The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Ask President Woodrow Wilson – for years he was arguing for the formation of a league of nations. He even made it a keynote in his “14 Points” speech: “A general association of nations must be formed [to guarantee] political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” And when the league is finally formed and a vote comes up before Congress to join it, they resolutely reject the offer.
On this day, January 19, 1920, Congress voted against membership in the League of Nations. Steadfast opposition was led by Wilson’s congressional nemesis Henry Cabot Lodge.
Lodge represented the isolationist part of the United States, whose main opposition to the League lay in Article X of its charter. The article required signatories to “preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League.” The U.S., reluctant to involve itself in Europe’s wars since Washington’s presidency, could not accept that responsibility.