American Portraits

Breaking the Heart of the World: Henry Cabot Lodge, the Treaty of Versailles, and Integrity

In this lesson, students will read and discuss the integrity of Henry Cabot Lodge during the debates regarding the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations following World War I in order to develop ways that they can act with integrity in their own lives.

Founding Principles

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Civil Discourse

Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.

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Representative / Republican Government

Form of government in which the people are sovereign (the ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.

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Separation of Powers

A system of distinct powers built into the Constitution to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.


On November 19, 1919, the Senate was abuzz with activity from an early hour. A critical debate and vote was expected to take place. Spectators flooded the gallery, jockeying for a good vantage point to view the historic event. Members of the press eagerly awaited news to report for their newspapers and spoke to their contacts about what to expect. The senators gradually entered the chamber and exchanged pleasantries in a civil manner before the day’s vigorous debate ensued. Most eyes focused on sixty-eight-year-old Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can you act with integrity in your life?

Virtue Defined

Integrity is personal consistency in moral goodness.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will read and discuss the integrity of Henry Cabot Lodge during the debates regarding the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations following World War I in order to develop ways that they can act with integrity in their own lives.


  • Students will evaluate the integrity of Henry Cabot Lodge in the Senate debate over the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Students will analyze Lodge’s actions and develop examples of integrity that they see in their own lives.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of integrity in their day-to-day lives.


World War I was fought from 1914-1918 and claimed the lives of nearly 9.5 million combatants. The United States entered the war in April 1917, when Congress voted to declare war based upon President Woodrow Wilson’s war message arguing for American intervention to “make the world safe for democracy.” An armistice ending the war was signed in November 1918, and the war concluded on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of that month.

The Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, and Italy sought a punitive peace against Germany and blamed that nation for starting the war. President Wilson, on the other hand, argued in his “Fourteen Points” for a lenient peace settlement that would prevent Germany from seeking revenge and prevent another war. At the core of his proposal was a League of Nations that would help prevent war through deliberation. After months of negotiation, the final Treaty of Versailles, which included provisions for establishing the League of Nations, was released for review and approval by each country’s government. The treaty included the controversial Article X, which required League member nations to go to war whenever another League member was attacked.

Some of the U.S. senators who would be asked to vote on ratification of the treaty were “irreconcilables” who completely opposed to the treaty while others, like Henry Cabot Lodge, were “reservationists” who would consider voting for the treaty assuming some changes were made, including the removal of Article X. Although President Wilson had been the guiding force behind the League of Nations and much of the treaty, the United States refused to ratify the treaty and did not join the League of Nations.


  • Combatants
  • Intervention
  • Armistice
  • Punitive
  • Lenient
  • Irreconcilables
  • Reservationists
  • Jockeying
  • Vantage
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Blatantly
  • Partisan
  • Impassively
  • Peppered
  • League of Nations
  • Precedent
  • Rhetorically
  • Vigor
  • Abated
  • Debilitating
  • Incapacitated

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • What was Henry Cabot Lodge’s role during the debates over the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations?
  • Why did Lodge disagree with President Wilson about the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations? How did his disagreement affect his purpose?
  • What did Lodge do to show his disagreement?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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