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The Keystone Battery of Pennsylvania

Battery "A", 1st Regiment Light Artillery (43rd Volunteers)

Victorian Etiquette and Deportment - Compiled by Laura Evans

“A good moral character is the first essential.  It is highly important not only to be learned but to be virtuous.”  ~  George Washington

According to the legendary Emily Post, etiquette is today what it has always been: a code of behavior based on kindness, consideration and unselfishness.   This is something that must never change.   Manners, which are derived from etiquette, should be maintained even in an ever changing world.   Etiquette is for persons at every stage of life regardless of age, income, or position in society or business.   Good manners are just as important for the youngest child as they are for the older adult – and that includes teenagers.

As such modern expressions of attitude as

“Reliance on, like, a strict set of rules is, kind of, a sign of immaturity, in the sense that you need someone to tell you how to act, that you can’t think of your own ways to respect people.”
“It’s just your personality, and what you want to do, and the way that you want to do it.”
“You should be yourself regardless, there should not be a reason for you to act like somebody else wants you to act.”

come more and more into the mainstream of our culture, a society of rudeness has developed.

However, for past generations, as demonstrated by Washington and his contemporaries, character was important – and it did not mean self expression.  In those days, young people were not only expected to behave properly, but they understood the value of demonstrating general courtesies, manners and morals.  George Washington’s first lessons in good breeding came from a book of precepts entitled Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, which listed 110 rules of etiquette for young men.  The Rules of Civility were originally compiled and published in 1595 by French Jesuits.  In 1645, this code of conduct was translated into an English version called Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, and was reprinted at least eleven times until 1672.   One copy of this English translation came into Washington’s possession in 1744, when he was 12 years old.   Sometime before he turned 16, Washington carefully hand-copied the rules into a notebook as an exercise in penmanship.   At the same time, these rules taught him the proper behavior that we call etiquette including how to dress, walk, talk, and eat.   They also conveyed a moral message of humility and paying attention to others.   The teenage Washington took these rules to heart and they profoundly influenced the development of his character.   While some of the rules may seem a little silly and outdated today in the way they are phrased, most are valuable and timeless lessons for us all.

The following “Rules of Civility” have been specially selected to use for copywork and/or memorization.  Practice writing these rules in a notebook as an exercise in penmanship – just like George Washington did!

George Washington's 55 Rules of Civility

Victorian Tea, Table and Napkin Etiquette



Proper Napkin Etiquette

Wearing Gloves

More Etiquette Links

Mass Historia - Manners for the Victorian Gentleman

7th Michigan Etiquette Manual

About Laura Evans

Laura Evans is the wife of Keystone Battery commander Ron Evans and is Treasurer of Keystone Battery.