One of the characteristics which distinguishes the Southern tradition from that of New England (which since 1865 has been the US tradition) is a willingness to accept mankind as he is, with all of his flaws. As the nineteenth century Southern nationalist leader and statesman Robert Barnwell Rhett said, ‘We have to deal with erring man.’ The Southern position, summed up so succinctly by Rhett, is in contrast to the Northern or US tradition, founded by religious outcasts who became preoccupied with creating a shining ‘city upon a hill.’ The Northern ‘new Israel’ was to be achieved by (a later secularised version of) Cotton Matther’s do-good philosophy. Over time, this cultural impulse manifested itself through a penchant for social crusades. Southerners often identified this tendency as a fanaticism which they viewed as intolerant and hostile towards traditional society. In fact, Confederate President Jefferson Davis famously described such people as ‘traditionless and homeless.’
On pages 8-10 of his book Calhoun and Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse, Dr H Lee Cheek, Jr, professor of political science and religion at Gainesville State College, identifies one of the important aspects within the ‘stream’ of the traditional Southern (or ‘South Atlantic,’ as he prefers) view on government which separates it from the New England or US view. This has everything to do with the Southern view of man himself and how his negative impulses could be best checked within the confines of what Rhett liked to call ‘free government.’
It required a sustained effort to inculcate virtue and to allow each generation to hear the “voice of tradition,” Patrick Henry urged. If the witnesses expired without fulfilling the need to “inform posterity,” social and political life might suffer the consequences of such a collective loss of memory and purpose. Although Calhoun did not define himself excitedly as an Antifederalist, he imbibed Antifederalist political theory from his father, Patrick Calhoun. As a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Patrick Calhoun opposed the work of the Philadelphia Convention on the grounds that it had sacrificed liberty to protect the regime. The elder Calhoun would also impart his concern regarding the prevention of revolutionary changes to democratic mechanisms to his sons, who would come to champion the older constitutional limitations upon popular rule.
[T]he Antifederalists accepted the imperfections of the Articles of Confederation concerning governmental authority while advocating many impediments to the dangers resulting from what George Mason decried as “the natural lust of power so inherent in man.”
…Both the Antifederalists and Calhoun were part of a clear republican understanding of the nature of the American regime. Quite distinct from the “puritanical” republicanism of New England, this second comprehensible “stream” of interpretation assumes an “agrarian” character. …While the New England version stressed purely moral solutions to the problems of maintaining civic virtue, the South Atlantic or agrarian persuasion offered institutional means of providing for a virtuous republic.