The club shall meet at Tarbolton every fourth Monday night, when a question on any subject shall be proposed, disputed points of religion only excepted, in the manner hereafter directed; which question is to be debated in the club, each member taking whatever side he thinks proper.
When the club is met, the president, or he failing, some one of the members till he come, shall take his seat; then the other members shall seat themselves, those who are for one side of the question on the president's right hand, and those who are on the other side on his left: which of them shall have the right is to be determined by the president. The president and four of the members being present, shall have power to transact any ordinary part of the society's business.
The club met and seated, the president shall read the question out of the club's book of records, (which book is always to be kept by the president;) then the two members nearest the president shall cast lots who of them shall speak first, and according as the lot shall determine, the member nearest the president on that side shall deliver his opinion, and the member nearest on the other side shall reply to him; then the second member of the side that spoke first, then the second member of the side that spoke second, and so on to the end of the company; but if there be fewer members on one side than the other, when all the members of the least side have spoken according to their places, any of them, as they please among themselves, may reply to the remaining members of the opposite side: when both sides have spoken, the president shall give his opinion, after which they may go over it a second or more times, and so continue the question.
The club shall then proceed to the choice of a question for the subject of next night's meeting. The president shall first propose one, and any other member shall first propose one, and any other member who chuses may propose more questions; and whatever one of them is most agreeable to the majority of the members, shall be the subject of debate next club-night.
The club shall lastly elect a new president for the next meeting: the president shall first name one, then any of the club may name another, and whoever of them has the majority of votes, shall be duly elected; allowing the president the first vote and the casting vote, upon a par, but none other. Then after the general toast to the mistresses of the club, they shall dismiss.
There shall be no private conversation carried on during the time of debate, nor shall any member interrupt another while he is speaking, under the penalty of a reprimand from the president for first fault, doubling his share of the reckoning for the second, trebling it for the third, and so on in proportion for every other fault; provided always however that any member may speak at any time after leave asked and given by the president. All swearing and profane language, and particularly all obscene and indecent conversation, is strictly prohibited, under the same penalty as aforesaid in the first clause of this article.
No member on any pretence whatever shall mention any of the club's affairs to any other person but a brother member, under the pain of being excluded; and particularly if any member shall reveal any of the speeches or affairs of the club with a view to ridicule or laugh at any of the rest of the members, he shall be for ever excommunicated from the society; and the rest of the members are desired, as much as possible, to avoid, and have no communication with him as a friend or comrade.
Every member shall attend at the meetings, without he can give a proper excuse for not attending; and it is desired that every one who cannot attend, will send his excuse with some other member; and he who shall be absent three meetings without sending such excuse, shall be summoned to the next club night, when if he fail to appear, or send an excuse, he shall be excluded.
The club shall not consist of more than sixteen members, all batchelors, belonging to the parish of Tarbolton; except a brother member marry, and in that case he may be continued, if the majority of the club think proper. No person shall be admitted a member of this society without the unanimous consent of the club; and any member may withdraw from the club altogether, by giving a notice to the president in writing of his departure.
Every man proper for a member of this Society, must have a frank, honest, open heart; above any thing dirty or mean; and must be a professed lover of one or more of the female sex. No haughty, self-conceited person, who looks upon himself as superior to the rest of the club, and especially no mean-spirited, worldly mortal, whose only will is to heap up money, shall upon any pretence whatever be admitted. In short, the proper person for this Society is, a cheerful, honest-hearted lad; who, if he has a friend that is true, and a mistress that is kind, and as much wealth as genteely to make both ends meet-is just as happy as this world can make him.
The Halifax Burns Club is based on the Tarbolton Bachelors' Club. This social and debating society was founded by Robbie Burns and his brother Gilbert in 1780.
The original members included a number of men of the Tarbolton Parish.
The rules of the society (at left) were written by Burns himself.
The Tarbolton Bachelor's Club continued for several years and lasted even after Burns moved away.
The original location of the meetings still exists and has been converted to a museum.