Thursday, October 8, 2009

Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation

When I taught 3rd grade, one of our most fun units was when we studied daily life in colonial times. That unit usually fell at this time of year. One of the resources that we used when we were comparing life today to life in the 1700's was George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. He wrote his "rules" by the time he was sixteen years old! What we wouldn't give to have some 16 yr. olds (or 30-40 year olds for that matter) to aspire to these ideals.
I have thought about this a lot recently because of the lack of civility that I see on a daily basis. It doesn't seem that many people adhere to the Golden Rule anymore. It's pretty much every man for himself whether it's getting in line to board a plane so that you can make sure that you get an overhead compartment to stow your "carry-on;" taking the largest portion at a meal before anyone else has been served; or a complete stranger telling Erin that her neice needs to be home in bed at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday night. I'll comment a little more on this when I post pictures from my trip with Amy and Katie to Denver. Here are some of George's rules (not necessarily in the order in which they were written):
  • When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & wt. Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be poor.
  • Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.
  • Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
  • Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
  • Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
  • Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no man's face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you speak. I especially like the rolling the eyes part!
  • Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  • Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
  • Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
  • Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy...
  • Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiours.
  • Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
  • Undertake not what you cannot perform but be carefull to keep your promise.
  • Make no shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness...
  • ...Good humour makes one dish of Meat a Feast.

These are just some of George's 110 "rules." He was a very wise 16 years old. If you want to read them all go here.

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