Little Bits of History

League of Nations

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2014
League of Nations flag

League of Nations flag

January 16, 1920: The League of Nations (LN) holds its first council meeting. The League was founded at the Paris Peace Conference ending World War I. It was the first international organization with a principle mission of maintaining world peace. The Covenant set the primary goals which included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other concerns were labor condition, treatment of native inhabitants by occupiers, human and drug trafficking, arms trade, global health, POWs, and protection of minorities in Europe. Eventually, 58 nations were included and part of the League from 28 September, 1934 to 23 February, 1935 which was their highest membership number.

There were 42 founding members (the US was not among them) and 23 (24 if including Free France) remained until it was dissolved in 1946. More nations came and went and when Ecuador joined the number reached the highest mark which held until Paraguay withdrew. The Soviet Union joined in 1934 but was expelled in 1939 for aggression against Finland. This was one of the last acts of the LN as it essentially ceased to function because of World War II. May 26, 1937 saw Egypt joining, the last nation to do so. Costa Rica was the first to permanently withdraw on January 22, 1925. Brazil was the first founding member nation to withdraw, which took place on June 14, 1926.

The LN had no armed forces and depended upon the Great Powers (most powerful of the member nations) to enforce resolutions. However, there was reluctance to do so as these resolutions or sanctions could hurt the League nations. With the end of World War I, there were a number of issues that still needed international resolution and the LN was able to meet these challenges with some success. However, as the world became more volatile and the issues were more dire and more difficult to solve, the LN was found to not have enough power to actually enforce either resolutions or sanctions even if such agreements were reached.

As the world became embroiled yet again in a World War, it was obvious that the LN had failed in its goals. There were many reasons for this but one of the major limiting factors was that the US failed to join. Along with this, the origins and structure was created by the Allied powers as part of a peace settlement and therefore their neutrality was suspect. Because it demanded unanimous votes, decisions were slow if not impossible to come by. Global representation was a goal but not anywhere close to being achieved. Germany was not permitted to join at its inception and Soviet Russia was excluded as well. The idea of “collective security” often caused difficulties when nations were required to work against their own allies. Their goal of pacifism and disarmament was not met and the beginning of World War II was the death knell for the League.

The League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out. – Benito Mussolini

I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for the League of Nations. – Henry Cabot Lodge

The first condition of success for the League of Nations is, therefore, a firm understanding between the British Empire and the United States of America and France and Italy that there will be no competitive building up of fleets or armies between them. – Arthur Henderson

Let us return, however, to the League of Nations. To create an organization which is in a position to protect peace in this world of conflicting interests and egotistic wills is a frighteningly difficult task. – Hjalmar Branting

Also on this day: Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Hi – In 1964, Hello, Dolly! took Broadway by storm.
Grote Mandrenke – In 1362, a storm tide in the North Sea flood the German city, Rungholt.
Hablo Espanol  – In 1492, a dictionary was first written.