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John Paul Jones: Father Of the American Navy…
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John Paul Jones: Father Of the American Navy

by Valentine Thomson

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This was an anniversary present from my wife, who knows how much I enjoy reading old biographies. The book was written in 1939 by Thomson, whose father, Gaston Thomason, was, according to Wikipedia, "a French politican born January 29, 1848 in Oran and died May 14, 1932, at Bône (Algeria). He was a member of the French Chamber of Deputies for the Department of Constantine for fifty years and three months. Minister of the Navy in the Cabinets of Clémenceau and Rouvier, his tenure saw the construction of numerous warships, cruisers and battleships, improving the power of the French Navy."

So we can see where his daughter Valentine's interest in naval history comes from, as well as her interest in Jones, who spent a major part of his career, especially during the American Revolution, in France.

The took told me a lot about Jones I didn't know, but that wasn't a high bar to reach, as I didn't know much. Unfortunately, Thomson was inordinantly interested in Jones' romantic life. Some of these accounts are based, according to the author's notes, on relatively scanty primary resources, and are admittedly recreations, almost novelizations, of what may or may not be actual events. Thomson was additionally dead set on using Jones' presence at the pre-Revolution court of Louis the XVI to describe that society in very great depth. Too great.

Reading Jones' biography in any case would seem to be a frustrating endeavor, if Thomson's account is accurate at all, since he spent a whole lot of his life waiting around for other people to keep their promises to him. Basically, he was a commodore without a ship for long, long stretches of his life, as opposed to, say, Lord Nelson, who spent large chunks of his life at sea.

I'm tempted to seek out a more modern and perhaps authoritative biography of John Paul Jones at this point, just to find out what the real story is thought/known to be on some of these matters nowadays. ( )
  rocketjk | Jul 25, 2008 |
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