THE RECOVERY OF THE BODY OF JOHN PAUL JONES.
By Gen. Horace Porter, LL.D.
Upon assuming charge of our embassy in Paris and finding myself among the old landmarks which are still honored there as recalling the many historic incidents in the sojourn of Paul Jones in that/brilliant capital, I felt a deep sense of humiliation as an American citizen in [Page 421] realizing that our first and most fascinating naval hero had been lying for more than a century in an unknown and forgotten grave, and that no serious attempt had ever been made to recover his remains and give them appropriate sepulture in the land upon whose history he had shed so much luster.
Knowing that he had been buried in Paris, I resolved to undertake personally a systematic and exhaustive search for the body.
The investigation began in June, 1899. The first step was to study all the writings obtainable relating to him, including official documents. The certificate of his burial had been registered, but the register had been placed with other archives of the city of Paris in an annex of the Hôtel de Ville, situated on Victoria avenue, and had been destroyed with other important records when the government buildings were burned by the Commune in May, 1871. Fortunately, in 1859, Mr. Charles Read, an archaeologist, investigator, and writer of note, had made a transcript of the register in which this certificate was recorded, and I finally succeeded in securing a correct copy. The following is an English translation of this interesting document:
To-day, July 20, 1792, year IV of Liberty, at 8 o’clock in the evening, conformably to the decree of the National Assembly of yesterday, in presence of the delegation of the said Assembly, composed of Messrs. Brun, president of the delegation of the said assembly; Bravet, Cambon, Rouyer, Brival, Deydier; Gay Vernon, Bishop of the Department of Haute-Vienne; Chabot, Episcopal vicar of the department of Loir and Cher; Carlier, Petit, Le Josnes, Robouame; and of a deputation of the consistory of the Protestants of Paris, composed of Messrs. Marron the pastor, Perreaux, Benard, Marquis Mouguin, and Empaytaz, anciens, was buried in the cemetery for foreign Protestants, Jean Paul Jones, native of England and citizen of the United States of America, senior naval officer in the service of the said States, aged 45 years, died the 18th of this month at his residence situated at No. 42, Rue de Tournon, from dropsy of the chest, in the faith of the Protestant religion. The said burial was made in our presence by Pierre François Simonneau, commissary of the King for this section and commissary of police for the Ponceau section, in presence of M. Samuel Blackden, colonel of dragoons in the service of the State of North Carolina and a citizen of the United States of America; J. C. Mountflorence, formerly major in the service of the United States; Marie Jean Baptiste Benoist Beaupoil, formerly a French officer, residing in Paris at No. 7, Passage des Petits Pères; and of Louis Nicolas Villeminot, the officer commanding the detachment of the greandiers of the gendarmerie which escorted the delegation of the assembly; and others who have signed with us.
Brun; Gay Vernon, bishop and deputy; Deydier, deputy from the Department of Ain; Rouyer; François Chabot; Benard; J. C. Mountflorence; Petit; Cambon fils aîné; Bravé; Beaupoil; P. H. Carlier; Durvesque; Lafontaine; Simonneau; Jacques Briviel; Villeminot; Robouame, deputy; Marron; Perreaux; Mouguin; Empaytaz; R. Ghiselin of Maryland; S. Blackden; Griffith of Philadelphia.
Historians had differed as to the date of the death; the above quoted certificate of burial fixes it definitely on July 18, 1792.
The best description of Paul Jones’s last moments is given in a letter received a month after the funeral by his eldest sister, Mrs. Jenny Taylor (sometimes spelled in the official documents Jeanne, Janet, and Janette), in Scotland, written by his intimate friend, a witness of his will and a pallbearer at his funeral, Col. Samuel Blackden, a planter from North Carolina, who had served with distinction in the American Revolution, and was in Paris on business at the time of Paul Jones’s last illness and death. The following is an extract from his letter.
But for two months past he began to lose his appetite, grew yellow, and showed symptoms of jaundice. For this he took medical treatment and for a short time seemed to grow better. A few days before his death his legs began to swell, which proceeded upward to his body, so that for two days before his decease he could not button his waistcoat and had great difficulty in breathing.
I visited him every day, and, beginning to be apprehensive of his danger, desired him to settle his affairs; but he would not take that view of it, and put off the making of his will [Page 422] until the afternoon of July 18, when he was prevailed upon to send for a notary and made his will. M. Beaupoil and myself witnessed it and left him sitting in a chair in his parlor. A few minutes after we retired he walked into his chamber and laid himself upon his face on the bedside, with his feet on the floor. The Queen’s physician, who was attending him, came soon after, and on entering the apartment found him in that position, and on trying to lift him up, found that he had expired. His disorder had terminated in dropsy of the heart. His body was put into a leaden coffin on the 20th, that, in case the United States, which he had so essentially served, and with so much honor, should claim his remains they might be more easily removed.
M. Beaupoil, whom he mentioned, was a major in the French army and an aid-de-camp to Lafayette, with whom he had served in the American Revolution.
I had been misled for some time by having been furnished with an alleged copy of the certificate of burial published in the “Bulletin of the Society of the History of Protestantism,” in which there had been omitted after the word “anciens,” doubtless through an error of the copyist, the following all-important phrase, “was buried in the cemetery for foreign Protestants.” Besides this, eight words of minor significance had been omitted. The fact that the French construction was defective without some additional words led to another search, and in the Bibliothèque Nationale was at last found a magazine called the “Correspondance Littéraire,” containing an article by Charles Read, giving the correct copy of the certificate of burial, which he had made from the register referred to and of which the above is a translation. The article expressed the conviction of Mr. Read that the cemetery for foreign Protestants was the long-since abandoned and almost forgotten cemetery of Saint Louis, situated upon a street formerly called “L’Hôpital Saint Louis,” at present Grange-aux-Belles.
As some writers had expressed, however vaguely, different opinions, I instituted a long and exhaustive search to verify the grounds upon which Mr. Read had based his belief.
Public records were found showing that in 1720 the government, at the instigation of Holland, had set aside a lot for the burial of foreign Protestants near the Porte Saint Martin, called the “Saint Martin Cemetery,” but which was closed in 1762. The Saint Louis Cemetery for foreign Protestants was opened about that time and officially closed in January, 1793, six months after Paul Jones’s decease, although some interments were made thereafter.
The custodian in charge of each of these cemeteries was named “Corroy,” and it was ascertained from certain old documents discovered that the position had descended from father to son, which was evidence tending to show that the Saint Louis was the immediate successor of the Porte Saint Martin Cemetery. A copy was afterwards found of a decree regarding the burial of foreign Protestants, issued May 26, 1781, officially confirming this fact, and approved by De Vergennes, minister of foreign affairs under Louis XVI. From this decree have been taken the following extracts:
By an order of council of June 20, 1720, it was decreed that there should be designated a place for the burial of the bodies of foreign Protestants. The ground which was chosen was situated near the Porte Saint Martin. * * *
In the year 1762 the cemetery was transferred behind the Saint Louis Hospital.
This description clearly designated the Saint Louis Cemetery. To endeavor to obtain some authentic information as to whether there were any other cemeteries for foreign Protestants in existence at the time, and whether any further corroborative evidence could be found [Page 423] regarding the burial place of the Admiral, an examination requiring several months was made of all the journals and periodicals obtainable of about the date of the funeral, which took place July 20, 1792. Access was had to more than a hundred publications which were found in the possession of libraries, societies, and individuals.
The Monitor, Tome XIII, page 192, published a report of the proceedings of the National Assembly, session of July 19, 1792, the day after Paul Jones’s death, which contained the following statement:
A letter was read from Colonel Blackden, a friend of Commodore Paul Jones, which announced that his friend having died in Paris, application was made to M. Simonneau, commissary of the section, to have him buried without charge in accordance with a formality still existing in regard to Protestants. M. Simonneau was indignant and replied that if the expenses were not provided he would pay them himself. [Applause.]
