Covenant of the League of Nations


Early drafts for a possible League of Nations began even before the end of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. A London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

-based study group led by James Bryce
James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce
James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce OM, GCVO, PC, FRS, FBA was a British academic, jurist, historian and Liberal politician.-Background and education:...

 and G. Lowes Dickinson made proposals adopted by the British League of Nations Society, founded in 1915. Another group in the United States—which included Hamilton Holt
Hamilton Holt
Hamilton Holt was an American educator, editor, author and politician.-Editor:...

 and William B. Howland at the Century Association
Century Association
__notoc__The Century Association is a private club in New York City. It evolved out of an earlier organization – the Sketch Club, founded in 1829 by editor and poet William Cullen Bryant and his friends – and was established in 1847 by Bryant and others as a club to promote interest in...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

—had their own plan. This plan was largely supported by the League to Enforce Peace
League to Enforce Peace
The League to Enforce Peace was an American organization established in 1915 to promote the formation of an international body for world peace...

, an organization led by former U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

. In December 1916, Lord Robert Cecil
Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood
Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood CH, PC, QC , known as Lord Robert Cecil from 1868 to 1923, was a lawyer, politician and diplomat in the United Kingdom...

 suggested that an official committee be set up to draft a covenant for a future league. The British committee was finally appointed in February 1918; it was led by Walter Phillimore (and became known as the Phillimore Committee) but also included Eyre Crowe
Eyre Crowe
Sir Eyre Alexander Barby Wichart Crowe GCB GCMG was a British diplomat. Crowe was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1907, Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1911, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1917, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St...

, William Tyrrell, and Cecil Hurst. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 was not impressed with the Phillimore Committee′s report, and would eventually produce three draft covenants of his own with help from his friend Colonel House
Edward M. House
Edward Mandell House was an American diplomat, politician, and presidential advisor. Commonly known by the title of Colonel House, although he had no military experience, he had enormous personal influence with U.S...

. Further suggestions were made by Jan Christian Smuts in December 1918.

At the Paris Peace Conference
Paris Peace Conference, 1919
The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

 in 1919, a commission was appointed to agree on a covenant. Members included Woodrow Wilson (as chair), Colonel House (representing the U.S.), Robert Cecil and Cecil Hurst (Britain), Léon Bourgeois
Léon Bourgeois
-Biography:He was born in Paris, and was trained in law. After holding a subordinate office in the department of public works, he became successively prefect of the Tarn and the Haute-Garonne , and then returned to Paris to enter the ministry of the interior...

 and Ferdinand Larnaude (France), Prime Minister
Prime minister of Italy
The Prime Minister of Italy is the head of government of the Italian Republic...

 Vittorio Orlando and Vittorio Scialoga (Italy), Foreign Minister Makino Nobuaki
Makino Nobuaki
Count was a Japanese statesman, active from the Meiji period through the Pacific War.- Biography :Born to a samurai family in Kagoshima, Satsuma domain , Makino was the second son of Ōkubo Toshimichi, but adopted into the Makino family at a very early age.In 1871, at the age of 11, he accompanied...

 and Chinda Sutemi
Chinda Sutemi
Count was a Japanese diplomat. In 1877 he went to study at DePauw University. He got his BA in 1881, and MA in 1884. In 1882 he married, and subsequently had one son.-Diplomatic career:...

 (Japan), Paul Hymans
Paul Hymans
Paul Louis Adrien Henri Hymans , was a Belgian politician associated with the Liberal Party. He was the first President of the League of Nations, and served again as its president in 1932-33....

 (Belgium), Wellington Koo
Wellington Koo
Koo Vi Kyuin or Ku Wei-chün , often known by the Western name V.K. Wellington Koo, was a prominent diplomat under the Republic of China, representative to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Ambassador to France, Great Britain, and the United States; participant in founding the League of Nations...

 (China), Jayme Batalha Reis (Portugal), and Milenko Radomar Vesnitch
Milenko Radomar Vesnitch
Milenko Radomar Vesnić was a Serbian politician.Vesnić was the diplomatic representative from Serbia at the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles in June 1919. He was married to an American who was acquainted with President Wilson's wife...

 (Serbia). Further representatives of Czechoslovakia, Greece, Poland and Romania were later added. The group considered a preliminary draft co-written by Hurst and President Wilson′s adviser David Hunter Miller
David Hunter Miller
David Hunter Miller was a U.S. lawyer and an expert on treaties who participated in the drafting of the covenant of the League of Nations...

. The group met on ten occasions, and by 11 April 1919, the Hurst-Miller draft was approved with only a few changes.

The League would be made up of a General Assembly (representing all member states), an Executive Council (with membership limited to major powers), and a permanent secretariat. Member states were expected to "respect and preserve as against external aggression" the territorial integrity of other members, and to disarm
Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of weaponry. Disarmament is often taken to mean total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear arms...

 "to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety." All states were required to submit complaints for arbitration
Arbitration, a form of alternative dispute resolution , is a legal technique for the resolution of disputes outside the courts, where the parties to a dispute refer it to one or more persons , by whose decision they agree to be bound...

 or judicial inquiry before going to war. The Executive Council would create a Permanent Court of International Justice
Permanent Court of International Justice
The Permanent Court of International Justice, often called the World Court, was an international court attached to the League of Nations. Created in 1922 , the Court was initially met with a good reaction from states and academics alike, with many cases submitted to it for its first decade of...

 to make judgements on the disputes.

Major objections came from France and Japan. France wanted the League to form an international army to enforce its decisions, but the British worried such an army would be dominated by the French, and the Americans could not agree since only Congress could declare war. Makino and Chinda requested that a clause upholding the principle of racial equality
Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. In general, anti-racism is intended to promote an egalitarian society in which people do not face discrimination on the basis of their race, however defined...

 should be inserted, parallel to the existing religious equality clause. This was deeply opposed, particularly by Americans, and Wilson simply ignored the question. While Wilson was away, a vote on a similar motion (supporting "equality of nations and the just treatment of their nationals") was supported by 11 of 19 delegates, but Wilson declared that "serious objections" by other delegates negated the majority vote, and the amendment was dismissed.

The treaty entered into force on 10 January 1920. Articles 4, 6, 12, 13, and 15 were amended in 1924. The treaty shares similar provisions and structures with the UN Charter.

See also

  • UN Charter
  • League of Nations
    League of Nations
    The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

  • United Nations
    United Nations
    The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

  • Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations
    Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations
    Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations is the section calling for assistance to be given to a member that experiences external aggression.-Text of Article X:-Republican opposition in the United States:...

External links

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