The 1st and 2nd of July, 1776
"Dr. Franklin, I can't do this." Jefferson said, stopping at the entrance to the house. Franklin turned back to him, eyes widened and mouth slightly agape at the youth's tightened face.
"Tom, if we can't—if we don't bring Rutledge to sign the declaration, what we—what you have worked on and put together so beautifully, will all be dust in the wind." Franklin told him. Jefferson rolled his eyes, expecting him to not understand what he was really talking about; and what Franklin said only enraged his emotions. "The cause of independence and what you wrote will be nothing! It will be a thing of the past that you had wished that you could go back and change! Why are you doing this to yourself after all that has been accomplished?"
"I can't face him after what he did!" Jefferson yelled at Franklin. Jefferson breathed heavily before swallowing uneasily, looking at Franklin, "I knew it was important to them, but he didn't have to go that far into that vivid, scarring description of an auction to prove his point!" Franklin's brows furrowed and a sigh escaped his lips. Jefferson shook his head hopelessly, "I understand why he did it, but how can I convince him that I'm right when he is just as right?"
"I suppose that you'll have tah find out for yourself," came a drawling, low voice. Jefferson closed his eyes in some agitation before turning to find the man who he had seen so infuriated only an hour or so ago, looking slightly pale and tired against the dim light of the streets. The coat had been removed, and his hair was messier, but Rutledge still maintained the aura of the dangerousness and power he unleashed upon Congress earlier.
"Well, are you going to come in Mistah Jefferson?" Jefferson's jawline set in rigidly before he silently entered the Southern delegate's temporary, Pennsylvanian home. Jefferson's stomach clenched in uneasiness as soon as his eyes met those of the other delegates from North and South Carolina, staring at him.
"Leave us," Rutledge ordered, quietly but seriously. The Carolinians delegates eyed the Virginian a moment longer before they all slowly filed out. Rutledge didn't look up to any of them, and Jefferson remained as stoic as possibly could as each of them passed him to get to the door. The sound of the door closing made Jefferson exhale through his nose in some relief.
"So, this is what it comes down to Mistah Jefferson?"
"Yes, this is what it comes down to, Mr. Rutledge." Rutledge looked up to find that Jefferson's back was still to him, and he walked over.
"Was that really so scarring for you, Mistah Jefferson?" Rutledge asked seriously, sounding slightly concerned with the possibility that the answer would be yes.
"Simply because I have seen it before, Mr. Rutledge, doesn't mean I condone it," Jefferson answered. Rutledge's eyebrows rose as he drew closer to Jefferson.
"But you used to, because you were a practionah," Rutledge commented.
"Yes, before I seriously considered its inhumanity and its cruelness to our human and inherent rights," Jefferson relented, knowing he had set up a trap for himself as soon as the words came out of his mouth.
"How do you know that you are in fact correct Mistah Jefferson? Are you sure John Adams's words, filtering through your head, are as false as when they denied participation in slavery?" Rutledge asked. "I can assure you, they are property Mistah Jefferson,"
"They are people being treated as property Mr. Rutledge! How many times do we have to say it before you accept it as factual?" Jefferson exclaimed, facing Rutledge who seemed surprise by the sudden outburst of anger.
"Are you simply being ignorant to its reality or are we just concerned about your status? Are you afraid that if you lose your slaves, the economy will fall and destroy the country from the inside out? Mr. Rutledge, we can replace slavery with some other trade that could be by far more prosperous for the majority. If we don't accept that the slaves are people, we are committing treason to our own declaration! We will become hypocrites Mr. Rutledge, and if we do not write this now, it will only lead to more chaos, destruction and deeper wounds to our humanity in the course of our new nation! Why should we let them—our children, grandchildren, and our descendants—suffer for what we ourselves can fix now? Do you want to become the tyrant of the next generation of people, sir? Because that is what will happen if you don't sign the declaration!"
Jefferson breathed heavily in the following silence. He felt oddly about what had just happened; it was as if the spirit of John Adams had entered his body while he was saying his own words, his own defense for his declaration. Jefferson felt relieved and freed of the building frustration after sitting through his own work being torn apart, bit by bit, for three days. However, he had no idea if what he said was enough to persuade Rutledge. Rutledge hadn't said anything, but drew closer to Jefferson.
"Why are you here, suh?" Rutledge asked. "You know that I will not sign that declaration without that ahffensive passage removed. Why do you trouble yourself to this humiliation? Why didn't you stand for your own paper hours ago? I suspect John Adams put you up to this suh, but these are not his words; they are your own. Why didn't you speak and act on this in Congress?" Jefferson shifted his weight uneasily, and remained silent, making Rutledge chuckle. Rutledge walked over to the door and opened it.
"The pain under the whip is excruciating alone," Jefferson said. He turned to Rutledge—who, by the look on his face, Jefferson knew that Rutledge wasn't entirely sure where Jefferson was going—before saying, "But when rebelling against it at the same time, it only inflicts more pain, more strife, and another scar for all to see… for myself to remember the cause behind the additional painful memory. I'm sure you can understand that, Mr. Rutledge," Rutledge didn't say anything, however his face said all Jefferson needed to know.
"Good night sir," Jefferson then walked out of the house, feeling sick to his stomach.