Comments from Dr. Peter Lillback on George Washington’s “Rules of Civility”

Here are some comments from Dr. Peter Lillback on the “Rules of Civility” that were so important to the life of George Washington.

Said Dr. Lillback (in an email to Jerry Newcombe, 8/11/23):

“The Rules of Civility are a classic 110 point summary of principles for good conduct and high character that was used in English schools in the early 1700s. The Applebee school in England, where George Washington’s older half-brother had studied, inculcated them. They came to America and were part of the school lessons of the young George Washington. Extant in his school papers is a beautifully written manuscript of these principles copied by the young George Washington. Their origin may reach back to a French context according to some scholars.

“These principles communicate how to behave when one is with people of rank, and when eating with them at table. They emphasize noble conduct and ground good character in conscience, termed the celestial fire given to men to know right from wrong.

“Those who study Washington’s life generally agree that these principles became part of his conduct and character. They shaped him into a sterling gentleman in his era, who ultimately became the indispensable man in America’s founding.

“These principles have relevance for the American story both past and present. We would do well to reconsider them for quality conduct and wise character given so much confusion and foolish behavior, leading to character flaws that cause harm to oneself and others.”

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