Jackson in 1862

While he was a young cadet at West Point, the future General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson began writing down a book of maxims which he wished to apply to his life. He drew some of them, at least, from the books he read, such as the Bible or Politeness and Good-Breeding. Men and women of today would be well advised to take these maxims for themselves.

You may be whatever you resolve to be.

Through life let your principal object be the discharge of duty.

Disregard public opinion when it interferes with your duty.

Endeavor to be at peace with all men.

Sacrifice your life rather than your word.

Endeavor to do well everything which you undertake.

Never speak disrespectfully of any one without a cause.

Spare no effort to suppress selfishness, unless that effort would entail sorrow.

Let your conduct towards men have some uniformity.

Resolve to perform what you ought ; perform without fail what you resolve.


Temperance: Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.

Silence: Speak but what may benefit others or yourself ; avoid trifling conversation.

Frugality : Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself ; waste nothing.

Industry: Lose no time ; be always employed in something useful ; cut off unnecessary actions.

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit ; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice: Wrong no man by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation: Avoid extremes ; forbear resenting injuries as much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, nor at accidents, common or unavoidable.

Motives to action

  1. Regard to your own happiness.
  2. Regard for the family to which you belong.
  3. Strive to attain a very great elevation of character.
  4. Fix upon a high standard of action and character.

It is man’s highest interest not to violate, or attempt to violate, the rules which Infinite Wisdom has laid down. The means by which men are to attain great elevation may be classed in three divisions — physical, mental, and moral. Whatever relates to health, belongs to the first; whatever relates to the improvement of the mind, belongs to the second. The formation of good manners and virtuous habits constitutes the third.

Choice of Friends

  1. A man is known by the company he keeps.
  2. Be cautious in your selection.
  3. There is danger of catching the habits of your associates.
  4. Seek those who are intelligent and virtuous; and, if possible, those who are a little above you, especially in moral excellence.
  5. It is not desirable to have a large number of intimate friends ; you may have many acquaintances, but few intimate friends. If vou have one who is what he should be, you are comparatively happy.

That friendship may be at once fond and lasting, there must not only be equal virtue in each, but virtue of the same kind : not only the same end must be proposed, but the same means must be approved.


Be kind, condescending, and affable.

Any one who has anything to say to a fellow-being, to say it with kind feelings and sincere desire to please; and this, whenever it is done, will atone for much awkwardness in the manner of expression.

Good-breeding is opposed to selfishness, vanity, or pride.

Never weary your company by talking too long or too frequently.

Always look people in the face when addressing them, and generally when they address you.

Never engross the whole conversation to yourself. Say as little of yourself and friends as  possible.

Make it a rule never to accuse without due consideration any body or association of men.

Never try to appear more wise or learned than the rest of the company. Not that you should affect ignorance, but endeavor to remain within your own proper sphere.


Jackson's Signature
Jackson’s Signature

Drawn from Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson by Mary Anna Jackson (Louisville, KY: The Prentice Press, 1895) by p. 35-38.

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