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John Paul Jones - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2020

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Birth: July 6, 1747
Death: July 18, 1792 (age 45)
Colony: N/A
Occupation: Sailor
Significance: Served as Naval Captain in Continental Navy (1775-1782); and known as the Father of the American Navy

John Paul Jones Portrait located in the Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery

John Paul Jones was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Jones was born in Scotland, and he received little formal education, but began training to be a sailor from the age of 13. Jones found work on merchant and slave ships and moved up the ranks. At the age of 21, Jones became the captain of his first ship and began developing a reputation as an excellent sailor, but a complicated leader who was very tough on his men. At numerous points throughout his career, Jones's behavior pushed his crew to mutiny and Jones responded by flogging and even killing those who disagreed with his commands. 

In 1775, Jones traveled to Philadelphia to join the Continental Navy. It is unclear if Jones was motivated to immigrate to America and join the Navy because he was inspired by their cause, or if he simply viewed it as a good opportunity. After first serving as a Lieutenant on the Alfred, Jones's next assignment was to captain the USS Providence. In this early stage of the American Revolution, Jones performed many tasks with the aim of securing arms for the Continental Army, including with transporting soldiers to running operations in the Caribbean and Nova Scotia.

Jones experienced success as a naval captain, but his difficult personality continued to cause him trouble and resulted in constant disagreements with his men and superiors. In November of 1777, Jones was sent to France with the order to do whatever he could to assist the American Revolutionary War effort. But then upon his arrival, Jones ended up without a ship to captain. After the French joined the Revolutionary War, Jones once again got an opportunity to captain a ship, the USS Ranger and at this point Jones began an incredible streak of success.

Representing basically the entirety of America's naval operations in Great Britain, Jones and his men had great success attacking British merchant vessels which angered Britain's wealthy and powerful merchants and caused an enormous challenge for the British. 

Jones's success brought him fame back in America and vilified him in Great Britain where he was accused of behaving no better than a pirate. Besides attacking merchant ships, Jones also had success attacking the Royal Navy Vessels as well. Jones engaged the HMS Drake in a naval battle that resulted in the British captain being killed and America capturing of the ship. Jones's victory over the Drake stands as one of the few naval victories of consequence during the American Revolutionary War. Jones also played a crucial role in a successful French and Spanish attack on England. 

Following the Revolutionary War, Jones spent some time in the Russian Navy before he retired to Paris in 1790 and then died two years later in 1792 at the age of 42.

John Paul Jones in Philadelphia

Jones had a brief stay in Philadelphia in 1775 when he applied to join the Continental Navy, and then stopped in Philadelphia a few subsequent times during the American Revolutionary War. 

Today in Philadelphia you can visit the New Hall Military Museum and the Museum of the American Revolution, both of which house artifacts from the American Revolutionary War and pay tribute to the soldiers such as Jones who fought for American Independence. Another tribute in Philadelphia to those who fought in the American Revolution is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in Washington Square Park, which is just steps off of the tour. Both the New Hall Military Museum and the Museum of the American Revolution are stops on The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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