usual, innumerable letters, proposing, condemning, recommending. He had trouble with an insubordinate first lieutenant. He began, too, his social career in France. It was then that he met the Duchesse de Chartres, great-granddaughter of Louis XIV. and mother of Louis Philippe, who at a later time called Jones the Bayard of the Sea, and whom Jones at that time promised "to lay an English frigate at her feet." He kept his word in spirit, for years afterwards he gave her the sword of Captain Pearson, commander of his famous prize, the Serapis.
THE CRUISE OF THE RANGER
Jones started on his cruise in the Ranger April 10, 1778, and, after taking several unimportant prizes on the way to the Irish Channel, decided to make a descent upon the town that had served him as headquarters when he was a merchant sailor, Whitehaven, where he knew there were about two hundred and fifty merchant ships, which he hoped to destroy; "to put an end," as he said, "by one good fire, in England, of shipping, to all the burnings in America."
Owing to contrary winds Jones was unable to make the attack until midnight of April 22. His daring scheme was, with the small force of thirty-two men in two small boats, to land in a hostile port, defended by two forts, surprise the sleeping inhabitants, and burn the ships before the people could assemble against him. By the time the boats reached the outer pier, day had dawned and no time was to be lost. The forts were surprised and taken, the guns spiked by Jones with his own hand; but while he was thus occupied his officers had failed to fire the shipping, in accordance with his orders, Lieutenant Wallingford stating as an excuse that "nothing could be gained by burning poor people's property." Jones thought otherwise, however; and although the townspeople were beginning to assemble in consequence of the pistols that had been fired in capturing the forts, he made fire in the steerage of a large ship, closely surrounded by many others, and an enormous conflagration ensued. He stood, pistol in hand, near the burning wreck, and kept off the constantly increasing crowd until the sun was an hour high, when he and his men retired to the Ranger, taking away with them three of the captured soldiers, "as a sample," Jones said, and followed by the eyes of the gaping multitude of English country folk.
Although the amount of property destroyed by this raid was small, the importance of it was considerable, and is well stated by Jones himself, who, if proper allowance is made for the effects of his vanity, is, as a rule, his own best biographer: "The moral effect of it was very great," he writes, "as it taught the English that the fancied security of their coasts was a myth, and thereby compelled their government to take expensive measures for the defense of numerous ports hitherto relying for protection wholly on the vigilance and supposed omnipotence of their navy. It also doubled or more the rates of insurance, which in the long run proved the most grievous damage of all."
On the same day Jones made a descent on the estate of the Earl of Selkirk, near his old home in Kirkcudbright, with the intention of carrying off the earl as a hostage. But the earl was not at home, and Jones consented, he says, to let his men, mutinous and greedy, seize the Selkirk family plate, which Jones put himself at a great deal of trouble and some expense to restore at a later date. This incident is interesting chiefly as it was the cause of a letter illustrative of Jones's character, sent by him to the Countess of Selkirk, who was present at the time of the raid. After stating in rather inflatedly polite terms that he could not well restrain his men from the raid, Jones promised to return the plate, condemned the brutalities of the English, spoke of the horrors of war, boasted of his victory over the Drake the evening following the raid, spoke of the English dead and his chivalrous treatment of them,—"I buried them in a spacious grave, with the honors due to the memory of the brave,"—and then made the following rather amusing statements: "Though I have drawn my sword in the present generous struggle for the rights of men, yet I am not in arms as an American, nor am I in pursuit of riches. My fortune is liberal enough, having no wife nor family, and having lived long enough to know that riches cannot secure happiness. I profess myself a citizen of the world, totally unfettered by the little mean distinctions of climate or of country, which diminish the benevolence of the heart and set bounds to philanthropy. Before this war had begun, I had, at an early time of life, withdrawn from sea service in favor of 'calm contemplation and poetic ease.' I have sacrificed not only my favorite scheme of life, but the softer affections of the heart and my prospects of domestic happiness, and I am ready to sacrifice my life also with cheerfulness if that forfeiture could restore peace among mankind.... I hope this cruel contest will soon be closed; but should it continue, I wage no war with the fair. I acknowledge their force, and bend before it with submission."
Jones was probably sincere when he wrote that letter, although it is full of misstatements. He was not a self-conscious man and did not analyze his motives very carefully. He always posed, with perfect sincerity, as a hero, and when he had to do with a distinguished woman his exalted words exactly expressed, no doubt, his sentiments.
Jones's next exploit was the famous capture of the Drake on April 23. Previous to the attack on Whitehaven, while off Carrickfergus, he had conceived the bold project of running into Belfast Loch, where the British man-of-war Drake, of twenty guns, was at anchor; where he hoped to overlay the Drake's cable, fall foul of her bow, and thus, with her decks exposed to the Ranger's musketry, to board. He did, indeed, enter the harbor at night, but failed after repeated efforts, on account of the strong wind, to get in a proper position to board. Three days later, after the Earl of Selkirk affair, Jones was again off Carrickfergus, looking for the Drake, which, having heard of his devastations from the alarmed country people, sailed out to punish the invader of the sacred soil of England. The two sloops of war were very nearly matched, though the Drake technically rated at twenty guns and the Ranger at eighteen. When they came within range of one another they hoisted their colors almost at the same time, but the Drake hailed:—
"What ship is that?"
Jones directed the sailing-master to answer:
"The American Continental ship Ranger. We are waiting for you. Come on. The sun is now near setting, and it is time to begin."
The Ranger then opened fire with a full broadside. The Drake replied with the same, and the two ships ran along together at close quarters, pouring in broadsides for more than an hour, when the enemy called for quarter. The action had been, as Jones said in his terse official report, "warm, close, and obstinate." There was little manoeuvring, just straight fighting, the victory being due, according to Jones, to the superior gunnery of the Americans. At first Jones's gunners hulled the Drake, as she rolled, below the water-line, but Jones desired to take the enemy's ship as a prize, rather than to sink her, and told his men so.
"The alert fellows," he said in a letter to Joseph Hewes, "instantly took this hint and began firing as their muzzles rose, by which practice they soon crippled the Drake's spars and rigging, and made her an unmanageable log on the water. I am persuaded that if I had not advised them to this effect, my gunners would have sunk the Drake in an hour! As it was, we had to put spare sails over the side after she struck, to keep her afloat, and careen her as much as we could the next day to plug the holes they had already made between wind and water."