The “formality” mentioned referred to a decree by which M. Simonneau, who was also “commissary of the King,” was charged with the burial of all foreign Protestants. The letter of Colonel Blackden was published in the Boston Journal of that year and is as follows:
Mr. President: I announce to you that Admiral Paul Jones died last evening in Paris; that the American minister has ordered the person at whose house the Admiral lodged to cause him to be interred in the most private manner, and at the least possible expense!!! This person, on account of the formalities still existing relative to Protestants, found it necessary to apply to a commissary. He has done it, and M. Simonneau, the commissary, expresses his astonishment at the order given by the minister, and says that a man who has rendered such signal services to France and America ought to have a public burial. He adds that if America will not pay the expense he will pay it himself. The friends of the Admiral wait the orders of the assembly respecting the mode of interment.
Late Colonel in the Service of the United States.
In order to ascertain, if possible, whether M. Simonneau had actually paid the funeral expenses out of his own means, or whether some other provision had been made, I instituted a search in the various departments of the government in the hope of finding some record of the action taken. Fortunately a letter was finally found in the National Archives written by the then minister of justice, M. Déjoly, dated July 22, 1792, two days after the funeral, from which the following is an extract:
To the National Assembly: M. Simonneau has furnished the cost of the interment of Admiral Paul Jones, of which the bill amounts to 462 francs. This is an homage which he has rendered to the remains of this celebrated man, and this act of good citizenship is worthy of M. Simonneau, brother of the mayor of Etampes, who died in executing the law.
This brought to light for the first time the mortifying fact that the hero who had once been the idol of the American people had been buried by charity, and that the payment of his funeral expenses was the timely and generous act of a foreign admirer.
I made a search to see whether any needy lineal descendants of M. Pierre Francois Simonneau, the generous commissary, could be found, with view to paying to them the amount, with interest, expended by their worthy ancestor, as a tardy recognition of his noble act. Six persons of that name were discovered and communicated with, but no proof could be obtained that anyone of them was a descendant.
Our minister to France at that time, Gouverneur Morris, who was on terms of close intimacy with Paul Jones and who superintended the drawing up of the schedule of his property the afternoon before his death, says in a letter dated April 19, 1793, published in his [Page 424] “Diary and Letters,” Volume II, page 46, and addressed to Robert Morris:
Before I quit Paul Jones I must tell you that some people here who like rare shows wished him to have a pompous funeral, and I was applied to on the subject; but as I had no right to spend money on such follies, either the money of his heirs or that of the United States, I desired that he might be buried in a private and economical manner. I have since had reason to be glad that I did not agree to waste money, of which he had no great abundance and for which his relatives entertained a tender regard.
The impression as to the Admiral’s having no great abundance of means proved later to be erroneous. When his effects were sold, stocks converted into cash, and arrears of pay collected, the sum procured amounted to about $30,000, and much more was realized afterwards, which went to his heirs. And yet there seemed to be no ready money available at his death to provide for his funeral.
After finding the living successor to the notary who made the settlement of the estate and who was in possession of all the original papers in French, I had the detailed account examined, and ascertained that M. Simonneau had not been reimbursed for the money he expended. The inventory found among these papers and made after Paul Jones’s death enumerates among the articles left by him 7 uniforms, 12 decorations, and 4 swords. It was natural to suppose that this large number included all such articles as he possessed, and as in those days they were regarded as valuable relics to be bequeathed to heirs, and as it was not customary to clothe the dead but to bury them in winding sheets, it seemed quite probable that no uniform, sword, or decoration would be found in the Admiral’s coffin. Buell said of Paul Jones (page 366, Vol. II, first ed.): “He was buried in a shroud, without uniform or trappings of any kind.” In the settlement of the estate all the above-named articles were sold except the sword presented to him by Louis XVI in recognition of his heroic achievement in capturing the Serapis. This the Admiral disposed of orally just before his death, bequeathing it to Richard Dale, his first lieutenant when he captured the Serapis, saying: “My good old Dick is better entitled to it than anyone else, because he did more than any other to help me win it.”
M. Simonneau, having taken so much interest in Paul Jones and being in sole charge of the burial of foreign Protestants in Paris, would have naturally have interred him in the officially designated and most prominent burial ground devoted to that purpose, if there were more than one in existence. The Saint Louis Cemetery was well known and officially designated, and as no mention could be found of any other in Paris for foreign Protestants at the time, the natural inference was that the burial had taken place there.
M. Hop, ambassador of Holland to France, had succeeded in securing the cemetery granted by decree in 1720, which was opened in 1724 for foreign Protestants, and in that cemetery as well as in its successors all the burials of such persons could be made only upon certificates issued by the Dutch embassy.
With a view to ascertaining some information from that source, a search was made at my request of the records of the Dutch legation in Paris and in the foreign office at The Hague, but it was found that while some useful information was obtained, no copies of such certificates had been preserved.
The person who delivered Paul Jones’s funeral oration was M. Paul Henri Marron, who had come from Holland and was pastor of a [Page 425] Protestant house of worship in Paris called the “Church of Saint Louis.” The following is a copy of his rather florid address:
Legislators! Citizens! Soldiers! Friends! Brethren! and Frenchmen! We have just returned to the earth the remains of an illustrious stranger, one of the first champions of American liberty—of that liberty which so gloriously ushered in our own. The Semiramis of the North had drawn him under her standard, but Paul Jones could not long breathe the pestilential air of despotism; he preferred the sweets of a private life in France, now free, to the éclat of titles and of honors which, from an usurped throne, were lavished upon him by Catherine. The fame of the brave outlives him, his portion is immortality. What more flattering homage could we pay to the remains of Paul Jones than to swear on his tomb to live and die free? It is the vow, it is the watchword of every Frenchman—let never tyrants nor their satellites pollute this sacred earth! May the ashes of the great man, too soon lost to humanity, and eager to be free, enjoy here an undisturbed repose! Let his example teach posterity the efforts which noble souls are capable, of making when stimulated by hatred of oppression. Friends and brethren, a noble emulation brightens in your looks; your time is precious—the country is in danger! Who among us would not shed the last drop of his blood to save it? Associate yourselves with the glory of Paul Jones, in imitating him in his contempt of danger, in his devotedness to his country, in his noble patriotism, which, after having astonished the present age, will continue to be the imperishable object of the veneration of future generations!
It is not a little singular that, notwithstanding the radical sentiments expressed by this pastor, he was several times arrested by the revolutionists and was once or twice in great peril of his life.
I found the book containing the minutes of the meetings of the consistory of M. Marron’s church, but just at the date of Paul Jones’s death four pages had been torn out. This was one of the many disappointments encountered during the researches. I then set to work upon the task of trying to trace the lost leaves. The name of a M. Coquerel, a former pastor of the church, was mentioned in a publication as an enthusiastic collector of papers relating to Protestantism in Paris. My search in junk shops and antiquarian stores revealed the fact that M. Coquerel’s heirs had sold some old papers which had afterwards been purchased by the Society of the History of Protestantism, and in its library were finally found the four lost pages.
I now ascertained positively that M. Marron buried his parishioners in the Saint Louis Cemetery, and the fact that he had delivered the funeral oration of Paul Jones would be an indication that he had also buried him there.
While all the proofs thus far distinctly designated this cemetery as the Admiral’s place of burial, still it was deemed prudent to investigate the source of various rumors to the contrary, however improbable. The elder Dumas in his romance of “The Pioneer” represents Paul Jones as having been buried in Pere Lachaise. Notwithstanding the fact that this celebrated cemetery had not been opened till thirteen years after the Admiral was buried, yet to be sure that his body had not been transferred there in later years, a thorough examination was made of the registers in which the records of burials have been carefully kept. The only male persons found upon the registers bearing the family name of Jones were George Jones, but spelled “Jones “on the gravestone, died in 1820; John Querean Jones, in 1822; James Jones, in 1827; Charles Jones, in 1829; Edouard Thomas Jones, in 1833. It was therefore certain that the Admiral’s remains were not in Père Lachaise.
