This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
Two or more persons arising to speak at nearly the same time, the chairman will decide who was first up, by calling the name or otherwise indicating such person, whereupon he proceeds, unless he voluntarily withdraws in favor of another. In case the president is unable to decide the matter, it should be left for the meeting to determine who is entitled to the floor. Readiness of discernment, and promptness of decision, however, upon the part of the chairman, usually render this appeal unnecessary.
In cases of persistency in any improper course of action, or breaches of decorum, it is in order for any member of the assembly to make complaint of such offending member to the chairman, who names the offender, states in presence of the meeting the offence complained of, and offers the offender an opportunity for explanation of his conduct.
If the offence is of such grave character as to require the action of the meeting upon the same, the member so offending should withdraw, though the privilege may be given him of remaining. It is optional with the meeting whether the member be allowed to remain or not, while his conduct is being considered by the assembly. In no case, however, should he vote upon matters relating to himself. If he does so, the vote should not be received, as no person has a right to act as judge upon his own conduct.
After a due consideration of the offense, the assembly may reprimand the offender; may deprive him of the privilege of voting, or speaking, for a certain length of time; may compel him to apologize, or suffer expulsion; or, if deemed for the best interests of the assembly, may expel him from the association.
No one can speak more than once to the same question, without permission from the assembly, even though he may change his mind on the subject; when he obtains the floor, he may speak as long as he chooses, unless a regulation exists to the contrary. The person introducing the subject, however, after every one else wishing to speak on the matter has spoken, may close the debate.
A member may, however, be permitted to make an explanation relating to any material part of his speech, though he is not allowed to review the same at length for the purpose of introducing additional arguments.
Upon the chairman rising to make any explanation or statement, the member occupying the floor at the time should resume his seat, giving the president an opportunity of being heard.
The rule of a well conducted meeting, in order to prevent personalities, is to avoid calling any person by name during a debate in assembly; it being customary to designate the person referred to by number, or as the member from such a state, such a county or district, or "my opponent," "my colleague," or the member who spoke last, etc.
To secure continued harmony among members of a public assembly, everything of a personal nature should be studiously avoided. Any allusion to the personal appearance of another member, reference to his peculiarities, ridicule of his private opinions on political or religious matters, is all very ungentle-manly, and will, in the end, react to the injury of the person making the remarks. Such a course of action will sometimes make a lifelong enemy of the person alluded to. It is desirable for each member of the assembly to secure all the friends in the meeting it is possible to obtain; to do this, he should treat every member of the meeting as he would wish to be treated, under like circumstances. The speaker should confine himself closely to principles involved in the subject he is treating, though he may criticise the position taken by his adversary. Any personal allusions, however, should be of a courteous and complimentary character.
When a member fails to observe the rules of decency and decorum, becomes personal and offensive, it is the duty of the chairman to call the speaker immediately to order, and check such language. The neglect of a presiding officer to do this will frequently cause a body that meets in continuous session to become greatly demoralized, and cause it to lose its power and efficiency for good.
When a member is called to order by the president he should take his seat, unless allowed to explain. In case the meeting be appealed to, the question is decided without debate. If the body is not appealed to, the question shall be decided by the chair. If the decision be favorable, the speaker is allowed to proceed; if unfavorable, the speaker is not allowed to proceed without permission of the assembly.
The officers and members of an assembly understanding their duties, they are then in readiness for the transaction of such business as may come before the meeting, or any work they may have met to consider.
In legislative assemblies, generally, the order of business is provided for in the by-laws of the association, and generally comes in the following order:
The rapidity with which business may be transacted in a deliberative assembly will greatly depend upon the readiness of action, and executive ability of the presiding officer. If such officer be thoroughly informed in parliamentary usage, quick and positive in decision, the council or association that otherwise would be detained in discussions and business half the day or night, may have the same business dispatched in an hour.