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Jones, John Paul (1747-1792) to Robert Morris

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04797 Author/Creator: Jones, John Paul (1747-1792) Place Written: Brest, France Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 13 November 1778 Pagination: 4 p. ; 22.7 x 18.1 cm.

Summary of Content: Jones, Captain of the U.S.S. Ranger, informs Morris, a Continental Congressman, of recent events in France. Reports that in June, a highly esteemed gentleman (who Jones does not name) wrote him a secret letter promising him command of a large ship; the gentleman also indicated that the Ranger was to sail to the United States under another captain. Mentions the involvement of the Prince of Nassau (possibly Prince Charles Otton), and Monsieur de Sartine, head of the French Navy, in procuring the ship. Relates that Sartine promised him the command of several French vessels, but Sartine's promise also failed to materialize. Reports that as conflict between France and England ensued, he offered Sartine a plan to destroy English trade in the Baltic. Recounts several other disappointments regarding his expectations to assume command of French ships. Mentions Louis Guillouet, lieutenant general of the French Navy. Grounded in Brest until the spring, Jones states "the great obstacle I believe is- That the French Sea Officers, tho they would gladly think me in Disgrace,- are stung to the soul, and cannot look at me here but with Rivals Eyes." Mentions Monsieur de Chaumont (possibly Monsieur le Ray de Chaumont) and Genl. Whipple (possibly Continental Congressman William Whipple).

Background Information:

Full Transcript: Brest Novr. 13th. 1778.
Honored and dear Sir,
My fortune has been so chequered since I left Quiberon Bay, that I could have sent you no general account of my situation ...that would not have given you more pain than pleasure: And I know that you have had Vexations now of your own.
The inclosed papers will shew [sic] that my Roses have not been without a Superabundance of Thorns; and perhaps it will appear romance that I have succeeded under such circumstances: Which I am sure I should not have done had I not been my own Counsellor.
On the first of June a Gentleman who is high in the confidence of Congress, and in the Opinion of all Men who know him, did me the unexpected Honor to write me - a Secret Letter informing me that " in consequence of the high Opinion which the Minister of the Marine [(inserted: M. de Sartine)] has of my Conduct and Bravery" - it was determined to put under my Command the fine Ship that was built for America in Holland - but afterward, for political Reasons, made French property. - That Ship is calculated to mount Forty Guns - and is so very large that Twenty Eight of the number are to be French Thirty-Six pounders on one Deck. - The compliment is Six Hundred Men; and the Ship will carry Ten or Twelve Months Provision for that number.
[2] As the War between France and England was then thought at some distance, it was proposed to give me as many French Seamen as I thought proper. - The Prince de Nassau was to Accompany me on the Ocean - I was to have Unlimited Orders - to be attended by a fine Cutter - and to act under the Flag and Laws of America: - At the same time it appeared the Kings intention that America should incur no expence thro' this connection. - It was recommended to me that "I should propose" - to the Commissioners to send the Ranger back to America under another Commander. - As it was the desire of M. de Sartine to consult me at Versailles on the Secret Plans to be pursued, I attended him there for that purpose and furnished him with a Variety of Plans which he entirely - approved. -But in the moment when I though my Success - certain and at Hand, the Prince de Nassau, who had gone express to Holland, returned and reported that the Ship could not be got over the Shoals before the September Equinox.
M. De Sartine would not however suffer me to return to the [Ranger]; but, to prevent my departure, wrote a letter to the Commissioners asking as a favor that I might remain for a while under his direction - to which they in Answer freely consented. - To Employ the interval before the Equinox M. De Sartine proposed to put under my command Three of the best Frigates in France, with two Tenders and a number of Troops, to pursue such of my own plans as I thought proper. - This however fell to - nothing - tho the Gentleman who had been appointed by the Minister to consult with me on the business assured me [3] that the formallity of the Kings signature alone was wanting - Another squadron of less importance was proposed to be put under my Command - but this also failed.
I had now worn away two tedious months in the Air of a Court. The War between France and England was begun and the system of things were consequently changed - When in the beginning of August - M. De Sartine agreed to adopt a Plan which I had given him for the destruction of the English - Baltic Trade. - By his particular desire I came here join some Frigates, in the Lively, destined for that Expedition from St. Malo - But before I got here (indeed before I left Passy) the Lively had been given to a French Officer by the Commander of the Fleet.
As I thought it would afford me an excellent opportunity of acquiring Marine Knowlidge - I had asked the Minister to permit me to Embark in the French Fleet as a Volunteer, the first time from 13 rest - but [inserted: as] he then talked of giving me a Separate Command, he would not permit me to go in the Fleet. As soon however, as he understood that the Lively was previously bestowed - he sent Orders to - Comte D'[Orvilliers] to receive me as his Friend on board the Bretagne - But the Fleet had sailed the second time before this order reached Brest.
I have been here in the most disagreeable situation ever since. - The Ship at first offered me - [4] remains above the Shoals in Holland - Politics - they say - will not admit his being Armed before the Spring - and even then it is very uncertain. - It is urged that the Rules of the Service will not now admit of giving me the Command of Ships detached from the Royal Marine. - But the great obstacle I believe is - That the French Sea Officers, tho they would gladly think me in Disgrace, - Are Stung to the [Saul], and cannot look at me here but with Rivals Eyes.
Their Cabals are so high and dangerous; that the - Minister Really cannot and dare not do what he - wishes. - He has however lately authorized M. De Choumont to purchase a Ship to my liking - if to be found in any private Dock or Yard in France.
What the event of this may be I know not, but I hope it will set me before the Spring, once more afloat. - It has been to me a most Unfortunate Connection; and has, I fear created me some Enemies - thro' Jealosy and because I am bound in honor not to publish the - particulars. I submit the whole to your [desirations] with entire confidence, as the Guardian of my Honor, to whom [gave] the most singular obligations. I have much Esteem for Genl. Whipple, and I trust that he and every Gentleman of Candour and Ingenuity will at least reserve their - Judgements Until they hear me. - I shall have the Honor to write you by future opportunities an Account of what fortune attends me. - Meantime, believe me I am with real Esteem and grateful affection.
His Excellency Dear Sir Your Truly Obliged Servant JWPJones
Robert Morris.

See More

People: Jones, John Paul, 1747-1792
Morris, Robert, 1734-1806
Nassau-Siegen, Charles Henri Nicolas Otton, prince de, 1745-1808
Sartine, Antoine de, comte d'Alby, 1729-1801
Orvilliers, M. le comte d' (Louis Guillouet), 1708-1792
Whipple, William, 1730-1785

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Revolutionary WarNavyMaritimeMilitary HistoryFranceGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsMerchants and TradeCommerce

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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