Woodrow Wilson Vs The Senate “The Only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke They say time is a great teacher. How true. History has taught us that peace must be kept at all costs. At the end of World War 1, the common goal between the victorious nations throughout the world was to declare peace. The leading statesmen of these triumphant nations met in Paris to draw up the Treaty of Versailles, which would decide the fate of the central powers.
Woodrow Wilson, the American President, created fourteen points as the basis for peace negotiations. Among these fourteen points was the most controversial and yet the most important to President Wilson, the League of Nations. President Wilson developed its charter and soon died from exhaustion after his own country, the United States, refused to ratify it in the senate. American policy had temporarily shifted from isolationism to internationalism because of the war, however the United States senate was not ready for the responsibilities of a world peacekeeper. Due to a republican majority, senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Beveridge, and other isolationist senators helped to sway the rest of congress to deny the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles.
These senators believed that by entangling themselves in an international organization they would create new alliances, which would commit them to go to war. Also, Lodge felt that the League of Nations would be able to control the United States military by limiting the number of armaments that a nation could have. Due to Article 10 and the limitations on armaments, which the senators objected, and the inability to compromise on the deadlock between the President’s beliefs and the Senators, led to the failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. These factors lead the senate to their decision, which left the world vulnerable for another war and the eventual demise of the League of Nations. The Fourteen Points were one of Wilson’s major accomplishments while he held office.
Wilson introduced this theory on what he believed were successful measures in not only preventing Germany from beginning a war again, but to prevent all wars. After all World War One was the war to end all wars. These Fourteen Points included proposals such as freedom of the seas, general disarmament, the removal of international trade barriers, impartial settlement of colonial claims, the restoration of Belgium, the evacuation of Russian territory, and the League of Nations. Wilson made many mistakes that the senate would use against him. When Wilson left for Europe on board the “George Washington” , he brought with him a peace commission. This peace commission consisted of Colonel House, Robert Lansing, General Tasker H. Bliss, and only one Republican, Henry D.
White. The Republicans resented Wilson for only bringing one member of their party to represent them. However, Wilson had a “distrust of coalitions in politics.” The Republicans also felt that White “was not the representative which the Republican Party would themselves had chosen.” Wilson felt that by limiting his opposition in Europe he would have a better chance of attaining peace. However, this choice was the beginning of the opposition Wilson faced from his own country during the peace talks. Wilson believed he had the support of his own people when he left for Europe. Ironically, Wilson also believed that, “The men, whom we are about to deal with, do not represent their own people.” Yet, it was Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of England, who had just finished an election that would send him to Paris with a very popular mandate. Georges Clemenceau, the leader of France, had also just finished an election in which he won a vote of confidence four to one. However, in November, in the midterm elections, it was shown to the world that America did not support their leader.
The election in 1918 resulted in a clear Republican majority for the Senate and the House. This led President Wilson to “issue a public appeal for the election of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress in order that he might be wholly unhampered in the approaching negotiations.” This was unsuccessful and showed to spectators that there was a difference of opinion between these two parties. The President felt even more opposition from his country when former President Theodore Roosevelt spoke openly of his lack of support when he stated, “our allies and our enemies, and Mr. Wilson himself, should all understand that Mr. Wilson has no authority whatever to speak for the American people at this time.” With the events that took place, Wilson faced a very painful question on his passage back to the United States. Without a Democratic senate would the Treaty of Versailles be ratified? President Wilson brought the Treaty of Versailles back to the Senate on July 10, 1920, but he found opposition from the Senate. The Senators that opposed the treaty were Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Beveridge, and other isolationists. It was these Senators that helped to sway the rest of the congress to deny the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was too extreme for most isolationists to accept.
The American Senate with a Republican majority gave Henry Cabot Lodge both floor leader and the chairman of the committee of foreign relations. This gave Lodge an enormous amount of power because in treaties, ” the President would negotiate but the Senate must approve.” The senate accused Wilson of compromising too much with Clemenceau and George. They believed that this treaty infringed on American sovereignty and would later commit them to a war that did not involve the United States. It is in the constitution that only the congress of the United States could declare war, not an international organization. President Wilson’s advisors warned him that a treaty involving the United States in an international police force would not be passed in the senate. However, Wilson believed that the senate would be forced to pass this treaty because, “He did not believe that the senate would dare incur the odium of committing so dastardly a crime against humanity.” The key article that threatened American sovereignty was Article 10, which read, “The Members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression of the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League.
