popular sovereignty

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popular sovereignty,

in U.S. history, doctrine under which the status of slavery in the territories was to be determined by the settlers themselves. Although the doctrine won wide support as a means of avoiding sectional conflict over the slavery issue, its meaning remained ambiguous, since proponents disagreed as to the stage of territorial development at which the decision should be made. Stephen A. DouglasDouglas, Stephen Arnold,
1813–61, American statesman, b. Brandon, Vt. Senatorial Career

He was admitted to the bar at Jacksonville, Ill., in 1834. After holding various state and local offices he became a U.S.
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, principal promoter of the doctrine, wanted the choice made at an early stage of settlement; others felt that it should be made just before each territory achieved statehood. First proposed in 1847 by Vice President George Dallas and popularized by Lewis Cass in his 1848 presidential campaign, the doctrine was incorporated in the Compromise of 1850Compromise of 1850.
The annexation of Texas to the United States and the gain of new territory by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the Mexican War (1848) aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of slavery into the
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 and four years later was an important feature of the Kansas-Nebraska ActKansas-Nebraska Act,
bill that became law on May 30, 1854, by which the U.S. Congress established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. By 1854 the organization of the vast Platte and Kansas river countries W of Iowa and Missouri was overdue.
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. Douglas called it "popular sovereignty," but proslavery Southerners, who wanted slavery extended into the territories, contemptuously called it "squatter sovereignty."
References in periodicals archive ?
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, David Potter argued, forever poisoned the doctrine of popular sovereignty "by employing it as a device for opening free territory to slavery.
Because the doctrine of popular sovereignty had transformed the debate over slavery in the territories into a matter of constitutional interpretation, northerners and southerners alike battled in stark terms for their version of constitutional law.
73) The doctrine of popular sovereignty, however, represents a frontal assault on this by effectively denying anyone's possession of rights.
All of this notwithstanding, some might object that I have overstated the doctrine of popular sovereignty and thereby attacked a straw man, failing to refute the salient portion of the Originalist's argument.
The basis for reading the doctrine of popular sovereignty employed in the Originalist's argument as unqualified, therefore, is that when it is used as a defense of this particular brand of Originalism, it grants the public of a given time the power to dictate what words mean.
Douglas's doctrine of popular sovereignty needs to be reexamined in its proper constitutional law context, which leads to three conclusions.
To assess the doctrine of popular sovereignty in its proper historical context in constitutional law, one must begin with the first tenet of popular sovereignty, the doctrine of non-intervention, which provided that Congress had no authority under the Constitution to legislate for the territories in the sphere of domestic affairs and institutions, including the issue of slavery.
The foundations for his thinking are also clear, but it is important to recognize that Douglas's doctrine of popular sovereignty did not develop from "policy to principle" on a straight line over time.
In an attempt to ground his ideas more firmly in constitutional principle, and in response to the Dred Scott decision, which seemed to challenge his doctrine of popular sovereignty by indicating that the Constitution in certain respects would protect slavery in the territories, Douglas wrote an essay for Harper's Magazine in 1859.
Despite his rhetoric, which often seemed to advocate the absolute autonomy of local communities, Douglas's doctrine of popular sovereignty from the outset included conditions or reservations.
Outside of small communities, the doctrine of popular sovereignty, if taken literally, is absurd, he argued, since the people themselves cannot actually govern.

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