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Letter from John Paul Jones to Lord Selkirk -February 12th, 1784:


The long delay that has happened to the restoration of your plate has given me much concern, and I now feel a proportionate pleasure in fulfilling what was my first intention. My motive for landing at your estate in Scotland was to take you as an hostage for the lives and liberty of a number of the citizens of America, who had been taken in war on the ocean and committed to British prisons, under an Act of Parliament, as traitors, pirates and felons. You observed to Mr Alexander that my idea was a mistaken one because you were not (as I had supposed) in favour with the British Ministry, who knew that you favoured the cause of liberty. On that account I am glad that you were absent from your estate when I landed there, as I bore no personal enmity, but the contrary towards you. I afterwards had the happiness to redeem my fellow-citizens from Britain by means far more glorious than through the medium of any single hostage.


Letter from the Earl of Selkirk to John Paul Jones - 4th August, 1785


"Sir,--I received the letter you wrote me at the time you sent off my plate- in order for restoring it. Had I known where to direct a letter to you at the time it arrived in Scotland I would then have wrote to you, but not knowing it, nor finding that any of my acquaintances at Edinburgh knew it, I was obliged to delay writing till I came here, when by means of a gentleman connected with America, I was told Mr Le Grand was your banker in Paris, and would take proper care of a letter for you. Therefore I enclose this to him. Notwithstanding all the precautions you took for the easy and uninterrupted conveyance of the plate, yet it met with considerable delays, first at Calais, next at Dover, then at London. However, it at last arrived at Dumfries, and I daresay quite safe, though as yet I have not seen it, being then at Edinburgh. I intended to have put an article in the newspaper about your having returned it, but before I was informed of its being arrived, some friends, I suppose, had to put it in the Dumfries newspaper, whence it was immediately copied into the Edinburgh papers, and thence into the London ones. Since that time I have mentioned it to many people of fashion; and on all occasions, Sir, both now and formerly, I have done you the justice to tell that you made an offer of returning the plate very soon after your return to Brest; and although you yourself were not at my house, but remained at the shore with your boat, that yet you had your officers and men in such extraordinary good discipline, that you having given them the strictest orders to behave well, to do no injury or any kind, to make no search, but only to bring off what plate was given to them; that in reality they did exactly as ordered, and that not one man offered to stir from his post on the outside of the house, nor entered the doors, nor said an uncivil word; that the two officers stood not a quarter of an hour in the parlour and butler's pantry while the butler got the plate together; behaved politely, and asked for nothing but the plate, and instantly marched their men off in regular order; and that both officers and men behaved in all respects so well that it would have done credit to the best disciplined troops whatever. Some of the English newspapers at that time having put in confused accounts of your expedition to Whitehaven and Scotland, I ordered a proper one of what happened in Scotland to be put in the London newspapers by a gentleman who was then at my house, by which the good conduct and civil behaviour of your officers and men were done justice to, and attributed to your orders and the good discipline you maintained over your people. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, Selkirk.

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Last revised: 16th December 2010