Adams Papers
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John Paul Jones to the Commissioners, 15 August 1778

John Paul Jones to the Commissioners

Brest August 15th. 1778


I have now been five days in this place since my Arrival from Passy—during which time neither seen nor heard from Lieutenant Simpson. But Mr. Hill, who was last Winter at Passy and who sailed with me from Nantes, informs me truely—that it is generally reported in the Ranger and of course throughout the French Fleet and on Shore—That I am turned out of the Service—and that you Gentlemen, have Mr. Simpson [in] my place with a Captains Commission. That my letter of the 16th of July to you was Involuntary on my part and in Obedience only to your Orders, to avert dreadful consequences to myself.1

These, Gentlemen are not idle illgrounded conjectures, but melancholy Facts. Therefore I beseech you, I conjure you, I demand of you to Afford me Redress—Redress by a Court Martial—to form which we have now a Sufficient number of Officers in France with the assistance of Captain Hinman2 exclusive of myself. The Providence and the Boston are expected here very soon from Nantes and I am certain that they neither can nor will depart again before my friend Captain Hinman can come down here—And it is his unquestioned Right to Succeed me in the Command of the Ranger.

I have faithfully and personally supported and Fought the Dignified Cause of Human Nature ever since the American Banner first waved on the Delaware and on the Ocean. This I did when that Man did not call himself a Republican, but left the Continent and served its Enemies—And this I did when that Man Appeared Dastardly Backward and did not support me as he ought.3

I concluded by requesting you to call before you and examin for your own satisfaction Mr. Edwd. Meyrs who is now at the House of the Swee[d]ish Ambassador and who having been with me as a Volunteer can and will I am persuaded represent to you the conduct of the officers and Men towards me both before I left Brest and afterwards in the Irish Channell as well as my conduct towards them.

I have the honor to be with sentiments of due Esteem and Respect Gentlemen your very Obliged very obt. very humble Servt.,

Jno P Jones

RC (PPAmP: Franklin Papers); docketed, not by JA: “Capt Jones Brest Augt 15 1778.”

1Jones’ comments on the rumors being spread, reportedly by Simpson, and his call for a court martial were essentially an effort to belabor an issue that had been rendered moot to most of those concerned by Jones’ letter of 16 July (LbC, Adams Papers) releasing Simpson from his parole. Not until 10 Feb. 1779, a few days after receiving command of the Due de Duras, i.e. Bonhomme Richard, did Jones receive an official statement intended to counter the rumors surrounding the appointment of Simpson into the Ranger (PCC, No. 168, f. 229–231; Morison, John Paul Jones description begins Samuel Eliot Morison, John Paul Jones, a Sailor’s Biography, Boston and Toronto, 1959. description ends , p. 183). Even then, it was signed only by Benjamin Franklin and JA, Arthur Lee having refused (see Lee to Franklin and JA, 10 Feb. 1779, PPAmP: Franklin Papers).

2Capt. Elisha Hinman, former captain of the Alfred, which had been captured in March, had escaped from Forton Prison to France. Finding no employment in the navy, he returned to America and took up privateering (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ). Hinman arrived at Brest on 17 Aug. and in a letter of the 19th (PPAmP: Franklin Papers) informed the Commissioners that he was going to take passage on the Providence. Jones’ reference to Hinman’s right to command the Ranger was based on Hinman’s seniority as a captain and reflected Jones’ own preference as well (Allen, Naval Hist. of the Amer. Revolution description begins Gardner Weld Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution, Boston and New York, 1913; 2 vols. description ends , 2:705–706). Hinman refused to sit on a court martial because he expected to have his conduct examined by the same means upon his arrival in the United States (Abraham Whipple to John Paul Jones, [18] 19 Aug., Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. description begins Francis Wharton, ed., The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Washington, 1889; 6 vols. description ends , 2:689).

3Simpson had previously served on merchant ships, but no evidence has been found that he sailed on British ships after Great Britain became an enemy (Morison, John Paul Jones description begins Samuel Eliot Morison, John Paul Jones, a Sailor’s Biography, Boston and Toronto, 1959. description ends , p. 107).

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