Why did the Senate oppose U.S. membership in League of Nations after World War I?
The United States Senate was opposed to the United States joining the League of Nations. There was a provision in the charter of the League of Nations, called Article X, which required member nations to commit troops if needed to help a member of the League of Nations fight if a war broke out and the League of Nations ordered military action. Article X might also require some other kind of diplomatic action that we might not want to do. These senators, called reservationists, were concerned about the United States getting involved in a war that we had no interest in joining or would have no impact on us. They also were concerned about losing some control over our foreign policy. These senators wanted to make changes to this part of the charter of the League of Nations. However, President Wilson didn’t want this to occur. As a result, we not only didn’t join the League of Nations, we didn’t ratify the Versailles Treaty. We ended up signing separate peace treaties with the Central Powers.
When Woodrow Wilson introduced the League of Nations in his Fourteen Points, the Senate ended up voting against it by a vote of 49-35. Senate majority leader Henry Cabot argued that the US would be giving up too much power by joining the League of Nations. Cabot argued that joining the League would commit the US to an expensive collective security group that would reduce our chances of defending our own interests; the idea was that international disputes could be mediated in habitually-neutral Switzerland, which would potentially deter wars in the future (remember- the world had just suffered through WWI).
Additionally, many opponents did not want to become involved in an organization where the US would possibly become entangled with European politics again, as WWI had proved to be a bloody war that many felt the US had no place in joining.
The major reason for this was the fact that many Senators were afraid that membership in the League of Nations would reduce the sovereignty of the United States and its ability to have complete control over its own foreign policy and military actions.
The treaty creating the League of Nations committed members of the League to defend the independence of any other member that got attacked by another country. Many Senators worried that this would force the US to go to war whenever any member of the League was attacked by another country. This would, they felt, rob the US of its control over its military and its foreign policy.
The Senate, then, rejected membership in the League of Nations to prevent the US from being forced to fight whenever another member of the League was attacked.