There was another fanciful story that he had been interred in Picpus Cemetery, where Lafayette was buried; but as Paul Jones, as recorded in his certificate of burial, was of the Protestant faith, his [Page 426] interment in any cemetery of the established church would have been prohibited. Still, a search was made, and it disproved the rumor.
A letter came to me from a person who had lived in Scotland when a child, many years ago, saying Paul Jones had been buried in Kirkbean churchyard, near Dumfries, Scotland; that his tomb was there with his name inscribed on it, etc. I referred the letter to the rector of the church, the Rev. D. W. MacKenzie, who replied that it was the tomb of Paul Jones’s father, saying:
The inscription on it is as follows: “In memory of John Paul, senior, who died at Abigland the 24th of October, 1767, universally esteemed.” At the bottom of the tomb appears the inscription: “Erected by John Paul, junior.” John Paul, of course, is the original name of John Paul Jones, the Admiral. I take great interest in the history of the Admiral, and local traditions or printed documents suggest nothing at variance with the accepted opinion that he died in Paris and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there.
After further researches in every possible quarter that could furnish information on the subject, the fact was clearly and incontestably established that the Saint Louis Cemetery was the only burial ground in Paris for foreign Protestants at the time of Paul Jones’s death; that he was not interred in any other cemetery; and that Charles Read was perfectly correct in his opinion that the Admiral had positively been buried in the cemetery of Saint Louis. It should be remembered also that the act of burial says, “The cemetery for foreign Protestants,” language indicating that there was only one in existence devoted to that purpose.
All doubt having been removed as to the place of burial, the next step was to make a personal inspection of the ground beneath which the long-since abandoned cemetery was located, and to endeavor to ascertain its history and its condition at the time of Paul Jones’s death.
It is situated in an uninviting section of the northeastern quarter of Paris, at the corner of two streets now known as “Rue Grange-aux-Belles” and “Rue des Écluses Saint Martin,” and covered with buildings, principally of an inferior class. The property at the time of the Admiral’s burial belonged to the government, and was sold to M. Phalipeaux, a building contractor, in 1796. This quarter of the city was known as “le Combat,” and the present station of the underground railroad close to the property is called “Combat.” This name was not chosen, however, on account of the burial there of the most combative of men, but history attributes the term to the fact that this section of Paris was long ago the scene of all the fights in which animals figured—bulls, cocks, dogs, asses, etc.
A street which leads directly to the property and ends there is named Vicq d’Azyr, after Marie Antoinette’s physician, a friend of Paul Jones, who attended him and who accompanied Gouverneur Morris on his visit to the Admiral’s house when he lay on his deathbed the evening of July 18, 1792. When a person’s name is given to a street in Paris it is generally in a quarter connected with events in his career. It is possible that the distinguished physician’s name was given to the street because of its leading to the place which held the remains of his illustrious friend and patient.
Two old maps of the property were finally discovered, one made by M. Jaillot in 1773, and one by M. Verniquet in 1794, showing that the ground consisted of a courtyard with a frontage of about 130 feet upon Rue des Écluses Saint Martin, with an entrance on that street, and a [Page 427] depth of about 90 feet along Rue Grange-aux-Belles. There was a garden in the rear with a frontage of 120 feet on Rue Grange-aux-Belles and a depth of 130 feet. The surface of the garden was about 8 feet lower than that of the courtyard, the descent to which was made by a flight of steps. Thirty years later the grade of the street had been changed and the garden had been leveled up even with the courtyard, and the fact seemed to have been lost sight of that there had ever been a cemetery beneath. There were two cross walks dividing the garden into four squares. The whole property was surrounded by a wall between 6 and 9 feet high. There was a house in the courtyard, and a shed, but no buildings in the garden.
By a decree of the government the garden was devoted exclusively to the burial of foreign Protestants. On the 30th of September, 1777, a decree was issued permitting native Protestants to be buried thereafter in the courtyard. This cemetery, as hereinbefore mentioned, was legally closed in January, 1793, but the former custodian, who had become the lessee, and the subsequent owners, who had purchased the property from the government, were allowed to make some burials for eleven years thereafter.
I found in the tenth arrondissement (then the fifth), a copy of a letter written by the mayor, dated May 26, 1804, directing Citizen Richer to inspect the Protestant cemetery. After a long search I discovered in another quarter of the city his report, dated June 8 of that year. It was in much detail and was entirely in accordance with the maps heretofore mentioned in describing the Saint Louis Cemetery. Its accuracy was verified in every particular when this cemetery was afterwards explored.
The next question was whether the dead had ever been removed from this abandoned cemetery, as had been the case in some others. Satisfactory proof was readily obtained that such an act had not taken place before 1803 or after 1830. A search of the registers of the Catacombs, where all the dead that are removed from abandoned cemeteries are deposited, showed no record of any bodies having been received from the Saint Louis Cemetery between the above dates or at any other time, and there could be found no information in any of the public departments showing that any removal had ever been made from that burial ground except of the remains of Lady Alexander Grant, whose body had been exhumed for transportation to England by formal permission of the city authorities, duly recorded May 2,1803. There was registered at the Catacombs the receipt of leaden coffins from other abandoned cemeteries, and the removal there of a hand-stretcher load of human bones from No. 39 Rue Grange-aux-Belles, and another from No. 4 Rue des Écluses Saint Martin. These lots had once been used as a kind of potter’s field. They were near to, but entirely outside of, the Saint Louis Cemetery.
Having established the impossibility of the leaden coffin having been removed by legitimate means, the only remaining doubt that could exist was based upon the suggestion that it might have been unearthed by the revolutionary armies to convert it into bullets. This unfounded surmise did not make much of an impression after a study of all the circumstances and talks with the “oldest inhabitants,” by whom traditions of a former age are often handed down. The French have a profound respect for the dead and the sacredness of places of burial; the humblest citizen uncovers reverently when a funeral [Page 428] passes; graves are tenderly cared for and kept decked with flowers, and their desecration is a rare crime.
At the time of the Revolution there were statues and busts of lead in exposed places and extensive lead piping to carry the water from the Seine to Versailles, etc., none of which was disturbed. Moreover, the metal contained in the few leaden coffins to be found at that date in a Paris cemetery would not have repaid the digging, or furnished bullets for a single battalion.
If the Admiral had been buried in a wooden coffin hardly a vestige of it would have been in existence and only the mere skeleton of the body would have been found. Fortunately, however, the authentic letter written to Mrs. Janet Taylor, Paul Jones’s eldest sister, by Colonel Blackden, and hereinbefore quoted, contained the following valuable information:
His body was put into a leaden coffin on the 20th, that in case the United States, which he had so essentially served and with so much honor, should claim his remains, they might be more easily removed.
The bill of 462 francs paid by M. Simonneau for the funeral expenses was corroborative of this fact, inasmuch as the cost of an ordinary funeral in those days, as ascertained from the records, was 128 francs, while that of a hospital patient cost as little as 89 francs, distributed as follows: Coffin 10 francs, choristers 10, sexton 15, commissary 48, his clerk 6. The payment therefor of 462 francs, more than three times the value of that sum at the present day, would have provided for an unusually large expenditure, and would have amply covered the cost of a substantial leaden coffin, a thorough preparation of the body to insure its preservation, and an elaborate system of packing, with a view to its transportation by sea.
There had now been fully established by authentic documents and convincing corroborative evidence the fact that the Saint Louis Cemetery was the actual burial place of Paul Jones; that he had been buried in a leaden coffin; that the body had been prepared for transportation to the United States; that the coffin had never been removed by legitimate means, and that there was no probability that it had been carried away by stealth or had been stolen.
