American Ideals


The time and lands are devoted to the real;
Make a demand for the ideal (or rather idea of the ideal of the real.)

I shall use the words America and democracy as convertible terms.
To work in, if we may so term it, and justify God, his divine aggregate, the people—this, I say, is what democracy is for; and this is what our America means, and is doing—may I not say, has done? If not, she means nothing more, and does nothing more, than any other land.

The foreign theory is that a man or woman receives rights by grant, demise, or inheritance. The theory of these states is that humanity’s rights belong to every man, every woman, in the inherent nature of things, and cannot be alienated, or if alienated must be brought back and resumed.

The theory of this republic is, not that the general government is the fountain of all life and power, but that the people are, represented in both the general and state governments.
The Congress convenes for you,
The secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them,
The president is there in the White House for you, it is not you who are here for him—
Look the president always sternly in the face, unbending, understanding that he is to be kept by you to short and sharp account of himself.

The identity of these states is a single identity only,
To be an American is to accept nothing except what is equally free and eligible to anybody else;
Not any, not the president, is to have one jot more than you or me,
Not any habitan of America is to have one jot less than you or me.

To thy immortal breasts, Mother of All, thy every daughter, son, endear’d alike, forever equal,
No one rejected, all fully accepted—no one preferred to another,
The youth, the laboring person, the poor person, rivalling all the rest—perhaps outdoing the rest.

Here is what moves in magnificent masses, carelessly faithful of particulars,
Here the flowing trains, here the crowds, equality, diversity, the soul loves.
Inextricable lands! the clutch’d together! the passionate ones!
The side by side! the elder and younger brothers!
Each man and woman my neighbor!
 

Are you really of the whole people?
Have you too the old ever-fresh forbearance and impartiality,
To balance ranks, complexions, creeds, and the sexes?

What most needs fostering, in all parts of the United States, is this fused and fervent identity of the individual, whoever he or she may be, and wherever the place, with the idea and fact of American totality—the ever-overarching American ideas of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the modern composite nation, form’d from all, with room for all.
To American democracy, both ideas must be fufill’d, and the loss of vitality of either one will indeed be the loss of vitality of the other.

He only suits these states whose manners favor the audacity and sublime turbulence of the states,
—their nebulous yet fiery patriotism—their manners, speech, dress, friendships—their self-esteem and wonderful sympathy—their curiosity and welcome of novelty—their deathless attachment to freedom—the picturesque looseness of their carriage—the gait they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors.

Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night—
The American contempt for statutes and ceremonies, the boundless impatience of restraint,
The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves,
Development and perfection by voluntary standards, and self-reliance.

Here all forms of practical labour is recognized as honorable—
You workwomen and workmen of these states having your own divine and strong life,
The poorest free mechanic or farmer with his hat unmoved from his head and firm eyes and a candid and generous heart,
And all else giving place to men and women like 
you.

The common American mechanic, farmer, sailor, etc. is just as eligible as any to the highest ideal of dignity, knowledge, happiness, and perfection,
(I sometimes think an independent American workingman is more eligible than any other.)

The average of farmers and mechanics everywhere in every respect insures the future of the republic;
Good farmers, sailors, mechanics, clerks, citizens—perfect business and social relations—perfect fathers and mothers—
If we could only have these, or their approximations, plenty of them, fine and large and sane and generous and patriotic!
Of course these are not all America wants, but they are first of all to be provided on a large scale.

Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations,
All nations here—all races are here—a home for every race on earth.
To the new continent comes the offspring of the rest of the continents to bear offspring,
Those old continents whence we have come to this new continent;
I accept for the roots of this nation no less than all the round globe, history entire, all the generations, all the materials of the 
past,
(There will come a time, all over America, when nothing will be of more interest than authentic reminiscences of the past.) 

And thou America,
For the scheme’s culmination, its thought and its reality,
For these (not for thyself) thou hast arrived.
Thou born America,
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou rondure of the world at last
accomplish’d,
The hemispheres rounded and tied
,
The orb is enclosed, the ring is circled, the journey is done,
We stand self-pois’d in the middle, branching thence over the world.

Thou America,
Pleas’d with the native and pleas’d with the foreign, pleas’d with the new and old,
Thou too surroundest all,
Holding all, fusing, absorbing, tolerating all—thou, also thou, a world,
With all thy wide geographies, manifold, different, distant, rounded by thee in one, embracing, carrying, welcoming all,
Always the free range and diversity—always the continent of democracy.

America prepares with composure and goodwill for the visitors that have sent word;
It shall enlarge the doors.
Welcoming all immigrants, it rejects none, it permits all,
The copious humanity streaming from every direction toward America,
Immigrants continually coming and landing,
(The proud ships arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some with cargoes of gold,)
The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee.

Here is the hospitality which forever indicates heroes,
To all that hitherward come would I welcome give.
Send any or all—no matter what,
We have places for any and all—good places,
We receive them, we have made preparation,
To become the most friendly nation—the United States indeed.

I see in America not merely the home of Americans, but the home of the needy and down-kept races of the whole earth.
All the lands of the earth make contributions
here,
How, then, can any man with a heart in his breast begrudge the coming of needy ones to the plentiful storehouse of the New World?

As to the Spanish stock of our Southwest, it is certain to me that we do not begin to appreciate the splendor and sterling value of it.
No stock shows a grander historic retrospect—grander in religiousness and loyalty, or for patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity, and honor—
To the composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts.

On our shores the crowning resultant of those distillations, decantations, compactions of humanity, that have been going on over the earth so long,
Now with rosy and new blood, moves today in a new country,
The blossoms we wear in our hats the growth of thousands of years.
We want nothing small, nothing unfriendly or crabbed here, but rather to become the friend and well-wisher of all, as we derive our sources from all and are in continual communication with all—
These modern, seething multitudes around us, of which we are inseparable parts,
Millions of equals, with their lives, their passions, their future.

There is that about these assumptions that only the vastness, multiplicity, and vitality of America would seem able to comprehend, to be fit for, and give scope to.
Encircling all, vast-darting up and wide, is the American soul, with equal hemispheres—one love, one dilation or pride,
(Cursed is that age or nation that does not realize itself, and esteem itself,)
We are sufficient in the variety of ourselves, all eligible to all.

As the greatest lessons of nature are perhaps the lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons also in New World politics and progress.
Of a grand and universal nation, perhaps it ought to have morally what nature has physically, the power to take in and assimilate all the human strata, all kinds of experience, and all theories, and whatever happens or occurs, or offers itself, or fortune, or what is call’d misfortune.

O resistless restless! swarming and busy, settling and organizing everywhere,
The fluid movement of the population, an average unending procession,
Inland and sea-coast we go, and pass all boundary lines.
Ours is to be the nation of the kosmos,
Deific faiths and amplitudes, absorbing, comprehending all,
Inhaling and exhaling our limitless air and eligibilities—
Entire faith and acceptance is the foundation of moral America
.

NEXT: AMERICA’S PRESENT EVILS