THE CAVE OF THE WINDS
"God made the world in seven days, but he didn't have a senate to deal with." Greenville(S.C.) PIEDMONT, September, 1919.1
THE FOCAL point of the fight over the treaty was the Senate of the United States -- what the presiding officer, Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, remembering his classical mythology, whimsically called "the cave of the winds." The opinions of the senators ran the whole gamut from enthusiastic approval of the treaty as it stood, to flat rejection of all it contained. An analysis of these various groups is indispensable if one is to understand precisely how the treaty met its doom.
The Democrats may be considered first. When the treaty was submitted to the Senate there were 47 Democrats and 49 Republicans. The Democrats not only lacked a simple majority but fell far short of the necessary two-thirds. Not only that, but four of the Democratic senators were outright opponents of an unreserved "Wilson treaty": the unbridled Gore of Oklahoma, the independently minded Shields of Tennessee, the Irish-sired Walsh of Massachusetts, and the leather-larynxed Reed of Missouri. By far the most important of these four Democratic "irreconcilables" or near "irreconcilables" was the silver-thatched Reed, an accomplished rabble-rouser with a withering tongue and a buzz-saw voice. He seems to have turned against the treaty primarily because of his isolationist and anti-British prejudices.
The Democrats not only lacked numbers but lacked forensic power. They had no one who could stand up against the oratorical blasts of Borah and Johnson, or match the sarcastic sallies of Brandegee and Moses. Reed could, but he deserted to the other side.