The Versailles Treaty


The Treaty of Versailles was intended to be a peace agreement between the Allies and the Germans. Versailles created political discontent and economic chaos 1in Germany. The Peace Treaty of Versailles represented the results of hostility and revenge and opened the door for a dictator and World War II.

November 11, 1918 marked the end of the first World War. Germany had surrendered and signed an armistice agreement. The task of forming a peace agreement was now in the hands of the Allies. In December of 1918, the Allies met in Versailles to start on the peace settlement.2 The main countries and their respective representatives were: The United States, Woodrow Wilson; Great Britain, David Lloyd George; and France, George Clemenceau. "At first, it had seemed the task of making peace would be easy".3 However, once the process started, the Allies found they had conflicting ideas and motives surrounding the reparations and wording of the Treaty of Versailles. It seemed the Allies had now found themselves engaged in another battle.

Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924), the twenty-eighth President of the United States (1913 --1921).4 In August of 1914, when World War I began, there was no question that the United States would remain neutral. "Wilson didn't want to enter the European War or any other war for that matter".5 However, as the war continued, it became increasingly obvious that the United States could no longer 'sit on the sidelines'. German submarines had sunk American tankers and the British liner, 'Lusitania', in May 1915, killing almost twelve hundred people, including 128 Americans.6 This convinced Wilson to enter World War I, on the allied side. As the war continued, Wilson outlined his peace program, which was centered around fourteen main points. "They (fourteen points) were direct and simple: a demand that future agreements be open covenants of peace, openly arrived at; an insistence upon absolute freedom of the seas; and, as the fourteenth point, the formation of a general associat! ion of nations."7 The fourteen points gave people a hope of peace and lay the groundwork for the armistice that Germany ultimately signed in November 1918. Although the United States was instrumental in ending the war, Wilson was still more interested in a "peace without victors"8 than annexing German colonies or reparations (payment for war damages). However, as the Allies began discussions of the peace treaty, the European allies rejected Wilson's idealism and reasoning. It soon became increasingly obvious that the allies were seeking revenge and Germany was destined to be crippled economically and socially by its enemies.

David Lloyd George (1863 - 1945), who was the Prime Minister of Great Britain (1916 - 1922), governed through the latter part of the war and the early post war years.9 Britain and Germany were, historically, always rivals. Before the war, for instance, Germany challenged Britain's famous powerful and unstoppable navy by dramatically increasing the amount of money spent on their navy. In terms of losses, Britain absorbed thirty-six percent of the debt incurred by the allies and seventeen percent of the war's total casualties.10 After the war, Britain faced tough economic problems. Their exports were at an all time low due to outdated factories, high tariffs, and competition from other countries. As a direct result, Britain suffered from high unemployment, which of course, affected the well being of the country. Britain had its pride and nationalism stripped. The Treaty of Versailles would provide an opportunity to seek revenge for their losses. They were also seek! ing annexation of German colonies in Africa.

Georges Clemenceau (1841 - 1929) was the Premier of France (1906-1909) and (1917-1920).11 As Britain, France had a rivalry with Germany but the French's ill feelings were even more intensive. "Nationalism created tensions between France and Germany. The French bitterly resented their defeat in the Franco - Prussian War and were eager to seek revenge. Moreover, they were determined to regain Alsace - Lorraine."12 This gave the French the motivation of increasing their military strength and ultimately, destroying their life-long enemies. During the war, France's portion of the war debt amounted to twenty percent. Their loss, in terms of war casualties, was thirty-three percent.13 Most of the battles were fought on French soil. This resulted in the destruction of "ten million farm acres, twenty thousand factories and six thousand public buildings".14 After the war, France suffered terribly, economically. Inflation and a deflated