In January 1777, writing to the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress, John Paul Jones summed up the qualities he believed essential to a naval officer: "None other than a gentleman, as well as a seaman both in theory and practice, is qualified to support the character of a commissioned officer in the Navy; nor is any man fit to command a ship of war who is not also capable of communicating his ideas on paper in language that becomes his rank."
While many aspects of Jones' life are problematic, there is no question that he was an inspiring commander and a great warrior. Yet, Jones believed that being a naval officer meant more than being competent and inspiring. When he wrote in 1777, naval commanders might cruise for months without word from home. Their orders had to be clear, succinct, and as comprehensive as possible, while providing leeway to act in unexpected crises. Consequently, Jones believed that naval officers had to be good writers.