Back   Recordings 

of speeches by American politicians 

on the League of Nations

 

All the following are from the Library of Congress 'American Memory' collection.   To find more examples, locate the search page and search for 'League of Nations'

 

(click on the link to hear the speeches)

  Newton Diehl Baker

The speculated doubt and the fears of the timid with regard to the treaty and the League of Nations have now all been discussed....  

       It is necessary to remember that the lack of such a league in 1914 threw the world into the chaos of this war.  Terrified statesmen endeavored to sustain the delicately poised balance of power.  They ran here and there, uttering their oldtime cautions and speaking with pathetic diligence for what they called a formula that would compose the mad impulses which were threatening to engulf the world.  They failed because the means were not adapted to the ends - because in the modern world, things move too fast for the stagecoach diplomacy of the Middle Ages...

       The question of this hour therefore is whether the fairest hope of men shall be realized. If we have but the goodness and the faith necessary to make any league of nations work, we can make this one work.  The people will furnish the faith, if the statesmen will but stand aside. 

   

  Gilbert M Hitchcock

The trouble with Senators who oppose the League of Nations is that they are thinking of the days that are gone and gone forever....

       The spirit of democracy has come into its own...  The senators should realize it.  Let them grasp the fact that the spirit of the age is to end conquest...  Let them appreciate the fact that humanity is not willing to sacrifice itself further, that men and women demand of their government that as the fruit of this terrible war an agreement shall be entered into for the preservation of world peace in the future.  If senators will turn from the past towards the future, they will behold a new heaven and a new earth, not a millennium perhaps, but a world in which the affairs of nations are to be administered in justice and reason and humanity....

The late war cost seven million lives, and millions more of cripples. It has destroyed hundreds of towns, it has widowed millions of wives, it has brought in its train the inevitable consequences of war, pestilence, and famine...  The confidence of men in government has been shaken. I t will never be restored until governments devise some way to end war.  The League of Nations is that way.

   

  James M Cox

These are fateful times.  Organized government has a definite duty all over the world. The house of civilization is to be put in order.  The supreme issue of the century is before us, and the nation that halts and delays is playing with fire.  The finest impulses of humanity, rising above national lines, merely seek to make another horrible war impossible.

       Under the old order of international anarchy, war came overnight...  It is planned now to make this impossible. A definite plan has been agreed upon. The League of Nations is in operation. I am in favor of going in. This is the supreme test. Shall we act in concert with the free nations of the world in setting up a tribunal which would avert war in the future? This question must be met and answered honestly and not by equivocation. We must say in language which the world can understand, whether we shall participate in the advancement of a cause which has in it the hope of peace and world reconstruction, or whether we shall propose to follow the old paths trod by the nations of Europe - paths which always led to fields of blood.  We must be say in language which our own people can understand, whether we shall unite with our former allies to make effective the only plan of peace and reconstruction which has been formulated, or whether we propose to play a lone hand in the world, and guard our isolation with a huge army and an ever increasing navy with all the consequent burdens of taxation.  I repeat, I am in favor of going into the League of Nations.

   

  Henry Cabot Lodge

I am as anxious as any human being can be to have the United States render every possible service to the civilization and the peace of mankind. But I am certain that we can do it best by not putting ourselves in leading strings, or subjecting our policies and our sovereignty to other nations...

       Remember that we are dealing with nations every one of which has a direct individual interest to serve, and there is grave danger in an unshared idealism.  Contrast the United States with any country on the face of the earth today and ask yourself whether the situation of the United States is not the best to be found.  I will go as far as anyone in world service, but the first step to world service is the maintenance of the United States.

An American I was born, an American I have remained all my life…  I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league.  National I must remain, and in that way I like all other Americans can render the amplest service to the world.  The United States is the world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for 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…

Our first ideal is our country, and we see her in the future, as in the past, giving service to all her people and to the world.  She has great problems of her own to solve, very grim and perilous problems….  We would not have our politics distracted and embittered by the dissensions of 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 ever stronger and better and finer, because in that way alone, as we believe, can she be of the greatest service to the world's peace and to the welfare of mankind.

   

  Warren G Harding

Nationality is the call of the hearts of liberated people, and a dream of those to whom freedom becomes an undying cause. It's the guiding light, the calm, the prayer, the confirmation for our own people, although we were never assured indivisible union until the Civil War was fought. Can any red-blooded American content now, when we have come to understand its priceless value - to merge our nationality into internationality, merely because brotherhood and fraternity and fellowship and peace are soothing and appealing terms?...

        We do not need, and we do not mean to live within and for ourselves alone, but we do mean to hold our ideals safe from foreign incursion....

       Then we ought to send the American torch bearers leading on to fulfillment. America aided in saving civilization. Americans will not fail civilization in the deliberate advancement of peace. We're willing to give, but we resent demand. I do not believe, Senators, that it's going to break the heart of the world to make this covenant right, or at least free it from perils which would endanger our own independence...

   

  Stephen S Wise

Less than a year ago the moral leadership of the world was in our grasp.  We had entered upon the great adventure to save the world, to make and to keep it free, to rebuild an order of life that should be just and righteous altogether.  At the critical hour we rendered decisive help, taking our place by the side of England, France, and Italy as deliverers of the world from the horrors of Prussianism.  The service was rendered, the sacrifices were made, and for generations we shall pay the tolls.

       But the moral leadership of mankind which we have abdicated for a time, we would and we shall reclaim [or] nothing will be remembered of America, save but at the last moment we shrank from an imperative duty which it was the part of courage and nobleness to accept. As Americans, we have the right to demand that the presidential election of next November be forgotten for a moment, and the world's need of peace and healing be remembered for more than a moment.

       But world justice be not sacrificed in the interest of partisan advantage.  Our appeal is to America at its highest - the America of noblest vision and faith and great illusion.  If the League of Nations be not helped by America to come to pass, it is not President Wilson who will have been defeated, but America - not America, but the world - not mankind alone, but mankind's hope of peace and justice.