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George Washington’s Rules of Civility

September 9, 2013

“Every Action done in Company ought to be with Some Sign of Respect to those that are Present.”  This is the very first of the 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation which were practiced by George Washington throughout his life. 


Many of the other rules are mere corollaries of this main idea.  For example, Rule 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 unasked; also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.”


Some pertain to having a proper perspective regarding humanity’s standing before God:  “When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence.” (First Part of Rule 108)


Rule 23 even affords dignity to the criminal: “When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.”


Finally, if Rule 49 were applied by those living in the 21st century, the number of comments following most online articles would be greatly reduced: “Use no Reproachful Language against any one; neither Curse nor Revile.”

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