Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation (part 1)
Here we are, after a ridiculous result on the election. The times to come will be hard and complicated, and most probably there will be people with a total lack of respect for others since the chosen president shows that about half of the USA supports being disrespectful, racist and intolerant.
But not us. No, sir! We all know that this is the very right time to behave like real ladies and gentlemen, and treat all people as equals in the most civil ways. So here are the 110 rules that the 16 year-old George Washington copied by hand from Francis Hawkins’ “Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men” (published in 1640, and taken from the French Jesuits composition from 1595), and they are still as universal now as they were in the 18th century, even if they sound a little outdated. I’ve added some notes taken from the Foundations Magazine” to some key rules for all of us to follow and divided the rules in two parts so we’ll have two long posts and not one super-long post XD.
1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present. (Treat everyone with respect.)
2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.
3. Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him. (Be considerate of others. Do not embarrass others.)
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 Drest.
8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Comer, 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.
11. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
12. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
13. Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
14. Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
15. Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
16. Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
17. Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play’d Withal.
18. Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask’d also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
19. Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
20. The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
21. Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
22. Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
23. When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
24. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle. (Don’t draw attention to yourself.)
25. Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
26. In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
27. ‘Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being ask’d; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
28. If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
29. When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
30. In walking the highest Place in most Countries Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the middest Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
31. If any one far Surpasses others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.
32. To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the chief Place in your Lodging and he to who 'tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
33. They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Precedence but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualities, though they have no Publick charge.
34. It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
35. Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive. (When you speak, be concise.)
36. Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy, without Arrogance.
37. In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
38. In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.
39. In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
40. Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty. (Do not argue with your superior. Submit your ideas with humility.)
41. Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.
42. Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.
43. Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
44. When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it. (When a person does their best and fails, do not criticize him.)
45. Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness. (When you must give advice or criticism, consider the timing, whether it should be given in public or private, the manner and above all be gentle.)
46. Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them. (If you are corrected, take it without argument. If you were wrongly judged, correct it later.)
47. Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant obtain from Laughing
thereat yourself. (Do not make fun of anything important to others)
48. Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts. (If you criticize someone else of something, make sure you are not guilty of it yourself. Actions speak louder than words.)
49. Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
50. Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any. (Do not be quick to believe bad reports about others)