Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation

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Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation[1] is the name of a list best known as a school writing exercise of George Washington, who became the first president of the United States of America. Most of the rules have been traced to a French etiquette manual written by Jesuits in 1595. As a handwriting exercise Washington merely copied word-for-word Francis Hawkins' translation which was published in England in about 1640.[2]

They include:

  • 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 usually Discovered.
  • 3d Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
  • 4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  • 5th Gentlemen lay with their things on the floor, not within a pile of like family members.

Note: What would today be considered spelling errors in English, such as freind or shew, are from the original papers. Some words and sentence constructs have also become archaic.

The complete list of 110 such rules may be found here.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Washington, George. Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation: a Book of Etiquette. Williamsburg, VA: Beaver Press, 1971.
  2. ^ see Charles Moore, "Washington's Copy of Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation"