Most deliberative bodies, from the local parent-teacher meetings to the U.S. Senate, rely on a book on parliamentary procedure that was written a long time ago. The book, now called Robert’s Rules of Order, was first published in 1876 with the title Pocket Manual for Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, a large title for a small book. But its effect on deliberative bodies has not been small; it is the procedural bible that governs the orderly operation of their meetings.
The author of this useful set of guidelines wrote the book after presiding over a meeting hampered by lack of orderliness. The book is so effective that in all these years, it has been revised only twice, once in 1915 and again in 1943.
The author, Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923), a South Carolinian, was graduated from West Point at age twenty, and was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers, with which he spent his entire military life. He was responsible for defense constructions for Washington, Philadelphia, and the New England coast. During the Spanish-American War, he was head of the U.S. Board of Fortifications. He devoted his remaining years to improving rivers, harbors, and coasts. When he retired in 1901, he was a brigadier general and chief of the Army engineers. His orderly mind, which created his book on Rules of Order, was exemplified in his distinguished military career.