Even today, a century and a half after the United States conquered the independent South, Southerners are still politically distinct from the rest of the US. The Southern political tradition can be traced back to the Anti-Federalists (and even before that to the politics of the English Civil War) and the skeptical view of Federal power that grew from the Jeffersonian party in the early years of the Union. The Fire-eaters, early Southern nationalists and secessionists, were certainly in this tradition even though their worldview was much more complex than simple Anti-Federalism. Professor and author Eric H Walther, in the introduction to his book The Fire-Eaters speaks about the Fire-Eaters’ place in the Anti-Federalist tradition:
Patrick Henry thought he ‘smelt a rat’ at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Since then there have always been Americans who, like Henry, worried that the government of the United states had too much power, constantly acquired more, and in the process menaced the liberty of its citizens. Whether they called themselves anti-Federalists, Tertium Quids [the ultra-Jeffersonians led by John Randolph of Roanoke - Thomas Jefferson's cousin], or simply states’-rights men, in each generation before secession some feared that through one usurpation of power after another, naive or even sinister forces encouraged the growth of federal power. As the nineteenth century progressed, a small but vocal group of Southerners emerged who identified Northerners as the source of this attack on liberty. By 1861, thousands of Southerners agreed with Fire-eater Robert Barnwell Rhett that Northerners ‘like Frankenstein… have raised a monster which they cannot quell.’ In a desperate effort to preserve their peculiar form of liberty in a slave society, most Southerners finally listened to these warnings and chose secession.