When in late August and September 1789 word first began to reach the new United States of America of the upheaval of two hundred thirty-one years ago today that had occurred in the capital of America’s closest ally during its recently won war of independence, many across the Atlantic in that new United States felt it to be perhaps the start of another American Revolution.
Of course there was no instant communication in those days as we understand it. And top travel speeds were confined to those attainable by a briefly galloping horse or by a sailing ship fortunate enough to catch a good wind blowing it in the direction it actually wanted to go. Happenings were shared by word of mouth and/or by slow-moving letter:
And it was even tougher then than it is today to separate fact from fiction:
So if someone close to the scene had some actual information, it was welcomed…
…and particularly so some 3,000 miles away, in rural New York, even many months after… as if it had only “recently” happened.
It is certainly not 1789 any longer. Yet while we may have the likes of FaceTime, we have in recent months also had a sad small taste of the sense of physical distance that humans had endured from the beginning of time until merely a couple of generations ago. Ordinary air travel as we know, for example, virtually ceased for several months, and is still internationally problematic and likely will be for some time to come.
We had taken our technology for granted. Since March we have been sharply reminded of what separation actually can feel like. We may perhaps better understand now why letters between family, friends, and lovers of centuries past (letters that could take months to reach the recipient, if they ever did), for instance, were often (what we may consider so) flowery and sentimental: it was often simply because the writer never knew if they would see that person ever again.
Have a good day wherever you are in the world reading this not perhaps three or six months from now, but maybe just minutes or a few hours after I clicked “publish,” as I sit here
about one hour’s car journey, or about two days by horse-powered carriage just north of London. 🙂