We cannot tell a lie — George Washington’s rules similar to the Scout Law

America’s first president is remembered for his humble leadership, bravery and honesty. One of those tales of his honesty — admitting that he had damaged his father’s cherry tree when he was 6 years old — is actually a myth.

Still, virtue was instilled in George Washington at a young age. At age 14, he copied down 110 “rules of civility” in his schoolbook. Some address table manners and social graces, but others deal more deeply with one’s character.

Taking a closer look at some, they sound a lot like tenets taught in Scouting.

Washington’s rules

Rule No. 15: Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

A Scout is Clean.

According to displays at Mount Vernon, Washington’s homestead, he spent a small fortune trying to care for his teeth. Good dental hygiene could’ve meant a healthy mouth; however, the care available in the 1700s wasn’t at the standard of today.

Although he steadfastly brushed, Washington struggled with pain throughout most of his life, and when he was inaugurated at age 57, he only had one tooth remaining.

Another myth: Washington didn’t have wooden teeth. His dentures were made of elephant ivory and other human teeth.

Rule No. 22: Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

A Scout is Kind.

Politics has always been contentious. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, that was the case, too, as it was debated how America should be governed.

During the convention, Washington ensured disagreements didn’t escalate into chaos; he also debated infrequently himself, seeing his role as nonpartisan.

Rule No. 44: When a man does all he can though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.

Do Your Best. –the Cub Scout motto.

As you’ve probably heard before from fellow Scouters, Scouting provides a “safe place to fail.” Youth are challenged to try challenges that come their way and to persevere, even if things go wrong along the way.

Washington faced his own challenges, some of which, he failed, like the Battle of Fort Necessity — his first military experience during the French and Indian War and his only surrender of his military career.

Rule No. 66: Be not froward but friendly and courteous; the first to salute hear and answer and be not pensive when it’s a time to converse.

A Scout is Friendly. A Scout is Courteous.

Many of Washington’s rules focus on how to treat others. He was known as being genteel.

Rule No. 82: Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

A Scout is Trustworthy.

Report to the Nation

After visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, 13 Scouts in the Report to the Nation delegation toured Washington’s 8,000-acre homestead, Mount Vernon, learning how life was for the Washington family and the enslaved people there.

Check out more photos from the day here.

About Michael Freeman 442 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.