Why Did the Senate Reject the League of Nations?

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Officially, the Senate rejected the League of Nations over discontent that it was shut out of treaty negotiations. Unofficially, however, the incident was rumored to be linked to Senator Henry Lodge, a powerful veteran senator with whom Wilson was engaged in a personal battle.

Rather than allow senators to accompany him to Paris for treaty negotiations following World War I, President Wilson insisted upon having exclusive control over the terms of the treaty. Congress was dissatisfied, however, particularly with an article that would require members of the League to defend one another in the event that one was attacked. Lodge and Wilson had been engaged in a power struggle brought about as the result of each thinking himself intellectually and professionally superior to the other. Since Senator Lodge was both the Senate Majority Leader and the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Wilson needed his support in order for the treaty to be passed. Instead of seeking support, however, Wilson spoke negatively of Lodge. This angered supporters of Lodge. As a result, by the time the treaty reached the floor of the Senate for a vote, 14 reservations had been attached to it. The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations was the first time the U.S. Congress rejected a treaty.