The Story behind George Washington's
Prayer at Valley Forge and
The 110 rules of
Civility And Decent Behavior
In Company and Conversation
he lived by
In 1777, the American Army led by General George Washington was at Valley
Forge and in some of the worst conditions any army had ever been in. Of that
time, George Washington wrote in a letter to John Banister dated April 21, 1778
explaining their situation:
"No history now extant can furnish an instance of an army's
such uncommon hardships as ours has done and bearing them with the same
patience and fortitude. To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness,
without blankets to lie on, without shoes (for the want of which their marches
might be traced by the blood from their feet)...and submitting without
a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which in my opinion
can scarce be paralleled."
Because of their severe conditions, where on the average of 12 soldiers a day
were dying, George Washington rode into the woods, away from his men to pray and
ask God for help. Many have seen the painting where he knelt by his horse in
prayer, some have wondered if it was really true. The incident was witnessed by
a Quaker by the name of Isaac Potts who himself was walking through the woods
and came upon General Washington as he pray. General George Washington was
unaware of Potts who stood watching him behind a tree. Potts, who heard General
Washington praying out loud,
"With tones of gratitude that labored for adequate
expression he adored that
exuberant goodness which, from the depth of obscurity, had exalted him to the
head of a great nation, and that nation fighting at fearful odds
for all the world holds dear..."
Afterwards, Potts returned home and threw himself into a chair by the side of
his wife. She seeing his troubled nature asked him what was the matter. He
"If I appear agitated tis no more than what I am. I have
seen this day what
I shall never forget. Till now I have thought that a Christian and a soldier
were characters incompatible; but if George Washington be not a man of God, I am
mistaken, and still more shall I be disappointed if God does not through him
perform some great thing for this country."
Recorded by Ruth Anne Potts.
These "110 Rules" were written in the 1500's by an unknown Jesuit. They were
studied by many of our Founding Fathers, including the first president of our
great country, George Washington. He copied them down in his own handwriting at
age 15 and studied them. They are accredited to having helped form some
of George Washington's unusual character. Most, though humorous, are outdated.
However, of the 110, there are 26 that never will be outdated. They were, are
and always will be some of the marks of truly unusual men.
- Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect to
- When you speak of God and His attributes, let it be seriously and with
- Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of Celestial fire
- Be not tedious in discourse or in reading.
- Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean.
- Wear not your cloths, foul, unript or dusty.
- In your apparel be modest and keep to the fashion of your equals.
- Play not the peacock, looking every where about you to see if you be well
- Think before you speak.
- When another speaks be attentive yourself.
- Be not apt to relate news, if you know not the truth thereof.
- Be not curious to know the affairs of others.
- Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your
- Let your conversation be without malice or envy.
- Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against your rules.
- Utter not base and frivilous things.
- Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse or revile.
- Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest.
- Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.
- A man ought not to value himself of his atchievements, much less his
- Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others.
- Associate yourself with men of good quality. Tis better to be alone than
in bad company.
- Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself.
- Strive not with your superiers in argument.
- Turn not your back to others especially in speaking.
- When a man does all that he can, though succeeds not well, blame not him
that did it.
"You become what you think about."
Self imposed rules of conduct is good and it's always been one of the marks
of the great ones.