In a letter to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the Thomas Jefferson writes:

Under temptation and difficulties, I would ask myself what would Dr. Small, Mr. Wythe, Peyton Randolph do in this situation?

Letter to thomas jefferson randolph, washington, november 24, 1808

This struck me because I thought about a description of duty-based ethics that I once read. I wish I could remember where I read this, but the idea was that the follower of duty-based ethics would, when faced with a dilemma, ask her- or himself questions like, ‘what would a courageous person do?’ or ‘what would an honest person do?’ He seems to be proposing something similar.

For those who haven’t been reading too much by and about Jefferson for the last half decade, Dr. Small was Jefferson’s professor at William and Mary, Mr. Wythe was his mentor in the practice of law, and Peyton Randolph was the first President of the Continental Congress (who, incidentally, died of ‘apoplexy’ whilst dining with Jefferson).