With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.

Vision of America

Wednesday, June 17, 1891

What did he think of Brinton's idea that public opinion--not church and state--is the great moral conservator and lever? "It is very striking--true, too, I admit it: it sets out a big lay of premises--establishes them, too. Then I would say, there is more, too--the bottom fact of all--the inherent good nature, integrity, sanity of man--residing below, underneath all venoms, poisons, evil wills. Especially as existing in our democratic land, age--in America. I think I have often enough expressed myself on this in my books--and that the disease of our time is its smartness, cleverness--that hellish New England hunger to know something--to store up a big fund of bookishness--to accumulate, accumulate, accumulate, ad infinitum. Thank God! The people as a whole--knowing enough for the present--are not spoiled and ruined by the ambition of culture! They can wait for what will come--for growth--the up-going of their stronger, healthfuller nature. I see signs everywhere of larger purposes, not literary--human--and these will urge, urge, urge, urge--urge again, irresistibly--the conviction of the masses. And so to me, Brinton is right--well right--proved--and well for the race that it is so--that the average good heart of a time takes care of the individual. I know there is more to be said than this, but this gives the one side."

Monday, September 14, 1891

"...I notice how our men, once raised on a pinnacle, popular favor at their back--inevitably assume a certain manhood--add to dignity, reserve, seriosity. Our presidents, from Washington down--not a single exception. I have written of one instance--a dark deep night in Washington (1865)--Congress in session--yes, it was the close of a session--night--men tired, drowsy--draggled-on-edness--life at its low ebb. Suddenly on the scene the tramp of a great storm--flashes of lightning--crash, crash, crash, the dismalest thunder that ever fell out of the heavens--a hurricane, seeming to threaten destruction everywhere, to everything--man, dome, house, city--nothing spareable. On all this an instant's dread--men pale (oh! I was there! I saw it all!)--a hush, suspense--then every sleeping member wakened--every head raised--shaking off sleep, fear, even disquietude, with disdain. At once the work resumed, the order taken up--calm inside, hell itself out--every person present lifted by the magic of personality into best selves, best atmospheres! I thought then--what Roman senate can best this! What Roman people bring more splendid dignity--the best fruits of pride, wealth of self? And these out of democracy's average--out of the thousands, millions, of our population. And I could match it, oh so grandly--by soldiers on the fields--in the hospitals--by laborers--artisans--the streaming, straining life of our cities--the farms. Oh! Horace, Horace! This after all is the great gem on our brow--the gem surpassing all others--the sparkling glittering gem--America--the real under the unreal--the substance under the show! How much of this will Wallace get? Yet this is the essential thing--this is the message of America!"