Friday, February 23

"The underlying principles of the States are not honestly believed in (for all this hectic glow and these melodramatic screamings), nor is humanity itself believed in. What penetrating eye does not everywhere see through the mask? The spectacle is appalling. We live in an atmosphere of hypocrisy throughout. The men believe not in the women, nor the women in the men. A scornful superciliousness rules in literature. The aim of all the littérateurs is to find something to make fun of. A lot of churches, sects, &c., the most dismal phantasms I know, usurp the name of religion. Conversation is a mass of badinage. From deceit in the spirit, the mother of all false deeds, the offspring is already incalculable. An acute and candid person in the Revenue department at Washington, who is led by the course of his employment to regularly visit the cities, north, south, and west, to investigate frauds, has talked much with me (1869, 1870) about his discoveries. The depravity of the business classes of our country is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater. The whole of the official services of America, national, State, and municipal, in all their branches and departments, except the Judiciary, are steeped, saturated, in corruption, bribery, falsehood, maladministrations; and the Judiciary is tainted. The great cities reek with respectable as much as non-respectable robbery and scoundrelism. In fashionable life, flippancy, tepid amours, weak infidelism, small aims, or no aims at all, only to kill time... I say that our New World Democracy, however great a success in uplifting the masses out of their sloughs, in materialistic-development products, and in a certain highly deceptive, superficial, popular intellectuality, is so far an almost complete failure in its social aspects, in any superb, general- personal character, and in really grand, religious, moral, literary and 'sthetic results."

- Walt Whitman from "Democratic Vistas", as quoted in W. Hale White, "The Genius of Walt Whitman." The Secular Review, 20 March 1880, pp. 180-2.