The Democratic Party of the United States is a major American political party that has existed since the 1820s, making it one of the oldest continuously extant political parties in the world. Members of the party are referred to as "Democrats." In modern political terms, the Democrats are a center-right conservative party.
The election of 1860 split the then-dominant Democratic Party in two, with Northern Democrats supporting Stephen A. Douglas and Southern Democrats nominating John C. Breckinridge, allowing for the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln. As seven Southern states seceded, many Democrats - known as Copperheads - opposed fighting the war and sought a peace settlement, although they were nominally opposed to the legality of secession by the South.
With the Confederate victories at Antietam and Chambersburg in the fall of 1862, Democrats retook many state legislatures and thus narrowly retook the Senate, though Republican majorities in the House proved too numerous to overcome. With French, Mexican and Brazilian recognition of the Confederacy in early 1863, Democratic leadership in the Senate delivered a treaty to President Lincoln with terms for a temporary ceasefire that would begin on July 1, 1863. Lincoln refused to sign it and Republicans threatened a filibuster - however, not long thereafter the Confederates staged an overwhelming victory at Chancellorsville and more European nations recognized the Confederacy under French pressure. Lincoln eventually agreed to honor the ceasefire, alienating him from his Republican constituency and pro-Union Northerners. Though talks nearly broke down at the Treaty of Baltimore, the Union acquiesed to the secession of the Confederacy, the cessation of the New Mexico and Indian Territories to the Confederacy, and the staging of elections in Missouri and Kentucky concurrent with the 1864 elections to determine if they wanted to remain in the Union or join the Confederacy, a key position of local Democrats in both states. The Confederacy conceded on its demand for the return of escaped or emancipated slaves, did not pursue claims to southern California in order to gain a Pacific port, and agreed to inviolable shipping rights for United States farmers along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and through the Chesapeake Bay.
Democrats retook the Presidency in 1864 despite losing control of the Senate to the Republicans, who played off of the anger of their constituents at "capitulation at the end of a gun." Horatio Seymour replaced the disgraced and unpopular Lincoln, who barely was renominated by his own party despite many Republicans desiring to elect abolitionist John C. Fremont instead. As a compromise, Fremont as included as the Vice Presidential nominee.
The Democrats served as an anti-modernizing force initially in politics, reaffirming the supremacy of machine politics in cities under their control and utilizing a base of rural farmers and capitalists. However, the Democrats also encouraged the construction of land-grant institutions to place universities in rural areas and became champions of "reconciliation" - unlike Republicans who openly campaigned against Democrats as openly treasonous capitulators, Seymour in particular engaged in what he called the "good neighbor policy," in which the isolationist United States would act as a good neighbor to its allies. Due to Seymour's gentle nature, strong economic growth in the United States at the time and booming American industry, the Democrats maintained a lock on the White House for twenty years, reelecting Seymour in 1868, electing Secretary of State Thomas A. Hendricks to the Presidency twice and Samuel J. Tilden in 1880, before he declined to seek reelection in 1884 due to his health.
With a largely insurmountable Republican majority in the House of Representatives for much of this period (Democrats would not retake the House until the 1892 election), bipartisan action largely boiled down to the Senate, which was much more evenly split.