Thomas Jefferson has some cool New Year’s resolutions

1967
Image: “A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life.” Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress

You’re probably putting off a few changes until the beginning of the year. Maybe it’s to quit smoking, or lose some weight, or drink less, exercise more or try to get along better with your neighbors, we’ve all got something we’d like to change. (I have to give up cussing, wish me luck! Kelly)

But sometimes the best advice is just to be a better person. And while he obviously didn’t stick to all his own rules, old Tom Jefferson had a great list for a young fella who’d been named for him.

In 1825, the year before his death, Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd U.S. President, was asked to supply some words of wisdom to a young man, Thomas Jefferson Smith, who had recently been named after him. Jefferson responded with a handwritten letter, at the end of which was the following 10-point list of advice for the youngster, titled,

“A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life.”

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

2. Never trouble another with what you can do yourself

3. Never spend your money before you have it

4. Never buy a thing you do not want, because it is cheap, it will be dear to you.

6. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.

7. We never repent of having eat[en] too little.

8. Nothing is troublesome that one does willingly.

9. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happen d!

10. Take things always by their smooth handle.

12. When angry, count 10. before you speak; if very angry, 100.