49. Constitutions, By-Laws, Rules of Order and Standing Rules. In forming a Constitution and By-Laws, it is always best to procure copies of those adopted by several similar societies, and for the committee, after comparing them, to select one as the basis of their own, amending each article just as their own report is amended by the Society. When they have completed amending the Constitution, it is adopted by the committee. The By-Laws are treated in the same way, and then, having finished the work assigned them, some one moves, "That the committee rise, and that the chairman (or some other member) report the Constitution and By-Laws to the assembly." If this is adopted, the Constitution and By-Laws are written out, and a brief report made of this form: "Your committee, appointed to draft a Constitution and By-Laws, would respectfully submit the following, with the recommendation that they be adopted as the Constitution and By-Laws of this society;" which is signed by all the members of the committee that concur in it. Sometimes the report is only signed by the chairman of the committee.
In the organization just given, it is assumed that both a Constitution and By-Laws are adopted. This is not always done; some societies adopt only a Constitution, and others only By-Laws. Where both are adopted, the constitution usually contains only the following:
(1) Name and object of the society.
(2) Qualification of members.
(3) Officers, their election and duties.
(4) Meetings of the society (only including what is essential, leaving details to the By-Laws).
(5) How to amend the Constitution.
These can be arranged in five articles, each article being subdivided into sections. The
Constitution containing nothing but what is fundamental, it should be made very difficult to amend; usually previous notice of the amendment is required, and also a two-thirds or three-fourths vote for its adoption [§ 73]. It is better not to require a larger vote than two-thirds, and, where the meetings are frequent, an amendment should not be allowed to be made except at a quarterly or annual meeting, after having been proposed at the previous quarterly meeting.
The By-Laws contain all the other standing rules of the society, of such importance that they should be placed out of the power of any one meeting to modify; or they may omit the rules relating to the conduct of business in the meetings, which would then constitute the Rules of Order of the society. Every society, in its By-Laws or Rules of Order, should adopt a rule like this: "The rules contained in--(specifying the work on parliamentary practice) shall govern the society in all cases to which they are applicable, and in which they are not inconsistent with the Rules of Order (or By-Laws) adopted by the society." Without such a rule, any one so disposed, could cause great trouble in a meeting.
In addition to the Constitution, By-Laws and Rules of Order, in nearly every society resolutions of a permanent nature are occasionally adopted, which are binding on the society until they are rescinded or modified. These are called Standing Rules, and can be adopted by a majority vote at any meeting. After they have been adopted, they cannot be modified at the same session except by a reconsideration [§ 60]. At any future session they can be suspended, modified or rescinded by a majority vote. The Standing Rules, then, comprise those rules of a society which have been adopted like ordinary resolutions, without the previous notice, etc., required for By-Laws, and consequently, future sessions of the society are at liberty to terminate them whenever they please. No Standing Rule (or other resolution) can be adopted which conflicts with the Constitution, By-Laws or Rules of Order.* [In practice these various classes of rules are frequently very much mixed. The Standing Rules of some societies are really By-Laws, as the society cannot suspend them, nor can they be amended until previous notice is given. This produces confusion without any corresponding benefit. Standing Rules should contain only such rules as are subject to the will of the majority of any meeting, and which it may be expedient to change at any time, without the delay incident to giving previous notice. Rules of Order should contain only the rules relating to the orderly transaction of the business in the meetings of the society. The By-Laws should contain all the other rules of the society which are of too great importance to be changed without giving notice to the society of such change; provided that the most important of these can be placed in a Constitution instead of in the By-Laws. These latter three should provide for their amendment. The Rules of Order should provide for their suspension. The By-Laws sometimes provide for the suspension of certain articles. None of these three can be suspended without it is expressly provided for.