John Paul Jones: Man of Action

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
Chills and Fever

Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean.


I

A MAN of action feels that his existence is justified only when he is acting. Enforced idleness, while about him there is hum and stir, is to him supremest cruelty. His days are spent in a fevered hoping; his nights are tortured with electric visions of what he might be doing if only a fire could be built under those sedentary ones, the men who sit in offices and council chambers. He whimpers like a chained hound. When he sees or thinks of those who might so easily slip his leash, he breaks out into despairing ululations. He is like a spring in tension, which if not soon released, loses its power, its élan, and suffers deterioration. All history is a record of struggles between the dynamic and the static -- between those who want to do, and those who want to delay.

It was the fate of John Paul Jones to be repeatedly the victim of men who love status quos. He passed through multiple dangers without a serious wound, but these all but slew him. It was so after his victorious return from Northern seas. It was almost five months before he was again given an errand to do -- and this at a time when every foot-pound of his energy should have been fiercely used. No one was to blame. No one ever is. Situations may have more heads than any hydra. Congress was absorbed with a thousand difficulties If it could pass over,

-76-

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