You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order. So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.
American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.
Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.
One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:
“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”
Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.
However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update. Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.
On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.
Better yet, here’s a question to end on: Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today? Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.
Related posts in this blog: Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)
Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days: The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process. Read that story here.