Back   How did the ‘Big Three’ feel about the Treaty of Versailles?

 

 

Summary

Clemenceau liked the harsh things that were in the Treaty, especially reparations, because they would harm Germany.   He liked the tiny German army, and the demilitarised zone in the Rhineland, because he though that this would protect France from attack in the future.   Also, he was pleased that France got Alsace-Lorraine, and German colonies.   But he wanted the Treaty to be harsher.

        Wilson got self-determination for the peoples of Eastern Europe, and a League of Nations, but he hated the Treaty because few of his ‘Fourteen Points’ got into the Treaty.   Worst of all, when Wilson went back to America, the Senate refused to join the League of Nations, and refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles!

         Lloyd George hated the Treaty, He liked the fact that Britain got German colonies, and the small German navy helped British sea-power.   But, although many British people wanted to ‘make Germany pay’, Lloyd George thought that the Treaty was too harsh, and that it would start another war in 25 years time.

 

 

The Treaty of Versailles was a compromise, and it satisfied nobody.

 

       Even Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France, did not get everything he wanted out of the Treaty.   He was satisfied with clause 231 (which blamed Germany for the war), the disarmament clauses of the Treaty (army at 100,000, only 6 battleships, no airforce or submarines), getting back Alsace-Lorraine, and being given Germany colonies as mandates on behalf of the League of Nations.   But even this did not go far enough.   Clemenceau had wanted Germany weakened to the point where it would never be a danger to France ever again.   He was angry that France got the Saar coalfields for only 15 years, and he was angry that the Rhineland was merely demilitarised – France had wanted it made into a powerless independent country, and Germany split up.   Also, reparations were not high enough for Clemenceau.   He wanted reparations so high that Germany would be crippled and paying for ever – when the Germans defaulted in 1923, France invaded and took them in kind.

 

       On the other hand, Wilson was dissatisfied also.   He was pleased to get the League of Nations accepted, and the map of eastern Europe was mainly drawn according to his principle of self-determination.   But he found most of the rest of his 14 points ignored or rejected.   Italy had to be given land given her in the secret treaty of 1915.   Only the defeated powers were disarmed.   Britain refused to accept freedom of the seas, and neither Britain, France nor Belgium would allow self-determination to the colonies in their empires.   Self-determination was not allowed elsewhere – Wilson had wanted Anschluss between Austria and Germany, but this was denied; in 1919 the Czechs took over Teschen by force; and in 1920 Poland attacked and took land inhabited in Russia and Lithuania.   All this Wilson had to accept.   Finally, when he went home, the Senate refused either to accept the Treaty or to join the League.   Wilson tired himself out trying to persuade Americans to accept what he had negotiated, had a stroke and died a broken man.

 

       Lloyd George of England was also dissatisfied by the Treaty.   He liked the reduction of the German navy, for it ensured that Britannia ruled the waves.   He also liked being given German colonies as mandates.   But he thought Wilson’s League of Nations was a ‘dead duck’, he opposed self-determination and was sure that putting 3˝ million Germans into Czechoslovakia would caused great problems there.   And, although he, too, had promised to ‘make Germany pay’, he was horrified when he learned what Clemenceau wanted.   He opposed Clemenceau’s harshness.   In the end, Clemenceau wanted revenge against the Germans, and Wilson was prepared to sacrifice them to principle, so it was Lloyd George who fought most for Germany’s interests at the Conference.   When the Treaty was eventually signed, the British delegates were very depressed.   Harold Nicholson thought the Treaty ‘neither just nor wise’, and Lloyd George declared: ‘we will have to fight another war in 25 years time, and at three times the cost’.