January 10 – League of Nations Day

Posted on January 10, 2014

Today we commemorate something that didn't work!
On this date in 1920, the League of Nations came into being. It represented the hopes of 42 ratifying nations for international cooperation and world peace.
In 1920 the world was still reeling from the catastrophic death toll of World War I, with more than 16 million dead and many more millions wounded. More than one leader and influential person was calling for a permanent organization that would maintain peace.
That included Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, who outlined his idea of such an organization during his 14-point peace plan. Although many of his ideas did not become adopted by the other nations hammering out the treaty that formally ended WWI, the League of Nations was approved. Wilson was able to present the peace treaty and the Covenant of the League of Nations to the US Senate.
Even though the organization was mostly the “baby” of the US President, the US Senate refused to ratify it! Wilson had suffered from a stroke and was unable to flex his political muscle to reach a compromise with the Senate. Still, the League of Nations was established, without the US.
Why did the Senate refuse to ratify the covenant, you ask?
Good question. Apparently many senators thought that the organization took too much authority away from the US, which was beginning to be seen as a world power.
The sign near the bridge reads "The League of
Nations was designed by the President of the USA."

Uncle Sam is snoozing, resting his head on the keystone
from the bridge, which is labeled "USA."

Guess what happens to a bridge that has no keystone?
And apparently the senators were wrong! Because we can now see that the League had very little power or authority at all. Japan attacked China, even though both of the nations were in the League of Nations. The League condemned the attack, so Japan simply withdrew from the organization. And there was nothing that the League could do! Germany started rearming itself—and the League could do nothing. Italy invaded Ethiopia—again, even though both nations were a part of the peace-keeping organization—and again, the League could do nothing!
By the time World War II started, the League of Nations was basically defunct.
Eventually 63 nations were a part of the League of Nations—but the US wasn't one of them!
So, WWII happened, and more than 60 million—some sources say more than 72 million—people died. And voices once again called out for an organization that could work to promote cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution between nations. The United Nations was born—and this time the US joined!
To learn more about the League of Nations, check out this Brain Pop video

Also on this date:

National Vodoun Day in Benin

Astronomer Robert Woodrow Wilson's birthday

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