Washington Feb. 3. 09.
I recieved in due time your favor of Dec. 28. covering the tragedy of the unfortunate Louis XVI. and I am sure you are too reasonable not to have ascribed the delay of answer which has intervened to it’s true cause, the never-ceasing pressure of business which cannot be deferred. I have read the piece with great satisfaction. I recognise in Louis that purity of virtue, & sincere patriotism which I knew made a part of his real character. the sound good sense, & exalted sentiments he is made to utter were proper to his character, whether actually a part of it or not. I say nothing of style, not doubting it’s merit, & conscious I am no judge of it in a foreign language. I believe it impossible, in any but our native tongue, to be so thoroughly sensible of the delicacies of style, which constitute an essential merit in poetical composition, as to criticize them with correctness.
I wish that, in the prefatory piece, the character which is the subject of it, did not fall still farther short of it’s representation than that of the principal personage in the main piece. I have never claimed any other merit than of good intentions, sensible that in the choice of measures, error of judgment has too often had it’s influence. and with whatever indulgence my countrymen as well as yourself, have been so kind as to view my course, yet they would certainly not know one in the picture here drawn, & would, I fear, say, in the words of the poet ‘Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.’ were therefore the piece to be proposed for the press, I should certainly intreat you to revise that part with a severe eye.
I believe I mentioned to you, on a former occasion, that the late act of Congress for raising additional troops required that the officers should all be citizens of the US. should there be war however, I am persuaded this policy must be abandoned, & that we must avail ourselves of the experience of other nations, in certain lines of service at least. In that expectation I shall leave with my successor the papers in my possession from which he may be sensible of the benefits we may recieve from your aid.
I pray you to accept my salutations & assurances of respect.
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.