posted Oct 13, 2009, 12:58 AM by GL K   [ updated Sep 9, 2018, 5:03 PM ]


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Along the banks of the River Dee, in Scotland, the Earls of Selkirk owned two castles. John Paul was landscape gardener at Saint Mary's Isle, and his brother George made the grounds beautiful at the Arbigland estate. Little John Paul stayed often with his uncle. At either place he could see the blue water, and he loved everything about it. At Arbigland he watched the ships sail by and could see the English mountains in the distance. From the sailors he heard all kinds of sea stories and tales of wild border warfare. When a tiny child, he used to wander down to the mouth of the river Nith and coax the crews of the sailing vessels to tell him stories. They liked him and taught him to manage small sailboats. He quickly learned sea phrases and used to climb on some high rock and give off orders to his small play-fellows, or perhaps launch his boat alone upon the waters and just make believe that he had a crew of men on board with whom he was very stern.

For a few years this son of the Scotch gardener went to parish school, but his mind was filled with the wild stories of adventure, and he longed to see the world. John had a feeling that his life was going to be exciting, and he could not keep his mind on his books some days. He was not sorry when his mother told him that as times were hard, he must leave school and go to work.

John's older brother, William, had gone to America, and his uncle George had ceased working for the Earls of Selkirk because he had saved enough money to go to America. He was a merchant, with a store of his own in South Carolina.

John heard such glowing accounts of men getting rich and famous in that land across the sea that he felt it must be almost like fairy-land. Think how pleased he must have been when at the age of twelve he shipped aboard the ship Friendship, bound for Virginia! And best of all, this ship anchored a few miles from Fredericksburg, where his brother lived. When in port, John stayed with William. He loved America from the first moment he saw a bit of her coast, and he never left off loving our country as long as he lived.

John went back and forth from America to Scotland on the Friendship a great many times. He had made up his mind that he would always go to sea, and he meant to understand everything about ships, countries to which they might sail, and all laws about trading in different ports. So he studied all the books he could get hold of that would teach him these things.

Sometimes he changed vessels, shipping with a different captain. Sometimes he went to strange countries. But he was one who kept his eyes open, and he learned to be more and more skilful in all sea matters.

About two years before the Revolutionary War, he was feeling discouraged. He knew his employers were pirates in a way. He had met with some trouble on his last voyage, so that he knew it was best not to go to his brother's when he reached North Carolina from the West Indies, and that he had best avoid using his own name. As he sat alone on a bench in front of a tavern one afternoon, his head in his hands, a jovial, handsome man came along. The man was well dressed, a kind-hearted, rich Southerner. He hated to see people unhappy. After he had passed John Paul, he turned back and going close to him, asked: "What's your name, my friend?"

"I have none," was the answer.

"Where's your home?"

"I have none."

The stranger was struck with the face and figure of John Paul and noticed that his handsome black eyes had a commanding expression. He said to himself: "Here is a lad that will be of importance some day, or my name is not Willie Jones!"

Then Willie Jones took John by the arm and said: "Come home with me. My home is big enough for us both."

This was quite true, for Willie Jones had a beautiful estate called "The Grove." The house was like a palace with its immense drawing-rooms, wide fireplaces, carved halls, and spacious dining-room which overlooked the owner's race track. For Willie Jones owned blooded horses, went to country hunts, played cards, and had overseers to manage his fifteen hundred slaves, who worked in Jones's tobacco fields and salt mines. His clothes were of the first quality and his linen fine.

On a neighboring estate across the river lived Willie's brother, Allen Jones. He was married to a dark-eyed beauty who gave parties in her large ballroom, and who led the minuets and gavottes better than any of her guests.

Just as John Paul had been at home on the estates of the Earl of Selkirk in Scotland, he was now at home on both these southern plantations. By both families he was petted and soon beloved. He seemed like one of their own blood.

The people of North Carolina talked constantly of Liberty. They declared themselves anxious to be independent of England. Soon after the famous Boston Tea-party, the women of North Carolina pledged their word to drink no more tea that was taxed.

John Paul took the same stand as his good friends. And he more than ever felt he was born to do great deeds. And he hoped to prove his gratitude to the Joneses by winning fame. From this time he took the name of John Paul Jones. All his navy papers are signed that way. And he became an American citizen.

Paul Jones's rise was rapid. In 1776 he became a lieutenant in the Continental navy. The colonists had but five armed vessels; the Alfred, on which Paul Jones served, was one of them. These five ships were the beginning of the American navy. The captain of the Alfred was slow in reaching his vessel, and so Paul Jones had to get the ship ready for sea. He was so quick and sure in all his acts that the sailors all liked him.

The ship was visited by the commodore of the squadron of five ships. He found everything in such fine condition that he said: "My confidence in you is so great that if the captain does not reach here by the time we should get away, I shall hoist my flag on your ship and give you command of her!"

