“A good moral character is the first essential. It is highly important not only to be learned but to be virtuous.” ~George Washington
George Washington’s first lessons in good breeding came from a book entitled Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, which listed 110 rules of behavior for young men. The Rules of Civility were originally compiled and published by French Jesuits in 1595. This code of conduct was translated into an English version called Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, and was reprinted at least eleven times between 1640 – 1672.
One copy of this English translation came into the hands of George Washington when he was about 16 years old, at his Ferry Farm home near Fredericksburg circa 1744. Washington carefully hand-copied these rules into a notebook, presumably as an exercise in penmanship. At the same time, the rules taught the teenage Washington how to walk, talk, and eat. They also conveyed a moral message, of paying attention to those around you.
September is Children’s Good Manners Month, and although the month is almost over, it’s never too late to teach your children proper behavior. Have your children (and teens!) learn general courtesies, manners and morals the way George Washington did! Click here for a free copy of “George Washington’s Rules of Civility” in a 17-page e-book.
Did You Know…? The Library of Congress owns George Washington’s original handwritten manuscript for Rules of Civility, along with many of his other school exercises.