Treaty of Versailles Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:24:05
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The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was made by George Clemenceau, David Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson. They were the World War One leaders of France, Great Britain and America respectively, and after the war, made the Treaty to decide what to do with a defeated Germany. Four years of fighting and losses throughout the First World War made decisions difficult, but overall, the Treaty was the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances. The months of arguing, negotiation and compromise that led to the completed Treaty of Versailles were without Germany.

She had not been invited to join in in any of the decisions, and the Treaty was presented to the nation on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. This was because the Big Three were arguing with each other so much, and didnt want to seem weak or divided in front of their enemy. Not only did this anger Germany, but there was nothing she could do about it. If the German government refused to sign the Treaty, the war would restart and it would be impossible for them to win. The German leader Friedrich Ebert had to sign it, or inflict inevitable defeat on his country. It was signed on the 28th June 1919.

Part of the Treaty was Wilsons League of Nations; his ideal world parliament, to which many of the Germans overseas colonies were given to. Germany was not invited to join until it had shown it was a peace loving country, which insulted them greatly. Another of Wilsons ideas was self-determination for people in Eastern Europe; however German people in the newly-created countries of the other post-war treaties, were treated as second-class citizens and ruled by non-Germans. They thought this was unfair and that the Allies were treating them with double standards.

This angered Germany, giving her people another reason for revenge. One of the Treatys other terms was that Germany had to accept full responsibility for starting the war and all of the consequent damage it had caused. Clemenceau and Lloyd George were in favour of this, however Wilson, known for his idealism, believed that Europe as a whole had triggered the war. He was probably right, as America had been an observer for the most part of the war. Germany was outraged at being given all of the blame. The German Count Brockdorff said, We are told that we should acknowledge that we alone are guilty of having caused the war.

I would be a liar if I agreed to this. Their army was also restricted to 100,000 volunteers, roughly an twenty times smaller than it had been. The bitter resentment of holding the all of the war guilt hurt the Germans pride, but was also why in the 1930s, Hitlers idea of re-building the German army was so popular. The Treaty did not come down on either side of the fence. Germany was weakened, but no so weakened that it could not rise within a generation to threaten the balance of world power once again, said historian John Sheerer.

The Treaty wasnt kind enough so the German people wouldnt be bitter, but not harsh enough to ensure that they wouldnt retaliate. It left the Germans both strong and resentful and the rest of the world in a dangerous position. The Treaty also lost Germany all of its overseas land, ten percent of its territory; population; agricultural land; coal, steel and iron industries; as well as a massive reduction in its army size. The reparations fee was an immense ? 6. 6 billion, which the nation only would have finished paying in 1984, had the fee not been reduced in 1929.

Despite this, a treaty the Germans gave to the Russians, the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, demonstrated how harsh the Germans would have been if they had won the war. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk stripped Russia of thirty-four percent of its population, thirty-two percent of its agricultural land, fifty-four percent of its industry, twenty-six percent of its railways and eighty-nine percent of its coalmines, as well as a fine of 300 million gold rubles. The Treaty of Versailles seemed harsh, but was very mild in comparison to Brest-Litovsk.

Historian Sally Marks adds, The real difficulty was not that the Treaty was exceptionally severe, but that the Germans thought it was, and in time persuaded others it was. Another point of view is Historian Dr. Ruth Henig, who says: The German people were expecting victory not defeat. It was the acknowledgement of defeat as much as the treaty terms themselves, which the found so hard to accept. The Treaty had not been read from cover to cover by anyone when it was presented to the Germans in the spring of 1919. Nobody knew what its cumulative effect would be, and none of the three leaders were satisfied with their work.

Maybe if someone had taken the time to read it, or the Germans had been allowed to negotiate with the Big Three, history would be different. However, this may not have been possible. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the War to End All Wars ended, and the Allies were left with an unstable defeated nation, on the brink of economic and political chaos. The Big Three were under a lot of pressure to get a Treaty together before Germany totally collapsed, and the Treaty of Versailles may have been the best they could have achieved given the time pressure.

It was better to come up with a solution, than not have one at all. The whole world was watching them make a decision that could change history, and that must have been stressful for the politicians. The leaders were also being pressured by their countries. Not being dictators, Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson had to represent their peoples views. However, voters often see things in black and white, and in 1919, nothing was different. The citizens of France and England especially wanted to see Germany suffer, but did not understand the complex situation that their leaders did.

In fact, George Clemenceau was actually voted out of parliament in 1920 for not being harsh enough on the Germans. Without a doubt, the Treaty was hard to make, and some historians point of view is that Lloyd George and Wilson were forced into agreeing to a harsh treaty. George Clemenceau was famous for being a tough, uncompromising politician, but he also had the moral high-ground. France had been most badly affected by the war. The stomach-turning pictures we see of wounded, shell-shocked soldiers were taken on French soil, not British or American.

Large parts of France had been destroyed, and they wanted pay-back. Furthermore, France is geographically closer to Germany than Great Britain or America, and if Germany were to attack, the French would be the first victims. Clemenceau and the French population knew this, and this may have been why a lot of the Treatys terms seem to benefit France; for example, Alsace-Lorraine being returned to France. The Big Three all had very different aims: Lloyd Georges were to weaken Germany, but not cripple it so much, because Germany was Great Britains second biggest trading partner.

If they were not able to trade with Germany, many British people would lose their jobs. He also needed France to be rebuilt, as they were long standing allies and when both strong, were useful to each other. As well as this, Lloyd George wanted the Germans to lose their empire, as it threatened the British Empire. Like the British Prime Minister, Wilson didnt want Germany crippled, because he feared that they would want revenge if their punishment were too cruel. He also campaigned for his League of Nations, which would bring world peace; and self determination for the people in Eastern Europe.

However, Lloyd George disagreed with this, as self determination in some countries might lead to revolution in the British Commonwealth. Wilsons idea to end all empires obviously didnt go down well with the British or French either. Clemenceau only wanted Germany to be crippled and crushed enough so France wouldnt be attacked. Germany had invaded France twice in the past fifty years, and Clemenceau had been around to witness it both times. He wanted Germany to pay dearly for the damage and suffering it had caused, expand the French industry and to rebuild the towns and villages that had been turned to rubble.

This was all going to be hugely expensive. There had to be a compromise. Some of the aims were almost polar opposites, and whichever way it turned out, disappointment was inevitable. If the circumstances had been different, and France, Great Britain and America had all wanted the same things, the Treaty would have been much easier to put together, but this was not the case. With the benefit of hindsight; knowing that the Treaty indirectly caused the Second World War, it is easy to say that the Big Three didnt do enough to maintain the peace they created.

There are some elements of the Treaty that could have been handled better (for example, reading it beforehand), but overall, it was the best outcome under the tough circumstances, especially seeing what the Germans would have done if they had been victorious. When you think of the pressure on the politicians, as well as the inevitable anger from the Germans, and three exhausted, arguing, war-weary nations trying to decide what to do with their enemy, the Treaty of Versailles was definitely the best that could have been achieved in 1919.

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