[Deschler's Precedents, Contents]
[Need for Publication]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

[Page ix-x]
Need for Publication

    The publication of the precedents of the House has tended not only 
to expedite the routine business of the House, but has also affected 
its conception of parliamentary equity and, indirectly, its prestige as 
a branch of government. Among other advantages to be derived from the 
publication of the House precedents, the saving of time alone will be 
invaluable. I can remember instances in which as much as a half hour or 
more was spent in debate on a question of House procedure. Clarence 
Cannon estimated that prior to the publication of the precedents in 
1907, a third of the time of the House was consumed in discussions of 
purely procedural matters. Most such questions had come up in prior 
sessions and had been authoritatively decided. But in the absence of 
the precedents in published form, former decisions were forgotten, and 
the same questions were again lengthily debated. The publication of the 
precedents has thus not only reduced the number of points of order that 
are presented, but also avoids unwarranted and time-consuming 
excursions on purely procedural questions.(21)
    21. 6 Cannon's Precedents at p. v.
    A more significant benefit to flow from the publication of these 
volumes is that they provide Members with the tools to 

[[Page x]]

become more effective legislators. The axiom that knowledge is power 
applies with special pertinence to the awareness of Members of the 
parliamentary procedures needed to expedite House business. In the 
past, the older and more experienced Members have held an obvious 
advantage over the younger Members who had not yet mastered the 
necessary parliamentary skills. The publication and distribution 
of the precedents makes the knowledge of parliamentary techniques 
accessible to all Members.(22)
    22. Asher Hinds, in his introduction to his work on the precedents 
        of the House, commented on the desirability that the knowledge 
        of the precedents extend to all Members: ``In the House of 
        Representatives, as in other legislative bodies, the memories 
        of the older Members, as they might be corroborated by the 
        journals, had been the favorite and most readily accessible 
        repository of the precedents. . . . It is manifestly desirable, 
        on the floor where high interests and great passions strive 
        daily, that the rules of action should be known definitely, not 
        only by the older Members, but by all. Not only will the 
        Speaker be enabled to make his decisions with more confidence 
        and less fear that he may be swayed by the interests of the 
        moment, but the Members, understanding the rules of his action, 
        will sustain with commendation what they might have criticized 
        with asperity.'' 1 Hinds' Precedents at p.iii.
    Asher Hinds considered it a national necessity that the powers and 
privileges of the House and its Members be preserved, and believed that 
there was no surer way to that end than perfect information on the part 
of every Member of the House as to the extent of those powers and 
privileges. He believed that the precedents should be published and 
classified in such a way that they would always be clearly before the 
membership. If the prerogatives of the House were well understood, he 
wrote, other branches of government would be less likely to encroach on 
them; and if there was encroachment, it would be more likely to be met 
with promptness, intelligence, and firmness.(23)
    23. 1 Hinds' Precedents at p. iv.