George Washington’s Rules of Civility


    If you’re like me, you may not have known that George Washington put assembled some rules of civility. I initially saw these in Twentieth Century Edition, Hill’s Manual Illustrated, but have since noticed them circulated in newspapers during the late 1800s.  Here are some that make good sense and are never out of style:

  • Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.
  • Undertake not to teach your equal in the art he himself professes; it savors of arrogancy.
  • When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.
  • Wherein you reprove another be unblamable yourself, for example is more prevalent than precept.
  • Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of anyone.
  • Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
  • Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest.  Scoff at none, although they give reason.
  • Speak no evil of the absent, for it is unjust.
  • In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.
  • Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
  • Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.
  • In disputes be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion.

On personal appearance:

  • Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you will be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings set neatly and your clothes handsomely.
  • In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than procure admiration.  Keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and place. 

     So in closing today, let’s all take George’s advice and remember “play not the peacock”.

Taken from the Twentieth Century Edition, Hill’s Manual Illustrated A Guide to Correct Writing with Approved Methods of Speaking and Acting in the Various Relations of Life, Embracing Instructions and Examples….Greatly Enlarged and Profusely Illustrated, Revised and Corrected to the Latest Dates by Thos E. Hill, Chicago, W.B. Conkey Company, 1905


2 comments on “George Washington’s Rules of Civility

  1. That was really interesting, Jane.

    I love the formality, eloquence and ability to maintain a sense of humor during that time period. Great piece!

    xo, Musey

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