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When Did U.S. Presidents Begin Making Overseas Visits?

President Donald Trump recently toured Asia, with an itinerary that included stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Presidential travel schedules today are very different than they were in the 1800s, when the idea of a U.S. president making international visits was unheard of. Critics in America feared that such trips would lead to corruption, so presidents didn’t leave home. When Theodore Roosevelt checked on construction of the Panama Canal in 1906, it was the first time that a sitting U.S. president had made a trip to another country.

While the president's away...

  • The custom of presidents not leaving the United States while in office was so ingrained that President Ulysses S. Grant supposedly thought that there was a law that prohibited presidential travel.

  • Republicans in Congress criticized Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s two-month trip to Europe at the end of World War I, saying that Wilson was focusing too much on foreign issues.

  • Congress even tried to pass a law transferring presidential power to the vice president when President Wilson was abroad, but it didn’t pass.

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