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THE yast body of colonists stayed at home. They lived quiet and uneventful lives, little disturbed by the lust for travel and seldom interrupted by journeys from their place of abode] There were, of course, always those whose business took them from one colony to another or over the sea to the West Indies or to England; there were the thousands, north and south, who at one time or another went from place to place in an effort to improve their condition; and, finally, there were the New Englanders, the Germans, and the Scotch-Irish who, in ever-increasing numbers, wandered westward towards the uplands and the frontier, led on by that unconquerable restlessness which always seizes upon settlers in a new land.
Of these the most enterprising wanderers and the forerunners of the tourists of today were the voyagers overseas to England, the Continent, and
the West Indies for business, education, health, and pleasure. Many who went to England on colonial employment or for education, took advantage of the opportunity to see the sights or to make the “grand tour” of the Continent. One of the earliest of New Englanders to visit the Continent was John Checkley of Boston, who studied at Oxford and traveled in Europe before 1710. Another was Thomas Bulfinch, whose father wrote to him in Paris in 1720: “I am glad of your going there, it being, I doubt not for your good, though somewhat chargeable.” Elizabeth, wife of Colonel Thomas Jones, who went abroad in 1728 for her health, had one of her husband's London correspondents look after her, provide her with money, arrange for her baggage, and purchase what was needful. She stayed for a time in London, where she consulted Sir Hans Sloane, went to Bath, where she took the waters, and was gone from home nearly two years. Laurens went to England in 1749, a nine weeks' voyage, to study the conditions of trade, and traveled on horseback to Manchester, Birmingham, Worcester, and other towns, where he was entertained by merchants to whom he had letters or with whom he did business. The many Virginians — Randolphs, Carters, and others - who were at Gray's Inn or the Middle Temple, probably traveled elsewhere to some extent, while of the South Carolinians who visited Europe Ralph Izard went to Dijon, Geneva, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Strasbourg. Charles Carroll of Maryland was away from home at his studies and on his travels for sixteen years, living at St.Omerin France, studying law in England, visiting the Low Countries, and even planning to go to Berlin, which he did not reach, however, partly for lack of time and partly because he heard that the accommodations were bad and the roads were infested with banditti. Many members of the Baltimore family traveled widely; Copley the painter in 1774 went to Rome, Marseilles, Paris, and London; Boucher speaks of a “gentleman-clergyman” in Virginia who had made the grand tour and was exceedingly instructive and entertaining in his conversation; and doubtless there were many others who made trips to foreign cities but whose travels remain unrecorded. On the other hand members of English and Scottish families were often widely scattered throughout the colonial world and travelers from the British Isles would occasionally go from place to place in America visiting their relatives, trying new business openings, or seeking recovery of their health.
Those who visited only the British Isles were very numerous. The voyage from the colonies was not ordinarily difficult, though the dangers of the North Atlantic and inconveniences on shipboard in those days were sometimes very serious. “We had everything washed off our decks,” wrote one who had just arrived in England, “and was once going to stove all our water and throw our guns and part of our cargo overboard to lighten the ship; four days and nights at one time under a reef mainsail, our decks never dry from the time we left Cape Henry.” But despite the difficulties ships were constantly coming and going, and ample provision for passengers was made. The trip from London to Boston sometimes lasted only twentysix days, and five weeks to the Capes was considered a fine passage. Chalkley, the Quaker, was eight weeks sailing from Land's End to Virginia, and Peckover nine weeks and five days from London to New York. An Irish traveler was forty-two days from Limerick to the same city. Sailing by the southerly route and into the Trades made a longer voyage but a pleasanter one, and those who were able to pay well for their cabins and to take extra provisions were in comfort compared with the servants and other emigrants, whose experiences below decks aft in the steerage during stormy and protracted voyages must have been harrowing in the extreme.
There was scarcely a merchant ship but took on passengers going one way or the other, and of the
life on board we have many accounts. X Hundreds of colonists went to the West Indies to search for employment, to investigate commercial opportunities, to visit their plantations — for there were many who owned plantations in the islands — or merely to enjoy the pleasures of the trip. The voyage, which was in any case a comparatively short one, varied slightly according to the port of departure and the route. It usually occupied two weeks from the Northern colonies. David Mendes thought a trip of twenty-nine days from Newport to Jamaica a very dismal and melancholy passage, but another Rhode Islander in 1752 estimated a trip to the Bahamas and back, including the time necessary for selling and purchasing cargoes, at from two to three and a half months. In Virginia it was customary to sail from Norfolk, the center of that colony's trade with the West Indies.
Travel from one continental colony to another merely for pleasure was not of frequent occurrence,