There is a saying that it takes eight generations to breed a gentleman. Money can be be found in one but manners take another seven.
To be sure this is slightly elitist, very few families, even those that are perfectly well-mannered, can trace their history that far back, but the crucial fact: that new money generally goes with poor conduct is well borne out by experience.
However there are many people who appear to be reasonably agreeable and inoffensive until one meets them in a traffic accident or marries them, at which point they turn out to be utter cads, so some means of identifying such specimens at a distance would be useful.
I am a poor driver and have had many minor accidents in the past. In order to avoid the hassle I've generally tried to settle the matter without going through the insurance companies. The end result is that I get cheated. Times without number I have paid up without question or complaint, usually many times over what the actual repair would have cost. I find it so disagreeable to deal with such people that I prefer to pay up and finish it rather than negotiate, especially when it is fairly apparent that they are out to take you to the cleaners.
The situation seems worse when the car the other person is driving has already got a number of dents or scrapes. (I would expect the opposite- if car is shiny and new I can understand them being a bit fussy). They seem to want to recover the cost of all the numerous repairs from any unfortunate who bumps into them.
So how does one really know a gentleman from a cad? Unfortunately it is only when one is involved in a dispute do the true colours show. Anyone who can conduct himself with civility, grace and dignity in a dispute carries the true hallmarks of a gentlemen.
General Robert Edward Lee is supposed to have defined a gentleman as:
"The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others."
In the local political sphere the treatment meted out to former friends is quite instructive.
If anyone has a short cut to assessing people let me know. In the meantime Lou Bega has this to say: