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Irreconcilable differences. (History -- Struggle for Freedom).

In 1919, a group of patriotic senators saved America from becoming entangled in the fledgling League of Nations. These stalwart souls became known as "The Irreconcilables."

The Washington, D.C., home of Alice Roosevelt Longworth had hosted many social affairs, but few were as jubilant or as worthwhile as the gathering that occurred on November 19, 1919. Assembled at the home of the hostess, the daughter of Teddy Roosevelt and wife of a prominent congressman, were defenders of U.S. sovereignty, including several senators and their wives. They had come to celebrate the Senate's defeat of the League of Nations Covenant.

Mrs. Longworth believed the League of Nations "would pledge us to active participation in the affairs of Europe--indeed, of the whole world For months, the Longworth home had served as headquarters for the hardy band of 16 senators who became known as "The Irreconcilables" because of their unyielding opposition to the League. Among the stalwart 16, Mrs. Longworth found a kindred soul in William Borah (R-Idaho), who candidly denounced the proposed League as "a conspiracy to barter the independence of the United States."

Also present at the party was Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.), for whom Longworth had considerably less respect: Lodge's willingness to compromise during the debate over the League prompted Longworth to give him the name "Mr. Wobbly." Borah and the other irreconcilables opposed a watered-down version of the treaty, understanding that any compromise in principle would be disastrous for our nation. As Senator Borah told Lodge: "You can't amend treason." Faced with this unyielding resistance, Lodge first proposed reservations intended to assuage their concerns--and then finally voted against the treaty outright when his reservations failed.

The League of Nations was a pet project of President Woodrow Wilson, whose resistance to compromise proved to be an ironic boon to the irreconcilables. A devoted internationalist, Wilson initially called for "a general association of nations" among the "Fourteen Points" unveiled in a January 1918 address to Congress. At Wilson's insistence, the Covenant for the League of Nations was later incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles, presented to Germany by the Allied powers after the armistice.

By themselves, the 16 irreconcilables didn't have sufficient clout to defeat Wilson's drive for world government. Their cause was aided by Wilson's prideful intransigence, inflamed by personal antagonism between the president and Senator Lodge, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If President Wilson had been willing to play ball with "Mr. Wobbly" and other "reservationists," he would likely have gotten enough support to gain Senate passage of the treaty. But he was unwilling to do so. As Thomas A. Bailey opined in his book Woodrow Wilson and the Great Betrayal:

In the final analysis the treaty was slain in the house of its friends rather than in the house of its enemies. In the final analysis it was not the two-thirds rule [for ratifying treaties], or the "irreconcilables," or Lodge, or the strong and mild "reservationists," but Wilson and his docile following who delivered the fatal stab.... With his own sickly hands, Wilson slew his own brain child.

While this is true, it isn't difficult to imagine how different things might have been had there been no organized, principled resistance to the League of Nations juggernaut. Without the irreconcilables' steadfastness, "Mr. Wobbly" may well have collapsed--if not after the first vote, then after a second vote in March 1920 forced by pro-League senators unwilling to accept defeat.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth hosted another party after the second vote, and rightly so. The irreconcilables had derailed a major project not only of the president but of the powerful elitists of that day, who viewed the League of Nations as a way station on the road to world government.

Partners in Crime

The role played by Senate irreconcilables in defeating the Versailles Treaty underscored a key facet of the U.S. constitutional system long disdained by Woodrow Wilson. In his 1908 study Constitutional Government in the United States, the then-president of Princeton University, future New Jersey governor, and eventual U.S. president protested that under the Constitution, occupants of the White House are "plainly bound in duty to render unquestioning obedience to Congress."

In their book Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study, Alexander and Juliette George point out that Wilson preferred a parliamentary form of government in which both executive and legislative power are exercised by leaders of the dominant party. Not surprisingly, Wilson also disdained the U.S. Constitution's carefully drawn separation of powers. Anticipating modern tyrants like Vladimir Lenin and Benito Mussolini, Wilson called for giving essentially unlimited powers to the executive, who would claim a mandate from "the people": "Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overpower him."

