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George Washington's Rules of Civility

  • 88th

    Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.

  • 42nd

    Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou converses for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.

  • 8th

    At Play and at Fire it’s Good manners to Give Place to the last Comer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

  • 32nd

    To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the chief Place in your Lodging and he to who ‘tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

  • 54th

    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.

  • 53rd

    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 fashion.

  • 90th

    Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.

  • 31st

    If any one far Surpasses others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to accept it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.

  • 84th

    When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.

  • 67th

    Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.

  • 34th

    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.

  • 22nd

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

  • 7th

    Put not off your Clothes in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

  • 102nd

    It is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.

  • 5th

    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.

  • 41st

    Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.

  • 35th

    Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

  • 25th

    Superfluous Compliments and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

  • 85th

    In Company of those of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not until you are asked a Question then Stand upright put of off your Hat & Answer in few words.

  • 6th

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

  • 61st

    Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and Learned Men nor very Difficult Questions or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.

  • 76th

    While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

  • 68th

    Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Asked & when desired do it briefly.

  • 99th

    Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breathe not then or Ever with too Great a Noise, for it’s uncivil.

  • 27th

    Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being asked; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behavior in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.

  • 89th

    Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

  • 107th

    If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.

  • 60th

    Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.

  • 23rd

    When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.

  • 91st

    Make no Show 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.

  • 101st

    Rinse not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.

  • 70th

    Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.

  • 29th

    When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.

  • 94th

    If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till it Cools of it Self.

  • 24th

    Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle.

  • 105th

    Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Show it not but on a Cheerful Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feast.

  • 47th

    Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jests that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself.

  • 72nd

    Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.

  • 57th

    In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Jowl but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.

  • 18th

    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.

  • 75th

    In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one treateth but if you Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well entreat him gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while you are Conversing it’s handsome to Repeat what was said before.

  • 20th

    The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.

  • 104th

    It belongs to the Chiefest in Company to unfold his Napkin and fall to Meat first, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Dispatch with Dexterity that the Slowest may have time allowed him.

  • 83rd

    When you deliver a matter do it without passion & with discretion, however mean the person be you do it to

  • 66th

    Be not forward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it’s a time to Converse.

  • 11th

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

  • 38th

    In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.

  • 103rd

    In Company of your Betters be not longer in eating than they are lay not your Arm but only your hand upon the table.

  • 106th

    Set not yourself at the upper of the Table but if it Be your Due or that the Master of the house will have it So, Contend not, least you Should Trouble the Company.

  • 9th

    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.

  • 98th

    Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.

  • 1st

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

  • 97th

    Put not another bit into your Mouth until the former be Swallowed let not your Morsels be too big for the Jowls.

  • 108th

    When you Speak of God or his Attributes, let it be Seriously & with Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents although they be Poor.

  • 77th

    Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.

  • 87th

    Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say

  • 21st

    Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.

  • 65th

    Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.

  • 17th

    Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Played Withal.

  • 30th

    In walking the highest Place in most Countries Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the midst Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.

  • 74th

    When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.

  • 62nd

    Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or 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.

  • 19th

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

  • 49th

    Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.

  • 40th

    Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.

  • 86th

    In Disputes, be not So Desirous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.

  • 79th

    Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Discover not.

  • 64th

    Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no man’s Misfortune, tho’ there Seem to be Some cause.

  • 43rd

    Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

  • 33rd

    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.

  • 51st

    Wear not your Clothes, foul, ripped or Dusty but See they be Brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleanness.

  • 100th

    Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth.

  • 15th

    Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Showing any great Concern for them.

  • 58th

    Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.

  • 81st

    Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private

  • 56th

    Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

  • 55th

    Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.

  • 80th

    Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

  • 69th

    If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indifferent be of the Major Side.

  • 37th

    In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at least Keep a full Pace from them.

  • 109th

    Let your Recreations be Manful not Sinful.

  • 52nd

    In your Apparel be Modest and endeavour 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.

  • 44th

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

  • 2nd

    When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

  • 96th

    It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to one’s Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.

  • 93rd

    Entertaining any one at table it is decent to present him with meat, Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.

  • 73rd

    Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.

  • 26th

    In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen etc. make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.

  • 45th

    Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Choler but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.

  • 10th

    When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.

  • 46th

    Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him know it that gave them.

  • 110th

    Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

  • 36th

    Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy, without Arrogance.

  • 48th

    Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.

  • 92nd

    Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.

  • 63rd

    A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements, or rare Qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.

  • 95th

    Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish nor Cast anything under the table.

  • 14th

    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.

  • 78th

    Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Virtue, commend not another for the Same.

  • 12th

    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.

  • 39th

    In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.

  • 13th

    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 Clothes of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Clothes return Thanks to him who puts it off.

  • 50th

    Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

  • 4th

    In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

  • 82nd

    Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

  • 16th

    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 Closed.

  • 3rd

    Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

  • 71st

    Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.

  • 59th

    Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against the Rules Moral before your inferiors.

  • 28th

    If any one come to Speak to you while you are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.