Rise of the League of Nations: People for Peace

11-11-1918 – The armistice agreement that ended what became known as World War I, was signed on this date in Rethondes, France. Though it was not considered a surrender of Germany, the Allies demanded withdrawal of German troops from occupied areas, disposing of warships, and an end to hostilities.

1-18-1919 – Allied forces congregated in Paris to begin talks on issues of war and things that occurred since the armistice agreement was signed. Among those attending were British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson from the US , France's Georges Clemenceau, and Premier Vittorio Orlando from Italy. These members became known as “the Big 4” for their role in the war. This series of discussions later were dubbed the Paris Peace Conference.

2-14-1919 – In one of the discussions of the Paris Peace Conference, President Woodrow Wilson introduced a draft of covenants laying down the terms for the possibility of the League of Nations. A vision of President Wilson’s, the league would outline specific behaviors and rules to avoid further conflict among nations and preserve peace in the world. His initial plan included mandatory disarmament of all parties as well as the establishment of a military to enforce League rules. However, these were dismissed. The covenants were later ratified to become the initial 26 Articles of the Treaty of Versailles. Article X, however, kept the United States Senate from entering the League of Nations, as they disagreed to preservation of each country’s territory and the responsibility to form and join a military as needed.

2-15-1919 – President Woodrow Wilson returns from the Paris Peace Conference.

2-24-1919 – President Wilson arrives in Boston, and presents the tenants of the League of Nations to Governor of Massachusetts, Calvin Coolidge, as well as the mayor and citizens of Boston.

2-26-1919 – President Wilson attended a meeting over dinner with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to further discuss the treaty among the nations that was culminating as a result of the Paris Peace Conference.

2-28-1919 – Henry Cabot Lodge presents a speech regarding President Wilson’s treaty talks. He expressed disappointment that all parties are so willing to accept an end to the war without victory, considering all the sacrifices that had been made. He believed that it would leave things as they were before the war began, and that was not a satisfactory state for most of those involved.

3-2-1919 – Shortly after President Wilson returned once again from Paris, 39 senators, led by Henry Cabot Lodge, affirmed their decision regarding the unacceptability of the imminent treaty. These senators signed a “round robin,” which is a statement signed by members around the edge of the paper so as not to reveal the order of the signatures. The statement made clear the fact that the treaty was unacceptable as it was presented, and they refused to ratify the treaty.

3-3-1919 – One day after refusal of ratification of the treaty, the 65th Congressional Congress adjourns and returns to their respective states.

3-4-1919 – In New York City President Wilson gives a speech, announcing his intention to return to Paris. While there he proposed to coordinate a treaty containing the covenants of the League of Nations.

3-5-1919 – President Wilson agreed to four changes in the League Covenants. The most important was that the Monroe Doctrine would not be compromised. This doctrine stated that the United States would not be involved in colonization affairs in Europe. This stood in opposition of the Article X of the treaty, which stated that each of the members must commit to military involvement in any case of one member nation attempting to overcome another.

5-19-1919 – When the 66th Congress convenes, the difference in positions on the treaty became obvious. These were divided into five categories.

1. Strong Internationalists
2. Limited Internationalists
3. Mild Reservationists
4. Strong Reservationists
5. Irreconcilables

6-9-1919 – Senator William Borah presents to the Senate that he has obtained a copy of the Treaty, and he requested permission to read it aloud. After much discussion, some left, others remained to listen to the reading. Before its completion, however, it was voted that the remainder of the Treaty be printed and made available to the Senate for perusal.

6-10-1919 – Philander Chase Knox proposes to enact a plan to separate the Covenant of the League of Nations from the Treaty of Versailles. This would allow the United States the time to consider whether to join the League without delaying the treaty, in an effort to promote peace with Germany. Hostility was already mounting against the League in the Senate, however, and the resolution was defeated.

6-28-1919 – On this date Germany, France, England, Italy, and Japan signed the Treaty of Versailles. The United States did not sign this treaty, as the Senate of the United States did not ratify it. The treaty called for Germany and its Allies to admit responsibility of the war, to make concessions of territory, to disarm, and to contribute financially to countries in which they were directly at fault in damaging.

7-8-1919 – President Wilson returns to the United States. He presents to the Senate the Treaty of Versailles, as ratified by the other countries. He outlines the reasons the United States entered the war; he asserted that it is too late to back down now, after coming so far. “The stage is set,” President Wilson explained, “the destiny disclosed.”

7-14-28 – In an effort to stall a vote on the Treaty, Henry Cabot Lodge read 246 pages of the Treaty, out loud, as part of the official record. This process lasted two weeks.

