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What prompted Henry Robert to write Roberts Rules of Order?

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Answered 2008-11-15 00:26:19

Robert, Henry Martyn (May 2, 1837 - May 11, 1923), army engineer and parliamentarian, was born in Robertville, S. C., fourth of the seven children and second son of the Rev. Joseph Thomas and Adeline Elizabeth (Lawton) Robert. He was a descendant of Pierre Robert, who settled in South Carolina in 1686 and was the first pastor of the Santee River colony of French Huguenots; his mother was a daughter of Col. Alexander James and Martha (Mosse) Lawton, and a sister of Alexander Robert Lawton [q.v.]. Appointed to the United States Military Academy from Ohio in 1853, he was graduated in 1857 with a brilliant record in mathematics. After one year as assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy and instructor in practical military engineering at West Point, he became second lieutenant of engineers, Dec. 13, 1858, and performed engineering duty in the Northwest for two years, being in charge of the defenses on San Juan Island, Washington Territory, at the time of the boundary dispute with Great Britain in 1859. During the Civil War he supervised the construction of defenses for Washington, Philadelphia, and New Bedford, Mass., being promoted first lieutenant, Aug. 3, 1861, and captain, Mar. 3, 1863. He was then made instructor in practical military engineering at West Point and served as treasurer of the Academy, 1865-67. Promoted major, Mar. 7, 1867, he was attached to the staff of the Military Division of the Pacific for the following four years. Subsequently, for twenty years, he was superintending engineer of river and harbor improvements and military defenses in Oregon and Washington; on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Erie, Ontario, and Champlain; and on the St. Lawrence River and Delaware Bay, and their tributaries. He was also engineer of the 4th and 13th lighthouse districts. Meanwhile, he became lieutenant-colonel, Jan. 10, 1883, and in 1890-91 was engineer commissioner of the District of Columbia. After engineering work on the rivers of Tennessee, on Long Island Sound, and in New York Harbor, he was promoted colonel, Feb. 3, 1895, and served as division engineer of the Northwest and Southwest Divisions, and also as president of engineer boards on about thirty-three important projects. During the Spanish-American War he was President of the United States board of fortifications. When he retired, May 2, 1901, he was a brigadier-general and chief of engineers. Following his retirement he served as chairman of the board of engineers who designed the sea-wall for Galveston after the destructive tidal wave of 1900, and in 1911 he planned improvements for the harbor of Frontera, Mexico. He was the author of The Water-Jet as an Aid to Engineering Construction(1881) and Analytical and Topical Index to the Reports of the Chief of Engineers and the Officers of the Corps of Engineers, United States Army, . . . 1866-1879 (1881), of which a second volume published in 1889 brought the work down to 1887. When about twenty-five years old, Robert was unexpectedly called upon to preside over a meeting. His unpreparedness led to his discovery that no simple parliamentary guide existed, and later led to his preparation of the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order (1876), slightly revised in 1893 and 1904, and greatly enlarged in 1915 as Robert's Rules of Order Revised. This book, of which more than a million copies were sold, became the parliamentary authority for most organizations in the United States. In 1921 he published Parliamentary Practice, and in 1923, his comprehensive Parliamentary Law. His books reduced parliamentary procedure to a harmonious system based on reason and common sense. -- Charles Lee Lewis

[A. E. Miller, Our Family Circle (1931); G. W. Cullum, Biog. Reg. Officers and Grads. U. S. Mil. Acad., vols. II-VII (1891-1930); Engineering News-Record, Apr. 22, 1920; Army and Navy Reg., May 19, 1923; Who's Who in America, 1922-23; and autobiog. sketch in manuscript.]

"Henry Martyn Robert."Dictionary of American Biography, Supplements 1-2: To 1940. American Council of Learned Societies, 1944-1958.

Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008.

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