George Washington’s Rules of Civility


When George Washington was a teenager, he wanted to make a good impression on his elders. Good manners were important to him. He made sure that he knew how Rules of Civility from a French rulebook into his own handwriting. Rules of Civility was a list of 110 rules for people to follow. These rules dealt with different situations, such as how to be respectful to people, how to be polite when dining with others, and how to behave. Here are ten of the rules:

  • Every Action done in Company ought to be with Some Sign of Respect to those that are Present.
  • In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  • Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you
  • Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  • When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
  • Shift not yourself in Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
  • Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Publick Spectacle.
  • Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile. Gaze 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.
  • Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise. Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.


Examine the rules with your students. You might have the students act them out so they understand their meaning. You can point out how language was used at that time including capital letters, spelling, and punctuation.

Ask the students if they have rules like this in their homes or at school. Ask which of these rules they consider the most important. Discuss what these rules tell us about George Washington.

Have the students rewrite some or all of the rules in their own words and discuss whether they can be used as class rules today.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History

Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to get free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments