On May 12, 1850, Republican statesman and noted historian Henry Cabot Lodge was born in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the first students at Harvard to graduate with a Ph.D. in history and government (1876), Lodge represented his home state in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1887 to 1893, and in the Senate from 1893 to 1924. As chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he led the successful fight against American participation in the League of Nations, proposed by President Woodrow Wilson at the close of World War I.
Lodge maintained that membership in the world peacekeeping organization would threaten the sovereignty of the United States by binding the nation to international commitments it would not or could not keep.
The American Memory collection American Leaders Speak, 1918-1920 includes a recording of Senator Lodge’s 1919 argument against the League. “The United States is the world’s best hope,” Lodge allowed:
but if you fetter her in the interest through quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her powerful good, and endanger her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come, as in the years that have gone. Strong, generous, and confident, she has nobly served mankind. Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance—this great land of ordered liberty. For if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.
The League of Nations was established without U.S. participation in 1920. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it remained active until World War II. After the war, it was replaced by the United Nations, which assumed many of the League’s procedures and peacekeeping functions. In 1953, Henry Cabot Lodge’s grandson, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., was named U.S. ambassador to the U.N. He left the position in 1960 to run for vice president on the Republican ticket headed by Richard M. Nixon. The duo lost the election to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, who had taken over Lodge’s Senate seat in 1952.
- Search on League of Nations in American Leaders Speak, 1918-1920 to hear contemporaries of Henry Cabot Lodge voice their opinions on the organization.
- For more information on this collection of recorded speeches, see the summary of related resources on the Teachers Page.
- Also, don’t miss the special presentation From War to Normalcy: An Introduction to the Nation’s Forum Collection.
- Search for articles written by Henry Cabot Lodge in The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals External collection.
- Locate additional information about World War I and the League of Nations in The Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers’ Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919.