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212. Is it in order for a member to be present, when the assembly are deliberating upon matters, in which he is personally concerned?
It is neither in order, nor in decency for a member to be present in the assembly, when he is personally interested in the matter under debate.
213. What, if anything, is done, when a member in addressing the assembly, makes use of language that is in* suiting to another member, or to the body at large?
When a member in speaking, indulges in language abusive or insulting to other members, or to the body generally, he is usually interrupted in his\ speech by members calling him to order. In that case, the party aggrieved, or objecting to the language, is requested by the President, or proceeds of his own accord, either to repeat, or reduce to writing the exact words complained of, so that they may be recorded by the clerk, or secretary.
214. Must the words be so recorded?
The words, upon being repeated, may be, or appear to be, less offensive, or insulting than had been supposed. In that event, the President may hesitate, and unless forced by calls to that effect from the assembly, or by a resolution duly passed, he may, in his discretion, allow the affair to pass over by not directing the clerk to take the words down. If that, however, be the clear wish of the assembly, however expressed, the words must be recorded, and the matter in due form settled.
215. Supposing the objectionable words to be token down by order of the President, or that of the assembly, what follows?
The words being recorded by the clerk, or secretary, are to be read to the member who is charged with using them; and, if he denies them to be the words which he used, the judgment, or testimony of the assembly is taken by a vote on the question whether the words recorded by the clerk, and imputed to him, be really his, or not. Before taking the question, however, it is competent for the assembly so to amend, or alter the words taken down, as to bring them, if possible, nearer to what, in their judgment, the offending member actually did say.
216. What if the member does not deny the words?
If the words imputed be not denied, or if the assembly decides them to be truly reported, the member is at liberty either to justify them, or to show that, as he used them, they are not liable to the charge of being disorderly, or finally, to make such apology as is due under the circumstances. If the justification, or explanation, be deemed satisfactory, or the apology, if he make one, acceptable, there the matter terminates; and he is permitted to resume, and go on with his speech.
217. How is it ascertained whether, or not the assembly is satisfied with the justification, or explanation, or apology, whichever it may be f
Whether, in such case, the assembly is satisfied, or not, is known by their silent acquiescence: the presumption being, that where none object, all agree.
But should any two members insist, that the sense of the body should be taken on the character of the words, or on the guilt or innocence of the person using them, the member must withdraw before that question is stated. After his withdrawal, the question is to be taken, and the penalty, if any, fixed by a vote of the assembly.
218. Must the complaint against a member for using offensive language, be entered immediately?
A complaint against a member for using disorderly, or offensive words, must be entered, if at all, at the time the offence is given.* This is a most necessary rule, for if the words be not written down immediately, mistakes will occur, and no security will be afforded to any one against mistaken or malicious charges of disorder.
If, thereforej the speech of another member, or any other business, be allowed to intervene between the time of using the words alleged to be disorderly, and that of making the complaint, such complaint is not to be entertained.
219. Suppose, at any time, the presiding officer finds it impossible, by calls to order, or appeals to the meeting, to restrain a member, disposed to be disorderly, what is his last resort?
In case of persistent disorder, on the part of a member, it is the duty of the presiding officer to designate by name the person so behaving and so bring the offender before the assembly.
* Compare however Jefferson and Cushing on this point.
220. What steps, in such case, may the assembly taJce?
The assembly may, and ought to require the member, thus offending, to withdraw: allowing him, however, an opportunity, if he wishes it, to explain, or exculpate himself. Then, after a statement of the nature of the offense from the President, the assembly should decide upon the punishment, if any, due to the transgression.
221. Suppose the assembly, generally, persist in disorder, what is the President to do?
If, after proper efforts to preserve order, there is a general and persistent disregard to his appeals and to the character and claims of his office, his obligation farther to attempt the control of the meeting, of course, ceases, and he may, therefore, justly abandon the assembly to its own guidance and discretion.
222. What rule, if any, might prevent the occurrence of a state of things like that supposed in the answer to last question?
If each individual, whether officer or private member, would but honestly labor to aid the main object of the meeting, which is, or ought to be, the elicitation of truth and the free expression of the ascertained will of the body, such a state of things as that supposed, in the case above, would certainly never occur. The rules of order which have been stated and explained, in the preceding pages, will be found sufficient, if duly observed, to secure the decent and orderly transaction of business in almost any deliberative assembly, provided only the spirit of truth, justice and courtesy prevail among its members.
TVEBATINGr Societies, wisely conducted, cannot be D too highly commended. They are, indeed, excellent schools; but, like all other schools, good or bad, according to the skill and intelligence with which they are managed. To make them at all subservient to the proper design of their institution, the exercises in them should ever be regarded as important business transactions. They will, indeed, always yield entertainment; but any view of their character, that makes amusement their principal design, cannot fail materially to diminish their utility.
In adopting and signing a written Constitution, each member thereby pledges himself to meet its requirements. It is a contract, promising rewards, but imposing obligations. It should, therefore, be faithfully observed; for one, among many things, that may be acquired, or strengthened, in a society of this kind, is the habit of being punctual in the performance of duties. He that habitually violates engagements, voluntarily assumed, however unimportant they may seem, is in danger of falling into precisely the same practice respecting matters of higher moment.