In Conservatism and Southern Intellectuals, 1789–1861,
Adam L. Tate discusses the nature of southern conservative thought between 1789 and 1861 by examining six conservatives whose lives and careers spanned the antebellum period: John Randolph of Roanoke, John Taylor of Caroline, Nathaniel Beverly Tucker, William Gilmore Simms, Joseph Glover Baldwin, and Johnson Jones Hooper. Tate contends that southern conservatism derived its distinctive characteristics from its acceptance of aspects of John Locke’s political theory as it was articulated during the American Revolution.
Locke argued that the state and society were two entities that could be reformed and manipulated by men. Showing that most southern conservative intellectuals accepted Locke’s premise regarding separation of state and society, Tate examines both the political views and social vision of the six conservatives surveyed. He pays special attention to how these conservatives dealt with states’ rights, republicanism, slavery, sectionalism, and religion, as well as western expansion and migration.
Tate maintains that while southern conservatives forged a common political tradition based on Old Republican interpretations of the Constitution, they did not create a unified tradition of social thought. Even though most of them desired a cohesive southern intellectual movement, as well as a homogenous southern culture, their disagreements over the good society prevented them from creating a common southern social vision to accompany their states’ rights political tradition.