George Washington was the first President of the United States and one of the most respected men in the world. As Henry Lee said during a eulogy for the President:
“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Among the many things that influenced George Washington’s formation as a child is a practice called copywork.
Washington’s schoolmaster gave the future President an interesting assignment that the young man accepted in earnest.
The schoolmaster gave Washington a book by French Jesuits titled 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.
Washington was to then copy by hand all 110 rules into a notebook to promote good manners and honorable behavior.
This practice, which was common in education during the 18th and 19th centuries, is called copywork. Although it has become less popular today, it was historically a big part of the development of some of the most famous writers in history:
- Benjamin Franklin
- Jack London
- Hunter S. Thompson
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Back to young George Washington.
“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected,” he once wrote while serving in office.
One way to learn how to be behave is to imitate George Washington’s practice of copying by hand some rules for better moral behavior.
Try it with your kids.
Here are some examples of the 110 rules Washington copied into his notebook.
Have your kids pick their favorite to copy in their notebook by hand:
#1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present.
#4. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.
#10. When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even, without putting one on the other or crossing them.
#11. Shift not yourself in the sight of others nor gnaw your nails.
#89. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.
#98. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.
#108. When you speak of god or his attributes let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they are poor.