John Paul Jones

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John Paul Jones : biography

July 6, 1747 – July 18, 1792

Early life and education

Jones was born John Paul (he added "Jones" later) on the estate of Arbigland near Kirkbean in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on the southwest coast of Scotland. His father, John Paul (Sr.), was a gardener at Arbigland, and his mother was named Jean Duff. His parents married on November 29, 1733 in New Abbey, Kirkcudbright. John Paul started his maritime career at the age of 13, sailing out of Whitehaven in the northern English county of Cumberland, as apprentice aboard the Friendship under Captain Benson. Paul’s older brother William Paul had married and settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the destination of many of the youngster’s early voyages.

For several years John sailed aboard a number of different British merchant and slave ships, including the King George in 1764 as third mate, and the Two Friends as first mate in 1766. After a short time in this business, he became disgusted with the cruelty in the slave trade, and in 1768 he abandoned his prestigious position on the profitable Two Friends while docked in Jamaica. He found his own passage back to Scotland, and eventually obtained another position.

During his next voyage aboard the brig John, which sailed from port in 1768, young John Paul’s career was quickly and unexpectedly advanced when both the captain and a ranking mate suddenly died of yellow fever. John managed to successfully navigate the ship back to a safe port and in reward for this impressive feat, the vessel’s grateful Scottish owners made him master of the ship and its crew, giving him 10 percent of the cargo., SeacoastNH.com He then led two voyages to the West Indies before running into difficulty.

During his second voyage in 1770, John Paul viciously flogged one of his sailors, leading to accusations that his discipline was "unnecessarily cruel." While these claims were initially dismissed, his favorable reputation was destroyed when the disciplined sailor died a few weeks later. John Paul was arrested for his involvement in the man’s death, and was imprisoned in Kirkcudbright Tolbooth but later released on bail. The negative effect of this episode on his reputation is indisputable.

Leaving Scotland, John Paul commanded a London-registered vessel, a West Indiaman mounting 22 guns, named the Betsy, for about 18 months, engaging in commercial speculation in Tobago.Brady, 1906 pp.10, 164 This came to an end, however, when John killed a member of his crew, a mutineer, Blackton, with a sword in a dispute over wages.http://www.history.navy.mil/bios/jones_jp_conrad.htm Years later, in a letter to Benjamin Franklin describing this incident, he claimed it was in self-defense, but because he would not be tried in an Admiral’s Court, he felt compelled to flee to Fredericksburg, Province of Virginia, leaving his fortune behind.

He went to Fredericksburg to arrange the affairs of his brother, who had died there without leaving any other family; and about this time, in addition to his original surname, he assumed the surname of Jones. There is a long tradition held in the state of North Carolina that John Paul adopted the name "Jones" in honor of Willie Jones of Halifax, North Carolina.Cotten, Elizabeth. The John Paul Jones-Willie Jones Tradition Charlotte: Heritage Printers, 1966, Ambistead C. Gordon

His prepossessions became even more in favor of America and were confirmed. From that period, as he afterwards expressed himself to Baron Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, that became "the country of his fond election." It wasn’t long afterwards that John Paul "Jones" joined the American navy to fight against Britain.