- popular sovereignty
1. the doctrine that sovereign power is vested in the people and that those chosen to govern, as trustees of such power, must exercise it in conformity with the general will.2. Amer. Hist. (before the Civil War) a doctrine, held chiefly by the opponents of the abolitionists, that the people living in a territory should be free of federal interference in determining domestic policy, esp. with respect to slavery.[1840-50, Amer.]
* * *Political doctrine that allowed the settlers of U.S. federal territories to decide whether to enter the Union as free or slave states.It was applied by Sen. Stephen A. Douglas as a means to reach a compromise through passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Critics of the doctrine called it "squatter sovereignty." The resulting violence between pro-and antislavery factions (see Bleeding Kansas) showed its failure as a workable compromise. See also Dred Scott decision.
* * *▪ political doctrinealso called Squatter Sovereignty,in U.S. history, a controversial political doctrine that the people of federal territories should decide for themselves whether their territories would enter the Union as free or slave states. Its enemies, especially in New England, called it “squatter sovereignty.”It was first applied in organizing the Utah and New Mexico territories in 1850; its most crucial application came with the passage of Senator Stephen A. Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the prohibition of slavery north of latitude 36°30′ (established in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (Missouri Compromise)). The violent struggle that followed for control of the Kansas Territory (see Bleeding Kansas) illustrated the failure of popular sovereignty as a possible ground for agreement between proslavery and antislavery factions in the country. See also Dred Scott decision.
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