`I have not yet begun to fight’
John Paul, for that was his baptismal name, was born at Arbigland, Kirkcudbright, Scotland on July 6th 1747. He went to sea as a boy on one of the hundreds of coasters which were the life-line of the British Island at this period. He served in merchant ships until 1774, having received his first command at the age of 21.
Few ADMIRALS had a more thorough apprenticeship than Jones. He sailed in Whitehaven ships in the North Atlantic trade. For some years, he served aboard slavers and in these ships gained his first command, a brigantine. Later he enjoyed success as a smuggler running contraband between Solway Firth and the Isle of Man. When he departed for America in 1773, he possessed a knowledge of the British coast shared by few of his contemporaries in the Royal Navy.
He settled in Virginia in 1774, and in the summer of the following year travelled to Philadelphia to offer his services to the Continental Congress. It is well to remember that the Scots in the 1770s were hostile to the English, and still smarting under recent defeats. The opportunity to strike back at the traditional enemy was John Paul’s motive for joining the revolutionary forces.
It was at this period he adopted the surname of Jones, and thereafter blazed his name through the pages of history as John Paul Jones.
The Continental Congress accepted the young captain’s services and ordered him to fit out the first true United States Naval Vessel. This was the Alfred. On the 3rd December 1775, with the permission of the Secretary of the Navy, Jones hoisted the Grand Union Flag aboard the Alfred. This was the first occasion on which the national flag of the United States was raised on a ship of war.
Jones, who had been commissioned a Senior Lieutenant, remained on the Flagship Alfred until 10th May 1776, when he received his first command, the Frigate Providence.