Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge led opposition against the Treaty of Versailles and as acting Senate Majority leader convinced the United States Senate to vote against joining the League of Nations today in 1920. Now WE know em


Henry Cabot “Slim” Lodge became a Republican Senator from Massachusetts in 1893.

He was also a friend and confidant of President Theodore Roosevelt leading up to World War I.

Republican William Howard Taft followed Teddy Roosevelt in the White House before Democrat Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States on March 4, 1913.

When World War I broke out on July 28, 1914, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge became a staunch advocate on the side of the Allied Powers, attacking President Wilson’s perceived lack of military preparedness.

Lodge also accused pacifists of undermining American patriotism.

After the war, Lodge served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He also had the role (but not the title) of Senate Majority leader.

However, Lodge is perhaps best known for his positions of foreign policy, especially his battle with President Wilson in 1919 over the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties that ended World War I.

It was signed on June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I were dealt with in separate treaties.

Although the armistice, signed on November 11, 1918, had ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty.

The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on October 21, 1919, and was printed in The League of Nations Treaty Series.

The result of the Treaties competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left none contented: Germany was not pacified or conciliated, nor permanently weakened.

The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organisation founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War.

It was the first international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.

Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament, and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration.

The diplomatic philosophy behind the League represented a fundamental shift from the preceding hundred years. The League lacked its own armed force and depended on the Great Powers to enforce its resolutions, keep to its economic sanctions, or provide an army when needed.

President Woodrow Wilson secured his proposal for a League of Nations in the final draft of the Treaty of Versailles, and went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October of 1919.

Republican opposition in the United States

For many Republicans in the Senate, Article X was the most objectionable provision. Their objections were based on the fact that, by ratifying such a document, the United States would be bound by international contract to defend a League of Nations member if it was attacked.

Henry Cabot Lodge from Massachusetts and Frank B. Brandegee from Connecticut led the fight in the US Senate against ratification, believing that it was best not to become involved in international conflicts.

Under the United States Constitution, the President of the United States may not ratify a treaty unless the U.S. Senate, by a two-thirds vote, gives its advice and consent.

Henry Cabot Lodge opposed the Treaty because it did not call for unconditional surrender.

Lodge made it clear that the United States Congress would have the final authority on the decision to send American armed forces on a combat or a peacekeeping mission under League auspices.

Lodge maintained that membership in the world peacekeeping organization would threaten the political freedom of the United States by binding the nation to international commitments it would not or could not keep.

In fact, Lodge’s key objection to the League of Nations was Article X, the provision of the League of Nations charter that required all signatory nations to make efforts to repel aggression of any kind.

Lodge perceived an open-ended commitment to deploy soldiers into conflict regardless of relevance to the national security interests of the United States.

He did not want America to have this obligation unless Congress approved.

Senator Lodge argued for a powerful American role in world affairs:

The United States is the world’s best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her powerful good, and endanger her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come, as in the years that have gone. Strong, generous, and confident, she has nobly served mankind. Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance; this great land of ordered liberty. For if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.

Lodge appealed to the patriotism of American citizens by objecting to what he saw as the weakening of national sovereignty: “I have loved but one flag and I can not share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league.”

The Senate was divided into a “crazy-quilt” of positions on the Versailles question.

It proved possible to build a majority coalition, but impossible to build a two thirds coalition that was needed to pass a treaty.

One block of Democrats strongly supported the Versailles Treaty.

A second group of Democrats supported the Treaty but followed Wilson in opposing any amendments or reservations.

The largest bloc, led by Lodge, comprised a majority of the Republicans.

They wanted a Treaty with reservations, especially on Article X, which involved the power of the League Nations to make war without a vote by the United States Congress.

Finally, a bi-partisan group of 13 “irreconcilables” opposed a treaty in any form. The closest the Treaty came to passage came in mid-November 1919, was when Lodge and his Republicans formed a coalition with the pro-Treaty Democrats, and were close to a two thirds majority for a Treaty with reservations, but Wilson rejected this compromise.

Cooper and Bailey suggest that Wilson’s stroke on Sept 25, 1919, had so altered his personality that he was unable to effectively negotiate with Lodge.

Cooper says the psychological effects of a stroke were profound: “Wilson’s emotions were unbalanced, and his judgment was warped….Worse, his denial of illness and limitations was starting to border on delusion.”

Finally on January 19, 1920, the United States Senate voted against joining the League of Nations.

The Treaty of Versailles still went into effect but the United States did not sign it, and made separate peace with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The League of Nations went into operation, but the United States never joined.

The League was ineffective in dealing with major issues, which some observers attribute to the American failure to join.

In 1945 it was replaced by the United Nations, which assumed many of the League’s procedures and peacekeeping functions, although Article X of the League of Nations was notably absent from the UN mandate.

That is, the UN was structured in accordance with Henry Cabot Lodge’s plan, with the United States having a veto power in the UN which it did not have in the old League of Nations.

On November 8, 1924, Henry Cabot Lodge suffered a severe stroke while recovering in the hospital from surgery for gallstones.

He died four days later at the age of 74.

He was interred in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[23]

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Lodge’s grandson, served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1953 to 1960.

Now WE know em


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