After having studied the manner and place of his burial and contemplated the circumstances connected with the strange neglect of his grave, one could not help feeling pained beyond expression and overcome by a sense of profound mortification. Here was presented the spectacle of a hero whose fame once covered two continents, and whose name is still an inspiration to a world-famed navy, lying for more than a century in a forgotten grave, like an obscure outcast, relegated to oblivion in a squalid quarter of a distant foreign city, buried in ground once consecrated, but since desecrated by having been used at times as a garden, with the moldering bodies of the dead fertilizing its market vegetables, by having been covered later by a common Mump pile, where dogs and horses had been buried, and the soil was still soaked with polluted waters from undrained laundries, and, as a culmination of degradation, by having been occupied by a contractor for removing night soil.
It recalls the remark once made by a gallant naval officer: “When we give up our lives in the service of our country we do not ask that our graves be kept green, but we should like to have them kept clean.”[Page 429]
Having collected all the facts necessary to justify an immediate attempt to remove the remains from such offensive surroundings, and secure for them appropriate sepulcher in America, I was about to open negotiations quietly with the proprietors and tenants who occupied the property with a view to purchasing the right to enter upon the premises and make the necessary excavations in order to explore thoroughly the cemetery, when unfortunately the news of this intention became publicly known through the indiscretion of persons who had been consulted on the subject. Self-constituted agents immediately began to busy themselves with circulating fantastic stories regarding the fabulous prices that were to be paid for the property, the whole of which it was said was going to be bought by a rich government, at any cost, as the only means of getting access to the cemetery and making the excavations necessary to find the body of its great admiral. Such representations naturally created intense excitement, raised false hopes in the minds of those interested in the property, and rendered negotiations on a practicable basis entirely impossible. This was altogether the most discouraging episode in the history of the undertaking.
There was then but one course to pursue, however reluctantly, which was to drop the matter entirely for a couple of years, in order to let the excitement subside.
At the end of that time negotiations were quietly opened upon the basis of purchasing the right to explore the abandoned cemetery by means of subterranean galleries, provided that all damages to houses should be repaired, any victims of disease caused by foul emanations from the disturbed soil indemnified, and the property afterwards restored to its former condition. After a series of prolonged and tedious negotiations, appeals to the public spirit of the occupants of the property, and an assurance that the United States Government had made no appropriation or taken any action in the matter, and that the work was simply an individual undertaking, I at last succeeded in procuring options in writing from all concerned granting the right for three months to enter upon the premises and make the necessary excavations.
President Roosevelt, upon learning of the undertaking, had asked for information regarding it, and upon receiving my reply, giving an account of the project, sent an urgent message to Congress in February, 1905, recommending an appropriation of $35,000, the estimated cost of carrying out the work. It was late in the short session, and no action was taken. It would not have been altogether unnatural, however, to regard the scheme as too Utopian in its nature to receive serious consideration, the remains of the admiral having been long since relegated to the realms of mystery and given up as lost beyond recovery.
As no promise could be secured as to how long the options obtained would be allowed to hold good, and as it was quite certain that if they lapsed they could never be renewed upon any such terms, if at all, on account of changes among the tenants, the adverse disposition of some of the occupants, the publicity which had now been given the matter, etc., I deemed it a duty to pay at once the sums demanded in advance to bind the options, and to proceed with the work.
The prefect of the Seine kindly permitted M. Paul Weiss of the service of the carrières (quarries) of the city of Paris to direct the work, which was begun on Friday, February 3, 1905. This experienced and accomplished mining engineer displayed a professional skill of the [Page 430] very highest order, and by his ability, zeal, and devotion to the work greatly facilitated the task. The project presented serious difficulties from the fact that the filling of earth above the cemetery was composed of the dumpings of loose soil not compact enough to stand alone, and the shafts and galleries had to be solidly lined and shored up with heavy timbers as the excavations proceeded. The drainage was bad in places and there was trouble from the water. The walls of one of the buildings were considerably damaged. Slime, mud, and mephitic odors were encountered, and long red worms appeared in abundance.
The first shaft was opened in one of the yards to a depth of 18 feet. It proved clearly that, the dead had never been disturbed. This fact was most satisfactory as disproving the predictions so often made to the contrary. The skeletons were found lying about a foot apart, generally in two layers, one above the other, and in some places there were three. This was a verification of the report of Citizen Richer, hereinbefore mentioned, saying that the dead were buried in a fosse (trench), which indicated that they were not interred in separate graves and were of a poor class. This led to the conclusion that there would be very few leaden coffins found, as they could be afforded only by persons in easy circumstances. But few vestiges were left of the wooden coffins.
Two more large shafts were sunk in the yards, and two in the Rue Grange-aux-Belles, making five in all. Day and night gangs of workmen were employed, and active progress was made. Galleries were pushed in every direction, and “soundings” were made between them with long iron tools adapted to this purpose, so that no leaden coffin could possibly be missed.
The first of the four squares explored was the one on the right of the original entrance to the cemetery. Here the excavators encountered a mass of skeletons in three layers superposed. They were placed irregularly, some lying face down and others on their sides, in one layer piled lengthwise and in the one above crosswise, just as one would pile cord wood, the bodies being so close together that they could not have been buried in coffins. No explanation of the, peculiar condition of things in this portion of the cemetery suggested itself until one day I came across a copy of a drawing by Béricourt representing the corpses of the Swiss Guard killed in defending the Tuileries, being hurriedly thrown into carts to be hauled away for burial. As it is known that most of them were Protestants, it is altogether likely that they were interred in the Saint Louis Cemetery in the confused manner indicated by the position of the skeletons found there. This slaughter occurred August 10, 1792, twenty-one days after Paul Jones’s burial. If the above inference be correct, it furnishes another proof that although the cemetery was closed soon after his death, there was plenty of room left for his coffin at the time of his burial, for the reason that so many bodies were interred there afterwards.
I had given orders that if not present when a leaden coffin was discovered I should be sent for at once, as I was desirous of superintending personally the search for an inscription plate and any other indications that might aid in the identification.
On February 22 the first leaden coffin was discovered. The round projecting end containing the head had been broken off and the skull was detached from the body. The remains of a water barrel were found near by. As the cemetery, after being closed, had been used as [Page 431] a market garden, the barrel had evidently been sunk in this spot to catch the water drained from the courtyard, and in excavating for it the head of the coffin had been knocked off. The outer wooden coffin had nearly disappeared, and the inscription plate it bore had fallen on the lid of the leaden coffin. This plate was of copper and had become so brittle that when lifted it broke and a portion of it crumbled to pieces. It was so corroded and incrusted that no portion of the inscription could be read. Handling it with great care, I proceeded with it in person to Messrs. André & Son, the well-known decipherers and restorers of ancient enamels and art objects, who promised to apply all their skill to the task of reading it.
By the next day the Messrs. André had cleansed the coffin plate sufficiently to be able to read distinctly the following portion of the inscription.:
“* * * M E Anglois, 20 de May 1790 Ans,” The French word Mai was spelled in old style with a y. No further attention was therefore paid to this coffin, and the search, which had not been interrupted, continued.
On March 23 a second leaden coffin was discovered, with a plate easily read, bearing the words “Richard Hay, esq., died in Pans the 29th January, 1785.”
On March 31 a third leaden coffin was unearthed. This, like the others, was of a shape resembling that of the mummy coffins, a form quite common then, gradually widening from the feet to the shoulders, with a round projection at the upper end, which contained the head. It was much superior in solidity and workmanship to the others. A thorough search was made, but no inscription plate could be found. It was decided to open this coffin, but as the odors were almost insupportable in the unventilated gallery, the examination was postponed until a connection could be made with another gallery, so as to admit a current of air.
