Democratic Vistas is a major work of comparative politics and letters published by the American poet and author Walt Whitman in 1871, who was then working as a federal clerk. Whitman does much to expound on the influence of the Louisiana Purchase and expansion on the American spirit, character, and body politic (foreshadowing Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis). In it, he criticizes Thomas Carlyle's Shooting Niagara: and after? and other literary works. It also comments on the Industrial Revolution and the predecessors of Modernism, which chose restraint and rationality above emotion and feelings.
Whitman condemned the corruption and greed of the Gilded Age, denouncing the post-Civil War materialism that had overtaken the country. “Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States. Genuine belief seems to have left us,” he wrote. His solution to the moral crisis was literature: "Two or three really original American poets...would give more compaction and more moral identity, (the quality to-day most needed) to these States, than all its Constitutions, legislative and judicial ties,” he declared, believing that literature would unite the country.
- Whitman, Walt (1871). "Democratic Vistas". University of Virginia. Retrieved 9 June 2011.