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Woodrow Wilson, who was President of the USA at the time of the League's creation, was the person who pushed for the inclusion of the League in the Treaty of Versailles in the first place. Why is it that he never managed to convince the American people, and the Senate, to have the USA join the League?

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2 Answers 2

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There were quite a few reasons:

  • US Congress didn't want its War Powers taken by Article X, giving the LoN power to wage war without consent of Congress
  • Political infighting among Republicans and Woodrow Wilson
  • Many Irish and Germans, a significant immigrant population by this time, thought it favored the British and were against it
  • Wilson's stance of no amendments to the treaty, which some wanted, especially to limit the powers of Article X

With no way to form a significant voting bloc the Treaty of Versailles was rejected by the Senate, and any participation in the League of Nations. Isolationism probably played a part in this as well, considering that America entered a protectionist phase soon after, and really did not want to get involved in WWI in the first place.

Sources:

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There was also a lot of anger in the U.S. with the European victors after the war. France and England treated what was suppose to be a War for democracy as a war of conquest. France and England had signed all sorts of secret protocols dividing up Germany's colonies and the Ottoman empire between them and their allies. There was also concern of the spread of communism and wanting to avoid the revolutions that swept not only through Russia, but Hungary, Germany, Italy, and even France. Isolating yourself from these trouble spots seems like a good idea. –  David W. Feb 14 '12 at 21:24

Wilson was unusual for his time. In an era when Republicans dominated the U.S. government, he was one of only two Democratic Presidents between James Buchanan (1857) and FDR (1933). (Grover Cleveland was the other.) Wilson was elected in 1912 only because of the "split" between Republicans (Teddy) Roosevelt and Taft, and Wilson barely won re-election in 1916 (277 electoral votes to 254) even as a "sitting" President, running on the slogan, "He kept us out of war."

Americans of the time reveled in their "splendid isolation," and didn't want to take part in "foreign affairs." In his Farewell Address, George Washington had warned "America" against "entangling alliances." Americans of Wilson's time (particularly Republicans) still clung to this idea.

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Not a bad answer. However, you might also want to point out that Wilson's party lost both houses of Congress in 1919. Divided government like that doesn't always nessecairly lead to racorous deadlock on the POTUS's agenda, but it appears to have in this case. For instance, the Senate filibustered a whole mess of appropriations bills to threaten a government shutdown, and had to be called back into special session in early 1919 to take care of it. –  T.E.D. Mar 5 '13 at 20:13
    
@T.E.D.: At the time, Republican control of Congress was the "norm." I took pains to point out why Wilson (a Democratic President) was the "exception." (And the fact that he had few coat-tails, barely winning re-election.) –  Tom Au Mar 5 '13 at 20:33
    
Perhaps, but this was the first fully Republican congress Wilson had to deal with as POTUS. The three prior were Democratic-led in both chambers. It appears the 66th may have been a bit anxious to get back to that "norm" of Republican control of government. –  T.E.D. Mar 5 '13 at 20:41

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