Patriot naval officer.
Originally known as John Paul, he took the name “Jones” after moving to America (1773), probably in an attempt to conceal his identity after his involvement in the death of a mutineer.
Commissioned lieutenant in the colonial navy (1775). Made captain (1776). Given command of the Ranger (1777). Sent to France, where he received instructions from the American commissioners, including Franklin, to protect American shipping interests and attack the British coast.
Following minor successes, the French gave Jones command of a ship which he renamed the Bonhomme Richard, after Poor Richard of Franklin’s almanac (1779). Sailing in a squadron with the Alliance, Jones defeated the British Serapis, in a battle that made him a popular hero. The Bonhomme Richard was damaged in the battle and sank. Jones sailed the Serapis to a neutral port in Holland and later charged the captain of the Alliance with cowardice.
After lengthy negotiations involving the Dutch, French, and Franklin, the French government was given the fleet and all prizes and prisoners from the battle, and Jones was given command of the Alliance.
Spent several months in Paris (1780), during which time he was inducted into the Masonic Lodge of the Nine Sisters to which Franklin also belonged. Returned to America (1781). Served in the American navy until the war’s conclusion.
Sent to France (1783). Franklin gave him authority to act as agent for collection of monies from prizes taken during the war.
Served in the Russian navy (1788-90). Spent his last two years in Paris.
Born in Kirkbean, Scotland.