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Does Lloyd George bear the blame for the flawed treaty of Versaille?

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Introduction

Does Lloyd George bear the blame for the flawed treaty of Versaille? Although Lloyd George was reasonably satisfied with the terns of the Versailles Treaty, and was given a hero's welcome on his return from Paris, it gradually emerged that there were many faults with the settlement. The most common charges are that it was too hard on the Germans and that some of the terms - reparations payments and German disarmament - were impossible to carry out. There was much controversy about the size of the reparations bill. J.M.Keynes, a British economic adviser at the conference, argued that �2000 million was a realistic figure which the Germans could afford to pay without bankruptcy. On the other hand, some of the British and French extremists were demanding �24 000 million, so the final figure was kinder to the Germans than it might have been. The settlement had the unfortunate effect of dividing Europe into the states which wanted to revise it (Germany being the main one), and those which wanted to preserve it, and on the whole even they turned out to be lukewarm in their support. The USA failed to ratify the settlement, to the disgust of Woodrow Wilson, and never joined the League of Nations; this in turn left France completely disenchanted with the whole business because the Anglo-American guarantee of her frontiers could not now apply. ...read more.

Middle

At home rumours of a Lloyd George climb-down, fanned by the Northcliffe press, led to a virtual vote of confidence in the House of Commons on 2 April. Bonar Law was badly rattled by this, and claimed afterwards that nine out of ten Conservatives were now disgusted with him. On 8 April an ominous telegram, signed by over 200 coalition MPs, arrived for Lloyd George reminding him of his election pledges - an extraordinary experience for a Prime Minister within four months of his great triumph. He now appeared to be trapped between the irresistible force of the Conservative rank and file, which could break his government, and the immovable obstinacy of Cunliffe. But Lloyd George found an escape route. First, he shrewdly prevailed upon General Smuts, whom Wilson liked and admired, to persuade the President to agree to include the cost of British disability pensions and allowances for dependants of the dead and disabled in the claim for reparations; this would double Britain's share. Second, he and Clemenceau sought to establish that their right to compensation was practically unlimited. Under the strain, the American President fell ill and matters were settled with the more flexible Colonel House. At Lloyd George's suggestion, they decided to incorporate into what became Article 231 of the treaty an acknowledgement of war guilt on the part of Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conservative and Liberal ministers alike found the terms vindictive and unjust towards Germany. Thus, with their encouragement, he tried to persuade Wilson and Clemeceau to make further concessions. But they were now disgusted by the opportunism and shiftiness of the British and refused to move. Consequently the settlement stood and the Germans reluctantly acquiesced. `In the settlement as a whole Lloyd George had clearly played the key role. He had worked with the French President over the central question of reparations, and then with Wilson in order to limit the punitive demands of Clemenceau. Meanwhile he had successfully defended British interests, narrowly defined in terms of the German navy, the colonies, and her share in compensation for the war. There is justice in the view that whereas Wilson and Clemenceau had both worked from principles, albeit very different ones, Lloyd George had been guided by expediency. Nor was his expediency justified by the results, for it left the French sulky and detached, and the Germans with a burning sense of injustice. His failure was a moral one; he had never attempted to use the immense prestige and authority he had won in the war to defy his critics at home and insist on a just and honest peace. No sooner was the treaty made than most British politicians agreed, as H.A.L. Fisher put it, that it 'should be modified . . . there will be an appeasement'. It is to his credit that Lloyd George entirely agreed. ...read more.

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