Jefferson's Rules for Living a Practical Life

In 1817, Thomas Jefferson sent a list of helpful rules to live by to Paul Clay, the son of his friend Charles Clay.  He refined that list in 1825 - the year he died - in a letter to John Spear Smith, on behalf of his son Thomas Jefferson Smith.  

This image depicts part of that 1825 letter in which the former President and Declaration writer lists a "decalogue of canons for observation in practical life."  Here is his list:

    Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.

    Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

    Never spend your money before you have it.

    Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

    Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.

    We never repent of having eaten too little.

    Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

    How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

    Take things always by their smooth handle.

    When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

Click on the image for a much-larger view of Jefferson’s letter.

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Library of Congress.




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