Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Le Roy, [20 January 1779?]

From Le Roy

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Paris— Wednesday in the afternoon
[January 20, 1779?]8

Dear Sir

We will expect you, M. D’arcy9 and I, at his House friday next at twelve o’clock to try the gun of M. Belton—1 I’ll be very glad if you can come to the rendez vous— M. D’arcy hope you will dine with us. I long much to see you my Dear Doctor—for it is a long time since I have had that pleasure accept my Dear Sir of my best Compliments.

Le Roy2

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsieur Franklin deputé / du Congrès en Sa maison / A Passy / Mercredy après Midy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The first of four possible Wednesdays between Belton’s apparent arrival in Paris on Jan. 16, and the date BF advanced him money for a secret mission (see below). On Jan. 16 BF had “Supply’d Mr Belton a poor ingenious American with 4 Louis”: Cash Book (Account XVI, XXVI, 3).

“Ingenious” was precisely the word BF had used a year and a half earlier in introducing the young Connecticut inventor to Washington: see XXII, 185n and 522–3. In early 1778 Belton was captured by the British and imprisoned in Dover. Released in the spring, he made his way to France, where he asked the commissioners for financial help (XXVI, 304) and eventually spent six months in Nantes without paying his hotel bill, as the innkeeper Hamelin complained to BF on Feb. 21. On his mother’s side (Tabitha Niles), Belton was related to Capt. Robert Niles of the Spy. From information kindly provided by Mr. Conrad Wilson.

9For the chevalier Patrick d’Arcy, known as comte d’Arcy as of 1777, see XVII, 235. His lifelong interest was artillery, and he, too, was the inventor of a gun. His latest communication to the Académie des sciences, on Jan. 16, dealt with recoil: procès-verbaux, XCVIII, fol. 15.

1The gun must have at least intrigued BF, for on Feb. 12 he wrote in his Cash Book: “Advanc’d to Mr Belton who is going to England on Secret Service Ten Louis. I gave him also an Order on Mr Grand for Forty Louis more.” On Feb. 13 Belton gave him a receipt for this rather large sum. Unfortunately we have been unable to determine what services, if any, Belton performed. On March 30, 1780, his father, Jonas Belton, wrote him in care of BF: he had not heard directly from his son since April, 1777, but had learned from JA, back in Boston, that Joseph had visited the commissioners on a number of occasions. APS. The fact that the letter is still among BF’s papers makes one wonder whether he had lost track of the younger Belton’s whereabouts or did not care to forward it. In 1784 Belton offered his gun to the British and eventually went into partnership with a London gunmaker: see Howard L. Blackmore, British Military Fire Arms: 1650–1850 (London, [1961]), p. 249.

2The following numbers, apparently unrelated to the letter itself, appear at the bottom of the page:


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