30th September 2015
The Treaty of Versailles
Expectations and Reality
Expectations in Germany
The expectations in Germany were that the Paris peace settlement of 1919 was a more controversial issue than the new constitution. The Germans expected the treaty would result in a fair peace. Party due to the face the defeat wasn’t expected even as late as summer 1918, and partly because it was generally assumed President Wilson’s 14 points would lay the basis of the terms.
However the reality of what happened was that Germany’s representatives weren’t allowed to discuss the peace treaty. When the draft terms were presented in May 1919 there was national shock and outrage in Germany. As a result of this the first Weimar government led by Scheidemann resigned.
The reichstag finally had to accept the Treaty of Versailles as the Allies weren’t prepared to negotiate. The reichstag were embittered and had 237 votes to 138 in June. This was because Germany didn’t have the military capacity to resist. On 28th of June in 1919 the German representatives, led by Hermann Muller, signed the treaty at the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles near Paris.
Wilson was an idealist, and had a strong religious framework. Initially he was an academic, but was drawn into politics when he had campaigned against corruption. At first he had opposed American entry into the war. Once he declared war against Germany in April 1917 he drew the Fourteen Points in the hope of creating a more just world. He’s main aims were:
To bring about international disarmament
To apply the principle of self-determination
To create League of Nations in order to maintain international peace
Clemenceau was an uncompromising French nationalist He was deeply influenced by the devastation from the war in Northern France. He was motivated by revenge and was determined to gain financial compensation to satisfy France’s security concerns. His main aims were:
To annex the Rhineland and to create a ‘buffer state’
To impose the major disarmament of Germany
To impose heavy reparations in order to weaken Germany
To get recompense from the damage of the war in order to finance re-building
Lloyd George may be seen as a pragmatist. He was keen to uphold British national interests and initially he played the idea of revenge. However, he recognised that there would have to be compromise.
In particular, he saw the need to restrain Clemenceau revenge.
His main aims were:
To guarantee British military security - especially to secure naval supremacy
To keep communists at bay
To limit French demands because he forced that excessively weakening Germany would have serious economic consequences for the European economy.
Reality - The Terms of the Treaty
The 14 Points
The British reaction to the 14 points would be they didn’t want free movement of ships anywhere in the world because Britain feared they’d lose money as they were one of the most…