What is Popular Sovereignty?

The principle of popular sovereignty states that elected government officials are held accountable to the authority of the people.
The principle of popular sovereignty states that elected government officials are held accountable to the authority of the people.

The sovereigny of the people or popular sovereignty is a significant principle in which nations reside upon, which means a state with a fully functional government that is created by entrusted leaders with the consent of the citizens of that country. The people elect the leaders to represent them in the state hence the representative must follow the rule of law acceptable to the people who chose them (government of the people). The phrase “popular sovereignty” merely expresses a concept and does not always reflect or explain a political reality.

Benjamin Franklin, considered to be one of the founding fathers of the United States, wrote that the people have the final say in government and administration decisions. In America, the term sovereign was used in a controversial approach to slavery in the region as stated by a former senator named Stephen A Douglass. The statement had a very distinct meaning that the people residing in the area should be the ones deciding whether slavery is to be legal or not. An American philosopher Francisco Suarez instigated an earlier sovereignty in which his rigid opinions led to the beginning of the Latin American independence. In general, popular sovereignty means the voice of the people.


The idea of popular sovereignty dates back to mid-seventeenth to the eighteenth century through the famous writer Jean Rousseau. He was a major politician and an equality activist who, in his book entitled the ‘Social Contract”, brought about the beginning of general will. The idea later matured to popular sovereignty. The central ideology of the rule of law lies with the consent of the people being governed by that particular administration.

Popular Sovereignty in the US

The application of this rule has been emphasized in the United States more than any other nation. The sovereignty dates back to American history from the doctrine written that explains how the struggle to apply the idea during those dark days. It was before the battle over slavery, which later brought about the Civil War. A scientist by the name Donald S. Lutz quoted some of the application of the sovereignty rule in the United States. Some of the doctrines stated that popular sovereignty is the system whereby the ultimate authority is placed within the control of the people.

However, there are a variety of ways to achieve popular freedom; one is that the role of lawmaking is entirely entitled to the people or the citizens of the nation, and the other is through mediation whereby the representative of the people negotiates the people in power to come up with a more amicable way of coexistence. The American Revolution marked the start of the idea of popular sovereignty and the same procedure has been discussed and employed in other continents and nations that in turn brought about the Europe historical context. The Americans changed the sovereignty from the hold by a single person known as King George III into a system where sovereignty is a collective effort of the people.


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