While Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments were vast, so were his debts upon his death. There are several reasons why he ended up owing $1-$2 million when he died, many of which he inherited. However, he definitely lived beyond his means. So it is not without a bit of irony that one of his most quoted collections of advice is the following “Decalogue of canons for observation in practical life.” (An earlier version had 12 canons. Jefferson wrote this shorter version nearer to his death.)
1 | Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
2 | Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
3 | Never spend your money before you have it.
4 | Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
5 | Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
6 | We never repent of having eaten too little.
7 | Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. | How much pain have cost us the evils which have never
8 | How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
9 | Take things always by their smooth handle.
10 | When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.
Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson
Rembrandt Peale, 1800, Wikipedia Commons