Dickinson left the rostrum to applause, loud shouts of approval. Franklin was surprised, looked toward Adams, who returned the look, shook his head. The chamber was dismissed and Franklin pushed himself slowly up out of the chair. He began to struggle a bit, pain in both knees, the stiffness holding him tightly, felt a hand under his arm.Allow me, sir. Adams helped him up, commenting as he did so, We have a substantial lack of backbone in this room, I’m afraid.Franklin looked past him, saw Dickinson standing close behind, staring angrily at Adams, reacting to his words.Mr. Dickinson, a fine speech, sir, said Franklin.Adams seemed suddenly embarrassed, did not look behind him, nodded quickly to Franklin, moved away toward the entrance. Franklin saw Dickinson following Adams, began to follow himself. My God, let’s not have a duel. He slipped through the crowd of delegates, making polite acknowledgments left and right, still keeping his eye on Dickinson. The man was gone now, following Adams out of the hall. Franklin reached the door, could see them both, heard the taller man call out, saw Adams turn, a look of surprise. Franklin moved closer, heard Adams say, My apologies for my indiscreet remark, sir. However, I am certain you are aware of my sentiments. Dickinson seemed to explode in Adams’ face. What is the reason, Mr. Adams, that you New England men oppose our measures of reconciliation? Why do you hold so tightly to this determined opposition to petitioning the king? Franklin heard other men gathering behind him, filling the entranceway, Dickinson’s volume drawing them. He could see Adams glancing at them and then saying, Mr. Dickinson, this is not an appropriate time... Mr. Adams, can you not respond? Do you not desire an end to talk of war? Adams seemed struck by Dickinson’s words, looked at him for a long moment. Mr. Dickinson, if you believe that all that has fallen upon us is merely talk, I have no response. There is no hope of avoiding a war, sir, because the war has already begun. Your king and his army have seen to that. Please, excuse me, sir. Adams began to walk away and Franklin could see Dickinson look back at the growing crowd behind him, saw a strange desperation in the man’s expression and Dickinson shouted toward Adams, There is no sin in hope!
Jeff Shaara