The Drake, indeed, was almost a wreck, while the Ranger was little injured. Jones lost only two men killed and six wounded, to the enemy's approximate loss of forty-two killed and wounded. It was the first battle of the war which resulted in the capture of a regular British man-of-war by a ship of equal if not inferior force. The Drake belonged to a regularly established navy, not accustomed to defeat. Perhaps that fact inspired her commander with overconfidence, but McKenzie's statement of the cause of the victory is no doubt correct: "The result," he said, "was eminently due to the skill and courage of Jones, and his inflexible resolution to conquer." That resolution, which was indeed a characteristic of Jones, reached on at least one occasion, that of the later battle with the Serapis, a degree of inflexibility which amounted to genius.
The effect of this bold cruise was great. Jones had not, however, been the only American captain, by any means, to render good service in destroying the commerce of the enemy and in annoying the British coast. Before the French alliance more than six hundred British vessels fell a prey to American cruisers, mainly privateers. There were, likewise, captains in the regular United States navy who had before this cruise of Jones's borne the flag to Europe. The first of these was the gallant Wickes, in the summer of 1777. Though Jones was not the first captain, therefore, to make a brilliant and destructive cruise in the English Channel, he was nevertheless the first to inspire terror among the inhabitants by incursions inshore. The cruise of the little Ranger showed that the British, when they ravaged the coast of New England, might expect effective retaliation on their own shores; and the capture of the Drake inspired France, then about to take arms in support of the American cause, by the realization of what they themselves had longed to do—to worst England on the high seas—with increased respect for their allies. It filled Great Britain with wild, exaggerated, and unjust condemnation of Paul Jones, who has been looked upon for more than a hundred years, and is even to-day in England, by sober historians, as a bloody-handed, desperate buccaneer. The persistent charge, often of late refuted, hardly needs refutation, in view of the well-authenticated fact that Jones never served on a war vessel except under a regular commission. Moreover, he was a man too ambitious and too sensible to hurt his prospects by being anything so low and undistinguished as a pirate.
After the battle with the Drake, Jones saw that he would have to bring the cruise to a close. His crew of 139 men had, through the necessity of manning the several merchant prizes and the Drake, been reduced to eighty-six men, and he consequently put into Brest, reluctantly, on the 8th of May, 1778. He was there met by the great French fleet, then actually at war with England, and he and his prize were admired by visiting French officers. From that time Jones, hated in England, was a hero in France, feted whenever he was at the capital, and favored by fair ladies.
He was a hero, however, with a thorny path all through life. He arrived at Brest with a miserably clothed, wholly unpaid, discontented, and partly mutinous crew. During the voyage his first lieutenant, Simpson, had stirred up dissatisfaction among the men, and had refused to obey orders, for which Jones had him put in irons. The unpaid men, not assigning their troubles to the true but unseen cause, the poverty of the government, easily believed that their captain was responsible for all their ills. Under no conditions, however, was Jones likely to be popular with the greater number of his men, for the energetic man was bent on making them, as well as himself, work for glory to the uttermost, and the common run of seamen care more for ease and pelf than for fame. Jones's unpopularity with the crew of the Ranger is attested by a passage from the diary of Ezra Green, one of Jones's officers, on the occasion, at a later period, of the Ranger's sailing back to America: "This day Thomas Simpson, Esq., came on board with orders to take command of the Ranger; to the joy and satisfaction of the whole ship's company."
With the impulsive inconsistency which, in spite of his shrewdness, sometimes marked his conduct, Jones alternately demanded a court-martial for Simpson and recommended him to the command of the Ranger, he himself hoping for a more important vessel; it was Jones's own conduct, as much as any other circumstance, which finally resulted in the sailing away of the Ranger under the mutinous Simpson. With the frankness customary with him when not writing to anybody particularly distinguished, Jones wrote Simpson, at one stage of their quarrel: "The trouble with you, Mr. Simpson, is that you have the heart of a lion and the head of a sheep."
Even more annoying to the imperious and high-handed Jones than the trouble with Simpson was the manner in which, on his arrival at Brest, the commissioners refused to honor his draft for 24,000 livres. He held a letter of credit authorizing him to draw on the commissioners for money to defray necessary expenses; but instead of dealing with the regular American agent at Brest, he placed his order with a Brest merchant, who, when Jones's draft was returned dishonored, stopped his supplies. Jones thereupon wrote the commissioners: "I know not where or how to provide food for to-morrow's dinner to feed the great number of mouths that depend on me for food. Are then the Continental ships of war to depend on sale of their prizes for the daily dinner of their men? Publish it not 'in Gath'!"
He then, without authority, but very possibly forced by the necessities of his crew, sold one of his prizes, with the money from which he paid the Brest merchant. Of this act he said: "I could not waste time discussing questions of authority when my crew and prisoners were starving."
The point of view of the commissioners is tersely expressed in a letter from them to the French Minister of Marine, de Sartine, June 15, 1778: "We think it extremely irregular ... in captains of ships of war to draw for any sums they please without previous notice and express permission.... Captain Jones has had of us near a hundred thousand livres for such purposes [necessaries]."
The frugality of Benjamin Franklin, the most important commissioner, is well known, and also the financial straits of the country at that time. That Jones was in a difficult position at Brest is certain, and he perhaps asked for no more than he needed. But that he was naturally inclined to extravagant expenditure there can be no doubt,—a fact that will appear saliently in a later stage of this narrative.
EFFORTS IN FRANCE TO SECURE A COMMAND
War having broken out between England and France, Jones was detained in Europe, instead of sailing home in the Ranger, through the request of the French Minister of Marine, de Sartine, who wished an important command to be assigned to the famous conqueror of the Drake. The difficulties, however, in the way of doing so were great. The commissioners had few resources, and one of them, Arthur Lee, was hostile to Jones. Moreover the French government naturally thought first of its own officers, of whom there were too many for the available vessels. Several privateering expeditions were suggested to Jones, which he quite justly rejected. Several opportunities had also been given him for small commands, which he had likewise rejected. His manner in doing so could not exactly be called diplomatic. He wrote M. Chaumont, that patriotic and benevolent gentleman whom Jones alternately flattered and reviled, a rather typical letter: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way. You know, I believe, that this is not every one's intention. Therefore buy a frigate that sails fast, and that is sufficiently large to carry twenty-six or twenty-eight guns on one deck. I would rather be shot ashore than sent to sea in such things as the armed prizes I have described."