In case of any such aggression or in case of any threat or danger of such aggression the council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled.” President Wilson explained to the senators that this was a moral obligation but not necessarily a legal obligation. A nation would have the right to exercise it’s own judgment in each case; they would not be forced into war. Another reservation Lodge was concerned with was limiting the number of armaments that a nation could possess. Lodge wanted the United States to be able to increase their armament without the League knowing about it. They felt that by committing to this reservation, the League of Nations might gain control of the United States military.
Another proposal by Lodge was to give the United States the right to ignore the League of Nations against sanctioning such nations as Germany and continue to trade with them. Even if this was against what the League believed was right. These reservations by Lodge would only benefit one nation and not mankind, which was what President Wilson, was striving towards and would not compromise on. Many senators favored this treaty, but approval of a treaty requires two- thirds of the Senate. However, the Senate was split into three different belief groups. These groups were “Democrats who supported the League Covenant without changes; Republican “irreconcilables,” ..
who opposed the League absolutely; and Republican “Reservationists” led by Lodge, who demanded changes in the Leagues covenant as a condition of their support.” With this clause, establishing the League of Nations would be more difficult than Wilson believed. Henry Cabot Lodge used many different tactics to draw support away from President Wilson. He delayed the Senates vote in order to diminish support for the Treaty of Versailles. He insisted that the entire treaty, which consisted of 264 pages, be read aloud before the Senate. Continuing to change the reservations that he disagreed with, Senator Lodge proposed fourteen formal reservations to the Treaty of Versailles.
Senator Lodge was willing to sign the Treaty of Versailles if these certain changes to the treaty were agreed upon. On March 3rd 1919, Senator Lodge collected thirty-nine signatures from members of the Senate demanding that there be changes made to this treaty. These additions to the treaty would place safeguards that would protect America’s right to protect the Monroe doctrine. This reservation made sure that domestic issues did not lead to the interpretation of the Monroe doctrine by an international organization. Now, the only way the Senate would approve the pact was if the entire document would be accepted, including Senator Lodge’s proposals. President Wilson refused to compromise with Senator Lodge and tried to save the treaty through State legislatures.
He toured the country from coast to coast seeking support from the public. President Wilson gave thirty-seven speeches in only twenty-two days. However, in between speeches the President received a stroke from the stress he had endured, which put him close to death. Even after physical and nervous exhaustion, which caused him to stay in bed for several weeks, Wilson could not let the changes be made to the treaty. Though he was too weak to take action of his own, he was still strong enough to interfere.
Wilson would not compromise on any of the issues brought forth by Lodge. ” Let Lodge compromise” was the order given to his democrats going into the vote. He told his democratic party to vote against the treaty that included Lodge’s reservations. The final vote took place on March 19, 1920. The simple majority failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority to ratify the treaty.
If Wilson had stepped back before the vote took place and was willing to compromise on the reservations, then more people would have supported it. But Wilson and his political rival were stubborn and stayed in a deadlock. Therefore, the treaty failed to be ratified. Wilson died on February 3, 1924 and along with him died the United States involvement in the League of Nations and the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. Out of the Fourteen Points came Wilson’s most important achievement at Versailles, the creation of an international peacekeeping organization, the League of Nations. Woodrow Wilson did all that he could to gain the support of his people for the acceptance of the League of Nations in the Treaty of Versailles.
He believed that the idea of collective security was the key to keeping world peace. Yet, Wilson was ahead of his time. America was not ready to switch from an isolationist state to an international peacekeeper. The American senate wanted to make changes to the treaty in order to secure their international stand on domestic issues. But Wilson was unwilling to compromise on securing peace for mankind, so Wilson gained nothing.
The ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would fail, however the idea still burned on, and the United Nations would be formed after the Second World War. American History.