A Little Espionage
Disclaimer: I do not own 1776.
George Read might be a fervent believer in their cause but he could only be counted on until McKean returned to make Delaware split down the middle and so forced to abstain. At best. Rodney's illness could mean he'd be replaced by another pro-independence representative thus bringing the colony back in line with John Adams.
Samuel Chase clearly wanted to be pro-Independence but, like any sane man, he doubted that their ragged army could defeat the mighty British. While this wasn't likely to change anytime soon and therefore his support was assured, he was too much of a reluctant supporter of theirs to be of any real use.
Joseph Hewes would always follow Edward Rutledge and South Carolina. Dr. Lyman Hall was a bit trickier since he personally supported independence but he hadn't broken with the Deep South yet. Either way, his uncertainties didn't make him much of an asset to his side.
And thus, it was John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and Rutledge who were the real leaders of the anti-Independence movement, for all that Dickinson took a more vocal role compared to Rutledge's few but well-placed remarks.
The pair met at the local tavern to wait James Wilson's report on what the newly formed Declaration Committee was up to. The food was substandard but the rum was passable.
"Do you think that he'll be able to get anything out of them?" Rutledge wondered while they waited. "He's delivered Pennsylvania to you, which is a great frustration to all of them."
"He's not going to go up to them and outright ask them about their plans," Dickinson promised. "I asked him. Twice."
"Well, and I hope you'll excuse me for saying so, Mr. Wilson has never struck me as the…appropriately subtle sort," Rutledge drawled.
"That might even go over worse than outright asking them," Dickinson agreed. "But fear not, what he actually intends is to just listen in on their conversation."
Rutledge drew back, surprised. "But surely they would not discuss their plans where a member of the opposition could hear it!"
"James is just the sort of person for this job," Dickinson assured him. "He has a remarkable quality for slipping past people's notice even when he's standing right there."
Rutledge blinked and looked around again to make sure that he Wilson hadn't arrived and it had just failed to make an impression on him. "But what will we do if he doesn't succeed? Knowing their plans will make it easier to stop them."
"Then I suppose we'll have to send somebody else in," Dickinson mused. "Or perhaps go ourselves so we'd be more certain of the results. I can't go, obviously, as they would never believe that I was for independence."
"They wouldn't find the claim any more believable coming from me," Rutledge asserted.
Dickinson frowned. "Why ever not? You keep flirting with the idea of changing sides in Congress."
"Ah, but they know better than to trust that," Rutledge pointed out. "I have no desire to separate from our mother country but I have even less desire to see the South left out of their new nation, should it ever arise."
"It won't," Dickinson said solemnly. "It has to be unanimous and Pennsylvania will never agree to it."
"You will never agree to it, Mr. Dickinson," Rutledge corrected him. "Mr. Wilson is a lot less…steadfast in his beliefs. You'd do well to keep an eye on him, to protect him from the sort of temptations Ben Franklin might offer."
"Franklin has long since lost his patience with James," Dickinson said dismissively. "He'll never be able to woo him over."
"Make sure he doesn't or you might find yourself the minority vote," Rutledge warned.
It was quiet for a moment.
"I was actually a little surprised when the vote requiring unanimity passed. Hancock is one of the strongest supporters of independence and it all came down to him," Dickinson confessed.
"Ah, but Mr. Hancock is a fair man and, what's more, a gentleman," Rutledge reminded him. "He may not have liked his ruling but you did have the right of it about the unfairness of forcing colonies to split from England. If they agree to follow the decision and don't fight on England's side as Mr. Hancock predicted."
"I really do think that that would be the worst case scenario," Dickinson confided. "Of course, the fact that this almost assuredly marks the end of the independence movement only made it better but I really was concerned. We may have our disagreements with each other but we're all here because of our shared grievances with England. Having to fight to protect her right to treat us any manner that she sees fit instead of uniting to convince her to change her ways would be abhorrent."
"There is always the possibility that our northern brethren might decide to ignore the lack of a vote as well and declare their half of the colonies independent," Rutledge said slowly. "It would be an even more hopeless endeavor than all thirteen of us agreeing to it but if they were desperate – and it does seem like they are desperate – then they may go that route."
"I don't think there's any danger of that while they've got their declaration to worry about," Dickinson remarked. "But afterwards they may start considering it. That is exactly why we need to know what their plan is."
"I am not even certain that they have a plan," Rutledge admitted. "They seemed to just be trying to postpone the vote and they could not even create a believable reason why until Mr. Jefferson spoke up."
