After the end of World War One, President Woodrow Wilson sought national support for his idea of a League of Nations. He took his appeal directly to the American people in the summer of nineteen nineteen.
The plan for the League of Nations was part of the peace treaty that ended World War One. By law, the United States Senate would have to vote on the treaty. President Wilson believed the Senate would have to approve it if the American people demanded it. So Wilson traveled across America. He stopped in many places to speak about the need for the League of Nations. He said the league was the only hope for world peace. It was the only way to prevent another world war.
Wilson’s health grew worse during the long journey across the country. He was forced to return to Washington. The Senate was completing debate on the Treaty of Versailles. That was the World War One peace agreement that contained Wilson’s plan for the league. It seemed clear the Senate would reject the treaty. Too many Senators feared the United States would lose some of its independence and freedom if it joined the league.
Wilson wrote a letter from his sick bed, to the other members of the Democratic Party. He urged them to continue debate on the League of Nations. He said a majority of Americans wanted the treaty approved.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to re-open discussion on the treaty. It searched yet again for a compromise. Wilson refused. He said the treaty must be approved as written. Wilson’s unwillingness to compromise helped kill the treaty once and for all. The Senate finally voted again, and the treaty was defeated by seven votes. The treaty was dead. Yet history would prove him correct, and the Second World War would be far more destructive than the first. The debate over the Treaty of Versailles was the central issue in American politics during the end of Woodrow Wilson’s administration. It also played a major part in the presidential election of nineteen twenty.
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