The innumerable delays which consequently intervened between his arrival at Brest, in May, 1778, and his departure on his next cruise a year later, in June, 1779, put the active Scotchman in a state of constant irritation. He continued his dunning correspondence with the greatest energy, alternately cajoling, proposing, complaining, begging to be sent on some important enterprise. He wrote innumerable letters to de Sartine, Franklin, the Duc de Rochefoucauld, de Chaumont, and many others, and finally to the king himself, with whom he afterwards had an interview. The statement of his wrongs in his letter to the king, reiterated in letters to many others, involves an account of the many promises de Sartine had made and broken, and of Jones's various important proposals for the public good, which had been slighted.
"Thus, sire," he writes, "have I been chained down to shameful inactivity for nearly five months. I have lost the best season of the year and such opportunities of serving my country and acquiring honor as I can hardly expect again in this war; and to my infinite mortification, having no command, I am considered everywhere an officer cast off and in disgrace for secret reasons."
Jones's pertinacity and perseverance in working for a command are quite on a par with his indomitable resolution in battle, and he was finally rewarded, probably through the king's direct order, by being put in command of a small squadron, with which he made the cruise resulting in the capture of the Serapis and in his own fame.
Jones was highly delighted with the appointment, but his troubles continued in full measure, and to all his troubles Jones gave wide and frequent publicity. All the ships of his squadron, with the exception of the Alliance, were French, largely officered and manned by Frenchmen. The expense of fitting out the expedition was the king's. The flag and the commissions of the officers were American. The object of the French government was to secure the services of the marauding Jones against the coasts and shipping of England. This could better be done under the United States flag than under that of France; for the rules of civilized warfare had up to that time prevented the British from ravaging the coasts of France as they had those of rebel America, and France was therefore not morally justified in harassing the English shipping and coasts directly; as, on the principle of retaliation, it was fair for America to do.
This peculiar character of the expedition brought with it many drawbacks and difficulties for the unfortunate Jones. He had a motley array of ships,—those which were left over after the French officers had been satisfied. The flagship, the Bonhomme Richard, was a worn-out old East Indiaman, which Jones refitted and armed with six eighteen-pounders, twenty-eight twelve-pounders, and eight nine-pounders—a battery of forty-two guns. The crew of 375, of many nationalities, contained, when the fleet sailed, only about fifty Americans; but fortunately, a few days later, Jones was compelled to put back to port, where he was unexpectedly able, owing to a recent exchange of prisoners, to get rid of some of his aliens, and to secure 114 American officers and sailors, who proved to be the backbone of the Richard's crew. The Alliance, the only American ship, was a good frigate rating as a large thirty-two or medium thirty-six, but captained by a mad Frenchman in the American service, Landais, who refused to obey Jones, and in the important fight with the Serapis turned his guns against his commander. The Pallas, thirty-two guns, the Vengeance, twelve guns, and the little Cerf were all officered and manned by Frenchmen.
The greatest hindrance, however, to the efficiency of the squadron was the famous concordat, or agreement between the captains, which Jones was compelled to sign just before sailing. The terms, indeed, which related largely to the distribution of prize money, left Jones in the position of commander in chief, but the fact that there was any agreement whatever between Jones and his subordinates weakened his authority. Of this, as of so many other injustices, Jones complained most bitterly all through his subsequent life. He signed it, however, because, he said in his journal, he feared that he would otherwise be removed from his position as commodore. In a letter to Hewes he gave Franklin's command as the cause.
The squadron, accompanied at the outset by two French privateers, sailed finally from L'Orient, after one futile attempt, August 14, 1779, and made during the first forty days of the fifty days' cruise a number of unimportant prizes. On the 18th of August, the privateer Monsieur, which was not bound by the concordat, took a prize, which the captain of the Monsieur rifled, and then ordered into port. Jones, however, opposed the captain's order, and sent the prize to L'Orient, whereupon the Monsieur parted company with the squadron. According to Fanning, one of Jones's midshipmen, who has left a spirited account of the cruise, Jones attempted to prevent the departure of the privateer by force, and when she escaped was so angry that he "struck several of his officers with his speaking trumpet over their heads," and confined one of them below, but immediately afterwards invited him to dinner. "Thus it was with Jones," says Fanning, "passionate to the highest degree one minute, and the next ready to make a reconciliation."
The defection of the Monsieur was, however, only the beginning of Jones's troubles with the insubordinate officers. While attempting to capture a brigantine, Jones, through the desertion of some of his English sailors, lost two of his small boats, for which he was bitterly and unjustly reproached by the crazy, incompetent, and greedy Landais, captain of the Alliance, who said that hereafter he would chase in the manner he saw fit. Shortly afterwards, the Cerf abruptly left the fleet, and the other privateer also went off on its own account. Jones was left with only the Bonhomme Richard, the Pallas, the Vengeance, and the Alliance; and it would have been better, as the result showed, if the last-mentioned vessel and its extraordinary captain had also decamped at this time for good. Landais paid no attention to Jones's signals, but left the squadron for days, unfortunately returning. Against Jones's orders he sent two prizes into Bergen, Norway, where they were given by the Danish government to the English, and were for many years after the war a source of trouble between Denmark and the United States.
Jones was also compelled to treat with the other French captains, and several times modified his course in compliance with their demands. He had formed a daring design to lay Leith, on the coast of Scotland, and perhaps Edinburgh, under contribution, but first he had to argue the matter with his captains. Fanning says: "Jones displayed so artfully his arguments in favor of his plan that it was agreed pretty unanimously to put it in immediate execution." Jones's art was manifested in this instance, according to his account, by showing the captains "a large heap of gold at the end of the prospect." During this enforced conference, however, the wind shifted, and the undertaking had to be given up. Fanning quaintly remarks: "All his [Jones's] vast projects of wealth and aggrandizement became at once a shadow that passeth away, never more to appear again!"
Jones, however, said that he would have succeeded, even at this late hour, if his plan had been followed, and showed a touch of the weak side of his character when he added: "Nothing prevented me from pursuing my design but the reproach that would have been cast upon my character, as a man of prudence, had the enterprise miscarried. It would have been said: 'Was he not forewarned by Captain Cottineau and others?'"
