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John Paul Jones Com memoration
has been governed ever since, and crumbled away I may say to nothing, is so very defective, that I am of opinion it would be difficult to spoil it. Much wisdom, and more knowledge than we possess, is in my humble opinion necessary to the formation of such a naval constitution as is absolutely wanting. If when our finances enable us to go on, we should set out wrong, as we did in the year 1775, but much more so after arrangement, or rather derangement of rank in 1776, much money may be thrown away to little or no purpose. a young people, and need not be ashamed to ask advice from nations older and more experienced in marine affairs than ourselves. This I conceive might be done in a manner that would be received as a compliment by several or perhaps all the marine powers of Europe, and at the same time would enable us to collect such helps as would be of vast use when we come to form a constitution for the creation and government of our marine, the establishment and police of our dockyards, academies, hospitals, &c., and the general police of our seamen throughout the Continent. These considerations induced me on my return froin the fleet of his Excellency the Marquis de Vaudreuil to propose to you to lay my ideas on the subject before Congress, and to propose sending a proper person to Europe in a handsome frigate to display our flag in the ports of the different marine powers, to offer them the free use of our ports, and propose to them commercial advantages, &c. And then to ask permission to visit their marine arsenals, to be informed how they are furnished both with men, provision, materials, and warlike stores; by what police, and officers they are governed, how and from what resources the officers and men are paid, &c. The line of conduct drawn between the officers of the fleet, and officers of the ports, &c. Also the armament and equipment of the different ships of war with their dimensions, the number and qualities of their officers and men, by what police thay are governed in port and at sea, how and from what resources they are fed, clothed and paid, &c.; and the general police of their seamen, academies, hospitals, &c. If you still object to my projects on account of the expense of sending a frigate to Europe and keeping her there till the business can be effected, I think it may be done, though perhaps not with the same dignity, without a frigate. My plan for forming a proper corps of sea officers, is by teaching them the naval tactics in a fleet of evolution. To lessen the expense as much as possible, I would compose that fleet of frigates instead of ships of the line: on board of each I would have a little academy, where the officers should be taught the principles of mathematics and mechanics, when off duty. When in port the young officers should be obliged to attend at the academies established at each dockyard, where they should be taught the principles of every art and science that is necessary to form the character of a great sea officer,
and every commission officer of the navy should have free access, and be entitled to receive instruction gratis at those academies. All this would be attended with no very great expense, and the public advantage resulting from it would be immense. I am sensible it cannot be immediately adopted, and that we must first look about for ways and means; but the sooner it is adopted the better. We cannot, like the ancients, build a fleet in a month, and ought to take example from what has lately befallen Holland.
In time of peace it is necessary to prepare, and be always prepared for war by sea. I have had the honor to be presented with copies of the signals, tactics, and police, that have been adopted under the different admirals of France and Spain during the war; and I have in my last campaign seen them put in practice. While I was at Brest, as well as while I was inspecting the building of the America, as I had furnished myself with good authors, I applied much of my leisure time to the study of naval architecture and other matters, that relate to the establishment and police of dock-yards &c. (I, however, feel myself bound to say again, I have yet much need to be instructed). But if, such as I am, it is thought I can be useful in the formation of the future marine of America, and make whole my honour, I am so truly a citizen of the United States, that I will cheerfully do my best to effect that great object. It was my fortune, as the senior of the first lieutenants, to hoist, myself, the flag of America the first time it was displayed. Though this was but a light circumstance, yet I feel for its honour more than I think I should have done if it had not happened. See Paper No.
I drew my sword at the beginning, not after having made sinister conditions but purely from principle in the glorious cause of freedom; which I trust has been amply evinced by my conduct during the Revolution. I hope I shall be pardoned in saying, it will not now be expected, after having fought and bled for the purpose of contributing to make millions happy and free that I should remain miserable and dishonoured by being superseded, without any just cause assigned.
Though I have only mentioned two things that afflict me, the delay of a decision respecting my rank, and the honorary medal, yet I have met with many other humiliations in the service, that I have borne in silence. I will just mention one of them. When the America was presented to his most Christian Majesty, I presume it would not have been inconsistent with the dignity of that act of my sovereign, if it had mentioned my name. Such little attentions to the military pride of officers are always of use to a state, and cost nothing. In the present instance, it could have been no displeasing circumstance, but the contrary, to a monarch who condescends to honour me with his attention. I appeal to yourself, sir, whether, after being unanimously elected to command the first and only American ship of the line, my conduct, for sixteen months while inspecting her building and launching, had merited only such cold John Paul Jones Commemoration
neglect? When the America was taken from me, I was deprived of my tenth command. Will posterity believe, that out of this number the sloop of war Ranger was the best I was ever enabled by my country to bring into actual service? If I have been instrumental in giving the American flag some reputation and making it respectable among European nations, will you permit me to say, that it is not because I have been honoured, by my country, either with the proper means or proper encouragement. I cannot conclude this letter without reminding you of the insult offered to the flag of America, by the court of Denmark, in giving up to England, towards the end of the year 1779, two large letter of marque ships (the one the Union from London, the other the Betsy, from Liverpool) that had entered the port of Bergen, in Norway, as my prizes. Those two ships mounted 22 guns each, and were valued, as I have been informed, at sixteen hundred thousand livres Tournois. I acquit myself of my duty in giving you this information now when the sovereignty and independence of America is acknowledged by Great Britain, and I trust Congress will now demand and obtain proper acknowledginents and full restitution from the court of Denmark.
I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant. a
J. P. Jones to the U. S. Minister of Marine Hon Robt. Morris.
a This paper is unsigned. The signature "J. Paul Jones” is appended to a similar, but abridged, letter of October 10, 1783, printed by R. C. Sands in “Life and Correspondence of John Paul Jones," New York, 1830, pp. 304–309.—COMPILER.
LETTER TO MRS. BELCHES
(From original, in possession of Edinburgh Antiquarian Society.]
PARIS, August 29, 1786. MADAM: It is with great pleasure that I now execute the flattering commission you gave me before you left this city. Sir James Stuart, who returns immediately to Scotland, does me the honor to take charge of the Medallion you desired I might send you. I am unable to say whether it is well or ill executed, but, I feel, it receives its value from your acceptance: an honor for which I can never sufficiently express my obligation, but which it will always be my ambition to merit. My respectful compliments await your husband. I am very sensible of his polite attentions while here.
May you always enjoy a state of Happiness, as real as is the esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be, Madam, Your most obedient and most humble Servant
J. PAUL JONES. Mrs. BELCHES, Scotland.