John Paul Jones
|Birth name||John Paul|
|Born||July 6, 1747|
Arbigland, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland
|Died||July 18, 1792 (aged 45)|
|Allegiance|| Kingdom of Great Britain (1760–1776)|
United States of America (1776–1787)
Russian Empire (1787–1788)
|Service/|| Merchant Navy|
Imperial Russian Navy
|Years of service||1760–1788|
|Rank||Captain (Merchant Navy)|
Captain (Continental Navy)
Rear Admiral (Imperial Russian Navy)
|Battles/wars||American Revolutionary War|
|Awards||Institution du Mérite Militaire|
Congressional Gold Medal
Order of St. Anne
John Paul Jones (born John Paul; July 6, 1747 – July 18, 1792) was the United States' first well-known naval commander in the American Revolutionary War. He made many friends among U.S political elites (including John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin), as well as enemies (who accused him of piracy), and his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. As such, he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the American Navy" (a sobriquet he shares with John Barry and John Adams).
Jones was born and raised in Scotland, became a sailor, and served as commander of several merchantmen. After having killed one of his crew members with a sword, he fled to the Colony of Virginia and around 1775 joined the newly founded Continental Navy in their fight against the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War. He commanded U.S. Navy ships stationed in France, led one failed assault on Britain, and several attacks on British merchant ships. Left without a command in 1787, he joined the Imperial Russian Navy and obtained the rank of rear admiral.
John Paul (he added "Jones" later in life) was born on the estate of Arbigland near Kirkbean in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on the southwest coast of Scotland. His parents married on November 29, 1733 in New Abbey, Kirkcudbright.
John Paul started his maritime career at the age of 13, sailing out of Whitehaven in the northern English county of Cumberland as apprentice aboard Friendship under Captain Benson. Paul's older brother William Paul had married and settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Virginia was the destination of many of the younger Paul's voyages.
For several years, Paul sailed aboard a number of merchant and slave ships, including King George in 1764 as third mate and Two Friends as first mate in 1766. In 1768, he abandoned his prestigious position on the profitable Two Friends while docked in Jamaica. He found his own passage back to Scotland, and eventually obtained another position.
John Paul's career was quickly and unexpectedly advanced during his next voyage aboard the brig John, which sailed from port in 1768, when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. Paul managed to navigate the ship back to a safe port and, in reward for this feat, the vessel's grateful Scottish owners made him master of the ship and its crew, giving him ten percent of the cargo. He led two voyages to the West Indies before running into difficulty.
During his second voyage in 1770, John Paul had one of his crew flogged after trying to start a mutiny about early payment of wages, leading to accusations that his discipline was "unnecessarily cruel". These claims were initially dismissed, but his favorable reputation was destroyed when the sailor died a few weeks later. John Paul was arrested for his involvement in the man's death, and was imprisoned in Kirkcudbright tolbooth, but later released on bail. The negative effect of this episode on his reputation is indisputable, although the man's death has been linked to yellow fever. The local governor encouraged John Paul to leave the area and change his name while on bail. The man who died of his injuries was not a usual sailor but an adventurer from a very influential Scottish family.
Leaving Scotland, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel named Betsy, a West Indiaman mounting 22 guns, engaging in commercial speculation in Tobago for about 18 months. This came to an end, however, when he killed a mutinous crew member named Blackton with a sword in a dispute over wages. Years later, in a letter to Benjamin Franklin describing the incident, John Paul claimed that the killing was committed in self-defense, but he was not willing to be tried in an Admiral's Court, where the family of his first victim had been influential.
He felt compelled to flee to Fredericksburg, Virginia, leaving his fortune behind; he also sought to arrange the affairs of his brother, who had died there without leaving any immediate family. About this time, John Paul assumed the surname of Jones (in addition to his original surname). There is a long-held tradition in the state of North Carolina that John Paul adopted the name "Jones" in honor of Willie Jones of Halifax, North Carolina.
From that period, America became "the country of his fond election", as he afterwards expressed himself to Baron Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol. It was not long afterward that John Paul "Jones" joined the American navy to fight against Britain.
In May 1790, Jones arrived in Paris. He still retained his position as Russian rear admiral, with a corresponding pension which allowed him to remain in retirement until his death two years later, although he made a number of attempts to re-enter the service in the Russian navy. By this time, his memoirs had been published in Edinburgh. Inspired by them, James Fenimore Cooper and Alexandre Dumas later wrote their own adventure novels. According to Walter Herrick:
In June 1792, Jones was appointed U.S. Consul to treat with the Dey of Algiers for the release of American captives. Before Jones was able to fulfill his appointment, he was found dead lying face-down on his bed in his third-floor Paris apartment, No. 19 Rue de Tournon, on July 18, 1792. He was 45 years old. The cause of death was interstitial nephritis. A small procession of servants, friends and loyal family walked his body four miles (6.4 km) for burial. He was buried in Paris at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. Four years later, France's revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.
In 1905, Jones's remains were identified by U.S. Ambassador to France Gen. Horace Porter, who had searched for six years to track down the body using faulty copies of Jones's burial record.
After Jones's death, Frenchman Pierrot Francois Simmoneau donated over 460 francs to mummify the body. It was preserved in alcohol and interred in a lead coffin "in the event that should the United States decide to claim his remains, they might more easily be identified." Porter knew what to look for in his search. With the aid of an old map of Paris, Porter's team, which included anthropologist Louis Capitan, identified the site of the former St. Louis Cemetery for Alien Protestants. Sounding probes were used to search for lead coffins and five coffins were ultimately exhumed. The third, unearthed on April 7, 1905, was later identified by a post-mortem examination by Doctors Capitan and Georges Papillault as being that of Jones. The autopsy confirmed the original listing of cause of death. The face was later compared to a bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
Jones's body was brought to the United States aboard the USS Brooklyn (CA-3), escorted by three other cruisers. On approaching the American coastline, seven U.S. Navy battleships joined the procession escorting Jones's body back to America. On April 24, 1906, Jones's coffin was installed in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, following a ceremony in Dahlgren Hall, presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt who gave a speech paying tribute to Jones and holding him up as an example to the officers of the Navy. On January 26, 1913, the Captain's remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.
Jones was given an honorary pardon in 1999 by the Port of Whitehaven for his raid on the town, in the presence of Lt. Steve Lyons representing the US Naval Attaché to the UK, and Yuri Fokine the Russian Ambassador to the UK. The US Navy were also awarded the Freedom of the Port of Whitehaven, the only time the honour has been granted in its 400-year history.
The Pardon and Freedom were arranged by Gerard Richardson as part of the launch of the series of Maritime Festival. Richardson's of Whitehaven is now the honorary Consulate to the US Navy for the Town and Port of Whitehaven. The Consul is Rear Admiral (retired) US Navy, Steve Morgan and the Deputy Consul is Rob Romano.