With his old ship, his motley squadron, and his insubordinate officers, Jones then cruised along the Yorkshire coast, destroyed or captured a number of vessels, and was preparing to end his voyage at the Texel, Holland, when chance threw in his way the opportunity which he so greatly embraced.
On the 23d of September the squadron was chasing a ship off Flamborough Head, when the Baltic fleet of merchantmen, for which Jones had been looking, hove in sight. The commodore hoisted the signal for a general chase. Landais, however, ignored the signal and went off by himself. The merchant ships, when they saw Jones's squadron bearing down upon them, made for the shore and escaped, protected by two ships of war, frigates, which stood out and made preparations to fight, in order to save their convoy.
These British ships of war were the Serapis, a new frigate of forty-four guns, and the Countess of Scarborough, twenty guns. The Alliance, at that time, which was late in the afternoon, was not in sight, and the little Vengeance, which had been sent to look for Landais, was also not available. There were, therefore, two ships on each side, and Jones ordered Captain Cottineau, of the Pallas, to look after the Countess of Scarborough, while he himself took care of the Serapis. Jones never lost his head in action, and yet he decided, with that "cool, determined bravery," of which Benjamin Franklin spoke, and with "that presence of mind which never deserted him" in action, recorded by Fanning, to engage a ship known by him to be the superior of the Bonhomme Richard in almost every respect. It has been said of Jones by one who fought with him that only in battle was he absolutely at ease: only at times of comparative inaction, when he could not exert himself fully, was he restless and irritable. On this occasion he joyfully engaged a ship which threw a weight of metal superior to his by three to two, that sailed much faster, and was consequently at an advantage in manoeuvring for position, and that had a crew equal to that of Jones in numbers, and far more disciplined and homogeneous. A battle resulted which for desperate fighting has never been excelled, and perhaps never equaled on the sea.
THE FIGHT WITH THE SERAPIS
Jones crowded on all possible sail, and the Bonhomme Richard came within pistol shot of the Serapis. It was seven o'clock of a fine moonlight night. Captain Pearson, of the British ship, then hailed, and was answered with a whole broadside from the Bonhomme Richard, an unfriendly salute which was promptly returned by the British ship.
From the beginning the fight seemed to go against the Bonhomme Richard. There was hardly any stage of the three and a half hours' desperate combat when Jones might not, with perfect propriety, have surrendered. Hardly had the battle begun when two of the six old eighteen-pounders forming the battery of the lower gun-deck of the Richard exploded, killing the men working them and rendering the whole battery useless for the rest of the action. Captain Pearson, perceiving his advantage in speed and power of shot, attempted again and again to pass the bow of the Richard and rake her. Jones's whole effort, on the other hand, was to close with the Serapis and board, knowing that it was only a question of time when, in a broadside fight, the Richard would be sunk.
After the broadsiding had continued with unremitting fury for about three quarters of an hour, and several of the Richard's twelve-pounders also had been put out of action, Captain Pearson thought he saw an opportunity, the Serapis having veered and drawn ahead of the Richard, to luff athwart the latter's hawse and rake her. But he attempted the manoeuvre too soon, and perceiving that the two ships would be brought together if he persisted in his course, he put his helm alee, bringing the two vessels in a line; and the Serapis having lost her headway by this evolution, the Richard ran into her weather quarter. Jones was quick to make his first attempt to board, but he could not mass enough men at the point of contact to succeed, and the ships soon swung apart.
The Richard, even at this early stage of the action, was in a deplorable condition. Little of her starboard battery was left. Henry Gardner, a gunner during the action, stated in his account of the battle that, at this time, of the 140 odd officers and men stationed in the main gun-deck battery at the beginning, over eighty were killed or wounded. There were three or four feet of water in the hold, caused by the Serapis's eighteen-pound shot, which had repeatedly pierced the hull of the Richard.
It is no wonder that Captain Pearson, knowing that his enemy was hard put to it, thought, after the failure to board, that Jones was ready to surrender.
"Has your ship struck?" he called, and Jones made his famous reply:—
"I have not yet begun to fight."
That Jones really made some such reply, there is no doubt. Certainly, it was characteristic enough. Jones fought all his life, and yet when he died he had hardly begun the conflict, so many of his ambitious projects remained unrealized.
When the ships had swung apart, the broadsiding continued, increasingly to the advantage of the Serapis. Had not a lucky wind, favorable to the Richard, arisen at this point, doubtless her time above water would have been short. The veering and freshening breeze enabled the Richard to blanket the enemy's vessel, which consequently lost her headway, and another fortunate puff of wind brought the Richard in contact with the Serapis in such a way that the two vessels lay alongside one another, bow to stern, and stern to bow. Jones, with his own hand, helped to lash the two ships together. The anchor of the Serapis fortunately hooked the quarter of the Richard, thus binding the frigates still more firmly together.
During the critical time when Jones was bending every nerve to grapple with the Serapis, the Alliance made her first appearance, poured a broadside or two into the Richard, and disappeared. Of this remarkable deed Jones wrote to Dr. Franklin: "At last the Alliance appeared, and I now thought the battle at an end; but to my utter astonishment he discharged a broadside full into the stern of the Bon Homme Richard." It is probable that the Serapis also suffered from Landais's attack, but not so much as the Richard, which lay between the other two ships.
After the Serapis and the Richard had been well lashed together, there began a new phase of the battle, which had already lasted about an hour. There were only three guns left in action on the Richard, nine-pounders on the quarter-deck, and the ship was badly leaking. The eighteen-pounders of the enemy had riddled the gun-deck of the American ship, rendering her, below-decks, entirely untenable. The real fight from this time to the end was consequently above-decks. Jones abandoned any attempt at great gun fire, except by the three small pieces on the quarter-deck, drew practically his entire remaining crew from below to the upper deck and the tops, and devoted his attention to sweeping the decks of the enemy by the musketry of his French marines from the quarter and poop decks, and of the American sailors in the tops. The crew of the Serapis, on the other hand, were forced mainly to take refuge in their well-protected lower decks, from which they continued to fire their great guns into the already riddled hull and lower decks of the Richard.
