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There appears to be much needed a work on parliamentary law, based, in its general principles, upon the rules and practice of Congress, and adapted, in its details, to the use of ordinary societies. Such a work should give, not only the methods of organizing and conducting the meetings, the duties of the officers and the names of the ordinary motions, but in addition, should state in a systematic manner, in reference to each motion, its object and effect; whether it can be amended or debated; if debatable, the extent to which it opens the main question to debate; the circumstances under which it can be made, and what other motions can be made while it is pending. This Manual has been prepared with a view to supplying the above information in a condensed and systematic manner, each rule being either complete in itself, or giving references to every section that in any way qualifies it, so that a stranger to the work can refer to any special subject with safety.
To aid in quickly referring to as many as possible of the rules relating to each motion, there is placed immediately before the Index, a Table of Rules, which enables one, without turning a page, to find the answers to some two hundred questions. The Table of Rules is so arranged as to greatly assist the reader in systematizing his knowledge of parliamentary law.
The second part is a simple explanation of the common methods of conducting business in ordinary meetings, in which the motions are classified according to their uses, and those used for a similar purpose compared together. This part is expressly intended for that large class of the community, who are unfamiliar with parliamentary usages and are unwilling to devote much study to the subject, but would be glad with little labor to learn enough to enable them to take part in meetings of deliberative assemblies without fear of being out of order. The object of Rules of Order in deliberative assemblies, is to assist an assembly to accomplish the work for which it was designed, in the best possible manner. To do this, it is necessary to somewhat restrain the individual, as the right of an individual in any community to do what he pleases, is incompatible with the best interests of the whole. Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty. Experience has shown the importance of definiteness in the law; and in this country, where customs are so slightly established and the published manuals of parliamentary practice so conflicting, no society should attempt to conduct business without having adopted some work upon the subject, as the authority in all cases not covered by their own rules.
It has been well said by one of the greatest of English writers on parliamentary law: "Whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not is really not of so great importance. It is much more material that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is, that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the chairman, or captiousness of the members. It is very material that order, decency and regularity be preserved in a dignified public body."
H. M. R. December, 1875.