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.
THE foregoing illustration of the method of conducting public meetings and conventions will give the reader a general idea of the mode of procedure in the organization and management of any public gathering; as many questions arise, however, concerning parliamentary usage on disputed questions, the following rules of order will be of interest to all persons who may have occasion to participate in the work of public meetings :
The presiding officer of a meeting should possess acuteness of hearing, a clear, distinct voice, positiveness of manner, self-possession, and a clear understanding of his duties, which are as follows:
First, if the meeting be temporary in its character, the president, having been appointed by the members of the congregation present, will, after taking the chair, proceed to state the object of the meeting, or call upon some member in the audience, who is supposed to know the object of the gathering, to do so.
Should no one move the appointment of a secretary, the president will suggest the necessity of a recording officer, and will call upon the meeting to nominate a suitable person for the position. Upon his nomination the chairman will put the same to vote and announce the result, as he will all motions and propositions properly presented, that may necessarily arise in the course of the proceedings.
In making a statement to the assembly, or putting a question, it is customary for the chairman to arise and stand while doing so, though he may retain his seat if much more convenient, while reading any communication or message to the meeting.
He should strictly maintain order, or call upon some one or more persons in authority to do so; should see that members of the meeting, while engaged in the presenting of motions or in debate, observe the order and decorum enjoined by parliamentary rules; should decide all questions of order; should appoint members of committees when required by motion to do so, and should not leave his chair unless the same be filled by a vice president (if there be one) or by the appointment of a pro tempore chairman.
When presiding over a deliberative assembly, such as a council or legislature, his actions will be largely governed by the rules and regulations of the body itself. In such cases it is customary for the chairman to ascertain whether or not a quorum of members be present. Should such not prove to be the case within thirty minutes from the time appointed for the opening of the meeting, it will be in order to adjourn from lack of a quorum, though it will be proper to send an officer in authority to secure the attendance of a sufficient number of members to make a quorum, whereby business may be transacted.
* Parliamentary rules are called parliamentary from the fact that the rules and regulations that now govern public bodies, throughout this country, are substantially those that have been long in use by the British Parliament in England.
At any time during the session, should it be ascertained that less than a quorum of members is in attendance, the chairman must announce the fact, and suspend the transaction of business, as the proceedings of the meeting are illegal when less than a quorum is present.
Should the meeting open with a quorum of members, some of whom should afterwards leave, and the fact be discovered when calling the yeas and nays upon any question, that a quorum is not present, the meeting should adjourn. It will be in order to take up the uncompleted business at the next meeting exactly at the same point it was when the absence of a quorum was ascertained at the preceding meeting.
It is the duty of the presiding officer to place his signature to all documents and proceedings of the assembly, when necessary, in order to authenticate the same.
In general, the chairman being created by the meeting, as a representative of the members present, his duty is to obey their commands, and declare the will of the assemblage in a just and impartial manner.
The secretary, upon taking the chair at a temporary meeting, will provide himself with the necessary stationery with which to note the proceedings on the occasion.
He will, upon request of the president, read the call for the meeting, all communications, messages, and resolutions that may be offered; will furnish a copy of the proceedings for publication, if desirable, or for any person interested who may wish to examine the same; and will preserve the record of proceedings for presentation and examination at a subsequent meeting, if held.
WHAT TO MAKE RECORD OF. The secretary of a deliberative assembly will, after reading the minutes of preceding meeting, make note of and enter upon his journal the substance of all proceedings and enactments passed by the assemblage. All discussions, motions proposed, and other matter not voted upon, are not entered. Such is the rule in legislative assembles. In other meetings it is frequently customary to present a report, not only of what is actually done, but also an outline of the discussions and proceedings in the meeting.
The secretary should file all papers of importance, after having read the same, and being the custodian of all such, should never allow any member or other person to remove them without permission from or direction of the assembly.
He should call the roll when ordered, for the purpose of either noting the absentees or taking a vote of the yeas and nays. He will inform committees of their appointment, the nature of the business they are chosen to consider, will authenticate all proceedings, acts, and orders of the meeting by his signature, and will issue calls for special sittings.