Northern Democratic Party

In the Election of 1860, the Democratic Party split into two parties, the Northern Democratic Party and the Southern Democratic Party.

By the late 1850s, the Democratic Party was split over the issue of slavery. Northern Democrats generally opposed slavery's expansion while many Southern Democrats believed that slavery should exist across the United States. In the presidential election of 1860, the Democratic Party split in two, with Stephen Douglas running for the Northern Democratic Party, and John C. Breckinridge representing the Southern Democratic Party. Two other political parties competed in this election as well. One of these parties was the Republican Party, with Abraham Lincoln as its candidate. Lincoln and the Republican Party opposed slavery's expansion. The other party was the Constitutional Union Party. The party's candidate, John Bell, hoped to compromise the differences between the North and South by extending the Missouri Compromise line across the remainder of the United States. Slavery would be permitted in new states established south of the line, while the institution would be illegal in new states formed north of the line. The Northern and Southern Democratic Parties only officially existed in the election of 1860.

Lincoln won the election against the other three candidates. Many Northern voters agreed with him that slavery should not expand. These people also generally agreed with Lincoln that the federal government could not end slavery where it already existed but that it could prohibit slavery in new territories and states. In 1860, the North had a population of approximately twenty-three million people to the South's nine million. Southerners divided their support between Breckinridge and Bell, while Northerners generally rejected these two candidates. Douglas provided the only real opposition to Lincoln in the North, but most Northern voters preferred Lincoln's views. With such a wide difference in population totals, the North controlled the Electoral College and gave Lincoln the victory in the election. With Lincoln's election, Southern states began to secede from the Union. Many Southerners believed that Lincoln would end slavery within the United States. Eleven Southern states seceded from the Union between December 1860 and June 1861, creating the Confederate States of America and beginning the American Civil War.

Following the Civil War, the Democratic Party reunited, but Democrats residing in the South sometimes advanced different goals for their party than Democrats from the North. Some Northern Democrats fought for the rights of the working class against business owners and other industrialists while other Northern Democrats defended commerce and industry. Many Southern Democrats, especially in the years immediately following the Civil War, sought to protect rural and agricultural interests. Some Southern Democrats also worked to enact laws that denied African Americans equal rights.

See Also


  1. Baker, Jean H. Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.  
  2. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  3. Donald, David Herbert. The Politics of Reconstruction, 1863-1867. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.  
  4. Foner, Eric. A Short History of Reconstruction. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1990.
  5. Goldman, Ralph Morris. Search for Consensus: The Story of the Democratic Party. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1979.  
  6. Mantell, Martin E. Johnson, Grant, and the Politics of Reconstruction. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1973.  
  7. Morrison, Chaplain W. Democratic Politics and Sectionalism: The Wilmot Proviso Controversy. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1967.  
  8. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  9. Richardson, Heather Cox. The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.  
  10. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  11. Rutland, Robert Allen. The Democrats, from Jefferson to Clinton. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995.  
  12. Simpson, Brooks D. Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991.  
  13. Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.