Wilson embarks on tour to promote League of Nations - HISTORY
Year
1919

Wilson embarks on tour to promote League of Nations

On this day in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson embarks on a tour across the United States to promote American membership in the League of Nations, an international body that he hoped would help to solve international conflicts and prevent another bloody world war like the one from which the country had just emerged—World War I. The tour took an enormous toll on Wilson’s health.

The First World War, which had begun in 1914, grimly illustrated to Wilson the unavoidable relationship between international stability and American national security. In January 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I, Wilson urged leaders from France, Great Britain and Italy to come together with leaders of other nations to draft a Covenant of League of Nations. Wilson hoped such an organization would help countries to mediate conflicts before they caused war.

Having successfully broached the plan with European leaders, Wilson returned home to try to sell the idea to Congress. The plan for a League of Nations met with stiff opposition from the Republican majority in Congress. Wary of the international covenant’s vague language and legal loopholes regarding America’s sovereignty, Congress refused to adopt the agreement and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Still, Wilson was undeterred.

At a stalemate with Congress, Wilson embarked on an arduous tour across the country to sell the idea of a League of Nations directly to the American people. He argued that isolationism did not work in a world in which violent revolutions and nationalist fervor spilled over national borders. He stressed that the League of Nations embodied American values of self-government and the desire to settle conflicts peacefully, and shared his vision of a future in which the international community could preempt another conflict as devastating as the First World War.

The tour’s intense schedule–8,000 miles in 22 days–cost Wilson his health. During the tour he suffered constant headaches and, in late September, collapsed from exhaustion in Pueblo, Colorado. He managed to return to Washington, but suffered a near-fatal stroke on October 2. He recovered and continued to advocate passage of the covenant, but the stroke and Republican Warren Harding’s election to the presidency in 1921 effectively ended his campaign. The League of Nations was eventually created, but without the participation of the United States. America would not join a multinational league until after an even larger and more destructive world war forced the League to be reinvented as the United Nations.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell born

On this day in 1963, Malcolm Gladwell, author of such non-fiction best-sellers as “The Tipping Point,” “Blink” and “Outliers,” is born in Fareham, Hampshire, England. Known for taking a counterintuitive look at questions about modern life, Gladwell’s writing has explored ...read more

The Stars and Stripes flies

The American flag is flown in battle for the first time, during a Revolutionary War skirmish at Cooch’s Bridge, Maryland. Patriot General William Maxwell ordered the stars and strips banner raised as a detachment of his infantry and cavalry met an advance guard of British and ...read more

Campbell exceeds 300 mph

A new land-speed record is set by Britain’s famed speed demon, Sir Malcolm Campbell. On the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, Campbell and his 2,500-hp motor car Bluebird made two runs over a one-mile course at speeds averaging 301.129 mph. In breaking the 300-mph barrier, he ...read more

Allies invade Italian mainland

The British 8th Army under Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery begins the Allied invasion of the Italian peninsula, crossing the Strait of Messina from Sicily and landing at Calabria–the “toe” of Italy. On the day of the landing, the Italian government secretly agreed to the ...read more

Treaty of Paris signed

The American Revolution officially comes to an end when representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France sign the Treaty of Paris on this day in 1783. The signing signified America’s status as a free nation, as Britain formally recognized the independence of ...read more

Pope Benedict XV named to papacy

On September 3, 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of World War I, Giacomo della Chiesa is elected to the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Pope Benedict XV.An aristocratic native of Genoa, Italy, who had served as a cardinal since the previous May, Benedict ...read more

Thieu-Ky ticket wins national election

In South Vietnam’s national election, General Nguyen Van Thieu wins a four-year term as president with former Premier Nguyen Cao Ky as vice-president. They received only 34.8 percent of the votes cast, but the rest were divided among 10 other candidates. There were many ...read more

Sadaharu Oh hits 756th home run

On September 3, 1977, Sadaharu Oh of Japan’s Yomiuri Giants hits the 756th home run of his career, breaking Hank Aaron’s professional record for career home runs. Oh was the greatest Japanese player of his era, though not the most popular because of his half-Japanese, ...read more

U.S. Army avenges the Grattan Massacre

On this day in 1885, General William Harney and 700 soldiers take revenge for the Grattan Massacre with a brutal attack on a Sioux village in Nebraska that left 100 men, women, and children dead.The path to Harney’s bloody revenge began a year before near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, ...read more

It’s a Wonderful Life director Capra dies

On this day in 1991, Frank Capra, a leading Hollywood director in the 1930s and 1940s whose movies include the now-classic You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life, dies at the age of 94 at his home in La Quinta, California. According to ...read more

Hurricane batters Dominican Republic

A powerful hurricane slams into the Dominican Republic, killing more than 8,000 people, on this day in 1930. September is a prime month for hurricanes in the Caribbean, as storms that form off the African coast move west and are fueled by waters in the island region that have ...read more

Russian school siege ends in bloodbath

A three-day hostage crisis at a Russian school comes to a violent conclusion after a gun battle erupts between the hostage-takers and Russian security forces. In the end, over 300 people died, many of them children, while hundreds more were injured.On the morning of September 1, ...read more

Bush prepares for summit with Gorbachev

President George Bush prepares for his first summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The theme of the meeting was cooperation between the two superpowers in dealing with the Iraqi crisis in the Middle East. In August 1990, Iraqi forces attacked the neighboring nation ...read more

Confederate forces enter Kentucky

Confederate General Leonidas Polk commits a major political blunder by marching his troops into Columbus, Kentucky–negating Kentucky’s avowed neutrality and causing the Unionist legislature to invite the U.S. government to drive the invaders away.Kentucky was heavily divided ...read more

The Stars and Stripes flies

The American flag was flown in battle for the first time on this day in 1777, during a Revolutionary War skirmish at Cooch’s Bridge, Delaware. Patriot General William Maxwell ordered the “Stars and Stripes” banner raised as a detachment of his infantry and cavalry met an advance ...read more