League of Nations

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The League of Nations is an international confederation of countries, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, that existed from 1920 to 1946, its creation following WORLD WAR I and its dissolution following WORLD WAR II. Though the League of Nations was a flawed and generally ineffective organization, many of its functions and offices were transferred to the UNITED NATIONS, which has benefited from the hard lessons the league learned.

President WOODROW WILSON, of the United States, was the architect of the League of Nations. When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, Wilson sought to end a war that had raged for three years and to begin constructing a new framework for international cooperation. On January 8, 1918, he delivered an address to Congress that named fourteen points to be used as the guide for a peace settlement. The fourteenth point called for a general association of nations that would guarantee political independence and territorial integrity for all countries.

Following the November 9, 1918, ARMISTICE that ended the war, President Wilson led the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Wilson was the only representative of the Great Powers?which included Great Britain, France, and Italy?who truly wanted an international organization. His power and influence were instrumental in establishing the League of Nations.

Although Wilson was the architect of the league, he was unable to secure U.S. Senate ratification of the peace treaty that included it. He was opposed by isolationists of both major political parties who argued that the United States should not interfere with European affairs, and by Republicans who did not want to commit the United States to supporting the league financially. The treaty was modified several times, but was nevertheless voted down for the last time in March 1920.

Despite the absence of the United States, the League of Nations held its first meeting on November 15, 1920, with forty-two nations represented. The constitution of the league was called a COVENANT. It contained twenty-six articles that served as operating rules for the league.

The league was organized into three main branches. The council was the main peacekeeping agency, with a membership that varied from eight to fourteen members during its existence. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union held permanent seats during the years they were members of the...

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