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George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (Little Books of Wisdom)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,088 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Here are the 110 rules which George Washington copied into his early notebooks and lived by all his life--from such rules as Spit not in the fire to Sleep not when others speak. Author: George Washington Format: 30 pages, Hardcover Publisher: Applewood Books (August 1, 1989) ISBN: 978-1557091031
Hardcover, 30 pages
Published August 1st 1989 by Applewood Books (first published November 30th 1887)
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Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every American ought to read--no, ought to own this book. It's only 44 pages, hardly a book at all. And the Rules of Civility are more a curiosity than anything else. But each of us should read and ponder the four addresses, especially Washington's 1796 statement on the occasion of him not seeking a third term as President, once a year.

A great read.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Have endured a week of people that really need to read this book! Then I realized I never rated it here. Thinking over the little rules here really makes me smile, at least! It's great fun with the writing style and manners covered. I seem to remember something about "do not bedew another man with your spittle by approaching too close when you speak." ;-p And while I think we can thank our lucky stars that some rules (such as how to politely pick lice off oneself in public) are no longer relevan ...more
Jul 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Originally written in about 1595, (good manners never really go out of style do they?)these rules governed the conduct of our first president George Washington. Here is the first:

1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

This one had my boys laughing:

13. Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, p
We are told that at age 14, George Washington wrote down 110 rules under the title "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation." I doubt that anyone would question that he lived his life by these rules.

Some, of course, we would consider antiquated, but there are many gems here: Rule #1 - Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present;" Rule #6 - Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you sh
Bookworm Amir
Jul 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Well for me, basic principles (what we now call protocol) on how to conduct yourself (in terms of clothing, eating, behaving, conversing).

But truth be told - a lot more people, the public really, should read this. Not everyone has had protocol training. But even so, this is something that we learn, and learn even more throughout our lifetime. And its a set of skills that will stick with you throughout your dealings with other people in whatever way.

Manners are but fading - and we need a renaiss
Jun 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: any interested in rules of civility
Supposedly written by Washington in his youth, it is said that he based it on rules of etiquette written by French Jesuit monks in the 15th century. Some of the language is a little tough to understand and some of the rules are antiquated. All in all though, a very good reference book for how to act appropriately in a variety of different situations. He has stuff like, and I paraphrase: "Don't laugh at your own jokes", "Don't ask about someone's personal business" and "Don't talk poorly of someo ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Though an interesting look at what constituted proper behavior for upper class men in the 18th century, this edition is not particularly clear on the actual origin of the rules (which were not written by Washington, but translated by him). It is unlikely that most people from other walks of life followed these even at the time, which is why the comments in other reviews to the effect that people should follow these more strictly today amuse me a little. Though yes, there are some very good sugge ...more
Willow Redd
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, common-sense
I recently received this little book from a friend written by my relative -- not long ago I discovered that President George Washington was my 3 cousin, 6 times removed. The 110 Rules which are set forth in this little 30-page book are interesting but understandably written in what from today's point of view is very archaic language. Almost all of Washington's Rules are what would generally be considered common sense. An example of both the archaic language and common sense to which I refer is R ...more
Steve Scott
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing

This was given to me by some dear friends tonight, along with one of Donald Trump's books, "The Art Of The Comeback". They suggested I compare the two.

Trump loses. Big time.

I'd recommend this to anyone interested in developing their leadership traits, character, and overall reputation. Some of the suggestions are anachronistic, but a great number are still applicable. I wish I'd had this when I was younger.

It's English is slightly archaic, but not so opaque that a bit of patience and c
Belen By
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was amazed at this book and all the rules that it gave. My teacher recommended this book for me because I was doing a research paper on rudeness for my college paper and I was at the beginning thinking that this book was not going to provide me with the information that I was going to need. I was wrong and when I began to read the book I ABSOLUTELY loved it!!! Now I can see why my teacher loved this book.. It provided all the morals that people should have nowadays but lack now..
Kristina Alley
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed learning about the rules of civility that George Washington wrote when he was only 15. One of my favorites was Rule 83d: "When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, however mean ye Person be you do it too." Think on that for a few minutes. What do you think he meant with that statement? I enjoyed thinking about it. I am challenged to maintain appropriate and careful etiquette and manners though much of that has been lost in our generation and youth.
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, manners
I read the version sold at Mount Vernon, as it caught my eye in the gift shop. Nearly all the rules are perfectly applicable in a modern age, and definitely made me think about where I'm falling short!

