George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior

By Washington, George

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Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, the 110 precepts which make up this work were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins' Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from this work that George Washington seems to have copied. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette and offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one's superiors.