The long quote below is from Thomas Jefferson's "Travelling notes for Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Shippen" dated June 3, 1788:
General Observations. — On arriving at a town, the first
thing is to buy the plan of the town, and the book noting its
curiosities. Walk round the ramparts when there are any, go to the
top of a steeple to have a view of the town and its environs.
When you are doubting whether a thing is worth the trouble of
going to see, recollect that you will never again be so near it, that
you may repent the not having seen it, but can never repent having
seen it. But there is an opposite extreme too, that is, the seeing
too much. A judicious selection is to be aimed at, taking care that
the indolence of the moment have no influence in the decision. Take
care particularly not to let the porters of churches,
lead you through all the little details of their profession, which
will load the memory with trifles, fatigue the attention, and waste
that and your time. It is difficult to confine these people to the
few objects worth seeing and remembering. They wish for your money,
and suppose you give it the more willingly the more they detail to
When one calls in the taverns for the vin du
pays, they give
what is natural and unadulterated and cheap: when vin etrangere is
called for, it only gives a pretext for charging an extravagant price
for an unwholsome stuff, very often of their own brewery. The people
you will naturally see the most of will be tavern keepers,
place, and postilions. These are the hackneyed rascals of every
country. Of course they must never be considered when we calculate
the national character.
Objects of attention for an American. — 1. Agriculture.
Everything belonging to this art, and whatever has a near relation to
it. Useful or agreeable animals which might be transported to
America. Species of plants for the farmer's garden, according to the
climate of the different States.
2. Mechanical arts, so far as they respect things necessary in
America, and inconvenient to be transported thither ready-made, such
as forges, stone quarries, boats, bridges, (very especially,) &c., &c.
3. Lighter mechanical arts, and manufactures. Some of these
will be worth a superficial view; but circumstances rendering it
impossible that America should become a manufacturing country during
the time of any man now living, it would be a waste of attention to
examine these minutely.
4. Gardens, peculiarly worth the attention of an American,
because it is the country of all others where the noblest gardens may
be made without expense. We have only to cut out the superabundant
5. Architecture worth great attention. As we double our
numbers every twenty years, we must double our houses. Besides, we
build of such perishable materials, that one half of our houses must
be rebuilt in every space of twenty years, so that in that time,
houses are to be built for three-fourths of our inhabitants. It is,
then, among the most important arts; and it is desirable to introduce
taste into an art which shows so much.
6. Painting. Statuary. Too expensive for the state of wealth
among us. It would be useless, therefore, and preposterous, for us
to make ourselves connoisseurs in those arts. They are worth seeing,
but not studying.
7. Politics of each country, well worth studying so far as
respects internal affairs. Examine their influence on the happiness
of the people. Take every possible occasion for entering into the
houses of the laborers, and especially at the moments of their
repast; see what they eat, how they are clothed, whether they are
obliged to work too hard; whether the government or their landlord
takes from them an unjust proportion of their labor; on what footing
stands the property they call their own, their personal liberty, &c.,
8. Courts. To be seen as you would see the tower of London or
menagerie of Versailles, with their lions, tigers, hyenas, and other
beast of prey, standing in the same relation to their fellows. A
slight acquaintance with them will suffice to show you that, under
the most imposing exterior, they are the weakest and worst part of
mankind. Their manners, could you ape them, would not make you
beloved in your own country, nor would they improve it could you
introduce them there to the exclusion of that honest simplicity now
prevailing in America, and worthy of being cherished.