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The right to address the House while sitting, is conceded to members who are sick, in Parliament.
OF QUESTIONS NOT DEBATABLE. According to Legislative and Parliamentary practice, the motions not debatable are— A motion to adjourn.
A motion to lie on the table, when a privileged motion.
A motion for the previous question.
A motion to read a paper or document, pending a question.
A motion to reconsider.
Speakers of Congress have decided, and the decisions have been sustained by the House, that inasmuch as the motion to lie on the table is not debatable, so the motion to reconsider must be taken without debate.
All motions to take up particular items of business, or relating to priority of business, must be decided without debate.
This is an excellent rule. Without it the whole time of a meeting might be consumed
by gentlemen in endeavouring to get up a particular item of business, to proceed to the consideration of which the majority may be
All incidental questions of order, arising after a motion is made for the previous question, and pending such motion, must be de cided, whether on appeal or otherwise, without debate.
DIVIDING A QUESTION.
The Legislative rule on this subject is, that any member may call for a division of a question, which shall be divided, if it comprehends questions so distinct, that one. being taken away, the rest may stand entire, for the decision of the House. A motion to strike out and insert, are deemed indivisible; but a motion to strike out being lost, precludes neither amendment, nor a motion to strike out and insert.
In Parliament, a question cannot be divided without the consent of the House, and this is doubtless the true rule. Hatsell, an able
writer on Parliamentary precedents, observes "For who is to decide whether a question is complicated or not? where it is compli cated into how many propositions it may be divided? The fact is, that the only mode of separating a complicated question, is by moving amendments to it; and these must be decided by the House; unless the House orders it to be divided. *** Whenever there are several names in a question, they may be divided, and put one by one."
Mr. Sutherland favors the views of this author, and remarks that the usage in Congress, which is the same as that in our Legislature, leads to embarrassment.
Cushing's Manual says: "It is sometimes asserted that it is the right of every individual member to have a complicated question, (provided it is susceptible of division,) divided into its several parts, and a question put separately on each, on his mere demand, and without any motion or any vote of the assembly for that purpose. But this is a mistake; there is no such rule of parlia mentary proceeding; a complicated question can only be separated by moving amend
ments to it in the usual manner, or by mov. ing for a division of it in the manner above stated."
As the rule now is, in this state, when a division is called for, the Speaker must decide whether the question is susceptible of division—from which decision there may be, of course, an appeal. My own opinion is, that in all cases the Society should order the division, following the practice in Parlia
OF THE PREVIOUS QUESTION.
This motion was originally introduced in the House of Commons, in 1604, by Sir Harry Vane, and was designed to suppress questions which, if discussed, might involve in censure the government, or persons high in authority. It has been incorporated in the rules of the lower house of Congress, and in those of our State Legislatures, but in this country it is generally used for the purpose of winding up a long debate, or an unprofitable discussion. Some
times, in the midst of high party excitement, it is applied in order to arrest the arguments of political opponents, and when so used it is not unfrequently termed the gag-law.
Formerly, in Congress, five members were sufficient to second the motion for the Previous Question, but now a majority of the members present is required. In our State Senate, four members are necessary; in the House of Representatives, twelve. Every Society should have the number determined, (which number will be greater or less according to the strength of the Society,) and inserted in the by-laws.*
When the Previous Question is moved and seconded by the requisite number, all further amendments, and all discussion are precluded at once. The President will rise
and say, "The Previous Question has been moved and seconded-the question before Shall the main question be And on this question it is
the meeting is,
now put?" "
In the absence of any by-law on the subject, one-fifth of the whole number of members present should be required to second the call. The names of those who call, and second the call for, the Previous Question, should be inserted in the minutes.