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We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny.

Thomas ap Catesby Jones (1790–1858)

There is a large omission in this biography which explains a good deal about the left turn that this country took under the abolitionists and their allies. Thoreau, who was properly ignored by his brighter contemporaries but who has since become something of a luminary of the left dismissed American expansion with, “The whole enterprise of this nation, which is not an upward, but a westward one, toward Oregon, California, Japan, etc., is totally devoid of interest to me, whether performed on foot, or by a Pacific railroad…. It is perfectly heathenish,–a filibustering toward heaven by the great western route. No; they may go their way to their manifest destiny, which I trust is not mine…. I would rather be a captive knight, and let them all pass by, than be free only to go whither they are bound. What end do they propose to themselves beyond Japan? What aims more lofty have they than the prairie dogs?”

Fortunately for Americans today most of our ancestors who clung to the craggy coasts of New England and the malarial swamps of the Eastern seaboard this opinion did not obtain as a matter of policy. While we are not among those who believe that the Almighty deigned – or even desired – that this continent come under the dominion of the settlers who began arriving in 1620 we recognize the imperative of expanding to support a growing population – no migration of peoples ever seems to get smaller unless they die out. Although their numbers are always small the naysayers seem to be always able to amplify their voices beyond any natural strength of their argument and so the unwashed Thoreau gives way to the unclean Melville and the chorus of woe continues.

In 1850 Herman Melville‘s novel White-Jacket was published by Harper & Row, who made sure every member of Congress received a copy, and – as with Uncle Tom’s Cabin – there being no reason that the facts should get in the way of a good story it caused a sensation. Making accusations that could not be sustained in the face of libel laws it painted the U. S. Navy as being in the same boat with the British when it came to the liberal application of rum, sodomy and the lash.

Largely as a result of the scandal engendered by this sensationalism Jones was convicted of three counts of oppression of junior officers in a court-martial and relieved of command for two and one half years. Although Millard Fillmore would restore him to command and Congress would award him his back pay the damage was done.

Catesby ap Roger Jones , a nephew [related through his mother to Robert E. Lee which shows what a small world it really was then], who was appointed a Midshipman in the Navy in 1836 served extensively at sea but during the 1850’s was involved in development work on Navy weapons and served as ordnance officer on the new steam frigate Merrimack when she began active service in 1856. Having seen what the union navy would do to its own in the name of political expediency when Virginia left the union Jones resigned his U.S. Navy commission, joining the Virginia Navy. In 1861-62, he was employed in converting the steam frigate Merrimack into an ironclad and was the ship’s Executive Officer when she was commissioned as CSS Virginia. When her Commanding Officer, Captain Franklin Buchanan, was wounded in the 8 March 1862 attack on USS Cumberland and Congress, Jones temporarily took command, leading the ship during her historic engagement with USS Monitor on the following day. Later in 1862, he commanded a shore battery at Drewry’s Bluff, on the James River, and the gunboat Chattahoochee while she was under construction at Columbus, Georgia. Promoted to the rank of Commander in April 1863, Jones was sent to Selma, Alabama, to take charge of the Ordnance Works there. For the rest of the Civil War, he supervised the manufacture of badly needed heavy guns for the Confederate armed forces.

Actions have consequences. Those who joined the Confederacy were motivated not only by loyalty to their states and to their principles of self-government but they were pushed by the northern radicals who had abandoned the principles of the founders because they would not yield to their demands to make the world anew in their image of justice. Thomas Ap Catesby Jones died two years before the War for Southern Independence started but Catesby ap Roger Jones pretty well answered the question of where the family loyalties lay.

Thomas Ap Catesby Jones : commodore of Manifest Destiny    Annapolis, Md. : Naval Institute Press, c 2000 Gene A. Smith United States. Navy Officers Biography, Jones, Thomas Ap Catesby, 1790-1858 Hardcover. Library of naval biography. xx, 223 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-213) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Thomas ap Catesby Jones was one of the most controversial officers in the U.S. Navy during the first half of the nineteenth century. A fascinating representative of a period of tumultuous change for both the navy and the country, he was a firebrand with a desire for reform and willingness to experiment. This biography explores his colorful career that spanned five decades and places it within the context of his changing times, as the navy moved into an age of iron and steam and a young nation struggled for recognition.

It is the story of a complex figure known for his mistaken seizure of Monterey, California, in 1842 when the United States and Mexico were not formally at war. At the time Jones seemed to have created a national crisis, yet that episode, like Jones himself, was more complicated and had far greater ramifications than appeared on the surface.

Historian Gene Smith’s study not only chronicles important events in Jones’s life but also explores how they helped shape the character and backbone of the navy during its formative years. He describes Jones’s early career fighting smugglers, pirates and the British, evaluates his actions in the Battle of New Orleans, explains how he carried the Stars and Stripes to Hawaii in the 1820s, and how he helped incorporate California into the United States.

The embodiment of the nationalistic spirit that gripped the United States following the War of 1812, Jones was determined that his country would never again be subservient to the British, and as this biography clearly indicates, his actions and those of the nation’s were influenced by that determination for the next forty years.

Commander Catesby ap R. Jones, Confederate States Navy, (1821-1877)


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