To the Senate and House of Representatives:
For a number of years efforts have been made to confirm the historical statement that the remains of Admiral John Paul Jones were interred in a certain piece of ground in the city of Paris then owned by the Government and used at the time as a burial place for foreign Protestants. These efforts have at last resulted in documentary proof that John Paul Jones was buried on July 20, 1792, between 8 and 9 o’clock p.m., in the now abandoned cemetery of St. Louis, in the northeastern section of Paris. About 500 bodies were interred there, and the body of the admiral was probably among the last hundred buried. It was incased in a leaden coffin, calculated to withstand the ravages of time.
The cemetery was about 130 feet long by 120 feet wide. Since its disuse as a burial place the soil has been filled to a level and covered almost completely by buildings, most of them of an inferior class.
The American ambassador in Paris, being satisfied that it is practical to discover and identify the remains of John Paul Jones, has, after prolonged negotiations with the present holders of the property and the tenants thereof, secured from them options in writing which give him the right to dig in all parts of the property during a period of three months for the purpose of making the necessary excavations and searches, upon condition of a stated compensation for the damage and annoyance caused by the work. The actual search is to be conducted by the chief engineer of the municipal department of Paris having charge of subterranean works at a cost which has been carefully estimated. The ambassador gives the entire cost of the work, including the options, compensation, cost of excavating and caring for the remains as not exceeding 180,000 francs, or $35,000, on the supposition that the body may not be found until the whole area has been searched. If earlier discovered, the expense would be proportionately less.
The great interest which our people feel in the story of Paul Jones’s life, the national sense of gratitude for the great service done by him toward the achievement of independence, and the sentiment of mingled distress and regret felt because the body of one of our greatest heroes lies forgotten and unmarked in foreign soil, lead me to approve [Page 418] the ambassador’s suggestion that Congress should take advantage of this unexpected opportunity to do proper honor to the memory of Paul Jones, and appropriate the sum of $35,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary, for the purposes above described, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of State.
The report of Ambassador Porter, with the plans and photograph of the property, is annexed hereto.a
In addition to the foregoing recommendation, I urge that Congress emphasize the value set by our people upon the achievements of the naval commanders in our war of independence by providing for the erection of appropriate monuments to the memory of two, at least; of those who now lie in undistinguished graves—John Paul Jones and John Barry. These two men hold unique positions in the history of the birth of our Navy. Their services were of the highest moment to the young Republic in the days when it remained to be determined whether or not she should win out in her struggle for independence. It is eminently fitting that these services should now be commemorated in suitable manner.