Debate Over the League of Nations

Historical content: 
World War I and the 1920s
Historical skills: 
Contextualization, Sourcing



Use the document and the facts below to answer the question that follows. 


This is an opinion column by J. E. Wright from The Evening Missourian (Columbia, MO), March 1, 1919.  Wright calls for the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I because he wants the U.S. to join the League of Nations, which was a part of the treaty.

Source text: 

"This is a question that enters every home in the land and that deeply concerns every man, woman and child. We must enter a League of Nations, or we must support an enormous army at the expense of the taxpayers. The plan unquestionably is for an advance of civilization, and is a step which should be taken at the earliest possible moment. . . . There is not a provision in the twenty-six articles which restricts a legitimate right of any sovereign nation or proposes a hardship on anyone. . . . We are happy to see former President Taft raising his voice in aid of the League of Nations and doing all he can to assist President Wilson in the adoption of this national and important question."

Additional facts related to J. E. Wright’s column:

 1. Woodrow Wilson was elected to his second term as president in 1916.
2. The U.S. failed to join the League of Nations when, on November 19, 1919, the Senate voted 38-53 to reject the Treaty of Versailles and membership in the League.
3. Democratic President Wilson asked that the election of 1920 be a “referendum” on the Treaty of Versailles; in that election, Republican Warren G. Harding, an opponent of the Treaty of Versailles, won in a landslide.
4. In 1935, the League of Nations reached its high point with 58 members. 

Question: Which 2 of the 4 facts above help you determine whether J. E. Wright’s views about the Treaty of Versailles were typical or atypical for Americans at the time? Explain your reasoning.

About the Assessment

Like Edison and the Kansas Housewife, this exercise measures students’ ability to source and contextualize a document. Students read a 1919 opinion column from from The Evening Missourian. Students must then select the two facts that help them determine whether the opinions expressed in the column were typical or atypical of American attitudes about joining the League of Nations at the time.