John Paul Jones: Man of Action

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
Plots and Pleas

And I had done a hellish thing, And it would work 'em woe: For all averred, I had killed the bird That'made the breeze to blow.

ON the last day of the year Catherine affably received Jones in audience at the Hermitage. There was no hint that she considered him a disgraced commander, or even that she was displeased with him. On the contrary, he came away with the impression that he was to have an important command in the Baltic. As Russia was then at war with Sweden, this prospect appeared promising, and within a few days he sent word to the court that he was ready for action. Catherine replied that she must await the arrival of Potemkin before deciding what he should do. So Jones took lodgings in the capital, joined in social diversions, and employed his leisure in hatching dazzling plans and projects. One of them was for an alliance, political and commercial, between Russia and the United States which Jefferson had suggested. He laid this before the Vice Chancellor, who thought it important enough to refer it to Potemkin when that worthy returned about the middle of February. Potemkin sent for him, and once more the eager Scotch- American, who believed in everything, and the bored Russian, who believed in nothing, faced each other.

Potemkin glanced at Jones's outline and idly tossed it on a corner of his table. It contained some good ideas, he said, but the time was not ripe; it might arouse the suspicion of England,

-251-

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