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.
2. If the resolution relate to a matter of public interest, and is obviously a subject that requires immediate attention, and its passage will be of very decided benefit, an assembly will be apt to consider it favorably at once, and will be likely to take immediate action relating to its passage.
TEMPORARY SUPPRESSION OF THE QUESTION. If, however, the body deem the proposition of no especial consequence, or wish more time for the investigation of the subject, or an opportunity to make amendments and changes rendering it more acceptable, then they may cause its suppression, at least for a time, by some member moving that the question lie on the table. If this is seconded, this question takes precedence of any other before the assembly.
If this motion is decided in the affirmative, the main question, and all matters relating to it, is removed from before the meeting, until such time as it suits the convenience of the assembly to take the matter up.
If decided in the negative, the business relating to the principal motion before the house will proceed, as though the motion to "lie on the table" had not been made.
A question may be postponed by moving the previous question, which is done as follows:
Upon a motion being made to adopt a resolution, it is allowable for a member to move that "the question be now put." This last motion, which is termed moving the previous question, becomes the immediate question before the house, and at once shuts off debate on the main question. When the friends of a measure are afraid to have the same discussed, it is common for them to move that " the question be now put;" hoping to have strength enough, if the resolution is not discussed, to carry their point. If their motion is carried, then the original question is put, and immediately disposed of.
It is common, also, for the party anxious to defeat a measure, being fearful that its discussion will make a favorable impression on the members, to move "that the question be now put;" their hope being that the members, being unacquainted with the resolution, will not consent to its adoption, until it has been more thoroughly discussed.
When it is decided that the question should not then be put, all further discussion of the original question is usually postponed for that day. This depends upon the standing rule of assembly, however. With some state legislatures it is the rule, if the question is decided in the negative, to resume the debate and proceed with the discussion.
Formerly, in the English parliament, when it was decided that the question be not put, the question could not be brought up again during the session. At the present time, however, the decision that the motion shall not be put, effects a postponement only until the next day.*
* "The operation of a negative decision is different in different assemblies; in some, as for example, in the house of representatives of congress, it operates to dispose of the principal or main question, by suppressing or removing it from before the house for the day; but in others, as in the house of representatives of Massachusetts, and in the house of assembly of New York (in the former by usage only, and in the latter by rule), the effect of a negative decision of the previous question is to leave the main question under debate for the residue of the sitting, unless sooner disposed of by taking the question, or in some other manner.
In England, the previous question is used only for suppressing a main question; the object of the mover is to obtain a decision of it in the negative; and the effect of such a decision, though in strictness only to suppress the question for the day, is, practically and by parliamentary usage, to dispose of the subject altogether. In this country, the previous question is used chiefly for suppressing debate on a main question; the object of the mover is to obtain a decision of it in the affirmative; and the effect of a decision the other way, though in some
When it is desirable to suppress a question, or prevent its passage, there are several plans resorted to by parliamentarians. Among these are :
2d. Moving that the question be laid on the table for the present; the argument being that, on a subsequent occasion, the meeting will have more time and better opportunity to consider the merits of the question, and hence will be better informed concerning its merits.
3d. To secure, if possible, an indefinite postponement of the question, which virtually defeats it. If the maker of the motion for postponement is fearful that the question is so popular with the assembly that the members will not submit to an indefinite postponement, he will
4th. Aim to secure at least a postponement to a certain time in the future, hoping that it will be subsequently forgotten, or the pressure of business will be such that it cannot be taken up at the time appointed.
Or, the member, trusting to the unpopularity of the question, or the unwillingness of the meeting to pass a measure without due consideration, may move the "previous question," by
5th. Moving that the question be now put.
The member may suggest indefinite changes in the question, sufficient to show the importance of some amendment, and thereupon
6th. Move its reference to a committee having jurisdiction over that class of questions, or a select committee, as the case may be. If the question has been once considered in committee, it may be recommitted. Or the member may
7th. Move an amendment to the question, which will greatly change, modify, or weaken the force of the question.