Maxims related to good behavior.

Jackson began keeping his book of maxims in 1848. He polished and gave attention to them while on the faculty at VMI in the early 1850s.

The original book is held at Tulane University.

“The maxims–Jackson’s self-selected principles of personal conduct and self-improvement–are brief and to the point. They were recorded by the general in a small blue-marbled notebook over a five-year period, starting in 1848, and are largely drawn from the collective practical and philosophical teachings of others who influenced Jackson’s life, including Lord Chesterfield, John Bunyan, Joel Parker, O. S. Foster, George Winfred Hervey, and, most significantly to Jackson, the Bible.”

He was not the original author of most of the sayings. Instead, he compiled them and organized them according to to three major headings. The first was accumulating friends. The second heading related to social conversation. The third relates to good behavior.

1. Through life let your principal object be the discharge of your duty: if anything conflicts with is, adhere to the former and sacrifice the latter.

Be sociable – speak to all who speak to you and those whose acquaintance you do not wish to avoid, hesitate not to notice them first.

When in company, do not endeavor to monopolize all the conversation unless such monopolization appears necessary, but be content with listening and gaining information, yet converse rather than suffer conversation to draw to a close unnecessarily.

2. Disregard public opinion when it interfears with your duty.

After you have formed an acquaintance with an individual, never allow it to draw to a close without a cause.

3. Endeavor to be at peace with all men.

Never speak disrespectfully of any one without a cause.

4. Endeavor to do well every thing which you undertake through preference.

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

6. Sacrifice your life rather than your word.

Be temperate. Eat too little rather than too much.

7. Let your conduct towards men have some uniformity.

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

Silence – speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid triffling conversation.

Order – Let all things have their places: let each part of your business have its time.

8. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought: perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., waste nothing.

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

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

Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries or ommitting the benfits that are your duty.

Moderation -Avoid extremes: forbear resenting injuries so 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.



You may be whatever you resolve to be.

Motives to action (Viz)

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 character.

5. Fix upon a high standard of action

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 great divisions: physical, mental & moral.
Whatever relates to health belongs to the first.
Whatever relates improvement of the mind belongs to the second.
The formation of good manners & virtuous habits constitutes [the ] third.

Politeness and good-breeding

Good breeding or true politeness is the art of showing men by external signs the internal regard we have for them.

It arises from good sense improved by good company.

It must be acquired by practice and not by books.

Be kind, condescending & affable.

Any one who has any thing to say to a fellow human being to say it with a kind feeling & sincere desire to please & this when ever it is done will atone for much awkwardness in the manner of expression.

Forced complaisance is fopping 9sic0 & affected easiness is ridiculous.

Good breeding is opposed to selfishness, vanity or pride.

Endeavor to please with out hardly allowing it to be perceived.

Plain rules for attaining the character of a well bred man:

1. Never weary your company by talking too long or too frequently.
2. Always look people in the face when addressing them & generally when they address you.
3. Attend to a person who is addressing you.
4. Do not interrupt the person who speaking by saying yes or no & such at every sentence.
An occasional assent by word or action may be well enough.

List source in Robertson, Stonewall Jackson, [1997: 154ff.] .

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