Paul McClintock, PRP

Wise Words

Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty. -- Henry M. Robert, Robert's Rules of Order Revised, 1915, preface, 3rd paragraph (and RONR 10th edition, p. v).

[A]ny presiding officer will do well to bear in mind that no rules can take the place of tact and common sense on the part of the chairman. -- Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 2000, p.433, l.20-23.

There are five great principles underlying the rules of parliamentary law, namely: (1) Order. That is, there must be orderly procedure. (2) Equality. That is, all members are equal before the rule or law. (3) Justice. That is, justice for all. (4) Right of the minority to be heard on questions. (5) Right of the majority to rule the organization. -- George Demeter, Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, 1969 Blue Book Edition, p. 5.

The great lesson for democracies to learn is for the majority to give to the minority a full, free opportunity to present their side of the case, and then for the minority, having failed to win a majority to their views, gracefully to submit and to recognize the action as that of the entire organization, and cheerfully to assist in carrying it out, until they can secure its repeal. -- Henry M. Robert, Parliamentary Law, 1923, p.4.

Parliamentary law should be the servant, not the master, of the assembly. The assembly meets to transact business, not to have members exploit their knowledge of parliamentary law. -- Henry M. Robert, Parliamentary Law, 1923, p.151.

The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member's opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion. -- Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition, p. XLVIII.

The great purpose of all rules and forms is to subserve the will of the assembly, rather than to restrain it; to facilitate, and not to obstruct, the expression of their deliberate sense. -- Cushing's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, 1928, p. 187.

Wherever there is an assembly there is need of parliamentary law, so that the assembly may proceed in orderly fashion with as little jar and discord as possible, and accomplish the work to be performed, which work in all instances is to obtain the sense of the assembly and shape its action in accord therewith. -- Thomas B. Reed, Reed's Parliamentary Rules, Introduction.

If the student has once fixed in his mind the idea that parliamentary law is not a series of arbitrary rules, but a plain, consistent system, founded on common sense, and sanctioned by the experience of mankind, he will have gone far toward understanding it. -- Thomas B. Reed, Reed's Parliamentary Rules, Preface.

In these days of numerous organizations it should be considered as inexcusable to belong to any society holding regular meetings and remain ignorant of parliamentary law as to join in golf, tennis or [cards] and not familiarize one's self with the rules of the game. -- Emma A. Fox, Parliamentary Usage For Women's Clubs, p. 2.

The Chair makes the difference at meetings. If the Chair is an effective leader -- focusing on the members, treating each fairly, earning everyone's trust -- then the meeting will be successful. If not, it will end in disarray and fail to meet its objectives. -- Hugh Cannon, Cannon's Concise Guide to Rules of Order, p. 13.

One of the basic concepts of freedom is the right of people to join together to achieve their common purposes. This concept includes the right to assemble and to organize, to propose ideas, to speak without fear of reprisal, to vote on proposals, and to carry out the decisions of the group. Parliamentary law provides the procedures that give reality to these democratic concepts. -- The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 4th edition, Alice Sturgis / AIP, p. 2.

Rules of order are intended to facilitate progress, not to impede it. -- Eli Mina, The Complete Handbook of Business Meetings, p. 5.

If there were no rules or established customs to guide an assembly of persons, and if each could talk on any subject as long and as many times as he pleased, and if all could talk at the same time, it would be impracticable in most cases to ascertain their deliberate judgment on any particular matter. Experience has shown the necessity for rules, for a presiding officer to enforce them and to preserve order, and for a recording secretary to keep a record of the business transacted by the assembly. -- Henry M. Robert, Parliamentary Practice, 1949, p. xi.

The fundamental principles of parliamentary law are: Justice to all, Courtesy to all, One thing at a time, The rule of the majority, The rights of the minority, Partiality to none. -- Rose Marie Cruzan, Practical Parliamentary Procedure, 3rd ed., 1962, p. 5.

