Woodrow Wilson at Versailles Peace Conference and Return in 1918

All of us are aware of the vindictiveness, mistrust, and bitterness among the Allied Powers.  At times David Lord George from  England, George Clemenceau from France, Vittorio Orlando from Italy, and President Wilson had separate agendas that seemed  impossible to reconcile.  After more than four months of negotiation,  they agreed on some basic points.  WW spent some two months in Europe, by far the longest ever a sitting President was out of the country.   These agreements not only covered Europe but also countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.  China and Japan were also major issues.   We can trace some of the problems in the Middle East today to the Post World War I period.

Woodrow Wilson was able to get some of his 14 point incorporated into the treaty.  The Senate of course had to approve  our entry into the League of Nation.  Wilson here made some big mistakes.

–In the 1918, President Wilson asked voters on trips around the country to increase the Democratic Majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Wilson wanted the results for a mandate to join the League.  Instead, Republicans gained control of both Houses and this obviously hurt the President’s efforts.   Two factors here are important. The party in the White House generally loses some seats in Congress in midterm elections and at the conclusion of any war.  By Wilson requesting a mandate for the League of Nations,  it looked like the voters were rejecting this effort.  Perhaps they were but it was not the only driver.  Most  Republican Senators of course chose to put a rejection of the league  spin on the result.

–On his two trips to Europe, the President did not take any Senators, Democratic or Republican with him.   He expected the Senate almost to sign on dotted line after a few days of negotiation.   President Woodrow Wilson, supposedly an expert in Constitutional Law,  came close to ignoring his obligation to conduct foreign policy with the Advise and Consent of the Senate.   This is something  the law mandates and not done from courtesy or good manners.   The Republicans were now the Majority in the Senate and this made their cooperation an absolute necessity when doing anything.   Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican from Massachusetts, was the Majority Leader and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.   He hated Wilson in the first place and this only made the flame White Hot.   There was very little cooperation from the Senate.  By his actions,  Wilson angered all Senators even those who agreed with him.

–As might be expected , there were varying  slants on the League of Nations.   Though difficult to sort exactly, they were those Senators who were  (1) totally unreconciled,  (2) unreconciled but open to change, (3) in general agreement with some reservations, and (4) in total agreement.  President Wilson made a grand tour around the country asking the people to write or demonstrate at their Senators’ offices to support the League of Nations.   In Pueblo, CO, the President suffered a severe stroke.  The train went immediately  back to Washington.  There his condition improved somewhat but he remained an invalid for balance of his term and until his death three years later.  Edith Wilson was almost an acting President carefully filtering all information and visitors to the White House.  

Now Senator Norris looked at how he would vote for President in 1920.


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