Saturday, November 14, 2009

French Jesuits And George Washington

Though often credited with writing this treatise on manners, the 16-year-old George Washington at best merely translated the rules compiled in 1595 by French Jesuits. A translation had already appeared in England long before

The young Washington produced what may have been a school assignment, but in the folklore associated with our nation's first president, his name has been attached to the advice given in "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior."
In any event, the American document retains its interest as a window into the standards of behavior that Washington thought, early on, to set for himself and, by extension, for his nation. One of the rules would become increasingly relevant to the leader after he received his ivory (not wooden) dentures: "Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth, Napkin, Fork or Knife but if others do it let it be done with a Pick Tooth."

Link (here) to the full Wall Street Journal article entitled Five Best.

Painting of George Washington at Valley Forge

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