Senators Prominent in League of Nations Debate, collage of photographs from Harris & Ewing, July 3, 1919
The most debated issue in the Treaty of Versailles was the president’s proposed League of Nations, which would have power to draw U.S. troops into foreign conflicts without the consent of Congress. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts (top right), Republican leader and head of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led the opposition, proposing 14 changes to the treaty.
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