Reed's Parliamentary Rules

A Manual of General Parliamentary Law with suggestions for special rules

Thomas Brackett Reed

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
1889-1891 and 1895-1899 


It should be understood at once that this Manual has nothing to do with the political differences which have existed as to the rules of the House of Representatives, except so far as any treatise would incidentally refer to them.

The object of this book is to present the rules of general parliamentary law in such a way that the system can be comprehended by persons who may be called upon to preside over meetings of deliberative bodies, and by those who may desire to participate in the proceedings. The aim has been to so explain each motion that it may be understood by itself and also in its relations to other motions. Paragraphs also have been inserted to show the changes made in general parliamentary law by the rules and usages of the United States House of Representatives. This, it was thought, would be useful to enable those who desired so to do to comprehend, in a general way, the practice of that body.

Forms and suggestions have been added. If it should seem to anyone versed in parliamentary law that many of the forms are too simple to need printing, the author ventures to suggest that a beginner does not know the simpler things, and needs them the most.

If the student has once fixed in his mind the idea that parliamentary law is not a series of arbitrary rules, but a plain, consistent system, founded on common sense, and sanctioned by the experience of mankind, he will have gone far toward understanding it. That this little volume will complete his education is too much to expect, but that it will aid and assist the learner is the hope of the author.


Chpt I: Introduction

Chpt II: Preliminary Propositions

Chpt III: Organization

Chpt IV: Necessary Officers and Their Duties

Chpt V: Rights and Duties of Members

Chpt VI: Rules and Orders

Chpt VII: Committees

Chpt VIII: Conduct of Business Disposal of the Main Question

Chpt IX: Conduct of Business, Continued; Amendments

Chpt X: Conduct of Business, continued

Chpt XI: Recapitulation and Classification of Motions

Chpt XII: Motions for Reconsideration

Chpt XIII: Debate and Decorum

Chpt XIV: Methods of Voting

Chpt XV: Proceedings between Coordinate Branches of a Legislature

Chpt XVI: Order of Business

Chpt XVII: Special Rules

Chpt XVIII: Forms

Chpt XIX: United States House of Representatives -- Methods of Business



REED, Thomas B.

Representative from Maine; born in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, Oct. 18, 1839; attended the public schools; was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, in 1860; studied law; acting assistant paymaster, United States Navy, from Apr. 19, 1864, to Nov. 4, 1865; was admitted to the bar in 1865 and commenced practice in Portland, Maine; member of the State house of representatives in 1868 and 1869; served in the State senate in 1870; attorney general of Maine 1870-1872; city solicitor of Portland 1874-1877; elected as a Republican to the 45th and to the eleven succeeding Congresses and served from Mar. 4, 1877, to Sept. 4, 1899, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on the Judiciary (47th Congress), Committee on Rules (51st, 54th, and 55th Congresses); Speaker of the House of Representatives (51st, 54th, and 55th Congresses); moved to New York City and engaged in the practice of his profession; died in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7, 1902; interment in Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, Maine.