Monday, February 13, 2017

Booknotes: Unpopular Sovereignty

New Arrival:
Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory by Brent M. Rogers (Univ of Neb Pr, 2017).

When the concept of 'popular sovereignty' is brought up for discussion, surely the first issue and territory that comes to mind for most people is slavery and Kansas (and with good reason).

"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."

Rogers makes the argument that the Utah War and various far-reaching laws passed during the Civil War marked the triumph of federal over local control in the developing West, the result being the creation of an alternative 'national sovereignty.'

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