Notes on Amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations, March 1921



Geneva, 6 rue du Vieux Collège.


March, 1921.

N.B. These notes are supplementary to matter in circular letter to national sections of W.I.L.P.F. on same subject, March 8, 1921

Art. I

"Fully self-governing States, Dominions or Colonies"?
This leads to over representation of the British Empire? To what extent are the colonies fully [self-governing] in foreign affairs? If they then separate representation is all right.

All Members of the L. of N. should be bound to accept regulations prescribed by the L. on armaments; the present wording is ambiguous; "such regulations as may be prescribed" -- does this mean prescribed once for all on entrance or that may be prescribed from time to time?

If the latter the obligation not applying to original members creates an inequality of treatment. Or do treaty regulations cover this point.

Art. II, III, IV, V.

Are decisions of Council and Assembly binding on members of the L. without endorsement by their several Governments or Parliaments? There should surely be discrimination in this between different classes of questions, e.g. execution of articles XVI and XXIII. See in this connection [Colombia's] note on unanimous vote.

Would obligatory publicity of all agenda and proceedings lead to private decision of important questions before their formal consideration?

Publicity of Agenda and Proceeding of Assembly and Council. See Ass. Doc. 159, 187.

POINTS: Arts. III and IV. Secure predominance of Assembly over Council.

Make Ass. more representative of the peoples;

by Parliaments electing representatives on basis of proportional representation? Yet must retain governmental final voice to be effective (Precedent of Denmark at first Assembly).

Enlarge Council (This can be done by Council with approval of majority of the Assembly -- both permanent and non-permanent members. See Ass. Resolution as to method of electing non-permanent members.

Abolish provisions for perpetual [domination] of "Allies", that is Germany and Russia when they come in should be admitted as permanent members of the Council. And China? But must surely [page 2] secure permanent representation of all the great States on the Council to be effective. Should they also be a majority? See quotation from [Ponsonby].

Should each member of a national delegation in the Assembly have a vote instead of there being one vote for the delegation?

Alter provisions as to unanimous vote. But is this good pro tem. Still on some questions e.g. use of military or economic pressure of the L. of N. is better.

Should votes be given openly? Especially in electing members of the Council?

Make more definite provisions for summoning Ass. on the proposal of a certain number (or proportion) of Member States.

Assembly should always meet at the Seat of the League? And Council too?

Note that Norway in proposed amendment to Art. IV par 1 designates permanent members of the council as "the principle Allied and Associated Powers". Is this more than an oversight. If intentional it is objectionable as the permanent members should be such not because they were victors in the late war but because of their importance in the world.


Secretary General has very great power; probably better he should be chosen from one of the smaller states. This would do something to counterbalance their position of subordination on the Council which seems unavoidable. (But Sir Eric Drummond personally a good choice).

Provision should be made for periodical reappointment of S.G. -- say every three years, not leave it for him to be dismissed if unsatisfactory.

Under Articles VI and VII of and Assembly report on the Secretariat would be well to get resolutions sent in from [labor] women, ourselves, I.W.S.A., I.C.W., congratulating on all positions under or in connection with L., including Secretariat shall be open equally to men and women.

congratulating on employment of married women,

equality of pay for men and women holding equal positions,

examinations and appointments being open to men and women on exactly the same terms,

but regretting that there are no women yet in higher grades, either in L. of N. Secretariat or on staff of I.L.O. (Why? They do quite as well as the men in examinations).

Articles VII and IX, ARMAMENTS.


Report on Traffic in Arms Convention

the Assembly recommendations adopted by Council in relimitation of armaments for the next three years.
See Assembly document 223.
Journal de Genève, Feb. 26. (Council discussion). [page 3]


These articles leave too much to the Council, which will in many cases be an unsuitable body to deal with such matters. On the other hands the Assembly may be argued too large to set as a Board of Conciliation at any rate in the first instance.

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Portugal have sent in amendments

1) making more definite and absolute the obligation to settle questions of law by process of arbitration;

2) making detailed provision for process of conciliation: these proposals leave less to the Council and provide for the reference of disputes in the first instance to Boards of arbitration and conciliation whose members must be chosen mainly by parties to the dispute.

XV needs amendment to make publication of the facts of a dispute obligatory as soon as it has been referred to the Council and not only, as provided at present, after the Council has effected or failed to effect a settlement.

(The word "may" in par. 2, last sentence, should be altered to "must").


See Zurich resolution on blockade and memorandum submitted by Geneva Headquarters to the Assembly. As to proposal of D.N. and Sweden see March 8 circular to National Sections. The retention of the requirement of an unanimous vote is good in relation to decisions taken under this article.


It is good that States not Members of the League should be given opportunity, when a dispute arises, of availing themselves of League machinery for settling the dispute. But this opportunity should be offered freely on the same terms as to other States and not upon such conditions as the Council may deem "just", and "with such modifications as may be deemed necessary by the Council". And it is obviously unjust that the military or economic force of the League should be used against a State not a member of the League (perhaps through no fault of its own) which refuses to accept the obligations of membership ***** for the purposes of such dispute ***** "upon such terms as the Council may offer". This article will be less open to objection if

1) the Argentine amendment is accepted so that no State need remain outside the League except by its own choice, and

2) the Scandinavian amendments are accepted so that the execution of articles XII - XV will rest primarily with the Boards of Arbitration and Conciliation instead of with the Council.

Articles XVIII - XXI.

All these are good. Article XVIII has been broken as regards the military clauses of the Treaty between France and Belgium. But it is perhaps wise in view of France's very real if groundless fears to let the clause stand for the present. It would only come into force if France or Belgium were attacked by another power. This is not [page 4] likely to be possible for at least another generation and by that time if the League of Nations proves a reality France's fears will have calmed down and she should be willing to abrogate the Treaty altogether as unnecessary.

Article XXIV, XXV.

Both good. Red Cross work should go on in peace time as well as in war.


"Why should Great Britain, France, America, Italy and Japan reserve themselves the majority seats, on the Council if the essence of the League is supposed to be even-handed justice and no special [favors] or privileges for any nation? It can be explained only by the apparent intention to utilize the League as a means for supervising the execution of the harsh terms of a vindictive Peace Treaty. The enthronement of the five victorious Powers in a supreme position is a denial of the principle of the establishment of right instead of force as the ruling principle of relations between nations."