A Mother’s Advice to Her Boy

The following is a letter to a fourteen year old Andrew Jackson from his mom, Elizabeth, before she went away to Charleston to help other children wounded in the fighting of the Revolutionary War. Already fatherless, with his two older brothers killed by the British, these are the last words he ever heard from his mother, as she too died while helping others.

“Andrew, if I should not see you again, I wish you to remember and treasure up some things I have already said to you: in this world you will have to make your own way. To do that you must have friends. You can make friends by being honest, and you can keep them by being steadfast. You must keep in mind that friends worth having will in the long run expect as much from you as they give to you. To forget an obligation or be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime- not merely a fault or a sin, but an actual crime. Men guilty of it sooner or later must suffer the penalty.

In personal conduct be always polite but never obsequious. None will respect you more than you respect yourself. Avoid quarrels as long as you can without yielding to imposition. But sustain your manhood always. Never bring a suit in law for assault and battery or for defamation. The law affords no remedy for such outrages that can satisfy the feelings of a true man. Never wound the feelings of others. Never brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings. If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait till your wrath cools before you proceed.”

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