In the aftermath of World War I, during the years 1917-1921, President Wilson advocated the Treaty of Versailles, which called for the principle of self-determination, the formation of a League of Nations, and general amnesty towards Germany, as the solution for peace. However, his unwillingness to compromise led to widespread disagreement. The opposition forces in the U.S. senate consisted of the reservationists, who were willing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles with amendments, and the irreconcilables, who refused to join the League of Nations under any circumstances. If President Wilson was only willing to modify the language of the treaty, ratification may have occurred.
President Wilson’s unwillingness to compromise is evident in his speech in 1919, which states his position on the League of Nations: “I stand for it absolutely” (Doc. A). He then claims that the slightest impairment would be like betraying the soldiers who fought in the war because they would have fought for nothing (Doc. A). This exaggeration becomes a weakness in his argument, since his Treaty is not the only way for soldiers to receive the peace they fought for. Also, President Wilson’s “Appeal to the Country”, which occurred after his loss in senate, relies on a strong sense of nationalism, and claims that the League of Nations would give the U.S. the opportunity to protect the rights of people and nations, which the opponents of the League are stopping (Doc. G). This bold claim leads to loss of support, since President Wilson leaves no other possible way to realize the dream of the founders of our government.
The reservationists’ views are visible in the “The New Republic” which criticizes the Treaty of Versailles for not satisfying the objectives for war “a peace which would moralize nationalism”, but rather intensifies the disagreements between different countries (Doc. B). Also, Herbert Hoover warns President Wilson about the need to compromise quickly, or risk... [continues]
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