Antebellum America saw continuous political conflict over the expansion of slavery into new Territories.
Popular sovereignty—allowing Territories greater control and choice in governance—represented one attempt to cope. But its proponents refused to promote popular sovereignty for Utah Territory where theocracy, polygamy and liberal Indian policies made the notion of expanded local control anathema to the national government.
The resulting clash, which helped shift the balance of power in a growing nation, is often overlooked for its importance during the run-up to the Civil War.
Scholar and history buff alike will enjoy Brent M. Rogers’ Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory (University of Nebraska Press, $65), a carefully researched and well-written history of the decades-long struggle to bring Territorial Utah to heel.
— Rod Miller, author of The Lost Frontier: Momentous Moments in the Old West You May Have Missed.