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popular sovereignty

Popular Sovereignty

A term popularized by Stephen A. Douglas, it is virtually the same as Lewis Cass's "squatter sovereignty," the platform Cass ran on in the Election of 1848. The concept gave the right to territories to make their own laws as long as they did not contradict laws within the Constitution of the United States.

The origin of phrase is cloudy and it may have come from another person (commonly thought to be Vice President Georgia Mifflin Dallas), but the earliest written reference to the term is in a letter from Cass to a man named Mr. Nicholson in a letter dated December, 1847. In the letter Cass applied the term to unorganized territories, although during the 1848 campaign It grew to mean both organized and unorganized territories.

Related terms

The belief of popular sovereignty, when expressed for an existing state is known as "states rights." The belief that the state had the right to override federal law was know as "nullification." It is interesting that some Southerners, most notably states rights advocate John C. Calhoun rejected the concept of popular sovereignty, saying that Congress and settlers entered the territories on the same footing and that neither could abrogate the Constitution's "protection of slave property."

Links appearing on this page:

Election of 1848
John C. Calhoun
Stephen A. Douglas

popular sovereignty was last changed on - December 19, 2007
popular sovereignty was added on - November 29, 2007

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