George Washington’s Scout Law

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George Washington might be called America’s first Boy Scout. Although the famous incident about chopping down the cherry tree (“I cannot tell a lie”) is apocryphal, it has endured because it accurately represents the kind of man Washington was.

If you’d like to give your next court of honor a patriotic flavor, consider including this version of the Scout Law that includes commentary by Washington. (It comes from Boy Scouts Year Book, a BSA publication from 1918.) Have one Scout stand at attention and recite each point of the Law while a second Scout reads the corresponding Washington quote (along with the introductory paragraph).

When Washington was 15 years old, he developed 57 “rules of conduct” for his life, many of which relate directly to the values Scouting teaches. Below are 12 of Washington’s rules, each matched with one of the points of the Scout Law.

A Scout Is Trustworthy. “Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.”

A Scout Is Loyal. “Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any. Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.”

A Scout Is Helpful. “Wherein you reprove another be unblamable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts. In visiting the sick do not play the physician, if you be not knowing therein.”

A Scout Is Friendly. “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, tho’ he were your enemy. Let your conversation be without malice or envy.”

A Scout Is Courteous. “Be not forward, but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear, and answer. Speak not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop, turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; lean not on any one.”

A Scout Is Kind. “When a man does all he can, tho’ it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it.”

A Scout Is Obedient. “Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor. Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.”

A Scout Is Cheerful. “Speak not of doleful things in times of mirth; nor at the table; put on a cheerful countenance, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.”

A Scout Is Thrifty. “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive. In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than to procure admiration.”

A Scout Is Brave. “Fight to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

A Scout Is Clean. “Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse nor revile. Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.”

A Scout Is Reverent. “When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously in reverence.”

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