Good manners are one of the ingredients for success—whether in interpersonal relations in private life or in the workplace or as citizens. The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of good manners in the big picture—that of maintaining the exceptionality of the United States.
Samuel Adams, US patriot
Samuel Adams in a letter to James Warren on February 12, 1779 wrote:
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”
American educator Horace Mann wrote: “Manners easily and rapidly mature into morals.”
American Congregational minister Henry Ward Beecher said “Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.”
- Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice
Others recognize the importance of manners also.
“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” -Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
“You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.” -Actress Lillian Gish
This month, Rita Bay’s Blog will check out manners, past and present.
Tomorrow, Benjamin Franklin’s Quips and Quotes on Manners. Rita Bay
Louis XIV's Court
Manners originated thousands of years ago as rules for proper social conduct among members of a group. Depending on the society or the group within a society, manners could be simple or very complex. The manners appropriate at the royal court of France during the 17th century were very complex. The elaborate etiquette that developed in the French court soon spread to the upper classes and courts of western Europe. King Louis XIV even had his preferred manners printed up on cards and distributed to his noble. Many of Washington’s Rules of Civility from yesterday fall within the simple group and some (but not all) are used today.
As a culture changes, so does its’ manners. What would be considered appropriate in the United States might be insulting in other cultures. What was appropriate behavior a century ago might be inappropriate today. The advent of technology alone brings up issues that must be addressed.
While Washington provided the first set of rules for the United States, debutante Emily Post wrote the first book of etiquette in 1922. Later, Amy Vanderbilt wrote Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Guide to Etiquette which has gone through numerous editions. Vanderbilt was joined by Judith Martin, also known as Miss Manners.
During the month of June, Rita Bay’s blog will post blogs on Manners in History, Contemporary Etiquette, Workplace Etiquette, and Courting Etiquette. Using primary sources (books written in the 19th century), we’ll check out how things were, many of which are humorous. Later posts will share up-to-date info on introductions, conversations, dining, and workplace behavior.
Tomorrow, Recipes for Success Rita Bay