Be like George - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Be like George

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Posted: Monday, February 19, 2007 3:43 am | Updated: 6:09 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

In an era (the 1740s) when chivalry was important, a teen-age George Washington created what he called a list of 110 “rules of civility and decent behavior in company and conversation.”

Based on a 16th-century set of precepts compiled for young gentlemen by Jesuit instructors, the Rules of Civility were one of the earliest and most powerful forces to shape America’s first president, historian Richard Brookhiser told National Public Radio. We note on this Presidents Day that many of them stand the test of time. Here are the first 25 rules, courtesy of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, Ashland University, Ohio (www.ashbrook.org).

1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

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

3. Show nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.

5. If you cough, sneeze, sigh or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.

6. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.

7. Put not off your cloths in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half-dressed.

8. At play and at fire, it’s good manners to give place to the last comer, and affect not to speak louder than ordinary.

9. Spit not in the fire, nor stoop low before it neither, put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire especially if there be meat before it.

10. When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even, without putting one on the other or crossing them.

11. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor gnaw your nails.

12. Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other; wry not the mouth, and bedew no man’s face with your spittle, by approaching too near him when you speak.

13. Kill no vermin as 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 cloths of your companions; put it off privately, and if it be upon your own cloths return. Thanks to him who puts it off.

14. Turn not your back to others especially in speaking, jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.

15. Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

16. Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue, rub the hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the lips too open or too close.

17. Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delights not to be played withal.

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.

19. Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

20. The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.

21. Reproach none for the infirmities of nature, nor delight to put them that have in mind thereof.

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

23. When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased; but always show pity to the suffering offender.

24. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle.

25. Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.

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