After the juncture of the vessels Captain Pearson made several desperate attempts to cut the anchor loose, hoping in that way to become free again of the Richard, in which case he knew that the battle was his. Jones, of course, was equally determined to defend the anchor fastenings. He personally directed the fire of his French marines against the British in their repeated attempts to sever the two ships, to such good purpose that not a single British sailor reached the coveted goal. So determined was Jones on this important point that he took loaded muskets from the hands of his French marines and shot down several of the British with his own hand.
The captain of the French marines, who rendered at this important stage of the action such good service, had been wounded early in the battle, and the succeeding lieutenants had also been either killed or disabled. The marines had been greatly diminished in numbers and were much disheartened at the time Jones took personal command of them. Nathaniel Fanning vividly narrates the manner in which Jones handled these Frenchmen: "I could distinctly hear, amid the crashing of the musketry, the great voice of the commodore, cheering the French marines in their own tongue, uttering such imprecations upon the enemy as I never before or since heard in French or any other language, exhorting them to take good aim, pointing out objects for their fire, and frequently giving them direct example by taking their loaded muskets from their hands into his and firing himself. In fact, toward the very last, he had about him a group of half a dozen marines who did nothing but load their firelocks and hand them to the commodore, who fired them from his own shoulder, standing on the quarter-deck rail by the main topmast backstay."
A French sailor, Pierre Gerard, who has left a memoir of the battle, tells how his countrymen responded to Jones's presence: "Commodore Jones sprang among the shaking marines on the quarter-deck like a tiger among calves. They responded instantly to him. In an instant they were filled with courage! The indomitable spirit, the unconquerable courage of the commodore penetrated every soul, and every one who saw his example or heard his voice became as much a hero as himself!"
Both vessels were at this time, and later, on fire in various places. Captain Pearson says in his official report that the Serapis was on fire no less than ten or twelve times. Half the men on both ships had been killed or disabled. The leak in the Richard's hold grew steadily worse, and the mainmast of the Serapis was about to go by the board. The Alliance again appeared and, paying no heed to Jones's signal to lay the Serapis alongside, raked both vessels for a few minutes indiscriminately, went serenely on her way, and brought her inglorious and inexplicable part in the action to a close. Captain Pearson had, for a moment, towards the end of the action, a ray of hope. A gunner on the Richard, thinking the ship was actually sinking, called for quarter, but Jones stunned him with the butt end of a pistol, and replied to Pearson, who had again hailed to know if the Richard had struck, to quote his own report, "in the most determined negative." About the same time, the master at arms, also believing the ship to be sinking, opened the hatches and released nearly two hundred British prisoners, taken in the various prizes of the cruise.
Nothing, apparently, could be more desperate than the situation of Paul Jones then. His guns useless, his ship sinking and on fire, half of his crew dead or disabled, the Alliance firing into him, a portion of his crew panic-stricken, and two hundred British prisoners at large on the ship! But with Lieutenant Richard Dale to help him, he boldly ordered the prisoners to man the pumps, and continued the fight with undiminished energy. Soon after occurred the event which practically decided the battle in his favor. He had given orders to drop hand grenades from the tops of the Richard down through the enemy's main hatch. It was by this means that the Serapis had been so often set on fire. Now at an opportune moment, a hand grenade fell among a pile of cartridges strung out on the deck of the Serapis and caused a terrible explosion, killing many men. This seemed to reduce materially the fighting appetite of the British, and soon after a party of seamen from the Richard, with the dashing John Mayrant at their head, boarded the Serapis, and met with little resistance. Captain Pearson thereupon struck his colors, and the victory which marked the zenith of Jones's career, and upon which all else in his life merely served as commentary, was scored. Captain Pearson, in his court-martial, which was a formality in the British navy in case of defeat, explained Jones's victory in a nutshell: "It was clearly apparent," he said, "that the American ship was dominated by a commanding will of the most unalterable resolution," and again, "the extraordinary and unheard-of desperate stubbornness of my adversary had so depressed the spirits of my people that, when more than two hundred had been slain or disabled out of 317 all told, I could not urge the remnant to further resistance."
The capture of the British ship, which took place about half-past ten at night, came none too soon, for the old Bonhomme Richard was sinking. The flames were extinguished by combined efforts of crew and prisoners by ten o'clock the next morning, but with seven feet of water, constantly increasing in the hold, it was then apparent that it was impossible to keep the old vessel afloat, and men, prisoners, and powder were transferred to the Serapis. On the morning of the 25th Jones obtained, "with inexpressible grief," as he said, "the last glimpse of the Bonhomme Richard," as she went down.
The desperate battle fought in the bright moonlight was witnessed by many persons in Scarborough and on Flamborough Head, and they spread the alarming tidings throughout England. In a letter to Robert Morris, written soon after, Jones said, of the cruise in general: "We alarmed their coasts prodigiously from Cape Clear round to Hull; and had I not been concerned with sons of interest I could have done much."
With his two new prizes (for the Countess of Scarborough had after a short action struck to the greatly superior Pallas) Jones set off for the Texel, with a most dilapidated crew and fleet. The Alliance, well called a "Comet" by the editor of the Janette-Taylor collection of Jones's papers, disappeared again after the battle. Landais, whose conduct was described by Jones as being that of "either a fool, a madman, or a villain," was afterwards dismissed the service, but not until he had cut up other extraordinary pranks. He now went off with his swift and uninjured frigate to the Texel, leaving Jones, laden down with prisoners and wounded, unassisted. Of the Richard's crew of 323, 67 men had been killed, leaving 106 wounded and 150 others to be accommodated on the injured Serapis. Then there were 211 English prisoners on the Richard at the beginning of the action; and of the 332 (including 8 sick men and 7 non-combatants) men composing the crew of the Serapis, there were 245 left to be cared for—134 wounded, 87 having been killed. There were, consequently, only 150 well men to look after 562 wounded and prisoners. Some of the latter were afterwards transferred to the Pallas, but altogether it was an unwieldy fleet which slowly sailed for the Texel, at which neutral port Jones arrived October 3, none too soon, for as he entered the roads, an English squadron, consisting of a sixty-four ship of the line and three heavy frigates, which had been looking for him, hove in sight.
