Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Abigail Adams, 20 May 1804

From Abigail Adams

Quincy May 20th 1804


Had you been no other than the private inhabitant of Montecello, I should e’er this time have addrest you, with that sympathy, which a recent event has awakend in my Bosom. but reasons of various kinds withheld my pen, untill the powerfull feelings of my heart, have burst through the restraint, and called upon me to shed the tear of sorrow over the departed remains, of your beloved and deserving Daughter, an event which I most sincerely mourn.

The attachment which I formed for her, when you committed her to my care; upon her arrival in a foreign Land: has remained with me to this hour, and the recent account of her Death, which I read in a late paper, brought fresh to my remembrance the strong sensibility she discovered, tho but a child of nine years of age at having been seperated from her Friends, and country, and brought, as she expressed it, “to a strange land amongst strangers.” the tender scene of her seperation from me, rose to my recollection, when she clung arround my neck and wet my Bosom with her tears—saying, “o! now I have learnt to Love you, why will they tear me from you”

It has been some time since that I conceived of any event in this Life, which could call forth, feelings of Mutual sympathy. but I know how closely entwined arround a parents heart, are those Chords which bind the filial to the parental Bosom, and when snaped assunder, how agonizing the pangs of seperation

I have tasted the bitter cup, and bow with reverence, and humility before the great Dispenser of it, without whose permission, and over ruling providence; not a sparrow falls to the ground. That you may derive comfort and consolation in this Day of your sorrow and affliction, from that only source calculated to heal the wounded heart—a firm belief in the Being, perfections and attributes of God, is the sincere and ardent wish of her, who once took pleasure in

Subscribing Herself your Friend

Abigail Adams

RC (NNPM); endorsed by TJ as received 2 June and so recorded in SJL. FC (MHi: Adams Papers); in Adams’s hand. Enclosed in TJ to John Wayles Eppes, 4 June, and Eppes to TJ, 14 June.

when you committed her to my care: after the death of his daughter Lucy in 1784, TJ had been determined to bring his youngest surviving daughter Polly (Mary) from Virginia to join him and her sister, Martha, in Paris. Polly, who was attended by Sally Hemings in the transatlantic voyage, stayed with the Adams family in London from late June until early July 1787, when TJ sent an escort to accompany the girls to France. Abigail Adams acknowledged that she had “never felt so attached to a child in my Life on so short an acquaintance,” and her husband confessed he had never seen “a more charming Child” (Vol. 7:441; 8:451; 10:621; 11:501-3, 514, 572-4, 575; 12:112; 15:620).

Notice of Mary’s death appeared in the Boston press in early May (Boston Commercial Gazette, 3 May).

tasted the bitter cup: Abigail and John’s son Charles had died in 1800. “I sincerely wish you may never experience any thing in any degree resembling it,” wrote John Adams to TJ of the loss (Vol. 33:426).

not a sparrow falls to the ground: Matthew 10:29.

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