A League of Nations mandate refers to a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I. The mandate system was established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, entered into on 28 June 1919. With the dissolution of the League of Nations after World War II, it was stipulated at the Yalta Conference that the remaining Mandates should be placed under the Trusteeship of the United Nations, subject to future discussions and formal agreements. Most of the remaining mandates of the League of Nations (with the exception of Palestine and South-West Africa) eventually became United Nations Trust Territories.
The process of establishing the mandates consisted of two phases:
United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing was a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Paris in 1919. He explained that the system of mandates was a device created by the Great Powers to conceal their division of the spoils of war under the color of international law. If the former German and Ottoman territories had been ceded to the victorious powers directly, their economic value would almost certainly have been applied to offset the Allies' claims for war reparations. Lansing also explained that Jan Smuts had been the author of the original concept.
The US Senate refused to ratify the Covenant of the League of Nations. Senator Lodge, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, had attached a reservation which read: 'No mandate shall be accepted by the United States under Article 22, Part 1, or any other provision of the treaty of peace with Germany, except by action of the Congress of the United States.' Senator Borah, speaking on behalf on the 'Irreconcilables' stated 'My reservations have not been answered.' He completely rejected the proposed system of Mandates as an illegitimate rule by brute force. Under the plan of the US Constitution, Article 1, the Congress was delegated the power to declare or define the Law of Nations in cases where its terms might be vague or indefinite. The US government subsequently entered into individual treaties to secure legal rights for its citizens, and to protect property rights and businesses interests in the mandates. It did not agree to mutual defense, or pledge itself to maintain the territorial integrity of any mandates.
The Official Journal of the League of Nations, dated June 1922, contained an interview with Lord Balfour in which he explained that the League's authority was strictly limited. The article related that the 'Mandates were not the creation of the League, and they could not in substance be altered by the League. The League's duties were confined to seeing that the specific and detailed terms of the mandates were in accordance with the decisions taken by the Allied and Associated Powers, and that in carrying out these mandates the Mandatory Powers should be under the supervision--not under the control--of the League.'
Despite this, mandates were generally seen as de facto colonies of the empires of the victor nations.
The mandates were divided into three distinct groups based upon the level of development each population had achieved at that time.
By 1948 these mandates had been replaced or their territory annexed by new monarchies (Iraq, Jordan) and republican governments (Israel, Lebanon, Syria).
and two former German territories, each split in a British and a French League of Nations mandated territory, according to earlier military occupation zones:
The Class C mandates were former German possessions:
Three steps were required to establish a Mandate under international law: (1) The Principal Allied and Associated Powers confer a mandate on one of their number or on a third power; (2) the principal powers officially notify the council of the League of Nations that a certain power has been appointed mandatory for such a certain defined territory; and (3) the council of the League of Nations takes official cognisance of the appointment of the mandatory power and informs the latter that it [the council] considers it as invested with the mandate, and at the same time notifies it of the terms of the mandate, after assertaining whether they are in conformance with the provisions of the covenant."
Nearly all the former League of Nations mandates had become sovereign states by 1990, including those which had become UN Trust territories except some successor entities of the gradually dismembered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (formerly Japan's South Pacific Trust Mandate) - notably the Northern Mariana Islands becoming a USA Commonwealth (still administered by a Governor, without their own Head of State, which remains the US President) - while remnant Micronesia and the Marshall islands, the heirs of the last territories of the Trust, attained on 22 December 1990 final independence (the UN Security Council ratified termination of trusteeship, effectively dissolved on 10 July 1987), and the Republic of Palau (split-off from the Federated States of Micronesia) became the last to get its independence effectively on 1 October 1994).