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MANUAL

OF

PARLIAMENTARY PRACTICE,

BY

THOMAS JEFFERSON.

IMPORTANCE OF RULES.

SECTION I.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ADHERING TO RULES.

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Mr. Onslow, the ablest among the Speakers of the House of Commons, used to say, “ It was a maxim he had often heard when he was a young man, from old and experienced members, that nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of Administration and those who acted with the majority in the House of Commons, than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding : that these forms, as instituted by our ancestors, operated as a check and control on the actions of the majority: and that they were, in many instances, a shelter and protection to the minority, against the attempts of power.”

So far the maxim is certainly true, and is founded in good sense, that as it is always in the power of the majority, by their numbers, to stop any improper measures proposed on the part of their opponents, the only weapon by which the minority can defend themselves against similar attempts from those in power, are the forms and rules of proceeding, which have been adopted as they were found necessary from time to time, and are become the law of the House ; by strict adherence to which, the weaker party can only be protected from those irregularities and abuses, which these forms were intended to check, and which the wantonness of power is but too often apt to suggest to large and successful majorities.—2 Hats, 171, 172.

And 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 Speaker, or captiousness of the members. It is very material that order, decency and regularity be preserved in a dignified public body.—2 Hats., 149.

SECTION IL

LEGISLATURE.

All legislative powers herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which sball consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 1.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.-Const. U. S., Art. 1, Sec. 6.

For the powers of Congress, see the following Articles and Sections of the Constitution of the United States.-Art. l., Sec. 4, 7, 8, 9.- Art. II., Sec. 1, 2.Art. III., Sec. 3.- Art. IV., Sec. 1, 3, 5.-And all the Amendments.

SECTION III.

PRIVILEGED.

The privileges of the members of Parliament, from small and obscure beginnings, have been advancing for centuries with a firm and never-yielding pace. Claims seem to have been brought forward from time to time, and repeated till some example of their admission enabled them to build law on that example. We can only, therefore, state the point of progression at which they now

It is now acknowledged : 1st, That they are at all times exempted from question elsewhere, for any thing said in their own House ; that during the time of privilege, 2d, Neither a member himself, his wife,* or his servants, (familiares sui,] for any matter

are.

• Order of the House of Commons, 1663, July 10.

of their own, may be* arrested on mesne process, in any civil suit; 3d, Nor be detained under execution, though levied before the time of privilege; 4th, Nor impleaded, cited or subpænaed in any court; 5th, Nor summoned as a witness or juror ; 6th, Nor may their lands or goods be distrained; 7th, Nor their persons assaulted, or characters traduced. And the period of time, covered by privilege, before and after the session, with the practice of short prorogations under the connivance of the Crown, amounts in fact to a perpetual protection against the course of justice. In one instance, indeed, it has been relaxed by 10 G. 3, č. 50, which permits judiciary proceedings to go on against them. That these privileges must be continually progressive, seems to result from their rejecting all definition of them; the doctrine being, that “their dignity and independence are preserved by keeping their privileyes indefinite;" and that “the maxims upon which they proceed, together with the method of proceeding, rest entirely in their own breast; and are not defined and ascertained by any particular stated law.”—1 Blackstone, 163, 164.

It was probably from this view of the encroaching character of privilege, that the framers of our Constitution, in their care to provide that the laws shall bind equally on all, and especially that those who make them shall not exempt themselves from their operation, have only privileged " Senators and Representatives” themselves from the single act of “arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, during their attendance at the sessions of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same, and from being questioned in any other place for any speech or debate in either House."--Const. Ú. S. Art. I., Sec. 6. Under the general authority to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers given them,” Const. U. S., Art. II., Sec. 8, they may provide by law the details which may be necessary for giving full effect to the enjoyment of this privilege. No such law being as yet made, it seems to stand at present on the following ground :--1. The act of arrest is void, ab initio, 2 Stra. 989.-2. The member arrested may be discharged on motion. 1 Bl. 166. 2 Stra. 990; or by Habeas Corpus under the Federal or Stale authority, as the case may be; or a writ of privilege out of the Chancery, 2 Stra. 989, in those States which have adopted that part of the laws of England. -Orders of the House of Com. 1550, Feb. 20.–3. The arrest, being unlawful, is a trespass, for which the officer and others concerned are liable to action or indictment in the ordinary courts of justice, as in other cases of unauthorized arrest.-4. The court before which the process is returnable, is bound to act as in other cases of unauthorized proceeding, and liable also, as in other similar cases, to have their proceedings stayed or corrected by the superior courts.

The tine necessary for going to and returning from Congress not being defined, it will of course be judged of in every particular case by those who will have to decide the case.

* Elsynge, 217–1 Hats. 31-1 Grey's Deb. 133.

While privilege was understood in England to extend, as å does here, only to exemption from arrest, eundo, morando et re deundo, the House of Commons themselves, decided that “a con venient time was to be understood.”—1580-1 Hats. 99, 100. Nor is the law so strict in point of time as to require the party to set out immediately on his return, but allows him time to settle bis private affairs and to prepare for his journey; and does not even scan his road very nicely, nor forfeit his protection for a little deviation from that which is most direct; some nece

ecessity perhaps constraining him to it.—2 Stra. 986, 987.

