Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Final Defeat for the Versailles Treaty in the U.S. Senate

Three Senatorial Opponents to the Treaty
Wm. Borah (ID), Henry Cabot Lodge (MA), and Reed Smoot (UT) 

While the Treaty of Versailles did not satisfy all parties concerned, by the time President Woodrow Wilson returned to the United States in July 1919, U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly favored ratification of the treaty, including the Covenant of the League of Nations. However, in spite of the fact that 32 state legislatures passed resolutions in favor of the treaty, the U.S. Senate strongly opposed it.

Senate opposition cited Article 10 of the treaty, which dealt with collective security and the League of Nations. This article, opponents argued, ceded the war powers of the U.S. government to the League’s Council. The opposition came from two groups: the “Irreconcilables,” who refused to join the League of Nations under any circumstances, and “Reservationists,” led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Henry Cabot Lodge, who wanted amendments made before they would ratify the treaty. While Chairman Lodge's attempt to pass amendments to the treaty was unsuccessful in September, he did manage to attach 14 “reservations” to it in November.

A Pro-Treaty Contemporary Cartoon

In a final vote on 19 March 1920, the Treaty of Versailles fell short of ratification by seven votes. Consequently, the U.S. Government signed the Treaty of Berlin on 25 August 1921. This separate peace treaty with Germany stipulated that the United States would enjoy all “rights, privileges, indemnities, reparations or advantages” conferred to it by the Treaty of Versailles but left out any mention of the League of Nations, which the United States never joined.

Source: From the Office of the Historian, U.S. State Department

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