On April 7 the coffin was opened in presence of Col. Blanchard, M. Weiss, M. Géninet, superintendent of the work, the foreman, several workmen, and myself. The lid was so firmly soldered that it was removed with considerable difficulty. There was a strong alcoholic odor, but the alcohol in which the body had evidently been preserved had in great part evaporated, doubtless through a hole made in the lid by a pick, as hereinafter described, and a crack in the edge of the coffin near the foot caused by the pressure of the earth after the wooden coffin had rotted away. However, the earth which covered these holes was hard and black, having evidently become indurated by the action of the escaping alcohol, so that the process of evaporation had doubtless been exceedingly slow. The body was covered with a winding sheet and firmly packed with hay and straw. A rough measurement indicated the height of Paul Jones. Those engaged upon the work had been furnished some time before with copies of the Admiral’s Congressional medal showing his bust in profile. I had found in the Paris mint the die from which this medal was made and had had a number of copies struck from it. Half a dozen candles were placed near the head of the coffin, and the winding sheet was removed from the head and chest, exposing the face. To our intense surprise the body was marvelously well preserved, all the flesh remaining intact, very slightly shrunken, and of a grayish brown or tan color. The surface of the body and the linen were moist. The face presented [Page 432] quite a natural appearance, except that the cartilaginous portion of the nose had been bent over toward the right side, pressed down, and disfigured by its too close proximity to the lid of the coffin. Upon placing a medal near the face, comparing the other features and recognizing the peculiar characteristics—the broad forehead, contour of brow, appearance of the hair, high cheek bones, prominently arched eye orbits, and other points of resemblance—we instinctively exclaimed, “Paul Jones!” and all those who were gathered about the coffin removed their hats, feeling that they were standing in the presence of the illustrious dead—the object of the long search.
Two theories suggested themselves to account for the absence of an inscription plate. A corpse had been buried immediately on top of the leaden coffin, the middle of the lid of which had been pierced as if by a pick. Surrounding the leaden coffin were some vestiges of a coffin of wood. It may be that the digger of the upper grave, finding that his pick had struck a hard substance, had applied his shovel, and in removing the decayed remains of the wooden coffin found a plate and carried it off as a relic, or, if of silver, for its intrinsic value. Or, as the death of Paul Jones occurred when the violence of the French Revolution was at its height and the streets were filled with idlers and excited crowds of workmen, it is likely that no engravers could be found at work to prepare a fitting inscription in the two days intervening between the death and burial. The latter theory seems rather more plausible.
For the purpose of submitting the body to a thorough scientific examination by competent experts for the purpose of complete identification, it was taken quietly at night, on April 8, to the Paris School of Medicine (École de Médecine) and placed in the hands of the well-known professors of anthropology, Doctor Capitan and Doctor Papillault and their associates, who had been highly recommended as the most accomplished scientists and most experienced experts that could be selected for a service of this kind. I, of course, knew these eminent professors by reputation, but I had never met them.
While the professional examinations for identifying the body were taking place, directions were given to let the workmen continue the excavations in order to explore the rest of the cemetery, as there was a small portion that had not yet been reached. On April 11 a fourth leaden coffin was found with a plate bearing the inscription: “Cygit Georges Maidison, Gentilhomme Anglais et Secrétaire de l’Ambassade de Sa Majesté britannique auprés de Sa Majesté très Chrétienne—decedé à Paris le 27 Août 1783—agé de 36 ans.”
On April 18 the fifth and last leaden coffin was discovered. It was without an inscription plate and of unusual length. Upon opening it there was found the skeleton of a man considerably over 6 feet in height.
In excavating the cemetery, the exploration had corroborated the facts inferred from the hereinbefore mentioned report indicating that the main body of the four squares divided by the cross walks had been reserved for burying the ordinary dead in common trenches, and that personages important enough to be placed in leaden coffins were buried in separate graves near the walls. The Admiral’s coffin was found in one of such spots.
All the coffins except the one containing the remains of the Admiral were left undisturbed in the places where they had been discovered, [Page 433] and the cemetery having been fully explored the shafts and galleries were refilled and the property restored. There had been excavated 80 feet in length of shafts, 800 feet of galleries, and about 600 feet of soundings. The excavated earth had to be carted to a distance of 2 miles to find a dumping ground and afterwards hauled back. In refilling the galleries it was necessary in places to use stones and blocks of indurated clay to give proper stability.
There were discovered in all five leaden coffins in the cemetery. Four having been easily identified, reasoning upon the principle of elimination led to the conclusion that the other must be the coffin sought. However, the scientists were identifying the body by more positive means.
When the remains arrived at the School of Medicine, the lid of the coffin, which had been replaced and the edges of which had been sealed with a coating of plaster, was again removed, and the hay and straw surrounding the body were taken out. They were so firmly packed, evidently to prevent injury to the body from shocks caused by the rolling of the ship upon the contemplated transfer by sea, that in removing them pincers had to be used. It was noticed that there had been a hole three-quarters of an inch in diameter in the lid of the coffin just over the face, and that it had been closed by a screw and soldered over. It is supposed that the alcohol used to preserve the remains had been poured in through this aperture after the coffin had been closed. This immersion in alcohol was doubtless another reason why no uniform or object of value was placed in the coffin.
In order not to disturb the body or change in any way its position in removing it from the coffin, a vertical cut was made in the lead at each end which enabled the sides to be pressed apart. The body was then carefully placed upon a large dissecting table. Its state of preservation was such that it bore its own weight in handling it. The remains with all the flesh intact looked like the anatomical specimens preserved in jars of alcohol, such as one sees in medical museums. It was learned that a century ago this method of preserving the dead was frequently employed—that the bodies of Necker and his wife, buried at Coppet, in Switzerland, for instance, were so treated, and are still perfectly preserved.
The joints were somewhat flexible. In taking the right hand in mine I found that the knuckle joints could be easily bent.
The following is a list of the principal persons who participated in verifying the identification of the body: The American ambassador; Henry Vignaud, first secretary of the American embassy, commander of the Legion of Honor and a distinguished writer; John K. Gowdy, American consul-general; Col. A. Bailly-Blanchard, second secretary of the American embassy, ex-aid de camp to the governor of Louisiana, officer of the Legion of Honor, officer of public instruction; M. Justin de Selves, prefect of the Seine, grand officer of the Legion of Honor; M. Louis Lepine, prefect of police, ex-governor-general of Algiers, grand officer of the Legion of Honor; Dr. J. Capitan, professor in the School of Anthropology, member of the committee of historic and scientific works (ministry of public instruction), member of the municipal commission of Old Paris, member of the Society of Megalithic Monuments, member of a number of foreign scientific societies, [Page 434] ex-president of the Society of Anthropology of Paris, officer of public instruction, author of more than 250 monographs, memoirs, etc., on medical and other scientific subjects; Dr. Georges Papillault, assistant director of the laboratory of anthropology in the School for Advanced Studies, professor in the School of Anthropology, officer or member of several learned societies at home and abroad, and author of numerous scientific articles, a scientist of rare experience in the examination and identification of human bodies; Dr. George Hervé, professor in the School of Anthropology, ex-president of the Society of Anthropology of Paris, and author of many monographs and volumes on this subject; Dr. A. Javal, physician to the ministry of public instruction, laureate of the School of Medicine; M. J. Pray, chief architect of the prefecture of police, officer of public instruction; M. Paul Weiss, engineer of the quarries of the Seine, doctor of laws.
In addition to the above, the services were secured of Dr. V. Cornil, the eminent microscopist, professor of pathologic anatomy of the Paris School of Medicine.
The above scientists were not employed experts; they cheerfully gave their services gratuitously, purely in the interest of science and as an act of comity between two friendly nations in solving an important historical problem.
There now took place one of the most scientific, painstaking, and conscientious examinations conceivable for the purpose of verifying beyond all doubt the identification of the body submitted for this purpose.
The official and professional responsibility of those engaged in the task, their disinterestedness, and the fact that their established reputations were at stake gave abundant guarantee that the labor would be faithfully and impartially performed. Twelve American or French persons officially took part in or witnessed the work of identification, and their affirmative verdict, after six days passed in the application of every possible test, was positive and unanimous and was formally certified to under the official seals of their respective departments, as will be seen from their reports printed in the appendix.