"Thank you, Commodore," and Paul bowed, "when your flag is hoisted on the Alfred, I hope a flag of the United Colonies will fly at the peak. I want to be the man to raise that flag on the ocean."

The commodore laughed and replied: "As Congress is slow, I am afraid there will not be time to make a flag after it actually decides what that shall be."

"I think there will, Sir," answered Paul Jones.

It seems he knew almost for a certainty that the Continental Congress had planned their first flag of the Revolution. It was to be of yellow silk, showing a pine tree with a rattlesnake under it, and bearing the daring motto: "Don't tread on me." Paul Jones had bought the material to make one, out of his own pocket, and Bill Green, a quarter-master, sat up all night to cut and sew the cloth into a flag.

Captain Saltonstall arrived in time to take command, but Paul Jones kept his disappointment to himself and faithfully did the lieutenant's duties. He had been drilling the men, and when the commodore came again to inspect the ship, some four hundred, with one hundred marines, were drawn up on deck. Bill Green and Paul Jones were very busy for a minute, and just as the commodore came over the ladder at the ship's side, the flag with the pennant flew up the staff, under Paul Jones's hand. Every man's hat came off, the drummer boys beat a double ruffle on the drums, and such cheers burst from every throat!

The commodore said to Paul Jones: "I congratulate you; you have been enterprising. Congress adopted that flag but yesterday, and this one is the first to fly."

Bill Green was thanked, too, and the squadron sailed for the open sea, the Alfred leading the way.

Paul Jones was very daring, but his judgment and knowledge were so perfect that in the twenty-three great battles which he fought upon the seas, though many times wounded, he was never defeated. He made the American flag, which he was the first to raise, honored, and he kept it flying in the Texel with a dozen, double-decked Dutch frigates threatening him in the harbor, while another dozen English ships were waiting just beyond to capture him. He was offered safety if he would hoist the French colors and accept a commission in the French navy, but he never wavered. It was his pride to be able to say to the American Congress: "I have never borne arms under any but the American flag, nor have I ever borne or acted under any commission except that of the Congress of America."

Paul Jones served without pay and used nearly all of his private fortune for the cause of independence. Congress made him the ranking officer of the American navy and gave him a gold medal. France conferred the cross of a military order upon him and a gold sword. It was a beautiful day when this cross was given him. The French minister gave a grand fête in Philadelphia. All Congress was there, army and navy officers, citizens, and sailors who had served under Jones. Against the green of the trees, the uniforms of the officers and the white gowns of the ladies showed gleamingly.

Paul Jones wore the full uniform of an American captain and his gold sword. He carried his blue and gold cap in his hand. A military band played inspiring airs as the French minister and Paul Jones walked toward the center of the lawn. Paul Jones was pale but happy. He was receiving an honor never before given a man who was not a citizen of France, but as his eyes lighted on the stars and stripes floating above him, they filled with tears, for his greatest joy of all was that he had left the sands of Dee to become a citizen and defender of his beloved America.



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When the city of Boston, Massachusetts, was just a small town in which there were no schools where boys and girls could learn to draw and paint, one little fellow by the name of John Singleton Copley was quite sure to be waiting at the door when his stepfather, Peter Pelham, came home to dinner or supper, to ask why the pictures he had been drawing of various people did not look like them. Peter Pelham could nearly always tell John what the matter was, because he knew a good deal about drawing. He made maps and engravings himself.

John remembered what his stepfather told him and practised until he made really fine drawings. Then he began to color them. He did love gay tints, and as both men and women wore many buckles and jewels, and brocades and velvets of every hue in those days, he could make these portraits as dazzling as he chose.

There is no doubt John loved to make pictures. He had drawn many a one on the walls of his nursery when he was scarcely more than a baby. He later covered the blank pages and margins of his school-books with faces and animals. And instead of playing games with the other boys in holidays, he was apt to spend such hours with chalks and paints.

When John was fourteen or fifteen, his portraits were thought so lifelike that Boston people paid him good prices for them. He was glad to earn money, for his kind stepfather died, leaving his wife to the care of John and his stepbrother, Henry. He had been working and saving for years when he married the daughter of a rich Boston merchant. This wife, Suzanne, was a beautiful girl, proud of her husband's talent and anxious for him to get on in the world. The artist soon bought a house on Beacon Hill which had a fine view from its windows. He called this estate, which covered eleven acres, his "little farm." You can guess how large it looked when I tell you that the farm is to-day practically the western side of Beacon Hill.

The young couple were happy and must have prospered, for a man who saw the house on the hill wrote to his friends: "I called on John Singleton Copley and found him living in a beautiful home on a fine open common; dressed in red velvet, laced with gold, and having everything about him in handsome style." It is evident John still liked bright colors.

