The Southern Democrats had a variety of political and ideological motivations for seceding and participating in the Civil War. The desired political and economic systems in the North and South had stark differences by the middle of the 19th century. The issue of slavery stood as the source for much of the conflict between the Southern Democrats and their political opposition in the North.

Desire for Sovereignty

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 prompted outrage and fear among Southern Democrats and prompted the secession of South Carolina. Lincoln had stated that he would not interfere with the states' rights to govern within their borders, however, he also said that he did not believe that states had the right to secede from the Union. Lincoln held that attempts to secede would be viewed as insurrection. The incompatible views of Southern Democrats and Lincoln's Republicans led South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee to become the Confederate States of America.

Freedom from the North Imposing its Values and Lifestyle

Substantial differences had developed between the cultures and lifestyles of the North and South by the time of Lincoln's election. Industrialization had taken hold in the North while the South remained largely agrarian. Democrat had John C. Calhoun had argued earlier in the 1800s that the South and its way of life were under attack by the North. Calhoun's sentiment remained popular after his death in 1850. The Southern Democrats primarily consisted of farmers and the industrialized North was viewed as foreign.

Preserving Slavery

The South's agrarian economy and lifestyle relied heavily on the use of slave labor. The Southern Democrats objected to the notion of emancipation and stood firmly opposed to the idea that African Americans could come to be viewed as political and social equals. Much of the Southern economy and culture hinged upon the notion that slavery was an acceptable practice. Keeping slavery in place represented a matter of subsistence for some Southern Democrats and a means of maintaining and building wealth for others.

Convert Border States to the Confederacy

The South implemented primarily defensive strategies in the Civil War, however, there were political efforts to win the so-called border states to the Confederacy. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas seceded and joined the South after military action began at Fort Sumter. The decision by these states to align with the Southern Democrats made the Confederacy a much more powerful political and military entity. Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware and Missouri remained with the Union. Western Virginian counties in which few had slaves became West Virginia in 1863 and was admitted into the Union.