Wilson's tour and stroke (September 1919)
Wilson presented the Versailles treaty to the Senate on 10 July 1919, in the supreme confidence that that body would not dare to refuse to give its consent to ratification. There were many signs of danger ahead. One was the persistence of the tradition of isolationism, which before 1914 had been the cornerstone of American foreign policy. Ratification of the Treaty of Versailles would carry heavy new international responsibilities for the United States: Article 10 of the covenant guaranteed the political independence and territorial integrity of all member nations, and support of the covenant's peacekeeping machinery might well entail the risk of war. Moreover, Republicans controlled the Senate, and Wilson's implacable personal and political foe, Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Lodge would have preferred to reject the treaty outright, but in order to preserve unity within his party, he accepted a plan offered by more moderate Republicans—to approve the treaty subject to certain reservations. The most important of these was a reservation to Article 10 that stipulated that the United States assumed no obligation under this article unless Congress, by joint resolution or otherwise, should specifically assume such obligation.
Saying that the enemies of the League were poisoning the wells of public opinion, Wilson set out upon a tour of the West in order to purify them. In one of the great forensic efforts in American history, he traveled eight thousand miles and delivered thirty-two major addresses between 3 and 25 September 1919. During the early hours of 26 September, Wilson suffered a stroke warning, which ended his tour. Then, on 2 October, after his return to Washington, Wilson suffered a devastating stroke that paralyzed his left side and for a time threatened his life.
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