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THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES AND THE UNITED STATES SENATE

Woodrow Wilson had not appointed a Republican member of the Senate to the United States delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. This proved to be a huge political mistake. Wilson returned from Paris, needing Senate confirmation of the Treaty of Versailles. Many Republicans in the Senate had huge reservations about the treaty; all of them centered around American commitment to the League of Nations. A dozen senators were “irreconcilables,” opposed to American membership in the League under any circumstances. Another large group, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, were called “reservationists” and wanted restrictions on American membership in the League. Lodge, for example, wanted it stated that the Congress would have to approve any American action on behalf of the League, and that provisions of the Monroe Doctrine remain in place even if the League of Nations opposed them.

To win national support for the Versailles Treaty, Wilson began a national speaking tour on September 3, 1919. On October 2 he suffered a severe stroke and never totally recovered. Lodge stated that he would support passage of the Versailles Treaty with certain reservations; Wilson rejected the reservations, and the treaty never got the two-thirds majority necessary for its passage. Many politicians both at home and abroad urged Wilson to compromise with congressional leaders and to get America into the League of Nations. Wilson was never willing to do this; his chief biographer maintains that his stroke impeded his judgment during this era, and that if he had not had a stroke, a compromise would have been struck. In 1921 the United States formally ended the war with Germany, but the United States never entered the League of Nations.

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