On the 10th January 1920, the Treaty of Versailles came into effect. Although it had been signed in June the previous year, the terms weren’t activated until the 10th January – which as well as instigating the punishment of Germany also meant that the League of Nations was officially founded as the Covenant of the League was now in operation.
The League was set up on the urging of US President Woodrow Wilson, who included it as one of his Fourteen Points. His desire was to create “A general association of nations formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” It was therefore the first worldwide organisation established with the explicit aim of securing world peace. It intended to do this through collective security, disarmament, the promotion of international trade, and the improvement of social conditions.
Six days after its establishment on 10th January 1920, the League’s first Council meeting took place. The United States were notably absent, as opposition in the Senate meant that USA did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Although there were many reasons for the United States not ratifying the Treaty, a key factor was opposition to Article X of the Covenant which stated that League members would come to each other’s defence if they were attacked.
The League therefore began with 42 members, of which 23 remained members until the League was dissolved in 1946. It was replaced by the United Nations which, coincidentally, held its first General Assembly on the 10th January 1946.