The remains had been wrapped in a winding sheet of linen, the ends of which had been torn off, probably to make it fit the length of the body. On this was observed a small figure 2 worked in thread. Upon the removal of the sheet there was found upon the body but one garment, a linen shirt of very fine workmanship with plaits and ruffles, which corresponds with the Admiral’s fondness for dress. “He is a master of the arts of dress and personal adornment and it is a common remark * * * that he never fails to be the best dressed man at any dinner or fete he may honor by attending.” (“Anecdotes of the Court of Louis XVI.”) The long hair, measuring about thirty inches in length, had been carefully dressed and gathered into a linen cap at the back of the head. On this was found a small initial worked in thread. When the cap was right side up, the letter was a “J,” with the loop well rounded; when reversed, it formed a “P.” A careful search disclosed no other article in the coffin. On the hands, feet, and legs were found portions of tin foil, as if they had been wrapped with it.
Two circumstances combined to render the identification of the remains comparatively easy—the remarkable state of preservation [Page 435] of the body due to the alcohol and the abundance of accurate information in existence descriptive of the dead.
To furnish the anthropologists with the required data, there was obtained upon personal application permission to make all the desired measurements of the Houdon bust of Paul Jones, a little more than three-quarter size, owned by the Marquis de Biron, a very artistic work representing the Admiral in court dress with the hair curled in rolls upon the temples. These rolls were identical with those found on the body.
There was procured through the courtesy of the director of the Trocadéro Museum a copy of the other well-known bust of Paul Jones by Houdon, one of the most accurate works of the famous sculptor, who was also an admirer of his subject. It represents Paul Jones in the uniform of an admiral, and was found more useful for the purpose of making the comparative measurements on account of its being life-size. James Madison, in a letter dated April 28, 1825, says: “His bust by Houdon is an exact likeness, portraying well the characteristic features.” Sherburne, in his biography, says: “His bust by Houdon, of which several copies remain in this country, is believed to be the best representation of his features ever made.” Besides these there were submitted a copy of the medal given by Congress—showing a profile of the face—and a mass of authentic information regarding the Admiral’s chief characteristics, appearance, size, color of hair, age, etc.
Doctor Papillault, with his delicate instruments, made all the necessary anthropometric measurements of the head, features, length of body, etc., and found them so entirely exact as to be convinced that the busts were made from the subject before him, and that the length of the body, 5 feet 7 inches, was the same as the height of the Admiral. All of the comparative measurements are set forth in detail in his report, the greatest difference between any of them being only 2 millimeters, about seven-hundredths of an inch.
As said before, the cartilaginous portion of the nose had been bent over to the right side, pressed down, and distorted. This disfigurement was clearly due to the fact that when the body was put in the coffin an excess of the hay and straw packing had been placed under the head and across the face, and the mass of hair had been gathered into the linen cap at the back. This raised the face so high that the nose was pressed upon by the coffin lid. This pressure had been so great that the head itself was found turned a little to the right.
Professor Papillault says on this subject: “The bridge of the nose is rather thin, the root somewhat narrow. Seen in profile, the nose is of an undulating form on the bust; now this form depends a great deal on the cartilage. The bony part of the nose is quite compatible with it.” The professional anthropologists pay little attention to the cartilages, as these are liable to change, and confine their measurements to the solid or bony structures.
Professor Capitan, after the examinations, had a photograph made of the head, but at the angle at which it was taken the disfigured nose is made to look as if it were Roman in shape, the end being bent over and depressed, and in consequence giving the bridge an unnatural prominence.
The expression of the face is not nearly so good as if the photograph had been taken immediately after opening the coffin. The [Page 436] skin had shrunk, and the lips had contracted by exposure to the air and show the edges of the teeth, which were not visible at first. This gives the face a rather ghastly appearance. The hair, which was found neatly dressed, is in disorder and could not be rearranged, as an attempt to comb it revealed a danger of pulling it out. The photograph is herein reproduced, and is interesting for the reason that it shows the well-preserved condition of the flesh. The nose presented the only disfigurement. When the bust was placed beside the body, the resemblance of the other features was remarkably striking. Professor Hervé called attention to a peculiar shape of the lobe of the ear, which he said was, according to his experience, something very rarely seen. Its exact copy was observed upon the bust.
The hair was dark brown, slightly streaked with gray and thin above the temples, agreeing fully with the historical descriptions. The teeth were long and somewhat worn. The appearance of both hair and teeth was compatible with the Admiral’s age at the time of his death—45 years.
Doctor Papillault, in his report setting forth the details of his investigations, remarks:
The dimensions of the bust, life-size, by Houdon, are exactly those of the body; the comparison is therefore easier than if the bust had been of a reduced size. Thus all the measurements offer an approximation truly extraordinary. Two experienced anthropologists measuring the same subject would often make as great differences. Thus I could not hope to find between a bust and its model a similar identity. I recollect having measured, some years ago, a cast of the head of Blanqui, and the statue which Dalon made from that same cast. Dalon was a very precise and conscientious artist, using and even abusing, as his colleagues said, the caliper compass. I found differences greater than in this case.
He concludes his report in the following words:
Without forgetting that doubt is the first quality of all investigators and that the most extreme circumspection should be observed in such matters, I am obliged to conclude that all the observations which I have been able to make plead in favor of the following opinion: The body examined is that of Admiral John Paul Jones.
Then came one of the most interesting features of the verification—the autopsy, doubtless the only one in history ever made upon a body that had been buried for a hundred and thirteen years. In order not to alter in anyway the appearance of the corpse, Doctor Capitan and his assistants laid the body upon its face and made the opening in the back to explore the thorax and the viscera contained therein. A quantity of alcohol ran out, the internal organs being thoroughly saturated with it. This accounted for their excellent state of preservation. The left lung showed a spot which was clearly the result of an attack of pneumonia or broncho-pneumonia. It had healed, but remained surrounded by fibrous tissue. Mr. Buell, in his “Paul Jones” (Vol. II, page 235), says: “During this inspection [of the Russian fleet], which consumed about fifteen days, the Admiral contracted a heavy cold, which almost the very day of his return to St. Petersburg developed into pneumonia. * * * Both the eminent physicians who attended him pronounced his lungs permanently affected and told him he could never hope to endure again the rigors of a Russian winter.” This was in June, 1789. In May, 1790, two years before the Admiral’s death, he returned to Paris. The same author says of him (Vol. II, page 267), “The doctors declared that his left lung was more or less permanently affected.”[Page 437]
Doctor Capitan and Professor Cornil found nothing particularly characteristic in the heart, which was still quite flexible. It was contracted, and the cardiac walls exhibited muscular fibers striated lengthwise and crosswise An abundance of small crystals and bacteria were noticed. The liver was of a yellowish-brown color, somewhat contracted, and its tissues were rather dense and compact. There were found in the hepatic cells numerous varieties of crystals and microbes. The masses of tyrosin, appearing to the naked eye like white opaque granules, were less numerous than in the lungs. The cells of this organ were not so well preserved, and according to Doctor Capitan a positive opinion could not be given as to symptoms caused by its condition. The gall bladder was healthy and contained a pale yellowish-brown bile of a pasty consistency. The stomach was contracted and very small. The spleen appeared comparatively larger than it ought to have been, considering the marked contraction of all the viscera. Its tissues appeared rather firm; it showed no anatomic lesions. The kidneys were well preserved in form and presented very clearly under the microscope the evidences of interstitial nephritis, commonly called “Bright’s disease.” Doctor Capitan, in speaking of these organs, in his report says:
The vessels at several points had their walls thickened and invaded by sclerosis. A number of glomerules were completely transformed into fibrous tissue and appeared in the form of small spheres, strongly colored by the microscopic reactions. This verification was of the highest importance. It gave the key to the various pathological symptoms presented by Paul Jones at the close of his life—emaciation, consumptive condition, and especially so much swelling, which from the feet gained completely the nether limbs, then the abdomen, where it even produced ascites (exsudat intra abdominal). All these affections are often observed at the close of chronic interstitial nephritis. It can therefore be said that we possess microscopic proof that Paul Jones died of a chronic renal affection, of which he had shown symptoms toward the close of his life. In a word, like my colleague, Papillault, and by different means, relying solely upon the appearance of the subject, on the comparison of his head with the Houdon bust, and besides considering that the observations made upon his viscera agree absolutely with his clinical history, I reach this very clear and well-grounded conclusion, namely, that the corpse of which we have made a study is that of Paul Jones.
