Revision Diary

The Growth of Isolation, 1919-1922


Rejection of the peace treaty; reasons for refusing to join the League of Nations.

Tariff policy: Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922; immigration controls; quota system of 1921.


Make sure you have detailed factual knowledge about AND HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT the following issues and topics:


1.  The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.

2.  American Isolationism in the 1920s


and that you are able to explain:

3.  WHY did the US Senate reject the Treaty of Versailles?

4.  WHY did the Americans introduce tariffs? [WAIF]

5.  WHY did the American introduce immigration quotas? [PRT]






Rejection of the Treaty of Versailles


Because America was a democracy, Wilson could not sign for the USA – the Senate had to do that.   However, the Senate proposed 14 changes (‘reservations’) and, when Wilson refused to accept them, the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations were rejected by the Senate in March 1920.


●   In the 1918 Elections the Republican Party had won a majority in the Senate, and Wilson was a Democrat.

●   The Republican opposition to Wilson was led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge - he and Wilson hated each other.

●   Wilson set off on a nation-wide tour to drum up support for the Treaty, but the overwork caused a stroke and he had to stop.



Why did the US Senate reject the ToV?



The traditional view is that the Senate rejected the treaty because Americans were ‘isolationist’, but modern historians do not agree – they blame Wilson.


●   Isolationism – the isolationists, led by Senator Borah, did not want to get involved in European Affairs

●   Money – not wanting to spend money on wars in Europe

●   American soldiers – 100,000 had died in WWI

●   Germans – many Americans were German immigrants and hated the Treaty

●   Empire – many Americans hated the British Empire, which the ToV had increased.

●   … or WILSON? – 80% of Americans wanted to join the League, and only 12 Senators were isolationists; the rest would have accepted the Treaty with Lodge’s 14 reservations.   But Wilson would not accept any compromise and in the end his 23 supporters voted against the Treaty.   






American Isolationism in the 1920s


In 1920 Warren Harding became Presdient under the slogan ‘return to normalcy’.   They did TWO things which they hoped would keep things ‘normal’: they protected American industry and farming with high tariffs, and they tried to keep out immigrants by a system of ‘quotas’.


●   Tariffs: Fordney-McCumber Act (1922) – highest tariffs in history (up to 400%).   The Act set tariffs according to:

▫   Scientific tariff – the wages in the country of origin (so the cheaper the item was to produce, the greater the tariff added to the imports).

▫   American selling price – the cost of production in America (so the more the item cost in America, the greater the tariff added to competing imports).

●   Immigration

▫   Immigration Laws – the 1917 Immigration Law (immigrants must be able to read English/ banned immigrants from China and Japan), the 1921 Emergency Quota Act (maximum number 357,000 / reduced immigration from eastern and southern Europe by only allowing each country to send 3% of immigrants already in America in 1910) and he 1924 Reed-Johnson Act (maximum number 154,000 / reduced immigration from eastern and southern Europe by only allowing each country to send 2% of immigrants already in America in 1890)

▫   Insisted on ‘Naturalization’ – that immigrants become ‘American’ (e.g. 'Americanization Day' rallies, 'citizenship exam').

▫   Sacco and Vanzetti - two anarchist immigrants from Italy - were in 1920 were found guilty of armed robbery and murder and executed in 1927, even though the defence produced 107 witnesses, and in 1925 the actual murderer gave himself up ... the jury did not believe them because they were Italian immigrants).  



WHY did the Americans introduce tariffs?


a.  Wartime boom: during the war European countries hadn't been able to send goods to America - and American businessmen wanted this to continue.

c.  American wages: American wages were rising, and American businessmen feared that low wages in Europe would allow European firms to undercut them.

b.  Isolationists: wanted America to be self-sufficient .

d.  Farmers: Overproduction was causing agricultural prices to fall, and farmers wanted protecting.



WHY did the Americans introduce immigration quotas?


a.  Prejudice: hated of Japanese and Chinese, and of poor Catholics and Jews from eastern Europe – claims that Americans were turning into 'a race of mongrels'.

b.  Red scare: fear of communists and anarchists (e.g. Sacco and Vanzetti).

c.  Trade Unions feared that immigrants would work for lower wages and take their jobs.


Revision Focus

This is a Paper 2 topic, so you need to have factual KNOWLEDGE IN DEPTH but also a degree of understanding which will allow you in the exam to write MULTI-CAUSAL EXPLANATIONS of the key issues.



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