The duties of a Secretary are more mechanical than those of a President, but they are scarcely less important. The office requires a ready writer, and a shrewd, sprightly and intelligent man. A dull, plodding, slow-moving Secretary, is a great drawback upon an efficient President, and a serious hinderance to business. I have known such an association so to distress the presiding officer, as to induce him to undertake, for the time being, the discharge of the duties of both offices at the same time.
1. In this office, system is every thing. The Secretary should come to the meeting with his books and papers in perfect order. Every paper likely to be called for, should be so arranged as to admit of being produced the moment it is wanted. He should keep on a loose sheet, or on a page of his memorandum book, a list of all the committees in full, so as to be able to call over the names of the members, without the trouble of searching through many pages of his minute book; and so also, with items of unfinished business, which he should be able to call over in a moment.
2. He should be quick in catching the import of motions, and verbal amendments, and prompt in reducing them to writing, in a proper shape for the action of the meeting. Attention to this particular greatly facilitates the progress of business.
3. The Secretary's duties require him to keep a correct account of the members in attendance; to preserve a faithful record of the doings of the Society; to read all papers handed him by the president for that purpose; to call and record the yeas and nays, whenever they are required to be called; and to notify the chairman of each committee of his appointment, giving him a list of his colleagues, and stating the business upon which the committee is to act.
4. He should keep a list of each member's address, and correct it from time to time, in case of change or removal, about which he should occasionally inquire; and be attentive to the issuing of notices of meetings for the members, in seasonable time.
5. The Secretary's minute book should be both a journal and a record of proceedings; although it is not required of that officer to take reports of speeches, or to make records of things merely moved or proposed, and which are subsequently withdrawn. Every matter of interest, however, and every proposition upon which a vote has been taken, should be carefully and accurately noted.
6. The Secretary is charged with the custody of many important papers and documents, as well as with the Society's records. These should be carefully guarded, and no paper should be suffered to be taken from his table or his keeping, without a formal vote of the Society.
7. The Secretary should write a legible hand, and understand punctuation, so as to be able properly to punctuate his records. All motions, resolutions, and items of business, should be in separate paragraphs, that they may be readily discovered and read. Every minute book should have a copious index, or, if this involves too much labor, brief side notes, indicating the subjects in the text, should be placed on every page of the record.
8. The Secretary is not deprived of the privilege of taking part in the deliberations of a meeting, but, as a general rule, it will perhaps be found that he can serve the Society quite as efficiently by a rigid attention to business, as by occupying much time on the floor.