Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. He’s often regarded as one of the most intelligent presidents in our history. John F. Kennedy started his speech at the 1962 Nobel convention with the following quote, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Jefferson was an avid letter writer, and often took the opportunity to advise his children, grandchildren and others on matters of personal conduct. Over the years he developed a list of advice on personal behavior that he would send to family and friends. In his most detailed letter to his granddaughter, Thomas Jefferson outlined the following 12 “Canon’s of Conduct”.

Jefferson’s Code of Conduct

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

2. 

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Never trouble another with what you can do yourself.

3.

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Never spend your money before you have it.

Thomas Jefferson bore the burden of substantial monetary debt throughout his life. Except for a brief period at the beginning of the nineteenth it was not possible to declare bankruptcy and his reputation kept creditors at bay. While debt was not unusual for Virginia planters of his time, his eventually grew so large that his family were forced to sell much of his property, including Monticello, after Jefferson’s death.

His grandson and executor of his estate, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, posted an advertisement for his estate sale, indicating that Jefferson’s debts at his death amounted to $107,000. Converting this figure into a modern estimate is an inexact process, but it would be somewhere between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. (Source)

4.

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

5. Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.

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

7.

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We never repent of having eat too little.

8.

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Nothing is troublesome that one does willingly.

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

10. Take things always by their smooth handle.

11.

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Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.

12.

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

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“Take care of your cents; Dollars will take care of themselves.” – Thomas Jefferson

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“I would rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” – Thomas Jefferson

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“Whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the Sun.” – Thomas Jefferson

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“Above all things, lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly and courageous.” – Thomas Jefferson

To read more about Thomas Jefferson’s Code of Conduct, click here.

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