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Thomas Jefferson Says, Don’t Travel

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Great Writing, Thomas Jefferson, travel, Lapham's Quarterly,

Thomasa Jefferson“Traveling makes men wiser, but less happy,” according to Thomas Jefferson. In a letter written in 1787, and unearthed for the latest issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, the founding father explains that traveling spreads a person’s affections too thin, causing deep dissatisfaction and idleness. Older, more mature people may be able to handle such a shock to the system, but young people should stay in their home countries where the pursuit of knowledge will be less “obstructed by foreign objects.”

Jefferson writes:

The glare of pomp and pleasure is analogous to the motion of the blood—it absorbs all their affection and attention, they are torn from it as from the only good in this world, and return to their home as to a place of exile and condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, and its recollection poisons the residue of their lives.

Source: Lapham’s Quarterly