Wilson's attitudes were music to the ears of "Colonel" Edward Mandell House, an enigmatic kingmaker in the Democratic Party whose tide was honorary. Scion of a wealthy Texas family and steeped in Anglophile (pro-British) culture and politics, House became an extremely successful behind-the-scenes campaign manager and political adviser to five Democratic Texas governors. Never seeking office himself, House settled on Wilson after he won the governorship of New Jersey in 1910 on a very "progressive" platform. House relocated to New York City and began contacting the future president by mail.

The two men immediately formed an intense friendship, each seeing in the other an ideological soulmate. "It was remarkable," Wilson later recalled. "We found ourselves in agreement upon practically every one of the issues of the day. I never met a man whose thoughts ran so identically with mine." House expressed similar enthusiasm about Wilson in a letter to his brother-in-law, College of the City of New York President Sidney Mezes: "It is just such a chance as I have always wanted for never before have I found both the man and the opportunity."

"Opportunity" to do what? During the winter of 1911-1912, House put his vision on paper anonymously in Philip Dru: Administrator, a political manifesto disguised as a novel that was published by B.W. Huebsch. The goals of the book's chief character, Philip Dru, were House's goals, although he never intended that he realize them himself. Instead, he aspired to be the "power behind the throne" in a Woodrow Wilson administration. As described in Dru, the House-Wilson agenda included:

* "Socialism as dreamed of by Karl Marx...";

* Replacement of an "obsolete" and "grotesque" U.S. Constitution;

* Graduated income taxes and inheritance taxes;

* A new banking law with flexible currency (the Federal Reserve);

* Social security; and

* Submission of all nations to an international organization (League of Nations).

In Dru, House's fictional alter ego seized total power in a coup and accomplished these radical innovations by decree. In real life, House intended for his "other self"--Woodrow Wilson--to accomplish the same thing peacefully. "House was one of the first Americans to foresee the possibility of evading constitutional safeguards by Executive decree," noted historian Rose Martin in Fabian Freeway.

Between Wilson's victory in the 1912 presidential election and his inauguration the following March, House went to work selecting cabinet officials. During that period the president-elect paid at least a half-dozen visits to House's New York apartment. Never before had a man just elected president shown such deference to an adviser. The Wilson administration began in March 1913 with House at the president's side and never out of his thoughts--and the Dru agenda firmly in place.

The 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve implemented a key part of that subversive agenda, and demonstrated House's ability to achieve his goals through flattery, persuasion, and compromise. Wilson was initially leery of Senator Nelson Aldrich's (R-R.I.) plan to create the "Fed," because in its original form it fell short of the European-style central bank Wilson and his co-conspirators sought. Years later, House recalled: "The President ... was distrustful of the Aldrich theory, but I early succeeded in talking him out of that. I told him that it would be physically impossible for us to produce at one stroke an ideal bill. We could only frame one as close as possible to the ideal, and trust to time to amend its mistakes."

Here we see the devious brilliance of the House strategy: Get a radical proposal enacted in principle, and then build on it at a later date--a strategy he unsuccessfully urged Wilson to adopt regarding the League of Nations.

Subversion and War

In 1913, House and Wilson saddled the nation with the Federal Reserve and the income tax. When World War I erupted in August 1914, the devious duo began scheming to embroil our nation in that hideous conflict as a way of setting the stage for a world government.

At the war's onset, Americans overwhelmingly opposed U.S. intervention. Even as they plotted to entangle our nation in that pointless fratricidal conflict, Wilson and his comrades soothingly assured Americans that we would stay out. Historian George Sylvester Viereck describes the House-Wilson cabal's duplicitous doings:

Ten months before the election that returned Wilson to the White House in 1916 "because he kept us out of war," Colonel House negotiated a secret agreement with England and France on behalf of Wilson which pledged the United States to intervene on behalf of the allies. On March 9, 1916, Woodrow Wilson formally sanctioned the undertaking.

