Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jean-Charles-Pierre Lenoir, 29 October 1779

To Jean-Charles-Pierre Lenoir8

Copy: Library of Congress

Passy, Oct. 29. 1779.


One of the Persons you had Notice of from Caen named Smith,9 has just now been with me. He Says, the other Watt,1 has been and continues ill, Since their arrival at Paris which is the reason of their not coming to me sooner. They have no Letters for me. But he Show’d me one for the Marquis de la fayette; & he desired a Pass from me to go to Havre in order to deliver it. As I know nothing of him or his Companion, and look upon it as a frivolous Errand, The going to havre to deliver a Letter which he might as well send per Post, I refus’d to give him a Pass. And yet the man seems rather too weak and silly to be concern’d in any Plot.

I examin’d him about Virginia, and find him so much acquainted with that Country, that I have no doubt of his having been there. He Says they are come over with commercial Purposes; that he is to go back, and Watt to Stay here, and that they are employ’d by a Coll Scot in Virginia. I think it may be well to observe them farther and If I learn any thing more of them, I Shall immediately communicate it.

With great Respect I have the honour to be. Sir.

Mr. Le Noir.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The head of the Paris police.

9Probably Capt. Granville Smith of Grayson’s regiment, who had resigned his commission on July 15, 1778: Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 370; E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra, comp., A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774–1787 (Richmond, 1978), p. 74. In a Nov. 10 letter to BF (APS) Lafayette recommended him as a former army officer now in partnership with Brig. Gen. Scott (i.e., Charles Scott, for whom see the DAB). Granville Smith later became deputy quartermaster of Virginia: Jefferson Papers, IV, 327, 445n.

1Probably Capt. John Watts of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons, largely disbanded in early 1779. A Virginian like Smith and Scott, he later served as a lieutenant colonel of light dragoons: Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 424; Sanchez-Saavedra, Guide to Virginia Military Organizations, p. 103; Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols., New York and London, 1961–87), XXIV, 82n. Lafayette recommended him as well. If our identifications of Smith and Watts are correct they did not spend long in Europe.

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