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Popular sovereignty in the United States




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Popular sovereignty was a political doctrine in the United States that held that the people who lived in a state or region should decide what kind of government or laws they should have.[1] It allowed settlers of a territory to decide for themselves on the question of slavery without any interference from the federal government.[2] During 19th century it was a compromise used to determine if a western territory or new state would accept or reject slavery within its borders.[3]

It was first promoted in the 1840s. Stephen A. Douglas, one of the sponsors of the Kansas–Nebraska Act inserted it in the new law as a measure to balance slave and free states. Abraham Lincoln was one of those who did not agree.[2] He thought Congress should regulate federal territories.[2] The act was passed but popular sovereignty proved to have deadly consequences.[3] When Kansas was being considered for statehood, there was a rush by both people who were for and against slavery to go to Kansas and vote on the issue of slavery.[3] This resulted in a great deal of fraud and violence.[3] It led directly to Bleeding Kansas, the bloody border war over slavery.[1]

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