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John Paul Jones is Born

Today in Masonic History John Paul Jones is born in 1747.

John Paul Jones was a Scottish-born American sailor.

Jones was born John Paul on July 6th, 1747 near Kirkbean on the southwest Scottish coast. At the age of 13 he began his naval career sailing out of the town of Whitehaven. For the next several years he sailed on a variety of British ships. In 1768 his career took a dramatic turn when the captain and first mate of the ship he was on both died of yellow fever. Jones took command and successfully brought the ship into port. As a reward, the owners of the ship offered him command and gave him10% of the cargo on each voyage. This only last two voyages, on the second voyage Jones, as punishment for one of the sailors, viciously flogged the man. Making matters worse the man died a few weeks later. Despite the fact that the man's death seemed to have nothing to do with the flogging, Jones was accused of murder. After successfully avoiding the charges, Jones took command of a London based vessel. This was a very short lived command when Jones, according to his account, was forced to kill a mutineer in self defense.

Jones fled to colonial Virigina where his brother had lived and passed away. Jones at this point adopted the last name "Jones" to hide from British authorities.

Shortly after arriving in the colonies, Jones joined the fight for American independence. There are many who question what Jones' true motivation was in joining the American cause. Jones was just the man they were looking for though, an experienced sailor and commanding officer. In the early American Navy, Jones served on a variety of ships until in 1777, Jones headed to France on the newly created USS Ranger. A year after arriving in France Jones, and Benjamin Franklin a friend of Jones and a man that Jones greatly admired, were accepted into the Lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris.

Jones began harassing the British supply lines along the west coast of England and in the Irish sea. At one point he tried to convince his crew to attack Whitehaven, the place that Jones had started his naval career. After a failed attempt to capture a British ship Jones tried a second time to convince his men to attack Whitehaven. This time he was successful, unfortuantely the attack itself was not, in part becuase during the "attack" Jones and several of his men stopped off in a local bar.

Eventually Jones returned to France where he was given command of the French built USS Bonhomme Richard. It was aboard the Richard during a battle with British forces that Jones made his famous statement "I have not yet begun to fight." Although the quote itself does not have a reliable source, Jones did stay in the battle and despite many attempts to get Jones to surrender, Jones continued to refuse. Even when one of Jones own officers surrendered, Jones continued the fight. Eventually the captain of the British ship became battle weary and surrendered. Jones was hailed as a hero in France. In contrast Jones was seen as something of a pirate in England.

Briefly after the American Revolution, Jones served in the Navy of Catherine II of Russia. This was short lived after Jones came into conflict with several of the other Russian officers and ex-British naval officers who were serving Russia. In 1790 Jones headed back to Paris where he lived out the remainder of his live. In 1792 he was named U.S. Consul to treat with the Dey of Algiers. He would never get the opportunity to fulfill that duty passing away on July 18th, 1792.

Jones was a member of St. Bernards Lodge No. 122 in Kirkudbright, Scotland.