George Washington’s Civility vs Washington DC’s Civility

George Washington was a fascinating man. This is not only because he was twelve stories high and made of radiation, our first President, and a very lucky fellow in battle. All those make him interesting, yes, but one of the aspects of Washington I’ve always found noteworthy is that from a young age he endeavored to mold himself into George Washington.

He didn’t start out worth half a billion dollars (imagine the Obama attack ads for that sort of wealth), nor did he simply stumble into being handed command of the Continental Army. He made himself into a man people would trust, leading a fledgling nation founded on principles of liberty, freedom, and Independence.

One of the ways young George bettered himself was through education, specifically an education in manners. An education in those days consisted in no small part of copying out your lessons, which is what Washington did with the Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. You may be familiar with the Rules, but if the state of culture these days is any indication there is a good statistical likelihood you are not.

My aim here is to share a few of the timelier rules and highlight a few of the politicians who transgress them. I believe you will find it instructive (if nothing else you will learn G.W. was a turrrible speller) and I urge you to review the full list when you have some time. Let’s begin!

3d Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.

Actually, in recent weeks we’ve seen this rule being followed closely, as it appears the President has been shown practically nothing that would affright him – neither that troubling IRS business, nor the political targeting of reporters, nor the NSA’s data collection. A commendable application of the rule at many levels of government!

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.

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

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 Close.

19th let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

38th In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.

It seems George Washington would side with 54% of the country and oppose Obamacare.

52d In your Apparel be Modest and endeavour 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.

82d undertake not what you cannot perform but be carefull to keep your promise.

I’ll let the President address this one, himself: