Political Tactics

By Michael James; Cyprian Blamires et al. | Go to book overview
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smallest number in place of the greatest, one place instead of any other place, one quantity instead of any other quantity, and so of the rest.

On the other hand, the discussion cannot but be improved, when it has a determinate foundation upon all points. It is necessary at last that the blank should be filled up--that some one should propose a term; and who is better able to do this, than the author of the motion?--from whom can we expect greater knowledge of the subject?a If no one be obliged to think about the matter, is it not to be feared that these blanks will be filled up with indiscreet precipitation, as details of trifling importance.

This custom of leaving blanks most probably arose from the prudence of the framers of the laws. 'If,' they may have said, 'the term be left blank, the ideas of nobody will be hurt; but if a specific term be offered, which of course will not please everybody, the loss of a number of votes is risked upon this point alone.' This train of reasoning is not unfounded; since nothing is more common in political assemblies, than that want of candour which fixes upon the first objectionable matter of detail, which might easily be remedied, and converts it into a radical objection to the measure in which it appears.b


CHAPTER XI. OF DEBATES.

§1. Of the Opening of a Debate.

OUGHT a motion to require to be seconded?+ A motion is not entertained by the House of Commons, until it is supported by some one besides its author; that is to say, until it is seconded.

This regulation is considered proper, in order to prevent the introduction of motions which would consume time without producing any fruit. Before occupying the time of the assembly, the proposer should consult a friend. If he cannot find a single approver, where is the evil of abandoning his motion?--what chance has he of persuading the majority, if he have not succeeded with the man of his choice?+

But this method has but little efficacy: it has none against party

____________________
1
Thomas Erskine May, A Treatise upon the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, London, 1844, p. 275: 'All dates, and the amount of salaries, tolls, rates, or other charges, were formerly required to be left blank; but the more convenient practice of printing such matters in italics is now adopted.'
2
See p. 119 n. above.
a
These blanks are now always filled up in a type of a character different from that of the other parts of the bill.--Ed.1
b
For the other rules relative to the drawing up of laws, see also General View of a Code of Laws, Chap. XXXIII. Of the style of the Laws.2

-124-

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