Saturday, June 3, 2017

From the Archives, 1919: Republicans repudiate treaty

Editors' Note: The recent covfefe about President Jack Woltz's decision to ankle the Paris Convention on Climate Change because those mean Frenchies and Krauts made him look ridiculous caused us to wonder if the United States had ever similarly scored an own goal in such spectacularly stupid fashion.  We sent our new intern Liz Spayd into the archives and she found this, from November 20, 1919.  Spoiler alert: it turned out great!  So before you slip beneath the waves that will soon engulf New York, Miami, Boston, and even the Jersey Shore, enjoy this story of Republicans at play.

By Isaiah Thomas
By Cable to The Massachusetts Spy
with dispatches from The New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate last night decisively defeated President Wilson's effort to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which brought to a close the recent World War and was intended to ensure that another grotesque effusion of blood would never happen again.

Notwithstanding the stakes, the Senate easily defeated the ratification effort, citing the need to protect the United States from foreigners who would take advantage of us.   “The rest of the world is laughing at us,” explained lead Treaty opponent Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts.  “A country in our position cannot afford to have others laughing at us.”

[The New York Times reported:  The Democratic forces made repeated efforts to obtain a vote upon substitute resolutions of ratification, with mild reservations.  At every point in this struggle, the Democrats were outvoted by the Republican majority.]

Senators who opposed ratification complained that the Treaty obligated the United States to spend money to bail out European Powers whose idiocy had led to the recent War.  “I was elected to represent the people of Peoria, not the people of Paris,” said Sen. Warren G. Harding, Republican of Ohio.

With the war over, Americans seems eager
to forget about Europe and return to their
favorite leisure-time activities
Informed that Peoria was in fact not in Ohio, Sen. Harding abruptly left the Senate floor, explaining that he had “affairs to attend to” at the Willard Hotel.

Treaty advocates were scathing in their assault on Republican obstructionism.  Senator Underwood of Alabama was quoted by the Times thusly: “The Republican Party is responsible to the people for the peace of the nation.  What a spectacle is presented to the nation tonight by the way the Republicans are exercising the power entrusted to them by the people of the United States!”

But Republicans, having counted the votes, were in no mood to meet the Wilson Administration halfway: Senator Lenroot, according to the Times, said “There will be no compromise.”

Reaction to the rejection of ratification was met with concern and derision on the part of our allies and the media.  The Times editorialized that the Treaty “will be put into effect by the other signatories, leaving this country without its benefits, standing before the world as the one nation that refuses to sanction measures for the prevention of war.  We shall not long remain in that shameful position.”

Our former Allies reacted with shock and horror.  Lt. Gen. Jan Smuts, British Member on the League of Nations Commission, appealed through the Times “not to blast the hopes of the world” by rejecting the League of Nations.  He concluded: “I cannot believe that America will block the way, that the purely American viewpoint will be allowed to override the wider interests and necessities of our own civilization in the greatest crisis in history.”

But Americans reacted favorably to the defeat of the Treaty, citing the need to put America first and avoid entangling foreign alliances.  Mrs. Kathleen T. Burke of Old Sludgebury, Mass. said she supported Senator Lodge: “I've got a two year old and I don't want him to get shot in France or Germany.” [Editors' Note:  She got her wish.  According to the Spy Archives, James X. Burke died on April 22, 1945 in action on Okinawa.]

In New York, local slumlord Fred C. Drumpf complained that the Versailles Treaty was a “stab in the back” to Germany.  He said, “How dare the Allies strip the Germanic people of their rights to Bohemia and Moravia?  Those hot wenches are ours and always will be!”

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