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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1625
AUTHOR: John Paul Jones (1747–92)
QUOTATION: I have not yet begun to fight.
ATTRIBUTION: JOHN PAUL JONES, captain of the Bonhomme Richard, reply to the British ship Serapis, September 23, 1779.

The exact wording of his reply is uncertain, and several accounts exist. The standard version above is from an account of the engagement by one of Jones’s officers, First Lieutenant Richard Dale.—John Henry Sherburne, The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, 2d ed., p. 121 (1851).

Sherburne includes Jones’s letter of October 3, 1779, to Benjamin Franklin, where he says, p. 116, “The English commodore asked me if I demanded quarters, and I having answered him in the most determined negative, they renewed the battle with double fury.”

Benjamin Rush writes, “I heard a minute account of his engagement with the Seraphis in a small circle of gentlemen at a dinner. It was delivered with great apparent modesty and commanded the most respectful attention. Towards the close of the battle, while his deck was swimming in blood, the captain of the Seraphis called him to strike. ‘No, Sir,’ said he, ‘I will not, we have had but a small fight as yet.’”—The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, ed. George W. Corner, p. 157 (1948).
SUBJECTS: Revolutionary War (1775–1783)