At Newsweek, Alexandra Hudson writes about Washington’s rules of civility:
The novel coronavirus is an excellent example of how individual actions matter most because of their aggregate effects. Civilization is held together by the cumulative effects of our individual decisions. It’s important that our external actions be informed by an inner disposition to act well. Hence, Washington’s final rule is especially salient: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” To be sure, there were proponents of similar rules long before Washington. Washington’s rules were originally derived from a 17th century Jesuit etiquette manual, which was in turn derived from Florentine Giovanni Della Casa’s famous 16th century Il Galateo: The Rules of Polite Behavior. Della Casa himself drew from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Washington’s rules were thus merely a modern manifestation of a long tradition of those who argued for the importance of self-discipline for the sake of the health—both physically and socially—of community life. Washington’s rules, and their predecessors, remind us of the timeless value of civility in society. While the world is still in panic over the rapid spread of the coronavirus, we should celebrate the moral and cultural frameworks of self-restraint that support both a free society and the mitigation of pandemics. It is these frameworks—in addition to Washington’s foresight—that will get us through this.