[§§ 40, 41.]
40. Chairman* [In connection with this section read § 44, and also § 40, 41.] or President. The presiding officer, when no special title has been assigned him, is ordinarily called the Chairman (or in religious assemblies more usually the Moderator); frequently the constitution of the assembly prescribes for him a title, such as President.
His duties are generally as follows:
To open the session at the time at which the assembly is to meet, by taking the chair and calling the members to order; to announce the business before the assembly in the order in which it is to be acted upon [§ 44]; to state and to put to vote [§ 38] all questions which are regularly moved, or necessarily arise in the course of proceedings, and to announce the result of the vote;
To restrain the members, when engaged in debate, within the rules of order; to enforce on all occasions the observance of order and decorum [§ 36] among the members, deciding all questions of order (subject to an appeal to the assembly by any two members, § 14), and to inform the assembly when necessary, or when referred to for the purpose, on a point of order or practice;
To authenticate, by his signature, when necessary, all the acts, orders and proceedings of the assembly, and in general to represent and stand for the assembly, declaring its will, and in all things obeying its commands.
The chairman shall rise* [It is not customary for the chairman to rise while putting questions in very small bodies, such as committees, boards of trustees, &c.] to put a question to vote, but may state it sitting; he shall also rise from his seat (without calling any one to the chair), when speaking to a question of order, which he can do in preference to other members. In referring to himself he should always use his official title thus: "The Chair decides so and so," not "I decide, &c." When a member has the floor, the chairman cannot interrupt him as long as he does not transgress any of the rules of the assembly, excepting as provided in § 2.
He is entitled to vote when the vote is by ballot,* [But this right is lost if he does not use it before the tellers have commenced to count the ballots. The assembly can give leave to the chairman to vote under such circumstances.] and in all other cases where the vote would change the result. Thus in a case where two-thirds vote is necessary, and his vote thrown with the minority would prevent the adoption of the question, he can cast his vote; so also he can vote with the minority when it will produce a tie vote and thus cause the motion to fail. Whenever a motion is made referring especially to the chairman, the maker of the motion should put it to vote.
The chairman can, if it is necessary to vacate the chair, appoint a chairman pro tem.,** [When there are Vice Presidents, then the first one on the list that is present, is, by virtue of his office, chairman during the absence of the President, and should always be called to the chair when the President temporarily vacates it.] but the first adjournment puts an end to the appointment, which the assembly can terminate before, if it pleases, by electing another chairman. But the regular chairman, knowing that he will be absent from a future meeting, cannot authorize another member to act in his place at such meeting; the clerk [§ 41], or in his absence any member, should in such case call the meeting to order, and a chairman pro tem. be elected, who would hold office during that session [§ 42], without such office was terminated by the entrance of the regular chairman.
The chairman sometimes calls a member to the chair, and himself takes part in the debate. But this should rarely be done, and nothing can justify it in a case where much feeling is shown, and there is a liability to difficulty in preserving order. If the chairman has even the appearance of being a partisan, he loses much of his ability to control those who are on the opposite side of the question.* [The unfortunate habit many chairmen have of constantly speaking upon questions before the assembly, even interrupting the member who has the floor, is unjustified by either the common parliamentary law, or the practice of Congress. One who expects to take an active part in debate should never accept the chair. "It is a general rule, in all deliberative assemblies, that the presiding officer shall not participate in the debate, or other proceedings, in any other capacity than as such officer. He is only allowed, therefore, to state matters of fact within his knowledge; to inform the assembly on points of order or the course of proceeding, when called upon for that purpose, or when he finds it necessary to do so; and on appeals from his decision on questions of order, to address the assembly in debate." [Cushing's Manual, page 106.] "Though the Speaker [chairman] may of right speak to matters of order and be first heard, he is restrained from speaking on any other subject except where the assembly have occasion for facts within his knowledge; then he may, with their leave, state the matter of fact." [Jefferson's Manual, sec. xvii, and Barclay's "Digest of the Rules and Practice of the House of Representatives, U. S.," page 195.]]
The chairman should not only be familiar with parliamentary usage, and set the example of strict conformity to it, but he should be a man of executive ability, capable of controlling men; and it should never be forgotten, that, to control others, it is necessary to control one's self. An excited chairman can scarcely fail to cause trouble in a meeting.
A chairman will often find himself perplexed with the difficulties attending his position, and in such cases he will do well to heed the advice of a distinguished writer on parliamentary law, and recollect that--"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."