Great pressure to intervene arose from those working for reuniting Great Britain and the U.S., the hidden goal sought by House and his associates in the semi-submerged Anglo-American Power Elite. *

This included a relentless propaganda barrage depicting Germany -- the "marauding Hun" -- as a horde of bloodthirsty barbarians bent on world conquest. That impression was fortified when 1,198 people, including 128 Americans, died in the sinking of the Lusitania -- a British ocean liner carrying munitions through waters infested with German submarines. Prior to this tragedy, the German government attempted to warn Americans not to travel on the Lusitania, but the newspapers that eagerly retailed anti-German atrocity stories to the public refused to sell ad space for the German warning. Assessing the impact of war propaganda in 1951, Congressman Carroll B. Reece (R-Tenn.) concluded: "Looked at coldly from the American standpoint, it was all too clear that we had been fooled into a war that was not worth the life of one single mule."

Amid that outpouring of propaganda, Wilson moved the nation toward war -- all the while swearing he would keep our nation aloof from the conflict. In February 1916, one month after Wilson had sent House to England to inform the British that America would enter the war as soon as he could shape American opinion to favor doing so, the president assured an audience in Milwaukee that our country would not go to war. When the 1916 contest between Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes seemed destined to favor the Republican, the Democratic National Committee distributed a pro-Wilson flyer to the American people insisting: "You are working, not fighting; alive and happy, not cannon fodder. If you want war, vote for Hughes. If you want peace with honor and continued prosperity, vote for Wilson."

Campaigning on the slogan "He kept us out of war," Wilson won the 1916 election by a whisker. On April 2, 1917--less than a month after his second inauguration -- Wilson delivered his war message to Congress; four days later Congress declared war. At the war's end 19 months later, nearly 50,000 Americans were dead. But the tragedy of Europe was even greater: More than seven million were dead, 21 million were wounded. Hunger, disease, and revolution ravaged what had once been a civilized continent. Having fomented the catastrophe, advocates of world government now capitalized on the horror in their drive for total power.

The Battle for the Treaty

The armistice forced on Germany on November 11, 1918 was described as "the most severe and drastic ever demanded from a great power." Much of it was derived from Wilson's Fourteen Points, including the most important provision -- formation of an association of nations -- to be known as the League of Nations.

Lurking behind Wilson's diplomatic proposals was a shadowy clique of Insiders organized by House with some help from Britain's Fabian Socialist movement. Historian Rose Martin observes that "Fabian Socialist Walter Lippman ... was named by Colonel House in 1917 as executive secretary of a confidential group to formulate war plans and postwar policy for President Wilson.... The postwar planning group, dubbed The Inquiry, was headed by Dr. Sidney Mezes, president of the City College of New York and brother-in-law of Colonel House.... The demands outlined in the Fourteen Points, however, did not originate with Lippman or with the Inquiry. Sidney Webb and the Fabian Society of London conceived them."

As journalist Ray Stannard Baker reported in his book Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, "practically nothing--not a single idea--in the Covenant of the League was original with the President. His relation to it was mainly that of editor or compiler...." The real work was accomplished behind the scenes by the cabal of globalists, socialists, and banking interests represented by House.

Those radical proposals had triggered opposition in the Senate even prior to the armistice. The t918 mid-term election produced substantial Republican gains, placing Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge--an inveterate political and personal foe of Wilson--to chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After the armistice was signed, Wilson (against the advice of concerned advisors) appointed himself head of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Asked for advice by the delegation's sole Republican representative, Lodge wrote a lengthy memorandum warning that "under no circumstances" should the proposed League of Nations be made part of the peace treaty--advice that Wilson chose to ignore.

In anticipation of the coming ratification struggle, the League's concealed architects had organized a national network to create the illusion of public support. By the time of the Paris Peace Conference, an American group styling itself "The League to Enforce Peace" (LEP) could count 34 state governors as supporters, former President William Howard Taft as an officer, and Andrew Carnegie as its financier. In Architects of Conspiracy, William P. Hoar stated that the papers of LEP leader Theodore Marburg "showed that he viewed the war as a means to campaign for global domination," and that his efforts were "heavily financed by the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Andrew Carnegie." Virtually overnight, the League to Enforce Peace formed organizations in every state and enlisted over 50,000 citizen volunteers.

