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My daughter died.

On the 17th. instant [i.e. April] our hopes & fears here took their ultimate form.
To James Madison, April 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders will be laid low now and then.
When Congress adjourned, the President returned to Monticello to see his daughter Maria. She had given birth to her third child in February and was not recovering.

Jefferson wrote six letters from the time of his arrival at Monticello through the date of this letter to Secretary of State Madison, his closest personal and political confidante. Five of those missives were devoted first to affairs of state and then to the deteriorating condition of his dear daughter.

This letter was no different. He began with ongoing diplomatic difficulties with England. His last paragraph began with this sentence, telling his friend of Maria’s death six days earlier. This was the first letter he wrote after her passing. He went on to write that he would stay at Monticello longer than he planned, citing “a desire to see my family in a state of more composure before we separate.”

The baby, who bore her mother’s name, would live only two years.

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