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George Washington's Rules of Civility and…

George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and…

by George Washington

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581526,440 (3.79)47
Taking his inspiration from a 16th century French manual on etiquette, young George Washington compiled his own set of instructions under the title, The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. These concise rules to live by have been studied and copied by millions of readers eager to absorb Washington{u2019}s secrets of success in life and work. Neither unduly severe nor sentimental, the rules have stood the test of time and still reverberate today.… (more)



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George Washington wrote Rules for Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation at the age of 14 (in 1746) while drawing upon an English translation of an earlier French deportment guide. A couple of my favorites are 22 and 23: "Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy" and "When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased, but always show pity to the suffering offender."
The maxims grant insight into the young Washington's philosophy as well as the prevailing attitudes regarding behavior and deportment around the time of the American Revolution. Some more background or an introductory essay comparing Washington's edition with the original English and French volumes would have been nice, but this will still entertain those interested in the development of standards for deportment and early American codes of conduct. ( )
  DarthDeverell | May 16, 2016 |
At the age of 14, George Washington translated and copied down a list of 110 French maxims on civility and decent behavior. Reading these, I'm willing to bet that Washington would be appalled at the current state of civility in the world, but then, I'm sure there were also plenty of people in his own time that appalled him if he truly believed and followed all of these rules.

I think my favorite of the bunch is number 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 man's face with your spittle by approaching too near him when you speak." Firstly, I'm willing to bet the French writer included the eyebrow thing just because he couldn't do it, and felt annoyed when others could. Second, we really should use the word "bedew" more often these days.

You may remember hearing this book get a mention on Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. President Bartlett is seen reading the book at one point and explains to his aide Charlie how the book came to be. Then he calls Washington a "poncy little twerp" after reading one of the maxims (the 2nd one, I believe. I'm too tired to Google it right now. The quote from Bartlett could be off as well, but he definitely calls George "poncy"). ( )
  regularguy5mb | Nov 26, 2014 |
A quick and interesting little collection of aphorisms on courtesy and respect by George Washington. He wrote this when he was 14 years old, and these maxims are not original, but selected by Washington from an English translation of a French book of etiquette. It may be more appropriate to identify the young Washington as the editor rather than the author. Much of the wisdom is common sense, "Sleep not while others speak" or "Jog not the table or desk where another reads or writes." Others are bits of antiquated etiquette. There are a number which would improve the world if more people were to observe them. ( )
1 vote fingerpost | Jun 23, 2010 |
George Washington's Rules of Civility was written by a young teenage Washington as part of a classroom assignment in 1745. He copied down, probably dictated by a teacher, the 110 "Rules of Civility". Rules range from the banal to the profound, from the peculiar to the universal. Some of the more entertaining include the age-old rule of double-dipping: If you dip your bread or meat into the gravy, do not do so immediately after biting a piece off.. while other rules reveal some thankfully forgotten habits: Bones, peel, wine and the like should not be thrown under the table...

This volume is edited by John Phillips and includes a fascinating investigation of the rules origins, going back through many authors and variations, originating with a Florentine Italian Humanist in the early 16th century. This type of book is part of the genre known as the Courtesy Book which were popular in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as ways for "new men" to enter polite society. Today books like this would be called self-help, although it is unfortunate the basic rules of civility are not longer part of standard education. This is a great little volume full of timeless wisdom. That fact that George Washington wrote it down at age 14 makes it all the more fascinating to connect the past in a relevant way with the present that I think most people can easily connect with.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Oct 5, 2008 |
110 incredible "rules of conduct" written by George Washington at age 14! Bound in red leather with gold stamping on spine and cover [bbt/06@NatPkServGiftShop:Boston)
  fredheid | Jul 3, 2006 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Washingtonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baldrige, LetitiaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haslett, AdamIntroduction & Annotationssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phillips, John T., IIEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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...your union outh to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other. -- Address at the end of his presidency, New York City, September 19, 1796
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It is perhaps the defining moment of the United States, the most shining and influential example of the nobility and character of the American people.
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Please distinguish between these separate publications of George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation and similarly titled anthologies including this Work. Thank you.
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