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Selections From The Rules Of Civility

( Originally Published 1916 )



[Copied by Washington at the age of fourteen from an old translation of a French book of 1595. "Washington was entirely aware," writes Owen Wister, "of the great influence for good exerted upon his own character by the Rules of Civility. It is a misfortune for all American boys in all our schools to-day, that they should be told the untrue and foolish story of the hatchet and the cherry tree, and denied the immense benefit of instruction from George Washington's authentic copy-book."]

Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of an-other, though he were your enemy.

When you see a crime punished you may be inwardly pleased; but always show pity to the suffering offender.

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

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 succeed not well, blame not him that did it.

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

In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals.

Associate yourself with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation ; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.

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

Gaze not at 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.

Nothing but harmony, honest industry, and frugality are necessary to make us a great people. First impressions are generally the most lasting. It is therefore absolutely necessary, if you mean to make any figure upon the stage, that you should take the first steps right.

There is a destiny which has the control of our actions not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distresses of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse ; remembering always the widow's mite, but that it is not everyone who asketh that deserveth charity; all, however, are worthy the inquiry, or the deserving may suffer.

I consider storms and victory under the direction of a wise Providence who no doubt directs them for the best purposes, and to bring round the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number.

Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person's mind, than on the externals in the world.

The thinking part of mankind do not form their judgments from events, and that chief equity will ever attach equal glory to those actions which deserve success, as to those which have been crowned with it.

To see plants rise from the earth and flourish by the superior skill and bounty of the laborer, fills a contemplative mind with ideas which are more easy to be conceived than expressed.

To constitute a dispute there must be two parties. To understand it well, both parties and all the circumstances must be fully heard; and to accommodate differences, temper and mutual forbearance are requisite.

Idleness is disreputable under any circumstances; productive of no good, even when unaccompanied by vicious habits.

It is not uncommon in prosperous gales to forget that adverse winds blow.

Economy in all things is as commendable in the manager, as it is beneficial and desirable to the employer.

It is unfortunate when men cannot or will not see danger at a distance; or seeing it, are undetermined in the means which are necessary to avert or keep it afar off.

Every man who is in the vigor of life ought to serve his country in whatever line it requires, and he is fit for.

Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter, whether in public or in private walks of life.



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