Thomas Jefferson Papers

Report on Parliamentary Procedure, [8 November–8 December 1769]

Report on Parliamentary Procedure

[8 Nov.–8 Dec. 1769]

A.6. Resolved that a question being once determined must stand as the judgment of the house, and cannot again be drawn into debate.1
A.9. Ordered that the orders for the business appointed for the day be read by the clerk before any other matter be proceeded on.2
A.5. Ordered that when a question shall arise between the greater and lesser sum or the longer and shorter time, the question shall be first put on the least sum and longest time.3
A. 10. Ordered that all bills be read and receive dispatch in4 priority and order of time as they were brought in.5
D3. Resolved that any person shall be at liberty to sue out an original writ or subpoena in chancery6 in order to prevent a bar by the statute of limitations, or to file any bill in equity to examine witnesses thereupon7 in order only to preserve their testimony, against any member of this house notwithstanding his privilege8 provided that the clerk after having made out and signed such original writ or subpoena9 shall not deliver the same to the party or to any other during the continuance of that privilege.
D.4. Resolved that all persons who are summoned10 to attend this house or any committee thereof as witnesses11 in any matter depending before them be privileged from arrests12 during[. . . .]13

[on verso:]

A. 13. Ordered that when the house is to rise every member keep his seat till the speaker go out, and then every one in his course orderly14 as he sits.
A.7.a. Ordered that no member while another is speaking in the course of debate while any bill, order, or other matter shall be reading or opening, or15 while the speaker is putting any question,16 shall entertain17 private discourse, stand up, walk into, out of, or across the house18 or read any printed book.
A.8.b. Ordered that no member who is not present when any question is put by Mr. speaker be counted on either side tho’ he happen to be present at the time of the division.
A 8.a. That no member shall vote on any question, in the event of which he is immediately interested.19
D.2. That the privilege of this house shall not be allowed to any member in cases wherein he is only a trustee.20
D1. That21 any member may waive his privilege in matters22 of a private nature without the leave of the house, and having so done he shall not23 resume the same.
[…] 5.b. That24 no person be taken into the custody of the serjeant at arms on any complain[. . . .]25

Dft (ViU); entirely in TJ’s hand; undated; consisting of a single sheet torn away at bottom, probably at a fold, resulting in two fragments arbitrarily designated by the Editors as recto and verso, and the loss of an indeterminable amount of text, one or more additional sheets presumably being lost (see below); only the most significant emendations are noted below, those made to the marginal glosses being omitted.

This draft report marks TJ’s earliest surviving documentary contribution as a public official to promoting the orderly conduct of legislative business, a subject of enduring interest that culminated during his vice-presidency with the publication in 1801 of his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which still helps to guide parliamentary procedure in the United States Congress today (Parl. Writings, ed. Howell, 435–41). The report grew out of TJ’s membership on the Committee of Privileges and Elections, a standing body to which he was initially appointed by the House of Burgesses on 8 May 1769, his second committee assignment during his inaugural session as a Virginia legislator and one which seems to have inspired him to begin his first serious study of parliamentary practice (Journal of the House of Burgesses, May 1769 [Williamsburg, 1769], 5; Perkins, Buchanan & Brown to TJ, 2 Oct. 1769; Parl. Writings, ed. Howell, 4–5). On 7 Nov. 1769, during his second legislative session, the Burgesses reappointed him to this committee, which was chaired by Edmund Pendleton, and charged it on the following day to “consider of the ancient Rules and standing Orders of the House, and present such as are fit to be continued, with any others which they think ought to be observed.” TJ wrote his draft sometime between that date and 8 Dec. 1769, when Pendleton presented a revised and significantly reordered version of it as the committee’s report to the Burgesses, who then read it and ordered that its “Orders and Resolutions be standing Orders of the House” (Journal of the House of Burgesses, November-December 1769 [Williamsburg, 1769], 5, 11, 124–5).

What survives of TJ’s draft is considerably shorter than the report the Burgesses approved, making it impossible to determine the full extent to which the Committee on Privileges and Elections revised it. Although every section of TJ’s draft except those dealing with the longer and shorter time and the privilege of this house appears in the committee’s report either verbatim or in revised form in the order indicated by his marginal glosses (see notes below), that report contains seventeen other sections that appear before, between, or after those in the incomplete manuscript printed here (same, 124–5).

1Here Journal adds “during the same Session.”

2Journal: “Ordered, That each Day, before the House proceed on any other Business, the Clerk do read the Orders for taking any Matters into Consideration that Day.”

3Paragraph omitted in Journal.

4TJ first wrote “bills receive dispatch according to.” and then altered it to read as above. Journal: “and dispatched in.”

5Here Journal adds “unless the House shall direct otherwise in particular Cases.”

6Preceding four words interlined.

7In Journal the remainder of this clause reads “for the sole Purpose of preserving their Testimony.”

8Preceding three words interlined.

9Preceding two words omitted in Journal.

10Journal: “every Person summoned.”

11Journal: “a Witness.”

12Journal: “Arrest.”

13Remainder of recto torn away, the ascenders of another line of text being barely visible. In Journal the remainder of this paragraph reads: “his coming to, attending on, or going from the House or Committee; and that no such Witness shall be obliged to attend, until the Party at whose Request he shall be summoned, do pay, or secure to him, for his Attendance and Travelling, the same Allowance which is made to Witnesses attending the General Court.”

14Journal: “every one to follow in Order.”

15Journal omits everything in the foregoing part of this paragraph beginning with “no member.”

16Preceding twenty words interlined in place of a heavily canceled passage. Journal here inserts “none.”

17Preceding two words written over an erased passage.

18TJ wrote the preceding ten words over an erased passage that is illegible except for the ending “to another.”

19Below this paragraph TJ canceled the following entry: “That the orders of the house be drawn up every day and read the next morning before any other business be done; and then entered in the Journal and printed without delay.” He added the last clause after writing the next paragraph. Journal combines the preceding two paragraphs: “Ordered, That no Member shall vote on any Question, in the Event of which he is immediately interested; nor in any other Case, where he was not present when the Question was put by the Speaker, or by the Chairman in any Committee.”

20Paragraph omitted in Journal.

21Journal begins this paragraph with “Resolved.”

22Journal: “in any Matter.”

23Journal here adds “in that Instance.”

24Journal begins this paragraph with “Ordered.”

25Remainder torn away, the ascenders of another line of text being barely visible. In Journal the remainder of this paragraph reads: “Complaint of a Breach of Privilege, until the Matter of such Complaint shall have been examined by the Committee of Privileges, and reported to the House.”

Index Entries