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Wilson vs. The Senate (Treaty of Versailles)

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annieliz331's picture
Joined: Sep 2005
Wilson vs. The Senate (Treaty of Versailles)

My class was assigned a DBQ dealing with Wilson vs Lodge and the Senate on the subject of the Treaty of Versailles. The prompt asks us to decide whether it was the oppostion forces (both liberal and conservative) or Wilson's own ineptitude and stubbornness that defeated the Treaty in the end.

I took the position that it was Wilson's fault that the treaty failed. If it isn't too much trouble, could someone just look over my essay and see if there are any big holes or anything important to add? I feel pretty comfortable with my references to the document, but if there is any prior knowledge that you think might be helpful to include, then please respond =] This is a rough draft, and I plan on improving things like sentence length and such later on. If anything sticks out sorely though, just let me know. Grammar isn't really my strongest point.

Thank you for any suggestions!

Annie O’Brien

It was President Wilson’s own ineptitude and stubbornness that led to the Senate defeat of the Treaty of Versailles rather than the strength of the opposition forces. Even Wilson’s closest and most trusted advisors could not sway his stance. While it is true that opposition forces helped to defeat the treaty, it was Wilson’s unmoveable position that led to its defeat in the Senate.
There was much opposition to the Treaty in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. Document B shows an excerpt from The New Republic proving the public’s general disdain for the Treaty. Whether they had hoped for the treaty to be more lenient on Germany, or more severe, everyone had a problem with the treaty and its disputable clauses. Americans had been promised at the beginning of the war that their efforts would result in a lasting peace that would help preserve democracy and “moralize nationalism” throughout the world. The American populace was severely disappointed when Wilson and his promises fell through, due to his own bullheadedness.
Herbet Hoover, for one, believed that the treaty was too harsh, and urged Wilson to accept the reservations that the Senate had made. As shown in Document D, Hoover attempted to sway Wilson by convincing him that once the treaty was ratified, it could be amended and changed as to make it effective and pleasing to both sides. Wilson however, did not agree and continued to refuse support for ratification of the new version of his treaty.
Americans supported the ideas that Wilson had, but were divided as to the way things should be carried out. In Document I, Jane Addams discusses women’s view on the treaty. There was a general division, but overall a distinct agreement that an international organization was desperately needed, no matter what. W.E.B. DuBois fully supported the League of Nations and in Document H called it the “most forward looking event of the century”. He stated that if it weren’t for Wilson’s pigheadedness, the treaty could have worked out to please everyone.
It is true that Henry Cabot Lodge and the Republican majority in the Senate were a force in the defeat of the treaty. By holding off the vote and making his own reservations to the treaty, Lodge knew that he was using Wilson’s hatred to his advantage. Wilson would have accepted the reservations if they had been proposed by one of his fellow Democrats, but the fact that they had been written by Lodge made Wilson see red. He immediately ordered Democrats to vote entirely against the treaty with the added Lodge reservations. The only possible path to ratification would be to accept the treaty with the new reservations. Wilson chose to block the passing of the treaty by persuading Democrats to vote against it. The blame for the failure of the Treaty of Versailles falls solely into the hands of President Wilson. Rather than allowing the Senate to work through the knots of the treaty, Wilson murdered his own work because of bad blood between Lodge and himself. Wilson’s stubbornness destroyed any chances of the treaty’s success, and the blame of the matter lies entirely with him.

KRile41's picture
Joined: Apr 2007

Sounds like you have a really good start to this DBQ. IF you could develop your ideas a little more i think you would score pretty high. I am in fact working on this exact dbq right now.

-Small Town, USA-

Azntoxicwaste's picture
Joined: Sep 2006

i think you have 2 key mistakes in your essay. First of all, you put that "Herbet Hoover, for one, believed that the treaty was too harsh, and urged Wilson to accept the reservations that the Senate had made." But the fact is Wilson did not want a treaty that harsh it was that he was not in a great bargaining position for the treaty especially since his party lost the majority during the Congressional Elections. Wilson wanted to promote his 14 points for the reconstruction of Europe but he compromised all of them in order to get the League of Nations through in the Treaty of Versaille. Most of the opposition also did not oppose the treaty; they mainly opposed article ten of the "Constitution" of the League of Nations. If my memory is correct, it stated that the nations in the League has to help any nations during armed conflict if it voted to do so. Congress, being the greedy Congress it has always been, did not want to give up the rights guaranteed to them through the Constitution to make war on other countries. They did not want to be forced into any armed conflicts without their agreement. Wilson pointed out that US would have the power to veto against anything they didn't like but Congress stated that other nations will press US to vote for an issue. Thus, they could not accept the Treaty of Versaille with the League of Nations. They tried to amend mainly the League of Nations.

Secondly, you stated that "By holding off the vote and making his own reservations to the treaty, Lodge knew that he was using Wilson’s hatred to his advantage", but that was not the real reason Lodge held off the vote. Lodge knew that if the vote occurred right after the war, there will be a general craze for helping Europe out so Congress would easily vote for the Treaty. Thus, they decided to delay the voting by reading out loud in Congress all 100+ pages of the treaty (the reading and debates lasted a few months). They were extremely successful in their goal.

Lastly, I think you should put in more facts regarding the period. Remember, a DBQ is just like an essay except you should fit the documents in; thus, you should use the document to join your essay together. Make sure you mention the two different types of opposition to the treaty: irreconcilables and reservationists (check my spelling). Irreconcilables would not vote for the treaty no matter how much they amended it while reservationists just wanted some changes especially against article 10. Also make sure you mention about Wilson's speech making tour for the Treaty which caused him a stroke and physically crippled him (actually his second stroke caused him to become crippled). His illness caused him to not be able to be at Congress when there were heated debates. You were correct in that his personal vendentta against Lodge caused him to order all the Democrats to vote no to whatever Lodge proposed but remember to mention that he wanted to let the public decide in the next presidential election (sorry but i forgot the details haha haven't got there on reviewing yet, my class is still on the Civil War in reviewing). I do know that the Democrats lost the election so the Treaty was never ratified by Congress and Wilson died a few years later (and that was the end of the Progressive Era).

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