George Washington - Ada Russell

Rules of Conduct

These rules are taken from Washington's schoolboy exercise hooks. They show the standard of good manners and morals of his time.

  1. Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.
  2. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.
  3. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop.
  4. Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not on any one.
  5. Be no flatterer; neither play with any one that delights not to be played with.
  6. Read no letters, books, or papers in company; but when there is a necessity for doing it, you must ask leave. Come not near the books or writings of any one so as to read them, unless desired, nor give your opinion of them unasked; also, look not nigh when another is writing a letter.
  7. Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.
  8. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.
  9. When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop and retire, especially if it be at a door or any strait place, to give way for him to pass.
  10. They that are in dignity, or in office, have in all places precedency; but whilst they are young they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth or other qualities, though they have no public charge.
  11. It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they be above us, with whom in no sort we ought to begin.
  12. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.
  13. In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.
  14. In writing, or speaking, give to every person his due title, according to his degree and the custom of the place.
  15. Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.
  16. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes: it savors of arrogancy.
  17. When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.
  18. Being to advise, or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private, presently or at some other time, and in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of choler, but do it with sweetness and mildness.
  19. Take all admonitions thankfully, in what time or place soever given; but afterwards, not being culpable, take a time and place convenient to let him know it that gave them.
  20. Mock not, nor jest at anything of importance; break no jests that are sharp-biting, and if you deliver anything witty and pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.
  21. Wherein you reprove another be unblamable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts.
  22. Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse nor revile.
  23. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
  24. In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to times and places.
  25. Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly, and clothes handsomely.
  26. Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in had company.
  27. Let your conversation he without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a tractable and commendable nature; and in all causes of passion, admit reason to govern.
  28. Be not immodest in urging your friend to discover a secret.
  29. Utter not base pad frivolous things amongst grave and learned men; nor very difficult questions or subjects among the ignorant; nor things hard to be believed.
  30. Speak not of doleful things in time of mirth, nor at the table; speak not of melancholy things, as death, and wounds, and if others mention them, change, if you can, the discourse. Tell not your dreams, but to your intimate friend.