7-31 through September – After his reading of the treaty, Lodge began a series of hearings that lasted six weeks. Some of the “expert” witnesses shed some light on the situation in Europe; others however were too detailed and long. It became obvious that this was another stalling tactic that Lodge was employing.

9-4-1919 – President Wilson began a tour to appeal to the general public regarding the treating, trying to rally some support. He took an 8,000 train ride, gave forty speeches, visited 29 cities, and spoke to the masses. He thought that if the majority of Americans supported United States confirming the Treaty, the Senate would be forced to concede.

9-10-1919 – Senator William Borah of Wisconsin and California Senator Hiram Johnson began a national tour of their own. They considered themselves “irreconcilables” on the matter of the Treaty of Versailles and of the League of Nations. They had been opposed to entering the war initially, and they took a solid stand against meddling in matters of Europe.

9-25-1919 – In Pueblo, Colorado, while still on his tour of the United States to drum up support, Present Wilson collapsed. He returned to Washington, D.C., but then suffered a massive stroke on October 2. He remained ill for seven months and was unable to take any further action in regard to the tour.

11-6-1919 – In an effort to squash public outcry when the Senate voted down the Treaty, Lodge introduced fourteen reservations that would need to be considered in order to proceed with the United States agreement of the Treaty.

11-7-1919 – Senate minority leader Gilbert Hitchcock, in favor of the United States participation in the league as well as in support of the Treaty, gave a speech on the subject. He assured that he would not support a Treaty that would allow for a “super government,” and this Treaty would not do so.

11- 13- 1919 – Senator Hitchcock proposed to the Senate that they consider mild reservations to the Treaty, mild in contrast to the ones introduced by Lodge. The Committee rejected Hitchcock’s proposal of the five reservations.

11-18- 1919 - Wilson letter to Democrats urging defeat of Lodge reservations

11-19-1919 – On this date the Senate rejected both the Treaty and the Treaty with Lodge’s reservations. The votes were cast 38-53 and 29-55, respectively.

12-29-1919 – The mild reservationists, such as William King and Charles McNany, demanded that milder reservations be considered in the Treaty, rather than the ones that Lodge had proposed. However, some believed that King didn’t take his arguments far enough.

1-8-1920 – President Wilson rejected all reservations that would change the Treaty, holding to an all-of-nothing stance. He asserted that the United States had an obligation and responsibility to uphold the world Treaty, as is, and that it should not be written to the liking of the United States Senate.

1-27-1920 – Bipartisan Committee had agreed to compromise on the mild reservations, but Henry Lodge and other Irreconcilables opposed them. On January 27 the Democrats on the Committee introduced an article put in place by Gilbert Hitchcock, addressing Article 10. The Republicans, however, rejected the reservation.

1-29-1920 – The Democrats agreed to support a reservation to Article 10 that was proposed by William Taft. Henry Lodge rejected this reservation as well.

2-1-1920 – The countries of England and France agreed that they would accept the reservations set forth by the United States Senate in a move to receive ratification from the United States.

2-9-1920 – The Senate agreed to consider the Treaty, and it was sent back to the Foreign Relations Committee. When the Treaty came back to the Senate, however, it retained the proposed reservations. President Wilson refused to consider any alterations to the Treaty.

3-8-1920 – President Wilson further admonishes the Lodge reservations and refuses to accept them as part of the League.

3-19-1920 – Despite inclusion of the reservations, the Senate voted against accepting the Treaty, 49-35.

5-20-1920 – By joint resolution, the United States Senate declared the war over on this date. Separate treaties were ratified with Austria, Germany, and Hungary. The United States, however, did not become a member of the League of Nations. President Wilson vetoed declaration.

11-2-1920 – William Harding, of Ohio, was elected President of the United States, defeating Democrat James Cox.

7-2-1921 – The Congress of the United States once again voted to officially end the war that was later known at World War I. This time the President did not veto it.

10-18-1921 – The treaties that were put in place with Germany, Austria, and Hungary were ratified.

The League of Nations Educational Resources

The Senate and Ratification - 1919-1921

William H. King and the Question of League Membership

Chronology 1920

The League of Nations Photo Archive

Woodrow Wilson - The League of Nations

The League of Nations Protocol for Pacific Disputes

League of Nations

The Senate and the League of Nations

The League of Nations

Model League of Nations

The Debate in the United States over the League of Nations

Office of the Historian - Milestones

Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points

The White House - Woodrow Wilson

League of Nations Timeline

The League of Nations: An Introduction to Students

Wilson - A Portrait - A League of Nations

The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations

About the United Nations - History

The Death of the League of Nations

The League of Nations 1900-1924

The Debate in the United States Over the League of Nations