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The Versailles Treaty And The League Of Nations

In June 1914, Serbian anarchist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Other European countries, obligated by mutual defense treaties, joined the fighting. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles, that ended World War I, however, assigned responsibility for the war to Germany. Germany was not allowed to participate in the Versailles Treaty’s negotiation, and in 1920 refused to sign the treaty.

Great Britain, one of the victorious Allies, issued the London Ultimatum of 1921,fixing Germany’s war debts at 132 billion Deutschmarks. Germany didn’t have that much on hand in gold reserves or foreign currency, and printed money backed by nothing to cover her debt. Once the money supply increased, inflation followed. It became hyperinflation. In 1921, the DM was exchanged at sixty per United States dollar. dollar. By 1923, one dollar bought one trillion DM. 2 A new Reichsmark, backed by real estate, whose value was set to the international exchange rate for gold, was introduced in 1924. 3 The economy recovered,

and one loaf of bread no longer cost billions of marks. Your Name 2 The hyperinflation did not lead directly to the rise of national socialism in Germany. It is important to remember that the Nazi Party came to power in a democratic election nine years later. It did give Germans cause to distrust by association the liberal postwar Weimar Republic government, created by the Versailles Treaty whose harsh terms were forced on their country. The Nazi Party, through the 1920s and into the 1930s, used this disaffection to steadily increase its membership.

President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, whose Fourteen Points for a postwar world were written into the Treaty of Versailles, favored the League of Nations. Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Wilson’s chief political enemy in Washington, opposed it. Through 1919, the President and Senator Lodge defended their respective viewpoints on the League of Nations. In an August speech, the Senator expressed feelings that today would establish him as extremely anti-New World Order:

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. 4 Of primary objection was Article 10 of the League charter, that obligated member nations to defend each other in war. It suggested the tangle of alliances that had fueled World War I. As a compromise, Lodge recommended approval with reservations Your Name 3

of the treaty that would allow America to join the League. President Wilson, while on a September speaking tour to support the League, suffered a stroke. One side of his body became paralyzed, and his wife Edith took charge of his day-to-day affairs. (The severity of his illness was kept secret until after his death in 1924. ) In November 1919, approval both with, and without, reservations failed in the Senate. The disabled Wilson, in a March 1920 letter composed by his chief of staff, restated his recommendation that Democratic senators vote no on any compromised

version of the treaty. 5 In March 1920, the treaty with, and without, reservations again failed to win the required two-thirds majority approval in the Senate. The United States never did become a member of the League of Nations. Despite the prevailing isolationist views in the United States between the World Wars, many historians suggest that, had President Wilson not been disabled, he would have actively campaigned for the League of Nations, and possibly convinced enough senators to approve America’s entry.

Without the United States, and without the Soviet Union that had dropped out of World War I following her 1917 revolution, the League of Nations was generally ineffective. That Germany could stop paying her war debts and go unpunished indicates how powerless the League was. When World War II began in 1939, it had already Your Name 5 become obsolete. The League did serve one purpose. When the United Nations charter was drafted in 1945, it contained no Article 10-like provision that required member nations to come to each other’s aid in war.

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