The effect of the cruise was very great. The English people, alarmed and incensed, never forgot it. Never before had one of their ships of war been conquered by a vessel of greatly inferior force. Their coasts, deemed impregnable, were again invaded by the man whom they called, in the blindness of their rage, pirate and renegade. Professor Houghton, a serious-minded historian, writing of Jones said: "His moral character can be summed up in one word—detestable." English comment on Paul Jones may be summed up truthfully in one word,—envenomed. Jones's exploits, moreover, greatly increased the prestige of young America, and made of himself a still greater hero at home and particularly in France. For the rest of his life, indeed, Jones, in France especially, where spectacles are peculiarly appreciated, was the man on horseback, and he enjoyed the position intensely. Fanning narrates how Jones, while at Amsterdam, soon after his arrival in the Texel, "was treated as a conqueror. This so elated him with pride, that he had the vanity to go into the State House, mount the balcony or piazza, and show himself in the front thereof, to the populace and people of distinction then walking on the public parade."
DIPLOMACY AT THE TEXEL
Jones found himself in a position at the Texel which demanded all the shrewdness as well as the determination of his character. Impatient, irritable, and passionate as he often was, his judgment was nevertheless excellent. Benjamin Franklin, when Jones at a later time was again put in a delicate situation, wrote him:—
"You have shown your abilities in fighting; you have now an opportunity of showing the other necessary part in the character of a great chief,—your abilities in policy."
Jones's ability in policy appeared in a more favorable light in the Texel than at any other period of his career, although too great weight has been laid upon the degree of it. The important problem to be solved was how to induce the Dutch authorities to allow him and his battered ships to remain for a time in the shelter of their port. Jones knew that the attainment of this object would help to bring about a rupture between England and Holland. The latter country was secretly in sympathy with the revolted colonies, but eager at that time to maintain officially friendly relations with England. Consequently, when Jones arrived with his prizes, the Dutch authorities were in a quandary, much aggravated by the action of the British minister in Holland, Sir Joseph Yorke, who demanded that the "pirate's" prizes be delivered up to England. He reiterated his demand to the States-General in the following language: "I only discharge the orders of his Majesty in renewing the most strong and urgent demand for the seizure and restitution of said vessels as well as for the enlargement of their crews, who have been seized by the pirate, Paul Jones, a Scotchman, a rebellious subject, and state criminal."
Jones, in reply to the allegations of the British minister, copies of whose letters had been sent him, wrote the States-General an able letter. He inclosed a copy of his commission from the United States government, and then argued that the United States was a "sovereign power" and entitled to issue such a commission. He pointed out that the sovereignty had been recognized by France and Spain, and that belligerent rights had been recognized by Prussia and by Russia. Only one of Sir Joseph's charges he admitted to be true,—that he was a Scotchman, but he denied the inference made from it,—that he was a "state criminal." He wrote: "It cannot have escaped the attention of Your High Mightinesses that every man now giving fealty to the cause of American Independence was born a British subject." If he were a "state criminal," then, he argued, General Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and all other American patriots were also "state criminals."
Soon after this letter was received the States-General passed a resolution declining to "consider any question affecting the validity of Paul Jones's commission or his status as a person." They declined likewise "to do anything from which it might lawfully be inferred that they recognized the independence of the American colonies." They also resolved that Paul Jones should be asked to leave their port, but not until the wind and weather should be favorable. They had refused, therefore, to consider Jones as a pirate, or to deliver up his prizes.
Paul Jones's plan was not to admit that a favorable wind had arisen until the last possible moment. He did not wish to be taken by the strong British fleet waiting for him outside the harbor, and he desired, as he said, in order to provoke war between Holland and England, "to try the patience of the English party to the last bit of strain it would bear by keeping my anchorage in Dutch waters on plea of distress, and at the same time I wished to be ready for instant departure the moment I saw that the plea of distress could no longer be plausibly held."
The French Minister of Marine, de Sartine, however, fearing that ultimately the pressure would be so great that the squadron would be compelled to depart and thus fall into the clutches of the British, demanded that the French flag, which naturally commanded greater respect from Holland than the flag of the United States, should be displayed. Benjamin Franklin agreed with the French minister, but Jones protested:—
"In vain I expostulated with them that by accepting the shelter of the French flag I should do exactly of all things what Sir Joseph Yorke wished me to do, namely, withdraw all pretensions of the United States as a party to the situation, and thereby confess that the United States claimed no status as a sovereign power in a neutral port."
Jones was forced to yield, the French flag was displayed, the command was given to the French captain, Cottineau, and Jones retained only the Alliance, an American ship, from which he was allowed, however, to fly the American flag.
To add to Jones' sorrows de Sartine offered him, through the Duc de Vauguyan, a French commission to command the Alliance as a letter of marque. He rejected it with indignation: "My rank from the beginning knew no superior in the marine of America; how then must I be humbled were I to accept a letter of marque! I should, my lord, esteem myself inexcusable were I to accept even a commission of equal or superior denomination to that I bear, unless I were previously authorized by Congress, or some other competent authority in Europe." That the Serapis, the prize for which he had so bravely contended, had been taken from him, was another of the wrongs which rankled deeply in Jones's soul.
Jones must have got a great deal of satisfaction, however, from the fact that he continued defiantly to wave the American flag from the Alliance, and that he delayed his enforced departure, in spite of great pressure from the admiral of the Dutch fleet, until December 26, when with the Alliance he dashed out of the harbor "under his best American colors," ran the gauntlet of the British fleet cruising outside, and escaped into the open sea.
Before leaving the Texel, Jones, on December 17, 1779, wrote Dr. Bancroft: "I am sure that the strain put upon the relations between Holland and England must end in rupture between them within this year."
War was indeed declared between England and Holland on December 19, 1780, and in the bill of grievances set forth in the proclamation of a state of war against Holland, the statement is made: "That, in violation of treaty, they [the States-General] suffered an American Pirate (one Paul Jones, a Rebel, and State Criminal) to remain several weeks in one of their ports."
It is clear, therefore, that Jones's pertinacious stay in the Dutch port brought about important results.
Another instance of Jones's sang-froid in matters where time was given for his judgment to come into play, was the way he treated Landais at the Texel. On his arrival at that port Jones sent to Dr. Franklin charges against the captain of the Alliance, whom he removed from command. Whereupon Landais sent Jones a challenge to a duel. Fanning narrates: "But the latter [Jones], perhaps not thinking it prudent to expose himself with a single combatant, who was a complete master of the smallsword, declined." In the second edition of his memoir Fanning said that Jones accepted Landais's challenge, but insisted on substituting pistols, with which he was an expert, for swords, a proposition which Landais refused.
