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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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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
..... Click the link for more information. 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . Douglas called it "popular sovereignty," but proslavery Southerners, who wanted slavery extended into the territories, contemptuously called it "squatter sovereignty."