Drafting of the Covenant

A comprehensive and masterful treatment of the drafting has been done by David Hunter Miller, an American lawyer who participated in the process.  In The Drafting of the Covenant (1928), he details the process – the meetings, discussions and drafting, in Volume I, and compiles documents from the process in Volume II.  Volume III of R.S. Baker’s Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement, has additional documentation from the drafting process.A shorter account of the drafting of the Covenant is in Chapter 4 of Vol. 1 of F.P. Walters, A History of the League of Nations (1952).We here present a few highlights of the process.

  • 25 Jan – a resolution is adopted at a plenary session of the Peace Conference noiminating a committee (Commission) to draft a covenant for a league of nations, which covenant is to be an integral part of the peace treaty concluded at the Conference.  
  • 3 Feb – the first meeting of the Commission on the League of Nations, with President Wilson presiding, takes as a basis for discussion, one of a number of draft proposals – the one developed by Cecil Hurst of Britain, and David Hunter Miller of the United States.
  • 13 Feb  – at the tenth meeting of the Commission a draft is completed for submission to the conference plenary.
  • 14 Feb – the conference plenary releases the Commission's draft for public comment.
  • 11 Apr – the Commission, at its fifteenth and last meeting approves a draft of Covenant to be submitted to the Peace Conference as a whole.  At that final meeting Geneva is selected to be the seat of the League of Nations.
  • 28 Apr – final text of the Covenant is unanimously adopted at a plenary session of the Peace Conference.  The first Secretary-General of the League, James Eric Drummond of Britain, is appointed by the plenary.
  • 28 Jun – the Treaty of Versailles, which includes the Covenant of the League of Nations as the first 26 articles, is signed.