Historically, New Bedford has a few reasons it is famous, and one claim is the extraordinary story of General Henry Martyn Robert, distinguished author of Robert’s Rules of Order, as they came to be called.
The collection of well thought-out parliamentary rules and procedures was created in response to his disappointing 1863 performance as appointed leader of an ear-splitting, unruly civic meeting at the First Baptist Church, still standing today at 149 William Street. With no experience in parliamentary guidelines, the public meeting ended horribly, and set a smart, young Lt. Robert on his course of study and the eventual writing of the celebrated Robert’s Rules of Order.
In a larger sense, though, Robert was instrumental in bringing a democratic methodology to thousands of meetings throughout the United States beginning in 1876; that’s brilliant and mind-boggling, because Robert’s works brought order, civility and fair play to all.
It would figure that in a time when civil discourse is calling for the renaming of military bases that General Robert would be a worthy candidate. I second that motion, but in October of 2020, the American Institute of Parliamentarians suggested General Robert to a congressional commission tasked with coming up with new names for Army bases named after Confederate officers. The list of nine base name recommendations was whittled down from over 34,000 suggestions, but General Robert didn’t make the cut.
After graduating from West Point, he was assigned as an assistant engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers that led him to be transferred to several coastal cities, New Bedford being one of them.
From the first version, a booklet, to Robert’s Rules of Order‘s newly-revised 12th Edition, it is the only current manual to have been maintained and updated since 1876 under the continuing program established by General Henry Martyn Robert himself.
It is fitting that New Bedford, Massachusetts has such an important part in that legacy.
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