Sunday, November 28, 2004

Orrin Woodward & George Washington - Men of Character

In my last post good reader, I promised to share George Washington's "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation". Because these maxims were so fully exemplified in George Washington's life, biographers have regarded them as formative influences in the development of his character.

You'll remember that I thought it appropriate to capture these maxims again, both for my own self-improvement and for the edification of others who may be interested. Inasmuch as our subject is character and most of us would agree that Washington's character was exemplary, might it not be of some value to explore the foundations of it?

I've mentioned in these posts that I believe Orrin Woodward to be a man of great character. He has made a study of Washington and this list, which is what piqued my curiosity. Here we are fortunate to glimpse a piece of Washington's studies at about age sixteen - about 260 years ago. I plan on implementing as many of these maxims as is appropriate for the present time into my life and I invite you to do the same.

We'll leave the language as Washington wrote it. Off we go then with the first ten:

(Ferry Farm, c. 1744)

1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2d When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.

3d Shew Nothing to your Frend 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.

5th If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.

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.

7th Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.

8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

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.

10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.

More in my next post. I want to give us enough time to really think these through.