Two million cheering Frenchmen joyously greeted Wilson in Paris. He received similar receptions when he visited England and Italy during brief side trips. The adulation fed Wilson's arrogance and fueled his disdain for the Senate as a constitutional partner in the treaty process. Across the Atlantic, Taft was giving his all for the League, delivering speeches in 15 states in February 1919.

The Paris Conference's presiding "Council of Ten" accepted Wilson's requirement that the Covenant for a League of Nations be included in the treaty, which was drafted by a special League commission. To make the League inextricably tied to the treaty, Wilson cleverly made key portions of the accord--such as the disposition of ex-German colonies--dependent on creation of the League.

While the Allied representatives continued to work on the treaty, Wilson returned home. When he arrived on February 24th, rather than making a report to the Senate, Wilson delivered a speech widely viewed as an insult to the Senate in Boston, Lodge's home city.

Four days later Senator Lodge presented a measured response, urging postponement of any consideration of the League until a peace treaty with Germany had been completed. Citing George Washington's warning against European entanglements, Lodge expressed opposition to the League Covenant as then constituted. He objected to the fact that the agreement would permit international interference in American domestic concerns (such as immigration) and make it possible for America to be committed to war by the decision of other nations. He also pointed out that there was no provision for peaceful withdrawal from the League.

Concerned that the president would return to Paris with the claim that he had explained everything thoroughly and was now authorized to speak for the American people, Senator Philander Knox (R-Penn.) joined with Senator Frank Brandegee (R-Conn.) to compose a formal statement of opposition to the League that became known as the Round Robin document. Eventually signed by 39 Republican senators--a sufficient number to kill the treaty, which required a two-thirds vote for approval--the document labeled the League Covenant unacceptable in its current form and also expressed disapproval of the proceedings in Paris.

Wilson remained undaunted. The very evening Lodge released the Round Robin resolution, Wilson and Taft made a joint appearance in New York City. The president claimed that "an overwhelming majority of the American people is in favor of the League of Nations." And the Senate couldn't approve the treaty without approving the League as well: "Gentlemen on this side [of the Atlantic] will find the Covenant not only in it, but so many threads of the treaty tied to the Covenant that you cannot dissect the Covenant from the treaty without destroying the whole vital structure." And, with that challenge having been delivered to the Senate, he boarded the waiting ocean liner and headed back to France.

Drawing the Line

Led by the irreconcilables, key resistance was coalescing in the Senate. From behind the scenes, former State Department official J. Reuben Clark, a solid opponent of the League and the entire treaty, began advising Pennsylvania Senator Philander Knox. A former secretary of state and highly regarded member of Congress, Knox had initially favored the League. But, with Clark's counsel, Knox gradually shifted his opinion and became an opponent. Clark had spent countless hours compiling reasons why both the League Covenant and the entire treaty should be rejected. His success in persuading this key senator to become an irreconcilable should never be minimized.

True to his anti-constitutional philosophy, Wilson frequently gave the impression that the Senate was actually required to implement his wishes--an attitude that did nothing to erode the resolve of his critics. As his arrogance grew, Wilson began to tax the patience of his European allies. At one point Wilson insisted that his proposals--devised by subversives cloaked in shadows--had been inspired "by the hand of God." The British, French, and Italians had little interest in a grandiose moral crusade, as they were more interested in punishing Germany and carving up conquered territories. Wilson further alienated the Europeans when he contended that he could better reflect the attitude of Europe's peoples than their own leaders.

Wilson also became alienated from House, his "other self," after American newspapers began to publicize the adviser's diplomatic role. By the time the Treaty of Versailles, including the League Covenant, was signed formally on June 28, 1919, Wilson and House were barely on speaking terms. Wilson left for America on that very day. In the last conversation between the two, House urged Wilson to repeat the strategy that had worked in creating the Fed: Compromise with the Senate to get an imperfect League of Nations Covenant ratified, then build on that foundation. Wilson told his erstwhile friend and intimate adviser that he had no intention of compromising. On that note, the two men parted and never met again.

