How to Use
Determining the Facts
Reading 2: The Collision of Ideals and Policies
The following are excerpts from a speech before the U.S. Senate, presented by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, August 12, 1919.
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 and 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 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 allegianceI cannot divide it now. I have never loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for the League....
Are the ideals that are confined to this deformed experiment upon a noble purpose, tainted, as it is with bargains and tied to a peace treaty which might have been disposed of long ago to the great benefit of the world if it had not been compelled to carry this rider on its back?
We all share these aspirations and desires, but some of us see no hope, but rather defeat, for them in this murky covenant. For we, too have our ideals, even if we differ from those who have tried to establish a monopoly on idealism. Our ideal is our country...
We would have this country strong to resist a peril from the West, as she has flung back the German menace from the East. We would not have our politics distracted and embittered by dissensions from other lands. We would not have our country's vigor 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 even stronger and better and finer, because in this way alone, as we believe, can she be of the greatest service to the world's peace and the welfare of mankind.
Following are excerpts from a speech before the U.S. Senate, presented by Senator William E. Borah on November 10, 1919.
Mr. President, after Mr. Lincoln had been elected President, before he assumed the duties of the office and at the time when all indications were to the effect that we would soon be in the midst of civil strife, a friend from the city of Washington wrote him for instructions. Mr. Lincoln wrote back in a single line, 'Entertain no compromise; have none of it.' That states the position I occupy at this time and which I have in my humble way occupied from the first contention in regard to this proposal of entering the League of Nations....
Have we not been told day by day for the last nine months that the Senate of the United States, a coordinate part of the treaty-making power, should accept this league as it was written because the wise men sitting in Versailles had so written it, and has not every possible influence and every source of power in public opinion been organized and directed against the Senate to compel it to do that thing?
What is the result of all this? We are in the midst of all the affairs of Europe. We have joined in alliance with all European concerns. We have joined in alliance with all the European nations which have thus far joined the league, and all nations which may be admitted to the league. We are sitting there dabbling in their affairs and intermeddling in their concerns. In other words, Mr. Presidentand this comes to the question which is fundamental with mewe have forfeited and surrendered, once and for all, the great policy of 'no entangling alliances' upon which the strength of this Republic has been founded for 150 years....
There is another and even more commanding reason why I shall record my vote against this treaty. It imperils what I conceive to be the underlying, the very first principles of this Republic. It is in conflict with the right of our people to govern themselves free from all restraint, legal or moral, of foreign powers...I will not I can not, give up my belief that America must, not alone for the happiness of her own people, but for the moral guidance and greater contentment of the world, be permitted to live her own life. Next to the tie which binds a man to his God is the tie which binds a man to his country, and all schemes, all plans, however ambitious and fascinating they seem in their proposal, but which embarrass or entangle and impede or shackle her sovereign will, which would compromise her freedom of action I unhesitatingly put behind me....
Sir, we are told that this treaty means peace. Even so, I would not pay the price. Would you purchase peace at the cost of our independence?...
Mr. President, to recapitulate, Europe is still Europe, with all her racial antipathies and imperialistic appetites, with the same standards of government, whatever name Government may bear, and the same strange conceptions of right and justice in whatever terms she may clothe her schemes of ambition. She is unchanged, and if we assume the task of effectuating a change, save as in the past by whatever power precept and example may exert, we will end by becoming Europeanized in our standards and in our conceptions of civilization or we will fall into disintegration and as a Republic die. If we give up our independence and enter her councils with one vote, if we surrender our seat of authority here upon the Western Continent, this place of command to which the living God directed our fathers that they, free from all foreign entanglements, might work out a new scheme of government, if we quit our own stand upon foreign soil, we shall return as our President returned from Versailles, stripped of our principles and shorn of our ideals. Look upon his experience. The thoughtful will gather from it a lesson of deep and lasting significance.
Questions for Reading 2
1. According to Senator Lodge, why should the U.S. not join the League of Nations?
2. What reasons did Senator Borah provide as to why the U.S. should refuse to join the League of Nations?
3. How do Lodge's arguments differ from Borah's?
4. Wilson, Lodge, and Borah all refer to "American principles" in their speeches. Which man do you think most closely follows the principles discussed? Why do you think so?