John Dickinson had this to say to his colleagues in the 2nd Continental Congress as they debated Independence on the first of June, 1776:
"...Suppose on this Event Great Britain should offer Canada to France & Florida to Spain with an Extension of the old Limits. Would not France & Spain accept them? Gentlemen say the Trade of all America is more valuable to France than Canada. I grant it; but suppose She may get both? If she is politick, & none doubts that, I aver She has the easiest Game to play for attaining both, that ever presented itself to a Nation.
When We have bound ourselves to a stern Quarrel with Great Britain by a Declaration of Independence, France has nothing to do but to hold back & intimidate Great Britain till Canada is put into her Hands, then to intimidate Us into a most disadvantageous Grant of our Trade. It is my firm Opinion these Events will take Place, & arise naturally from our declaring Independence...
...Suppose we shall ruin [Great Britain]. France must rise on her Ruins. Her Ambition. Her Religion. Our Dangers from thence. We shall weep at our misfortune brought on by our rashness...
...The War will be carried on with more Severity. The Burning of Towns, the Setting Loose of Indians on our Frontiers, has Not yet been done. Boston might have been burnt though it was not......A PARTITION of these Colonies will take Place if Great Britain cant conquer Us. To escape from the protection we have in British rule by declaring independence would be like Destroying a House before We have got another, In Winter, with a small Family; Then asking a Neighbour to take Us in and finding He is unprepared..."
Dickinson, once among the most vocal champions of American rights, fell from the pantheon of the Founders when he argued against declaring Independence and predicted the outcomes described above as its likely result. Though history ultimately took a different course, Dickinson was not so far off base in his predictions as hindsight makes him seem. My manuscript counterfactual novel of the Revolution reaches some of the same conclusions, which I fear vindicates my assumptions rather than his own. But then, that is the advantage of being the one who rewrites history.
Dickinson, unable in good conscience to sign the Declaration, later served as a private soldier at Brandywine and was back in Congress and supportive of the Independence struggle the following year. Aside from his namesake college, when he is remembered today is is generally as a foil for John Adams and those who ultimately persuaded the delegations from each of the colonies not to block Independence.