Defeated but Not Killed

The treaty arrived at the Senate on July 10th and was immediately submitted to Lodge's Foreign Relations Committee. With approximately 80 percent of the public favoring the complete treaty, League opponents knew they faced a formidable challenge. Throughout the nation, the press, the clergy, farm and labor organizations, and even state legislatures expressed hope that the League of Nations would end wars of the type just experienced.

Led by Lodge, opponents of the League Covenant listed four major objections:

* The League Covenant permitted interference in the nation's domestic affairs, with the League Council, not the U.S. government, making decisions about the international body's jurisdiction.

* The amendment addressing the Monroe Doctrine was flawed in that it addressed "international agreements and regional understandings," while the Monroe Doctrine was a unilateral policy of the United States and therefore exempt from foreign interpretation.

* A Covenant provision permitted withdrawal from the League only after a nation's "international obligations under this Covenant" had been fulfilled--but didn't specify how or by whom that fulfillment would be determined.

* Article X of the Covenant required member nations to take action in response to aggression "against the territorial integrity and existing political independence" of member nations, leaving it to the League Council to define when such aggression existed and how to deal with it. This amounted to overriding the U.S. Constitution by giving the League Council the power to commit our nation to war.

League opponents demanded the addition of formal reservations to the Covenant. Wilson refused, insisting that changes of that sort would require approval from all signatory nations. He let it be known that he would allow a separate "statement of interpretations" to be drafted and given to all participants in the treaty, but it would not be part of the treaty. Opponents deemed this completely unacceptable. They added that the Senate's constitutional authority was being usurped, and that the president was acting as though their branch of the government had no role except to supply rubber stamp approval for whatever the president wanted.

In early September 1919, Wilson abandoned the legalistic struggle and decided to take his case directly to the American people. He boarded a train that took him over the next 22 days to 40 different audiences. He traveled 8,000 miles, appeared in numerous wearying parades, shook thousands of hands, submitted to scores of interviews, and attended countless luncheons, receptions, and dinners.

Several irreconcilables immediately fanned out in all directions in a largely successful effort to counter the president's campaign. Senator James A. Reed (D-Mo.) was the only irreconcilable who ran into trouble. In his book The Irreconcilables: The Fight Against the League of Nations, Ralph Stone describes the reception given Reed by disciples of "world peace" in Oklahoma:

An Ardmore, Oklahoma, audience threw eggs at him, cut the light wires, and refused to allow him to speak. The Missouri senator made the best of a bad situation. Maintaining his composure, he refrained from denouncing the hecklers... and he commented that if this incident were an example of the way the American people governed themselves, they should meditate seriously before undertaking to govern the world through the League of Nations.

Throughout his travels the president repeated that the treaty must be approved as is. His inflexible attitude effectively drove some of the mild reservationists, many of whom initially favored the League, although with reservations, into the camp of the irreconcilables. On to Utah and into Colorado went the president, his health deteriorating daily. Finally, beset by splitting headaches and near exhaustion, he canceled a planned speech in Kansas. The train carrying him and his small entourage sped back to the nation's capital, arriving on September 28th. Four days later, he suffered a stroke that left one side of his body paralyzed. With Wilson bedridden, his wife assumed the task of relaying his wishes to others.

As the Senate debate continued through October and November, a package of 14 Lodge-authored reservations was proposed, but many of the "mild reservationists," knowing the president was still adamant, drifted into the opposition camp. Meantime, the arguments of the irreconcilables were finding traction. Senator Borah pointed out that the Covenant effectively gave Britain six votes in the proposed League, one to Britain itself and five more to member nations of the British Commonwealth--an arrangement that enraged Americans still suspicious of Great Britain. "The League of Nations makes it necessary for America to give back to George V what it took away from George III," Borah declared.