Although again on the sea and free from the irritations of the Texel, Jones, when he had eluded the British fleet, found plenty of other things to annoy him. He had fortunately transferred many of his trustworthy men from the Serapis to the Alliance, but there were enough of the latter ship's old officers and men to divide the crew into two hostile camps. The discontent at the delay over payment of wages and prize money had deepened. Although the crew was large, fierce in temper, and at first very anxious to look for further prizes, they yet, after the cruise had continued for some time without success, refused to continue unless they were paid. Jones, in order to induce them to embark from Corunna, Spain, where the Alliance had put in for repairs and provisions, promised that he would sail immediately for L'Orient, where they should receive their prize money. As soon as he was again at sea, however, Jones informed his officers that he intended to make a further cruise of twenty days. Fanning, one of the officers, quotes Jones:—
"'And,' says he, with a kind of contemptuous smile, which he was much addicted to, 'Gentlemen, you cannot conceive what an additional honor it would be to all of us, if in cruising a few days we should have the good luck to fall in with an English frigate of our force and carry her in with us.... This would crown our former victories, and our names, in consequence thereof, would be handed down to latest posterity by some faithful historian of our country.'" Fanning adds in a footnote: "Jones had a wonderful notion of his name being handed down to posterity."
When the officers remonstrated on the ground that the men were badly clothed, Jones flew into a rage and ordered them to go to their duty. He found, however, that he could not, with a mutinous crew, continue his course effectively, and reluctantly sailed for L'Orient, where he arrived on February 10, 1780.
SOCIETY IN PARIS
The following year, passed mainly in France, at Paris or L'Orient, was spent by Jones in trying to collect prize money, secure an important command, and in society, where he shone more resplendently than ever. He wrote rather more than his usual large number of letters,—to Franklin, Robert Morris, the Duchesse de Chartres, Arthur Lee, Dr. Bancroft, and many others,—in practically all of them urging some one of his warmly desired projects.
His correspondence with Benjamin Franklin was largely about prize money and the expense of repairing the Alliance, which he undertook to do immediately on his arrival at L'Orient. The frugal doctor attempted to curb, in the matter of expense, the free-handed Jones. The latter had an enormous respect for Franklin, and it is quite likely that he attempted to be economical, but he seems to have been less successful in that direction than in any other. Fanning speaks of the "great and unnecessary expense" involved in Jones's elaborate alterations, and narrates how, at a later period, when Jones was in command of the Ariel, anchored in the harbor at L'Orient, a magnificent spectacle was given on board for the entertainment of the ladies and gentlemen invited by Jones. A mock fight between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis, in which vast quantities of ammunition were destroyed, took place. The vessel was finely carpeted and decorated, a regal banquet was served, military music played, and in general "neither cash nor pains," says Fanning, "were spared in order that the scene every way should appear magnificent." Although the hero never seemed to take account of the extreme poverty of the infant republic, it is only fair to add that he spent his own money as freely as any one else's, and that he often served without pay, a fact continually attested to by himself in his letters and journals.
Jones's lack of success, in spite of his energetic attempts in collecting at this time the prize money, about which there were many annoying technicalities, increased the discontent of his crew, and prepared the way for the seizure of the Alliance by the mad Landais. Arthur Lee, formerly one of the American commissioners in Europe, had always been hostile to Jones and unsympathetic with Dr. Franklin and with the revolutionary party generally; to such a degree, indeed, that he was accused, not unjustly, of treachery to the cause of American independence. At the time that the Alliance was at L'Orient, Lee was waiting an opportunity to return to America. Captain Landais, who had been deprived of the command of the Alliance by order of Benjamin Franklin, then the sole representative of the United States in France, and who had likewise been ordered by the doctor to report to the Marine Committee on the charge of infamous conduct, planned to take the Alliance from Jones, and was supported in the attempt by Lee, who contended that neither Franklin nor Jones could deprive Landais of a command given him by Congress. Lee's desire to take the ship from Jones was augmented by the latter's refusal to make room for the ex-commissioner's many effects, including two fine coaches,—space which was much needed for the accommodation of supplies for Washington's army.
Lee and Landais consequently encouraged the discontent among the crew of the Alliance, and one day, June 13, when Jones was on shore at L'Orient, Landais went on board the ship, and, supported by his old officers and by Lee, took possession. When Jones heard of it he was very angry, and acted, according to Fanning, "more like a madman than a conqueror;" but, as usual, his anger was quickly controlled and the definite steps he took in the affair were marked by great moderation. The commandant of the defenses at L'Orient had received orders from the French government to fire on the Alliance, if Landais should attempt to take her out of the harbor; and it seems he would have obeyed and probably sunk the ship, had not Jones himself interfered, and induced him to stay his hand. In a letter to Franklin, Jones said:—
"Your humanity will, I know, justify the part I acted in preventing a scene that would have made me miserable the rest of my life."
Jones was probably not over sorry to lose the Alliance. There was nothing very thrilling in the prospect of carrying supplies to America, and Jones at that time hoped fervently to get hold of the Serapis and other ships and make another warlike cruise against the coast of England. So Landais sailed away with the Alliance, but to his own ruin, as the clear-sighted Jones had predicted in a remarkable letter written a short time before the ship sailed to a mutinous officer on the Alliance. On the voyage Landais's eccentricity caused his friend Lee to put him under arrest, and on the arrival in America, a court of inquiry found him unfit for command, and he never again burdened the service.
Jones was left at L'Orient with the little Ariel, armed with eighteen twelve-pounders and four six-pounders, a ship loaned by the king to Dr. Franklin, and with high hopes, as usual, of more glorious opportunities. But many months intervened before he sailed again,—a time he devoted to business and society. As Jones and his interesting midshipman Fanning separated at the end of this period, the latter's final impressions of his captain may here be given:—
"Captain Jones was a man of about five feet six inches high, well shaped below his head and shoulders, rather round shouldered, with a visage fierce and warlike, and wore the appearance of great application to study, which he was fond of. He was an excellent seaman and knew naval tactics as well as almost any man of his age; but it must be allowed that his character was somewhat tinctured with bad qualities ... his courage and bravery as a naval commander cannot be doubted. His smoothness of tongue and flattery to seamen when he wanted them was persuasive, and in which he excelled any other man I was ever acquainted with.... His pride and vanity while at Paris and Amsterdam was not generally approved of."
