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The Chevalier de la Luzerne, was presented to Congress on the 17th of November, and having delivered his credentials, was recognized as Minister plenipotentiary from the court of France.
On the 19th, a resolution was passed again recommending to the several states, and pointing out the urgent necessity, to enact laws for a general limitation of prices. The resolutions which had been heretofore passed on this subject, so far from having resulted in any beneficial effect, or tended in any manner to keep up the credit of the continental money, had served only to enrich individuals at the publick expense; and so little of the boasted virtue of republicks was to be found even in the Congress itself, that many of its members took advantage of their official knowledge of these measures to speculate upon their fellow-citizens to enormous amounts.
In addition to the two hundred millions of their own paper already in circulation, they found it necessary to borrow largely of all the European powers with whom they held correspondence. We have seen that Dr. Franklin had already been empowered to borrow to a large amount, to enable him to honour the bills which had been drawn upon him by Congress; and on the 23d of November they did the same on Mr. Jay, and on Mr. Laurens, for one hundred thousand pounds sterling each-the last of these gentlemen having been appointed expressly with a view to negotiate this loan in Holland.
On the 16th of December a communication was made to Congress by the French Minister, through a committee appointed for the purpose of waiting upon him, in which most of the arguments, which had been used in the ad statum legendi of M. Gerard, were re
peated to show the little prospect there seemed to be of a peace with Great Britain, founded upon the recognition of American independence. The minister stated that Great Britain was using every possible inducement to the different powers of Europe to declare war against France, while at the same time they endeavoured to persuade them that the United States were disposed to enter into treaties of accommodation and that many persons in the United States were actually employed in negotiating such treaties with every prospect of success. The minister then artfully added that his master gave no credit to these suggestions of Great Britain, but that it was essential to the good of the United States that measures should be speedily taken to prevent the other powers of Europe from being decieved into a belief of them. He pointed out the danger of suffering Great Britain to remain in possession of any portion of the United States, and the necessity of prompt and vigorous measures to prepare for the next campaign, in which he promised the most hearty cooperation of his most Christian Majesty.
The answer of Congress to this communication, and the further conferences with the Minister will be given in another chapter. We shall close the present with an account of the successful cruizes of Captain Paul Jones, who sailed from L'Orient in July, with a small squadron of five vessels, to which he acted as Commodore. Jones himself commanded the Bon Homme Richard, of 40 guns and 375 men. From L'Orient he sailed to the western coast of. Ireland, and thence steered round the north of Scotland, until he entered the Frith of Forth. Arrived off Hamborough head on the 23d of September, he fell in
with the Baltick fleet, under convoy of the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough. Captain Pearson who commanded the Serapis, having received intelligence of Jones's situation, prepared to place himself between his convoy and the hostile squadron. He was joined in the course of his manoeuvres by Captain Piercy of the Countess of Scarborough, and a little after 7 o'clock in the evening, the Bon Homme Richard, rounded to within musket shot of the Serapis. An action immediately commenced, which has never been surpassed in period of duration, in severity of conflict, or in the bravery with which, it was sustained on both sides. The Serapis was greatly superiour to the Bon Homme Richard, but this was made up in the determined resolution with which Jones manoeuvered to lay his vessel along side, and in which he succeeded after an hour's engagement. At half past 8, the two ships were lashed together fore and aft, and until half past ten, the fight raged with equal fury and with equal hopes. Both ships were on fire more than once; and to add to the horrour of the scene, the Alliance came up several times in the course of the action, and while it was too dark to distinguish friends from foes, poured several broadsides into both. Captain Pearson, at length, finding further resistance useless, and having allowed sufficient time for his convoy to escape, struck his flag. Jones's ship was reduced to a perfect wreck, and it required the most assiduous labour at the pumps to prevent her from going down before her crew could be removed. The slaughter was terrible on both sides, and accident perhaps rather than superiority of courage or skill, determined the victory in favour of Jones; for a short time before the conflict terminated,
a spark lighting upon one of the cartridges on the quarter deck of the Serapis, and communicated fire from one to another with such fatal effect, that nearly all the men abaft the mainmast were blown up, and the guns rendered entirely useless.
While this terrible engagement lasted between the Serapis and the Bon Homme Richard, the Pallas and the Countess of Scarborough also had an action of near two hour's continuance, which resulted in the capture of the latter. On the 3d of October, Commodore Jones entered the Texel with his prizes, and the remnant of his little squadron, having taken and ransomed during his cruize, prizes to the amount of forty thousand pounds sterling.
A singular incident occurred just before the Serapis struck, which shows Jones's character in a strong light. A report had been spread between decks that Jones and some of the principal officers were killed and that the ship was sinking. This alarmed the crew so much, that some of the non-commissioned officers were deputed to go on deck and sue for quarters. Jones discovered them in the act of fulfilling their mission, and ordered them in his usual peremptory tone to be shot. They all escaped below but the gunner, who being unfortunately the last man, a pistol which Jones threw at him struck him on the head and fractured his skull: the poor fellow lay in this deplorable condition until after the action, when his skull was trepanned, and he recovered. The cry for quarters produced something like a cessation of hostilities for a moment, and the captain of the Serapis demanded of Jones if he had struck; but the latter replied by pointing to his shattered flag still waving, and the fight was renewed with redoubled fury.
The Bon Homme Richard had upwards of 300 men killed and wounded, and the Serapis 137 killed and 76 wounded.
It was not until after several applications repeated with considerable heat by Jones, that the Dutch Admiral would permit his entering the Texel with his squadron and prizes; and his compliance in the end produced a remonstrance from Sir Joseph Yorke, the British Ambassadour at the Hague, who demanded from the States General a surrender of the prizes, on the plea that Jones was a pirate; and threatened serious consequences in case of a refusal. Their high mightinesses replied that they would" in no respect whatever pretend to judge of the loyalty or illegality of the actions of those who have on the open sea, taken any vessels which do not belong to this country, and bring them into any of the ports of this republick; that they only open their ports to them to give them shelter from storms or other disasters, and oblige them to put to sea again with their prizes, without unloading or disposing of their cargoes, but letting them remain exactly as when they arrived; and that they are not authorized to pass judgment, either on these prizes or the person of Paul Jones." Sir Joseph Yorke was compelled for the present to be satisfied with this reply.
Let us now return to the military operations of the South.