The fundamental essence of a meeting is the equal opportunity of members to initiate ideas, oppose ideas, and to do so without coercion. -- James Lochrie, Meeting Procedures, Parliamentary Law and Rules of Order for the 21st Century, 2003, p. 1.

Six principles underlie the rules of any meeting.  These are: (1) the majority must be allowed to rule; (2) the minority have rights that must be respected; (3) members have a right to information to help make decisions; (4) courtesy and respect for others are required; (5) all members have equal rights, privileges, and obligations; (6) members have a right to an efficient meeting. -- James Lochrie, Meeting Procedures, Parliamentary Law and Rules of Order for the 21st Century, 2003, p. 1.

[A] principle of democracy is that a group needs to agree ahead of time on how it might make a group decision, as well as a commitment on everyone's part to accept that decision. -- James Lochrie, Meeting Procedures, Parliamentary Law and Rules of Order for the 21st Century, 2003, p. 130.

It is more material that there should be a rule to go by than what that rule is: in order that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in the business of the House, not subject to the momentary caprice of the Speaker or to the captious disputes of any of the Members. -- Hatsell, II, 207-8.

To become a parliamentarian, one must have a ready knowledge of motions, their rank, purpose, and effect. Any one who possesses it can preside over a deliberative body with ease and skill, or take part in the proceedings. -- John L. Branch, author of Rules of Parliamentary Procedure (1897).

It is the duty of every person participating in the proceedings to observe the rules of parliamentary procedure, and to aid the presiding officer in enforcing them. -- John L. Branch, author of Rules of Parliamentary Procedure (1897).

A general knowledge of the proper rules always tends to economize time, secure the dispatch of business, and harmonize all proceedings. -- Joseph B. Burleigh, author of The American Manual (1848) and The Legislative Guide (1853).

Parliamentary law is important in Oral English because it formulates the rules that are used to manage public speaking. It is needed in school and college meetings, in social clubs, in athletic leagues, in literary societies, in religious organizations, in educational associations, in political clubs, in labor unions, in the meetings of boards of directors, in city councils, in state legislatures, in national congresses, in international conferences, in almost all organizations in which people work together. -- Oral English Directions and Exercises for Planning and Delivering the Common Kinds of Talks, Together with Guidance for Debating and Parliamentary Practice, 1916, by John Marks Brewer, pp. 289-290.

It is a mistake to imagine that parliamentary usage is intended to interfere, or that it does interfere, with the rights of the individual member or of the body as a whole. It does not interfere with the right doing of things, but facilitates their doing. Instead of being in the way, it clears the way, and makes easier the progress. Instead of overriding the individual, it protects the individual member and promotes the best interests of the whole body. It exists for the purpose of protecting the body as a whole and at the same time defending the individual so that the majority shall not do a wrong even to the smallest minority though composed of only a single one. It is based on principles of justice, logic, and equity, so that the strictest compliance with parliamentary law makes for the defense of the minority and for justice to all. So to speak, its motto is "Fair Play"--fairness to the body, fairness to the individual, and fairness to every proposition which is offered. p. 14, Neely's Parliamentary Practice, 1914, by Thomas Benjamin Neely.

It is error to presume, as many do, that only the chairman should be well versed in parliamentary practice The members participating in a meeting should know beforehand the proper course to pursue, and thus save themselves from embarrassment and not cause confusion and loss of time, the chairman remaining neutral and acting as arbiter, p. 18, Rice's Rules of Order, 1921, by Joseph C. Rice.

It must be apparent, upon the slightest consideration, that no deliberative assembly, consisting of any considerable number of persons, can transact business with facility or dispatch without some established rules of proceeding. Their deliberations would almost unavoidably be protracted by needless debate; action upon any subject would be liable to interruption; and perhaps the assembly, incapable of preserving order, would break up in confusion. p.245, The Citizens' Manual of Government and Law, 1859, by Andrew White Young.

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Last updated 2009-05-07