New Year’s resolutions are not a recent phenomenon – in fact, the practice of beginning a new trip of the earth around the sun has its roots in ancient Babylonia.
A recently uncovered document in the papers of Thomas Jefferson shows that even he had his doubts about certain aspects of his life and that he endeavored to change them, even going so far one year as to put these pronouncements to writing. Scholars are currently assessing the validity and provenance of this document, but most of those who have seen the original agree it is Jefferson’s own hand that wrote the document that is reproduced, word-for-Jeffersonian-word, below.
It is a basic template still is use today for those trying to better themselves.
(Note that this is apparently a rough draft, replete with grammatical errors, and Jefferson’s own, written asides – presumably he edited his draft at a later date, though the final document has yet to be discovered. It is a bit lengthy – boy, could that man preamble.)
INEBRIATED, January 1, 1775
The Unanimous Declaration of Me
When in the Course of human events (Life, 101) it becomes necessary for one to dissolve the bands which have connected them to their bad habits, bad outcomes, and general lack of success or forward movement, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of others requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation from these old, destructive ways, and give doing better the ol’ college try.
Here we go, then.
I hold these truths to be self-evident, that I was created, that I am endowed (not to brag) by my Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. I have pursued, to be sure, but have not always captured my prey— but to secure these rights, resolutions are instituted among Men such as myself when a new year arrives, those resolutions deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, me — That whenever any Form of behavior becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Guy to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new behavior, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. At least until the second week of January.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate – wait! Prudence isn’t here, she left the party early, so I am doing my own transcription! that bad habits long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Therefore, resolved, hereby, that in the year ahead, I should state my claims and points more succinctly.
But when a long train of self-abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism of self-crumminess, it is my right, it is my duty, to throw off such behaviours, and to provide new ideas for their future security in place of the old ones that aint working so hot. Hence, this declaration of determination to change for the better henceforth the year ahead of 1775.
— Such has been the patient sufferance of those around me; that I get my doodie together and such is now the necessity which constrains me to alter my former Systems of Self Government/Control.
For instance, I should trade gluttony and ale for more roughage and juice drinks. To this end, I bought myself a juicer at ye after Christmas Norfolk docks bazar.
The history of my present behaviours generally sucks – a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over my life. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world, I will eat less, drink less, exercise more and continue swear off my use of the product of tobacco – grow it, don’t blow it.
Except for occasional use of the unusual, greenish variety proffered by my good friend, F-Ben-jammin’.
I have refused Assent to Laws and Logic, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. But when I’m good, I am very good, tho when I am not so good I am not good at all. I can, and will, do better!
I have forbidden myself to pass personal Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till my Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, I have utterly neglected to attend to them. be it resolved that I do better with items of import, not just what I want to do when I want to do it. I have long been too much a davenport slug of the garden variety.
I have refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. ‘My way or the highway’ needs to be more forthwith and inclusive of the opinions of others. Sometimes I need to just shut up.
I have called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with my measures. Sometimes I can be a real ass. I need to do better – especially when hanging out at C-hall with the guys.
I have obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. I need to be less judgmental of others, except in cases when absolutely necessary – Madison and Hancock notwithstanding.
In conclusion, I resolve the upcoming for the new year ahead:
Depriving myself of excessive carnal pleasures and whatnot, to the goal of extending and enhancing my self-control in all facets of life. Excepting the periodic consumption of the food known as pizza. Pizza stays.
That transporting myself beyond the boundaries of Monticello be more by foot, less by horseback or carriage
I will endeavor to be less Mercenary to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized family. I resolve to spend more ‘quality time’ with stated familial members – say in games of ninepins, playing cards, or Colonopoly.
In every stage of these self-Oppressions I have Petitioned for Redress in the humblest terms: this coming year, I shall succeed where in the past I have failed after short periods of the passing of the calendar, therefore I have appealed to my native justice and magnanimity, and have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence, hence this document of self-revelation.
Oh, I will also hold and hold others, as I hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. With the exception of my pitiful neighbors, the Crown-loving Johnsons.
I, therefore, the Representative of my own countenance, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my noble intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of my own free will, solemnly publish and declare, the support of this Declaration of Resolutions for 1775, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge to myself good Fortunes, and sacred Honor.
– Mark L. Lucker