Civility on the Fourth of July

Younger Geroge WashingtonMy wife and I took a trip to Bratonsville, SC a couple of weeks ago. it was a good day together and as is my normal custom, I have to go to the gift shop at these historic destinations. The next thing that happens is that I purchase some small book to remember the day and explore more of either the time, place or person that is celebrated at them.

My purchase in Bratonsville was a tiny volume by none other than George Washington that I had never heard of before. The book has a long title and an interesting development. Washington wrote it when he was 14 years old! It is drawn from an English translation of a “French book of maxims and intended to polish the manners, keep alive the affections of the heart, [and] impress the obligation of moral virtues” upon the reader so that they would know how to relate to others in the real world.

So, apparently after reading the English translation of the French work, Washington copied, edited and wrote out his own

Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation

There are 110 of them and as I look at the political landscape of the country with the fourth of July looming on the horizon, it makes me think how different the country would be if left and right and all of us in the middle would dust off a copy of Washington’s thin little tome and began to regulate our public expostulations and FaceBook posts, as well as our tweets and water cooler conversations with the wisdom of a 14 year-old from the 18th century.

Here’s a sampling.

1st     Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.

22nd   Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.

23rd   When you see a crime punished, you may inwardly be pleased, but always show pity to the suffering offender.

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

47th   Mock not nor jest at any thing of importance; break no jests that are sharp biting; and if you deliver any thing witty and pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.

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

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

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

108th When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honour & obey your natural parents although they be poor.

There are many others but imagine the difference some of these might make in our political landscape.

Happy 4th of July Weekend.


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