Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Little More George Washington?

From Kathryn Jean Lopez at The National Review:
A good prescription for a retreat, to recover a little sense of dignity to our civic life, might involve turning to our first president as a guide. Richard Brookhiser, my colleague at National Review — one of the most compelling storytelling historians alive — first published his edition of Washington’s “Rules of Civility” in a small volume in 1997, before Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings, before the World Trade Center towers fell. The question Rick asks in the subsequent 2003 edition could be asked again today: “Have the years of gross farce, tragedy, and war made civility less important?” His answer then has still got to be true: “George Washington, I believe, would not think so. He knew about scandal.” He went on to talk about Washington’s decency to Alexander Hamilton and his family, when Hamilton fell into public scandal, with all the graphic details in the papers. How Washington treated Hamilton, Rick writes, “was a masterpiece of courtesy and tact.” Rick goes on to write about Washington’s dealing with New York City under attack in the summer and fall of 1776, when “11,000 American prisoners of war died in foul prison ships moored in the East River.” Washington had his problems, in other words Things turned around — maybe in no small part because he tried to be good in it all.

As a teenage boy, Washington wrote down “The Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Consider a few: “Every action done in company ought to be done with some sigh of respect to those that are present.” Maybe we could follow this guideline when we  interact with people on social media, in commercial transactions, or in and around Senate confirmation hearings.

Here are some others:

Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.
Shew not yourself at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy. (Read more.)

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