Charles Evans Hughes - Vol. 2

Charles Evans Hughes - Vol. 2

Charles Evans Hughes - Vol. 2

Charles Evans Hughes - Vol. 2

Excerpt

HOPE OF saving some portions of the Treaty of Versailles lingered for several months after the Harding Administration had turned its back upon the League of Nations. The two were not inseparable. And some means of ending the state of war between the United States and Germany had to be found. Secretary Hughes reasoned that the best way of safeguarding American rights as one of the victorious powers was to ratify the pertinent sections of the Treaty of Versailles, excluding the League Covenant.

It was vital, he thought, to protect American interests in Germany's overseas possessions. These had been ceded, not to the League, but to the five Principal Allied and Associated Powers, including the United States. We did not demand any of the former German territories for ourselves, but Hughes was determined that these colonies should not be disposed of without our consent. The much maligned treaty also provided that Germany should pay the costs of the armies of occupation. Without a treaty, these payments would be in jeopardy. Finally, the treaty set up an elaborate system of tribunals for the settlement of the claims of private citizens against Germany. Hughes thought it would be absurd to give up such obvious advantages merely because an emotional bias had come to be associated with the name "Versailles Treaty."

Sharply different views prevailed on Capitol Hill. On July 2, 1921, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring the war with Germany to be at an end and laying legislative claim to "all rights, privileges, indemnities, reparations, or advantages" to which the United States or its nationals had become entitled under the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. But the rights to which the Government laid claim would still be insecure until directly confirmed in a treaty with Germany. Ratification of the pertinent sections of the Versailles Treaty, Hughes said, was still the best means of accomplishing this end.

The Secretary's earnest arguments won Harding to this point of view. When the President ran into senatorial hostility, he called a conference at the White House. About fifteen Senators attended. There was no roof-raising, but Hughes employed all his powers for logical, clear, and forceful exposition in an effort to make the Senators see the benefits that the United States would derive from ratification of the treaty. To give up this means of getting recog-

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