Thursday, March 02, 2006

Book 19 An Even-Handed Biography of the Pirate John Paul

19. John Paul Jones, Evan Thomas, Biography. 3-2, pp. 311

A nicely rendered portrait of John Paul Jones, whose exploits on behalf of American independence are largely forgotten today. Thomas paints a balanced portrait of the corsair—Jones was thin-skinned, quick to take offense and inept at handling his subordinates. He was also a courageous man, driven by a steady determination to succeed and a visionary, who saw the need for a strong U.S. navy and who successfully terrorized the British during the American Revolution.

A few factoids about Jones that Thomas reveals:

  • He was a Scot, whose real name was John Paul.
  • While captain of a British merchant ship, Jones killed a sailor who was stirring up the crew. Jones called the incident “that great misfortune of my life.”
  • To avoid arrest by civil authorities in Tobago, where the crime took place, Jones fled to Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • Jones served briefly and unhappily as an admiral in the Russian Navy during the reign of Catherine the Great.
  • Jones probably never said, “I have not yet begun to fight.” He may have said, “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike” or something similar.
  • Jones died in France. His remains were brought to America by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. He was laid to rest at the Naval Academy in Anapolis.

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