While the President is putting a question or addressing the meeting,* or while a member is speaking, none of the members should move from their seats, or entertain private discourse; nor while a member is speaking should any pass between him and the President.
If any member, in speaking, transgress the rules of the Society, wander from the subject under discussion, or indulge in personalities, the President should, or any member may, through the President, call him to order. The member so called to order must immediately cease speaking, unless permitted to explain ; the meeting may, if appealed to, decide in the case, but without debate. If there be no appeal, the decision of the President shall be submitted to, and if the case requires it, the member so called to order shall be liable to the censure of the meeting. A member called to order, if the decision of the President be that he is out of order, loses his right to the floor, unless the consent of the meeting is obtained for him to proceed.
* In regard to the right of a presiding officer to speak, Hatsell says: - "But if the Speaker rises to speak, the member standing up, ought to sit down, that he may be first heard. Nevertheless, though the Speaker may of right speak to matters of order, and be first heard, he is restrained from speaking on any other subject, except where the House have occasion for facts within his knowledge - then he may, with their leave, state the matter of fact.
No member may speak more than twice to the same question without leave of the meeting. In Congress, a member is allowed to speak but once, until every member wishing to speak on the subject, has spoken, when he may speak again.
No member, when speaking, shall be interrupted, except by a call to order, or by a member to explain,* or by a motion for the previous question. A member who obtains the floor in order to explain, must confine himself to the explanation. If he go into the general merits of the subject, he is out of order.
* The practice in the Legislature of New York, and in that of Massachusetts, is different from this rule, Cushing says: - "It is sometimes supposed that, because a member has a right to explain himself, he therefore has a right to interrupt another member, whilst speaking, in order to make the explanation. But this is a mistake ; he should wait until the member speaking has finished. And if a member, on being requested, yields the floor for an explanation, he relinquishes it altogether."
In Legislative bodies, a member, in debate, is not permitted to refer to another member by name; but in case of a member transgressing the rules of the body, he may be named by the Speaker, and by him only.
In Societies, it is usual for a member, when he wishes to refer to another member, to say, the gentleman on his right, or his left, or the gentleman last up, or last but one, or the gentleman who offered the resolution or the amendment, or by using some other similar expression. This is decidedly the proper usage.
No member, in speaking, should be allowed to indulge in language personally offensive to any member, or insulting to the meeting; nor should he be allowed to question the motives of a member, or use disrespectful terms in referring to the proceedings of a former meeting. In Parliamentary practice, the consequences of a measure may be reprobated in strong terms, but to arraign the motives of those who propose or advocate it, is regarded as a personality, and against order. Hatsell says : - "No one is to speak impertinently or beside the question, super fluously or tediously."
In Congress, when a member speaking is called to order by another member, for indulging in improper remarks, the exception-able words are required to be taken down in writing, that the Speaker may be better enabled to judge of the matter. After being read, the member is asked if he spoke those words. The words taken down may be amended so as to conform to what the House believe to be the words spoken.
No motion is open for debate until it has been stated from the chair.
When a member wishes to make a statement to the meeting, not involving a motion, he should ask permission of the President who will put the question, "Shall the member have leave?" If no objection be made, he will permit the member to proceed. So also when a member has spoken twice, and wishes to speak a third time.
According to Parliamentary usage, no member may be present when a bill or any other business, concerning himself, is being debated; nor is any member allowed to speak to the merits of it, until the member interested withdraws.
It is also the practice in Parliament that no member can have a paper read, or be allowed to read it himself, without the consent of the House. A member has not the right even to read his own speech, committed to writing, without leave.* This is to prevent an abuse of time; and therefore is not refused, but where that is intended.
Noisy and disorderly behaviour, coughing or stamping, while a member is speaking, are excessively rude, and should be promptly suppressed by the President. Every member has a right to be heard, while he speaks in order, and to the question, and if the President can preserve order in no other way, he should publicly name the offenders. "Nevertheless," says Hatsell, "if a member finds that it is not the inclination of the House to hear him, and that, by conversation, or any other noise, they endeavour to drown his voice, it is his most prudent way to submit to the pleasure of the House, and sit down; for it scarcely ever happens that they are guilty of this piece of ill manners, without a sufficient reason, or inattentive to a member who says any thing worth hearing."
♦This rule I have never known to be enforced here.
The right to address the House while sitting, is conceded to members who are sick, in Parliament.