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REPORT OF GENERAL PORTER
PON assuming charge of our embassy in Paris and finding myself among the old landmarks, which are still honored there as recalling the many historic incidents in the sojourn of Paul Jones in that brilliant capital, I felt a deep sense of humiliation as an American citizen in realizing that our first and most fascinating naval hero had been lying for more than a century in an unknown and forgotten grave, and that no serious attempt had ever been made to recover his remains and give them appropriate sepulture in the land upon whose history he had shed so much luster.
Knowing that he had been buried in Paris, I resolved to undertake personally a systematic and exhaustive search for the body.
The investigation began in June, 1899. The first step was to study all the writings obtainable relating to him, including official documents. The certificate of his burial had been registered, but the register had been placed with other archives of the city of Paris in an annex of the Hôtel de Ville, situated on Victoria avenue, and had been destroyed with other important records when the Government buildings were burned by the Commune in May, 1871. Fortunately, in 1859, Mr. Charles Read, an archæologist, investigator, and writer of note, had made a transcript of the register in which this certificate was recorded, and I finally succeeded in securing a correct copy. The following is an English translation of this interesting document:
To-day, July 20, 1792, year IV of Liberty, at 8 o'clock in the evening, conformably to the decree of the National Assembly of yesterday, in presence of the delegation of the said assembly, composed of Messrs. Brun, president of the delegation of the said assembly; Bravet, Cambon, Rouyer, Brival, Deydier; Gay Vernon, bishop of the Department of Haute-Vienne; Chabot, Episcopal vicar of the Department of Loir-etCher; Carlier, Petit, Le Josnes, Robouame; and of a deputation of the consistory of the Protestants of Paris, composed of Messrs. Marron the pastor, Perreaux, Benard, Marquis Mouquin, and Empaytaz, anciens, was buried in the cemetery for foreign Protestants, Jean Paul Jones, native of England and citizen of the United States of America, senior naval officer in the service of the said States, aged 45 years, died the 18th of this month at his residence situated at No. 42 Rue de Tournon, from dropsy of the chest, in the faith of the Protestant religion. The said burial was made in our presence by Pierre François Simonneau, commissary of the King for this section and commissary of police for the Ponceau section, in presence of M. Samuel Blackden, colonel of dragoons in the service of the State of North Carolina and a citizen of the United States of America; J. C. Mountflorence, formerly major in the service of the United States; Marie Jean Baptiste Benoist Beaupoil, formerly a French officer, residing in Paris at No. 7 Passage des Petits Pères; and of Louis 49
Nicolas Villeminot, the officer commanding the detachment of the grenadiers of the gendarmerie which escorted the delegation of the assembly; and others who have signed with us.
Brun; Gay Vernon, bishop and deputy; Deydier, deputy from the department of Ain; Rouyer; Benard; François Chabot; J. C. Mountflorence; Petit; Cambon fils aîné; Bravet; Beaupoil; P. H. Carlier; Durvosque; Lafontaine; Simonneau; Jacques Brival; Villeminot; Robouame; deputy; Marron; Perreaux; Mouquin; Empaytaz; R. Ghiselin, of Maryland; S. Blackden; Griffith, of Philadelphia.
Historians had differed as to the date of the death; the above-quoted certificate of burial fixes it definitely on July 18, 1792.
The best description of Paul Jones's last moments is given in a letter received a month after the funeral by his elder sister, Mrs. Jenny Taylor (sometimes spelled in the official documents Jeanne, Janet, and Janette), in Scotland, written by his intimate friend, a witness of his will and a pallbearer at his funeral, Col. Samuel Blackden, a planter from North Carolina, who had served with distinction in the American Revolution, and was in Paris on business at the time of Paul Jones's last illness and death. The following is an extract from his letter:
But for two months past he began to lose his appetite, grew yellow, and showed symptoms of jaundice. For this he took medical treatment and for a short time seemed to grow better. A few days before his death his legs began to swell, which proceeded upward to his body, so that for two days before his decease he could not button his waistcoat and had great difficulty in breathing.
I visited him every day, and, beginning to be apprehensive of his danger, desired him to settle his affairs; but he would not take that view of it, and put off the making of his will until the afternoon of July 18, when he was prevailed upon to send for a notary and made his will. M. Beaupoil and myself witnessed it and left him sitting in a chair in his parlor. A few minutes after we retired he walked into his chamber and laid himself upon his face on the bedside, with his feet on the floor. The Queen's physician, who was attending him, came soon after, and on entering the apartment found him in that position, and on trying to lift him up found that he had expired. His disorder had terminated in dropsy of the heart. His body was put into a leaden coffin on the 20th, that, in case the United States, which he had so essentially served and with so much honor, should claim his remains they might be more easily removed.
M. Beaupoil, whom he mentioned, was a major in the French army and an aid-de-camp to La Fayette, with whom he had served in the American Revolution.
I had been misled for some time by having been furnished with an alleged copy of the certificate of burial published in the "Bulletin of the Society of the History of Protestantism," in which there had been omitted after the word "anciens," doubtless through an error of the copyist, the following all-important phrase: "Was buried in the cemetery for foreign Protestants." Besides this, eight words of minor significance had been omitted. The fact that the French construction was defective without some additional words led to another search, and in the Bibliothèque Nationale was at last found a magazine called the
"Correspondance Littéraire," containing an article by Charles Read, giving the correct copy of the certificate of burial, which he had made from the register referred to and of which the above is a translation. The article expressed the conviction of Mr. Read that the cemetery for foreign Protestants was the long-since abandoned and almost forgotten cemetery of Saint Louis, situated upon a street formerly called L'Hôpital Saint Louis, at present Grange-aux-Belles.
As some writers had expressed, however vaguely, different opinions, I instituted a long and exhaustive search to verify the grounds upon which Mr. Read had based his belief.
Public records were found showing that in 1720 the Government, at the instigation of Holland, had set aside a lot for the burial of foreign Protestants near the Porte Saint Martin, called the "Saint Martin Cemetery," but which was closed in 1762. The Saint Louis Cemetery for foreign Protestants was opened about that time and officially closed in January, 1793, six months after Paul Jones's decease, although some interments were made thereafter.
The custodian in charge of each of these cemeteries was named "Corroy," and it was ascertained from certain old documents discovered that the position had descended from father to son, which was evidence tending to show that the Saint Louis was the immediate successor of the Porte Saint Martin Cemetery. A copy was afterwards found of a decree regarding the burial of foreign Protestants, issued May 26, 1781, officially confirming this fact, and approved by De Vergennes, minister of foreign affairs under Louis XVI. From this decree have been taken the following extracts:
By an order of council of June 20, 1720, it was decreed that there should be designated a place for the burial of the bodies of foreign Protestants. The ground which was chosen was situated near the Porte Saint Martin.
In the year 1762 the cemetery was transferred behind the Saint Louis Hospital.
This description clearly designated the Saint Louis Cemetery. To endeavor to obtain some authentic information as to whether there were any other cemeteries for foreign Protestants in existence at the time, and whether any further corroborative evidence could be found regarding the burial place of the Admiral, an examination requiring several months was made of all the journals and periodicals obtainable of about the date of the funeral, which took place July 20, 1792. Access was had to more than a hundred publications, which were found in the possession of libraries, societies, and individuals.
The Moniteur, Tome XIII, page 192, published a report of the proceedings of the National Assembly, session of July 19, 1792, the day after Paul Jones's death, which contained the following statement:
A letter was read from Colonel Blackden, a friend of Commodore Paul Jones, which announced that his friend having died in Paris, application was made to