James Madison Papers

Report on John Paul Jones’s Request, [4 December] 1782

Report on John Paul Jones’s Request

MS (NA:PCC, No. 19, III, 303). In JM’s hand, except for a clause written by Alexander Hamilton (n. 2, below). Docketed by Charles Thomson: “Report of Mr Osgood Mr Madison Mr Hamilton Passed Decr. 3. 1782.” Below this in Samuel Osgood’s hand appears: “of letter from J: P. Jones for leave to serve with Mr. Vaudriel.” The date docketed by Thomson should have been “Decr. 4.” His committee book, the printed journal, and JM’s Notes on Debates for 4 December (q.v.) record that the committee’s report was submitted and adopted on that day (NA: PCC, No. 186, fol. 71; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 761).

[4 December 1782]

The Committee to whom were referred a letter of day from the Agt. of Marine inclosing a letter of day to him from Capt. J. P. Jones, in which the latter requests permission of Congress to serve the ensuing campaign with his Excelly. the Marquis de Vaudrille, report the followg Resolution1

That the Agt. of Marine be informed that Congress having a high sense of the merit and services of Capt. Jones &2 being disposed to favor the zeal manifested by him3 to acquire improvement in the line of his profession, do grant the permission which he requests, & that the sd. agent be instructed to recommend him accordingly to the Countenance of his Excelly. the Marquis de Vaudreille.4

1The word “day,” repeated in this sentence, should be 29 November 1782 in both instances. JM interlineated “of Congress” and canceled a “the” before “permission.” Captain John Paul Jones had arrived in Philadelphia two days before, after having fulfilled his assignment of nearly fifteen months, duration at Portsmouth, N.H. There he had expedited the completion and directed the launching of the “America”—a frigate which, on behalf of Congress, he had presented to the French royal navy on 5 November (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 102; 105, n. 8; Motion Concerning the “America,” 3 September 1782, and ed. n., and n. 4; Samuel E. Morison, John Paul Jones, pp. 315, 318–21, 322–30). He now desired a new command.

After Robert Morris, the agent of marine, regretfully informed him that there was no United States frigate available, Jones sought through Morris the permission of Congress to let him “in Pursuit of Marine Knowledge, to make the approaching Campaign with His Excellency the Marquis de Vaudreuil, who would receive me on Board his own ship,” the “Triomphant” (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 51; Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 347, n. 4). On 2 December 1782 Congress referred Jones’s letter, together with one from Morris highly praising Jones’s services and endorsing his request, to a committee comprising Osgood, JM, and Hamilton (NA: PCC, No. 137, II, 47).

2From “having” to “&” was interlineated by Hamilton.

3This word is interlineated above a deleted “the sd. officer.”

4On the lower half of the manuscript appears a canceled, much revised passage, written by Hamilton and reading, “do authorise the said Agent to act therein as shall be agreeable to the wishes of Capt Jones & at the same time consistent with the views of the Admiral.” Hamilton seems to have intended this wording to replace JM’s draft following “of his profession.” For Hamilton’s possible reasons for writing the amendment, see Notes on Debates, 4 December 1782, n. 3. As he had wished, Jones accompanied Vaudreuil aboard his flagship on the five months’ cruise of the French fleet in West Indian waters. Jones returned to Philadelphia in May 1783 (Samuel E. Morison, John Paul Jones, pp. 331–33).

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