This privilege from arrest, privileges of course against all process, the disobedience to which is punishable by an attachment of the person; as a subpæna ad respondendum, or testificandum, or a summons on a jury; and with reason, because a member has superior duties to perform in another place.

When a representative is withdrawn from his seat by summons, the 47,700 people whom he represents lose their voice in debate and vote, as they do in his voluntary absence; when a Senator is withdrawn by summons, his State loses half its voice in debate and vote, as it does in his voluntary absence. Tbe enormous disparity of evil admits no comparison.

So far there will probably be no difference of opinion as to the privileges of the two Houses of Congress; but in the following cases it is otherwise. In Dec. 1795, the House of Representatives committed two persons of the names of Randall and Whitney, for attempting to corrupt the integrity of certain members, which they considered as a contempt and breach of the privileges of the House; and the facts being proved, Whitney was detained in confinement a fortnight, and Randall three weeks, and was reprimanded by the Speaker. In March, 1796, the House of Representatives voted, a challenge given to a member of their House, to be a breach of the privileges of the House; but satisfactory apologies and acknowledgments being made, no further proceedings were had. The Editor of the Aurora having, in his paper of Feb. 19, 1800, inserted some paragraphs defamatory to the Senate, and failed in his appearance, he was ordered to be committed. In debating the legality of this order, it was insisted in support of it, that every man, by the law of nature, and every body of men, possesses the right of self-defence; that all public functionaries are essentially invested with the powers of self-preservation; that they have an inherent right to do all acts necessary to keep themselves in a condition to discharge the trusts confided to them ; that whenever authorities are given, the means of carrying them into execution are given by necessary implication; that thus we see the British Parliament exercise the right of punishing contempts; all the State Legislatures exercise the same power, and every Court does the same; that if we have it not, we sit at the mercy of every intruder who may enter our doors or gallery, and by noise and tumult render proceeding in business impracticable; that if our tranquillity is to be perpetually disturbed by newspaper defamation, it will not be possible to exercise our functions with ihe requisite coolness and deliberation; and that we must therefore have a power to punish those disturbers of our peace and proceedings. To this it was answered, that the Parliament and Courts of England have cognizance of contempts by the express provisions of their law; that the State Legislatures have equal authority, because their powers are plenary; they represent their constituents completely, and possess all their powers, except such as their Constitutions have expressly denied them ; that the Courts of the several States have the same powers by the laws of their States, and those of the Federal Government by the same State laws, adopted in each State by a law of Congress ; that none of these bodies, therefore, derive those powers from natural or necessary right, but from express law; that Congress have no such natural or necessary power, nor any powers but such as are given them by the Constitution ; that that has given them directly, exemption from personal arrest, exemption from questions elsewhere for what is said in the House, and power over their own members and proceedings; for these no further law is necessary, the Constitution being the law : that, moreover, by that article of the Constitution wbich authorizes them “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested by the Constitution in them,” they may provide by law for an undisturbed exercise of their functions, e. g. for the punishment of contempts, of affrays or tumults in their presence, &c.; but, till the law be made, it does not exist; and does not exist, from their own neglect; that in the meantime, however, they are not unprotected, the ordinary magistrates and courts of law being open and competent to punish all unjustifiable disturbances or defamations, and even their own sergeant, who may appoint deputies ad libitum to aid him, 3 Grey, 59, 147, 255, is equal to the smallest disturbances; that in requiring a previous law, the Constitution had regard to the inviolability of the citizen as well as of the member; as, should one house, in the regular form of a bill, aim at too broad privileges, it may be checked by the other, and both by the President; and also as, the law being promulgated, the citizen will know how to avoid offence. But if one branch may assume its own privileges without control; if it may do it on the spur of the occasion, conceal the law in its own breast, and after the fact committed make its sentence both the law and the judgment on that fact; if the of

; fence is to be kept undefined, and to be declared only ex re nata, and according to the passions of the moment, and there be no limitation either in the manner or measure of the punishment, the condition of the citizen will be perilous indeed. Which of these doctrines is to prevail, time will decide. Where there is no fixed law, the judgment on any particular case is the law of that single case only, and dies with it. When a new and even a similar case arises, the judgment which is to make, and at the same time apply, the law, is open to question and consideration, as are all new laws. Perhaps Congress, in the meantime, in their care for the safety of the citizens as well as that for their own protection, may declare by law what is necessary and proper to enable them to carry into execution the powers vested in them, and thereby hang up a rule for the inspection of all, which may direct the conduct of the citizens, and at the same time test the judgments they shall themselves pronounce in their own case.

Privilege from arrest takes place by force of the election; and before a return be made, a member elected may be named of a committee, and is to every intent a member, except that he can not vote until he is sworn.—Memor. 107, 108.-D. Ewes, 642, col.

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