Washington likely used this 17thcentury English version of the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior created by Francis Hawkins (Washington State University)
These maxims originated in the late sixteenth century in France and were popularly circulated during Washington's time. Washington wrote out a copy of the 110 Rules in his school book when he was about sixteen-years old.
This exercise, now regarded as a formative influence in the development of his character, included guidelines for behavior in pleasant company, appropriate actions in formal situations, and general courtesies, such as: "Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected" (no. 25); "Think before you Speak" (no. 73); and "Rince not your Mouth in the Presence of Others" (no. 101).
Note: Much of Washington’s original transcription has been retained in the text below
1stEvery Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
2ndWhen in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.
3rdShew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
4thIn the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
5thIf You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
6thSleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
7thPut not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
8thAt Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
9thSpit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
10thWhen you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
11thShift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
12thShake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by appr[oaching too nea]r him [when] you Speak.
13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
14thTurn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
15thKeep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
16thDo 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.
17thBe no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play'd Withal.
18thRead no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
19thLet your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
20thThe Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
21stReproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
22ndShew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
23rdWhen you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
24thDo not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick [Spectacle].
25thSuperfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
26thIn Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
27thTis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it's due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being ask'd; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
28thIf any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferiour, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
29thWhen you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
30thIn walking the highest Place in most Countrys Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the mid[dest] Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
31stIf any one far Surpassess others, either in age, Estate, or Merit [yet] would give Place to a meaner than hims[elf in his own lodging or elsewhere] the one ought not to except it, S[o he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer] it above once or twice.
32ndTo one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who 'tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
33rdThey that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.
34thIt is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak befo[re] ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
35thLet your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.
36thArtificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and high[ly] Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affibility & Courtesie, without Arrogancy.
37thIn Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
38thIn visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.
39thIn writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
40thStrive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
41stUndertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.
42ndLet thy ceremonies in Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place [with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to ac]t the same with a Clown and a Prince.
43rdDo not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
44thWhen a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.
45thBeing to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.
46thTake all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time [&] Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.
47thMock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abtain from Laughing thereat yourself.
48thWherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
49thUse no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
50thBe not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.
51stWear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush'd once every day at least and take heed tha[t] you approach not to any Uncleaness.
52ndIn your Apparel be Modest and endeavour to accomodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashio[n] of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
53rdRun not in the Streets, neither go t[oo s]lowly nor wit[h] Mouth open go not Shaking yr Arms [kick not the earth with yr feet, go] not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing [fashion].
54thPlay not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck't, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
55thEat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.
56thAssociate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
57thIn walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Compan[y] if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
58thLet your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sig[n o]f a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion [ad]mit Reason to Govern.
59thNever express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Mora[l] before your inferiours.
60thBe not immodest in urging your Freinds to Discover a Secret.
61stUtter not base and frivilous things amongst grave and Learn'd Men nor very Difficult Questians or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.
62ndSpeak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.
63rdA Man o[ug]ht not to value himself of his Atchievements, or rare Qua[lities of wit; much less of his rich]es Virtue or Kindred.
64thBreak not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, tho' there Seem to be Some cause.
65thSpeak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
66thBe not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it's a time to Converse.
67thDetract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.
68thGo not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice with[out] being Ask'd & when desired [d]o it briefly.
69thIf two contend together take not the part of either unconstrain[ed]; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indiferent be of the Major Side.
70thReprehend not the imperfections of others for that belong[s] to Parents Masters and Superiours.
71stGaze not on 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.
72ndSpeak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.
73rdThink before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring ou[t] your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
74thWhen Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speec[h] be ended.
75thIn the midst of Discourse ask [not of what one treateth] but if you Perceive any Stop because of [your coming you may well intreat him gently] to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it's handsome to Repeat what was said before.
76thWhile you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.
77thTreat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.
78thMake no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Vertue, commend not another for the Same.
79thBe not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof.In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A [Se]cret Discover not.
80thBe not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.
81stBe not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.
82ndUndertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.
83rdWhen you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, howev[er] mean the Person be you do it too.
84thWhen your Superiours talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.
85thIn Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not ti[l] you are ask'd a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.
86thIn Disputes, be not So Desireous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.
87thLet thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive [to that which is spoken. Contra]dict not at every turn what others Say.
88thBe not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressigns, nor rep[eat] often the Same manner of Discourse.
89thSpeak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
90thBeing Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there's a Necessity for it.
91stMake no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed no[t] with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
92ndTake no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
93rdEntertaining any one at table it is decent to present him wt. meat, Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.
94thIf you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you [pu]t in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table [bu]t Stay till Cools of it Self.
95thPut not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your ha[nd ne]ither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Dish nor Cas[t an]ything under the table.
96thIt's unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clea[n &] when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
97thPut not another bit into your Mouth til the former be Swallowed [l]et not your Morsels be too big for the Gowls.
98thDrink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
99thDrink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too Great a Noise, for its uncivil.
100thCleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done wt. a Pick Tooth.
101stRince not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.
102ndIt is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
103rdIn Company of your Betters be no[t longer in eating] than they are lay not your Arm but o[nly your hand upon the table].
104thIt belongs to the Chiefest in Company to unfold his Napkin and fall to Meat first, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Dispatch [w]ith Dexterity that the Slowest may have time allowed him.
105thBe not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feas[t].
106thSet not yourself at the upper of the Table but if it Be your Due or that the Master of the house will have it So, Contend not, least you Should Trouble the Company.
107thIf others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.
108thWhen you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & [wt.] Reverence. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.
109thLet your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
110thLabour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.