Getting to Union

Navigating Differences in the Constitutional Convention

Part II. The Delegates Agreed to Rules that Created Space to Address Issues.

Part II. Step 1. Agreeing to Rules

Watch the video. 


 How did the delegates to the Constitutional Convention navigate their vast differences to create a union?

The Constitution was created through an involved process of giving space to address issues, wrestling with concerns, and working out legislative solutions that representatives from all the states could accept.

The delegates were willing to engage in this process and submit to the outcome. This process built trust across their differences and made the Union possible.  If they could not trust in the process, they would not have been able to come up with legislative solutions to their problems.

The process involved agreeing to rules before they began.

These included:

  • Debate should be orderly and dignified
  • Delegates were expected to treat each other and the process with respect
  • No speaking or reading while a fellow delegate speaks
  • Proposals should be communicated clearly in writing
  • Each delegate had the opportunity to debate a question twice
  • If issues became too complicated to address in the full group, they formed smaller committees with representatives from various states to work out issues
  • Controversially, they would not make their debates public so they could openly consider ideas


Read Transcript of Video Collapse

Optional: Explore Further

Explore the Constitutional Convention record for May 28, 1787 to see the specific rules the delegates agreed to follow. Visit this link.  

Prepare for Class Discussion

On your own paper, respond to the questions below.

  1. How might agreeing to rules before holding hard conversations make it possible to navigate differences and find common ground?
  2. Why might this process of following rules to explore difficult issues create trust among the delegates?


Learn more about how to promote the 3Rs — rights, responsibility, respect — in your school and community.