I will even add, always with Papillault, that being given this convergence of exceedingly numerous, very diversified, and always agreeing facts, it would be necessary to have a concurrence of circumstances absoluely exceptional and improbable in order that the corpse here concerned be not that of Paul Jones.
Professor Cornil concludes the report of his microscopic examinations as follows: “We believe that the case in point is interstitial nephritis with fibrous degeneracy of the glomerules of Malpighi, which quite agrees with the symptoms observed during life.”
To show how perfectly the revelations of the autopsy agree with the symptoms of the malady which terminated the life of Paul Jones, in addition to the affection of the left lung described by his historians and hereinbefore mentioned, I give the following citations from authentic documents: Buell, in his “Paul Jones” (Vol. II, page 308), after mentioning that a week before his death it was proposed that he should be called to the bar of the French National Assembly to answer such questions as might be asked of him concerning the needs of the navy and to give his own ideas as to how those needs might best be met, says: “He asked to be excused on the ground that his articulation was not strong and he feared that an effort to make himself heard throughout the vast chamber would so strain his vocal organs as to bring on a fit of convulsive coughing.” That night Paul Jones attended a supper at the Café Timon. Capelle, a French writer, describes the affair and gives the Admiral’s speech, in which he said in [Page 438] conclusion: “My friends, I would love to pursue this theme, but, as you see, my voice is failing and my lower limbs become swollen when I stand up too long.”
Benoit-André, who published a memoir of Paul Jones six years after his death, says: “The day after the Admiral had been at supper at the Café Timon he did not rise until nearly noon. His lower limbs began to swell prodigiously, his stomach soon began to expand, and he had much difficulty at times in breathing; all the time afflicted with an exhausting cough and much raising of mucus.”
Colonel Blackden’s letter to Mrs. Janet Taylor, describing the dropsical condition of the patient, has already been quoted.
The official certificate of burial says he died of dropsy of the chest (“hydropisie de poitrine”).
The complete verification of all these symptoms by means of an autopsy made upon a corpse a hundred and thirteen years after death must be regarded as a notable triumph of anthropologic science, of deep interest to the medical profession, and a service of signal importance in the present instance.
No mark of a wound was discovered on the body. Paul Jones was never wounded. History is in abundant possession of the most detailed records of every fight in which he was engaged, and they make nowhere a single mention of his ever having received a wound. Buell finds no record of a wound. Sherburne, in his well-known “Life and Character of Paul Jones,” page 362, says: “Commodore John Paul Jones on the ocean during the American Revolution was as General Washington on the land—never known to be defeated in battle, and neither ever receiving a wound.” Sherburne’s first edition was published while Richard Dale and other officers who had served with Paul Jones were still living and they never challenged this statement. Sands, in his “Life and Correspondence of Paul Jones,” a work which presents a strange intermingling of official facts and uncorroborated assertions, says that it was known, as he was assured, that the Admiral was once wounded in the head, but admits further on that “he never chronicled his wounds in any letter or journal.” The same writer asserts that the Admiral, four months before his death in 1792, wrote a draft of a letter, but which was never sent, addressed to the French minister of marine, complaining that his predecessor in that office, M. de Sartine, gave him (Jones) and our minister, who accompanied him, an icy reception, saying: “He did not say to me a single word, nor ask me if my health had not suffered from my wounds and the uncommon fatigue I had undergone.” Even if the Admiral had ever made such a draft it would doubtless have been written, according to his custom, in French, and in the original might very well have meant simply that the minister did not take the trouble to ask him whether his health had suffered from wounds and fatigues, occurrences which might naturally be supposed to have happened to so combative a sailor; but as M. de Sartine had left the ministry of marine December 1, 1780, more than eleven years before, the statement does not carry any weight.
The detailed technical reports of the scientists were filed with my former communication to the government, and publicity has been given to them. Their production here in extenso would be beyond the scope of this report, so that I have confined myself to making the above most important extracts from them, giving the methods employed [Page 439] and the conclusions reached. After the autopsy the internal organs were replaced in the thorax.
Appended to this article are copies of the formal documents executed under seal containing the certifications of the official witnesses to the identification of the remains. I said to them all that if there existed a single doubt in the mind of anyone as to the absolute and unquestioned identity of the body submitted for examination, I begged that he would frankly make it known. Not a doubt was expressed, and their decision was unanimous.
It was now seen that some deterioration of the body was taking place from exposure to the air. I therefore gave instructions to the experienced specialists in the School of Medicine to take every precaution to preserve the flesh intact, and made arrangements to replace the remains in the original coffin, and incase them in a casket which could be hermetically sealed and prepared for transportation to America.
A leaden casket was procured, in the bottom of which was placed a bed of sawdust treated with phenyl. On this was laid the lid of the original coffin, next to it the original coffin, in the bottom of which the winding-sheet had been placed. On the top of the winding-sheet was spread a sheet of impermeable oiled silk and then a layer of cotton batting impregnated with phenic glycerin. The body was treated with a coating of the same substance, and the face was sprayed with the essence of thymol. The hair was gathered into the small linen cap in which it had been found. The body, upon which the shirt had been replaced, was then put into the original coffin and laid upon the cotton batting above mentioned, after which another layer of this material, saturated with phenic glycerin, was spread over the body and covered with a second sheet of oiled silk. The whole was then covered and packed with medicated cotton batting. There were also placed in the original coffin a glass jar containing specimens of the hay and straw which had been used in packing, and a package of fragments of the indurated earth which had closed the hole and the crack in the original coffin. The lid of the casket, in which is a large glass plate, was then soldered on and seals of the American embassy affixed. The casket was afterwards placed in an outer coffin of oak provided with 8 silver handles, the lid of which was secured by 16 silver screws.
On April 20 this coffin was taken to the American Church of the Holy Trinity, Avenue de l’Alma, accompanied by the American ambassador, M. Vignaud, first secretary of the embassy; Colonel Blanchard, second secretary; Mr. Gowdy, consul-general; and M. Weiss, engineer in charge of the excavations.
The coffin, covered with the American flag, was placed in the receiving vault; the rector of the church, the Rev. Doctor Morgan, offered a prayer, and the remains were left there to await the completion of arrangements for their transfer to the United States.
For several years a search had been pressed to find the house in which the Admiral died, No. 42 Rue de Tournon. There had been renumberings of the dwellings throughout the arrondissement, and it seemed impossible to trace them with sufficient accuracy to locate the house in which Paul Jones, as history states, occupied an “apartment on the first floor above the entresol.” This furnished another instance of the mystery which pursued his memory. It was not until the first [Page 440] week in July, 1905, that the place was found, thanks to the untiring and important assistance rendered by M. Taxil, chief surveyor of the city of Paris. The house is now No. 19 of that street. It is the only one in the immediate locality which has a first floor over an entresol.
The style of the ironwork on the balcony indicates an architecture of the period of the close of the reign of Louis XV or the beginning of that of Louis XVI: The street leads toward the entrance to the Senate, palace of the Luxembourg. It was once a fashionable street, and at the present time several persons of distinction live there. On the ground floor of the house a sign bears the words “Lessons in fencing, boxing, and the use of the singlestick.” This proffered instruction in the several arts of fighting in the house in which Paul Jones resided, coupled with the fact that the underground station close to the cemetery where his body reposed is called “Combat,” looks as if fate had determined that he should everywhere be identified with signs of conflict and struggle, whether in life or in death.
I visited this house for the first time, accompanied by Colonel Blanchard, July 4, 1905. Col. A. Bailly-Blanchard was my second secretary at the embassy, and it gives me peculiar pleasure to make conspicuous mention of his services. I assigned him to duty as my principal assistant, and he was constantly associated with me throughout the entire period of the researches. His rare accomplishments eminently fitted him for the service, and the ability and zeal displayed by him entitled him to the most grateful consideration.
