Gary B. Nash, et al., eds., The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society, 4th ed. (New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1998), 479.
As civil war threatened in Kansas, a Brooklyn poet, Walt Whitman, heralded American democracy in his epic poem Leaves of Grass (1855). Whitman identified himself as the embodiment of average Americans "of every hue and caste… of every rank and religion." Ebulliently, Whitman embraced urban mechanics, southern woodcutters, planters' sons, runaway slaves, mining camp prostitutes, and a catalog of others in his poetic celebration of "the word Democratic, the word En-Masse." At the same time, Whitman's faith in the American masses faltered in the mid 1850s. He worried that a knife plunged into the "breast" of the Union would bring on the "red blood of civil war." Inevitably, as Whitman feared, blood flowed in Kansas. In May 1856, supported by a prosouthern federal marshall, a mob entered Lawrence, smashed the offices and presses of a Free-Soil newspaper, fired several cannonballs into the Free State Hotel, and destroyed homes and shops. Three nights later, motivated by vengeance and a feeling that he was doing God's will, John Brown led a small New England band, including four of his sons, to a proslavery settlement near Pottawatomie Creek. There they dragged five men out of their cabins and despite the terrified entreaties of their wives, hacked them to death with swords.