"A postponement is only worth something if they have a plan on what they shall do with the time before the vote," Dickinson replied. "Perhaps they feel that if their declaration is well-written enough it will sway us all to the side of treason and ruination. Sorry, independence."
Wilson entered the tavern then and looked around vacantly for a moment before spotting them. He stood near them, waiting to be acknowledged so he could take a seat.
"Words rarely sway those with strong opinions," Rutledge declared. "It is only those who are more uncertain, like Maryland and Georgia, that risk being converted."
"It would be quite unfortunate indeed to not only have lost our advantage but even our balance," Dickinson said ruefully. "Still, there only needs to be who refuses to vote for independence so in the end it would not matter." He looked up. "James, have a seat."
Gratefully, Wilson sat down.
"Did you hear anything?" Rutledge inquired.
Wilson nodded. "Yes. After a great deal of debate, it was decided that Jefferson write their declaration."
"And what will the others be doing in the meantime?" Dickinson demanded. "Particularly Adams and Franklin?"
"It sounded as if they will be waiting for Jefferson to finish the declaration," Wilson answered.
Dickinson started. "That can't be right. It will take at least a few days to write the declaration. While Jefferson, perhaps, need only focus on that the others have plenty of time to try to convince people to vote for independence. They really do not have the time to waste."
"They did not, in fact, even get Jefferson to agree to write it," Wilson informed them. "They ruled out everybody else and finally Adams gave the quill to Jefferson and told him the decision about writing it was his with the implication that if he did not write it than nobody would."
"So there may not even be a declaration," Rutledge surmised. "That is promising."
"What was the debate about?" Dickinson demanded. "They must have been discussing something of grave importance if they left the actual declaration writing to the last minute."
Wilson coughed. "Well, actually that was what they were talking about the entire time."
"Perhaps you could…elaborate," Rutledge requested.
Wilson nodded. "Certainly. Jefferson, as you may remember, protested even being placed on the Declaration Committee because he was planning on going home. Franklin promised him that he could do just that as he was only needed on the committee as he was from Virginia and that Adams would write the declaration."
"But that's not what happened," Dickinson said unnecessarily.
Wilson shook his head. "No. Adams seemed like he was willing but he feared that, just as when Connecticut only voted for independence when someone else proposed it, if he wrote it then we would reject it."
"A reasonable fear," Rutledge allowed.
"And no one else wanted to do it," Wilson concluded. "But finally Jefferson was forced to."
"Wait, wait, wait," Dickinson said, stunned. "None of them wanted to do it? They had to finally force someone to? I guess that shows what they think of their declaration."
"Franklin insisted that he does not write political works, Sherman pretended that he cannot write again, and Livingston wanted to go back home as well," Wilson explained.
"There's no moving Franklin when he's made up his mind about something," Dickinson conceded. "But what do you mean that Sherman pretended that he could not write. Everyone in Congress can write. McNair can write."
"I did not mean that literally," Wilson amended. "He was mostly self-taught and many of us went to more prestigious universities so reminding them of this is usually enough to convince anyone short of Franklin, also self-taught, that he is not the man for the job." Wilson, as it happened, had attended several Scottish universities though he never did complete a degree.
"And Livingston?" Rutledge inquired. "I understood that Jefferson also wished to go home."
"But Livingston's wife just had a son so he has the greater need," Wilson told him. "There really isn't any reason why Jefferson cannot wait until the declaration is written before returning home or even sending for his wife."
"Jefferson might be the best choice," Rutledge said slowly. "Adams and Franklin could not think of any purpose for their declaration and Jefferson came up with a very reasonable-sounding purpose very quickly. You've collaborated before, Mr. Dickinson. Tell me your opinion of his skills."
"We did both work on The Necessity of Taking Up Arms," Dickinson confirmed. "We had some stylistic differences but he is a very skilled writer. There's no doubt that whatever he comes up with will be very eloquent."
"That could be a problem," Rutledge decided. "Still, if by some miracle the declaration does get approved then at least it will be a powerful one."
There was silence for a moment and Wilson wondered if he'd been forgotten again.
"So they were all fighting over which one of them had to write the declaration," Dickinson mused. "This really makes them seem less organized and consequentially less of a threat than I had initially thought."
"They may not be very interested in the declaration but, as you said, it was just conceived of so that they could get a postponement so they still might be up to something," Rutledge reminded him.
"While that's true, they don't appear to be doing anything with the time they gained," Dickinson countered.
"Not yet, perhaps, but this will still bear watching," Rutledge declared. "It's better to be overly cautious than to remain uninformed and wake up one day to realize that they have everybody on their side."
"That won't happen," Dickinson said with certainly. "It can't."