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Monday, November 12, 2018


Where is the civility in our society? What better place to observe widespread acrimony than the political scene. Hillary Clinton states civility can start again when the Democrats retake the US House and Senate. Former Attorney General Eric Holder states that when “they” go low, we kick them. Former President Obama broke with tradition and campaigned against the Trump administration. Congresswoman Maxine Waters calls for confronting Trump administration officials wherever they are found in the public square. Accordingly, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Senator Ted Cruz and his wife, and others have been accosted in restaurants. Congressman Steve Scalise was shot and almost killed at a congressional baseball practice. Exacerbating the incivility are Soros-underwritten activities including the Antifa and Occupy movements among others.

Lack of civility in society is nothing new. George Washington, known for generations as the Father of Our Country, is regarded uncivilly in contemporary leftist thinking as little more than a sorry, old, white guy who should be ignored. Leftists generally believe the United States was illegitimately founded, especially leftists in academia who have taught generations of young people to hate America. As a minimum, school curriculum and text books teach revisionist history thoroughly ignoring American historical fact. Our Founding Fathers, if discussed at all, are portrayed as a bunch of elitist, racist, capitalist white guys who wrote the US Constitution to protect their own little fiefdoms. Nothing is further from the truth.

Consider George Washington. As early as 1595 French Jesuits, attempting to set a standard of conduct for young men, compiled and published Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour. This code of conduct listed acceptable rules of etiquette. In 1645 the code was translated into English as Francis Hawkins Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men. The rules were reprinted several times over the years.

George Washington obtained a copy in 1744 when he was 12 years old. Before he was 16 he carefully hand-copied the rules into a notebook as an exercise in penmanship. These rules taught Washington good manners in how to talk, dress, and eat. In larger context they taught him civility. The young Washington took the rules to heart and they influenced the development of his morality and character.

The rules, in retrospect, are timeless. If a man as great as Washington devoted his life to behaving well, then as a society we certainly can learn a few things from him.

Here are some of George Washington’s rules. (Original spelling has been retained.)

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

35. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

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

49. Use no reproachfull language against any one; neither curse nor revile.

50. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.

58. 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.

63. A man ought not to value himself of his achievements, or rare qualities of wit; much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.

65. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest scoff at none although they give occasion.

67. Detract not from others neither be excessive in commanding.

71. 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.

73. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.

79. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof.

81. Be not curious to know the affairs of others neither approach those that speak in private.

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

86. In disputes, be not so desireous 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.

89. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.

108. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence.

109. Let your recreations be manfull not sinfull.

110. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Some of George Washington’s rules could be restated for use in modern society. They are as appropriate today as ever. The alternative is increased incivility resulting in civil unrest.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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