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The Treaty of Versailles

Photo: Borah, Lodge, & Smoot

In 1919, for the first time, the Senate rejected a peace treaty. By a vote of 39 to 55, far short of the required two-thirds majority, the Senate denied consent to the Treaty of Versailles. President Woodrow Wilson personally negotiated the treaty following World War I, promoting his vision for a system of collective security enforced by a League of Nations. When the treaty arrived in the Senate in July, Democrats mostly supported the treaty, but Republicans were divided. The “Reservationists,” led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, called for approval of the treaty only if certain reservations, or alterations, were adopted. The “Irreconcilables” opposed the treaty in any form. In November Lodge sent the treaty with 14 reservations to the Senate floor, prompting an angry Wilson to urge Democrats to reject Lodge’s plan. On November 19, 1919, a group of Democratic senators joined the Irreconcilables to defeat the treaty. The United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, nor did it join the League of Nations. In 1921 Congress approved resolutions formally ending hostilities with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian government.