Founding Fathers Blog

George Washington and the Book of Proverbs

August 24th, 2010

As I was teaching an adult Sunday School class about the Old Testament book of Proverbs, it struck me how similar the maxims in that book are to the maxims by which George Washington learned penmanship.

By the way, a proverb is a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought, adage,  or saw.

In 1745 George was tutored by a teacher from France who supervised his practice of penmanship. George transcribed from dictation what were known as the “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” as a method of mastering his proper penmanship. He would hear and write these Rules over and over again.

This improved his penmanship while at the same time instructing him in proper manners and comportment. This repeated exercise made a permanent empression on young George. He was taught how to treat others in social situations  and he learned important moral virtues.

 These rules were so unmistakenly exemplified in George Washington’s life that biographers have regarded them as a formative influence in the development of his character.

Let’s compare just a few of these maxims with some of those contained in the Book of Proverbs as given by King Solomon.

Rule: “Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given. . .”

Proverb: “Despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of His correction.” (Proverbs 3:11)

Rule: “Honour & obey your natural parents Altho they be poor.”

Proverb: “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22.)

Rule: “A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit, much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.”

Proverb: “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2.)

And there are several other good comparisons. Maybe we should bring back the methods of learnig character and behavior in the manner that Washington was taught. Perhaps it would do the young good to learn texting by using some of the maxims of the Proverbs.

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