The organisation of the Peace Conference (1)
Two months proceeding the Armistice, the Paris Peace Conference opened on the 18th of January 1919, which was the anniversary of the proclamation of the German empire in 1871.
The Peace Conference consisted of representatives of 32 victorious nations, excluding Russia and the other defeated States. Originally, the winners were to have created the Treaty and the losers were to negotiate after. However, given the event of the war, there wasn't enough time to negotiate a peace settlement with the people who lost. The Peace negotiation was described by the French as "fait accompli", which is a term that describes an action which is completed and imposes on people that can't question or reverse it. The losers of the war were threatened with a renewal of war if they didn't agree to the terms.
Most decisions were made by the Big Three: Woodrow Wilson (USA), Georges Clemenceau (France) and David Lloyd George (Britain). Originally, there were 5 nations with Italy and Japan, but Japan had bigger issues in the east and Orlando from Italy had a row with Wilson during one of the conferences.
The Germans were shown the Treaty, and had a few objections. However, they were threatened with war if they didn't sign it. They signed it at Versailles on the 28th June 1919, chosen puposefully to insult Germany, because of the proclamation of the German empire on 18th January 1871 following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian war that was made at Versailles.
The organisation of the Peace Conference (2)
The other four treaties of the losing states were midly negotiated and signed on the following dates:
- Austria signed the Treaty of St. Germain on September 10th 1919.
- Bulgaria signed the Treaty of Neuilly on 27th November 1919.
- Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon on 4th June 1920.
- Turkey signed the Treaty of Sevres on 10th August 1920.
Following the signings of these treaties, the USA left any further involvement in the peace settlement and completly disregarded the policies of the Treaty, including the League of Nations. This was because it blatantly contradicted point 5 of Wilson's "Fourteen Points".
Due to the First World War's sudden ending, a peace settlement had to be made quickly. The losers, including Germany, had to pay for the 8-10 million killed in the war, the £24 billion financial costs, the distorted economies due to the war, the land that was ruined, the food shortage and the public unrest that followed the war.
Russia couldn't attend the peace conference because of her Civil war. Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson wanted her to attend because of the many problems that needed to be resolved in eastern Europe.
Some claim that the Treaty was rushed and that it was inevitable that it ended badly.
Harold Nickelson said that the Treaty was like "bad champagne", meaning that it had a bad taste although it symbolises something nice, joyous and peaceful.
Terms of the Treaty (1)
The 'War Guilt Clause' (Article 231) claimed that the Germans were responsible for "causing all the loss and damage".
Article 232 stated that the Germans would pay £6.6 billion in reparations. This sum of money was too difficult to discuss in the peace conference alone. Therefore, a separate commission was created named the "Reparations Commission".
Germany's army was to be limited to 100,000 troops with no tanks nor heavy guns. They could only have 12 capital ships, but no submarines. No air force either. This was the first step of wider disarmament.
13% of Germany was given to Britain and France. Wilson, however, thought that this was hypocritical of his "14 points", especially "self-determination" (point 5).
- The Rhineland was a 50km strip of land that separated Rhine (in Germany) and France. It would be demilitarised forever by German troops, but were to be replete with troops from the Big Free for 15 years.
- East Prussia was separated from the main part of Germany by the Polish Corridor, which was given to Poland for access to the sea which used to be called Posen.
Terms of the Treaty (2)
Further terms and clauses said that any future union between Germany and Austria was forbidden. Germany couldn't join the League of Nations until they showed acceptable behaviour, but they were finally admitted in 1926, but Hitler redrew in 1933.
Germany couldn't negotiate these terms and she had to sign the Treaty or face renewal of war. The Allies wanted a quick settlement and not a repeat of the Congress of Vienna of 1815.
Criticisms of the Treaty of Versailles (1)
The Treaty's main criticism is that it happened far too quickly and inevitably failed to maintain peace in Europe given the revenge of the Second World War.
The German Problem
How was Germany able to trade and form strong relationships with other countries, while they are contained, condemned and repressed by the Treaty?
Germany would still be powerful after the Treaty. She had 50% more people than France and four times their heavy industry. The Treaty of Versailles would only hinder progress of international relations.
After the war, the Germans believed that they had won the war on the Eastern Front, therefore their win made them expect to be in an alliance against Bolshevik Russia. They believed that Wilson would honour his "fourteen points", but the Germans were misguided. Therefore, the Treaty that was made, shocked and angered the Germans to become rebellious to the League.
Criticisms of the Treaty of Versailles (2)
John Maynard Keynes
Keynes was the most prominent critic of the Treaty in his book named the "Economic Consequences of Peace".
His main arguments were that:
- The Big Three lacked the vision and courage to address Europe's economic prolems. Each of the three were concerned with themselves, rather than European recovery. Clemenceau was driven by anti-German patriotism. Lloyd George was sure to protect the advantages of only the British empire. Wilson felt outnumbered and couldn't cope with the other two.
- Germany was denied of the ability to flourish or survive. The Germans should have been given reparations of 2.1 billion pounds maximum, but the Armistice Terms expanded to include money for pensions and separation allowances.
- The currencies held by the new countries of Europe and Germany would be bereft of trade without help from the USA.
Criticisms of the Treaty of Versailles (3)
His own proposals included:
- Reparations would decrease to £2 billion.
- There should be a free-trade Union among European states.
- Coal given to France by Germany should be the difference between the amount France produced before and after the war. Including a ceiling set at 20,000,000 tons a year.
- All Inter-Allied debts would be dropped.
- The USA should offer a billion dollars to Europe to help with reconstruction.
Criticisms of Keynes
Seymor, in 1920, argued that the book wasn't objective analysis. Ogg supported his view: "his book gives more evidence of moral indignation than of intellectual discrimination". Ogg continues to argue that Keynes complains more about the economy and ignores the political considerations.
Etienne Mantoux, in 1944, wrote a book named "The Carthaginian Peace", which argued that Germany was able to pay reparations. He showed how Germany could shift her industrial production to produce products that countries wanted. He wanted to prove Keynes wrong in many ways. For example, Keynes predicted that the European output would decrease, but, by 1929, it was up by 10% since 1913.