League of Nations was set up because President Wilson wanted this more
than anything else.
wanted the League to be a kind of ‘world parliament’, where
nations would sort out their arguments.
He hoped this would
Wilson wanted to do more than just stop war; he wanted to make the world a
better place. He wanted
the League to do things to improve
people’s lives and jobs.
He wanted to improve public health, and to end slavery.
also hoped that the League would persuade the nations to agree to disarmament
– to put down their weapons.
That would make war impossible.
Wilson thought that the League of Nations could enforce the Treaty of Versailles, and persuade countries to keep
the promises they had made.
League of Nations has its roots in a popular support far deeper and
firmer than shifting governments. To the peasant in France, with
the horror of the war seared in his memory, it represents the symbol of
a new hope. To the worker, the League's labor office, under the leadership of
Albert Thomas, is the promise of a better fortune. The League
stands for disarmament, for peace, for international justice, for the
protection of backward peoples, for a better standard of living, for the
relief of suffering, for the fight against disease, and for all the
other forward-looking policies bound up in the longings of mankind for a
better world-policies which the people everywhere in Europe, as
distinguished from their governments and leaders, are unwaveringly
supporting. The people understand the League; at least they know
what it aims to accomplish.
Fosdick, writing in the Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1920)
was a wealthy American lawyer who was a lifelong supporter and disciple
of Woodrow Wilson. He held a number of government posts where his task was to root out
corruption in the government, business and police. He also
served on the Education Board of New York, and between the wars he
believed passionately in the League of Nations.
Why did the League fail? I can tell you in
a word: Wilson. Head in the clouds, so high-minded that he
was no earthly use - it failed while it was still in his mind.
Its aims were dreams - stop wars, make the world a better place...
They were beyond God, never mind the League.
by a modern historian (2004).
This picture by the British cartoonist David Low appeared in the
Star newspaper on
11 November 1919.
Click here for the interpretation
Imagine you are Wilson, talking to Clemenceau
and Lloyd George.
them about your idea for the League of Nations, what it would do, and
how it would work.
Read Sources A and B, then consider
the League's FOUR main aims in turn: were the League's aims too ambitious?