1. the doctrine that sovereign power is vested in the people and that those chosen to govern, as trustees of such power, must exercise it in conformity with the general will.
2. Amer. Hist.(before the Civil War) a doctrine, held chiefly by the opponents of the abolitionists, that the people living in a territory should be free of federal interference in determining domestic policy, esp. with respect to slavery.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.