The League of Nations Fight

Nov. 11, 1918 - Armistice ended fighting in Europe

Big Four
from Literary Digest, 7/5/1919
the Quai d'Orsay
the Salle d'Horloge
Woodrow Wilson
David Lloyd George
Clemenceau after shooting Feb. 19

Dec. 4 - Wilson left New York on the ship George Washington, and arrived at Brest Dec. 13, with his wife Edith, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, the American Peace Commission delegates Tasker Bliss and Henry White, and the expert members of the Inquiry, including William Bullitt.

Dec. 14 - Wilson arrived by train in Paris at 3 am to streets lined with great crowds. He met his advisor Col. House who had been arranging the conference in Paris.

Dec. 25 - Wilson met with Gen. John Pershing and the AEF at the American HQ outside Paris.

Dec. 26 - Wilson went to London to meet with David Lloyd George, then to Italy to meet with Vittorio Orlando.

Jan. 6, 1919 - Wilson returned to Paris to prepare for the Peace Conference. He stayed at the private residence Hotel Murat with Edith and his physician Admiral Cary T. Grayson. Col. House and the American delegation stayed at the Hotel Crillon.

Jan. 12 - David Lloyd George arrived in Paris and stayed at a home on the Rue Nitot. The British delegation HQ was at the Hotel Majestic.

Jan. 18 - Peace Conference opened at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, in the Salle d'Horloge. 29 countries were represented at the Conference, led by a Supreme Council of Britain, France, Italy, the U.S. and Japan. The key diplomacy was carried out by the Big 4 of David Lloyd George of Britain, Vittorio Orlando of Italy, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Woodrow Wilson.

Jan. 25 - Wilson chaired the commission to design the League of Nations, what he considered to be the most important part of the Treaty. Clemenceau, howerver, was skeptical: "I like the League, but I do not believe in it."

Jan. 30 - Lloyd George presented the mandate plan to the Supreme Council: Class A for nations near independence, such as the Arab Mideast; Class B for nations requiring administration, such as France's claim on the West African territories of Togoland and the Cameroons - map; Class C for contiguous nations, such as South Africa's claim on German Southwest Africa, or Australia's claim on New Guinea and the Bismarcks - map. W. E. B. DuBois and the Senegal delegate Blaise Diagne organized the Pan-African Congress in February but did not change the decision of the Conference to adopt the mandate system. - Article 22 The final distribution of mandates from German colonies was made May 7. Belgium took Rwanda and Burundi. The Mideast mandates would be decided later by England and France.

Jan. 31 - The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire caused new countries to seek boundaries from the Peace Conference. The delegates from the new country of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (proclaimed Dec. 1, 1918, by Prince Alexander of Serbia, became Yugoslavia) made its first appeal before the Supreme Council for boundaries. The almost 100 delegates stayed at the hotel de Beau-Site, the Serbs led by Nicola Pasic and the Croatians led by Ante Trumbic. Nicholas II of Montenegro stayed at his home in another part of Paris, sought independence for his country of 200,000 and not to be absorbed in Yugoslavia, but he had been suspected of cooperating with Austria during the war, and his appeal was denied. Rumania succeeded in gaining territory at the conference and doubled in size. - map

Feb. 1 - The Peace Conference attracted over 1000 delegates from many nations. Ho Chi Minh came from Vietnam.

Feb. 14 - Wilson submitted Draft Covenant for the League of Nations.

Feb. 15 - Wilson left Paris, returned to the United States for a month.

Feb. 19 - Clemenceau was shot in the ribs by anarchist Eugene Cottin, as he was leaving his home in the Rue Franklin.

Feb. 24 - Wilson arrived in Boston; gave speech promoting League.

Feb. 26 - Wilson dinner meeting with Congress foreign policy leaders; "tea with the Mad Hatter"

Feb. 28 - Lodge speech rejected principle of mutual guarantee.

Mar. 2 - 39 Senators signed Round Robin to separate League from Treaty.

Mar. 3 - 65th Congress adjourned.

Mar. 4 - Wilson speech in New York declared Covenant and League were inseparable; Wilson returned to Paris

from Literary Digest, 1919

Mar. 13 - House met Wilson in Brest when his ship arrived, and showed him a draft of the German clauses negotiated while he was gone that punished Germany severely with reparations and transfer of the Rhineland and the Saar to France. Wilson said "House has given away everything I had won before we left Paris."

