"The use of travelling, Doctor Johnson wrote Mrs. Thrale, "is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." Johnson spoke for the age in this desire to see things as they are and to avoid the dangerous imaginings of how they may be. His England and much of pre-Revolutionary America shared a suspicion of what he called "airy notions" - the illusions of dreams and fancies. Johnson's great American contemporary, Benjamin Franklin, as a young man put aside speculations on the nature of reality in favor of living as a reasonable creature in contact with the world that presented itself through the evidence of his senses.
- From The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff