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Democratic VistasReflections on the Life of American Democracy$
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Jedediah Purdy, Anthony Kronman, and Cynthia Farrar

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780300102567

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300102567.001.0001

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Lincoln and Whitman as Representative Americans

Lincoln and Whitman as Representative Americans

(p.36) 2 Lincoln and Whitman as Representative Americans
Democratic Vistas

David Bromwich

Yale University Press

This chapter treats Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman as “representative Americans”—individuals who embody some aspect of human character to perfection, and who, by their conduct, teach us about that part of our own potential. Both self-made men wrestled with questions that are universal for democrats: How can a democrat, a member of a creed of equality, prove him- or herself worthy of respect without betraying the principle of equality? What is the relationship between the democratic insistence on equality and the need to insist on one's own uniqueness? Both men's answers lay in an irresolvable tension between devotion to the equal worth of all, and a vast capacity for solitude, for looking inward, for remaining fully and even mysteriously themselves amidst the democratic hurly-burly they moved in and honored.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Americans, democrats, equality

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