Over the next several months we will take each Saturday to look at George Washington’s “Rules of Civility”. Originally written in 1595 by French Jesuits and translated into English in 1640 (see here for a more extensive history), they have become known as Washington’s rules because of the great influence they had on him; in fact, when he was about 16 years old he copied out by hand all 110 rules in a school book. While many of these rules may seem quaint or unimportant in this day and age, it is hard to argue that our culture could exercise a few more social graces–and what better person to learn from than the Father of our Country, a perfect gentleman by all accounts. So without further ado, here are the first ten Rules. Stay tuned for next week’s post!
1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
3. Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
4. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
5. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.
6. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.
8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
9. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
10. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
*All spelling is original