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General Henry M. Robert
Henry Martyn Robert, 16
Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923), author of Robert’s Rules of Order, was a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the Civil War.
In 1863, then only a lieutenant, Robert was asked to chair a local town meeting at a church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He didn’t know how to preside and assumed the assembly would behave itself. The meeting was a disaster. It lasted some 14 hours and accomplished next to nothing. Very frustrated, General Robert vowed never again to attend another meeting until he knew something of Parliamentary Law, a subject in which he had always been interested.
Later researching a small book on the subject, he found some rules for DELIBERATIVE ASSEMBLIES which had four or five motions according to rank, two or three that could not be debated, and some that could not be amended. As he traveled around the country gathering Parliamentary information along the way, he saw several interpretations of Parliamentary Law in various organizations and “saw the need for a uniform set of rules to enable civic minded people to belong to several organizations or to move to new localities without encountering different parliamentary rules.”
By 1869, he produced a sixteen page pamphlet of parliamentary rules for lay assemblies and wrote Part 1 based on the Senate/House of Representatives model (mostly patterned after the House). In 1875, his wife urged him to write Part 2 “for the benefit of persons with no experience in meetings.” He finally had these parts published separately in 1876. Both sold extremely well, and he was well on his way to refining the parliamentary rules for DELIBERATIVE ASSEMBLIES that we know today as Robert’s Rules of Order.
Before he died in 1923, he accomplished the major groundwork for establishing the order, rules, and procedures of meetings. He identified the types of motions (main, subsidiary, privileged, incidental) and clarified their order of importance. He wrote Rules of Chairmanship, listed on charts what is debatable and is not, noted which motions require a second and which don't. He determined what sort of majority is needed (simple or 2/3), defined a quorum, and set-up guidelines for proper meeting conduct. His main goal was to ensure that Parliamentary Rules would be standard from group to group, organization to organization, city to city, state to state.
Direct quote from pages XLIV and XLV closing paragraph from RONR 10th ed.: “General Robert was aware of the evolution of parliamentary procedure from consensus in its original sense of “unanimous agreement” toward a decision by a majority as we know it today. He recognized that requiring unanimity or near unanimity can become a form of tyranny itself. Robert saw, on the other hand, that the evolution of majority vote in tandem with lucid and clarifying debate---resulting in a decision representing the view of the deliberate majority---far more clearly ferrets out and demonstrates the will of an assembly. It is through the application of genuine persuasion and parliamentary technique that General Robert was able to achieve decisions in meetings he led which were so free of divisiveness within the group.”
Robert’s Rules of Order Publications
[All editions were worked on by General Henry M. Robert himself or a relative or a spouse of a relative, so editorial control and parliamentary input has stayed in the family.]
1876 first edition had mostly Part I in it, 3,000 copies sold out within four months (1,000 copies were given away).
1876 second edition had Part II adding a Table of Rules Relating to Motions, Order of Conduct of Business.
1893 third edition, added 26 pages of text.
1915 Robert’s Rules of Order Revised expanded the 1893 edition by 75%.
1943 5th edition
1951 75th Anniversary edition
1970 Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR). More work went into this edition than all six previous editions combined.
1981 8th edition. This was the edition that came out in paperback in 1984.
1990 9th edition
2000 10th edition
2012 11th edition with 120 new changes from the 10th edition.
To see the 17 most important changes, just click on the link down below.
RONR 11th ed.
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