Upon the receipt and examination of my detailed reports, the government recognized the completeness of the identification of the Admiral’s body, and President Roosevelt ordered a squadron of war vessels, composed of the Brooklyn, Tacoma, Chattanooga, and Gal veston, commanded by Admiral Sigsbee, to proceed to Cherbourg and convey the remains of Paul Jones to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where it is to receive permanent interment in the crypt of the new chapel now under construction.
In the meantime I had consulted with the President of France, the minister of foreign affairs, president of the council, general of the army, admiral of the navy, and others, as to what part the French desired to take in the ceremonies attending the transfer of the remains. They all manifested an enthusiastic wish to pay every possible honor on that occasion to the memory of our illustrious sailor, and a programme was accordingly arranged which would best carry out this desire. Admiral Fournier, who represented the naval forces, told me that it was after reading the life of Paul Jones that he had resolved to become a sailor. So that it was the inspiration of our great sea fighter that gave to France an admiral who to-day commands the admiration of naval men of all countries.
Our squadron was heartily welcomed at Cherbourg by a French fleet, the inhabitants of the city vying with the officials to pay every possible attention to our officers and men. In Paris a series of public dinners and receptions were tendered them, and they were feted in a manner rarely seen even in the brilliant and hospitable capital of France.
On July 6, the anniversary of Paul Jones’s birth, Admiral Sigsbee brought 500 blue jackets to Paris, and at 3.30 p.m. the ceremonies attending the transfer of the remains began in the beautiful American Church of the Holy Trinity, Avenue de l’Alma.[Page 441]
In the morning I had had the coffin brought from the vault into the church, placed in front of the chancel, and covered with artistically arranged flowers. The church itself was tastefully dressed with floral decorations. The audience was one of the most distinguished that has ever been drawn together in Paris. The President of the Republic was represented by the chief of his household, who occupied a chair in front of the chancel. On the right of the middle aisle were seated the president of the council and minister of foreign affairs, the leading members of the cabinet, and the highest officers of the French army and navy; on the left the resident American ambassador, the two special ambassadors designated for the occasion, Admiral Sigsbee with his captains and staff officers, Senator Lodge, and the members of the diplomatic corps. Seated in the remaining, pews and standing crowded in the aisles and doorways were distinguished persons from many countries. The elaborate uniforms, the exquisite flowers, the brilliant flags, enhanced the beauty of a scene which it is seldom one’s fortune to witness and which will be memorable in history.
After careful consultation, I concluded that it would be appropriate to avoid an ordinary funeral service, with dirges and requiems, as the occasion was not a funeral, but rather a glorification of the dead, so that anthems, patriotic airs, and marches glorieuses constituted the music. After a simple but most impressive service had been conducted by the rector I formally delivered the remains to the Government of the United States in the following words:
This day America claims her illustrious dead.
In the performance of a solemn duty I have the honor to deliver to the Government of the United States, through its designated representative, the remains of Admiral John Paul Jones, to be borne with appropriate marks of distinction to the country upon whose arms his heroic deeds shed so much luster. It is believed that their permanent interment in the land to whose independence his matchless victories so essentially contributed will not be lacking in significance by reason of its long delay.
It is a matter of extreme gratification to feel that the body of this intrepid commander should be conveyed across the sea by the war vessels of a navy to whose sailors his name is still an inspiration, and that this high mission should be confided to so gallant an officer of the same noble profession as the distinguished admiral who commands the escorting squadron.
An earnest expression of recognition is due to the accomplished savants of France, whose acknowledged skill in anthropologic science confirmed in every particular, with entire accuracy and absolute certainty, the identification of the remains which were so marvelously preserved.
We owe a cordial, tribute of gratitude to the Government of the French Republic for the cheerful proffer of facilities during the search for the body, the sympathy so generously manifested upon its recovery, and the signal honors rendered upon this occasion to the memory of a hero who once covered two continents with his renown in battling for the cherished principles of political liberty and the rights of man, for which the two sister republics have both so strenuously contended.
All that is mortal of this illustrious organizer of victory on the sea lies in yonder coffin beneath the folds of our national standard. When Congress adopted the present form of the American flag, it embodied in the same resolution the appointment of Capt. John Paul Jones to command the ship Ranger. When he received the news, history attributes to him the following remark: “The flag and I are twins; born the same hour from the same womb of destiny. We can not be parted in life or in death.” Alas! they were parted during a hundred and thirteen years, but happily they are now reunited.
Mr. Loomis, Assistant Secretary of State and junior special ambassador, received the body, making an interesting address in which he recited the most stirring events in the career of Paul Jones, and expressed the extreme gratification of the government at the recovery of the remains. He finished by delivering them to Admiral Sigsbee for transportation to the United States. Admiral Sigsbee, [Page 442] in accepting the high mission with which he had been charged, delivered a brief, appropriate, and eminently sailor-like address, which was warmly received.
Eight American blue jackets now stepped forward and bore the coffin solemnly from the church. They had been selected for their manly bearing and their stature, each being over 6 feet in height. They commanded the admiration of all who saw them, and the Americans present were naturally delighted to hear the whispered comments of the French ladies, “Quels beaux garcons!”
The coffin was placed upon a French artillery caisson tastefully adorned with flags.
The elaborate procession which took up its march at 5 o’clock was constituted as follows: A platoon of police, a regiment of French cuirassiers, 500 American sailors, the body of John Paul Jones, Admiral Sigsbee and staff, the American ambassadors and Senator Lodge, the personnel of the American embassy, the high officials of the French Government and of the diplomatic corps, delegations from the American Navy League and from the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris, members of the Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the American Revolution, and other patriotic organizations, all on foot. Then came two batteries of French horse artillery, two companies of American marines, and two battalions of French infantry with their famous bands.
The column moved down the brilliant avenue of the Champs Élysées and across the Seine by the stately bridge of Alexander III, which leads to the Invalides. When the body of John Paul Jones was seen moving solemnly toward the body of Napoleon, each having died in a distant land to be brought back after many years with every mark of honor to the country he had so eminently served, there was a sentiment aroused which deeply touched the hearts of all participating in the ceremony.
When the wide Esplanade des Invalides was reached, the coffin was lifted from the caisson and placed upon a catafalque erected beneath a tent of superb construction, the material being a rich royal purple velvet hung with gold fringe, the front ornamented with swords, shields, cuirasses, and other warlike devices. Here the troops filed by the remains and rendered the highest military honors to the illustrious dead. The coffin was then borne to the mortuary car prepared for it in the railway station close by, and a special train bore it to Cherbourg that night with its guard of honor composed of Americans and Frenchmen.
Paris had that day witnessed a pageant entirely unique in its way, and of surpassing beauty and solemnity. The weather was superb, and the streets and houses were appropriately decorated. The vast crowds of spectators gazed upon the cortége with sympathy and respect. No cheers or other inappropriate demonstrations were indulged in. The onlookers simply uncovered reverently as the coffin passed. Their bearing in every respect was admirable.
The next day, July 7, I went to Cherbourg to sail for home. A cordial invitation had been received from the government and Admiral Sigsbee to take passage on board the flagship. While this was deeply appreciated, it was declined, as I felt that it would be in better taste to return by the ordinary lines of travel now that I had formally placed the subject of the mission in the hands of the Navy and could render no further useful service.[Page 443]
The fleets of the two nations lay side by side in that picturesque military harbor, discharging their peaceful and sympathetic mission, our phantom-colored vessels presenting an interesting contrast to the black hulls of the French warships. There I took a last look at the coffin which contained all that is mortal of the hero, the search for whose remains had furnished a congenial task for the past six years. Upon sailing out of the harbor, the squadron honored me with a parting ambassadorial salute, and I now felt that my mission in connection with the recovery of the body of our illustrious naval commander was definitely ended.