As a plan for peace, the League Covenant "fails to meet each and every test I have applied' observed Senator Knox. "It does not abolish or prevent wars and it does sanction and command them. It does strike down great constitutional principles, bulwarks of our protection. It does rob us of the most vital attributes of sovereignty. It does threaten our independence and life." Miles Poindexter (R-Wash.) struck a similar note of warning: "There is abroad in the land a strange new doctrine of internationalism, which would surrender the national independence and sovereignty which our fathers fought to establish and preserve."

As Senator Borah pungently summarized the case against the League: "God pity the ideals of this Republic if they shall have no defenders save the gathered scum of nations organized into a conglomerate international police force." He also remarked: "I am opposed to any league of nations. With me, it is not a question of amendments of any kind. If my country is to be sold I am not interested in the details of the bill of sale."


As the day of the final vote approached, Mrs. Wilson led Senator Gilbert Hitchcock (D-Neb.), the president's chief Senate advocate, into the convalescing president's quarters. Hitchcock told Wilson that without reservations not even a majority, much less the needed two-thirds, could be counted on to vote for the treaty. When he suggested compromise, the incapacitated president whispered a vindictive reply: "Let Lodge compromise."

On November 19, 1919, the speechmaking ended. A vote to include the reservations went down to defeat 39-55, which some considered a victory for the Wilson forces. But unconditional ratification was next, however, and treaty opponents prevailed with 38 for and 53 against.

Proponents immediately began maneuvering for a second chance, a resubmission of the treaty by the president. "Colonel" House, who had returned to America from France in September, tried again to persuade the president to compromise. After the first defeat in the Senate, he had a letter to the president hand-delivered by Attorney General Gregory to Mrs. Wilson. House maintained that a League with reservations was better than no League. House confidently predicted that the Europeans would accept reservations but he received no response from the White House. Another letter followed a few days later but it too earned no response.

Word began to arrive from Europe that the reservations would indeed be accepted. This made the irreconcilables' position--total defeat of the treaty and the League--politically risky. But reservations never occurred because Wilson would not relent. He was willing to accept defeat because he expected the 1920 elections to favor the Democrats, even possibly to favor him for a third term.

Frustrated by Wilson's prideful stubbornness, Democrats were no longer solidly behind his no-reservations posture. Reverting to his "Mr. Wobbly" persona, Lodge made known his own willingness to approve the treaty and the League with reservations.

The Senate approved the package of reservations attributed to Lodge. The final vote on March 19, 1920 found only half of the Democrats honoring the president's request to vote "No" because of the reservations. The final vote on the reservation-laden treaty was 49 in favor and 35 against--seven votes shy of the 56 "yea" votes required for passage.

The treaty was dead. The United States eventually concluded a separate peace treaty with Germany, and the League of Nations was formed without the United States as a member. It operated out of a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, until 1947 when it closed its doors and turned over all of its assets to the new United Nations. In retrospect, the treaty's defeat was largely the work of an irreconcilable from the other camp--President Wilson himself.

Ever working behind the scenes, House and his comrades recognized by May 1919 that the League wouldn't be a suitable vessel for their world government ambitions. House hosted a dinner meeting of globally minded elitists at the Majestic Hotel in Paris on May 19th. The group agreed to found an association with branches in England and America working for goals that would not be achieved at the Peace Conference. The English branch of this House-conceived alliance became the Royal Institute of International Affairs and its American counterpart, first known as the Institute of International Affairs, became in 1921 the Council on Foreign Relations, which began work on a successor organization to the League--the United Nations--in 1939.

* As recounted by Carroll Quigley in his 1966 Tragedy and Hope, Cecil Rhodes and several of his allies formed a secret society in 1891 that came to be known as the Round Table organization. One of its primary goals was to "federate the English-speaking peoples and to bring a]l the habitable portions of the world under their control." At House's suggestion, this group spawned England's Royal Institute of International Affairs and America's Council on Foreign Relations.
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Author:McManus, John F.
Publication:The New American
Date:Dec 2, 2002
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