Reaffirms the notion that Washington really was as correct and poised in reality as one imagines in the abstract- but with a sense of humor. Delightful (tiny) read!
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very interesting little book on manners and courtesy. There are a few times that I needed to stop and 'translate' in my head what was meant, but most of the rules hold up very well. Someone else mentioned that it would be good for a teenager, and that sounds about right. Some of it is self-evident or explanatory.
Dec 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ethics
Very interesting book of proverbs. And he wrote this when he was fourteen! I wish all parents went over these rules with their fourteen-year old children. Had to think of my own translations for not spitting in the fire and other things that no longer apply to our culture. But that process made the book even more interesting - trying to figure out why there was a rule for some things.
May 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history/government buffs, etiquette buffs
Shelves: history-ish
Fun, short read that - aside from reminding me of a few basic manners I'd forgotten - imparts a sense of who the young George Washington was. Really neat to see the old spellings and young writing style!
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Charming little book; this would be a nice little gift book, and while the language is old, almost all of the contents are current. The manners required to sit "at fire" may not pertain to today, but many do such as, "Gaze not on the marks and blemishes of others and ask not how they came..."
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Its a guide on how to act civilized n d New world
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A light and breezy read, certainly worth perusal. This book would be an excellent gift for a teenager, especially a 15 year old as that was Washington's age at the time he wrote the rules. One note of caution: I read the version first produced in 1989 by The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, with an introduction by Letitia Baldrige and it certainly does present a rather cheerful and glowing slant on Washington in their commentary (not that he had many faults, but he was human afterall!). The grav ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: enlightened-mind
Some of my favorite rules:

#1 Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

#6 Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when other Stop.

#19 Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

#22 Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#44 When a man does all he can through it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
A Charming little book reportedly written by George Washington when he was just 14 years old.

The book is laid out as a list of 110 rules for decent behaviour. This may sound a bit dull but it is easy to read through as each rule is very short and most of them are perfectly relevant even today. For example; 56: "Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company" and 89; "Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust"
Dec 17, 2013 added it
Our English language has been so dumbed down that unfortuna
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book has two parts. The first part is the rules of civility and decent behavior. Which are interesting and most are still relevant in today's world. These weren't actually written by the first president but were the guidelines he was taught when he was younger. You can see how it influenced him when grew up. The second half is more his writings as General and his Presidency. This is where the book bogs down unfortunately. I found his style of writing and speaking is very difficult to get th ...more
This was a quality little gem that I'd like to own. Many of the practices should still be put into effect today so we can be more decent people. But, sadly, they've fallen by the wayside. I liked rule #96: It's unbecoming to stoop much to one's meat. Keep fingers clean and when foul wipe them on the corner of your table napkin. Why aren't I using the word foul more in my everyday conversation? That's the best word.

There were a few rules that I thought were stupid like rule #85: In company of th
Mark Woodland
Not as interesting as I thought it might be. On the other hand, I could recommend reading it to a lot of people, as they lack much of a sense of civility (the more interesting part of the book). The portion dedicated to the art of conversation is dated (still making some good points) and seems somewhat superficial. Perhaps the art of "small talk" was considered more valuable in Washington's day. Whether or not any of the principles in the book influenced other people when it was published is har ...more
Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
George Washington's 2nd rule:

"When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body, not usually discovered."

Packed with excellent gems such as this. Also, just interesting reading--many of the etiquette 'rules' (that Washington copied down at age 14 from a translation of French maxims) hold true today. Some are curious and not surprisingly obsolete, others rather thoughtful and deep. But at only 110 maxims long--it's a fast, entertaining read that would appeal to a wide variety of people:
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easily read quickly, but for maximum benefit, read slowly, read often. I am guilty of violating these ancient rules that have been passed down since before the 16th century by Jesuit Missionaries. These are rules that Washington transcribed as a 16-year old boy and now are in print, attributed to him, though he transcribed them more than 200 year after their first appearance in the 1500's. What a different world America would be were we all to follow these rules of decency. I can't change the wo ...more
Joe McClure
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
110 assorted maxims, as transcribed by President George Washington (before he was president). These brief recommendations cover all social behaviour generally, with particular note to how to act at meals and in business.
Although the list may be considered to provide insight into Washington's personality, that it has been transcribed from material put together by Jesuits means that the most that can be gleaned from it is his perspective on their teaching, and what aspects of it he (or they) felt
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a pleasant reminder of days gone past; when a modicum of decorum was seen as not exemplary, but necessary. It truly was a treasure to read, and given that our first U.S. president is author, I wish it were required reading for both public and private school systems.

Having said that, some of these rules made me "LOL":

"Run not in the streets, neither go too slowly, nor with mouth open; go not shaking your arms, kick not the earth with your feet, go not upon the toes; nor in a dancing fash
Jun 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This was a quick fun read -- of course the Golden Rule is the basis, with some old fashioned rules (let your betters enter first and women must sit upright with their knees and ankles together). It was written by the Jesuit priests for the upper class young men of the time (don't spit your chicken bones on the floor) and reveals a very interesting George Washington, who according to all accounts had quite a temper, but tried to live up to the "Rules of Civility". My nephew of 16 read it in an ho ...more
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Born in 1732 into a Virginia planter family, he learned the morals, manners, and body of knowledge requisite for an 18th century Virginia gentleman.

He pursued two intertwined interests: military arts and western expansion. At 16 he helped survey Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax. Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, he fought the first skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indi
“56.Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad Company.” 5 likes
“90. Being Set at meat Scratch not, neither Spit, Cough, or blow your Nose except there's a Necessity for it.” 3 likes
More quotes…