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John Paul Jones Sued in NH

JPJ Lawsuit

Captain Jones’ second visit to Portsmouth, NH ended badly. After a year of waiting to gain command of the AMERICA, largest ship built to date in North America, he lost the ship to the French. Then Ebenezer Hogg's lawsuit added insult to injury. Jones had to rely on Durham, NH lawyer John Sullivan, who offered him some good advice – duck out of town!



It couldn't have been a worse time for a lawsuit. Although John Paul Jones had returned to Portsmouth a conquering hero after his famous raid on Britain in THE RANGER, by November 1782 his up and down career was ebbing again. By order of Congress Jones had spent much longer than he planned getting the Portsmouth-built ship of the line AMERICA ready to sail. As with RANGER, the job of fitting out, manning and provisioning AMERICA had been hard going. Disputes with ship builder John Langdon had been as contentious as before and months dragged into nearly a year of arduous preparation.

JPJThe lawsuit had been merely a nuisance. Ebenezer Hogg of Boston, one of Jones' former crewman on the BONHOMME RICHARD, claimed he was owed 21 pounds and 18 shillings for services rendered during the ship's successful guerilla raid on the British Isles in 1779. According to the suit filed in New Hampshire's Hillsborough County, Jones' estate was to be attached for a total of 30 pounds to include legal costs. Mr. Jones "still neglects & refuses to pay" the suit contended. Jones may have been in a financial pinch himself. The Virginia farm he inherited from his brother William had been lost and burned by the British. Although the Chevalier often paid his crews and ship expenses from his own pocket, he was rarely compensated by the poor young US Congress. In fact, four decades after his death, Paul Jones niece unsuccessfully petitioned the Congress for prize money due to his estate.

For a while in 1782, enjoying his triumphant return to Portsmouth, Jones must have believed the worst of his financial troubles were over. He would soon be in charge of AMERICA. The AMERICA was the finest and largest warship ever built in the New World, and as commander, Jones would sail her into history as he had the RANGER and BONHOMME. There would be victories, prize money from captured British ships, and most of all, Jones would obtain the position of rear admiral in the Continental Navy that he so richly desired and deserved.

But the bottom fell out of John Paul Jones' dream that very fall. AMERICA, he was told as the ship came close to completion, would not be his to command after all. The French had recently wrecked their own battleship MAGNIFIQUE at Boston Harbor, and in thanks for their military support in the past, Congress promised the completed AMERICA to the French. Embittered, Jones stuck to his assignment and prepared the giant ship for service. Then on November 5, 1782 John Paul Jones gave up his ship. It was the darkest day of his career, he later wrote.

CONTINUE to read about JPJ in NH Court

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