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Why did the US fail to ratify the Treaty of Versailles?

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alanajohnson | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:19 PM via web

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Why did the US fail to ratify the Treaty of Versailles?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 3, 2012 at 5:25 PM (Answer #1)

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The main reason why the US Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles was the League of Nations.  There were serious concerns that the League would erode US sovereignty and pull the US into further wars that were not in its interest.

Many Americans were worried about the collective security provisions in the League of Nations charter.  They felt that the US might be forced to go to war in order to protect other nations that were invaded.  This could happen, they felt, regardless of whether those wars were important to US interests.  For this reason, they felt that the League of Nations would reduce America’s ability to control its own foreign policy and would potentially involve the country in unnecessary wars.

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beardian | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 19, 2014 at 11:00 PM (Answer #2)

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While it is important to look at the Fourteen Points when considering the reason behind why the US failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, we must also take into consideration US public opinion on WWI.

Before we entered WWI in 1917, Wilson and a majority of the American public favored isolationism, which meant staying out of affairs that did not directly impact the United States.  When we entered the war, the sentiment against going in to war remained.  It seemed to many people in America that the US had entered a European war and lost a lot of American men.

When Wilson presented his 14 points, the last point called for the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations that would hopefully prevent future conflicts at such a large, global scale.  The US Senate, however, was not as optimistic.  Wilson argued that the League of Nations was the future of global collective security, and that the US should take a more active role in world interests.  The Senate did not agree; senators like Henry Cabot Lodge rejected the premise of the League of Nations, favoring the original isolationist policy that had kept America out of what he considered to be a European war.  Additionally, Lodge and other Senators voted on partisan lines, wanting to undermine Wilson's League of Nations to secure Republican dominance in US politics.  Ultimately, Wilson's failing health made it impossible to campaign in favor of the League of Nations, and the Treaty of Versailles was ultimately rejected in the Senate.  

To recap, the main reasons behind the Senate's failure to sign the Treaty was because of strong isolationist sentiments and the desire to stay out of foreign affairs (which the League of Nations would not allow the US to do).  Had the Treaty of Versailles been signed by the US, and the US joined the League of Nations, the US would have expected to play a more active role in global politics.  Regardless, the United States did become a major world power and interventionist nation in the decades to come.

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