Henry Cabot Lodge opposes the League of Nations (1919)

US senator Henry Cabot Lodge was one of the most outspoken opponents to American membership of the League of Nations. He explained this position in an August 1919 speech in Washington:

The independence of the United States is not only more precious to ourselves but to the world… Look at the United States today. We have made mistakes in the past. We have had shortcomings. We shall make mistakes in the future and fall short of our own best hopes. But is there any country today on the face of the earth which can compare with this in ordered liberty, in peace, and in the largest freedom?…

I have always loved one flag and I cannot share that devotion [with] a mongrel banner created for a League.

You may call me selfish if you will, conservative or reactionary, or use any other harsh adjective you see fit to apply. But an American I was born, an American I have remained all my life. I can never be anything else but an American, and I must think of the United States first, and when I think of the United States first in an arrangement like this, I am thinking of what is best for the world – for if the United States fails, the best hopes of mankind fail with it.

I have never had but one allegiance; I cannot divide it now. I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league. Internationalism, illustrated by the Bolshevik and by the men to whom all countries are alike… is to me repulsive…

We are told that we shall ‘break the heart of the world’ if we do not take this league as it stands. I fear that the hearts of the vast majority of mankind would beat on strongly and steadily and without any quickening if the league were to perish altogether… No doubt many excellent and patriotic people see a coming fulfilment of noble ideals in the words ‘league for peace.’ We all respect and share these aspirations and desires – but some of us see no hope, but rather defeat for them in this murky covenant. For we too have our ideals, even if we differ from those who have tried to establish a monopoly of idealism.