51. Why Special Rules Are Needed.— From what has already been said it will be seen that parliamentary bodies differ so much in their nature, in the number of their members, and in the functions which they are to perform that it would be impossible that they could all be governed with equal advantage by a common system of parliamentary law. The only system which could establish itself by common consent would be one which, while it was not perfectly adapted to any one assembly, yet could be used by all, and would be that system which could be the easiest modified so as to be adapted to all.
Hence, while the rules of general parliamentary law are perfectly adapted to simple ordinary assemblies, especially those which are to be convened for but a short time and have but a limited amount of business to transact (and such assemblies need not trouble themselves about special rules), assemblies which are to be sometime in session and which have much business to do, adopt, as soon as possible after organization, rules specially adapted to their needs.
52. Alterations of Rules.— While it concerns certain kinds of assemblies to adopt a set of rules at once, yet it is not possible to make such a set of rules complete and perfect at once. After experience modifications are almost always found to be necessary. Such modifications the assembly is always competent to make. Such changes can be made by a majority. This is true even if the rules already adopted provide that two-thirds or any larger number alone shall make changes. The assembly can not deprive itself of power to direct its method of doing business. It is like a man promising himself that he will not change his own mind.
53. Suspension of Rules.— Unless the rules themselves provide for their own suspension they can be suspended by unanimous consent only. It is usual to provide that under certain circumstances and at certain times two-thirds may suspend the rules.
54. Suspension of Rules, House of Representatives.— In the United States House of Representatives the rules can be suspended by two-thirds on the first and third Mondays of each month and during the last six days of a session. On the first Monday preference is to be given to individuals and on the third Monday to committees. As the power of recognition to take the floor rests with the Speaker, all motions to suspend the rules are very much under his control. The motion to suspend the rules is not a privileged motion, but depends upon the recognition of the Speaker. In all sessions except the last, which expires March 4th, the six days do not begin until House and Senate have agreed upon a day for final adjournment.
55. Practical Suggestion.— If the assembly desiring to adopt a special set of rules is a legislative body or a religious convocation, its committee to prepare rules will undoubtedly adopt, with or without modification, the rules of its predecessors, or at least make them the basis of its recommendations. If no such guide for the assembly exists then the rules of the popular branch of the State Legislature will afford the best basis, since they are likely to be best known and to accord best with the wishes of the members. (See, however, Chap. XVII.)
56. Government of Assemblies in the Absence of Rules.— Where no special rules are adopted the assembly is governed by general parliamentary law, and where rules are adopted general parliamentary law governs, except where its provisions are changed by the rules themselves.
57. General Parliamentary Law.— It is usual to say that general parliamentary law is derived from the practice of the British Parliament as modified by the parliamentary customs of this country; but the difference between the system in use here and the English system is so great and so radical that it would perhaps be more accurate to say that American general parliamentary law, while it acknowledges its English origin, rests upon the practice of American assemblies.