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America's History in the Making

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Speech by Henry Cabot Lodge Objecting to the League of Nations

Mr. President:
… Contrast the United States with any country on the face of the earth today and ask yourself whether the situation of the United States is not the best to be found. I will go as far as anyone in world service, but the first step to world service is the maintenance of the United States.

I have always loved one flag and I cannot share that devotion [with] a mongrel banner created for a League.

You may call me selfish if you will, conservative or reactionary, or use any other harsh adjective you see fit to apply, but an American I was born, an American I have remained all my life. I can never be anything else but an American, and I must think of the United States first, and when I think of the United States first in an arrangement like this I am thinking of what is best for the world, for if the United States fails, the best hopes of mankind fail with it.

I have never had but one allegiance - I cannot divide it now. I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league. Internationalism, illustrated by the Bolshevik and by the men to whom all countries are alike provided they can make money out of them, is to me repulsive.

National I must remain, and in that way I like all other Americans can render the amplest service to the world. The United States is the world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come as in the years that have gone …

We are told that we shall 'break the heart of the world' if we do not take this league just as it stands. I fear that the hearts of the vast majority of mankind would beat on strongly and steadily and without any quickening if the league were to perish altogether …

We would not have our politics distracted and embittered by the dissensions of other lands. We would not have our country's vigour exhausted or her moral force abated, by everlasting meddling and muddling in every quarrel, great and small, which afflicts the world.

Our ideal is to make her ever stronger and better and finer, because in that way alone, as we believe, can she be of the greatest service to the world's peace and to the welfare of mankind.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., speaking against the U.S. joining the League of Nations, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on August 12, 1919, http://www.etsu.edu/cas/history/docs/lodgeagainst.htm (accessed February 15, 2007).

Creator Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Context The senators debated on whether or not to ratify the League of Nations.
Audience Senators
Purpose To show the views of some senators against the League of Nations

Historical Significance

In 1919, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican, argued against the United States becoming a member of the League of Nations. His resistance reflected a belief by many in Congress that the United States should distance itself from European politics. Lodge did not want to pledge American economic or military aid for the security of member nations. Lodge proposed amendments to the League of Nations that limited the role of the United States, but President Wilson--who proposed American participation in the League of Nations--refused to compromise with the Republicans. Congress, swayed by Senator Lodge, voted against U.S. entry into the League of Nations.

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