While imploring Jefferson to intervene with the French Naval Ministry to ensure the payment of prize money due to Revolutionary War sailors, Captain Jones assures him that "My best wishes will always attend that land of Freedom, and my Pride will be always gratified when such measures are adopted as will make us respected as a great People who deserve to be Free."
Following his spectacular service during the American Revolution, John Paul Jones was authorized by Congress to collect from France monies owed to the United States as a direct result of his naval operations. Jones reached an impasse with M. Clouet, the marine minister at L'Orient, over the payment of prize money to the American members of the crew of Alliance.
Alliance was part of the small Franco-American squadron commanded by Jones at the Battle of Flamborough Head (where the Bonhomme Richard captured Serapis), and her captain was French-born. Capitalizing on this pretext and exploiting the impatience of the crew to collect their booty, a French merchant named Puchilberg managed, as Jones reported to Jefferson on 29 July 1785, to produce "a Letter of Attorney, which he obtained from the officers and Men of that Frigate when their Minds were unsettled, authorizing him to Receive their Share in the Prizes." In that same letter Jones requested that Jefferson write to the Marquis Charles de Castries, the French Secretary of State of the Navy "to obtain an explicit Order ... to Mr. Clouet to pay into my hands the whole Mass of the Prize-Money that appears due the Alliance" (Papers of Thomas Jefferson 8:326–27).
By the time Jones wrote the present letter, the situation was becoming ever more urgent: "I had the honor to write you the 29th of this Month praying you to address the Court to prevent Mr. Puchilberg, a french Merchant here, from receiving the Prize-Money due to the subjects of the United-States who served on board the Squadron I commanded in Europe.—I have done my Duty, and with great trouble and expence both of time and Money, obtained a settlement in their favor from Government. But, if Mr. Puchilberg (who has taken no trouble and been at no expence to obtain a settlement) should receive the Money, the greatest part of it will never reach America, nor find its way into the Pockets of the Captors: Were Mr. Puchilberg the honestest Man in the World, he cannot at this distance from America and being ignorant of the Laws of the American Flag do Justice to the Concerned. Besides, a preference is due to the application of one Government to another for what regards the interest of its Subjects, especially where it is clear that every condition has been observed for obtaining Justice to each individual."
Jefferson was already well aware of the urgency of this matter and on 17 August 1785 he wrote to Castries about settling Jones's claims (Papers 8:395–96). Jefferson's petition to Castries finally led to a favorable resolution of the situation, which had been, as he explained to John Jay, then the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, "ruining the officer sollicting the paiment of the money, and keeping our seamen out of what they had hardly fought for years ago (30 August 1785; Papers 8:452).
The second portion of Jones's letter is perhaps even more significant; he reports the beginnings of what would eventually explode, during Jefferson's presidency, into the Barbary Pirate Wars. "The enclosed copy of a Letter, which has just now been communicated to me, from Monsr. de Soulanges à M.M. les Juges Consuls—dated at Toulon the 14th day of this Month, announcing that the Algerians have declared War against the United States, is of too serious a nature not to be sent immediately to you." American merchant ships that had previous to the Revolution plied the Mediterranean under the protection of Great Britain, now found they were easy prey for Algerian pirates. But Jones saw in this threat a great opportunity.
"This event may, I believe, surprize some of our fellow Citizens; but for my part, I am rather surprized that it did not take place sooner. It will produce a good effect, if it unites the People of America in measures consistent with their National honor and interest, and rouses them from that illjudged security which the intoxication of Success has produced since the Revolution."
Jones ends his letter with a fond envoi to the country that he and Jefferson had helped to make: "My best wishes will always attend that land of Freedom, and my Pride will be always gratified when such measures are adopted as will make us respected as a great People who deserve to be Free."
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale