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act shall commence or the terminus a quo in any other case, where the question must begin a minimo. The object being not to begin at that extreme, which, and more, being within every man's wish, no one could negative it, and yet, if we should vote in the affirmative, every question for more would be precluded; but at that extreme which would unite few, and then to advance or recede till you get to a number which will unite a bare majority.-3 Grey, 376. 384, 385. "The fair question in this case is not that to which and more all will agree, whether there shall be addition to the question.' 1 Grey, 365.
Another exception to the rule of priority is, when a motion has been made to strike out or agree to a paragraph. Motions to amend it are to be put to the question, before a vote is taken on striking out, or agreeing to the whole paragraph.
But there are several questions, which, being incidental to every one, will take place of every one, privileged or not, to wit, a question of order arising out of any other question, must be decided before that question.-2 Hats. 88.
A matter of privilege arising out of any question, or from a quarrel between two members, or any other cause, supersedes the consideration of the original question, and must be first disposed of.-2 Hats. 88.
Reading papers relative to the question before
the House. This question must be put before the principal one.-2 Hats. 88.
Leave asked to withdraw a motion. The rule of Parliament being, that a motion made and seconded is in possession of the House, and cannot be withdrawn without leave, the very terms of the rule imply that leave may be given, and consequently, may be asked and put to the question.
THE PREVIOUS QUESTION.
When any question is before the House, any member may move a previous question, "Whether that question (called the main question) shall now be put ?" If it pass in the affirmative, then the main question is to be put immediately, and no man may speak any thing further to it, either to add or alter.-Memor. in Hakew. 28-4 Grey, 27.
The previous question being moved and seconded, the question from the chair shall be, "Shall the main question be now put?" and if the nays prevail, the main question shall not then be put.-Rule 9.
This kind of question is understood by Mr. Hatsell to have been introduced in 1604.-2
Hats. 80. Sir Henry Vane introduced it.-2 Grey, 113, 114-3 Grey, 384. When the question was put in this form, "Shall the main question be put?" A determination in the negative suppressed the main question during the session; but since the words "now put" are used, they exclude it for the present only. Formerly indeed, only till the present debate was over; 4 Grey, 43; but now for that day and no longer.-2 Grey, 113, 114.
Before the question, "Whether the main question shall now be put ?" any person might formerly have spoken to the main question, because otherwise he would be precluded from speaking to it at all.-Mem. in Hakew. 28.
The proper occasion for the previous question, is when a subject is brought forward of a delicate nature as to high personages, &c., or the discussions of which may call forth observations, which might be of injurious consequences. Then the previous question is proposed, and, in the modern usage, the discussion of the main question is suspended, and the debate confined to the previous question. The use of it has been extended abusively to other cases: but in these, it is an embarrassing procedure: its uses would be as well answered by other more simple Parliamentary forms, and therefore it should not be favoured, but restricted within as narrow limits as possible.
Whether a main question may be amended after the previous question on it has been mov
ed and seconded?-2 Hatsell, 88, says, If the previous question has been moved and seconded, and also proposed from the chair, by (which he means, stated by the Speaker for debate,) it has been doubted whether an amendment can be admitted to the main question. He thinks it may, after the previous question moved and seconded; but not after it has been proposed from the chair.
In this case he thinks the friends to the amendment must vote that the main question be not now put; and then move their amended question, which being made new by the amendment, is no longer the same which has been just suppressed, and therefore may be proposed as a new one. But this proceeding certainly endangers the main question, by dividing its friends, some of whom may choose it unamended, rather than loose it altogether; while others of them may vote, as Hatsell advises, that the main question be not now put, with a view to move it again in an amended form. The enemies of the main question, by this manœuvre to the previous question, get the enemies to the amendment added to them on the first vote, and throw the friends of the main question under the embarrassment of rallying again as they can. To support his opinion, too, he makes the deciding circumstance, whether an amendment may or may not be made, to be, that the previous question has been proposed from the chair. But as the rule is, that the House is in possession of a
question as soon as it is moved and seconded, it cannot be more than possessed of it by its being also proposed from the chair. It may be said, indeed, that the object of the previous question being to get rid of a question, which it is not expedient should be discussed, this object may be defeated by moving to amend, and, in the discussion of that motion, involving the subject of the main question. But so may the object of the previous question be defeated by moving the amended question, as Mr. Hatsell proposes, after the decision against putting the original question. He acknowledges, too, that the practice has been to admit previous amendment, and only cites a few late instances to the contrary. On the whole, I should think it best to decide it ab inconvenienti; to wit, Which is most inconvenient, to put it in the power of one side of the House to defeat a proposition by hastily moving the previous question, and thus forcingthe main question to be put unamended? or to put it in the power of the other side to force on, incidentally at least, a discussion which would be better avoided? Perhaps the last is the least inconvenience; inasmuch as the Speaker, by confining the discussion rigorously to the amendment only, may prevent their going into the main question; and inasmuch also as so great a proportion of the cases, in which the previous question is called for, are fair and proper subjects of public discussion, and ought not to be obstructed by a formality introduced for questions of a peculiar character.