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Rules of Civility: The 110 Precepts that Guided Our First President in War and Peace Hardcover – March 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; 1 edition (March 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813922186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813922188
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,000,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author of Founding Father (1996 ) provides a new edition of the book of moral and social precepts that served as a guide to virtue and etiquette for the first president of the U.S. Capitalizing on the success of his glowing biography of George Washington, Brookhiser has unearthed the slim volume of rules of civilized behavior that the youthful Washington laboriously copied into a notebook. According to both his contemporaries and his biographers, Washington valued good manners and painstakingly cultivated his own brand of formal courtesy. These seemingly quaint and archaic instructions, accompanied by the editor's often humorous commentaries and illustrated with period portraits and sketches, offer some timeless suggestions on how to cope with the complexities of social discourse. A delightful browsing item as well as a representative slice of eighteenth-century etiquette. Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Brookhiser adds his own amusing afterthoughts to George Washington’s collection of behavior rules that were badly needed in the eighteenth century. Since civility is in even worse disrepair today, it’s too bad that the father of our country can’t make a return visit!.



According to both his contemporaries and his biographers, Washington valued good manners and painstakingly cultivated his own brand of formal courtesy. These seemingly quaint and archaic instructions, accompanied by the editor’s often humorous commentaries... offer timeless suggestions on how to cope with the complexities of social discourse.... Delightful.

(Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on February 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Though certainly the most ubiquitous, George Washington has also always been the most mysterious of the Founding Fathers; the one whose greatness is most difficult for us to comprehend. Here was a man who was less well spoken and less brilliant than many of his peers. He was not a great philosophical or political thinker. He lost most of the military engagements he led. And yet, the men of whom we think more highly in these regards almost universally revered him. What quality was it that made men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquise de Lafayette defer to him ? The answer must surely lie in the character of the man, and character seems to be a uniquely difficult quality to convey in writing. Perhaps it is actually impossible to describe the quality itself; instead the effects of it must be described.
One example from Washington's life seems to me to stand out above all others : his handling of the Newburgh Conspiracy. When, after the War, disgruntled officers, led by Horatio Gates, circulated a letter suggesting that the Army march on Congress to demand back pay and hinted at taking control of the government, Washington used a simple but elegant ploy to defuse the crisis. Having summoned the men to his tent so that he could read a letter meant to dissuade them from their proposed course of action, he paused, reached into a pocket, and withdrew a pair of glasses, which, thanks in large part to his vanity, few knew he even required. As he unfolded them and put them on, he said :
Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.
It is reported, perhaps with some hyperbole, that men wept; but at any rate, the insurrection crumbled.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By sergeant_al on January 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If I win the lottery I am buying the entire supply and handing them out on the street corners. Our society would be a lot more tolerable if everyone followed these simple rules of manners and courtesy. What would Washington have written about inconsiderate cell phone use? A must read for everyone. Buy this as a gift for your teenager or college student. Start your own revolution against boorish behavior.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book about six years ago because I had been told that George Washington had used these rules of civility to guide his own life and actions. I cherish this book. There are a few rules that are dated, but they are entertaining. The rest is pure gold and timeless.
A few examples:
5. If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your hankerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.
65. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.
82. Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.
If you can't figure out what to give that new graduate who already has everything, I highly recommend this book. I recommend it for everyone.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MillerRick@aol.com on August 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
What could be better than to learn what made the most important man in American history act the way he did? The precepts are as vaild today as they were in George Washington's time. Richard Brookhiser's editoral comments are educational as well as entertaining.
Being a rather short book, I recommend reading it a least twice.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The most unfortunate aspect of this book, like many classical reprints, is the commentary by the editor. His so called "incisive and witty commentary" adds nothing to the value of the text, and is more a distraction than anything else. Some of his comments border on ridiculous. I would have liked to have seen more explanation of the meaning behind each of Washington's precepts, rather than Brookhiser's unsuccessful attempt at humor. Still, in today's world more than ever before, we need guidance on how to behave in public. The handy pocket size format of the book allows it to be carried on the person and used as a constant reminder of how to act towards others. Washington put these rules to action throughout his life, and they apparently served him well. If it were not for the commentary, I would give it five stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. D. Seaman on January 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Your reaction to this short booklet depends on your expectations. Overall I found the precepts that guided our first president still applicable for today. There are a few precepts that you and I would be hard pressed to put to use but for the most part we would do well to remember their counsel.
I did not find Mr. Brookhiser's comments too tedious and for the most part he gave Washington's rules modern application. However, I would agree with my cohort in review that a more in-depth discussion of the original context behind the precepts would have been helpful. If you are at all interested in building a library devoted in part to our first president I would recommend this little book. It would be well worth review at the beginning of every year and would go as a nice compliment to Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues. On a scale of 12 I would give this an eight. Although not as high on the scale as other works, I am glad I have it in my library. Good reading!
Semper fi & agape, Ed D.
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