20 Events Across the Globe which Evolved from the American Revolution

A British history text illustration of John Paul Jones and his men plundering the property of the Earl of Selkirk. Wikimedia

2. American sailors raided the coast of Scotland

After the raid on Whitehaven, which provided no prizes or anything else to the Americans, Jones sailed across the Firth of Solway, bound for St. Mary’s Isle. Jones intended to seize and hold hostage the Earl of Selkirk, not for financial ransom but to be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate the release of American seamen who had been impressed into the British Navy. When the raiding party reached his home, the Earl was absent, and the Americans seized his silver plate and some other personal items, including a silver tea service. Once again, Jones had difficulty with members of his crew (which was common throughout his entire career), and withdrew only with difficulty, as some wanted to plunder as much as possible.

The raid on St. Mary’s Isle, and the stealing of a gentlemen’s personal property, furthered Jones’s reputation in the British Isles as a pirate, rather than as a naval officer and gentlemen, but as at Whitehaven also created the fear that nowhere in the kingdom was safe from American raids. The British Navy, supposedly invincible, appeared incapable of protecting its own coasts from the ravages of a nautical enemy, even before the intervention of the French fleet. Jones’s raids did much to increase the unease in Great Britain over a potential invasion by the French at a time when most of the British Army was deployed overseas, and angry merchants and citizens demanded protection, rather than conquest of the colonies.