Republican Round Robin

Opposition to the emerging peace treaty developed in the U.S. Senate in the early months of 1919, while President Wilson conducted negotiations in Paris. William E. Borah of Idaho and James A. Reed of Missouri, both Republicans, ignored the presidentís appeal to delay discussions of the agreement until he returned to present his case.

Of greater significance were the actions of Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. On March 4, 1919, shortly after Wilsonís arrival home, Lodge made public a Republican "round robin" that cast doubt on the treaty's prospects for ratification. It stated that the League Covenant in its current form was unacceptable and that the proper time for addressing the composition and workings of the League was after the peace agreement was signed.

This statement of position was issued on the last day of the outgoing Congress* and carried the signatures of 39 Republican Senators or Senators-elect ó more than enough votes to deny Wilson the mandated two-thirds majority for the ratification of treaties.

The President took up the challenge that same evening in a speech in New York City, where he announced that he would return to Paris and later come home with a treaty containing the League of Nations Covenant as an integral part.

The stage for confrontation was set.

*The U.S. Constitution originally provided that the president and members of Congress would take their oaths of office in March following elections in the previous November; the problematic nature of winter travel in the nationís early history made this lengthy waiting period necessary. Amendment XX, ratified in 1933, shortened the so-called ďlame duck" period by mandating that new terms begin in January.

See also Wilson's Search for Peace.

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