George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation
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- Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect,
to those that are Present
- When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not
- Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
- In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise,
nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
- 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.
- Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not
when you Should hold your Peace, walk not when others Stop.
- Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your
Chamber half Drest.
- At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer,
and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
- 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.
- When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one
on the other or Crossing them.
- Shift not yourself in Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
- Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eyes lift not one
eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans
face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
- Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if
you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon
it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off prvately,
and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
- 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.
- Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean,
yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
- 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 Close.
- Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be
- Read no Letters, Books or Papers in Company 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 unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a
- let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
- The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
- Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them
that have in mind thereof.
- Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were
- When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased; but always
shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
- Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.
- Superfluous Complements and all Affectations of Ceremonie are to be
avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected
- In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen,
Justices, Churchmen &ec 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.
- 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 ask'd;
now what is herein spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting,
ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for
ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
- If any one come to Speak to you while you are sitting Stand up
tho he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be
to every one according to his Degree.
- When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop,
and retire especially if it be at the Door or any Straight place
to give way for him to Pass
- In walking the highest Place in most Countrys 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 middest
place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the
most worthy if two walk together
- If anyone 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 except it. So he on the other
part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.
- To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give
the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who 'tis offered ought
at first to refuse it but at the second to accept though not without
acknowledging his own unworthiness.
- They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency
but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their
equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.
- 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.
- Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.
- 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 affibility and
Courtesie, without Arrogancy.
- In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the
Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
- In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be
not Knowing therein.
- In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title according
to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
- Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your
Judgment to others with Modesty.
- Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it
Savours of arrogancy.
- Let thy ceremonies in Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place
with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to act ye same with a
Clown and a Prince.
- Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion
will aggravate his Misery.
- When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him
that did it.
- Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be
in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what
terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with
all Sweetness and Mildness.
- 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.
- Mock not nor Jest at anything of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp
Biting, and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from
Laughing thereat yourself.
- Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more
prevalent than Precepts.
- Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Reville.
- Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.
- Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush'd once
every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleaness.
- In your Apparel be Modest and endeavor to accomodate 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.
- 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.
- Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well
Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stockings Sit neatly, and Cloths
- Eat not in the Streets, nor in ye House, out of Season.
- Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own
Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
- 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 Joul but Somewhat behind him;
but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
- 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.
- Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against ye Rules Moral
before your inferiours.
- Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.
- Utter not base and frivilous things amongst grave and Learn'd Men
nor very Difficult Questians or Subjects, among the Ignorant or
things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences
amongst your Betters nor Equals.
- 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.
- A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements, or rare Qualities
of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.
- Break not a Jest where none takes pleasure in mirth
Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune,
tho' there seem to be Some cause.
- Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest
Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
- Be not forward but fiendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear
and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.
- Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.
- Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not.
Give not Advice whth being Ask'd & when desired do it briefly.
- If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained;
and be not obstinate in your own Opinions, in Things indifferent
be of the Major Side.
- Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to
Parents Masters and Superiours.
- 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.
- Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and
that as those of Quality do and not as ye Vulgar; Sublime matters treat
- Think before you Speak pronounce not impertfectly nor bring out your
Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
- 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.
- In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one treateth but if you
Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well intreat him
gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your
Conversing it's handsome to Repeat what was said before.
- 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.
- Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the
Company of Others.
- Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any Brave
act of Vertue, commend not another for the Same.
- 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.
- Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the
Company pleased therewith.
- Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others
neither approach those that Speak in Private.
- Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep
- When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion,
however mean ye Person be you do it too.
- When your Superiours talk to any Body, hearken not, neither Speak
- In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not till
you are ask'd a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer
in few words.
- In Disputes, be not So Desireous to Overcome as not to give Liberty
to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to ye Judgement of ye
Major Part especially if they are Juudges of the Dispute.
- 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.
- Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat
often the Same manner of Discourse.
- Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
- Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose
except there's a Necessity for it.
- 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.
- Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
- Entertaining any one at table it is decent to present him with meat,
Undertake not to help others undesired by ye Master.
- 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 Cools of it Self.
- Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand
neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Dish nor
Cast anything under the table.
- It's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat
Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of
your Table Napkin.
- Put not another bit into your Mouth til the former be Swallowed
let not your Morsels be too big for the Gowls.
- Drink not nor talk with your mouth full
neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
- Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after
Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too great
a Noise, for its uncivil.
- 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.
- Rince not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.
- It is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need
you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
- In Company of your Betters be not longer in eating than they are
lay not your Arm but only your hand upon the table.
- It belongs to ye 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 ye Slowest may have time allowed him.
- Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so,
shew it not but on a Cheerfull Countenance especially if there be
Strangers for a Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feast.
- Set not yourself at ye upper of ye Table but if it be your Due or
that ye Master of ye house will have it So, Contend not, least
you Should Trouble ye Company.
- If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in
- When you Speak of God or His Attributes, let it be Seriously &
with Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be
- Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
- Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of
Celestial fire Called Conscience.
(Last Changed: December 9, 2016.)