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ruled by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts:
1. That the court was competent to decide on a plea of privilege, pleaded by a member of the House of Representatives in bar to an action for slander. Coffin vs. Coffin, Mas. Rep. vol. 4.
2. The freedom of deliberation, speech and debate, secured by the declaration of rights to each House of the Legislature is rather the privilege of the individual members, than of the House as an organized body; being derived from the will of the people, the members are entitled to it, even against the will of the House. Ibid.
3. The article, securing this freedom, ought to be construed liberally, that its full design may be answered: and it extends to every act resulting from the nature of the member's office, and done in the due execution of it; and exempts him from prosecution for every thing said or done by him as a Representative, whether according to the rules of the House or not.
4. So if he be out of the chamber, sitting in committee, or in a convention of the two Houses out of the Representative Chamber.
5. A Representative is not answerable in a prosecution for defamation, if the words charged were uttered in the execution of his official duty, although spoken maliciously, nor, if not uttered in the execution of his official duty, and not spoken maliciously or with intent to defame.
Opening of the Session. The members of both branches of the Legislature, or at least a majority, a number sufficient to constitute a quorum, arrive by the first Tuesday of December. It is customary to open the session in the afternoon of that day, usually about 3 o'clock. Those members who arrive first at the seat of government, select such seats as they are best pleased with. And this right is so well settled, that no one pretends to question it. No person is allowed to take a seat by proxy, unless it be a member from a county, who can take seats for the whole delegation of his county. This is done by taking possession of the keys of the respective desks selected. In the Senate, where the body is so small, where the members are elected for four years, where only one fourth vacate their seats annually, and where a portion of that fourth is not un
frequently re-elected, little or no difficulty occurs in obtaining seats. The Rule however is, that new members can take, if they arrive at Harrisburg sufficiently soon, any of the seats vacated by the fourth whose time expires, although some of them may be reelected, and would like to retain their old location in the Senate. But as the members of a small body are always courteous to each other, no misunderstanding is likely to take place among the Senators, particularly as they have to remain together for four years, they avoid every thing that would cause unpleasant feelings, or engender personal dislikes.
In the House of Representatives, in the bustle of one hundred members, these matters are not so nicely weighed. Every man is exceedingly diligent in getting what he considers the best seat in the house.
The individuals elected, having'taken their seats, and the secretary of the commonwealth having handed the returns to the clerk, who is seated in front of the Speaker's chair, some one of the old members rises, and remarks : “As this is the day assigned by the constitution, for the meeting of the General Assem
bly, I move, that the clerk open and read the returns of the members elected from t.e city of Philadelphia, and the several counties of this commonwealth.” This motion being seconded, the clerk states the motion, and asks, “Will the House agree to the motion?"! -which being decided in the affirmative, the clerk says: “It is agreed to ;” and then opens and reads the returns, commencing with the city of Philadelphia. Having gone through, he calls over the names of the membere present, in alphabetical order--He then announces the number present: some one of the Representatives then moves, that the members proceed to the choice of a Speaker. This is done in pursuance of the XI. section, first article, which declares each House shall choose its Speaker As soon as this motion is seconded, the clerk rises, and after stating the motion, asks : “Will the members present proceed to the choice of a Speaker?" Which being agreed to, ho calls over the names of the members, who, in voting, pronounce aloud the name of the person they wish elected Speaker, pursuant to the end section of the 3d article of the constitution, wbich declares, that "all elections shall be
by ballot, except those by persons in their Representative capacities, who shall vote viva voce."
It requires a majority of all the votes of the members present in favour of any candiclate to elect him. Should there not, therefure, be a majority of votes for one candidate, a second, third, and fourth vote, and so on, will be taken until a choice is made.
*In the Senate, in the year 1814, a number of votings took place between two candidates, viz. Isaac Weaver and P. C. Lane : neither of the candidates could obtain a majority of the whole number present: and as both the candidates had given their votes to the Hon. John Tod, who had formerly been Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senators finally turned their attention to that gentleman, and elected him on the third day of the session. The clerk having taken down the votes for Speaker, and having counted them, announces that “Mr.
having votes, being a majority of the votes of the gentlemen present, is elected Speaker.” This gentleman then takes the chair, and makes the necessary acknowledgment for