Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr. (R-MA)
speaks out against the League of Nations,
Washington, D.C., August 12, 1919. 

Mr. President:

The independence of the United States is not only more
precious to ourselves but to the world than any single
possession. 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 none the less 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 feel
that I can say this without being accused of undue
boastfulness, for it is the simple fact, and in making this
treaty and taking on these obligations all that we do is in a
spirit of unselfishness and in a desire for the good of
mankind. But it is well to remember that we are dealing with
nations every one of which has a direct individual interest to
serve, and there is grave danger in an unshared idealism. 
Contrast the United States with any country on the face of
the earth today and ask yourself whether the situation of the
United States is not the best to be found. I will go as far as
anyone in world service, but the first step to world service is
the maintenance of the United States.


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 provided they can make
money out of them, is to me repulsive. National I must
remain, and in that way I like all other Americans can render
the amplest service to the world. The United States is the
world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and
quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of
Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger
her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the
centuries to come as in the years that have gone. Strong,
generous, and confident, she has nobly served mankind. 
Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance, this
great land of ordered liberty, for if we stumble and fall
freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.

We are told that we shall 'break the heart of the world' if we
do not take this league just 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. If it should be effectively and
beneficently changed the people who would lie awake in
sorrow for a single night could be easily gathered in one not
very large room but those who would draw a long breath of
relief would reach to millions.

We hear much of visions and I trust we shall continue to
have visions and dream dreams of a fairer future for the
race. But visions are one thing and visionaries are another,
and the mechanical appliances of the rhetorician designed to
give a picture of a present which does not exist and of a
future which no man can predict are as unreal and short-lived
as the steam or canvas clouds, the angels suspended on
wires and the artificial lights of the stage. They pass with
the moment of effect and are shabby and tawdry in the
daylight. Let us at least be real. Washington's entire
honesty of mind and his fearless look into the face of all
facts are qualities which can never go out of fashion and
which we should all do well to imitate.

Ideals have been thrust upon us as an argument for the
league until the healthy mind which rejects cant revolts from
them. Are ideals confined to this deformed experiment upon
a noble purpose, tainted, as it is, with bargains and tied to a
peace treaty which might have been disposed of long ago to
the great benefit of the world if it had not been compelled to
carry this rider on its back? 'Post equitem sedet atra cura,'
Horace tells us, but no blacker care ever sat behind any
rider than we shall find in this covenant of doubtful and
disputed interpretation as it now perches upon the treaty of

No doubt many excellent and patriotic people see a coming
fulfillment 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. Our first ideal is our country, and we see her in
the future, as in the past, giving service to all her people and
to the world. Our ideal of the future is that she should
continue to render that service of her own free will. She has
great problems of her own to solve, very grim and perilous
problems, and a right solution, if we can attain to it, would
largely benefit mankind. We would have our country strong
to resist a peril from the West, as she has flung back the
German menace from the East. We would not have our
politics distracted and embittered by the dissensions of
other lands. We would not have our country's vigor
exhausted or her moral force abated, by everlasting
meddling and muddling in every quarrel, great and small,
which afflicts the world. Our ideal is to make her ever
stronger and better and finer, because in that way alone, as
we believe, can she be of the greatest service to the world's
peace and to the welfare of mankind.

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