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Washington: father of country, etiquette

Hilarie Blaney Modified: July 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm •  Published: February 18, 2011

In honor of George Washington’s birthday next week, we have many things for which to thank him. We all know that he was known as the “father of his country.” History buffs certainly know of all of his accomplishments, but rarely do people know that he created courtesy books that became published etiquette rules in the United States.

George was home-schooled by his father and elder brother, and in 1746, at the age of 14, young George developed 110 rules of civility that were later published as “George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”

He was diligent in his practice of social skills, the treatment of others and practice of self-control. Here are a few notable “rules” that you may find interesting;

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

Rule 5. “If you cough, sneeze, sigh or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.”

Rule 6. “Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop.”

Rule 97. “Put not another bite into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big.”

Even though our word choice is no longer the same, 264 years later, these rules of civility and behavior remain just as important today.

It is not a surprise that when Washington died in 1799, Henry Lee gave the funeral oration and stated, “He was first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Last, but not least, during his presidency, when more majestic names were suggested, Washington chose to be called “Mr. President” and today this is the official title given to the president of the United States while in his or her presence.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.