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It takes HOW LONG to get home?

On the 26th. of Sep. [1789] I left Paris for Havre, where I was detained by contrary winds until the 8th. of Oct. On that day, and the 9th. I crossed over to Cowes, where I had engaged the Clermont, Capt. Colley, to touch for me. She did so, but here again we were detained by contrary winds until the 22d. when we embarked and landed at Norfolk on the 23d. of November.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders are subject to Mother nature! (Some things can’t be hurried.)
Jefferson was America’s ambassador to France for five years. He came home in 1789, to return his two daughters to their native country and attend to business matters before returning to France. This is a firsthand account of international travel in the 18th century.


– Left Paris on September 26, traveling northwest four days by carriage, about 140 miles, to the seaport of Havre on the north coast of France.
– Waited at Havre 10 days for favorable winds to sail west to England.
– From Havre, 26 hours to cross 100 miles of the English Channel to Cowes on the Isle of Wright, off the south coast of England. “Boisterous navigation and mortal sickness,” Jefferson wrote of that portion of the trip home. (Jefferson and the Rights of Man, Malone, P. 236)
– Waited at Cowes 13 days, again for favorable winds.
– Crossing the Atlantic to Norfolk, VA took 32 days.

– The total journey took almost two months: 4 days land by land, 23 days waiting in ports for the right weather, and 33 days on the sea.

There are no direct flights now from Paris to Norfolk. With one intermediate stop, that journey can be accomplished in less than 12 hours.

Did you note his phrase “to touch for me”? The 19th entry for the word “touch” in Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary is “to make a brief or incidental stop on shore during a trip by water.” Jefferson had arranged his journey in advance. Part of this careful man’s planning included having the Clermont make a brief stop at Cowes to pick him up.

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