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Refusing to Give the Lady a Seat, drawing by Rollin Kirby, ca. 1919

Key senators led factions opposed to U.S. membership in the League of Nations, which was intended to preserve world peace. Senators William Borah of Idaho and Hiram Johnson of California were “Irreconcilables”, opposing any U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, a “Reservationist”, had serious misgivings about the Treaty of Versailles.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Refusing to Give the Lady a Seat, drawing by Rollin Kirby, ca. 1919

The Senate Rejects the Treaty of Versailles

The Constitution grants the president power to negotiate treaties with foreign governments, and gives the Senate the power to approve those treaties for ratification, if two-thirds of its members concur. The Senate has, at times, rejected treaties when its members felt their concerns were not adequately addressed. In 1919 the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I, in part because President Woodrow Wilson had failed to take senators’ objections to the agreement into consideration.

They have made the French treaty subject to the authority of the League, which is not to be tolerated. If we ever are called upon to go to the assistance of France as we were two years ago, we will go without asking anybody's leave.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, Letter to Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana, August 11, 1919