Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory

Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory

Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory

Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory

Synopsis

Newly created territories in antebellum America were designed to be extensions of national sovereignty and jurisdiction. Utah Territory, however, was a deeply contested space in which a cohesive settler group--the Mormons--sought to establish their own "popular sovereignty," raising the question of who possessed and could exercise governing, legal, social, and even cultural power in a newly acquired territory.

In Unpopular Sovereignty, Brent M. Rogers invokes the case of popular sovereignty in Utah as an important contrast to the better-known slavery question in Kansas. Rogers examines the complex relationship between sovereignty and territory along three main lines of inquiry: the implementation of a republican form of government, the administration of Indian policy and Native American affairs, and gender and familial relations--all of which played an important role in the national perception of the Mormons' ability to self-govern. Utah's status as a federal territory drew it into larger conversations about popular sovereignty and the expansion of federal power in the West. Ultimately, Rogers argues, managing sovereignty in Utah proved to have explosive and far-reaching consequences for the nation as a whole as it teetered on the brink of disunion and civil war.

Excerpt

At its creation in 1850, and for the remainder of that antebellum decade, Utah Territory was a contested place. a cohesive settler group— members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), better known as Mormons—sought to establish and maintain their own sovereign space in the Great Basin. the Mormons simultaneously attempted to subsume indigenous peoples’ sovereignty under their control and competed with U.S. federal officials who were responsible for expanding American national sovereignty to new territories. the ways in which those contests played out had ramifications on the national political stage. in particular, Latter-day Saint leaders and the U.S. federal government implemented policies, often in reciprocal relationship to one another, to manage sovereignty, especially the 1850s version of “popular sovereignty.”

Popular sovereignty emerged as a concept in the American Revolution. It was the idea that the entire body of people, not just a single ruler, could exercise the sovereign will of the nation through a written constitution that granted and guided the legitimate exercise of government authority. Once the people created the government, it could and would enforce the people’s will. the interpretation of popular sovereignty transformed following the acquisition of Mexican lands in 1848. As the nation expanded even farther west, so too did sectional tensions over slavery’s expansion into new lands. Northern Democrats, particularly Lewis Cass of Michigan and Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, offered . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.