popular sovereignty


: a doctrine in political theory that government is created by and subject to the will of the people
: a pre-Civil War doctrine asserting the right of the people living in a newly organized territory to decide by vote of their territorial legislature whether or not slavery would be permitted there

Examples of popular sovereignty in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Each new nation-state meant a new claim of popular sovereignty, empowering the many to expropriate the property of the few. Stephen Wertheim, Foreign Affairs, 16 Apr. 2019 This is a huge tension in the early republic, because the revolution had been about liberty, popular sovereignty, representative government. Sophia Nguyen, Washington Post, 16 June 2023 Under popular sovereignty, the government's authority comes from the people. Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 17 Apr. 2023 What is popular sovereignty? Olivia Munson, USA TODAY, 17 Apr. 2023 The idea, embodied by the Electoral College’s primacy over the popular vote in presidential elections, is that the founders specifically rejected direct popular sovereignty in favor of a representative system in which the governing authorities are states and districts, not individual voters. Robert Draper, New York Times, 15 Aug. 2022 The picture that emerges is of a man whose deeply and sincerely held belief was that the United States should be understood not as a compact between former colonies, but as a true nation formed by an act of popular sovereignty. David Marques, The New Republic, 15 Nov. 2022 Critics such as Jonathan Rauch insist that a surfeit of popular sovereignty has tipped the delicate balance of self-governance in the direction of strongman ethnic nationalism. Jordan Michael Smith, The New Republic, 12 Aug. 2021 With the field narrowed, the Democrats settled on the aging politician Lewis Cass of Michigan, whose support of popular sovereignty alienated the anti-slavery wing of the party and caused many to defect to the third-party Free Soil Party. Thomas Balcerski, CNN, 23 Sep. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'popular sovereignty.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1848, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of popular sovereignty was in 1848

Dictionary Entries Near popular sovereignty

Cite this Entry

“Popular sovereignty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/popular%20sovereignty. Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

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