02FEB2023 – Quote of the Day

This quote illustrates Jones’ discovery of the Indo-European family of languages.

The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.

Sir William Jones

31JAN2023 – Quote of the Day

I have not yet begun to fight!

His famous response, in the early phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, (23 September 1779) to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, as recounted in the reminiscences of Jones’s First Lieutenant, Richard Dale, as published in The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, a Captain in the United States Navy (1825) by John Henry Sherburne:

…the Bon Homme Richard, having head way, ran her bows into the stern of the Serapis. We had remained in this situation but a few minutes when we were again hailed by the Serapis, “Has your ship struck?” To which Captain Jones answered, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

In Naval teminology to “strike the colours” means to haul down the ship’s flag to signify surrender, but here the use of the ship as subject of the sentence may imply a pun on the non-naval use of “struck”.

I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!

His much less famous response, in the late phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, 23 September 1779, to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was by this time very seriously damaged.

This was what some of his sailors, reported in British newspapers at the time, claimed he had said; Jones’s official report merely stated that he had answered “in the most determined negative”.

John Paul Jones

29JAN2023 – Quote of the Day

A navy is essentially and necessarily aristocratic. True as may be the political principles for which we are now contending they can never be practically applied or even admitted on board ship, out of port, or off soundings. This may seem a hardship, but it is nevertheless the simplest of truths. Whilst the ships sent forth by the Congress may and must fight for the principles of human rights and republican freedom, the ships themselves must be ruled and commanded at sea under a system of absolute despotism.

John Paul Jones