"Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly."
Having lost his own son in infancy, Thomas Jefferson
looked upon his sister's child, Peter Carr, as his own. He invested heavily in his nephew, going so far as to ask James Madison
to be the boy's preceptor during Jefferson's diplomatic mission to France. Not totally trusting Madison or George Wythe to instill the proper level of morality and manners Jefferson believed his nephew in need of, he penned a steady stream of letters to Peter.
Jefferson wrote on all manner of subjects
, from leadership and studies to books Peter should read and the fact that he should master math and science. Jefferson often included books in his shipments to young Peter.
In the area of morality, Thomas Jefferson quotes offered these little gems in his letters, "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, courageous, etc." As a moral test, Jefferson told Peter, "Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly."
It's a good thing young Peter didn't have a Facebook account, though many of us could use this same advice as a guide in our own lives online.