As World War I drew to a close, a major concern for the nations involved was finding the best way to establish a lasting peace, not merely a cessation of hostilities. President Woodrow Wilson very much wanted to address the international-relations climate that had contributed to the war in the first place. He hoped to remedy the situation sufficiently so that such a war would not recur.
Wilson laid out the Fourteen Points, which would support a “just peace” and increase global stability. Important elements of his plan included the termination of secret diplomatic negotiations. He also supported arms reduction and freedom of the seas, as well as the reduction of trade barriers. Attention to inequalities in colonial rule and respect for national sovereignty were among the other controversial requirements that he supported establishing. All of these elements would be best addressed, Wilson thought, in an international organization. Thus, representatives of all nations would openly negotiate, which was certain to reduce the likelihood of future armed conflicts.
After the November 1918 Armistice, along with the leaders of England, France, and Italy, Wilson attended the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The Europeans were not persuaded by Wilson’s views, and valued retribution over a just peace.
While the European powers supported formation of the League of Nations, the U.S. Congress did not. Especially among the Republicans in the Senate, opposition was strong. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge led this opposition. He was deeply concerned that the United States would be bound by the League’s rules, and perhaps forced to adhere to declared policies such as an embargo or severing diplomatic relations. He and his supporters saw such as actions as curbing U.S. power and likely interfering with its sovereign actions.