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Senators William Borah, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Reed Smoot, photograph by the National Photo Company, May 7, 1924

Republican Senators Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts (center), a “Reservationist,” and William Borah of Idaho (left), an “Irreconcilable,” led opposition to the Treaty of Versailles. Many factors led to rejection of the treaty, including bitter animosity between Lodge and the Democratic president. Their inability to forge a compromise prevented the United States from approving the treaty.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Senators William Borah, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Reed Smoot

The Senate Considers the Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles’s fate was uncertain in the Senate. Some senators, known as “Irreconcilables,” opposed the treaty in any form. “Reservationists,” led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, wanted reservations (amendments) added to the treaty before approving it. Lodge added 14 reservations to reinforce U.S. policy and protect congressional war powers. The Senate voted on the treaty with and without reservations, but both votes fell short of the required two-thirds majority. After more debate, the Senate rejected the treaty 49 to 35 during a final vote on March 19, 1920.

I hope and pray that peace . . . may reign everywhere on earth. But . . . the American people are first in my heart now and always. I can never assent to any scheme, . . . which is not for the welfare and for the highest and best interest of my own beloved people of whom I am one—the American people—the people of the United States.

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, Speech to the U.S. Senate, February 28, 1919