March 31 - The Big Four decided on creating a special commission to set the amount of reparations Germany would pay to the Allies (set at $34 billion in 1921). The war guilt and reparations clauses became Articles 231-235. The plan of John Maynard Keynes for Germany to issue bonds guaranteed by the Allies failed to win any support. The French minister of commerce Etienne Clementel proposed a "new economic order" to unify Europe, but the plan would not be tried until after WWII when Clementel's young assistant, Jean Monnet, founded the European Union.

from Literary Digest, 6/21/1919
"A Nervous Wreck"
from Literary Digest, 7/5/1919
Treaty signed, by Wm Orpen
Henry Cabot Lodge
from McClures, 11/1904

Apr. 5 - Wilson threatened to leave Paris unless the French compromised on the German clauses. Clemenceau gave in and agreed to a Sarr plebiscite after 15 years, and a demilitarized Rhineland with gradual French withdrawal from the bridgeheads over 15 years. Clemenceau also agreed to make Danzig a free city under the League of Nations rather than be given to Poland. - map Belgium would have its boundaries restore, as Wilson sought in his 14 Points, plus the valuable forest region around Malmedy and Eupen and Moresnet, but would not get access to the sea through Holland for its port of Antwerp. - map and Article 27 The German clauses included the disarmament of the North Sea islands of Heligoland and Dune, according to Article 115. The French took 10 German submarines and the rest were destroyed. The German surface navy was also to be reduced according to Article 181, but when German sailors learned of the clauses, they scuttled their ships in harbor.

Apr. 21 - Orlando walked out of the Peace Conference left Paris over the refusal of Wilson to give Fiume to Italy. He lost his leadership of Italy June 19, but Foreign Minister Sonnino returned to Paris to sign the treaty for Italy. - map

Apr. 26 - When Japan threatened to walk out of the conference, Wilson agreed to give Shantung to Japan. - map

Apr. 28 - Terms of the treaty were presented to the plenary session of the Peace Conference. Wilson allowed 4 changes in Covenant: no member need accept a mandate; domestic affairs excluded; Monroe Doctrine not impaired; may withdraw after 2 years' notice.

May 7 - The final draft of the treaty was printed and distributed to all members of the Peace Conference, including Article 118 (African mandates), Article 156 (Shantung)

May 19, 1919 - 66th Congress opened; different positions on Treaty:

  1. Strong Internationalists (Wilson, 27 Dem.)
  2. Limited Internationalists (Butler, Taft, 8 Rep.)
  3. Mild Reservationists (Hitchcock, 20 Rep. and 20 Dem.)
  4. Strong Reservationists (Lodge, 7 Rep.)
  5. Irreconcilables (Borah, Johnson, 14 Rep. and 1 Dem.)

Jun. 9 - Borah published copy of Treaty

Jun. 10 - Knox introduced resolution to separate Treaty of League, but was defeated in Senate.

Jun. 28 - Treaty of Versailles signed in Hall of Mirrors and ratified by Germany (July 7), France (Oct. 13), England (Oct. 15), Italy (Oct. 15), Japan (Oct. 30)

July 8 - Wilson arrived in U.S. and presented Treaty to Senate July 10;"The stage is set, the destiny disclosed."

July 14-28 - Lodge read all 246 pages of Treaty aloud to Senate.

July 31-Sept. - Lodge conducted public hearings; called 60 witnesses.

Aug. 19 - Wilson at 3-hour lunch meeting with entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to interpretative reservations.

Sept. 4 - Wilson's 8000 mile tour, 40 speeches in 29 cities in 22 days (see map below)

Wilson's Trip to Save the League (from Literary Digest, 9/15/1919)

Sep. 10 - Borah and Johnson began national tour to oppose Treaty.

Sep. 10 - Committee proposed 45 amendments and 4 reservations; all amendments defeated by Senate; sent back to Committee.

Sep. 25 - Wilson collapsed in Pueblo, Col.; returned to D.C.; suffered stroke Oct. 2; ill for 7 months.

Nov. 6 - Committee proposed 14 Lodge reservations.