John had never seen any really good paintings; he had never had any teacher; and he longed to see the works of the old masters in other countries. But at first he did not want to leave his old mother; then it was the young wife who kept him here; and by and by he felt he could not be away from his own dear little children, so it was not until he was nearly forty that he went abroad.

In one of the first letters that Suzanne got from her husband he told of the fine shops in Genoa. She laughed when she read that in a few hours after he landed he bought a suit of black velvet lined with crimson satin, lace ruffles for his neck and sleeves, and silk stockings. "I'd know," she said to herself, "the suit would have a touch of crimson—John does love rich colors!"

All his letters told how wonderful he found the old paintings and often described his attempts to copy them. After he had visited the galleries and museums of Italy, he went to England. He was delighted to find that his wife and family had already fled there because of the Revolution in America. He had heard of the trouble between the Colonists in America and England and had worried night and day for fear harm would come to Suzanne and the children. Of course he worried about the "little farm" too, but it was no time to go back to Boston, and he could only hope his agent would protect it.

The Copleys liked London, but some days they felt homesick for Beacon Hill. Still he must keep earning money, and there were plenty of English people who wanted to sit for their portraits, while of course, with the fierce Revolution raging, and with soldiers camping everywhere, Boston people did not care much about having their pictures painted.

In London John began to paint pictures that showed events in history. Sometimes he would take for a subject a famous battle, sometimes a scene from the English Parliament, or perhaps a king or lord doing some act which we have read about in their lives. These pictures were immense in size and took a long time to do, because Copley was particular to have everything exactly true. George the Third was so much pleased with his work that when he was going to paint the large work "The Siege of Gibraltar", his Majesty sent him, with his wife and eldest daughter, to Hanover, to take the portraits of four great generals of that country, who had proved their bravery and skill on the rock of Gibraltar. All the uniforms, swords, banners, and scenery were as perfect as if Copley had been at the siege himself, and the officers' faces were just like photographs. The king was very kind and generous. He told Copley not to hurry back to England but to enjoy Hanover thoroughly, and to give his wife and daughter a holiday they would never forget. To enable Copley to go into private homes and look at art treasures which the public never saw, the king gave him a letter asking this courtesy, written with his own hand.

This large canvas, "The Siege of Gibraltar", is owned by the city of London. There is another huge painting, "The Death of Lord Chatham", at Kensington Museum, which Americans like to see. It shows old Lord Chatham falling in a faint at the House of Lords. The poor man was too sick to be there, but he was a strong friend to the American Colonies and had declared over and over again that the king ought not to tax them. When he heard there was to be voting on the question, he rose from his bed and drove in a carriage to the House to say once more how wicked it was. The members of the House of Lords look very imposing with their grave faces and robes of scarlet, trimmed with ermine, but they sometimes act in a childish manner and show temper. One man who almost hated Chatham for so defending the Colonies sat as still as if he were carved out of stone when the poor old lord dropped to the floor. This picture shows him sitting as cold and stiff as a ramrod while all the other members have sprung to their feet or have rushed to help the fainting man.

The Boston Public Library holds one of Copley's historical pictures. It shows a scene from the life of Charles the First of England. He is standing in the speaker's chair in the House of Commons, demanding something which the speaker, kneeling before him, is unwilling to tell. There is plenty of chance for John Copley to show his love for brilliant coloring, for the suits of the king, his nephew, Prince Rupert, and his followers are of velvets and satins, the slashed sleeves showing facings of yellow, cherry, and green. The knee breeches are fastened with buckles over gaudy silk stockings and high-heeled slippers. The men wear deep collars of lace, curled wigs, and velvet hats with sweeping plumes.

But in a picture at Buckingham Palace called "The Three Princesses" there is a riot of color. The scene is a garden, beyond which the towers of Windsor Castle show, with the flag of England floating above it; there are fruit-trees and flowers, parrots of gay plumage, and pet dogs. The little girls' gowns are rainbow-like, and one of them is dancing to the music of a tambourine. It is a darling picture, and the royal couple prized it greatly.

When John Copley was only a young man, he sent a picture from Boston to England, asking that it might be placed on exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was called "The Boy and the Flying Squirrel." The boy was a portrait of his half-brother, Henry Pelham. Copley sent no name or letter, and it was against the rules of the Academy to hang any picture by an unknown artist, but the coloring was so beautiful that the rule was broken, and crowds stopped before the Boston lad's canvas to admire it. When it was discovered that John Copley painted it, and it was known he had received no lessons at that time, he was urged to go abroad at once. At the time he could not. But the praise encouraged him to keep on, and before he had a chance to visit Italy, he had painted nearly three hundred pictures. Nearly all of these were painted at the "little farm" on Beacon Hill, when he or Suzanne would hardly have dreamed the day would come when he should be the favorite of kings and courts.

Jul 15, 2015, 6:56 AM
Jul 15, 2015, 7:05 AM