Fanning has many anecdotes to relate in regard to Jones's affairs of gallantry of an humble character. Several of Jones's biographers have dwelt upon the gorgeous and aristocratic nature of the hero's amours. Fanning has the solitary distinction of narrating the other side. Jones, indeed, was a good deal of a snob, but he was broadly appreciative of the fair sex. He probably was never deeply in love with anybody, certainly not with any woman of humble character. Of such his appreciation was of a simple and earthly kind.
Although Jones seems to have had no intimate friends, with possibly one exception, there certainly was about him a very strong charm, which made him a favorite in good society. He had a flattering tongue, a ready wit, and a gallant manner. Of Jones's attractions Benjamin Franklin once wrote to a woman:—
"I must confess to your Ladyship that when face to face with him neither man nor, so far as I can learn, woman can for a moment resist the strange magnetism of his presence, the indescribable charm of his manner, a commingling of the most compliant deference with the most perfect self-esteem that I have ever seen in a man; and, above all, the sweetness of his voice and the purity of his language."
Mr. Varnum of Rhode Island, who met Jones only in connection with public business, said of him:—
"I confess there was a magic about his way and manner that I have never before seen. Whatever he said carried conviction with it."
Even more sensible of Jones's charms than the men were the women, who were universally dazzled by the brilliant hero. Miss Edes-Herbert, an Englishwoman living in Paris, writes, among other flattering things about him:—
"Since my last, the famous Paul Jones has dined here and also been present at afternoon teas. If I am in love with him, for love I may die, I am sure, because I have as many rivals as there are ladies."
She records that Jones wrote verses for the ladies extempore, and gives a sample, the sentiments of which are as characteristic of the declamatory century as of the naively vain Jones:—
"Insulted Freedom bled,—I felt her cause, And drew my sword to vindicate her laws, From principle, and not from vain applause. I've done my best; self-interest far apart, And self-reproach a stranger to my heart; My zeal still prompts, ambitious to pursue The foe, ye fair, of liberty and you: Grateful for praise, spontaneous and unbought, A generous people's love not meanly sought; To merit this, and bend the knee to beauty, Shall be my earliest and latest duty."
Many of Jones's flowery letters to distinguished women are preserved. On one occasion he wrote to a certain countess, informing her that he was composing a secret cipher for a key to their correspondence, and added: "I beseech you to accept the within lock (of hair). I am sorry that it is now eighteen inches shorter than it was three months ago."
The only case in which Jones's affections seem to have reached beyond good nature, common kindness, or gallantry, to the point of love, was that of Aimee de Thelison. She was the natural daughter of Louis XV., and this fact no doubt greatly heightened her interest in the eyes of the aristocratic Jones. She was a person of beauty and charm, and felt deep love for Jones. His love for her was of a cool character, which did not interfere with any of the enterprises taking him so frequently away from Paris. His letters to her are with one exception hardly love letters. The warmest words in that exception are:—
"The last French packet brought no letter to me from the person whose happiness is dearer to me than anything else.... Your silence makes even honors insipid."
It was while Jones was waiting thus gayly to sail for America, that the king of France bestowed upon him, in recognition of his services to the common cause, the Royal Order of Military Merit and a gold-mounted sword of honor, and made him Chevalier of France. It was, as Jones himself frequently wrote, a singular honor, he being the first alien to be made a French chevalier; and Jones prized this favor from a king more than he would the gift of a million dollars. The gold sword also pleased him deeply, and he asked the countess to whom he had sent the lock of hair to keep it for him, lest he lose it. He wrote of this gift:—
"His Majesty ordered a superb sword to be made for me, which I have since received, and it is called much more elegant than that presented to the Marquis de la Fayette."
PRIVATE AMBITION AND PUBLIC BUSINESS
Benjamin Franklin, knowing the value of the supplies to Washington's army, had implored Jones to embark several months before the little Ariel actually set sail, October 8, 1780. But Jones, hoping for an important command in Europe, and delayed by business in connection with fitting out his ship, and perhaps by the gayeties he was engaged in at Paris, did not show much concern over General Washington's distress. When he finally did sail, he encountered a terrible storm, and it was only the best of seamanship which enabled him to avoid shipwreck. As it was, he was compelled to put back for repairs to L'Orient, where, in a series of letters, he manoeuvred in vain for the loan of the fine ship Terpsichore.
It was not until December 18 that the Ariel got under way again for America. The voyage was uneventful, with the exception of a night battle with a British privateer sloop of inferior force. Jones cleverly concealed his greater strength, and thus lured the Englishman to engage. After a ten-minute fight, the Triumph struck its colors, but, when the Ariel ceased firing, sailed away and escaped, to Jones's exceeding mortification.
"The English captain," he wrote in his journal, "may properly be called a knave, because after he surrendered his ship, begged for and obtained quarter, he basely ran away, contrary to the laws of naval war and the practice of civilized nations."
Paul Jones, when he arrived in Philadelphia, the 18th of February, 1781, was thirty-three years old and had actively served in the United States navy for five years and five months. He never fought another battle under the United States flag; indeed, with the exception of his distressing experiences in Russia, he never fought again under any flag. But to his dying day he did not cease to plan great naval deeds and to hope for greater opportunity to harass the enemy—any enemy. In view of his great ambition and ability, circumstances allowed him to accomplish little. He had only one opportunity, and the way he responded made him famous; but though it brought him honor it did not satisfy him, and the rest of his life was a series of disappointments. His bitterness grew apace, and before he died he was a genuinely pathetic figure.
Soon after Jones's arrival at Philadelphia, the Board of Admiralty required him to give "all the information in his power relative to the detention of the clothing and arms in France intended for Washington's army;" and a series of forty-seven questions, on the subject not only of the delay but also on matters connected generally with his cruises, were submitted to him. He attributed, with probable justice, the instigation of this investigation to his enemy Arthur Lee, whom he desired in consequence to challenge to a duel. He was dissuaded, however, from this step, as well as from the publication of a paper he had written called "Arthur Lee in France," in which he made a circumstantial charge against Lee of "treason, perfidy, and the office of a spy," by some of his distinguished friends, including Morris and Livingston.