1.... in case of notice of withdrawal from the league of nations, as provided in said article [Article 1], the United States shall be the sole judge as to whether all its international obligations . . . have been fulfilled, and notice of withdrawal . . . may be given by a concurrent resolution of the Congress of the United States

2. The United States assumes no obligation to preserve the territorial integrity or political independence of any other country . . . under the provisions of article 10, or to employ the military or naval forces of the United States under any article of the treaty for any purpose, unless in any particular case the Congress, which . . . has the sole power to declare war . . . shall . . . so provide

3. No mandate shall be accepted by the United States under article 22 . . . except by action of the Congress of the United States

4. The United States reserves to itself exclusively the right to decide what questions are within its domestic jurisdiction...

5. The United States will not submit to arbitration or to inquiry by the assembly or by the council of the league of nations . . . any questions which in the judgment of the United States depend upon or relate to . . . the Monroe doctrine; said doctrine is to be interpreted by the United States alone and is... holly outside the jurisdiction of said league of nations...

6. The United States withholds its assent to articles 156, 157, and 158 [Shantung clauses]...

7. The Congress of the United States will provide by law for the appointment of the representatives of the United States in the assembly and the council of the league of nations, and may in its discretion provide for the participation of the United States in any commission.... no person shall represent the United States under either said league of nations or the treaty of peace . . . except with the approval of the Senate of the United States...

9. The United States shall not be obligated to contribute to any expenses of the league of nations . . . unless and until an appropriation of funds . . . shall have been made by the Congress of the United States

10. If the United States shall at any time adopt any plan for the limitation of armaments proposed by the council of the league . . . it reserves the right to increase such armaments without the consent of the council whenever the United States is threatened with invasion or engaged in war...

14. The United States assumes no obligation to be bound by any election, decision, report, or finding of the council or assembly in which any member of the league and its self-governing dominions, colonies, or parts of empire, in the aggregate have cast more than one vote

Nov. 7, 1919 - Wilson tells Hitchcock "Let Lodge compromise!"

Nov. 13, 1919 - Hitchcock proposes to Senate 5 mild reservations as alternative to Lodge reservations, but rejected by Committee

Nov. 18, 1919 - Wilson letter to Democrats urging defeat of Lodge reservations

Nov. 19, 1919 - Senate rejects Treaty with 14 Lodge reservations 39-55; then Senate rejects original Treaty 38-53

Dec. 29, 1919 - Mild Reservationists demand Lodge seek a compromise

Jan. 8, 1920 - Wilson insists Treaty must not be re-written by Senate

Jan. 16, 1920 - Bipartisan Committee announced by Lodge to seek compromise

Jan. 23, 1920 - Bipartisan Committee agrees on compromise mild reservations, but opposed by Lodge and Irreconcilables

Jan. 27, 1920 - Democrats in Bipartisan Committee offer Hitchcock reservation to Article 10 but rejected by Republicans

HITCHCOCK RESERVATION: The United States assumes no obligation to employ its military or naval forces or the economic boycott to preserve the territorial integrity or political independence of any other country member under the provisions of Article X or to employ the military or naval forces of the United States under any article of the treaty for any purpose unless in any particular case the Congress which under the Constitution has the sole power to declare war or authorize the employment of the military or naval forces of the United States shall by Act or joint resolution provide. . Nothing herein shall be deemed to impair the obligation in Article 16 concerning the economic boycott.

Jan. 29, 1920 - Democrats agreed to support Taft reservation to Article 10 but rejected by Lodge.

(from Literary Digest, 8/9/1919)

TAFT RESERVATION: The United States declines to assume any legal or binding obligations to preserve the territorial integrity or political independence of any other country under the provisions of Article X or to employ the military or naval forces of the United States under any article of the treaty for any purpose; but Congress which under the Constitution has sole power in the premises, will consider and decide what moral obligation if any under the circumstances of any particular case, when it arises, should move the United States in the interest of world peace and parties, to take action therein and will provide accordingly.

Feb. 1 - England, France declared they would accept Senate reservations.

Feb. 9 - Senate voted to reconsider Treaty and referred it to Committee.

Feb. 10 - Committee approved Treaty with Lodge reservations.

Mar. 8 - Wilson repeated his opposition to Lodge reservations.

Mar. 19 - Senate defeated Treaty with 15 Lodge reservations 49-35.

May 20 - Congress ended war by joint resolution but vetoed by Wilson.

Nov. 2 - Warren Harding elected in a "great and solemn referendum."

(from Literary Digest, 6/28/1919)

July 2, 1921 - Congress ended war by joint resolution.

Oct. 18 - Separate treaties with Germany, Austria, Hungary ratified.

Versailles Treaty and League of Nations

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