Arts + Culture

The Presidents as Travelers

by Ted Widmer

Thomas Jefferson

Where The Eagle Landed: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom

Home and abroad: Thomas Jefferson traveled widely as Minister to France from 1784 to 1789, also taking in England, Italy, the Netherlands, and the German Rhineland—journeys that accelerated his far-ranging intellectual development. Jefferson adored Paris in particular, glorying in its scientific and literary culture, enjoying its food and wines, and falling in love, exactly as one is supposed to do there. But as president, he slowed the pace, in part to pacify those who had previously objected to George Washington's showy trips, but also because, as a widower, he took solace in the comforts of home, barely venturing outside of Washington except to return every summer to Monticello (the original "Western White House"). Still, even if he didn't travel a lot as president, he did much to expand our territory, spearheading the Louisiana Purchase, and kicking off the great American tradition of adventure travel by sponsoring the expedition of Lewis and Clark (pictured).

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