A man who embodies this vision of masculinity shuns bad behavior not because he fears punishment but because such behavior falls below the standards the magnanimous man aspires to. He thinks highly of himself and refuses to falsify that self-vision by allowing himself to give in to baser temptations. The immoderate pursuit of riches, lust, or public adulation would render him no longer worthy of approval and esteem, and so he shuns them as ignoble.

In American history, George Washington probably came closest to exemplifying the ideal of magnanimous masculinity. A victorious general who won a war against the most formidable army of his day, Washington went on to live a public life in the newly founded American republic that taught his countrymen valuable lessons in how to conduct politics in an elevated key, emphasizing virtue, honor, moral rectitude, earnestness, devotion to principle and integrity, and deference toward received authorities and traditions. Washington also modeled a form of public speech that treated these ideals with reverence. He certainly never spoke of them with anything approaching irony or shame. (That Washington also owned slaves shows that even the greatest moral exemplars fall far short of perfection.)

Gentlemanship is an aristocratic ideal. But as an ideal of masculinity, it can still have a place in a democracy that opens political participation to all.