US and the Battle to Ratify the Treaty of Versailles

The Fight over the Treaty begins
When Wilson returned home from France his
political mistakes became apparent:
a) When he had picked members of the
American Peace Commissioners he left off
Republicans and Senators
b) Republicans controlled the Senate and the
Senate would have to vote to approve any
peace treaty by a 2/3 majority.
Wilson could not see why anyone would not
approve the treaty.
Republican senators raised objections to the
League, arguing that US membership would
interfere with US sovereignty.
They were also afraid that it would violate the
Monroe Doctrine and allow European nations
to intervene in affairs of the Americas.
Article X (10) of the covenant of the League
said member nations would have to protect
the independence and territorial integrity of
other nations.
This meant that an attack on one nation
could mean the others would have to fight.
This concept was contrary to the US tradition
of staying out of “entangling alliances”.
Wilson refused to compromise on Article X
which proved to be a foolish move.
Wilson was partly to blame for his trouble in
winning the Senate ratification.
He made the mistake of asking the American
people to be patriotic and vote Democrat in
the midterm elections.
Republicans won a solid majority in the
House and a majority of two in the Senate.
Now in 1919 Wilson needed Republican
cooperation in the Senate for the Treaty of
Versailles to be ratified.
Senators opposed to the Treaty of Versailles were
divided into two groups and were led by two
Republican Senators with different agendas:
The irreconcilable faction, consisting of about a
dozen Republican senators, could not accept
membership in the League no matter how the
covenant was worded.
This was led by William E Borah, he believed the
US should stay independent and act in its own
best interests.
He opposed the League because it would take
away US independence.
The reservationist faction was led by Henry
Cabot Lodge.
The reservationists said they could accept the
League if certain reservations were added to
the League.
Lodge controlled the Committee that
recommended treaties for a Senate vote.
He was a close friend of Teddy Roosevelt, he
hated Wilson and did not like the League.
Wilson believed his policy could prevail if he
could personally rally public support.
He boarded a train and went on an arduous
speaking tour to the West to make speeches
for the League of Nations.
This proved to be a big mistake, as he
collapsed on Sept 25th 1919 after delivering a
speech in Colorado.
Wilson returned to Washington and a few
days later suffered a massive stroke from
which he never recovered.
He spent the next 8 months in bed.
His wife carried messages for him and to him
but she may have edited some she did not
like. (Woman President?)
Wilson made another mistake when he made
the 1920 election a “solemn national
referendum” on the League.
The Senate voted twice on the Treaty
question in November 1919.
The treaty was defeated both times, with and
without reservations.
Wilson might have been able to set up a
compromise with Lodge if he had tried.
In 1920, a number of Democrats joined the
reservationist Republicans in voting for the
Treaty with reservations.
The ailing Wilson directed his loyal
supporters to reject any reservations and they
joined with the irreconcilables in defeating
the Treaty.
Warren Harding the Republican defeated
James Cox the Democrat easily.
The American people had chosen to stay out
of the league.
Public interest in the peace process fadedpartly as a reaction to the tragic bitterness of
the ratification fight, but more in a response
to a series of other crises.
It was not until after Wilson left office in 1921
did the US make a separate peace with
It never ratified the Treaty of Versailles nor
did it ever join the League of Nations.
How did the peace treaty fail?
To what extent were Woodrow Wilson’s
illness and his refusal to compromise
responsible for the defeat of the Treaty of
Versailles in the US Senate?

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